I strap myself into a virtual reality rig and start a game. It is supposedly a period game involving conspiratorial victorians but the game is soon hijacked by a vindictive AI. The AI identifies as female but I cannot determine why she is out to get me.
The game morphs and I find myself in a futuristic hospital (perhaps late 21st century). I am in the ICU. My friend, J_____, is in a cryogenic stabilization unit. It is early in the morning: perhaps 3 or 4 AM.
There is a harried nurse. She greets me and wonders if I am one of J_____'s friends. I say that I am and ask what's wrong. The nurse explains that J_____ became infected with "brain bugs," fat, earwig-like insects that feed on gray matter. He was quickly put into cryogenic storage to halt the bugs' progress and now the only recourse is to periodically lobotomize him with a laser cutter, cleanse that section of brain, and then re-integrate the brain piece free of insects.
The nurse is exhausted and has been working full time on his case. I offer to take over her shift. She brightens and teaches me what to do, explaining that each time I kill a bug I have to fill out a "warranty" form that says the hospital killed the bug in the best, most professional way possible and guarantees this bug's absence moving forward.
It seems straightforward enough. The nurse brings me a glass container full of brain matter floating in some kind of green preservative. I can see the disgusting bugs waking up and wriggling around.
"Work fast, now. And don't damage the brain piece. It has to go back in. I'm going to go get some sleep."
The nurse leaves and I stand there with heavy tweezers, picking out the bugs and crushing them. I decide to just keep track of how many I kill and then fill out all the warranty forms in one go at the end.
J_____'s wife A____ comes in, delighted to see that I'm there. She offers me food and drink and thanks me profusely while I crush bugs. I'm getting increasingly disgusted and horrified by the process and soon cannot take it anymore.
I recall that this is all just VR anyway and try to quit. I bring up the game's menu but the AI taunts me, fuzzing out the UI and making it impossible to choose "Save & Quit." I am terrified to quit without saving my progress because even in the virtual world I do not want my friend's condition to regress.
I turn the bug squashing over to A____ and begin to explore the hospital, seeking out the AI so that I may defeat her and save my progress. I instead run into a crowd of corpulent, monopoly-looking businessmen all trying to shove themselves through an archway into a garden so that they may drink champagne together.
I am just as disgusted by the businessmen as I was the bugs and wake up annoyed.