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Pixel Courage 26

“Hello,” the monster said.

Without thinking, I lowered the sword.

Monsters didn’t say hello. They didn’t sound like that, either: soft, old, like a grandmother

“Hi.” My response.

“You’ve reached The Volcano of Dreams,” she said.

“I know.”

“What dreams are you looking to fulfill?”

Didn’t have an answer, not really.

Dreams?

I mean, yeah, it’s called The Volcano of Dreams, but this was just a mission. That was just a name. It didn’t mean anything, not really.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“But you want to throw the coin into the volcano?”

“That’s my mission.”
“Is it what you want?” she asked.

Another dumb question, really. Still, I said, “Yes.”

“I’m here to tell you how this works.”

“I, uh…”

“It’s easy,” the monster said, “but people never believe it’s as easy as it seems. Few things are.”

“How does it work?”

“Think of something you really wish for — a deep need that radiates through your very being. Think of it, and throw the coin in the volcano.”

That did sound too easy. In fact, it sounded nuts.

What was the point? My VR headset could do a lot of things. It could make my brain perceive things differently, it could interpret the firing synapses of my brain, which meant that my brain thought it was walking, or running, or that I was talking, and so on and so forth.

In a sense, the only reason VR was possible was because the headset was reading some of the impulses in my brain.

But that was far different from actually reading my thoughts, wasn’t it? One was just brain chemistry, the other was…

The more I argued against the assumption, the more I started to believe Throne Quest might actually be able to read my thoughts.

“I just think of my wish, then throw the coin in the volcano?” I asked.

“Yes,” the monster said. It was all she needed to say.

I felt the coin in my hand — its grooves, the bits of volcano soot that had stuck to it. I smiled, thinking of how good at Alex was at video game design. Her game had such nice haptics, such weird ideas.

I hoped she was happy.

I hoped I would be happy.

But that wasn’t a wish I was about to throw in the volcano. If this game really could read my thoughts, I needed to give it an achievable goal, a wish it could actually fulfill.

I hope I can level up as quickly as possible, I thought to myself. I wish I was the most powerful player in the game.

Drew my arm back. Snapped it forward. The coin left my hand. In the purple haze, I couldn’t see where it went, but I didn’t hear it fall against the volcano’s crust.

Long seconds passed.

I don’t know what I expected. To instantly feel stronger? For my sword to turn into a broadsword? Lightning to shoot through my entire body?

I didn’t feel any of that.

Went into the game menu and looked at my stats and abilities: nothing had changed. I wasn’t any more powerful than before I’d trudged through the jungle and up the volcano.

The whole damn quest had been pointless.

“It didn’t work,” I told the monster.

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