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The sudden darkness made me feel slightly dead, so I feel about on my body. Yup, all the furry bits are still attached. This concrete bunk has a thin pad which I guess I can use as a blanket or a mattress, but not both. No pillow. I guess I can craft some stuff in the dark. The crafting windows are eerie with how they illuminate themselves but not my surroundings.

As I go through crafting recipes, I find one section that might be suitable. Extraplanar tailoring sounds right up my alley. My crafting inventory is full of things, just absolutely cluttered with all manner of oddities. I wind up making a phoenix down pillow and dreamcotton blanket. After some consideration, I take out a Fenrir wolf fur and roughly bundle that into a mattress. This bed is okay.

As I snuggle into the bedding and feel the physical tension drain, though not the mental, I hear some singing, or maybe some pure tones. It is wispy, ethereal, definitely a tenor. Am I about to be haunted by the ghost of a musical?

An iridescent shimmer of blue, purple, and turquoise comes from the far wall. From this shimmer emerges a being of majestic stature! Just kidding, it’s a kind of short dude in a bathrobe smoking a cigarette. There’s a coffee mug in his hand and I think I smell strong liquor. This guy is about as wide as he is tall, and his body contours suggest extreme muscles.

“What’s up, man. Which shard you been grinding?”

He flicks his cigarette, and the ashes almost gets to my pillow before it glows and vanishes. Did my pillow do that? I guess I don’t need to wash it that often if it self-cleans! This guy has a mohawk in two braids, with tattoos everywhere. The tattoos all look like weird letters and numbers and are slowly changing shape as I watch.

“Um. Hello? Just here, I think. I have been slaying dragons and stuff.”

I should hide my ignorance but still answer with the truth. I feel like I will be bad at this, but when I tell the whole truth I get in trouble.

“Yeah cool. But which shard were you in before this one? Or have you been slumming it in this dump away from the Battlegrounds? Nice shapechanging, by the way. It’s saying you’re a gnome and here you are totally pretending to be Monkey Magic. And your class… Level 0? Woah dude, you’re doing crazy penalties! I bet you rock in combat though.”

Did he just inspect me? I try inspecting him and see all sorts of stats. He’s a Muscle Wizard/Duelist/Tattoo Shaman. Each of those classes have their own tab, so I don’t think he’s all of those at once? Or maybe he is. I really can’t tell. His name is Rhynn Taconight. What is up with that name? It is night, so will he make me a taco?

“I got hit with a loopy memory attack and everything before about a week ago is fuzzy. I traveled up here hoping I could get some assistance with my memory.”

“But you remember the last week well?”

Rhynn leans forward and lowers his cigarette slightly. I did not expect a short, wide guy like that could smolder so well.

“Well, yeah. It’s been pretty intense, and I honestly wish I could forget parts of it.”

I try to keep my facial expression from changing because I just might cry if I express any of that emotion.

“Oh shit, dude. My b. Here, have a swig.” He hands me the mug. My eyes sting as I look at some golden liquid full of ice. I take a pull, and suddenly realize the cup is empty. I cough some, and Rhynn pounds my back, saying “That’s the way! Now tell Papa Rhynn what all went down.”

Suddenly there’s a jar of pickles in his hand and he’s handing me a fork.

I eat a pickle, and notice a small tray set up between us. Rhynn is leaning back in a reclining armchair. The tray suddenly has an ashtray and a bowl of shelled nuts. This guy is pretty okay so far.

I tell him about meeting the shitty god, and about my UI being bugged out. Before I can get to talking about encountering a dragon, he asks me

“We don’t know if you’re a player or an non-player? This sounds intense.” He light another cigarette, except this one looks slightly different and smells mustier, like damp earth and pungent herbs. He passes me the cigarette.

“Calm your nerves, bro. You’ve had it rough.”

I cough even more, but my back suddenly feels lighter and I don’t feel like crying at all. I cross my fingers that I do not have an addictive personality. My titles don’t support that hypothesis, but surely there’s more to me than those titles, right?

There’s a couple of bottles of beer on the tray. He takes the lid off one and hands it to me. It tastes of rye bread and mushrooms. Suddenly, I chug it, but I feel like I’m not in control of myself when I do it. I am still greater than the sum of my titles! Despite my current actions.

“Sorry about that. I have a title that makes me a lush.” I feel kind of bad with how I keep chugging the booze he gives me.

“You have a title? I couldn’t see that. You, my friend, are a mystery. And I am bored with this lifestyle. I would like to unravel your mystery.”

I like the sound of that!

“Let me try adding you to my friend list.”

A window pops up in front of me, asking me if I would like to add Rhynn Taconight to my friends list. Hooray, I have friends. There’s a name there. I don’t especially feel different, but I did just smoke an unknown substance. And he is passing it back to me again.

“Finish that off, and then let’s try going to another shard. I think for you the island resort is the best option. We can just relax and play some beach volleyball. The guys here might miss us, but as long as we come back to our cells, we technically never broke out since we never went anywhere in this world outside the cell. Gotta love loopholes, bro.”

“Except you’re in my cell right now.”

I mean, they might detect that, right?

“Nah man, this is just an astral projection of manliness and muscle.” He flexes, and the bathrobe ripples in a suggestive fashion.

“Do me a favor, and try opening a window for shards.”

I find that option and open it up, and it is blank. I think this was the blank menu option I found earlier.

“The window doesn’t show me any text.”

“Oh snap. Sounds like that god is messing with you. Okay, try opening a message window to talk to me through the friend list.”

I do that, and prompt him to continue.

“Now try cutting and pasting the text from the shard window to your message to me.”

Hey, this is kind of like what I wanted to do earlier!

“Done. My message window is blank still, but it is acting like it sent a message.”

I really wish I could see just the highlighting, even if not the text.

“Ok, it looks like you have regular shard access…. Except there’s an extra option. Shardtether? That’s a new one on me. I think you are stuck here until you remove the tether. I don’t know what that even is.” Rhynn scratches at his goatee and slams a beer.

“So you’re stuck in this shard. But we can at least visit the spirit world attached to this shard. As long as we leave our physical bodies here, we’re golden.”

He begins rolling another of those earthy cigarettes.

“We need you to figure out how to make a non-physical body. Your class is weird, but it’s a wizard class, so you should be able to research a spell or ability to accomplish that. Once we’re in the spirit world, we’ll start busting heads to get some answers about this nonsense.”

I poke around my UI for a few minutes to find a research window. The menu is all glitched out, with strings of garbled text.

“I think I will have to do something to fix my research ability. That window is completely bugged with weird symbols.”

“Man, fuck that god! You said he was shitty, but I’ll say he is shitacular. That dude’s five gallons of dildos in a one-gallon bucket.”

You can measure dildos in gallons?

“I might be able to fix it in the settings menu.”

Rhynn gets quiet on that point. Maybe settings menus are weird?

“Yeah, check out that settings menu and see what you come up with. For now, I am going to get some shut eye. G’night, bud.” He stands up, and all the items he brought in vanish. I wave at him with a smile, and he disappears through that shimmering portal again.

1 Comment

  1. zavyyn

    This song took a few listens to grow on me, and then it became a full-blown fungal infection.


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