Chapter 13:

God in the Machine

Theodora Plays to Win (With Cheat Codes)

The sun had risen into the sky some time ago. Was it mid-day? How many hours have I passed lying here? Callum sat up and once again looked down at Theo’s corpse. He knew the guilt would never leave him. Perhaps he’d ask to be released once he got back. In this way he would not have to continue existing. His celestial body would unravel and he’d return to atoms, that might be for the best. Callum rose unsteadily to his feet.

It was time to end his time on this planet and head back to the Overseer, but before that he felt a duty to send Theo off properly. He had buried Katya’s body under rubble, this time she deserved a more respectful sendoff. Katya’s family hadn’t particularly cared for her, similarly to Theo so they simply attended a mass funeral for the victims of Callum’s earthquake and left it at that.

Callum swiftly drew an incineration rune he’d found in the Codebook. As he drew, Callum thought about everything he’d done and didn’t do, and every error he’d made up to this point, and came to the conclusion that he had no right to call himself an angel anymore. He put the finishing touches on the rune. He would burn both of these bodies and finally put all three of them to rest.

He bent down at the bottom of the circle and lowered his hand to the ground, all that was needed was one little spark. He put his hand next to a diamond shape on the outside circle. An outside circle? He pulled his hand back and stood up. There were three circles and multiple geometric patterns within each circle, far more complex than the incineration rune he’d thought he’d drawn. A force suddenly pulled his hand forward causing him to stumble but he resisted. “What’s going on here?” There were multiple runes drawn within the circle. This was a spell chain on top of a spell chain on top of a spell chain. Multiple circles on top of multiple layers of runes and magical code.

“That looks like a sacrificial rune, and a transference chain, and…reincarnation? That one shouldn’t exist. What am I looking at here? I don’t recognize even half of these.”

“Time travel. Born into the past.” A boyish voice echoed inside Callum’s head. The same voice that spoke whenever Callum opened his mouth.

“Who…who are you?”

“The previous tenant of this vessel come home to find an angel already inhabiting it, but we make lemons; in fact, a perfect opportunity presents itself. I was goading the king and his posse into making a mass sacrifice for me, but then I noticed you off in a corner of the great hall, strolling around in my body. You’ve made things much easier for me. Now be a good boy”

Callum is forced to the ground, his arm is forced straight. He resists with as much strength as he can muster but his hand makes contact with the circle. Blue flame erupts all around him and inside of him. He feels his essence burning away, he tries to untangle his energy from the body but the spell holds him firmly in place. I’ll protect you, Theo. No matter how many times. He knows he can’t fully untangle himself but if he could just sever a bit of his essence.

“When everything catches up with itself again, I’ll be sure to leave her alone. She can have her short, quiet little life. You have my word. Now, little angel, be fuel for my resurrection.”

“O great creator, I beseech thee, grant your child this final Heavenly Favor. I give my blessing to her. I want her to be happy and live a long life. Please grant this favor!”

“Burn, little angel. Artel Raxis Chronum. Artel Raxis Pendulum. Kaste Chronum Rewendus. Incerus Incubus Reverum. By my will, exe-“

The world froze and faded to white.

There was a girl. She sat in front of a small TV. She stared at the screen longingly. There was a device attached to the TV and another device attached to that in the girl’s hands. She moved the joystick and the characters moved with it and she moved with the characters.

I watched the girl for a while. She seemed to be having fun. She wore a pure, beaming smile as she played. A boy appeared.

“Fredrik, I beat the level.” The girl hit some buttons and suddenly the character began to do a dance on screen and the words “level cleared” flashed across, “now I’m at the same spot as you.” She smiled her pure, beaming smile.

The boy’s eyebrow creased, “I’m not interested.”

“But you said if I got to the same place then you’d play with me.” The girl offered him the controller and the boy let out a sharp hiss.

“I already beat the game. I don’t replay games I’ve already beaten.”


“I’ll be in my room, don’t bother me.”

The girl was confused. She didn’t remember doing anything to agitate him, “But you said-”

“Why are you always like this. You’re so clingy.”

“I…I just want to play with you.”

“Shut up. I’m going to my room.”

The boy disappeared. The girl frowned. A woman, presumably her mother, appeared carrying bags of groceries. She places them on a table that also just appeared. The girl wondered over to her mother.

“Will you play with me mommy?”

“I have to work”

“It’s the weekend.”

“I have to work, even on a weekend.”

“But you already worked five days this week,” The girl was growing upset, “you’re at home now, why can’t you play?”

The mother’s tone suddenly turned harsh, “Do you want a roof over your head or food in the fridge.”

The kid didn’t respond, she didn’t know how to respond. The mother exhaled, “Maybe tomorrow.”

The girl threw her hands up in excitement and jumped onto a chair that suddenly appeared. A door frame sprung up behind the girl. The groceries disappeared from the table, replaced by documents and manilla folders, and the mother’s youthful skin began to wrinkle.

The boy came back a little older.

“You’re still here. Why don’t you go outside?” He speaks to her while standing perpendicular with the door, not bothering to look in. “All you do is play games all day. You do nothing. You’re a total waste of space. How can you stand yourself?”

The table and mother move closer to the girl as she stands up. The girl steps out of her “room” through the “wall” and addresses her mother, “Hey, mom?”

“Don’t bother me while I’m working.” The mother waves her off.

“Are you going to do anything with your life?” The brother stands in place next to the doorframe.

The girl moves her lips but there no sound. The mother responds, “I don’t have time right now.”

“Can’t you move out already and stop bother Mom.”

The girl walks back to her desk dejectedly and sits down at her desk.

“I have a deadline.” The Mother responds without prompting.

“No one would miss you if you just disappeared.” The brother and the doorframe begin to drift right.

The table and mother drift left, “Go away, Katya.”

“You’re not wanted or needed here.” The brother and mother fade away.

“Go away!” They both shout as they disappear.

The girl remains a girl despite the obvious passage of time. She sits alone in the white vacuum, in front of an untenably large computer monitor. A message on the screen reads, “Real Life Simulator (Ver.6.1)”

“I won? Hmm?” A notification pops up in the corner of her screen. She clicks on it. An email message comes to the front.

“You’ve been selected to beta test our newest RPG. The first of it’s kind, VRMMORPG, with prototype full dive gear. Be the first to try out the future of gaming. Make your mark on history and be the first to experience a new world. Please join us. Invitation expires in 30 minutes.”

The girl gets up and leaves. The screen disappears and is replaced by the small TV from earlier. A couch rises up from nowhere.

The girl reappears, entering stage left. The girl stops center and suddenly turns toward me. The girl’s blonde hair and blue eyes looked like her mothers.

“What will you choose?” The girl spoke, but the voice was a woman’s voice, “Will you continue?” What does that mean? Could she be asking if I want to come back to life? Am I getting a second chance?

“Will you continue?”

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