What kind of world do you want? “Save Me Plz,” by David Barr Kirtley offers a bigass One Impossible Thing: a game artifact that can change the real world. With such a premise, naturally the story blurs the distinctions between levels of reality. It begins with Meg throwing her sword into the trunk of her car. You’re thinking well, maybe she studies historical swordplay, or does LARP or SCA. Then she has to kill a giant spider. Okay, things are not what they seem.
The ground keeps shifting under you, as she sets off to find her boyfriend, Devon, who she fears she has lost to an online fantasy game. She receives a message from him, Save Me Plz, and sets off to help him. By then, her reality has shifted to a quest. Things continue to shift as Meg discovers the true purpose of her quest. By then, she’s mired so deep in the fantasy world, she has only the vague sense of wrongness about whose purpose she is serving.
I really liked the story the first time I heard it on Escape Pod, and on re-reading, it becomes even more unsettling. My biggest problem with the story is that Meg seems a bit dim, especially toward the end when Devon explains his plans. I suppose that makes it easier for her to be seduced by the fantasy world. Or maybe it’s a warning sign that she, too has been changed.
A cheerful quest tale that turns into a horror story.
Tomorrow: What if wiki editors ran the world?