I arrive at the Game Emporium with 15 minutes to spare before I enter my cubicle once again. I look around the centre and see mainly employees milling around. There's less of a crowd than there was this morning, which is a good thing, because I can maybe spot who the other participants are. However, any person who I see look like they are just here to watch, so I may not be able to spot a participant as easily as that.
I watch replays of the game that me and the other participants have been part-taking in on massive screens plastered around the centre, and I see the level I just completed being shown. In slow-motion, I see myself flying towards the group of Nevers in the second level, and as soon as I hit them, the screen turns into a flash of blue starry lights. A message flashes up on screen over the image with the phrase '1000 POINTS!'
''That was very impressive,'' I hear a male voice say behind me. I turn to see a young looking man, with dark, slick hair, black-rimmed glasses, wearing a brown leather jacket with a blue top, denim jeans and black sneakers come over to me, extending his hand.
''Yeah, I believe it was,'' I say to him as I hesitantly shake his hand.
''Vaughan Davenport,'' he introduces himself as he shakes my hand assuringly.
''Nash Williams,'' I reciprocate.
''1000 points, huh? You did pretty well for yourself,'' Vaughan says to me as he glances at the screen.
''Thanks. It was a hard challenge, though. Not sure if I preferred it to the first level,'' I say, making conversation.
''Yes, that first level was hard. That little girl was tough, but she managed to give me 1000 points,'' Vaughan reveals. So he's the guy who was awarded 1000 points in the first level then 700 in the second.
''Sorry to have stolen your thunder,'' I say in a smug way. I can tell by the way he is smiling that I've touched a nerve. Good. I want him to see that he's got competition in this game.
''That's alright, got to let an old dog have some fun,'' Vaughan says sarcastically.
Oh, so I'm an old dog now?
''Of course, us old dogs have got to show an example to the pups,'' I retort. I think I'm having more fun with this guy than I had in the game.
''Well, don't get too comfortable, Grandpa, I'll be taking first place in no time,'' Vaughan says as he begins to leave.
''Grandpa? That's childish,'' I say back to him. ''Wait, I thought you were first place?''
''Nope, some other guy is. I'm second,'' Vaughan says. ''I guess I'll see you on the other side,'' he says with a salute before he goes into the room where the cubicles are. I thought that he was first.
Wait, let me get this straight.
Vaughan Davenport says he got 1000 in the first, and then 700 in the second, giving him 1700 points. The only way someone else got first place...is to have had been awarded 900 points twice, since I took the 1000 points in the second level.
I wonder who the person in first place is?
Or is he lying to me?
''If there are any more participants left in the Game Emporium, can you please make your way to the cubicles please?'' I hear a male voice say over a tannoy. Oh yeah, I totally lost track of time. I quickly go through the door and into my cubicle to get ready to go in. The lady who serviced me before came in as soon as I sat down.
''Hello again, Mr Williams. Did you enjoy your break?'' she says to me as I prepare myself to go into the game. I hand her my phone again like I did last time.
''Yeah, I did. But it went so fast,'' I respond to her.
''It did indeed. Are you all set, Mr Williams?'' she asks me another question.
''I believe I am, thanks,'' I reply.
''Good. The game will commence shortly. You will be transported to the place where you were last in the game before it was paused. Please make sure you prepare your mind for neural transportation,'' she says to me as I get comfortable in my seat.
''OK,'' I say to her before she leaves.
''Have fun, Mr Williams,'' she says just as I hear the door close. What is it with everybody and fun? Does no one think I can have fun? Being in this game sure makes me think differently about it. Especially since I've just made a new friend. Or shall I say enemy? I need to remember that guy.
''Welcome to Phantasmagoria,'' I hear the female voice that first introduced me to the game speak once more.
''Welcome back, Mr Williams,'' she says further as the electronic visor descends over my head.
''And good-bye, reality,'' I say aloud as I wait for the neural transportation to happen.