Prompt: While drunkenly setting up your avatar for a simulated world, you find a developer’s Easter egg and end up with the rarest character class in the game. There is only one: the village idiot.
I was at a point in my life where I was doing a lot of things drunk. It was like a game; how intoxicated could I be while still getting the task done and not getting noticed? I shopped for sweaters drunk. Hiked drunk. Even coded drunk. It’s very strange to look at a program written by an intellectually-meandering version of yourself. It’s like seeing a toy train’s tracks cross over each other a hundred times, and never in the same place.
I did these things drunk because there was nobody to stop me. I used to date, back in high school. The school had its own online dating service, as they pretty much all do these days, and they stuck me with some nice people, but it was like two Easter eggs of a similar color bumping into each other in the basket. We were nice together. We were fun together, but we didn’t share anything. We had our shells; there was simply no fluid exchange.
If there had been, there might’ve been somebody looking out for me when I tumbled and cracked into the real world. I got a job making algorithms that randomly generate internet greeting and birthday cards. I get to be slightly creative, but the work mostly involves letting the computer pull variations out of what I’ve done. It’s a lot of sitting and a lot of waiting. A lot of time for drinking and for gaming.
My problem got really out of control on the first day where I combined those two. Work was dead; I was the only one even in the office. I could work on debugging the turkey-shaped Thanksgiving cards from home, the randomness tended to make the ‘turkeys’ shaped more like unholy monstrosities from the eleventh dimension, but I was trying to escape my noisy downstairs neighbors anyway.
There was time to kill and I’d already killed a bottle of wine. What would be my next victim? My wandering hands stumbled across my virtual reality headset. Drunk me made programs that were different animals. Drunk me would certainly be a different sort of player as well. I looked around one final time to make sure I was alone, and then slipped the set onto my head.
Everybody knows how immersive those games have gotten. My school’s dating service used headsets like that too: just drop a bunch of kids into a virtual cafeteria with nothing dangerous so they can’t cut themselves with knives and forks in the real one.
Today’s game of choice was People of the Village. They went with a simpler name at first, but they got hit for some copyright infringement of a band from like eighty years ago. It was a whole thing, but I digress. This game was simple and social. You wandered about an idealized version of a medieval village looking for an apprenticeship and a person to woo. The way you won was by wooing someone above your caste. I wasn’t really looking to win; it was just a tipsy experiment.
I needed to make a fresh character, so I stumbled into the character creator: a small pen suitable for ponies. There was a line of scarecrows in front of me wearing various outfits: town crier, seamstress, knight, bowman, wizard, chef, farrier… I could go on, I could’ve literally scrolled through them, but drunk me had a few different ideas. Picking a profession was too simple. How are you ever going to be special, catch someone’s eye through another crack somewhere in the Easter basket, if you just do everything based on templates?
I made the best cards, the best algorithms rather, because I never started from anybody else’s work. I went from scratch. It made mine personal, and it earned me a key to the office in the first place. I swear it used to be a place for more than drinking wine and playing games.
I started by entering my name as Gary, just to keep the game on its toes. I noticed, now that it thought I was Gary, I was getting more traditionally masculine costumes presented. All the scarecrows were a little higher, because the game assumed a taller average player from my name. Somebody was lazy though. The scarecrows didn’t have stretched support poles; they were simply shifted up. They were no longer fixed in the ground properly. I could see a black crescent: the hole in the dirt they were supposed to be pressed into.
Drunk me stumbled forward, onto all fours, probably nearly falling out of the chair in the real world, and examined those holes. Empty space, empty space, empty space… not so empty space. There was a shred of color under one of those posts. As carefully as I could, I lifted the scarecrow with the shepherd’s outfit and tossed it away.
I shoved my hand down into the ground greedily and pulled out, with great effort, something like a jester’s costume. It was green and gold with a floppy hat, but none of the bells I expected. In their place hung iron nails, like those you would use on a coffin. Drunk me giggled maniacally. Less than five minutes in the character creator and we’d already found something special. It had to be intentional. Some kind of Easter egg. Just like me. That’s how the drunk thoughts went anyway.
The costume went on over the projected version of my real clothes. It moved like a snake, covering me in one fluid motion and tightening to my wrists and ankles. I thought I was going to be the life of the party. I’d had a few characters before, I even made it into the castle caste once, thanks to a currency-duplicating glitch, but I never saw a court jester. It was the only one in the whole game and it was all mine.
Boy, did drunk me strut her stuff down the main lane, for all the other new apprentices to behold. Its secret developer powers should’ve kicked in, but nothing happened. Instead… people laughed at me. That might sound normal; I was a jester after all. It wasn’t. I hadn’t pulled out any jokes. There was just an aura of cruelty around this costume. Everyone pointed and laughed, their eyes both dark and bright like stars fading behind a screen of smoke.
I started to cry, but I had to keep walking. The silly curled shoes wouldn’t let me turn back. This was my job. I wasn’t the jester. I was the village idiot. Of course there would only be one of those. My long walk of colorful shame brought back all kinds of horrible memories from that virtual cafeteria. I remembered how good I used to feel when I used to write code for my own clothes, but then came the oily black parts of the memory. People laughed. My creations weren’t good, because they weren’t from templates. They laughed until I put on the world’s most common virtual sweater. Then they simply looked away.
Why would any developer put in a village idiot? In theory it was a good idea to provide a bit of a kicking mule for players’ to focus their irritations on, but it made no sense to stick an actual person inside. When I reached the end of the lane the village idiot revealed its second purpose. The sleeves overtook my hands. The collar squeezed over my head and rearranged all those iron nails into something like teeth. Now the green and gold were scales and the coattails just tails.
A village idiot that was actually just a larvae. It needed to be fed scorn and hate before it could metamorphose into the other thing strangely absent from the medieval game: a dragon. I flew about at the suit’s mercy, crying and burning with anger, spewing virtual fire on all those who had mocked me. I don’t know how many accounts I destroyed, or how much actual momentary value was lost, but I know it had to be some. Pieces of the village people were spread all over everything.
As soon as I had a sense of self strong enough, I ripped the headset off. I was actually crying. There was a message on my monitor. It popped up after the game closed itself. It read:
Congratulations village idiot! You’ve completed a simulation of my time in game development. I flaunted colorful new ideas and was shamed for it. I put this dragon egg in the game for you to find, whoever you are. I hope you enjoyed my revenge. I figured only someone with too much free time would find that costume.
That makes you like me. We should hang out. I don’t have anybody else. Shoot me a message; my address is Windsorgamedesign@g.world.
I checked the back of my brain. Still drunk. No serious cracks in my eggshell. Why not? I opened my E-mail.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by Wyrdewyn during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!