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The Option

Joel David Neff | Joe Zabel

“Let me explain: you died, or rather, you will die, tonight, April 24th, of a heart attack in your sleep. But, if you accept our offer, you wake up again here ready to go to work and be productive.”

“What happens if I go back to sleep?”

The stranger shrugged. “You die.”

“And then?”

“Honestly? I have no idea. Even with our science, we’re not sure if there’s an afterlife. The deeper things get on the quantum level, the weirder they get and some people take it all as evidence of a higher power. But me?” He shrugged again.

“How is this all happening?”

“Quantum tunneling.”

I waited.

The stranger rolled his eyes and explained, “Through some very complicated science. Basically, we use a kind of quantum computer that lets us create an active model of your mind. You are, in a sense, simulcasting right now. If you accept our offer, we make our version of you the active one. Your mind there, in your time, shuts down and then your body has its heart thing and that’s that. Lovely funeral, lots of tears, etc. etc.”

“That’s kind of cold.”

“Hey, lots of people never had anyone to mourn them. But look at you. Lovely wife, beautiful kids: they’ll miss you.”

“But can’t you stop the heart attack?”

The man looked sad. “I wish we could, but all we can do is copy the light and sound waves that reach us through the tunnel. It’s way too complicated to attempt any kind of physical contact.”

“Then wake me up. Let me get to the hospital.”


“What do you mean why? So I don’t die.”

He shrugged. “Even if we could, there’s really nothing in it for us. Your death is an inevitability. If not tonight then sometime soon and that does us no good. Your death is of no consequence. We want you alive. That’s why we make the offer. We’re not just letting you live a few more months or years, we’re offering you a chance to live forever. Or, at least, as long as you want.”

“What’s the offer?”

The man beamed. “Now we’re talking! It’s simple, really. We have, at the moment, something like 68 billion people in our potential customer base. 68 billion people who will live forever. They have, shall we say, a certain amount of free time? They are hungry for entertainment. Entertainment you can help provide.

“We create game worlds where players participate in the stories of their choosing. They can have adventures unavailable at any previous time in history…”

I interrupted. “You make video games?”

He chuckled. “I can see I’m going to have to be a little more in depth with you. Computers of your day and age provided a limited virtual world. I believe your most advanced games are just experimenting with full body haptics?

“We’re a bit beyond that. See, what we do is actually create worlds. Out there. In space. Not always big ones, but always interesting ones. Oz, Wonderland, Azeroth, they’re actually out there now. Really. Things you can touch and all.

“At the same time, consciousness is a little more…fluid these days. We’re no longer limited to our bodies. Or any single body, really. Our customers come to us, we relay them to a game world that we custom create for them and they get the body of their choosing for their adventure.”

“You make games.”

He sighed. “You’re not getting stubborn now are you? Stay with me, ok?”

I nodded and folded my arms across my chest. I think I did anyway.

The man continued. “So, accept for a second that it’s all real. A customer comes to us and says ‘I want to play a game’ so we send them off to a game world and they go through quests and mission objectives and the whole thing. When they’re finished, they come back to us and we put them back in whatever body they want.”

“How much does this cost?”

“Once an accountant always an accountant, I like that. But to answer your question — a lot. More than you can imagine. But living forever gives you a lot of time to save your money, you know? Most people opt to do a timeserve. It’s a simple swap program. You know, we give you a year on our game world, you work for us for a year, that kind of thing.”

“What do you need me for?”

The man’s eyes lit up, like that was the question he had been waiting for. “That’s the best part. You get to be the game master. You are the opposition, the help, the non-player characters, the scenery, the weather, the monsters, the loot, the gods. You are the game.”

I didn’t get it at first. “You mean like I run the game?”

He smiled again. “No. You ARE the game. We upload you to the planet. Your personality, your character, your you-ness makes the game. Every day, you react to the people and events in your life. You make decisions, you have conversations, you help people, you hurt people, you do all the things we call living. And we want you to do that for us on a grand scale. You become the game. Everything that happens, happens because you allow it.

“Every hero that slays the dragon and saves the princess does so with your help. Every quest that ends in triumph does so because you decided to let it happen. Every monster lives because you want it to. Every hero that dies, dies because you decided they were not worthy.”

“Can I say goodbye to my family?”

“No.” He smiled the sad, strange smile of a man who has already made the sale. “I’m afraid our time is almost up. What do you say? Do you accept?”

So that’s how I got to be here. How about you Hero? Got your sword, got your armor? Ready to slay the dragon? Good. Let’s play.

About Joel David Neff

Joel is a writer, photographer, and teacher living in rural Japan.

Visit the author's page >

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