Author : Callum Wallace

Bob and Dave were digging. Neither was sure what they were digging for, nor when they had started. Bob’s hole was bigger though, and he knew this was good, for some reason.

He vaguely remembered an old story, a myth, about some chap who continuously pushed a big old rock up a hill.

Suddenly there was a loud ping, pleasing to the ears, and a number flashed onto his retina, a voice buzzed in his ear drum.,

“Congratulations! You have just exceeded your previous record!”

More numbers flowed down his vision as another jolly fanfare played from nowhere.

Dave stopped, leaning on his shovel and breathing hard. “You must be cheating you old dog. There’s no way you earned all that XP already! You only just levelled up.”

Bob ignored him, perusing the virtual shop that had just opened up. Electing to purchase a rather fetching feathered cap for his avatar, he ignored the heavier spade that would assist his physical body.

He turned to Dave. “Check out my new hat mate. Good innit?”

Dave froze suddenly, accessing his own virtual display. He nodded. “Nice, nice. I like the purple bit. Wotsit, fluffy thing on top.”

“Feather, that is. Makes it rare an’ valuable an’ that.” Bob himself only knew because of the item’s title, but he lorded it over his friend anyway. “Come on bud, you’ll get one of your own soon if you ever get any good at this!”

Dave laughed and slammed his spade into the hard earth once again.

The sun beat overhead, and Bob realised he was thirsty. He ignored this too, powering on, trying to achieve another level. Maybe he’d get some new boots for his online persona, completing the nobleman look he’d always fancied for himself.

What more could a man want?

In the VirtoTech offices, a thousand miles away, an anonymous monitor checked the two dying men’s vitals, their thoughts, their ‘progress’.

The myth the older one had thought of made him smile, in his cold, steel and glass way. Sisyphus. The eternal worker. Pushing infinitely, for ever and ever, going up, falling down. Rinse and repeat.
Man hated this kind of work. It bored him, made him lazy, or mad, or both.

So Virtotech had addressed this, and it had been simple; a secondary goal, an award system. Something that continuously rewarded the player’s mundane strife with bright colours, shining sounds, and the ever lasting promise of more pointless gifts.

It was kind of sad, in a way. But the monitor’s kind had come here and realised something had to be done.

Sometimes, the lie was better than the truth.

And, sometimes, the lie was very profitable.

Very profitable indeed.