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U r empty.
Online games are the future.
They are the now.
The scene is me half asleep on my desk. I am face down, facing the monitor; its screensaver is saying: “Live for your quest, die for your quest.” The mouse is beneath my right arm which is hanging off of the printer. Atop the printer is a thick, online-provided strategy guide to my life, a bag of chips lies over this. The speakers are high definition, expertly wired for my listening pleasure. I can hear the clash of swords, the charge of the goblin armies, and the crash of the blue Caquithan Ocean. My left elbow hangs off of the desk, and my hand under my face. It is now wet from the drool. All around the monitor are cans of soda and energy drinks; however in the geometric sense they form a nice semicircle. Life is about completion to most people. No one can appreciate the simple, uncompleted symmetry of something like this. To me, it’s very “glass half full/half empty”.
I am a crusader in this fabricated reality that I’ve come to call home. My character’s name is Galkaxo. I’m a Hume, but don’t hold it against me. My magic skills are advancing quite quickly. There isn’t so much a solid goal in the whole for the game, just a million quests that lead to fame and fortune in the land of Mythornia.
Get it? Myth?
You can call it stupid; you can call it a waste of time and money.
But try it once.
I dare you not to love it. Skeptics tell me I waste too much time with this, but they don’t know the feeling when you gloriously storm a siege ridden city to bring order to it once again. I am not alone in this. The clan I’m with is constantly on the move looking for adventure and excitement. We find it too, and are rewarded with the possibilities of more journeys to follow. The risk, the time consumed: it’s all worth it for the glory. The advancement of levels- it’s the bettering of one’s self to serve the greater good. This game teaches values. Yet, still, people call it violent and addicting. They’re wrong. My life online is separate from reality. What little time I spend there. Too boring.
Rising from my slumber, I’m not quite ready to get back to the better of the two realities. Almost an hour and a half ago, I told the boys I’d be getting a bit of rest. This is of course OCC.
If you’re a nube, I guess I’ll tell you it means “out of character”.
In comparison to many, I am very clear on the separate realities.
I am unlike those nut cases out there.
The ones that commit suicide.
In fact at times I’ve been the one to post to these poor kids that (in occ) that it’s just a game, and to relax, it takes time. But, by now I’m an established pro. I had to take it intensely serious to get to this point. Which is not to say that I don’t take it seriously now, it’s just I try to guide kids away from the Everquest-indused insanity those kids years ago used to get. Everquest sucks compared to this game- think how much more serious kids’ll take it.
I get up from my desk, this for the first time in 26 hours (I keep enough rations by the printer).
At 2:26 in the morning it can feel like anytime you want it to. Breakfast- if you want it too, Dinner- you got it, Lunch- what the hell? “Have it your way.”
You can really immerse yourself into the realm of Mythornia when the lights are all out; the epic picture comes crystal clear. Killing your retinas like a good world should. Like my parents even care anymore. They’ve lost hope with me. It’s not like I don’t get good grades at school, it’s just “I don’t show work ethic.” Says them. If only they could have seen me in the Battles of Hasoph and Wasep. I showed qualities of a true general.
The refrigerator is barely stocked with anything that could possibly supply enough energy to keep going. Milk, apples, Snapple….what a waste of space. Give me sugar, give me coffee, give me high fat, preservative-filled breakfast edibles, or any microwavable goodies for that matter. So easy to cook. It says two minutes on low, this means one minute on high...1:20 if you like it hot and can risk the explosion.
I grab one of said edibles and throw it in the microwave. One minute- way too long for the high-speed world I live in. In this one minute time period I go to the computer to check for instant messages. I see no one needing immediate response. Tim (aka Trothyr) from God-knows-where, California sent an IM yesterday saying “hey”. It may have well been years ago. Back in the 90s you could start a chain letter on your deathbed and achieve immortality. Annoy hundreds, or eventually thousands of people- if you did it right. Spam Blocker prevents this now.
IMs are the only way you can be remembered these days; while your away message is on, you can get the last dying words of someone from months ago.
My away message had said a nice little-known quote from J.R.R. Tolkien: “The deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”
I check other people’s away messages, some of them I don’t even talk to anymore. General interest in how their lives turn out keeps them on my contact list and my mouse checking what they’re saying about where they are. Most people don’t even explain where they are anymore. They either put a quote from a song, movie, or in my case a book. The other thing some of these morons do is put their cell phone numbers, I feel like putting them down on phone solicitation lists. They also type up a lame joke that only their friends understand- this is annoying. Half the time the friends this joke is directed to don’t even think it’s funny.
However, what I’m seeing today is not any of the above. From the names of my past, I’m seeing away messages that read “RIP Bryan” and “We’ll miss you Bryan”. Underneath the girls, there’s something about angels. Underneath the guys there’s something straight like “we’re gonna miss you dude”. I have no idea what they’re talking about, but then again I haven’t spoken to them in quite a while. They were all good friends but it was time to move on. This lead to another realm to gain glory. But this new concern for the repose of this “Bryan” guy’s soul has gotten me interested in the circle I left.
Yum, preheated, preservative, bliss. I can deal with anything. I hear shifting upstairs- the ‘rents must be having trouble sleeping. They deserve the finest form of discomfort. But I’m not one to whine about family, that’s too emo. I don’t like labels, except when it helps me classify people I hate.
Beep. Well that’s not completely right, more of a boop.
Instant message from a name who doesn’t register right away…
“Hey, Will,” it reads.
“Hey, sup,” I type. I still don’t know who this is, but that wouldn’t change to standard form of conversation: hey, hey, sup, nmu, not much, cool. If it doesn’t end there it better be funny or important. In this case, it’s the latter.
“Did you hear about Bryan?”
It’s still not registering.
“Who?” I know I should know, and he knows I should know, but curiosity takes away my subtly.
“What do you mean, who? Bryan Ryker.”
That’s enough to help. I grab my year book.
In the meantime, I post “Oh yeah, what about him?”
Flipping through, year by year, I get to my class. What a modest bunch we were. So innocent. No longer, I suspect. I look through the “r”s: Rand, Richardson, Ryan. Here it is: Ryker.
I look at it and again, it doesn’t click right away. When the truth hits me, I am disgusted that I did not recognize any of this.
He was my best friend.
“He died, Saturday.”
This is too much. It’s enough I find out I’ve practically lost memory of my previous life, but now I find my best friend died. I should be broken down; I should be crying or at least aghast. But I’m not. I barely feel anything. All I can do is type “Wat?” missing the “h”, but online it doesn’t matter. People write with “u”s for “you”s and “r”s for “are”s. But this doesn’t matter. I could speak with abbreviations and acronyms forever, and I feel like I was going to until this came to me. I can’t make a sound; I’m too used to typing my emotions or hitting something when I get frustrated.
“He was hit by a car,” whoever is telling me.
“The funeral’s today,” my past tells me.
“You gonna be there?” my wake-up sends…
I’m sitting in the back of the church. There are a few around me, but none further back. There are many in the front, crying. The woman in the front row, crying with no one around her is the most tragic figure of all of them. I wish I could find the emotion to cry like that. As a best friend, I should be in the front. But I can’t take the attention anymore.
Twenty minutes ago in the foyer of St. Simon’s, they were serving coffee. I couldn’t resist. I needed something to get me through this situation.
In that moment, I look around the room and think: what happened to me?
Yeah, everyone’s changed, everyone changes, nothing is static. Except for me. I made one change after I left these people behind and haven’t changed since. There are groups, just like any social gathering of yester-whenever. I do recognize a few of them, but it’s a shock to me how many I don’t. There’s Jason, Mary-Ellen(?)…uh…whatisname…whatserface….
I need +5 antidote, to get this youth senile illness out of my system.
I see this guy David run up to me. The appearance of David has changed only slightly since the last time I saw him. He used to be a smart mouthed, slacker who I used to play basketball with at school. Now he’s that guy but he’s a bit taller and a deeper voice.
“Will, hey, glad to see you here.”
People always whisper at funerals.
Like it’s a secret that the guy’s dead.
Don’t want to spoil the surprise.
“Hey, David,” I say.
“What was with you online last night?”
This morning, actually, but it’s nice to find out who it was.
I tell him I don’t know, I guess I just saw the away messages and convinced myself it wasn’t the same Bryan. That when he told me who it was it just was too much.
David and I have always been compulsive liars but he doesn’t ask the truth, he buys it but only to move on in the conversation.
“I still can’t believe it.”
Me either, I tell him. I actually can’t believe myself. I find out my best friend’s dead and all I can think about is: how long will this funeral be before can I get back to raiding villages?
I’m not lying about this. This was before I got here, now I’m thinking blank pages.
“Did you talk to his parents yet?” he asks me.
“Not yet,” I tell him, “I just got here.”
“Be sure to talk to Veronica too, she’s really broken up about it.”
“He proposed to her, you know…right before the accident.”
“Wow,” I said, “Yeah, I’ll talk to her.”
“Good, by the way, you look a little pale- are you okay, dude?”
I tell him it’s just all this.
“Yeah, I know, it seems so unreal. I’ll see you inside…”
He walks off.
Veronica’s by the coffee dispenser, I do need a refill, but I’m not sure I’m ready to talk to her yet. I used to have a crush on her. The kind that seems the world at the time. I’d gotten over her, but I never knew Bryan liked her. Let alone loved her.
This is the point called denial. I’m still thinking that it’s not the game, it’s just I’ve been out of the loop for a while. That’s all. I can keep playing, if I feel like it…
Bryan’s parents are greeting mourners as they enter the vestibule. Shaking their hands as the mourners’ heads look at the floor, expressing sympathy. When they’re done saying what a blatantly obviously senseless death this was and how it wasn’t his time, the Rykers tell them thanks and that there’s coffee over on the table. I am definitely not the one who should interrupt- me without tears. But still I have to tell them I’m sorry and how I just found out yesterday even though it was today. I want to keep it quick. I know it won’t.
I give the speech and movements- hug the Mrs. and shake the Mr.’s hand. I tell them all the things they’ve already heard and they tell me the things they know I was expecting. But I saw something in the Mr.’s eyes. Something that read that I abandoned my friend. Sure I’m showing up to pay the final respects in his death, but did I pay the respects he deserved in life? That is what he is questioning as he looks into my eyes. He speaks in a normal tone, however: bereaving, as was his wife. They tell me thank you. They tell me I was a good friend. They tell me there’s coffee over on the table.
I take their advice. I need a refill. The lone black-dressed lady is there.
She looks up at me, her mascara, running down her face in a trail of tears.
Hey, is all I can think of.
“Hey, Will, how are you?” she can barely get through. She walks closer to hug me. If there’s anything I was able to feel in this moment it’s “obligation”. It’s close enough to sympathy…
I hug her.
I tell her I’m doing okay, I tell her I just found out about Bryan.
Sappiest of moments: she starts crying.
God I’m not the one for this.
I tell her it’ll be alright. I tell her he’s in a better place. I tell her it always hurts when you lose someone. I tell her it’s good to cry- to get it out. I wish I could- I don’t tell her this.
“I know, but it…it was so sudden.”
Yeah, instead of those car crashes that happen gradually.
Words from the sarcastic, evil me that surfaced in the loss of feeling.
Thank God I don’t say this.
“I know,” is what I do tell her, “I still can’t believe it.”
This is the truth.
Now we’re back to where I am.
In the back of the church, bereaving in my own, self-loathing way. The priest is standing at his podium speaking to us about life after death.
There is life after death- once you are stabbed with a sword you are reanimated in a field several feet away from everyone else. Your clan tells you how that guy who stabbed you cheated. And you move on, repeating this process until you remember the real world still exists.
Here there is no reanimation, at least not in the physical sense.
The father was in the back of the church before this. Asking me how I knew the deceased. Giving me, a good friend, the third degree.
“We were best friends when we went to school at this parish,” I say.
“Oh you went here?”
Before he came.
“Yeah I came about two years ago,” he says, the slick haired young father, “Good parish, good people.”
I know what’s coming, but there’s a pause before he asks.
“I haven’t seen you on Sunday before,” he smoothly accuses.
“I go to the one on campus,” I say.
This is a lie.
Now he’s in the front of the church, telling me what nuns and better priest already have. Sometimes I feel like I should start going back to church. Then I realize that feeling actually means I need to go to the simulated church to learn more spells. The word “idolatry” comes to mind.
He tells me about the passage he’s going to be reading in mass. One of those times God ruins someone’s life so they’ll prove their faith.
According to the father, God’s still doing this.
I feel like saying that God must be sadistic if that is the truth. I feel like saying God shouldn’t be testing us, he kicked us out. I don’t say this.
“Can you prove your faith, still?”
No is the answer he and I both want said, but I know what comes next. Show up next Sunday. Get involved. You’ll see God’s glory. I can’t explain to him I must see the lit up computer around that time. Sorry, can we reschedule?
“Sure,” I say.
“Because sometimes…” he begins, he was far too psyched about giving a re-enlightenment speech to let it go at a “sure”.
“I’m sorry, father but I have to get going- I want to get a good seat.”
I can’t believe I said that- like it’s a sports event.
“I understand, perhaps we can talk after the mass.”
Now in church, I look up at Veronica. She still sits alone. I know I should go over and sit with her, make her feel better. I know I’m the one that’s expected to do so too. As the best friend, only I and the parents can possibly understand the pain. And as much as I can understand it I can’t display it. We’ve been over this, been there done that. I know there’s not much else to say about the subject but it’s just too much. Here kneeling, with my elbows resting on the pew, I’m looking up at the Big Guy, but my mind is in my own world. And through all of this: the friend, the parents, the girl, the priest- that split part of my mind wants me to get back to Mythornia.
That thought alone should make me cry.
I find I can receive communion, but once Jesus incarnate is on my tongue, I’m out of his house and into my car. I don’t even say good bye to the others…since I didn’t the first time.
I get home late. So late there’s not even the glow of the TV to keep me company. So I do the only thing I can do. The only thing I’ve ever done. I start playing. I’m playing now, and I can’t visualize myself stopping. I’m not doing well in the simulated reality. The absence of feeling that I have now realized is still unable to be found. I should be meditating or praying or thinking deep about it, but I’m not.
I’m distracting it, just like I’ve always done.
It turns out, I’m just like those kids I’ve been trying to tell it’s just a game.
I am just like those nutcases.
The ones that are suicidal.
I’m not there yet, but at the current pace of absence of feeling and pent up sadness and rage- it doesn’t look good. That lone feeling I get, half-asleep on my computer desk, seeing reflected in the blackness of the screensaver my parents, with a look of pity and sadness of what has become of their son. I’m not a disappointment, I’m a train wreck. A Car wreck. And as they go off to their lives, their jobs, their existence, I’m still here. Still desperate.
And I can’t stop.
life, the universe, everything = 42