She watches the fish in their thin vertical tank like an antfarm. They swim in clusters around obstacles. There is nothing mystical to learn (thousands have watched them before her) but she believes there is. As I walk past, I think to myself that we are like the fish, except our tank is lying on its side.
The new game is a crime drama shooter. Select the missing person from the main menu. There is an animation of a metal door opening, and I step out onto the street. There is daylight, but the buildings on either side are vacant. A pink Hummer limousine pulls up to me so quickly and realistically that I actually step back. I catch the faint scent of Patrick McGoohan and a cutscene begins.
An empty warehouse is shown from the outside. The voiceover says, "We have ruined you." Through the window, the inside is shown to be ransacked and emptied. "No one remembers you." A person is lying in a doorway, clothed in white undergarments. "You do not exist." It's me. On the ground is a spent needle. I'm running out the back door. The view heaves side to side. From behind a dumpster and stacks of plywood appears an obese, dull green cyclops. This should have reminded me it's a game. My mouth opens but no words come out. I keep running.
I am trying to remember where my apartment is. The people on the street don't look at me. I hear her voice reading numbers. A man in a tan suit frowns as he pushes past me, avoiding eye contact. The pizza place is across the street. That means I only need to go two blocks to get home. I keep running. The lights are all green, and I don't notice that there aren't any cars.
I turn down the alley expecting to find a dumpster and the door to safety, and instead I am greeted by the roughhewn grey stone entrance and glass front door of my high school. I haven't been back here in years. I turn to look out of the alley, and behind me is the exact same entrance, but the stone is the warm red of adobe houses. I walk out into a sudden gale, which pushes me with such force that I must lean forward to maintain my balance. In the wind I think I hear her calling for help. (I realize later it was my name.) I stumble against the large abstract stone monument at the foot of the stairs. It is cool against my cheek, and angular and rough. I use it to lever my way forward, and as suddenly as it came, the wind is gone. Someone in a dark suit climbs the stairs, moving with purpose and poise. I follow slowly, my muscles still ready to work and surprised by the calm air.
Inside is a room with a doubleheight ceiling, paintings hung scatterwise all around, and off to the left is a woman, in profile, wearing a white beaded dress. It hangs from low around her neck, without a belt, to her ankles which are suspended a foot above the linoleum floor. At her side are stacked two crescent moons in deep blue, to which she must be clinging (though effortlessly), and which hang from a thick cord attached to the ceiling. Her hair is completely hidden by a beaded cap. She does not move more than someone who is trying to stand perfectly still, and her eyes are forward without target.
"It was a brilliant idea to offload most of the work into the brain itself," Doctor Wilsen says. "I can't believe we're getting this level of throughput." Her assistant turns and smiles, "47.3 peak, averaging 35." The doctor copies the numbers onto her clipboard, saying, "All right, that's enough for today. Bring him out of it." and soon, "John. John!"