“Trust me,” John had promised as we caught the maglev train back towards his neighborhood, “I’ve got something that will blow your mind.”
I had nodded, but I secretly hoped that this man wasn’t going to turn out to be some sort of sex-obsessed pervert, or perhaps have some unhealthy addiction. I wasn’t up for that, and the moment he pulled out the leather mask, I’d be gone like the wind.
The door had finally recognized John’s genomic signature, and slid open with a faint whoosh. John smiled, reached down and caught my hand, and tugged me inside. Hoping that this date wasn’t about to go south, I followed him in.
We passed through his kitchen, a living room, and then into darkness. I got the feeling that we were standing in a large area, but as John pulled the door shut behind us, all light was extinguished. “This is my pride and joy,” John’s voice said in the darkness. “I built most of it myself. I can spend hours in here!”
I opened my mouth to ask what it was, exactly, but then John clapped his hands together twice, and ambient light bloomed. And I recognized exactly what we were standing in!
The room was a massive cube, the walls, floor, and ceiling covered with a gridlike pattern. I spun around, my mouth falling open. “You have a Second Realm world!?” I gasped. “And it’s huge! This must be twenty feet on a side!”
John looked so happy that his smile might split his head in half. “When you mentioned at dinner that you played, I knew that I had to show it to you,” he said. “I really wanted to have a simulator that’s immersive, where I don’t have to worry about bumping elbows with someone else.” His eyes dipped briefly. “Do you want to try it out?”
My rapid nodding was all the answer he needed. He clapped again, and the light darkened, the tiles covering all of the room’s surfaces rippling into digital light.
A small window popped up in front of me, the hologram hovering at shoulder height, prompting me for my login information. I keyed it in, but a glance over to the other side of the room revealed that John was already connected. His character profile was surely saved on the computer here, easily accessible for quick loading. By the time I had entered in all of my information, waiting for the servers to sync up, John was fully dressed in his digital gear, checking his spell bindings.
As my own character began to load, I sized him up. Light blue clothes, a crystalline staff, waves of tiny ice crystals radiating out from him in a constant aura – it was easy to see his class. “Frost mage, huh?” I quipped.
“Some of the best crowd control in the game,” he retorted. “Besides, like that old movie said, the cold never bothered me anyway! What about you?”
The last customizations of my profile were still initializing, but my spell bindings were at my fingertips, ready to be unleashed with a tingle. As my headgear – a protective set of goggles – materialized on my face, I brought my hands up. “Your polar opposite,” I told him, wiggling my fingers in one of the sequences I’d memorized.
With a “foomph” of ignition, a ball of fire grew out of the empty space between my hands. I brought it down in front of me, marveling at the constantly shifting texture. John certainly hadn’t skimped on the graphics engine! I couldn’t even spot the individual pixels.
When I glanced back up, John was grinning once again. “A firebug, I should have guessed,” he said. “Goes with your hot… personality!”
I laughed despite myself, but then gave him a mock scowl. “How dare you insinuate anything!” I told him. “For that, I’m going to kick your ass!”
The flag of a duel came dropping down between us. John raised an eyebrow, and then his hands. I could see the light glinting off the ice crystals forming a sphere between them. “Are you sure you want to do that?” he asked. “You might want to chill out.”
“Oh, I’ll show you!” I told him, raising up the fireball and readying myself as the duel counted down. “I’m too hot for you to handle!”