Level 1: Virtual Intercourse
'You've been invited to join Play Dead Online.'

I look at the email. The sender is Manolo Corporation. It's the first thing that I see in the subject line when I pull out my laptop.

"Earth to Killian," Liam tells me, "Are you there?"

"I just got this weird email," I state.

"You really need to leave those computer games alone," Liam explains to me, "What was that RPG game you played 2 months straight? I had to call you and remind you to fuckin' eat man."

I roll my eyes. Liam isn't my best friend. He's far from it. I honestly don't think the guy even likes me. He was my brother Shaunie's best friend. I say 'was' brother because my brother isn't around anymore. Ever since the accident, Liam feels responsible for me.

"Swords and shields," I tell him.

"Yo---you is a fucking nerd, my man," Liam explains, grunting, "We have to get you some pussy or...something. Like you're 18 now aren't you? Don't you want to do anything with your life?"

"I'm fine," I state.

"There's no money in these games. It's a waste of time. The money from the settlement is about to dry up. What happens then?" Liam asks, "Have you thought about that?"

I don't answer Liam. 5 years ago my family died. My brother Shaunie died in a car accident in high school. He was just two years older than me. Shaunie was the popular one. He was the beautiful one. Shaunie and his friends ran the school. They ran the town. They were the typical jocks that everyone loved to be around. Shaunie died in an accident on the way home from a basketball game. My dad, mom and little sisters Tonya and Tiffany were all in that car with Shaunie. They all died. The flames burned them to ash. I got nothing from their deaths but money.

Everyone in my family died except for me. I survived.

I survived because I was at home playing games that night.
I open up another Play Dead Online email.

Was this spam?

Usually, game invitations had these extreme visuals. Sometimes they had these advertising videos. This email had none of that. There were just words in a few sentences.

It read:

Killian Thomas,
We've been watching your performance on games for quite some time now. Due to your amazing performance you have been chosen to participate in the Beta Test of a brand new virtual environment called Play Dead Online. Participation in the beta test qualifies you to compete for a large cash prize. At 4:00 pm you will be contacted for further instructions on how to participate.
The email is odd. It's short. There isn't much to it. I grab the email and throw it in my spam folder on my laptop. It didn't sound like anything legit.

"Killian. I need to get you away from that computer for a minute and be real with you," Liam explains, "I can't keep hanging around with you if you keep acting like such..."

"A loser?"

"You said it. Not me," Liam states, "It's not a good look for me..."

Just at that moment, Liam's friends come into the Internet Cafe. I have no doubt they are looking for Liam. This isn't the first time they've come here. Liam usually meets up with me and does his charity work just before he leaves with his real friends.

"Liam, you coming?" Madden Patel asks.
Madden Patel was a god among men. He was tall, sexy Asian boy with very dark skin. He had this long hair that he always wore in a man bun above his head. His father was Filipino and his mom was from Vietnam. His hair was jet black and only contrasted with the color of his eyes. They were an emerald green. I'd never seen an Asian with those color eyes. Madden's face was chiseled. It was something that I swore I came up with in some wild gay wet dream I had. Except Madden was real. He had high cheek bones, brown big lips, pearly white teeth and a lean toned body. He was right at 6'2" about 180 pounds of lean muscle perfected from being a basketball player all his life.

"You want to come?" Liam asks me, "We're going to play some ball."

I didn't stand a chance. Among Liam's friends was Madden who just found out he got drafted into the NBA, Adam who was a little mini giant and Dwight who was going overseas to play professional basketball. Liam fit right in with these guys. He was beautiful, tall and talented like them. He was popular just like them. He was popular like Shaunie.

Again these were Shaunie's friends. Not mine.

"Liam. You don't have to feel bad for me anymore," I tell him, "Seriously. I know you must have made some promise to Shaunie that you were going to look out for me. I'm fine."

Some people just did not belong.

I was one of them.

"He has a point," Madden Patel says and looks at me.

This has to be one of the only times in my life that Madden Patel acknowledged me. The other time was at the memorial for my family where he patted me on my back and said "You'll see him again in another life" before walking away with the other guys. I didn't mind that. He wasn't fake with it. He never gave a fuck about me and he wasn't going to pretend. It wasn't like Liam. Liam was so ready to pretend that he actually gave a fuck about what happened to me.

Shaunie was dead and gone. No matter how nice Liam was to me, it wasn't going to bring Shaunie back. I wasn't a replacement for my dead brother.

Liam seems to finally have gotten that in his head, "Sorry."

I don't know if Liam is apologizing to me or apologizing to Shaunie for not being able to be there for me at that point. I look at Liam though and I know this time he is really going to give up on trying to be there for me. I don't want him there.

I didn't need anyone or anything but a nice game to get lost in.

It's 4:00 pm. I'm online at Starbucks getting a coffee. I spent the day playing games and jerking off to this old video my brother had of Madden from a locker room. My brother thought it was funny but seeing Madden's dick print in a towel was better than any porn.

I know...I'm a pervert.

But only for Madden.

Usually, Liam would have met me here by now and attempted to make me go hang out with 'the guys'. It would usually fail and he'd take his coffee and leave. Today he hasn't even showed up for our usual meeting. Maybe Liam has given up. I can't say I'm upset about it. A part of me is going to be annoyed that since Liam isn't going to be around I won't be able to sneak looks at Madden Patel or Shaunie's other friends.

I don't even have the email in my head but I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around thinking I'm in someone's way but when I turn around it's this woman standing there. She has pale white hair that falls to her shoulders. She is very pale, almost ghostly pale.

"Killian Thomas?" she asks.

I look around. This woman knows my name. I gave the Starbucks guy my first name but not my last. How the hell did this woman know my name?

"Do I know you?" I ask her.

She shakes her head, "You've been invited to join Play Dead Online."

Yo---What the fuck!

The woman has no expression. The people in Starbucks are clearly looking at her because she looks so...odd. That's the only way to describe it. There is an eerie vibe that she brings with her.

"How did you find me?" I ask her.

She ignores my question.

"Should you choose to participate you would be eligible to win a 10 million dollar prize."

I start laughing. That's the only thing that I can do. I just have to start laughing at that moment. This had to be someone playing a joke. The only thing about it is that I didn't know anyone who would want to play a joke on me. My entire family was dead. I had no friends. The only person I talked to was Liam and he didn't even want to talk to me anymore.

The woman isn't laughing at me.

"You're serious?" I ask.

She nods, "Didn't you get our invitation?"

"I did but...is this some sort of scam? How do I know this is real?"

"Check your bank account. My employer has given out a substantial acceptance consolation in hopes of helping to persuade selected participants."

I open up my phone.

I open my bank up. There are 10 thousand fucking dollars in there!

I choke!

"OH SHIT!" I scream out.

I don't care that there are people in Starbucks that are shocked and confused. These people put a ton of fucking cash into my bank account already. I look at the woman and just have this feeling that this shit is too good to be true.

"You have the potential of winning 10 million dollars if you do well in this game," she explains.

My heart drops. I'm nervous because I don't know what I'm getting myself into. Then I think about Liam. I think about the fact that he was right. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I wasn't good at anything but games.


Two weeks go by.

I'm not given any names. I'm not given any information about the game. I'm not given any contact information. I'm told that I can't tell anyone about this game. I'm told that if I give out the information they'll know and I'd be disqualified from participating. Any chance of me winning 10 million dollars would be forfeit. For 10 million dollars I was willing to take this to my grave. I didn't have anyone to tell anyway. Liam wasn't around much. He'd gone back to hanging with Madden and the others in the inner circle. It was something I'd never be a part of.

I was the outsider. I never belonged anywhere. I'd be able to leave and no one would know where I'm going.

I'm not allowed to tell anyone. I'm not allowed to bring anything.

I'm given a date and a time.

That's it.

10:05 on Sunday morning a bus pulls up to my house. I board the bus.

"Is this bus from the Manolo Corporation?" I ask the driver.

"Find a seat. No questions please," the driver states.

"I can sit anywhere?"

The driver doesn't answer me. The door closes and he begins driving. I look at the other people on the bus. Some of them range in age. Some are young adults and some are older. I make my seat next to a boy who is all the way in the back. Space has been cleared for him because he has a wheelchair.

"Never seen a cripple?" he asks me.

"No. It's just...erm. Nevermind. Sorry, I didn't mean to stare," I tell him.

He's got large curly hair. Noah had to be biracial or something. He had pale skin but very curly hair. I happened to be biracial too but I was several shades darker than him. Noah was a very high yellow complexion. His hair had golden streaks through it. After getting past the fact that he's in a wheelchair that is the next interesting thing about him. I have to admit he's attractive in his own way. He's not like Madden and those other guys, but he's cute. Then again I was a gay teenager who just turned 18. I found a lot of guys attractive.

"I'm just fuckin' with you newbie," he laughs, "You must be nervous like everyone else on this goddam bus."

"Are you here for the game?"

He nods, "We all are. I know that much. Don't try to have conversations with these people, though. Everyone's acting like they have sticks up their asses. Scared they may forfeit the money if they even mention the game. I'm Noah."

I shake Noah's hand.

"Killian Thomas," I state, "Do we have any idea where we are going?"

"I'm thinking to pick up some other people."

"Then where?"

"He doesn't know," a girl says, "No one knows. You might as well save your breath."

I turn to my right to see a girl sitting there. She doesn't look like the typical gamer. Not that a gamer really had a look. She was beautiful. She had red lipstick on and a school girl's outfit. She was a white girl with jet black hair that is long and straight. It looked like she came from some Catholic school or something like that.

"That there is Georgina. Remember that stick up the ass I was telling you about?" Noah says.

"Ms. Georgina Helena Lydia Duchannes," she corrects Noah almost immediately, "Just so that you know."

Noah raises an eyebrow, "Sorry. Correction. Ms. Stick-up-her-ass."

Georgina ignores Noah and reaches her hand out to me, "Nice to meet you, young man."

I laugh. We're about the same age but Georgina definitely has this classy lady thing about her. I just go with it though shaking her hand and attempting to smile. She has a tough handshake. I wasn't used to anyone really wanting to talk to me except Liam.

"Nice to meet you," I tell Georgina, "So did you get the same information too."

Georgina nods, "Just an invitation. I think you were actually the last one of us. Sorting from the exit we just took I think we are pulling up to a private airport."

I look out of the window. Holy shit.

Georgina was definitely right.


There are several buses that pull up to the plane. We travel on the plane for what seems like forever. I don't see Georgina for a while but luckily I have Noah to talk to. Noah is very talkative as well, never taking much of anything serious. For some reason, that seems to help break the nerves of all of this.

"What is this?" Noah asks looking out of the window of the airplane, "Mars?"

"I think maybe we're in Utah..." I explain but then pause, "Or Arizona..."

I see how he can't tell the difference. There are hardly any trees. It's just a dry looking desert. The earth is red. There is no green to be found. The area is relatively plain. The air here is hoarse and it under my throat. I have to admit that I'm nervous.

I'm helping Noah from behind as we exit on the plane and start seeing other planes unloading passengers as well. No one has brought any luggage or packed anything. It's then that I see him standing there in all his glory. I've always had a crush on him but I was always too much of a pussy to act on it. My brother Shaunie was probably the only one who knew that I was gay. He also knew that I had a crush on one of his best friends.

Shaunie threatened to beat my ass if I ever made a move on his best friend. I took that to heart. Shaunie was gone now, though.

"Holy shit..."


"I know that guy..." I state.

Madden Patel is there. He has on a sleeveless shirt and some ripped jeans. The shirt shows off his buttery brown biceps. Those biceps of his are beautiful, to say the least. He is walking alone. I wave at him but he doesn't seem to recognize me or maybe he just ignores me. I see him for a second and then he just disappears with all these other people who have just arrived as well.

What the hell was Madden doing here?

We are all being boarded into the building.

"No one knows we're here," Noah says, "This looks like the beginning of a horror movie..."

"You're quite the optimist," a voice says as Noah and I turn to see Georgina.

"You following us now?" Noah asks.

"Please. You're not that interesting," Georgina tells Noah, "I just figure if I have to make a run for it anytime soon I'd stick with the cripple. I can always outrun the cripple."

Georgina is a little bit harsh and I'm surprised that Noah laughs about it. When I look at Georgina though I don't think she was telling much of a joke. Her face is very serious and very harsh. Nothing about her says that she was really joking about what she just said.

"Right this way," I hear a woman say.

She is dressed in a full suit. It's strange to see a woman in a man's suit but I don't say anything about it. I just follow her lead. We all follow her down into this tunnel.

The tunnel continues down and down until we get to something that looks like a lab.

"I think they are breaking us out into alphabetical order," Georgina notices.

She's right.

I've never seen any place like this. It seems like there may be hundreds of people walking in. As people walk in they are checked in on lines corresponding to their last names. When they are checked in they disappear down a different hallway. There are so many hallways. I don't know where they lead. I'm not scared but I'm really curious.

This was a massive operation.

What kind of game called for all of this?

I just assumed I'd be given a login or something like that. Before I knew it I was across the country and I still had no idea where I was going.

Maybe I'm dumb for coming here, but I wasn't the only dumb one.

"Well...I guess it's going to be easier to dissect us that way," Noah laughs, "I'll see you guys when I see you..."

"See you."

Georgina rolls her eyes and walks away.

I'm nervous. Georgina and Noah were far from my friends but at least. I didn't feel alone with them.

I was back to being alone. I stand on this line behind all these people who seem to not know what they are doing. I am beginning to realize that the majority of them are around my age. Young adults are lined up mostly on the lines. I guess that just went with the demographics of gamers, though. What I didn't understand was that there weren't really any young kids around. Everyone was about my age or older.

"Step up."

A man in a suit grabs me. He uses this machine and places it over my eyes. I go blind for a second. I don't know what that does but he grunts, says my name aloud and then points for me to go down the dark hallway.

I enter the dark hallway.

I don't see any other people.

"This way sir," one of the suited individuals says to me.

I'm taken down another hallway. Then I'm taken down another. I'm placed in a room where there are about 5 people. These people are dressed differently. They are all men. There is a naked boy in the room.

"G'dam," is my reaction.

He is sexy. I have to admit. He's like 6'0" and dark skin black boy. He might be in his early 20s. He has dreadlocks that fall to the curve on his ass.

He has a muscular ass. I can't help, but to admire. He looks like he just does squats for a living. It sits so high. I almost forget where I am when I realize that I am getting a little sexually bothered. The staff seemed to be checking him, telling him to cough or what not. He seems really confident with his body as he stands there. He doesn't say a word. I watch as he turns to the side and catch the first sight of his dick. It's long, curving slightly to the right. My mouth drops a little bit as I see the beautiful head of his dick.

Then all of a sudden he wags his dick from side to side, intentionally slapping it on his muscular thighs.

I look up. FUCK! He's watching me stare him down.

He laughs at that moment.

I turn away quickly. Two of the staff seem to be talking to him. Our eyes connect. We are the only participants in the room at first but I see a girl walking in from behind me.

"Killian Thomas," one of the staff members says.


"Please undress..."

"Excuse me. Here in front of everyone?"

The naked boy with the locks laughs at me again. He's staring at me this time. It's almost payback for the fact that I was gawking at him earlier. His eyes narrow at me.

"The simulation is about to begin. It requires you to undress. If you don't want to participate please let us know. There is a flight for everyone who would like to return. This is the last chance that you are going to have to turn back."

"When we undress...we go into that thing?" I ask.

There is this huge machine. It looks almost like a pod.

"Yes," the staff member says.

"What is it?" I ask.

"It is the simulator," the staff member explains.

"How does it work?" I ask.

The staff member pauses, "I've already said too much. Please decide now. What are you going to do? This is the last chance you get to turn back."

My heart is racing. I'm not the only one who is nervous. The girl who is walking behind me seems to have caught onto my nerves. While the guy with the locks seems confident in what he's about to do, we are more uneasy.

"Will we get to keep the 10 thousand dollars?" the girl who walked behind me asks.

"Yes of course. You just won't experience Play Dead and you won't be eligible to win the grand prize," a staff member says.

The guy with the locs smirks and takes a step towards one of the simulators, "You came this far. It's OK to turn back if you want. It's just a game. But I'd suggest you do it. I don't want to go into this thing alone."

The girl and I look at one another. The guy with the locks isn't looking at us so I'm not 100 percent sure which one of us he's talking to. God, I hope it's me, though. This guy is beyond sexy. I'd play any game with him that he fucking wanted.

I watch as the sexy guy walks up a member of the staff and whispers something. I find it weird but I don't pay attention. My mind is on whether to continue with this.

"I want to turn back," the girl says.

The guy with the locks lets out a snicker. The girl is sweating. She looks like she is about to pass out from fear. I've never seen someone look so uneasy. It is scaring the fuck out of me that she is reacting this way. She starts stepping towards the door as though this really is some sort of horror movie and they are going to force her into the machine.

The opposite happens, however.

The staff member nods, "You are free to go. A plane will be waiting for you the way that you came. Please stop any staff member in a suit with a badge if you need assistance on leaving."

"Just like that?" the girl asks.

"Just like that."

The girl doesn't hesitate again. She turns and she runs out of the room. No one gives her a second thought. The staff members do turn to me, though.

The guy with the locks looks at me dead in my eyes, "What's it going to be?"

"You aren't scared?" I ask the guy with the locks.

He shrugs, "This is something I have to do. I can't make that decision for you, though. What do you want to do? You want to back out or do you want to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes?"

I start undressing.

The guy with the locks watches me...the...entire...time. As if this wasn't more awkward I can't read his expression as he watches me undress. I just can feel his gaze staring me up and down making his way from my crotch to the side of my ass, to my nipples and all the way down to my feet. I'm standing there butt naked and we are facing each other.

That's when he does it. He licks his lips...slowly.

"Damn," he says.

I never had a guy flirt with me so openly. I wasn't a bad looking guy but I wasn't a sex symbol either.

"Please step into the simulator. You'll feel cold. Then you won't feel anything. Your mind will go blank. Then you login," the staff member asks.

"How do we log back out?" I ask.

"No questions, please. Good luck."

No questions.

No questions.

My heart races. I had one more chance to run out of here. I had one more chance to stop and think about what I was really doing here. I was putting my life in these people's hands. All I had was their word and proof that that they were good for the money. If I had a life this would be a different conversation. If I had someone waiting at home for me this would be a different conversation.

No one was waiting for me.

No one would miss me.

So I enter the simulator. I'm locked inside. There is a glass door where I can see the outside. Water starts to fill up. As it gets higher the water thickens and forms around my body. It's almost like some sort of thick gel by the time it gets to my nose. It gets higher and higher. It fills my mouth. I'm struggling at first but soon it covers my throat. It covers my nose. It covers my eyes.

Then there is nothing...
All I see are lights. Nobody. Nothing. Just lights.

Words formulate. Choose your player name:


All I'm doing is thinking of something and it populates on the screen. I'm not touching any buttons. I'm not sliding anything or moving anything. Somehow this system is able to read my fucking mind!

Choose your class.

The options are warrior, rogue and mage. I'm not giving any more options. I'm not giving any descriptions. I'm not even given a visual. I'm not giving anything.


I know from other games that rogues are fast and agile. They usually are able to use some sort of projectiles. If I'm lucky I'd be given a fucking projectile. Maybe an arrow. Maybe a gun. I'm not sure what this game is about.

Once I select Rogue there is nothing but blackness again.

Then I wake up. The air here smells deeply saturated with smoke or something. I'm in some kind of room. It's different from the room with the simulation. The walls here are dark and cold. It's actually a lot colder than it was in the building I was just in.

"You took long enough. I was waiting for you to login. Couldn't decide your class?" a voice says.

I turn and see the guy with the dreadlocks. He's standing there. He looks completely the same, except he has on this skin-tight red spandex outfit. He looks over at me and smiles with those same perfect teeth that he smiled at me with before.

"It didn't work?" I ask l

"Oh, it worked," he laughed, "Killian."

He looks me up and down. I'm wearing spandex too but mines are a gray color. Did they change me and dump me somewhere? I don't understand why they wouldn't just have me put on the spandex. I thought we were going to be put in a game or something like that.

"How'd you know my name?" I ask the guy with the dreadlocks.

"I opened your Player info," he says.

"Come again?"

He looks at me, "I opened your player info. I read your stats. There aren't much there. You're a level 1 rogue named Killian. 300 health points. 20 action points. I guess health points are your health bar. I have no idea what action points are yet but I'll need to figure it out soon."

"Yo---hold up. What are you talking about bro?" I ask the guy with the locks.

"You have no idea do you?"

"No idea about what? Where are we?"

"You'll have to see it, to believe it," he explains to me.

He grabs my hand. His hand is so warm and it's so sexy how he takes me like this. I don't know his name. He leads me to the window and all of a sudden I'm blown the fuck away. Outside of the window that I'm looking at is this scene that I didn't think possible. Bright beautiful colors fall over a futuristic landscape. The building that I'm in seems to float high in the sky. It's a floating city and the ground below is full of green. I see these strange animals that I can't make out on the ground. They aren't like animals that I've ever seen before. This city though is different. It floats above the ground and seems to keep us away from the dangers on the ground. There are flying vehicles that zoom across the sky. There are three moons up above my head over a beautiful black sky.

"Holy shit," I say.

"Beautiful isn't it..." he replies, "I think this is the one of the towns. A safe zone for players where we won't be attacked."

"You aren't saying..."

The guy with the locks leans over. He touches my face. His skin is soft and smiles to reveal these sexy dimples. It feels so real. It feels just like how it would normally feel if he were to do that in any condition. I can FEEL him. I can feel his fucking body touch my fucking face.

This is impossible!

It can't be what I'm thinking. This feels too real.

"Killian---We're already IN the game."



To read the next chapter go to www.crushedcrown.com