He played the game. Then the game played him. To the death.
From Gary K. Wolf, creator of Roger Rabbit...
Every morning Joyce Williams plays a game called LifeMaster. In one hour, LifeMaster takes him through his day. Joyce then goes out and lives exactly the day he’s played.
Until the day his game cube gets destroyed.
His life goes into default mode. LifeMaster plays the game. Joyce lives the life.
Joyce expects life will get worse. Instead it gets better. Way better.
He's making more money than he can spend. He's hanging out with his favorite sports hero. He has a gorgeous girlfriend. He partners up with Herculisa, a crime-fighting superheroine. He becomes Jayhawk, a superhero himself.
Life is good! Life is perfect.
Then LifeMaster changes from a game of life to a game of life and death!
Joyce Williams activated LifeMaster.
“Good morning. Please insert your cube.” A square hole appeared in the smooth expanse beneath LifeMaster’s twenty-inch screen.
Joyce snapped open his storage box. A cushioned velvet lining held an inch-square, vibrantly red, transparent cube.
LifeMaster sucked the cube in with the swishing sound of sand whisking through an hourglass. The cube started to glow.
“Typical day,” said Joyce. At fast-forward speed, Joyce’s on screen image raced through his normal day.
He ate breakfast, read the paper, showered, shaved, brushed his teeth, dressed, and left for work.
He spent the day reviewing insurance claim forms.
He took his regular bus home.
He cooked dinner.
Joyce’s itsy bitsy image brushed his teeth, undressed, put on his pajamas, got into bed, and went to sleep.
LifeMaster locked in his day.
Joyce then went out and lived for real exactly the day he had just played.
Two weeks later, Joyce strolled toward his apartment building. He bumped into a waist-high, yellow and black-striped wooden barricade topped with yellow flashing lights.
A fireman knocked him rudely out of the way. What was going on? This wasn’t in his day.
Fire trucks, police cars and ambulances filled his street. His eyes watered from the thick, smoky air.
This wasn’t in his day!
“Move along,” ordered a beefy policeman.
“I’ve got to get through. I live here.” Joyce pointed toward the commotion’s epicenter.
“You don’t live there anymore. Lightning exploded a gas main.”
Joyce stared at the annihilation surrounding him. “What am I supposed to do?” asked Joyce plaintively. “This isn’t in my day.”
His new LifeMaster-supplied apartment was located in Chelsea only six blocks from his old place. In size, in layout, it exactly mirrored the one he lost.
He couldn’t tell the furniture from his own.
He had the same phone number.
The refrigerator contained his preferred brands of milk, ice cream, and beer.
His closet held a full rack of neutrally colored casual and work clothes to his taste and in his size.
He was content. Secure in the comforting arms of absolute predictability.
Ready to resume his life exactly where he’d left off.
Joyce turned on his LifeMaster.
“Good morning.” LifeMaster spoke with a pleasantly soothing, mildly passive, helpfully encouraging, vaguely feminine voice. “Please insert your cube.”
Joyce removed his new cube from its new box. He inserted it into LifeMaster.
PATOOEY!!! LifeMaster spit out his cube. It struck Joyce in the chest with so much force it stung.
His cube lay in his lap. No longer a lovely transparent red. Now an opaque, ugly green, flecked through with tiny bright-yellow words.
Joyce plucked it up, turned it over in his hand, held it up to the light.
The words said VOID.
LifeMaster’s cube hole sphinctered shut.
“Hey,” said Joyce to LifeMaster. “What’s going on?”
LifeMaster didn’t respond.
Joyce whacked LifeMaster with his hand. “What about my game?” He whacked it a second time, harder. “What about my life?”