When I found an unfamiliar icon on my screen, I considered it as a trace my niece has left from the last holiday. Little niece should have fled to my room from drunken adults and downloaded a temporary delight. I knew it was a shortcut, and went to the program list to eliminate the original file. From the list organised in the order of recent updates, there wasn’t a corresponding name. Instead, a game that I installed a decade ago was on the top without any warning.
It was a time when games like creating a new life in a virtual world gained popularity. The most sensational game was expensive, but everybody played it. I didn’t want any of my status or accomplishments in the game to be disclosed or compared to my acquaintances. Hence I bought a relatively cheap but similar game from an independent game platform. Not like realistic FPS games, characters roamed the 2D background like ants, but it was good enough for me. There were few players and every user became old faces. Like typical stagnant games, users welcomed newcomers. To the Newbie with white basic shirts and a wooden knife, I provided old equipment of mine. After receiving undeserved appreciation, I was flattered and helped Newbie periodically.
Hunting and gathering or cutting trees were simple tasks that my index finger carried out. Timid tasks, but it was better with a companion. We threw silly jokes through headphones while catching rabbits.
In the game, you could build your own house, have a partner, and bear babies. The babies were NPCs without a human behind them, so they were born in animal forms and remained in the house. Extra skills and experiences were given to users through marriage and childcare, and it was common for users to share houses with close friends. I deconstructed my old house and started to virtually cohabit with Newbie in a new house. There was no gender, and the baby was born from a low-resolution egg.
Oddly enough, our baby had a human form. With a white diaper, the baby’s crying face flickered. We joyed for winning a hidden quest and experimented with the baby to complete the mission. Our baby born in the game was gradually capable of expressing words and sentences, not like the other animal babies. As if it was programmed to learn from the data provided by us, it developed in stages. I remember admiring the quality despite its low budget. One week later, the baby started to walk. After one month, we could have simple conversations. We nursed the baby for more than 10 hours a day. Turning into a child, we found an intrinsic and useful function of our offspring. If we equip it when we go hunting, the prey doubles. As so we took advantage of it every time we went out to the forest until the summer vacation ended.
It was two weeks after the start of the term when I accessed the game. I was overwhelmed by the never-ending march of pints and forgot about my obsession with the game. Newbie texted me saying that something went wrong. With familiar music, I was summoned to my own house. The child was aiming directly at my summon point with the bow we used to hunt with. Regarding the size of the child on the screen, it grew.
[You have left me.] A word balloon popped up.
Should I complain to the company for creating an unnecessary violent scene? Or should I report it as a bug? According to Newbie who already tried to fix the ‘problem’, if you’re hit by the child’s arrow, your blood will discharge and have to reload from the saving point. The problem was that it was constantly shooting arrows, making it impossible to be logged in for more than one second.
[I will never do that again.]
After all, I was sure it was an advanced quest like any other hidden ones. My plan was to dance along and make a complaint at the Q&A. Term started, and I won’t be able to have access often. If the quest counts the disconnected times, I will fail it anyway.
The child lowered its bow and hugged me. Technically, it demonstrated the motion of hugging. Flickering. With guilt and responsibility that I could not explain, I went out for the last hunt with my child. Tucking the bed, I never accessed the game again.
The icon named ‘the stone’ had the shape of a perfect sphere. It was persistent in securing its life and kept reviving after elimination. It expanded its volume as well. The internet went slow, and the screen started to crack. I was ready to terminate the computer. I double-clicked the icon. It asked me to choose what kind of program I would like to connect with. All the options were useless except one rendering program. Placed in the middle of x, y, and z, the ellipsoid seemed nothing peculiar. I asked my friend to borrow a 3D printer and printed the stone. The computer gasped for breath through the fan. I went out for a smoke.
Distorting all the files, programs, and images in the computer, revealed the child’s shapeless existence. Slowly given a face through lines and finally granted a form, it abandoned its last shelter. The tangled wires behind the overheated computer started to make sparks and the carpet was on fire. Like a planet devouring including itself, all was on fire. Like a spoiled kid shooting arrows.