“But I’m a girl!” Lee wails for about the eighteen billionth time. Well, maybe the third. Or fourth. “What am I s’posed to do now?”
“Well if I were you, I’d play with my breasts,” James points out, having about exhausted the sensible, intelligent and sympathetic responses. “Seriously.”
“What? Oh, yeah, that’s a thought.” Lee’s usual sardonic grin flashes suddenly from the petite Asian-looking girl’s face. It’s kind of weird. Given the right cue, Lee could always be depended to switch into showman-mode. “No! Wait! You’re trying to distract me!”
“Well your breasts are trying to distract me!” James retorts.
“Stop looking at my breasts! Oh God, what am I saying?” He buries his face in his hands again.
Samila is a rather well-endowed young woman. That’s how Lee had described her anyway, at the start of the campaign: “Big charisma, big eyes, big smile, big…” He had tried not to say it but eventually he had to: “Bazoongas.” Big grin.
“You really are a simple creature, aren’t you?” Ken had observed dryly.
Back in the present James says, “Anyway, the same thing happened to Paul here, and he’s not freaking out like you are.”
I can feel my face bursting out in a blush. “So where’s Simon?” I ask, to change the subject. We’re all accounted for otherwise; myself, James, Lee, Dave, who’s sitting next to Lee on the other side of the cockpit looking uncomfortable and scared. Lotan, it surprises no-one, is this huge guy, the absolute epitome of the muscle-bound warrior hero. We’ve always joked about how he almost always plays characters like that, just as everyone jokes that I almost always play female characters (these things do not go unnoticed after a while), but the sheer physical presence of someone that tall and that well-built takes some getting used to; not least by Dave, it would appear from the slightly glazed expression on his face. Samila – Lee – Samila, whatever, looks like a child by his side.
We’re still in the water. I had heaved-to and dropped anchor and furled the sails when the other two came up on deck, so we could talk and I didn’t have to worry about what the boat was doing.
“His character died,” James says.
“Yeah, but that was before…” Lee starts. “I dunno, before whatever-the-fuck it was that just happened to us.”
“There’s someone still asleep downstairs,” Dave says finally.
“Oh…” I start. “That’ll be the NPC you picked up. What was her name?”
“Uh…” James starts.
“I can’t remember,” Dave says.
Lee looks blank as well.
“Oh this is good,” I say. “You think Simon’ll be… I dunno, her?”
“Why should he be?”
“Because we’re all here apart from him!”
“And Ken,” Lee says. “If this has happened to all of us, what the hell’s happened to him?”
We look at each other for a few moments then, as one, slowly look into the sky.
“No, that’s ridiculous,” James says.
“Any more than this is?” Lee snaps back.
“If he’s up there, we’re in really big trouble,” Dave says quietly, still looking at the sky.
“He’s not up there, don’t be stupid,” James insists.
“Anyway, what about Simon?” I ask again. “Barak died, so what… is he dead now?”
“Maybe nothing happened to him. Maybe he’s back at the hall wondering what the hell happened to all of us.” Dave says.
“Are we still at the hall?” Lee wonders. “I thought we’d finished and gone home.”
“So did I,” I say.
“Do you remember going home?” Dave asks.
“I’m not sure,” James says. I just shake my head. So does Lee. “I think I was walking in the fog, but it might have been before. God, I might have dreamed that since being here for all I know!” He’s sounding frustrated and scared again
“I thought I was dreaming,” I say, “so I thought I had to have gone to bed but… I can’t remember. It’s vague. I remember XP being given out,” I add.
“Yeah, I remember that too,” Lee says.
“Yeah,” adds Dave. “Fucking Hell, this is insane!” he yells suddenly, standing and alarming Lee in the process.
“Yes, it’s insane,” James snaps back. “But it doesn’t do any good to just go on about it, does it? Now sit down.”
They glare at each other for a few moments, then Dave sits back down, sulkily.
“We’ve got to decide what we’re going to do,” James says.
“I don’t know that we should be trying to do anything,” Dave answers. “I mean, none of this is real, is it? It can’t be. We’re obviously in some kind of… I don’t know, shared hallucination or something.”
James sighs irritably. I find myself putting my hand on his, as if to say, ‘be calm, you’re scaring me.’ And he does calm down. Strange, to have a power like that, but I did it automatically, like I operate the boat, automatically.
It doesn’t go unnoticed. “What…? Is something going on here I don’t know about?” Lee asks, pointing quickly between the two of us.
“No,” I say.
“Don’t be so fucking stupid,” James adds more forcefully.
“Must be an elf thing,” Lee quips to Dave.
“Oh, shut it,” James says tiredly, and pulls his hand back. “That’s what it’s going to be now, is it? If it’s not about fucking it’s an elf thing?”
“Oh come on, I was only joking!”
It’s a funny thing; I suddenly notice how Lee and Dave – rather Samila and Lotan, I suppose – look much more highly sexed than James/Kerilas and, I presume, myself. I haven’t seen a reflection of myself yet, but I can look down and see that I’m not very curvy, compared to Samila anyway. And Kerilas has an ethereal, androgynous beauty. I do wonder if I have it too. Somehow I can’t believe it.
But already I can see there’s a gulf opening between us and the other two… The humans. It’s… It’s astonishing how quickly something like that can happen, how someone turns into ‘us’, and someone else turns into ‘them’.