Part One: You are in a coma
When I opened my eyes, everything seemed blank to me.
I could see walls, a door without a door handle, a table, two chairs, and the bed I was waking up on. But I couldn’t think of what they were called. It was like a dog looking at a computer and knowing its shape but not having a word for it.
My mind was empty.
A thought crossed my mind.
“Where am I?”
I decided quickly that this was a bad question given there were no windows or clues to give me the location, so I moved onto the next question.
“How did I get here?”
I searched into my memory and came back with a disturbing blank. I had no memory at all. I tried to think of something I had done in the past, but it was like looking at a blank television screen.
I had no memories.
Fear made its introduction to my chest by tightening it up. It made taking a normal breath difficult. I said to myself, “Relax. There is a perfectly good explanation for this.”
Yet, as I looked around the room, with the grey walls, plain table and two chairs sitting in the center, a basic bed and nothing else, I was quickly at a lose as to an explanation for it.
I stood up, stretched my arms out and up to give the impression that I was rather relaxed about the entire situation. I looked around the room again, into the corners, along the edges, and a closer inspection of the table and chairs. I approached the door with no handle to see if I could find a way to wedge it open, but the gap between the door and wall was seamless. Not even a breeze came through, no light, nothing entered through the door.
The room was spotlessly clean.
My voice was quickly absorbed by the walls. No echo at all. My voice simply disappeared as quickly as I said the word.
This time louder, “Hello?”
This time I said it to myself, nice a quietly, rather pathetically, “Hello?”
I wasn’t expecting anything to happen, so when the door opened, with a loud, obnoxious squeak, I jump backwards in fright. The only thing I could say was, “Shit.”
A young man was standing in the door, frozen in place, staring at in with large puppy like eyes. He said, “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He indicated with his hand that he wanted to enter and sit on one of the chairs. I said, “Sure. Why not?”
The young man, dressed in a comfortable dark blue suit, red tie and clean shoes, walked to the chair, sat down then opened the folder he brought in with him. It had a few blank sheets of paper in it.
He said, “Tell me, what do you remember?”
“What? Where am I?”
He looked at me again. Brown, puppy like eyes with a touch a wolf in them. He said, “Tell me what you remember?”
“I remember nothing. I feel weird. I can’t even name anything. What is wrong with me? Where am I?’
The man produced a fine-looking pen, twisted the top slowly to allow the nib to appear, then wrote on the paper, “Remembers nothing.” He twisted the pen closed then put it on the table.
He said, “You may want to sit down.”
I saw no reason to disagree, so I sat down opposite him. He then said, “You were in an accident. A car accident to be more precise. You have been seriously injured and placed on a life support machine.”
It was an odd feeling hearing the words and not knowing what he meant, then a few seconds later my brain caught up with the words and images began to appear.
A blue car.
A life support machine.
A young woman.
The man said, “You might die from the injuries. You have been placed into an induced coma to improve your chances of survival.”
As I looked at the man, from behind him my mind’s eye could see glaring car lights, a sense of confusion, an attempt to steer the wheel away from the bright lights.
He asked, “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I lied.
“Please concentrate sir, because you need to understand what I am about to tell you, and you need to tell me whether you agree to do this or not.”
“I am listening.”
The young man said, “There is research being done on people in a coma where we insert a microchip into their brain. This chip is connected to a virtual reality game world. If you accept this, you will enter this world and it will be as real as the real world is to you.”
I kept looking at him. I wasn’t sure what to think. This situation seemed real to me, but clearly, it wasn’t. People don’t just wake up in rooms like this in real life. Yet, I was waking up like this.
The man said, “The results of the research indicates that having the chip and playing the game increases you chances of waking up from the coma by at least 25%.”
“Sir, tell me what you understand so far.”
“I am seriously injured, I am in a coma, and you are here to explain that researchers have found that people who play the virtual reality game have an improved chance of survival and waking up from the coma.”
The young man smiled. “Should you enter the game, as I mentioned, everything will be real. Pain, hunger, love, hate, everything. That includes death. While the game is not designed to kill you, for some reason, when you die in the game, you die in real life. Bear in mind that the chances of surviving the coma increase in spite of this.”
“The challenges within the game mimic the problems in the real world. If you have a bleed in the brain, you have a challenge in the game. In essence, the game makes you fight when you need to fight, and lets you rest when you need to rest.”
I said, “Okay, that actually makes sense, somehow.”
“Do you have any questions?”
I looked at the young man and pondered the situation for a few moments. I tried to remember anything in my past, anything about my real life, and found nothing but emptiness. I had no idea what to think. I said, “What happens if I don’t want to join the game?”
“You will be left in the coma and you will experience it in your own way. Some people remember it, some don’t. You may, or may not, be aware. It is difficult to say what will happen with you if you refuse. But if you agree, you will maintain your awareness during the game, you can fight, or not. And should you wake up, you will remember everything that has happened.”
I pulled the chair out, sat down on it, then faced the young man. I asked, “What is my name?”
“I can’t tell you. Your memories need to revive on their own.”
My heart sank. It didn’t seem like a difficult choice to make. I had already decided to do the virtual reality game. Why sit around in a coma when I can play a game while I wait?
I asked, “How does this work then?”
“Through that door is the game. You walk through it and the game begins. The world you enter is a fantasy setting, much like a role-playing game. You get to select the character and class, you are provided with ability scores, and you begin on level one. The world is large, and filled with many adventures. The best thing is that there are other coma patients within the game. Most of the people you meet will be controlled by the game, but sometimes you will meet coma patients. When you first meet, they will be highlighted in yellow for you.”
“Okay, let’s do this then.”
“To begin with, imagine a world of demi-humans, humanoids, dragons, demons, and every monster you can imagine. There is magic that is created and magic that is delivered from gods. And the world is based on life in the first millennia.”
“Okay.” I said. What I felt was out of place. In this unreal room, talking to this unreal person, everything seemed out of place. Nothing was quite right.
The man said, “By the time we are finished, you will have access to the numbers and stats like in a game. You will see the rolls happen as if playing with the dice. Most people find it enjoyable, some do not. If you dislike the number screens, we can remove them, but hardly anyone does. Shall we get started?”
“You are about to see a series of screens, all you need to do is read them, select the option you want and go through the series of questions until the end is reached.”
I asked him, “Is this for real? I mean, am I really in a coma, near death, and about to play a game? Or am I being pranked?”
“This is a serious event in your life. While it may seem like a game, and in many ways, it is, it is also life and death too. The game is a proxy for real life events. If you are crashing, the game will simulate the crash in a way that forces you to fight for your life in some way. If you respond to the challenges, your chances of survival improve. If you lay down and give up, you will surely die.”
I wasn’t sure what to think. The entire experience was screaming surreal to me now. I said, “Okay, I want to do this.” but I was thinking that I was agreeing mostly because I really didn’t have a better idea and the alternative of being aware in a coma sounded far worse than anything a game could throw at him.
And if I die, at least I go down fighting.
The man said, “Read the screens, answer them, and enjoy yourself.”
The first screen appeared.
I spent some time on this. Wizards are fun but weak. Clerics are middle of the road, but it would be good to have healing. Thieves die. Paladins are too nice.
In the end, given I am here fighting for my life, I decided to be literal and said, “Fighter.”
Strength: 17 (+3)
Dexterity: 15 (+2)
Constitution: 16 (+3)
Intelligence: 13 (+1)
Wisdom: 13 (+1)
Base Attack Hand Weapon:
Bastard Sword: +5 (+1 Base, +3 Strength, +1 Weapon Focus)
Damage Bonus: 1d10 +3 (+3 Strength)
Base Attack Ranged Weapon:
Short Bow +4 (+1 Base, +2 Dexterity, +1 Point Blank Shot)
Damage Bonus: 1d6 +1 (+1 Point Blank Shot)
Armor Class: 16 (+2 Dexterity, +4 Scale Mail Armor)
Fort Save: +5
Reflex Save: +2
Will Save: +1
Weapon Focus: Extra +1 to attack roll
Point Blank Shot: +1 on range attack and damage
The man said, “You will be given a standard set of equipment. It is not much, but it gets you started.”
Short Bow with 20 arrows
Scale Mail Armor (+4 Armor Class)
Rations 2 days
Flint and steel
12 gp (Gold Pieces)
Then the screen disappeared.
I was surprised to see the man standing by the door. He had swapped positions without me being aware of it.
He said, “You are about to enter the game we have called Coma. I am sure you have many questions, and on the other side you will have more to ask. To that end, I will be able to communicate with you in a way that the game characters and other players will not be able to hear. I will answer you and advise you along the way while filling in the gaps that you need to know to make an informed decision. To ask me questions, just say my name then ask”
I stood up. Again, I wasn’t sure why I was following instructions or not asking more questions. It seems like I should be asking more, saying more, being more careful. Instead, I stood up, walked to the door and when the man opened the door I was greeted with a cold wind and snow on the ground.
I said, “What is your name?”
I asked, “And what is my name in the game?”
“You can call yourself anything you want.”
I looked through the door again, then said, “I will call myself Jacob.”
Without another word I stepped through the door.
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