My Quake 2 level was made for me long before I was born. A team of level designers labored over the placement of every brush and entity. I have nothing to fear from my Quake 2 level. Even its darkest, most claustrophobic corridors are nothing more than flat 8-bit textures stretched over repetitive patterns of 64x64 polygons. Still, if given the choice I think I'd choose fearing my Quake 2 level over knowing its every boundary.
The scientist removed my cranial plate. "We're erasing your directives and reprogramming you to serve the OCP corporation." he said.
"I'm just not used to another person touching me, 21-year-old virgin and all that."
"Oh. Do you want me to stop?"
Some replicants can only socially integrate themselves into a group of people by making fun of others. I don't hate my co-worker, Billy, because he makes fun of me. I hate him because I'm jealous of his ability to convince others that he's human. "I really like "Tunnel of Love" by Dire Straits." Billy said to me. "I was hoping we could make it our song."
"Well, you can't just let me make fun of you and then not expect me to want a deeper relationship. And no, we can't be friends with benefits. I've been hurt by that too many times in the past."
High school is a place where the zombies outnumber the humans by 400,000 to 1. You find yourself sharing an underground bunker with people you don't particularly like but have to bond with because they're all that's left of humanity. I spent last night with my high school friends Dima and Josh and Josh's girlfriend. "What do you want to do tonight?" Josh said.
"Let's eat the pellets that fell between the trough and the side of the cage during feeding time." Dima said.
"All you ever want to do is eat pellets." Josh's girlfriend said. "Don't you know they're made from the processed remains of other slaves?"
"Why don't you like me?" Dima said. "Is it a bunch of little things - sort of a killing you with a thousand pin pricks type deal - or do you have a deeper problem with me as a person?"
"Good news." I said to Josh 5 minutes later. "I just talked to your girlfriend and in a few minutes she's going to let me feed her some pellets. You should have no problem getting laid tonight."
Working in the washed out industrial corridors of Mars City was like being perpetually trapped in my high school metal shop class. I could still hear my classmate, Jeff, telling me that if I prank called his grandmother again I'd be getting a prank call of my own ...from the police. Skull spiders were biting chunks of flesh out of my legs but I couldn't feel any pain. "What's happening to me?" I asked Lauren.
"You're in noclip mode." she said. "It enhances experiences. Just try not to think about the fact that your parents use it too or it'll destroy the whole noclip mode as teenage rebellion thing that's an essential part of being young."
"I had the most amazing dream." I said to Lauren the next morning. "I dreamed I saw the xenomorph queen and was eating her royal jelly. We're all her subjects, you know. We're telepathically linked with her on some binary level. There was also this other sensation - a dream within a dream if you will - that I was a shy, boring nerd who'd be a goth if it wasn't for all this pesky self-respect. Also I think I was wearing a sombrero and singing along with Nine Inch Nails songs I didn't know the words to."
"I found this dead facehugger in your pool of vomit." Lauren said. "There's a good chance that there's a baby alien gestating in your stomach."
"That's okay. I've always sort of had female womb envy."
The martian day is 37 minutes longer than earth's. That equates to 12 more minutes each day I have to spend at Mcdonalds draining my soul into cracks in the tiled floor. "You know how you fought off that demonic cherub by converting your stepometer into a makeshift taser gun?" a customer said to me yesterday. "I just wanted to say I thought you handled that really well."
"Oh, that was no big deal." I said. "The day I got an abortion was the day I stopped being afraid of demon babies."
Back on earth I was watching Josh smash a car window with an aluminum baseball bat. Somewhere beneath the streets a river of psychoreactive slime was flowing, perpetuating a cycle of violence as old as hatred itself.
Billy died. "I'll always remember the time Billy called me Gaylar, prince of the rodeo except he put the emphasis on rodeo when it should have been on prince." I said. "It's funny how when you love someone it's the little flaws that you cherish the most."
"I know what you mean." Lauren said. "My favorite Penny Arcade strips are the ones that get me thinking about how I could've done them better."
It's almost midnight as I'm writing this. My Quake 2 level is open in Worldcraft and I've got my finger on the delete key, hoping to gain the unique perspective on level design that only comes from facing complete oblivion. Jed Kirchner, tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your life. Your power pellets are going to taste better than any meal you've ever eaten.
"What are you?" I asked the xenomorph queen.
"I'm the best experience of your life. I don't have time to talk right now but I'll leave my calling card. It'll be in the form of the ghost spore of emptiness that's left inside of you after your ability to walk through walls wears off."
My first side quest as a level 64 slave wasn't to enjoy my happy but to hide it from the rest of the world. Can I have another bag please? The Depends logo shows through the first one.
A warning klaxon sounds as I ride the cargo elevator out of the underground bunker. My feet ache from wearing heels all day. My hair is matted down from the wig cap. There isn't much gas in the helicopter. I can't quite make out what my friends yell at me as I take off. Something about how my dress still has the JCPenney tags on it. Or maybe it's "goodbye".
When my girlfriend ties me up I can feel my consciousness retreating to a childhood place where everything is warm and safe because my life is entrusted into someone else's hands. My stepbrother and I, both 9 years old, are playing Sonic the Hedgehog and using debug mode to make elaborate cages for Sonic out of pinball bumpers. "Yeah, well if I was making the cage it'd be even bigger and have red springs on the bottom." my stepbrother says.
Maria Mitchell is shown holding a telescope to each eye, using them to ogle passing hunks on the street below. OOOGA! Her tongue rolls out like a firehose, her eyes comically bulging through the ends of the telescopes.
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