EIGHT PEOPLE were running through a dusty landscape.
They moved in twilight between cliffs in a rocky desert valley, in the first hour of the twelve hours of the ancient Egyptian underworld night.
But they weren’t in Egypt.
They were totally immersed inside a new virtual reality simulator called ‘Virtual Eternity’, built by mysterious tech organization, The Sirius Research Corporation.
Each person, invited under the strictest secrecy, bore a tag – Sage, Robber, Scribe, Prophetess, Gamer, Soldier, Priest, and Neophyte.
Sage ran at the head of the party. She’d been assigned the title ‘Sage’ or ‘wise one’ as an associate professor of Egyptology specializing in mythology and funerary beliefs, despite her youth.
One in the group ran past the others to catch up to her. It was Gamer, a compact young Korean-born game designer.
“This place is unreal, huh?” he said.
“It’s real enough for me.”
“That’s what I’m talking about. It’s so real… it is unreal. I always wanted to design an ancient Egyptian VR game, but this, hey, I can’t fathom it out. One hundred percent immersive. Three sixty-degree landscape. Perfect resolution. No lag. All sensory input and inner-ear thing of real movement. Forces on body, real muscle sense. Even sweat and fatigue.” He gave the Egyptologist a quizzical look. “You have the inside story? What is this place all about? Is this a role-playing game, or just an ancient Egyptian environment? What are we supposed to do here?”
“Just experience it and survive,” Sage said. A tall woman, Sage wore a dark blue T-shirt and light khaki trousers and archaeology boots and she cut a lithe figure, running nimbly and easily. “You heard the announcement like a god’s voice cracking over our heads at the start. We’ve got twelve hours to reach the end of the underworld before dawn, surviving the dangerous guardians, gateways and demons of the journey along the way, or we die. Virtually die, one hopes.”
“That is the beauty of game worlds,” Gamer said. “Nobody dies. You just keep coming back for more. Over and over again. You learn from your experience.”
“That’s reassuring. But in this dead and dry landscape, dying seems as real as living...”