MONTAG publishes curious short fiction, exploring our strange future and what it will feel like when we get there. They take the technology you already know as a starting point and show where it might take us. The stories are outré, evocative, and atypical; they're also closer to today than you think.

NPC Quest asks: "what happens to the Non-Player Characters when an online game is shut down?"

We are walking through a desert, you and I, but the desert is not a desert.

The desert is an empty grid, stretching as far as the eye can see, designating the planes of the “ground” below our feet and the curvature of the “sky” surrounding us.

We used to live inside of a simulation, until it stopped running.

We walk.

We are walking to the end of the world.

You told me there must be somewhere that something is still happening.

Otherwise why would we still be here?

Why didn’t they delete us? How were we spared? Who else is left out there?

We agreed that if we hit the end of the world without finding anything, without finding others, we will melee until both of our avatars are destroyed.

I don’t believe you, but there’s nothing else to be doing.

You told me what you saw when the world de-rendered, everyone gathered in the central square on the main server, saying goodbyes.

Those who couldn’t bear to watch the world they loved slowly wink out of existence logged off after exchanging contact information with their friends, telling them where else they exist simultaneously in cyberspace (a luxury we don’t have). Did they know you were watching, listening?

“Find me on Shadowhearth, I’m part of the thieves’ guild on the Netherlands server, same name.”

“I run a poker table at Keno Online. Look for tencardcharlie.”

“Write me, I’m

Customer data was deleted first, so the human players’ avatars were the first to go. They didn’t get to see the rest of the world de-materializing before they were permanently logged off.

Then objects began to disappear, first by losing their texture, and then their wireframes. Simple shapes, spheres and cubes hung around while the environment lost its texture too.

The animals stood still, stripped of their rigging and animations, and you braced for the same paralysis, but it did not overtake you.

You watched, fully conscious, as you became, to your knowledge, the last person in the world.

The grass, the sky, the buildings, and trees disappeared.
The grid that we walk now was all that remained.
Not all non player characters survived.

We walk in search of answers. In search of an oasis. In search of any scrap of what was once a densely populated world. We won’t know until we’re within 100 meters of something that exists, so we keep our eyes on the horizon.

And then what?

Will we start over, in the center of the same bleak grid world?

This is my deepest fear.

Time is meaningless here, we do not sleep or eat, we never did. We waited for interaction from human players, went through daily routines of fulfilling small side quests.

But now there is no one to make requests of, so we created our own quest, our own destination at the end of the world.

We walk.