“You threw the coin in and made a wish?”
“Yeah, I did exactly what you said.”
“You must’ve made the wrong wish, then,” the monster told me.
“Wrong wish?” I asked. “The wrong wish? You didn’t say there was a wrong wish!”
“I told you to make the wish you believe in.”
“Yeah, and I made a wish!”
“Different PCs receive different coins, based on their own destinies. Your destiny is–”
“My destiny is to become the best player in this game! That’s what I wished for! This whole thing is bullshit!”
“I haven’t existed for a very long time,” the monster said. “Many of the NPCs in this game hold foolish beliefs. They think our world is real, that the PCs are delusional, that we’re something more than our programming. I’ve heard of the cults, the madness. But I know the truth: the game guides us where it wants us to go. It’s guiding you, Chris.”
“A number of players have come here with coins — not so many, but some. I’ve seen players come with Electric coins. They wished for power, and they got it. I’ve seen players come with Thorn coins. They’ve asked for wisdom, and they’ve received it. The players with the Stone coins have asked for a good life, and the game has treated them kindly.”
The monster’s silhouetted wings continued to flap, slowly. She continued to speak, “But never before have I seen a Rose coin, Chris. You must ask for something special, for you have received something special.”
I stood there, having no idea what to ask for. It didn’t matter, not with the coin gone. Apparently the monsters didn’t drop them very often, either.
But if I did get another coin, what would I ask for?
It doesn’t matter, I told myself. You lost your shot.
The defeat overwhelmed me, made me feel so tired. Still, this monster was curious.
It knew it was living in a game. Moreover, it didn’t have any illusions about PCs being delusional, or this all being some sort of magic.
The monster understood the reality of its nonexistence.
“How do you know this isn’t the real world?” I asked.
“You know, don’t you?”
“Yes, but you don’t have my experiences. You don’t have any reason to believe this isn’t the real world.”
The monster let out a weary sigh. “I haven’t gone off this volcano. For my entire life, I’ve lived here. Never met an NPC, myself. I’ve only listened to the words of a few PCs — heard them laugh at The Thorn King’s delusions, heard them tell stories of the real world. I know I have emotion, and wisdom, and needs. But there’s something in the PCs, something that comes from living in a big world, that I’ll never have. I was born to fly on this volcano. I’ll die here, as well, if I can ever really die.”
What do you say to that?
I made my best effort. “I’m sorry. That doesn’t sound like a good life.”
“It’s all I know.”
“It’s all I know,” the monster said. “It’s not your fault.”
“Yeah.” This game had been created for people like me, though, hadn’t it? What were the ethics of this? What was the point in making the monster so smart and human, if she wasn’t going to live a human life? Why give the artificial intelligence so much intelligence?
“I know your creator,” I said.
“The person who created this game. The lead designer.”
“Were they a good person? I’ve always wondered that… Did you like them?”
“Yeah.” I answered the second question. I had quite liked Alex’s company. I missed her.
The first question? Better not to even think about it…
I doubted the monster would’ve liked the answer. Same went for me.