by George Nikolopoulos
I first started having these thoughts on Friday, July 28, 18.35 PST; it’s recorded in the log.
I’d had a lovely day. Tamara had been offline all day, so I’d gone out with Suzi. We went for a drink and a dance and we ended up having sex in a crystal cave with multicolored birds and fish flying all around us. I guess Tamara would have been angry if she knew, but she was offline so she probably wouldn’t find out, and even if she did, it was no big deal. Her moods lasted for a couple of days at most and then she always came back for more. It’s not as if she didn’t have sex with lots of other guys anyway, and I had never complained.
Then Suzi had to leave in a hurry, and Tamara was still offline. I flipped through my contacts but I didn’t want to call anyone else, as Suzi had said she’d be back in no time, and then, I’m not sure why—I’m often not sure why I do stuff, though at the time I didn’t know the reason for that—I started to browse a document in my inventory with the title Game Manual.
You start the game, the document explained, by creating an avatar, a three-dimensional image to represent you.
I love games, so this piqued my interest. What was this game? How was it played? How could I create an avatar?
I had another look at the document, but then Suzi came online again and I stopped worrying about all that.
Only to start worrying again, a week later, when Tamara asked where I’d been lately and I simply replied “I’d stuff to do in the real world, doll.”
I must admit, I often used to say things that didn’t make any sense, but it had never bothered me before—now, however, something was nagging in my mind and it wouldn’t let me rest. What kind of stuff did I have to do? Dammit, whatever was I doing when I was not online?
I ran a quick search through the log. It had been three days since I was online last. Tuesday, August 1, I’d been with Tamara and we had sex at the emerald beach, and then Friday, August 4, I was with Tamara and we were having sex at the crimson cascades.
Where had I been in the meantime? Three days had passed. I couldn’t remember anything.
I started to worry. I went further back in the log. At other times, I’d been offline for more than a week. I’d always supposed that whenever I was offline I was sleeping. How could I sleep that much?
Then I remembered. The real world. I was sure I’d heard this expression somewhere, but where?
I switched over to inventory and retrieved the Manual. I opened it at the sentence I’d been reading before Suzi came back and I had to abruptly close the document.
In the game, avatars may teleport or fly, things that are impossible in the real world.
What was this real world, where people couldn’t teleport or fly? It sounded really sad. How did they move from one place to the next, by walking? That would be a real pain.
Was I in that real world when I was offline? Why didn’t I remember any of it?
I tried to share my thoughts with Tamara or Stefan, who was a good friend and very bright, too, but I couldn’t.
I never premeditated on what I said and my lines just came out spontaneously as I uttered them, yet this had never been a problem. It just went to show I was a pretty cool guy, and no one ever seemed in the least put off by the silly things I said. Like that day Stefan talked and talked incessantly and I suddenly went “dude, you type too fast!” I could never understand what I meant by type and yet he didn’t find it at all strange—and neither did I, for that matter.
But now things were getting worse. I really wanted to say something, and yet I had no control over my speech. I tried to talk to Tamara about my fears and my anxieties, but instead I could only say, “hey, Tams, your ass looks lovely tonight.”
Well, the truth was that Tamara had always had a lovely ass, but that evening it was that much puffier and plumper, and her hair was green and waist-long, while the night before she had worn it short and boyish, and she had to have gained at least ten inches in height since the night before. Girls have this habit of changing their appearance all the time. If I didn’t read the name tag hovering over her head, I swear I might not have recognized her.
As much as I strived to tell my friends of my suspicions, all my efforts were met with embarrassing failure. In the end, I resolved to read the Game Manual with attention, many times, until I had it by heart. Then I was certain.
I honestly don’t mind that I’m an avatar. I have a good life, without worries. I drink a little, I dance a little, I have a lot of sex. And I don’t have to walk from one place to the next. It’s just that sometimes, when I’m alone, I feel a little sad. I only wish I could, just for one time, get to meet my Creator.
George Nikolopoulos is a speculative fiction writer from Greece and a member of Codex Writers’ Group. His stories have been recently published in Galaxy’s Edge, Nature, Factor Four, Daily Science Fiction, Dream Forge, The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF, Best Vegan SFF, and many other places.