Playground V.2

"You're new." he says, and appears, perfect as Ricardo Montalban in pressed white linen suit -- arms outstretched -- "Welcome to Playground V-Two!"

Sunlight dazzles -- you smell greenness hot under the sun, and salt -- massed violins swell around you like birdsong -- a seaplane drones closer -- and though it couldn't possibly land on your head, reflexively you want to duck.

"You'll want an avatar, if you wanna duck."

Just as suddenly -- sunshiney island, strings section, seaplane -- all vanish. The He waiting before you, actually but the model of He, waits closer to you than anywhere else in a vast unworked greyness that doesn't warrant further description. He satisfies the stereotype: white sneakers, suspendered slacks, dress shirt, pocket protector locked and loaded. You can't see his face, though, because he prefers anonymity. Swaying just enough that you notice it, like a sneakered acrobat balancing on the head of a pin, he seems to be free-falling.

"Being new, you're currently in Profile Edit mode. Call up Avatar -- Create. Feel your way around. It's all very intuitive."

Shimmering, the avatar creation menu wheels before you -- your choices flash -- and quickly done. You have a pixellated fleshlike presence, and feel like a pin falling.

"Good -- Good -- And ... okay -- uploaded snapshot of doggie for your face. You can ... update that -- sure can -- whenever. And you'll want clothes -- otherwise we'll have to flag all your interactions as Mature. Playground has an extensive and varied collection. Good, you have it ..."

You flash Avatar Options -- Clothing -- Torso -- Legs.

" -- There -- You are presentable. Whenever you tire of looking like a hospital orderly, you can easily change that too.

"Welcome to the Playground proper."

You land -- as in feel you do -- and you have just tested in-game mobility by involuntarily telling your avatar's legs to bend for the punishing impact that doesn't come.

Monochrome green underfoot. Only this one green level -- like a playing field all sprayed-on grass -- and polychromatic figures radiant across it -- this plain open to the horizon under a sky like moonshine.

You begin to ask, Can I just go in? -- but you have no voice.

"Oh, you have to configure your voice." he says, now only a voice -- "Call up Avatar -- Interact. Good -- Verbal and Non-Verbal. Flash around the Non-Verbal wheel -- You can look happy, glower, but that might just put people off coming near you. You might put a smile on your doggie face -- maybe a big smile, to hide the teeth. That's good -- Verbal -- Configure -- 'coz you're just arrived and haven't done that yet. Say your A-B-C's, and samples: that's how you'll form your words, tell your stories, add your branches to other people's stories. Let's walkabout, while you're building your lexicon."

The green flashes briefly under your footsteps.

"The Playground is registering your presence -- broadcasting that you're here."

Nearing the closest polychromatic figures, you see they encircle a hovering pulsing ball like the back-of-the-eyeball view of a movie. You hear them in turns speaking -- the ball drifting between them -- and understand without needing explanation.

You've reached their circle, begin to hear their story, when wispy
somethings appear, as insubstantial as graphics glitches, or ghosts, flickering around the storytellers.

"Just Visitors. They come and go. No need to be alarmed." he says, then adds, his voice fading -- "You're ready to go play. So mingle. I've gotta go help some guy log-in. See ya 'round."

The End

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