Here's a snippet from my newly renovated upcoming series, Moderation Online (formerly known as Eaten). Cover will be ready later this month. Enjoy!
EARTH, North America, 2067
“Dr. Brotherton, while I appreciate that you're using breakthrough technology to treat my husband, I'm not so sure that a video game will cure him.”
Dr. Peter Brotherton suppressed a sigh as an African-American woman dabbed her moist eyes with a tissue. Two children clung to her dress with worried looks on their faces.
Through the hospital waiting room window, rain fell slanted across the blustery sky, and moonlight bathed the hospital grounds below in a pale gray.
It had been raining for the last week. Dr. Brotherton wished for sunlight, clear air, and a blue sky in which to give the bad news. But the rain fell, a relentless staccato against an undertone of thunder.
“I understand how you feel,” Dr. Brotherton said, choosing his words carefully.
Jamilla Barnes sobbed, heaving loudly. She was obese, with a round face and long dreadlocks.
Dr. Brotherton let her cry. He felt for her, like he did for all of his patients’ families, but his heart stopped breaking for them many years ago. He clasped his hands together and spoke softly.
“Your husband suffered a massive heart attack. We were able to stabilize him, but he has not woken up yet.”
“When will he wake up?” Jamilla asked.
“It’s hard to say,” Dr. Brotherton said. “It could be days, weeks, or months.”
Jamilla shook her head and wiped her eyes. “I’d like to see him.”
“I’m happy to let you in the room,” Dr. Brotherton said, “but I need to warn you about what you’re about to see.”
Here came the bad news.
The news no one ever wanted to hear because it sounded so strange.
And he was going to give it for the twentieth time this week. With no coffee in his system, no painkillers to deaden the sharp edge of burnout.
“Kendall is already inside the video game,” Dr. Brotherton said. “We have him hooked up to it, so there a lot of wires and technological things in the room.”
“My husband has a heart attack and you put him in a video game?” Jamilla asked.
Dr. Brotherton pursed his lips. “It’s deeper than than that. Come with me.”
Kendall Barnes was an obese black man who lie in a spacious hospital room. He was hooked up to a ventilator.
A coal-black VR headset lay over his eyes. A heart rate monitor blinked over the space where the eyes were. A long wire connected it to a server in the wall, which glittered behind a glass panel. Monitoring screens were mounted all over the room, measuring brain function, sleep patterns, and heart rate.
For Brotherton, this wasn’t anything new. Kendall looked like the wave of a thousand patients he’d seen this year. Obese, diabetic, lucky to be alive.
“All over the world, we have seen an epidemic,” Dr. Brotherton said. “I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but we’ve been seeing heart-related diseases killing people, almost as if a time bomb exploded.”
Poor choice of words.
“It's not like we haven't treated heart disease, but this is worse. It's devastating,” Dr. Brotherton said. “The medical societies of the world have committed to stopping this, so they partnered with gaming companies, and leading psychologists. They developed a virtual reality game experience, and we are hooking up victims’ brains to it.”
“I don’t understand,” Jamilla said, caressing Kendall’s forehead. “I signed the consent papers, but I wasn't aware of—”
“It’s quite simple,” Brotherton said. “It really is, Mrs. Barnes. In order for Kendall to live with heart disease, he’s got to make drastic lifestyle changes. But we’ve been telling patients this for decades and it hasn’t worked. This virtual reality experience—called Moderation Online—immerses them in a world that teaches them the importance of eating right. It's an ingenious game design that subconsciously steers patients into making nutritional decisions at the neural level. We have seen a tremendous amount of success from initial tests. We see drastic weight loss and lasting good habits.”
Jamilla buried her head in Kendall’s chest.
“I’ve been told it’s a paradise,” Dr. Brotherton said. “The science behind it is to take healthy foods such as vegetables, turn them into characters, and assign them names and personalities. Have you ever heard of role-playing games, Mrs. Barnes?”
Food City is Book 1 in the Moderation Online LitRPG series. It is a fantasy that takes place in the world of food. Click here to sign up for my email list so you can know when it launches.
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Also published on Medium.