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X. Tales of the Enemy

He knew from playing games as a child when a long cutscene was incoming, but this time he decided to not skip the dialogue and get straight back into the roleplay.

Sitting down at the old pog’s feet, he watched the smoke dance and transform into the story being told before him.

“Long ago when the world was new and the moon was still fresh cheese,” several of the children pogs giggled at this, so the old man winked and continued.

“The great Guinea Pog God, Hamburger, came into the world of Bursaria. He saw that it was a land without a people. So he lay down with the goddess Miss Twinkles and produced all the tribes of the guinea pogs.”

The old pog made expansive gestures with his hands and blew a smoke cloud that broke into fifty different tribes that slowly grew farther and farther apart.

“The snake goddess of the underworld saw this and was not pleased,” the pogs in the background hissed at the mention of her.

“But she had a plan. Many worlds had she corrupted, and this would just be another to add to her collection. One night while Miss Twinkles was away, the great snake transformed into a perfect copy of her, and then came to lay with Hamburger and stole his mighty seed. Once they were finished, she turned back into the snake and slain him in his bed as he slept.”

Wails from the crowd. They all knew this story, he thought.

“Next, she slithered back to the down under and bore her foul fruit: the corrupted spawn of the great hamburger and her broken self.

These were the first of the chinchillas and when evil truly came to our lands.”

He had to admit he was actually interested now. Just as he thought this, the old pog stood up and announced.

“Time for bed, my children. We will tell more tales of the chinchillas tomorrow, when the sun is up. It's best not to speak of them at their time of night.”

The crowd began to disperse, all except for the elderly pog and the giant warrior.

“My son,” the elderly one looked at the aggressive warrior and pointed, “we call him Full Cheeks, and I am Butterscotch,” the old pog said, and gave a little bow.

“Cheeks will take you to the guest hut, and we will speak more on this tomorrow,” he said and walked off without discussion.

“Goes without saying, I will be standing guard outside your hut tonight. Anything funny and I feed you to the jungle, understand furless?” hissed the hulking pog.

Furless nodded, and followed the Full Cheeks to a small clean hut on the edge of the settlement. Cheeks held open the covering for the door and let him enter by himself. Upon entering he looked around and saw about what he expected.

A small freshly lit fire, a pile of woven blankets that served as a bed, and a small table with a bowl of seeds and one with water. Everything a young pog might need for the evening.

As the covering shut, he decided now would be a good time to save his progress and dip out. Reaching up across dimensions and space he made to remove his VR helmet.

Nothing happened.

Panic instantly set in as he began to claw at the side of his head looking for the release to free himself from this reality and send him back to the other. He could feel blood rushing down the sides of his head as he dug deeper and deeper into the lower edge of his scalp.

What the hell was this?

Was he one of those people floating through an imagined existence while the real him was off in a coma somewhere? Waiting for a code word like Pineapple to wake him up from it? Was this some kind of node?

He lay down on the mat because he could not think of anything better to do to ease his anxiety. He just had to get a hold of himself. Even the older VR systems had ways of forcing an exit.

He went through a list of all the verbal commands he could think of, and found these too were for naught.

Eventually sleep took him, and he found his way back into the stepford life he had briefly seen earlier. The routine was the same: wake up, smile, see happy people, go downstairs. Except this time there was a car waiting for him on the street. The driver welcomed him and took him to one of the old business districts in Buckhead.

Fancy part of town, he thought to himself as he was let out in front of a large black glass skyscraper. Walking towards the door, he found it opened before him and a smiling concierge waiting to escort him to the elevator and to the proper floor. 32.

On floor 32, he found a glass edifice with the name Sugarpig Gaming etched across the door.

That was funny, he thought. He used to have a dog named Sugarpig.

His feet seemed to control themselves, as did his mouth as he greeted several people by name going about their daily routine. Inside his mind he had no idea what was going on. It was like a movie, except in first person.

The experience is what he began to think of as soon as he was seated in a conference room, and his other self was being pitched the idea for a game about Guinea pigs in a rainforest.

It was a survival game.

He shot awake.

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