What?! Hank shouted, coughing and choking on the bite he had taken from his sandwich. Mike was quick to give a couple of pats on the back to his partner, who already had his eyes bulging out of their sockets from the effort he was making to free his throat.

His huge belly was still quivering when he asked

Are we only going to live once?

His coughing continued, but less scandalous than before, he wiped the sweat from under his cap and his huge mustache twitched from side to side.

We were all in Joe's diner, a very cozy and peaceful place; its cushioned stools were the perfect resting place for our busy butts. They served the best roast beef sandwiches and the coffee was free. Always served with Helen's beautiful smile, her charisma and tenderness were enough to make us forget the dreadfulness of our days, a very cheerful girl.

We were enjoying a quiet dinner or at least we thought so, when Gertrudis appeared and opened her mouth, her presence always meant bad news and this time was no exception.

Fortunately, I had not started my dinner when I also heard the news. I'm sure I would have lost my one life immediately. I pushed away my plate with my untouched sandwich, suddenly having lost my appetite.

Helen, shocked, held her mouth with both hands, she could hardly believe her ears. It was the first time I had ever seen her so distressed.

"As I was saying," continued the head of virtual resources, clearing her throat, an artificial intelligence that was in charge of managing the RAM of our world and for us a prophet of doom, with a long face and a haughty attitude.

"The new update Grand Theft Auto 2020, will bring a new change: the policy of you only live once aka SVUV; it will avoid the extra use of the RAM of the system which will allow us to make our game faster and more competitive before the new interactive systems that are developed today."

Gertrudis explained reading from her virtual console.

So if you are removed from the game, it will be your last time. Most of us raised our eyebrows in surprise, others folded their arms.

Do you think it's easy to keep us alive, we are just simple NPCs. Users are monsters, all they want to do is destroy everything in their path. Interrupted Mike worriedly with his head in his hands; a bunch of monsters! He repeated.

Mmmmmmmhhhhhmmmm... affirmed Monica, a lady who had more life cycles than all of us present, even if we added them up.

The other day I was walking with my pet, Scruffy, a Pekingese who suddenly barked when he heard its name. Relax, it's okay," she petted the little canine who kept shaking. Suddenly, she continued with her story, a user appeared out of nowhere in a speeding car and ran over me with Scruffy and everything. I was chopped in half, and poor Scruffy was left stamped on the wall. It took more than 500 megabytes of RAM to rebuild us.

And as patiently as she narrated her story, she enjoyed her steaming soup.

Tell me about it, Mike interjected. They always steal my vehicle and if I try to stop them, bang! He commented, slamming the counter with the palm of his hand, clinking the cups and glasses around him; I got my head blown off with a shotgun, and he finished.

We must do something about this, Hank intervened after he had caught his breath. We can barely last a few hours each time the system is rebooted. Soon there will be no one left to eliminate.

I could never imagine what it would be like not to reboot again, I commented. I'm usually a passerby who walks the streets straight to the bank. The best thing that can happen to me is to be robbed and that happens very rarely, I usually die first. But to live only once? I would never see my friends again. There would be no more dinners, no more birthdays, no more get-togethers.

So do we cease to exist, I asked. Will we become a bunch of zeros?

At first, there was a murmur that increased in volume at Gertrude's news, but after my comment, everyone was silent and thoughtful.

We had never faced anything like this before. My mind could not imagine not existing. To imagine that our time was limited was horrible. My time would be too valuable to waste it dreaming like I used to.

I still think we should complain to the designers. Without us there would be no game, Monica said.

Gertrude ignored the comments.

Stay alive guys

She added with a fake smile before fading away as usual.

We were all silent for a few minutes until Jake interrupted our silence.

I think we'd better get out of here.

Jake was a fast food huckster, he used to be one of those guys who talked his head off and knew a lot of people.

Find another system, he continued as his eyes fanned over everyone, looking for support.

I know a guy who knows a guy, he assured us. Many of us pursed our lips and others rolled their eyes.

He knows a back door, we can bypass the firewall and get into the network of networks. Jake opened his eyes even wider to emphasize what he was saying.

The opportunities would be endless! he shouted, stretching out his arms, don't you think?

But no one made any comment, everyone was still deep in thought.

"I hear Halo is not a bad place," he remarked, raising his eyebrows. It has a heavenly name, it sure is peaceful and friendly. He said, nodding in affirmation as he closed his eyes and sat back down while sinking his teeth into his sandwich.

Jake and his ideas... I said to myself shaking my head.

My eyes remained fixed on Helen. In my mind one phrase kept going, carpe diem.