Today’s writing prompt and my response.
Day five of this week’s challenge. The story starts here.
She decided to go to her father’s grave, to ask his advice
Eve jumped, twisted her head around. What was Colin doing here, wild-eyed, and gabbling? She wished he’d shut up before she lost the thread. She’d been deep into the game, burrowing into the old, buried code for where the knights had been captured. If she found that, she could free them, and her wondrous game could continue. She’d been grinning at the imagined presentation tomorrow. How those slick marketing guys–
‘… they’re life and death, Eve, you can’t–’
Life and death? The dwarven king’s words.
Eve stood up from her desk, arms on her hips. ‘What are you doing here, what are you talking about, why did you call me?’
‘The knights–’ Colin gestured at the screen where the two knights sat on their great chargers, poised with lances and shields.
‘Yes, I know!’ Eve clapped her hands. ‘I saw the dwarven king, he was in my hall when I got home last night–’
‘You said. On the phone.’ Colin crossed his arms. ‘Stop it, listen to me! Please!’
Eve frowned. ‘You don’t seem surprised that a character from a video game was in my house. In a cavern, at the end of a tunnel.’ She crossed her own arms. ‘In fact, you didn’t seem surprised earlier, on the phone.’
‘No.’ Colin rubbed at his wind-blown hair. ‘Can we grab a coffee from the machine and talk? I’ll tell you everything.’
Eve hadn’t eaten since an early lunch. Her fingers itched to get back to her computer. But her brain itched to know what this drama was all about.
‘Just ten minutes, because I’ve nearly cracked it, and I need to get it done.’
‘Nearly cracked what?’
‘Freeing the knights. The dwarven king is holding them captive, which is why they can’t fight, and without the fight … well, it’s the ultimate battle … it has to happen to make sense of the game.’
Colin exhaled. ‘You can’t free them.’
‘So the dwarven king said too,’ Eve grumbled. And then changed his mind.
She followed Colin as he walked towards the coffee machine in the corner, weaving between desks to take the shortest route. No one else was in, although usually there’d be a handful working late. As Colin made the coffees, he began his explanation.
‘A couple of years ago, we had a brilliant games developer here. Julie. The game you’ve found and are working on was hers.’
He handed Eve the hot plastic cup in its cool plastic holder. She took up a milk capsule, opened it, poured it into the coffee and threw the capsule in the bin. Colin’s calm voice continued.
‘She developed the knights, and the king. But when she got to the part where the knights fought, all hell broke out.’ He waved at the rows of desks. ‘The knights appeared first on every screen. Even the admin people with their spreadsheets and presentations.’
Eve sipped her coffee. She recalled the reality of the dwarven king at the end of her disappeared hall. She had a feeling about what was coming next.
‘And then,’ she said, eyes fixed on Colin’s face, ‘the knights appeared here, like they were alive.’
He nodded. ‘At first it seemed the knights were oblivious to where they were, too busy fighting.’ He stared across Eve’s shoulder. ‘It was chaos, people trying to get out the way, screaming.’ His voice dropped to a whisper. ‘Some didn’t make it.’
Eve flinched. ‘What happened?’
Colin’s answer wasn’t to the question Eve meant, but it was the next one she would have asked. ‘Julie was fast. It took her perhaps five minutes, or a lifetime as it felt like, and the knights disappeared.’
Colin never wanted to live through that again. Keeping it all quiet, the company paying God knows what millions to the grieving families. It had been the dark knight who’d slaughtered those people. Death.
Eve interrupted his memories. ‘She coded the dwarven king to capture them,’ she said. Her eyes glistened and it wasn’t with tears. Excitement shone there. She grabbed Colin’s sleeve.
‘Don’t you see? Julie went far beyond Virtual Reality. She invented Real Reality.’ She gulped down the last of her coffee and tossed it after the milk capsule. ‘The company could make a fortune. We could all be rich as Croseus.’
Colin stared at her. ‘Those knights killed two people, Eve. You really want that kind of reality running around?’
‘What happened to Julie? Does she still work here?’
‘No. She left. The whole thing turned her mind.’ Colin and Julie were close, and it was him she talked to afterwards. She told him, stony-eyed with shock, that despite the carnage, she couldn’t help thinking about the wonders of this software, how much good it could do. And the weird last thing she had said to him, that she’d decided to go to her father’s grave, to ask his advice. He never heard from or saw her again. He gave Eve the short version.
‘No-one’s heard from her since, that I know of. She was in pieces over it. Horrified at what she’d done.’
Eve’s dreamy expression told Colin that his colleague didn’t want to acknowledge the appalling downsides. He pressed his point. ‘Let it go, Eve. If you make it work again, you’ll be signing the world’s death warrant.’
She glanced at him. ‘I get it, honest, but there must be a way to make it work so it’s harmless.’
‘Not in the long run. That code has to be destroyed, properly this time.’
Eve swayed back and forth, arms at her side, eyes half-closed in concentration. Colin waited.
‘I’ll leave it for now,’ she said. ‘There’s someone I need to talk to about it.’ She smiled. ‘Someone whose judgement I’ve always trusted. I need to go to my father’s grave, ask his advice.’
Finish the story here.
Find Cheryl’s flash fiction and short stories here!