Welcome To Farmville - A Science Fiction Story
It all started with Farmville.
I was playing the wildly popular Facebook game on my computer when it happened for the first time. I’m not sure if I was scared really, but I had no idea what to do.
It had been a long day at work, full of endless meetings and the usual backstabbing colleagues, and as soon as I walked into my apartment I hurriedly peeled off my business suit, threw on sweats and a T-shirt, and happily settled in for what I expected to be a fun evening of planting pretend crops and seeing them grow. I know, it sounds stupid, but it’s actually cool.
I was so into what I was doing that I honestly didn’t even realize it had happened right away. I pointed and clicked my way through my virtual farm, clicking and planting, clicking and planting, until it was dark out and I realized I was thirsty. As I got up to get a drink, I felt something weird on my shoulders. I looked down and had to look again before I let out a small gasp. I was wearing overalls. But I hadn’t put on overalls. Or had I? Maybe I was just tired and didn’t remember.
The next day I was off, and played Farmville for longer than I’m going to tell you, but let’s just say it was a long time. As I leaned back in my chair for a moment, I heard it. I know now what it was, but at the time I attributed it to the clinking of the kitchen pipes. That’s all it was, I told myself, those old pipes in my kitchen just clinking for some reason. Only my pipes were brand new.
The third day I walked to the mirror and everything looked normal - no overalls. I walked into the kitchen and no clinking. So I sat down and logged into Farmville once again. This time when it happened I couldn’t think of any alternative explanation.
“Howdy, farmer,” I heard.
“I say, howdy, farmer!”
It was an old man, wizened by the sun, with a hoe in one hand and his hat in the other. He was smiling broadly, and looking at me as if he already knew me. I wondered why he was squinting, then felt my back; the sun was blazing. But it had been raining all day. I looked around to find my window and instead found myself in a patch of dirt with fields all around, a barn and silo to my left and some horses to my right. I felt my shoulders and looked down at my chest. The overalls were back. I was glad because I didn’t want to sweat up the new blouse I’d just bought for work.
That was another thing - the business cards I always had on me were gone, and in their place, in my front pocket, was a ratty old piece of paper with some scrawling on it.
“Patsy’s”, the old man said.
“Huh?” I had always been a good conversationalist.
“The paper in your hand. That’s where you go on Friday nights.”
“No, I go to Leo’s Champagne Bar on Friday nights.”
“Not for a while you don’t. Champagne bar!” He spat the words out with disdain.
“Yes I do.”
“Oh? OK, tell me the last time you were there. Be honest.”
I resented his implication. “Well, I was just there - uh - I just went there - “ Damn if he wasn’t right. I hadn’t been going to my usual haunt lately - been rushing home to play Farmville instead.
I looked up to see him smiling. “It’s all right, honey”, he said sweetly. It happens to most of ‘em.”
Ordinarily I gave the business to anyone who had the temerity to call me “honey”, but coming from him it was somehow different - fatherly, or even grandfatherly.
“Most of whom?”
“The farmers. The ones that come from the city. They take a little while to get used to it, but they fit in soon enough.” He laughed. “You may be a challenge, little lady, but you’ll get there, I promise.”
What was he talking about? Get where? I didn’t want to get there or anywhere else - I liked my urban life just fine, thank you very much.
He answered what I was thinking. “Well, you obviously like it here - do you have any idea how many hours you spend visiting us? Not that we mind; dang if we don’t need the help.”
I just stood there, staring.
“Well, what’s it gonna be today, little lady? Squash? Pumpkins? Carrots? You can always tell the city farmers ‘cause they always plant things that don’t go together, like wheat and lilies. Wheat and lilies...” He trailed off, with that somewhat annoying but still charming laugh of his. I decided to keep silent.
“OK, here’s how it works: you keep 20 percent of what you grow, the rest we sell and split the profit. You sleep in the shed out back -” he motioned behind me - “and I’ll see you in the morning, 5AM. Don’t worry about your fancy clothes gettin’ dirty, sweetie, we gotcha a whole new wardrobe just like what you have on now.”
“I said -”
“I KNOW what you SAID. Do you have any idea who I am? I am the Vice President of a Bank, for God’s sake. Don’t you think they’ll miss me?”
I had to admit, he had a point.
“Well, I don’t know if I can just pick up at a moment’s notice and...”
“Well, alright, no need to get snippy with me, little lady. After all, you’re the one who comes to Farmville every waking free moment. We didn’t come after you.”
He made a concession. “Girl, just take a few days to think it over. We certainly don’t want anybody who don’t want to be here - there’s way too much work to do. It’s just that usually, when folks come over here from the other side, it’s because there’s something in their lives they’re not satisfied with. Farming is a pure, honest living and not much else. Frankly, I think you’re ready.”
Over the next few days, I thought about it. And thought about it. I even told my gay best friend, Max. “Tamara, I know an excellent therapist.”
“You don’t understand, this really happened, Max. I know it doesn’t make sense, but you had to see it. The farm, I mean. It was...well, beautiful.” I was shocked by the words coming out of my mouth.
Max just looked at me and shook his head. “I’m going to make an appointment for you, Tam,” he said worriedly. “I just have one question - any single men there?” As we both laughed, I felt myself slipping away from him.
The next day, I called work and told them I wouldn’t be coming in. I sat down, took a long look at my apartment, and logged into Farmville.