Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Grinding - excerpt

Well, the e-version of Geek Love is now available for purchase, and the hardbacks are on their way to their Kickstarter backers ... so here's an excerpt from my fiction contribution to the anthology: Grinding.

You may spot the subtle WoW references ... and the minotaur ...

Time was, when humans guarded their souls. They’d fence them about with prayer and rabbits’ feet, with four-leafed clovers kept in a pocket or medallions of the saints. In those days it was only when they slept, and their souls wandered away from their bodies, that I could find them and feed.

It’s so much easier now.

These days they just can’t resist sending their souls off—quite unchaperoned—into dreamworlds I could never have anticipated. For me, it’s a banquet. I feed and feed, and though I’m never sated—it’s not in my nature to be sated—I’ve almost forgotten the ravenous hunger of earlier centuries.

Take this man, for example. His avatar is a huge, bull-headed humanoid with broad shoulders and fists like hammers. I can’t help liking that promise of masculine virility, though I know that appearances here rarely correspond to fleshly reality. But what really draws me is the way the soul-light shines so brightly in it. Not everyone gleams like that. He’s inhabited this avatar for years, and invested a great deal of himself in it.

I find him among the luminous fungi of a great marshland, killing giant wasps. It’s late at night and he’s on his own. I only approach mortals when they’re alone … It wouldn’t do to have them colluding. The name tag hovering over his head reads Andrija Rade Dragan Popovic, Technomancer at Large.

“I have what you need,” I tell him.

“Hold on,” he answers. His voice, even through Ventrilo, is pleasantly deep. I like that in a man. He kills one last wasp with a flame spell and then stands still. I feel the cold ping as he tries to click on me with his mouse.

“Who are you?” he asks, curiously. “You’ve got no name. No icon.” He means the identifying texts that hover over every other avatar, the marks that reveal their guild and name and which side they are on in the endless skirmishing. I’m completely anonymous. No one in the game is anonymous.

“I’m Zee. And I have what you need, Andrija Rade Dragan Popovic.”

”You mean—a captive firefly?”

“Hah. No.”

“What, then?”

“This.” I step in to touch the bull-man, running my fingers down his chest and sliding them between his thighs. Avatars weren’t designed with genitals, of course. But that doesn’t stop him from feeling me grip his cock, straight through his soul to his flesh. My touch is like an electric charge, galvanizing his shaft and filling his balls with roiling heat. I hear his gasp over the microphone. And now that I’m in contact with his soul, I can look through it, straight out of his computer monitor. I can see him sitting bolt upright in his chair, his eyes wide with shock. He can feel my hand.

Some of them log out and run at this point. Not many, to be fair.

“Okay,” he says, his voice betraying strain. “This is a dream, right?” He’s tall, in the flesh, with nut-colored hair that sticks out at the front and a square face just starting to soften about the chin. He’s wearing a heavy metal T-shirt, but it’s nice and new and clean. No over-muscled warrior then, but attractive enough.

“Of course it is,” I answer soothingly, stroking his ballsack and feeling it tighten in my hand. I can see a room full of files and books and DVDs behind him. It looks like a domestic study. “Do you like it?” I ask.

“Uh. Yes.”

“Are you alone?”

“Yes. My … Everyone’s gone to bed.”

“What’s your real name, Andrija Rade Dragan Popovic?”

“Joe,” he whispers. His eyes look glazed. I can see him groping at his crotch, but he can’t intercept my hands. He can only feel the effect they’re having, and it’s making him buck and bite his lip.

“Would you like to fuck me, Joe?”

“Um. I guess.”

That’s good enough. I step through his avatar and right out of the monitor into the mundane world. Instantly I feel the aether tighten, resisting my presence. It wants to reject me because this isn’t my realm; only Joe’s acquiescence allows me purchase. I glance around. Everything out here looks flat and dim and unreal to me. I was right about it being a study in a house, and it looks lived-in and comfortably cluttered. There are Lord of the Rings figures on the higher book shelves: his, I guess. There’s a plastic toy tricycle in the middle of the floor: not his.

Bereft of my touch, he leans forward and stares into the monitor at his lonely avatar. “Damn. Where’ve you gone?”

“Behind you.”

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Jo said...

Oo, wow, Janine! Perfect modern take on an old theme, I love it.

Janine Ashbless said...

Thank you, Jo!