Friday, March 29, 2013

FFF: Bungle In The Jungle

Every Friday, Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This is the final entry in March's Mystery Theme (the previous entries are: Teacher, Living In The Past, Rainbow Blues, and Fat Man). If you have a guess, make it in the comments. The answer will be revealed on Monday.

Bungle In The Jungle
World Count: 600

Colin stepped cautiously, ducking beneath vines and low-hanging branches. His hands clung tightly to his hunting rifle. The air was thick with moisture, and the roar of a million insects and birds chirping madly.

He took another hesitant step. His foot landed in a snare. Wire wrapped around his foot and tugged. His leg jerked out from underneath him and bent skyward. Colin dropped his gun, flailing.

Then he stopped moving. His leg was still being pulled up, but his body froze in mid-air.

“Menu,” he said. Nothing happened. “Glitch!” he shouted. “Get me out of here, Marco! Hurry!” The sensation of being partially upended was starting to give him vertigo. “Seriously, Marco, get me out of here before I puke!”

“Sorry,” said Marco’s disembodied voice. “Another second.”

The jungle dissolved around Colin. He was sitting in a chair in a musky studio. His hands trembled; when he regained control of them, he pulled the headset off his scalp and set it on the table next to him. “God, that was unnerving,” he said.

“What happened?” asked Marco.

“The game froze when I stepped in a snare,” said Colin. “It was like I got stuck half-way.”

“Dammit,” said Marco. “I thought we fixed that bug. It’s not what we’re testing today; I’ll highlight them so you can avoid them.”

“Why do we even have them?” asked Colin. “It’s not like the animals are hunting you. Although, the monkeys seem willing, come to think of it.”

“In the multiplayer mode, you hunt other hunters,” said Marco, typing. “You can set snares in the single-player, ergo you can set snares for each other.”

“Is that ethical?” asked Colin.

“IRL or the game?” asked Marco.

“Either,” said Colin.

“In real life, of course not,” said Marco. “In the game, maybe. Like I said, it’s a core mechanic from the single-player mode kept for multi.”

“You expect lots of multi with this?” asked Colin.

“The last game had it,” said Marco. “It wouldn’t be VirtuaSafari without it. Can I drop you back in now, or do you need to recover?” 

“Give me a minute,” said Colin. “What do you think is causing it?”

“The snare issue?” asked Marco. “Who knows? I don’t write the code, I just run the playtests. I hope they get it straightened out soon, though. I ran a group test last week. There was puke everywhere. Damn vertigo.”

“Yikes,” said Colin.

“Yeah, it sticks right when the headset is trying to override your brain’s orientation,” said Marco. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s smart to use people’s heads as interfaces. But it’s what gamers want, you know?”

Colin nodded.

“Hey, one other thing,” said Marco. “I noticed you were avoiding obstacles. Go ahead and run into things so we can test for clipping issues.”

“How will I know if there are clipping issues?” asked Colin.

“You’ll feel it,” said Marco. “And God, is it the weirdest thing you’ll ever feel.” He shuddered. “Anyway, you ready for another go?”

“Yeah, let’s do it,” said Colin, reaching for the headset. He placed the electrodes against his scalp. The studio melted away from his vision and the system calibrated to his visual cortex.

The jungle reappeared. The birds and insects roared. Colin made a mental note to bring that up next time. Ahead of him, he could see a glowing red beacon, marking a snare. He approached it, and then carefully stepped to the side.

A wire wrapped around his leg and jerked him half-way into the air, where he froze.

“Oh, God damn it!” he shouted.

Edited by Carolyn "That's Alright By Me" Abram.

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