To arrest suspicion, she carefully times her colleagues' morning arrivals and hides under her cubicle in 15-minute intervals. This particular morning, Myra lies down in the sheets and imitates dreaming. Nothing. The sound of her own slow breathing. Thoughts on what area of the game to exploit next. Exasperated, she gets up, bumping her head on the underside of her desk. Peter wanders over.
Myra emerges from the darkness, donning a wild muss of hair.
Peter raises his chin as he lowers his gaze. "Is that a pillow down there?"
"Sure." Time to adapt her strategy. Myra sits on her chair, demonstrating posture correction. "For my back." No, that's not right. Gets on the floor. "Was using it for my knees." No response. Places pillow on arm like a cast. "Pillows are amazing multi-use objects, aren't they?"
"You gotta be smarter than that. You could lose everything."
"OK, but nothing minus everything is still nothing."
Peter takes a step back. Myra's focus shifts. By the time she looks up from her monitor, he is gone.
The new year begins. Dawn is reborn. Myra peeks from above the monitor. Her eyes are watering. It has been six months since the start, and she feels a growing dissatisfaction. Her obsession does not necessarily mean she is pursuing something obtainable. The grind continues.
Myra pulls out the cheat codes, the forbidden God mode: useful for early testing, ruinous for regular play. Her fingers tap lightly on the keys, pretending to type in the commands. "Once you cheat death," she tells her onscreen persona, "there's no turning back." In response, her character wavers as she usually does when idle.
Myra's fingers take the plunge, and to signify the transformation, her character's eyes glow red. God mode. Immortality. Attention levels intensify; she blinks less and forgoes the expected restroom break..
Myra, concentrated, playing God, does not notice Mark enter.
"It's 5:00 a.m. Why are you here?"
Her head tilts, acknowledging his presence, but her eyes remain on the monitor. "I could ask you the same question."
"The servers crashed. I got paged. I came in to watch server load."
"Is that your version of watching the sun rise?"
"It's my version of catching fires."
"Couldn't you do this remotely?"
"More visceral this way. Feels more real. Remember reality?"
Myra shrugs and turns up the volume.
By midday, Myra has jumped off mountains without reserve, run straight into monsters' lairs, straight into their toothy mouths, danced in the middle of gang-enhanced gunfire, floated unprotected in space, infected herself with skin-mutating maladies, swum to the depths of oceans and buried herself alive.
One of her superiors approaches, scratching his forehead - a sign of subconscious eczema.
"Myra, please come to my office."
This particular superior is directly above her, and his itch to climb the ladder is obvious. All the higher superiors generally wear gray suits and lackluster ties, and he is no different. Male pattern hair loss on the vertex. Two eyes, nose in the middle, mouth under.