I stared at the broken crystal in my hand. I’m in a lot of trouble, I thought to myself. That Atrus dude is gonna be mad . . . .
I had done what he had suggested - explore, he had said, and so I was here, in this icy palace, no central heating, and still no bathrooms, what was it with these people. The little picture in the book had been dark, how was I to know this place was going to be the Ice Age? You think they’d add travel advisories to those books: Rime, cold with snow flurries turning into blizzard conditions by afternoon, pack your parka because there’s no shopping in this Age.
I scanned the room, looking for anything I could use to stick this crystal back where it belonged. I searched around the desk, the cot - nothing. If they don’t believe in bathrooms, what’s the chance there’s going to be any super glue around here?
I turned back to the strange image machine, now dark. A few moments ago, it had sparked on when I fiddled with the five crystals, using the note as my guide. No instruction manual, of course, but I had grown accustomed to that. Maybe I could twist this back in, it looked like there’s some scoring on the bottom. I figured I’d better do something, that Atrus dude really had a temper.
I set the crystal on the first platform and gave it a half turn. It seemed to settle in, so I activated the other crystals and pushed the button - Bingo! The beach image was back up! Still, the crystal seemed a little wobbly, so I carefully gave it another half turn. The image seemed to waver, then brighten. Hmmm - maybe I should give this third dimension a try. I twisted the second crystal, and the image grew even brighter and - did it get a little bigger? I tried the third and the fourth - now there was something definitely going on, as the image spilled over the edges of the screen and started to fill the alcove behind the machine. I gave the final crystal a twist, and the image exploded all around me, the brightness forcing my eyes shut. A humming filled my ears, and I sat down heavily.
The humming stopped, the brightness subsided. I opened my eyes - hey, I was now on the beach I had been viewing. And over there - wasn’t that the Atrus dude?
Indeed it was - “What the devil are you doing here?” he said. “We aren’t ready for you yet, as you can see.” He pointed at me, and I looked down at my shirt, afraid I’d spilled some food or coffee, a minuscule possibility as they didn’t have any espresso stands in these places either.
“No,” he said, “behind you.”
I turned, and as I did, the world in front of me vanished. Well, it didn’t quite vanish, it just lost all of its textures! Directly behind me was a framework of wire, through which I could see a brown void, the wires replacing the beach, the sky, the hills, the trees, everything! To my right was an even stranger sight. A group of disheveled men and women were frantically inserting strangely colored tiles into the framework, piece-by-piece, moving the boundary between texture and wire at an agonizingly slow pace.
“What . . . “ I said haltingly, looking to the Atrus dude for some help.
“We call it ‘rendering’ - we’re supposed to go gold next week,” he said. “You’ve somehow jumped from Myst into our new game. This is a major bug.”
“Yeah, well, er . . .” I replied.
“We’re going to call it Myst II: The Revenge of Gehn. How do you like it?”
I wasn’t paying close attention to him, because I was slowly becoming aware that I had torn my pants somehow. “Drat,” I said, “it looks like my pants are riven.” The Atrus dude gave me a strange glance, then headed off to have a conversation with some of his work crew.
I spent a few more hours wandering around the place. It was all pretty cool looking, except for a machine that reminded me of that dreaded submarine I’d used to find my way through that underground place. I met a lot of nice people, including a dude in some sort of army get-up, and a nice lady who said she had written that note back in the Ice Age. They took turns standing in front of a blue screen.
I finally decided it was time to go. As I headed back to the beach, the Atrus dude caught up with me.
“I can’t thank you enough, you’ve been a big help, be sure to file a bug report,” he said. “There is one more thing, though.” He explained the business with the blue screen, and how one of the people who was supposed to be there hadn’t shown up - could I fill in for him? Cool, I thought to myself, I’m going to be in a computer game!
So that’s my report, for now. The director tells me I’m up in just a few more minutes. It’s a strange part, I’m wearing a different sort of army get-up, not as fancy as the dude with the beard. I don’t have much to say, and it’s all in a foreign language. Still, I’ve been practicing, got to give it the right feeling and all: