It happened on that night in the middle of August. My parents came by as usual to kiss me good night and picked my brother up to go home. My mother stroked my hair and wished me sweet dreams. My father bought me some gaming magazines to look at. I thanked them both with a smile. After they left I closed my eyes to sleep, never to wake up again.
I did wake up, but when I opened my eyes I was in a completely different world. To be exact, I was inside a farmhouse. How did I know? Well, there were so many farming tools neatly hanging from the hooks at the wall, duh. There was only one item that was not typical of a farmhouse. There was a giant standing mirror in front of me.
Bright morning sun rays shone through the window and bathed the whole room in a golden light. Weirdly, the room including the out-of-place mirror seemed awfully familiar to me. I just could not put a finger on it. When had I ever visited a farmhouse?
I was standing all alone in the big room. What was this place? I was just thinking about going outside to find out more about this unknown place when suddenly a rectangular screen appeared in front of me.
I kid you not.
There was a hovering user interface screen that was tilted at a comfortable distance and angle from my face. There were no strings attached to it. I checked. As if that was not surprising enough, I actually knew what the screen was showing me. I had only seen it a thousand times in the last six months. Of course I knew what it was. It was the login page of Afterlife Dream!
The blinking cursor at the username box seemed to prod me to enter my account information. My fingers itched.
I stood there and crossed my arms obstinately. So if I did not want to move, what could anyone do to me? I was already dead anyway. Nothing else could hurt me. After a while, a mechanical voice sounded in my ears and caught me off-guard.
"Daniel Weston, welcome to Afterlife Dream. Please enter your full name with an underscore for username and your birth date for password."
At the end of the instruction, the familiar BGM of Afterlife Dream started playing.
There was no such account.
Why would I use my real name and birth date as username and password? This scammer was too stupid. I moved my finger in hesitation and started to type in the information that the mechanical voice told me to enter in the blank boxes.
The screen switched to the next page. The character page. It was empty.
"Please create your avatar."
My avatar. Heh. What better way to preserve myself than making an avatar that looked exactly like me? My fingers deftly moved on the screen and picked a male avatar with brown hair and brown eyes. I customized it to look as close to my real self as possible.
I giggled when I picked the beginner clothes. God, this was so funny. And infuriating. I did not want to start a new account.
After I was done customizing my avatar, I accidentally threw a glance at the big mirror. What I saw almost made my heart jump. My hospital pajamas were gone! They were replaced by the very clothes that I picked for my avatar. My finger trembled as I picked another set of clothes.
Amazing. My clothes switched into new ones just like that. With one click. Waow. I squinted into the character creation screen. Waaaaiitt a minute. My avatar inside the screen was standing inside a farmhouse. And there is a big mirror in front of him.
I clicked "Accept" to finalize my looks. The mechanical voice did not take long to continue with the next step.
"Please enter the ID that you would like to use while staying within the realm of Afterlife Dream."
PneumoniaWarrior. Hahahah. Okay, no. Ewww. Why pneumonia?
I did not know why, but I suddenly thought about my adoptive father again when I stared at my newly made avatar. My adoptive father was a huge fan of astronomy. Before he got married, he often went on solo hiking trips to watch the stars on top of mountains and hills. After he got married and settled into the mundane life of a working salaryman, he could no longer take those trips. Instead, he contented himself with telling his sons bedtime stories about stars that he used to look at through the telescope lenses. The stories worked magic for Jaden. They were so boring that he fell asleep within minutes. It did not work as well for me, especially when I had a coughing fit so bad that my eyes became watery from the sheer force. In that way, I listened to his astronomy lecture way more than Jaden did.
My adoptive father often fawned about the biggest star known to men in his generation which he referred to as the superstar of the universe. The name of the star was Antares 233. "Big stars do not live long, but when they die, they die with a bang."
His adoptive father said that sentence just a few days ago with glassy eyes. I was not stupid. I knew what he wanted to say. He wanted to say that I was like that big star. I did not get to live long because I was too big for the earth. When I died, I would die with a bang. Only that I didn't.
My finger moved unconsciously on the screen and entered the name, Antares. I did not want to type in the 233.
"Please choose the job that you like."
Warrior, archer, mage, assassin. I had always been a mage. Click. Mage.
"Please roll the dice to determine your basic attributes."
STR, DEX, INT, LUK.
Magicians must have high INT. Hah. Nothing beat a good start. I rolled the dice many times until I rolled the best initial value for a magician. 4,4,12,4. I felt like a genius. A shameless grin spread over my face. This game would be a cake. Bring it on, Afterlife Dream!
"Nice to meet you, Magician Antares. Have a nice Afterlife Dream!"
The screen lit up and turned to white. The whole room was bathed in a mysterious white light. I looked down at myself.
The blinding light fell on my body. I saw my feet disappearing. Then my arms. Then my torso. Then my…
I disappeared completely together with the room, swallowed mercilessly by the oppressive, blinding light.