Victor checked his email queue again: nothing. Not even spam? Nothing. It was almost as if he didn't exist. Scowling, he tapped the slate, making a video call to PanGames.
A pleasant-faced female avatar answered. “Yes?”
“Get me whoever is in charge of your computers.”
“Can you be more specific? Do you need Customer Service, Technical Support, Billing, or Logistics?”
“Who do they all report to?”
“To Farker, the Chief Information Officer for PanGames.”
“Okay. Put me through to Farker.”
“I'm afraid he's not available at the moment. Would you like to leave a message?”
“Yes, tell him I want to talk about Am-heh. About Am-heh and electro-telepathy.” He gave the AI his name and number.
After the connection closed he slumped in his chair and stared at the blank screen. For the tenth time that morning he wished he had the nerve to just log in and...but he couldn't. He hadn't logged in since the Incident. He was afraid that Am-heh would be waiting for him.
He remembered punching Am-heh in the nose (not difficult, actually, since that dog-face had been mostly nose) and then those terrible jaws getting wider and wider.
And then...nothing? No. He remembered more. He had expected that Am-heh would kill his avatar and he would wake up in his link bed. But being swallowed was different. He had not been logged out. A hollow blackness like deep space without stars surrounded him. Like being buried alive. Well, swallowed alive, like Jonah. A maddening, mind-sucking emptiness. But there was more. In the darkness, unable to see his own body or hear the outside world, he had nevertheless been aware of other presences. Others that Am-heh had eaten. All right, let's be clear: others whose avatars Am-heh had swallowed. He could sense their thoughts, these fellow victims. Not in a detailed way, but like murmurings in the wind, whispers in a haunted house.
It was like nothing he had ever experienced. All his life he had hungered for the paranormal. His feeling that extrasensory powers existed had, in fact, been the inspiration for his research into occult organizations and practices. It had cost him his relationship with Howard, but he couldn't stop himself. And after all of his turning away from science, his flight from rigorous materialism...now he had finally experienced some telepathy – and in an online game, a technological toy.
At first it had been a calming influence, this hearing of other voices in his head. A victim trapped in there all alone, deprived of all sensory input, might have gone insane. But hearing the others reassured him that he was still alive, that there still might be hope.
But were those voices real? Or had he merely hallucinated from the sensory deprivation? He simply had to know!
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