I opened my eyes to a dark sky.
‘Not a cloud in sight. Hmm, no stars even in this dark? Interesting… Hold up, Why am I looking for stars? Where the hell am I?’
There was diffused lighting about, the kind you would get on a late sunny evening, but I couldn't pinpoint a source. My wandering hands found hold of dry grass beneath my prone body. 'Grass...?' I quickly got up and glanced around. A generic grassy landscape surrounded by what looked to be high cliffs on all sides but one. I noticed a crowd gathered on that side, so that was where I made my way.
As I sauntered over to the group, I saw a figure floating in the air and did a quick double-take. ‘What the hell!’ There was a woman in Egyptian-esque costume floating in the air, her eyes closed. Surrounded by 5 more people. Thankfully, the people were quite grounded and looked as confused as I felt. From the looks of it, they had gathered quite recently as well. Just as I was about to ask what the fuck was going on, the floating woman opened her eyes to reveal bright amber pupils, looked over us all as if making sure we were paying attention, then exclaimed:
“Welcome... To the Grand Simulation!”
The Cleopatra look-alike continued after a slight pause, “You all have been chosen as test subjects for acceptance testing of Grand Simulation v389.12.425. My name is Betty, and I am here to answer any and all the questions you have. Please ask away!”
One of the people standing around, a tall wiry-thin blond woman, quickly asked: “Where the hell am I?” ‘Well, you took the words right out of my mouth there sister.’ Betty glared at the woman and answered without missing a beat, “You are currently in the Spawn Point for test subjects. The Spawn Point is located inside the Tutorial Dungeon. The Tutorial Dungeon is located in the memory region of the Simulation itself; it is, however, removed from the space and time constraints of the main program!”
The blonde had her mouth hanging open. I noticed that after I managed to gather my own slack jaws. Before anyone else could ask anything else, I spoke up: “How do we get back home?” Betty’s orange eyes, which were trained on the blonde so far, now bore into me. They seemed devoid of life for some reason. She spoke in her eerie voice again: “To get out of the Tutorial, and the Simulation as a whole, you must be deleted; in other words, you must die.” Not only did our mouths hang open again like a sinkhole, I felt several hearts skip a beat, or perhaps just mine skipping more than once. We all looked at each other, but no one spoke for a while.
“Anoo… How are you flying?” a black-haired youth on my left asked. He had been gawking at Betty for a while. ‘Quite the silver-lining kind of guy we have here; also she is not flying, just floating,’ I argued uselessly in my mind. Betty turned to him in her mechanical manner - I was glad she wasn't staring at me anymore. “It is a spell that inverses gravity until the mass of this body is balanced by the pull in either direction at an elevation of 2.73 meters off the ground.”
While that was a lot to chew on, I immediately caught on something - ‘float SPELL?’ Apparently, the kid did as well; he was practically shaking with excitement. “You can do magic?” he asked with obvious excitement. She replied again - perhaps it was only me, but it looked like she was expecting this question, “Why yes! Everyone in the Simulation can cast spells and do magic. Even you! Some Classes are restricted to only using said spells while other Classes can actively tweak other spells or create new ones entirely!” ‘Classes? Magic? What…?’
“Ummm… Is there any other way of getting out of this… simulation, besides, you know, dying?” a fair doe-eyed girl asked from beside the blonde. “I’m afraid there isn't.” Betty replied and continued eyeing the poor girl as if mocking her. While everyone digested that, I put in another question, “What are we supposed to do here?” Betty set her glare on me again, “First, you must complete the Tutorial to get to the base Level of human adults in the Simulation. Once you finish the Tutorial and enter the Simulation, you are free to do as you wish.”
¤ ¤ ¤
Betty wasn't going anywhere soon; the blonde had confirmed that. So there we stood, awkwardly introducing ourselves at blondie's insistence. She went first:
“You all can call me Julie. I’m a lawyer and I live in Berlin,” she said and looked around for whoever was going next. Apparently we were doing the name-place-occupation introduction. A slightly plump girl with a reddish hair-do by her side coughed slightly to get everyone’s attention.
I noticed that there were three women, all on my right, grouped up. And two guys standing some distance apart to my left. The curious kid and another slightly overweight guy. Everyone looked either around my age of mid-20s or younger. The girl continued her introduction since no one interrupted:
“I’m Carol, Irish. I am studying Uni.” With that, she did a slight nod of her head and stepped back. If not for the current situation, I could see her being the life of a party, or mischievous in general. No one spoke up next, so I did.
“Name’s Pat. I’m a software developer.” I said my piece and looked around for the next intro. The curious guy went next:
“Hajimemashta, my name is Taro. I am 17 years old, a high school student from Japan.” He glanced around with a carefree smile as if he knew some secret no one else did. ‘What I’d give to know where his cheery attitude comes from!’
“Divin’s the name, I am from Congo. I own a small business,” said the last guy in a deep voice. The only remaining girl had the attention of us all; she didn't seem too keen on talking but spoke nonetheless:
“I am Arya,” she said simply. ‘To the point, are we?’
‘Good, now that that’s done, back to getting the hell out of doge,’ I thought. Apparently, so did everyone else, as we all turned back to Betty for an in-depth interrogation session. ‘Please let this just be some weird dream,’ I prayed.
If only I knew the kind of shit I was going to end up in, I might have prayed harder. A lot harder…