First Chapter: Midas Online
 
Constantine mined gold. That’s what he did, day and night. Mining gold, mining gold. It was, after all, the reason for his entire existence.

Gold wasn’t that hard to find. It was literally everywhere. Every street, every stone, every blade of grass, all of it was golden. He lived in a world that was just variations of white, black and gold.

Goldenscale.

He hit a refrigerator with his pickaxe. It didn’t really matter what he was farming, as long as he was doing it. He liked to mix it up by farming various containers, making a bet with himself to see what would be in there. A golden milk bottle, two golden beers, a golden stew for some reason…

You know what? We’re just gonna drop the ‘gold’ adjective. Just assume that everything, except the people themselves and their personal items, in this damn world is gold from now on.

Constantine mined the beer, then the milk bottle, then the other beer. Then the fridge’s door, then the table next to it, then the chair…

He felt tired, stamina was nearly depleted. He shouldn’t have mined the chair. That was a rookie mistake, and Constantine was no rookie.

Oh, well. He laid down on the floor and calmed himself, hands crossed on his chest, seeing his stamina bar replenish slowly.

Any normal player would have had a full bar of stamina by now, all it took was about twenty minutes of rest. But Constantine wasn’t a normal player. He was more of a… normal resident.

But, most importantly, even after fifteen years, his stats sucked.

He didn’t really mind. He had accepted his role in the pecking order of the world of Phrygia.

Waaay down at the bottom.

“Howdy, stranger,” a chipper voice said, forcibly dragging him out of his thoughts.

He stood up and held his pickaxe towards her.

“Whoa,” she raised her arms. “I’m not a threat. I’m just here to mine gold, just like you. Plenty of it to go around,” she chuckled, nodding at their surroundings.

“Who are you?” he demanded, lowering his pickaxe just a fraction.

“I’m Zo-” she mumbled the syllable and glued on, “-ltana. Zoltana, yeah, that’s my name,” nodding furiously.

“I’m the guy you just spooked the crap out of. You shouldn’t be in here, Zoltana,” he grunted and picked up the rest of his gear and his golden ingots.

“Why not?” she asked.

Constantine pointed at the hole in the wall. The view outside was magnificent, they were about thirty stories up and the city spread all over the place. “Seriously? This is a condemned building, it’s about to collapse at any time! Nobody should be up here.”

Zoltana leaned on one of the broken walls. “Then why are you here?”

“I came here to farm gold, precisely because nobody comes up here!” he enunciated the words clearly to the teenager, since it was apparent she had a hearing problem.

She stared at her shoes. They were pink sneakers. That splash of colour in his monochromatic world stood out like the Las Vegas pyramid with the beam of light coming from on top. “So, that means you’re a gold farmer?”

Constantine slumped his shoulders in resignation and turned his back to her. “Yeah. Please, leave me alone.”

“But you can’t log out! Aren’t you curious to hear of news of IRL?” she said, walking in front of him again.

“Why would I care about the IRL? It’s not like I can ever go back there,” he said, walking past her and down the corridor.

She followed him. “I know, but… you know, you have memories, right? Things that were? Your life, before?”

He waved her entire argument away with a slap in the air. “That’s not me. They’re not my memories.”

She stopped bouncing in front of him as she did all the time. Her voice was more quiet now. “So, you don’t care what happened to your family? Friends? Your home?”

Constantine turned to her and snapped at her. “Listen, kiddo. I have no fucking clue who you are, and that goes the other way around as well. This is my home now!” he said and kicked a brick that had fallen from the ceiling. “This!” he shook his bag and the golden ingots fell on the floor. “These are my entire existence, got that? You can come in and log out anytime you fucking want, you can’t possibly know how it feels for me.”

She looked like any teenage girl that had just been yelled at. She bent her knees, reaching down, hesitating. Then she fell on the ground and started gathering up his ingots, putting them back in his bag, keeping her face away from him.

He held the top of his head with both hands. “Don’t do that, I can pick them up,” he said, softer now.

“I’m sorry,” she sobbed quietly. She wiped her cheek with her wrist. “I was just curious, that’s all.”

“It’s okay,” he said, biting his lip, looking away. “It’s a touchy subject, and there’s a reason I avoid people.”

Zoltana stood up and gave him his bag back. 

He accepted it, and felt like an asshole. “Thanks.”

Zoltana shuffled away from him. “I’m just gonna go, let you mine your gold in peace.”

He shut his eyes and grunted. After a long moment, he spoke, “Hey! You can farm here, it’s all right. It’s a big building, after all.”

“Really?” She perked up, her face beaming at him in delight. 

It was as if he had just given her a pony for Christmas. It was definitely an overreaction and Constantine thought about the conditions of her upbringing that would trigger a response like that. Then he shook his head. He didn’t care. IRL was IRL. Not his problem. “Yeah, just stay out of my way.”

“You won’t even know I’m here!” she said, chipper, and hopped away. She knocked over a pile of furniture along the way, and they bounced down the stairs, making the most intense ruckus you could imagine. She winced. “Sorry, sorry… Why was this barricade even here anyway? Jeez, right. Sorry, not a peep from now on. Nada.” She tiptoed away.