‘Sometimes, you’ve just got to treat yourself, Laura.‘ John smiled and handed me another marshmallow, toasted slightly by the ornate fireplace at our feet.
‘Yeah, but the early access upgraded VIP version of the “1980s Americana” DLC. I thought that it was still in beta.‘ I said, as I took the marshmallow. The flavour was absolutely spot on, even if the texture was a little bit on the stodgy side. Still, it hardly seemed worth submitting an error report over.
‘Ah, selling LANCorp some extra Christmas bandwidth has it’s perks. I mean, I expected an upgrade, but this is really something! Even if the outfits are a bit silly – I mean, just look at this sweater. And I don’t remember my hair being this spiky.‘ He gestured towards his chest, before running his fingers through his tantalisingly prickly hair.
‘It suits you. On the other hand, I look like a cross between Veronica Sawyer, Kate Beringer and … what’s her name? Audrey Horne. Seriously, it’s like a movie‘ I chuckled.
John looked bewildered. I grinned and rolled my eyes: ‘Don’t tell me you didn’t do any historical research before you came here? Heathers, Gremlins and Twin Peaks. They’re like classic 1980s Americana. Well, sort of. “Twin Peaks” is more early 1990s I guess.‘
‘Oh god, you actually did research. It’s supposed to be three weeks of pure cyberspace relaxation.‘ John chuckled, before grinning wickedly: ‘Don’t tell me, there are three things in this room that are historically inaccurate.‘
‘Five actually.‘ I laughed. ‘The digital radio above the fireplace, the plasma television, the tiny LANCorp logo on the door, the smartphone on the table and that weird glitch in the corner.‘
‘What weird glitch in the corner?‘ John raised his eyebrow.
Leaning backwards, I pointed towards a strange glowing mass in the corner. At first, I’d just assumed that it was a mood light or maybe a box filled with little filament lights, but it had changed colour at least three times within the past minute. At the moment, it was a mellow shade of lime green.
John shrugged ‘I don’t know, I just assumed it was some kind of fad that they had back then. I’ll submit an error report.‘ Stretching out his left arm, he brought up a text terminal and started jabbing at it with his index finger. Five minutes later, he closed it and said: ‘ Done.‘ Ten seconds later, the light went dark.
‘Wow, that was quick! Do you remember that three-headed Santa Claus last year? It took them like four hours to sort that out.‘ I laughed.
John laughed too ‘VIP access, remember. Best of all, the VIP “Winter Wonderland” admins are way more laid-back. We could tell dirty jokes, drink brandy and… you know… and we wouldn’t get a single warning message.‘
‘The possibilities are endless.‘ I smirked, taking another marshmallow from the bag between us. But, as I lifted it to my mouth, I noticed that it was glowing too.
Slowly, I put it down on the table and got up. John crept cautiously out of his armchair. I pulled up a text terminal and abruptly tapped out “ERROR REPORT: BIOLUMINESCENT MARSHMALLOW!” before recording a short video feed and transmitting it.
Once the marshmallow had disappeared, John put his arm around my shoulders and said: ‘Hey, it’s ok. It’s early access. We’re part of… the future.‘
With John’s warm body beside me and his arm resting behind my head, it was difficult to feel afraid ‘Yeah, I guess. It wouldn’t be early access if there weren’t at least a few bugs. Hey! What are you doing on the other side of the room?‘
John looked across the lounge at me and said: ‘Putting the television on… Stop! Whatever you do, keep looking straight ahead!‘ He brought up a text terminal and started typing quickly. It took me a second to realise that he was using both arms. But, before I could turn around, the third arm suddenly disappeared from the back of my neck.
‘Must have been an avatar ghost, but the bones sticking out the end of it were super realistic though.‘ He chuckled.
‘B…Bones?‘ I said. He really tried not to laugh. I glared at him. He practically collapsed with laughter.
When he’d composed himself, he finished turning the TV on before moving our armchairs in front of it. Smoothing out my skirt, I sat down again and looked at the movie menu on the screen in front of us. ‘What? They don’t have anything on VHS?‘ I said nervously.
‘VH… what?‘ John said, before looking at the list. But, before we could choose between “The Breakfast Club” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, the room was suddenly filled with loud screaming. I practically leapt onto the ceiling. Even John looked terrified. An acrid burning smell filled my nostrils. The noises continued, getting louder and louder. Then they stopped. There was a quiet knock on the door, then another.
‘C…come in.‘ John said, brandishing the TV remote like some kind of gauss pistol. The door creaked open and a cute guy with a LANCorp badge entered. He flashed us a cheesy grin: ‘Sorry about that folks, we had some problems with the Santa Claus AI. He isn’t supposed to come down the chimney until Christmas eve.’
I glanced over at the roaring fire. Above the flames, I could just make out the outline of a shoe.
Noticing it, the LANCorp guy said: ‘Don’t worry, he’s only a game character. Just be glad that you didn’t come here last month. He tried to bludgeon one of the alpha testers to death with his sack. Ha! That was a good one. But, you can rest easy, we’ve also deleted all of his elves too.‘
A shrill, malevolent cackling sound echoed through the room, followed by footsteps on the roof. The LANCorp guy sighed wearily and reached into his jacket, before saying: ‘Well, most of them. If you’ll excuse me for a minute, folks.‘
As two shots and a muffled squeak rang out across the quiet winter night, I turned to John and asked pointedly: ‘Just HOW much did you sell them that extra bandwidth for?’
He grinned: ‘Like four times the going rate. They’ll pay anything at this time of the year!‘