Character: Prologue 4

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Blood welled on the surface of his arm. The son of a bitch didn’t hesitate at all, he just went straight for an attack. Thomas pushed himself back to his feet, backing away from his opponent.

Still, the man moved towards him, ready to beat him down. While he found himself in these types of situations a lot, he still never bothered to learn how to fight. Usually he could talk his way out of any situation he got himself into.

“Okay, I can see you’re rather angry. I get it, I’m not the nicest person. But attacking me won’t help. If you let me leave now, I won’t press any charges, but if you keep going I will get you sent to jail.” As he talked he looked around, trying to find somewhere he could run to, some way to get around his assailant. Any exit he might have had was just far enough away that he couldn’t get there before he was attacked again.

“Jail isn’t a pretty place, I’ll tell you. There are fights every day, and when you’re the new one, they pick on you.” His attacker moved forward still, ready to take Thomas down. He didn’t have much further he could go until he was pushed into a corner.

“Alright, look. I’m sorry.” As he was finishing his statement, he grabbed a chair that was resting next to him and swung it at the man. It smashed into his chest, breaking two of the legs off on the impact. Hoping the attack would be distraction enough, Thomas bolted, pushing the drunk away as he moved towards the door. He heard a thump, and he looked back to see the man now on the ground.

With a small sigh of relief, he made his way out of the bar.

The cut would need stitches. He kept telling himself that as he sat on his couch, wrapping a bandage around the wound. Going to the hospital would bring up too many questions. Questions that he didn’t want to deal with.

Thomas gave a sigh, pushing himself to his feet again. The bandage would stop most of the blood for the night. If it still looked bad in the morning, he’d go to the hospital. For now, all he could think about was getting food. He moved towards the door of his apartment, leaving the mess of medical stuff to clean up later.

It was cold outside, a chill breeze blowing through the city. His jacket didn’t do much to protect him from the wind, the air just blew right through it. He didn’t mind the cold too much, but it’d get worse the longer he was outside.

He headed across the street, to a burger joint on the corner. He had eaten here at least once a week, usually more. It wasn’t the best burger, but it was up there. The waitress there had learned what he usually got, and had it out to him with a few minutes of him sitting down. He walked into the restaurant, a small bell ringing as he opened the door.

“Oh, hey Thomas. The usual, today?” The waitress had a sweet voice, one that could soothe just about anyone.

“Yea.” He barely got the word out, before giving a small grunt. He was more sore than he’d thought. The punches he’d received probably left some big bruises on his chest. More questions at the hospital tomorrow.

He got back to his apartment at midnight. He’d spent most of the night talking with the waitress, which he did almost every time he’d gone to the place. Next time, he kept telling himself. Next time I’ll ask her out.

Thomas gave a sigh, pushing himself to his feet again. He wasn’t tired yet, even with the late hour and the pain coursing through his body. He set himself down on the VR chair, pulling the helmet on. He hadn’t played in a while, and it was a good stress reliever. The helmet made that familiar whirring sound.

Choose your character.”

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Character: Prologue 3

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Maybe, today, they could play Zerailn some more. They hadn’t played a lot, the last few months. She had been bogged down with school stuff recently, especially with college starting in the fall. Her mom had urged her to start applying for a lot of scholarships, and to try to get into an art college. Ash had been on more than her, but still had a similar problem. He needed to work on school, college, and whatever else he had been working on. He still hadn’t told her what his big project was.

The piercing sound of the bell intruded on Chyler’s thoughts. She gave a small sigh, closing the notebook which now had another page of absent-minded doodles in it. She shoved the notebook into her bag and zipped it shut. At least she was almost done with the day, only one class left after lunch, which was just starting.

The halls, as always, were filled with students, half of them heading to lunch, and the other half coming back from their own lunch break. The school apparently had enough students to justify splitting them up for two separate lunch blocks. It didn’t really matter to Chyler anymore, though. Since she and Jean were in the same lunch block this semester, and it was her last semester of high school.

Being a creature of habit, the gangly girl made her way into the back of the lunch room, toward the back tables. She sat down in the corner — not at the last table, but, still, one of the furthest from the doors. Her and Jean always sat here, for the past couple of years. She usually beat her friend by a couple of minutes, so she set out to pull her food out of her bag.

Just as she was taking the first bite out of her sandwich, Jean plopped down in the seat in front of her.

“Hey Chyler! Guess what!”

After a small sigh, the girl set her sandwich back down, onto the flattened brown paper bag.

“Um, you got invited to go on a cruise to Australia?” The words came with a bit of joking and a bit of sarcasm. They were followed by a diffident smile, Chyler now waiting for her friend to tell her what had happened.

“I got accepted into USC!”

Chyler’s face lit up, and she let out a loud “Oh my god, congratulations!” They’d both applied to the school near the same time, but her’s had come days earlier. They were concerned for a while that Jean wasn’t going to get into the school, but either way there was a bump in that road.

Chyler had received her letter of acceptance from CalArts over the weekend too, she just didn’t have the heart to tell her friend yet. Jean wasn’t much of an artist, so obviously she didn’t have much interest in going to CalArts.

Their conversation was interrupted by him. He was one of Jean’s best friends, but Chyler was growing to hate him a little more every day.

“Hey, I heard you got accepted to USC. I got my letter of acceptance too! Looks like we can all still be classmates in college!”

Chyler had to work to suppress a shudder. The thought of having him around for another four years could have made her throw up. While Jean was busy congratulating him, Chyler got busy packing up her mostly uneaten lunch.

“Hey, I think I’m gonna head to class a little early. I have a drawing I want to work on.” She had to fight to keep bitterness out of her tone, but with all the practice she’d been getting recently, it was a lot easier.

“Oh…Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”

Chyler was already walking away when she gave a small nod. She was sure Jean was going to notice her leaving every time he showed up, but for now it was something she didn’t want to worry about.

Her last block had moved by pretty quickly, but art always did for her; especially since she had to leave a few minutes early so she could pick her brother up from his kindergarten class. The halls were empty as she moved through them, minutes before school was out for everyone. It was a short time to her car.

The ride to her brother’s school was just as short. It was only a few blocks away, but with her schedule, her brother was always the last one to be picked up. Her parents had been busy with work for the last few months, and Chyler had started taking her brother to and from school, and had to wait to make sure the nanny arrived for her sister.

She went into the building, and Matias was up front, waiting for her with his teacher.

“Am I late? Sorry.” The words were kinda lame sounding, but it was too late to fix that. “Thank you for waiting with him.”

“It’s alright, Chyler. It is part of my job.” The teacher’s smile was the same kind every teacher had when they dealt with small kids. One that could ease anyone’s troubles. After another bashful thanks to the teacher, Chyler ushered her brother out to the car.

Matias almost immediately started explaining every aspect of his day to his sister. She listened to every word he said.

Finally home, Chyler was able to get some rest. Her parents had been home for about an hour, and they’d talked for a while, but she was stressed and wanted to rest, so the conversation was short-lived. Her computer made a small sound, telling her that someone had messaged her.

“Heya, Dove.”

“Hey. You wanna play Zerailn? It’s been a long time since we’ve been there.”

“Alright, I’ll get on right now.”

Chyler gave a wide smile. Zerailn was the only place where she could actually interact with him. She moved to the VR designed chair and pulled the helmet over her head. A familiar whirr sounded in her ear.

Choose your character.”

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Character: Prologue 2

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The clock never seemed to move fast enough. It was as if someone stuck their finger into its gears, stopping them from turning. Minutes moved by like hours, seconds like minutes. Scout stared at the clock, hung over the teacher’s desk. She was hoping that she could will it to move faster. Convince whatever being that had stopped it to make it move once more. It didn’t work.

She turned her attention to her open textbook, some page talking about some math thing. Something about linear somethings. Mrs. Perkins had assigned some math homework and gave everyone the last fifteen minutes of class to start on it. Scout hadn’t even opened her notebook.

Not that anyone was really even working. Most of the others were talking, caring more about small talk than homework. The dull sound of multiple conversations made it hard for her to hear much, not that she needed to. She just wanted the clock to move so she could leave, get home before something bad happened, again.

The bell pulled Scout out of her thoughts, stirring her into action. She was the first one out the door, already heading towards her locker. She barely got three yards from the door when her movement was interrupted, a shove sending her into the lockers on her left. Her hand hit first, pressing palm first at an awkward angle, followed by the heavy impact of the rest of her body. She didn’t make a noise, even with the sharp pain now radiating from her wrist. She just kept moving forward. She knew that the boy wouldn’t stop to see if she was okay.

She turned a corner, only a few feet away from her locker, stopping in her tracks. The populars were hanging by her locker. Kristen was leaning against it, waiting for the girl to show up. She gave a wicked smile as Scout came into her view.

“Oh hey! I got a surprise for you! I left it in your locker.”

The girl’s voice had a sweet charm to it, but most of the kids at the school knew that she was really a curse. Scout didn’t even stop to wonder what they’d done to her locker, or all the stuff in it. She just turned, moving away from the group.

“Hey! I’m talking to you, bitch!”

She could hear a snickering coming from behind her, but as she was turning to see what they were doing, she got smacked in the face. Whatever it was that hit her, it bursted, splashing her with something. The impact made her fall over, and whatever the liquid was, it stung her eyes. Her head smacked the ground, though she manage to absorb most of the fall with the rest of her body first. She heard more snickers, and felt feet move past her. No one offered her any help to get up.

“Don’t turn your back on me, slut.”

The smell of citrus moved through the air. Orange soda. Scout gave a grunt, trying to push herself up, but as soon as she put pressure on her wrist, pain shot from it and through her arm, making her collapse again. She tried again, only using the one hand this time.

When she finally got to her feet, she started moving again, away from her locker. She didn’t even look to see if they were still there. Even if they weren’t, she didn’t want to deal with whatever ‘surprise’ had been left in her locker. The only thing she had in there was a few school books. Nothing too important.

The rest of the way home was slow, but quiet. She walked the mile and a half there was in between her house and her school. Her face still stung from the impact of the soda balloon. A large welt would be there soon, if there wasn’t one already. She touched the spot gently, with her good hand. The spot was warm and sticky. Probably orange, but she couldn’t really see it. Her shirt had an orange stain running down the side, and her arm had splotches of orange on it.

As soon as Scout had gotten to her house, she went to her room. The door slammed shut, and she let out a scream. She used her one good hand to hurl her backpack, though it didn’t go far. It toppled into her desk, making it wobble slightly.

She grabbed a pillow from her bed, beating the wall with it. It didn’t help much, but it did let her release some of her anger, before she released it on a person. The pillow tore where she held it, the rest of it spinning off a few feet away. She threw the ruined edge to the ground and collapsed on her bed.

She kept telling herself that one day she’d get her revenge, by being better than them, being successful. But every time she told that to herself it seemed to lose more meaning. She wasn’t going to be successful even if those girls were tormenting her everyday. Even without them, she’d only gotten Cs or lower.

Scout couldn’t tell how much time had passed that she’d been sitting there, but she finally got up. She moved to her desk, ignoring her worn-down backpack, and turned on her computer. It booted quickly, bringing up her home screen in seconds.

As soon as she got on, she opened a chat.


It took a couple of minutes before she got a reply, but that was normal.

You wanna get on Zerailn?”

They had planned to play today, since it was the end of the school week. It was one of the only things she’d looked forward to.

“Yea, I’ll get on right now.”

She moved to pick up the VR Machine, making sure to use her hurt hand carefully. She checked the chat before she put on the helmet.

“I’ll be there in a sec.
I’m gonna get a snack real quick before I play.”

She gave a shrug, fitting the helmet over her head as she moved to the specialized chair that came with the device. She leaned back carefully, and switched the console on. A sigh escaped her lips as it whirred to life. She was headed to her escape, and in a few minutes, it would be perfect.

“Choose your character.”

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Character: Prologue 1

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The game case felt heavy in his hands, as if it was trying to push its way to the ground. Still wrapped in its original plastic, it was worth about one hundred and twenty dollars. They hadn’t made enough copies of the game, when it had first come out. Some people who had pre-ordered the game still didn’t have their own copy. Sam had been lucky. He’d pre-ordered his copy from a smaller store. It wasn’t a popular place, few people even knew that it existed, but Sam went there all the time.

He was a gamer, though his girlfriend was even more of one. While he could spend 10-20 hours a week playing games, she’d spent 30-40 hours a week on them. She’d always ask him to play with her, and he would most of the time. He loved to play games with the girl, but he couldn’t do it all the time. He had homework, and regular work, and his own projects that he was working on.

He remembered trying to decide if paying one hundred dollars for the game was worth it. He had never liked MMOs, but they were Megan’s favorite type of game. The game cost a little less than a day of working for him. But he could just imagine her face, the sparkle in her eyes and the excitement in her voice when she saw that he’d gotten it. He had planned on telling her immediately, but she was one of the people who didn’t get their copy of the game, even though it was pre-ordered.

He decided that it would be awkward for him to show it to her before she’d gotten her own, so he kept it to himself for a while. Eventually, he’d even forgotten about it. Her copy kept getting delayed because the company couldn’t keep up with the demand that was created. The game had ended up stashed away in his closet.

They had been dating for more than a year, they met each other a few days before that. They shared a zoology class together. He’d always loved the class, while Megan was taking it to fill a gen-ed requirement. She asked him for some help on one the first homework assignment and they hit it off really well. He asked her out a few days later.

The game case slipped out of his hands, falling to the floor with a light thud. Bruises had formed on his hands where they’d been pushing into the corner of the case.

Megan had dragged him to a game shop, once. One of the bigger releases. Some single player game that everyone was super excited for. She had them camping out in front of the store for a whole day, just to get the game. The day was slow at some points, but for the most part he had enjoyed just sitting there with Megan. The best part, though, was when she got her hands around the case. That look she got in her eyes whenever she was really happy, or excited about something.

Sam looked at his phone, which was sitting screen-down on the floor a foot away from him. He reached out towards it, putting his hand around it for a moment. He didn’t quite want to pick it up, but he did anyways. The screen hadn’t locked yet, and his recent messages were showing.

“Sam! Youll never guesss what I got!”

He threw the phone and it spun across the room, striking the wall on the far end. He picked the game case up again, staring at the front of it. He started tearing through the plastic wrapping around it, the wrapping repeatedly slipping from his hand, or catching on a corner of the case. He struggled popping the case open, but when he did, he took out the small cartridge on the inside.

Quickly slipping it into the slot on his VR Machine, he pulled the helmet on and turned the machine on. A whirring noise proceeded, followed by the home screen of the console showing. He had the game starting seconds later.

“Would you like to create a new character?”

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