I close my eyes and begin to dream. I’m in a field of green with blue skies above. I can feel the wind in my hair. The smell of lilacs tickle my nose. I smile… it’s been a long time.
“Consumer, you have not met your quota for today,” a robotic voice declares.
I open my eyes. I’m back in my designated unit. A windowless box. Nothing but the chair I am currently sitting in and a large screen in front of me. On the screen, it says “03:44:56.”
“How would you like to spend your time, Consumer?” the robotic voice asks me.
I sigh as I feel my face drop. I spent most of the day watching other people live their lives, yearning to join them… so why not experience something where I have a bit more control? I put down the remote that’s attached to the left armrest and quickly grab the controller that’s attached to its right. The plastic on the thumbsticks are worn, exposing the harsh metal underneath. The buttons are caked in blood. I login with my account and it immediately attaches my avatar to the chain. I press the necessary buttons as they are displayed on the screen and my character picks up their pickaxe. We then begin to mine.
For an hour, we do nothing but mine. The same sound effects repeat themselves, over and over. The pickaxe swings and it hits the rocks, all while the controller buzzes in my hands. Swing-Hit-Buzz. Swing-Hit-Buzz. Swing-Hit-Buzz… I can feel my eyes slowly getting heavy as the rhythmic repetition lulls me to sleep… Swing-Hit-Buzz. Swing-Hit-Buzz. Swing-Hit-Buzz…
“Consumer, please keep your eyes on the screen,” the robotic voice warns.
My eyes snap open. I watch the screen, yes, but my mind wanders… I reverse the course of the pickaxe and jam it into the skull of my avatar. The avatar dies… but is resurrected. I ram the pickaxe in deeper this time. My avatar dies once more… but is again resurrected. I can feel the tears begin to well up in my eyes. I try, again and again, but to no avail. I then take the pickaxe to the chain… Swing-Hit-Buzz. Swing-Hit-Buzz. Swing-Hit-Buzz… it breaks!
I am free… so I run, and I run, and I run… out of the mine, out of the darkness, until I emerge back into that endless field of green. I smile again once more. The tears that now flow are ones of joy… but they do not last. The vast fields of green burn until all that’s left is embers. The sky fills with ash. I quickly scurry back down, deep down, back into the safe embrace of the mine. Into my windowless box. Where the screen keeps us safe. It provides.
“Consumer,” the robotic voice announces, “you have been docked for your inattentiveness.”
I weep as time is added to the clock.