The truth was, he was afraid of technology.
He had progressed to the MyBuddy XL3 Tablet Unit but the thought of the MyBuddyHDXL13 absolutely terrified him. He didn’t even have a proper hand unit. He still carried his old hand unit, that he had kept But had given away the MyBuddy XL3 Tablet Unit; even that, eventually.
He had always played the same game. He built. He waited. He quested. It was all very quiet and bloodless with good graphics and sound. He still played it. Sometimes, when he should be writing or working on his current novel. It was almost two years now.
Except for a brief period when the game went offline, during the Blackout, he had always played it. The Blackout had lasted for two weeks and then the game came back online. When the game returned, it was as if he had regained a part of himself. He wondered how the gamers had managed to get it back online, there being little left.
As the world progressed around him, people’s pockets filling with True1 Units, SAEDs, KMini’s and other such things, Justin still held on to his MyBuddy 2nd Generation Hand Unit. They built these things tough back then, he thought.
There was something inside of it that he couldn’t let go of. He still played the game now, in fact. He had a cellular unit. It was old though, perhaps by five years. He didn’t get many calls anymore.
As he played and made his cast of people do what he wanted, or was prompted to do, he wondered what it would be like to live there, within the system, as these people did, the people in the game. Some would come and go from his game board; other characters would die in quests. Other characters would simply disappear.
The world he had known, and the people within it, had passed him by. He had thought it would. He had known that time was really a long and lovely thing if you let it. Justin had experienced a good life, despite the lack of faith in technology.
Justin also freely acknowledged the hold that it had on him. He would read on his MyBuddy2, stay in touch with others; write his thoughts down if anyone found the hand unit. Justin hoped that they would. He also wished he could let the game go. Even if he didn’t write anymore, texting in one letter at a time-there weren’t even real keys anymore for crying out loud.
He would be happy to either live or die now but something was troubling him. He had been playing the game a week ago and something had happened. His MyBuddy2 had flashed briefly, as if installing an update. It hadn’t done that in years. He had figured out how to rig the battery when he needed to, so that he could keep it going.
There hadn’t been wi-fi in twenty years and the internet hadn’t existed in fifteen. Everything had fallen. Now all that remained were emails sent that he would never receive a response to, MyGrafittiWall posts that would never be read, portions of manuscripts that he would never publish.
Justin wanted to keep a record of what he had done, if someone ever found the unit. He hated his MyBuddy now. They sure built those pieces of crap to last, but for Justin, he wished it would die, fade out. However, every morning (if he was able to sleep), he tried turning it on. If it worked and the screen blinked to life, he would hide and he would play the game.
If not, he would just hide. It was pretty much all that he could do. That was pretty much anything you could do, so he did it-but mostly, he hid and played the game. He built buildings, he sent his characters on quests. He knew they were real people, knew that they were really prisoners that were within suspended animation.
Justin knew this. However, the game makers had assured him that the prisoners wouldn’t feel anything, that they were only doing the tasks we sent them on in their heads, they were not real people. He was vaguely disgusted at first, that he was just making graphic representations of people do shit to earn experience points and coins to advance in an app.
Thankfully, the developers had done something a little different. They knew that wifi and internet were shitty at best, that it wasn’t always possible to download the updates. So if you played the game, each new character you were able to unlock would be your own, unique to you.
Nobody else would get those holographic people turned knights, druids, clerics. It was another way for them to end out their sentence, if they got death row. It was another way to avoid that kind of end and seek another. Yes, if prisoners died during the game, they died, much like those that had disappeared. You could always unlock more, however, if you needed to.
No matter what happened, no matter what wifi and power outage and lack of internet, those prisoners were yours, downloaded to your phone, tablet or mobile device. That was their ploy, anyway, to get you to spend your own credits.
He had paid to unlock three of the prisoners he really wanted and had unlocked four others through various quests, challenges and puzzles, usually at the expense of the prisoner. If your prisoner made it through the challenge, or you solved your puzzle correctly, you got to keep him or her.
Justin had just collected his fifth prisoner when the Blackout had occurred. He had six when some of the juice had come back on. When his screen had blinked the other day he had seven prisoners. At first, the new prisoner looked like a simple, ordinary man. Until the day the prisoner had grown his hair a bit longer and his goatee in. The Justin knew that he was looking down at a little digital version of himself. He didn’t understand how that could be possible, but he had learned to roll with the punches and take some risks. He had put his little avatar on some cool and dangerous missions. There were one or two where he had almost not survived the peril. Then a thought occurred to him-two actually:
If he was still playing the game with real prisoners, held static in suspended animation, where were they? If he was playing with real live people inside the game, and they were still there, they had to exist, right?
The second thought that Justin had was this: If he was playing with real live prisoners, with no wifi and internet, why was he inside the game?