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Hell Storm

by Beverly Forehand

Mike dialed the 1-800 number and waited. He was surprised at how quickly they picked up his call.

“Battle Realms — Join the Hell Storm today!” said a perky female voice.

“Uh, yeah,” Mike said, “I have a question about the game.”

“Oh,” said perky voice, “I’d be glad to help you in any way I can. Just give me your online persona name and account password and we’ll be on our way!”

“Well, I don’t actually have an account yet,” Mike said, “I have a question about the game itself.”

“Oh,” said perky voice seemingly a bit confused, “Well, this is Billing and Acquisitions. If you have a technical question, I’ll have to transfer you to Technical Support.”

“What I really want to ask about it...” Mike began, but perky voice cut him off, “If you let me know which game you own: Battle Realms, Battle Realms Hell Storm, or World of Hell Storm, then I can transfer you to the appropriate support personnel.”

“I have the agreement page for World of Hell Storm up right now,” Mike said. But, perky voice cut in, “World of Hell Storm it is! Coming right up!” And, then Mike could hear the soothing, but somewhat disturbing lief motif of Hell Storm.

A few minutes passed while he re-read the User’s Agreement and twirled the phone cord before a male voice said, “Welcome to the World of Hell Storm. This is Chuck, how may I help you?”

“Hello, Chuck,” Mike said, “I’ve been reading the User’s Agreement for World of Hell Storm and it seems like—”

Chuck broke in, “You actually READ the User’s Agreement?”

“Yeah,” Mike said, “And—”

“No, wait,” said Chuck, “You read the whole thing?”

“Yeah, and...” Mike started.

“All sixty-six pages?” Chuck asked.

“Yeah, and the thing is, on pages 33, 60, and 66, it seems to imply that—”

“I’m sorry,” said Chuck, “Could you hold for just one minute?”

“I guess,” Mike said, and then he was heard the phone being put down. In the background he could hear a strange buzzing and disconnected voices. He heard Chuck say, “He’s read the User’s Agreement — the whole thing!” And, then more buzzing and “What should I tell him?” Finally, Chuck picked up the phone again.

“Sorry about that, kid,” he said, “I had to consult with my Manager. No one’s ever had a question about the User’s Agreement before.”

“Really?” Mike asked, “That’s funny because I would think that they’d have a problem with it.”

“Have you clicked “Accept” yet?” Chuck asked.

“Well, obviously not!” Mike said.

“Oh,” said Chuck, “So, you’re not actually a licensed user yet?”

“Well, I guess not,” Mike said, “I mean, I bought the game but I don’t have a subscription. I mean, I was signing up but then the User’s Agreement came up and...”

“I’m really sorry, Mike,” Chuck said, “But, I’m going to have to transfer you. I can only help licensed users of the game.”

“Oh,” Mike said, “Its just that this is the second time I’ve been transferred and—”

“The guys in Legal can help you out, I bet. I mean, they wrote the thing, right?”

Mike brightened, “Okay, I guess I can hold.” The music returned and then, almost immediately, a voice picked up.

“This is A. Crowley of Legal and Users’ Services. I understand from Chuck, our newest technician, that you’ve surveyed our User’s Agreement.”

“Yes,” said Mike, “I have and it seems like, well, it seems like, well, that I would actually be signing away my soul. Is that, right?”

“We do encourage all our users to obtain a full understanding of the Users’ License and Agreement before signing, of course,” said A.

“So... I’m right in reading that clicking “Accept” would actually give Hell Storm a legal and binding right to my soul for all eternity?” asked Mike.

“I’m afraid so, Mike,” said A. Crowley, “But, we do believe that seamless game play for only $9.99 per month is well-worth the cost of a single Soul, don’t you, Mike? After all, most people hardly use their souls at all, and the users’ rate for all our Battle Realms products is several hours daily.”

“Well,” Mike said, “I guess if you think about it like that... still...”

“I know, Mike, that perhaps our Users’ Agreement seems a bit harsh to you now, but compared to some other products that charge nearly $5.00 more per month and are subject to server shutdowns and intolerable lag, I think you’ll agree once you try our product is far superior to any of our competitors’ interactive environments.”

Crowley continued, “Have you actually played one of our versions of Battle Realms? Perhaps Hell Storm itself?”

“No,” Mike said, “All my friends have World of Hell Storm, but I’ve never actually played.”

“Ahhh...” said A., “Well, I would be more than happy to offer you a trial subscription for thirty days. No strings attached, of course.”

“Oh,” Mike said, “Really? You could do that?”

“Of course,” A. said, “And, if you’re interested, “I could even sign you up as one of our Beta Testers for Hell Storm Live.”

“I’ve never heard of that,” Mike said.

“Well,” said A.,”Hell Storm Live is our newest interactive version of the game. It won’t be on the market for several years yet, but we are offering a chance for our most loyal consumers to join the Hell Storm a bit in advance.”

“That sounds really nice,” said Mike, “I’d be in before any of my friends?”

“Most assuredly, Mike,” said A., “I can guarantee that it would be an experience to die for.”

“So, what’s Hell Storm Live like?” Mike asked.

A. smiled. It was the kind of smile you could actually hear. “Well, Mike, I think that you really have to be a part of the Hell Storm to really understand. If you’re interested, and, I assure you that many others are, then I could have you connected in no time at all, maybe even today.”

Mike twirled the phone cord some more and re-read the Users’ Agreement. After all, $9.95 per month was a very good deal.

Copyright © 2006 by Beverly Forehand

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