Waiting Screens were always surreal, because they essentially disembodied you. One moment you’re playing a game, and you forget that you’re living in a non-physical plane. Then you’re looking at the Waiting Screen — unable to move, unable to do anything other than wait or log off.
My entire line of vision was taking up by a white screen. The white screen had words written on it, in big black letters:
“EVERYTHING’S GOING TO BREAK, BUT THAT’S OKAY. THINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE BROKEN. ETERNITY IS A BORE.” – THE ROSE SAGE
Rose Sage. The name wasn’t familiar. But then again, I hadn’t paid attention to the lore, so it made sense it wouldn’t be familiar.
Still, in the time it took to load, I had a bit of time to think about the statement. “Everything’s going to break.”
Those words resonated with me a bit too much.
I wanted badly to be good at this game. It was dumb, really. I’d done the Alpha and Beta tests in the hopes of seeing Alex again — no dice, there. But I still thought that if I was a really good player — if people knew and respected me, if I played the game better than anyone else — Alex would maybe want to talk to me again.
I would be interesting. She would respect me if other players did.
My original plan had been to log on right at the start of the game’s launch, get in there with everyone else, start leveling up so no one had a chance to get better at the game than I did.
That hadn’t worked out so well. My legs had started acting up again, and–
The game finally loaded, and I was thankful. Good to get out of my own head.
— — —
I was standing in a room of mirrors. The wood flooring felt cold against my feet. Whereas there were mirrors in front of me, behind me, and to my left, to my right there was a door.
I looked so odd, just a black silhouette. No features, no clothing, no anything. Nothing to identify myself as. Every player who made their way into the game would go through this process. Thousands and thousands of people, all starting at this point.
“What is your gender?” a booming voice asked. Couldn’t tell where it came from.
Took me a second to answer. Lump in my throat got in the way. “A man.”
The silhouette changed slightly. Became more masculine, especially in the area most associated with masculinity. I turned so that my profile was in view of the mirror. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make you smile.
“How tall are you?” the voice asked. “You don’t need to give a specific answer. You can just say ‘tall’ or ‘short’ and we’ll adjust from–”
“Six feet, two inches.” My silhouette grew roughly five inches. I’d spent a lot of time staring at myself when I was younger, wishing I had a different body. I knew exactly what I wanted to look like.
“Mesomorph,” I said. “Some muscle, but not too much.”
Once again, the silhouette morphed to match my request.
“A little more muscle,” I said. “About one hundred and eighty pounds.”
The silhouette filled out.
I told it about my hair, “Short, chestnut brown.” Finally, some color was added to my silhouette.
I told the voice I had green eyes and I described my suit of armor: it was a green and gold cuirass, a green base with thin wisps of gold spiraling around in a decorative touch. It covered my torso, but left room for my arms and legs to move. It also didn’t obscure my vision.
Didn’t provide as much protection as a full suit of armor, but that was my decision. And anyway, the armor that you got at this stage wouldn’t be nearly as powerful as the armor you got later on. If I didn’t like this, I could change my mind later on.
For my weapon, I chose a simple sword: long blade with a golden hilt. I didn’t like arrows, though they would’ve been helpful because Thorn players didn’t have many long range attacks.
Still, the mechanic was annoying enough that I stuck with the sword.
The voice asked me what race I was.
A long moment of silence. It felt weird to say it. “White.”
A long pause on its side, too. The voice rephrased its question, “What is your species?”
“Oh, uh, human.” I was a little embarrassed, which left me unable to put too much thought into things. But that was alright, because I’d been pretty sure I was going to play a human.