Author : J.D. Rice

“John, I asked you a question.”

I shake the images from my head as quickly as I can. It can sometimes be hard to concentrate after engaging the interface. For some reason I always thought I’d get used to transitioning in and out like this, but she’s starting to suspect.

“Every time you space out like that I worry that you’re…”

“That I’m what?” I ask, trying my best to look incredulous.

She hesitates before continuing. “That you’re… going somewhere else.”

“You know I’m not,” I reassure her, subtly preparing the interface in my pocket again. “I wouldn’t do that.”

“How can I tell, when you’re~”

A flash of light, and she’s gone. In her place stands a busty blonde in sepia-tone. She tells me her husband is missing. The police have no leads. I’m the only one who can help her. I straighten my fedora and get on the case. Two informant meetings, three firefights, and a dead husband later, and I have that pretty blonde thing in my arms. Case solved. Day saved. Tomorrow a distant, future thing. Her perfume is so sweet.

“~always spacing out like that.”

I shake my head again. Gotta get quicker with this.

“You know I only use the interface sparingly,” I say. “I’m not addict.”

“God, I’m not saying that you are!” she says, for once looking genuinely concerned. “I just don’t like what it does to you. It’s like you’re not even you anymore. You’re someone else. Or lots of people. Or something…”

“Lucy, you know it’s me,” I smile, pressing the main switch again. “I’m John. You have nothing to~”

Flash. The dragon bears down on me, full of elemental rage. I raise my shield, buckle under the force of its breath, feel the heat, smell the smoke. The stream of fire ends for a moment as the dragon takes another breath. I strike, sword meeting scaly flesh. Sparks fly. Blood gushes. The huddled masses exit their smoking huts to thank their hero. Their cheers fill my ears.

“To ah… worry about… milady.”


“What?” I’m struggling for an objection. “I can’t be chivalrous?”

“This is what I’m talking about, John. Your vocabulary changes daily. It’s not normal! How can I keep up with something like this?”

“You could always come with me from time to time.”

“Where? To your fantasy worlds?” she asks, looking disgusted. “To your 15 seconds of fame? It’s not real, John! How can I live in a world that isn’t real?”

Flash. The zombies amass around the compound. We level round and round into them, but the bullets have no effect. As we continue to fire, the stench of rotting flesh gets stronger and stronger, closer and closer. My left flank falls. The zombies swarm in. My leg gets bitten. My vision starts to fail. My only thought is to spare myself the dishonor of joining the zombie hoards. I put my gun to my mouth and pull the trigger. Before I die, I feel the odd sensation of the discharged ash tickling the back of my throat.

She stares at my blankly. She knows. She’s known all along, I guess.

“That’s it,” she says, standing and gathering her things. “I can’t take this anymore. When you’re ready for a REAL relationship, call me.”

I say nothing as she marches off. I don’t go after her. She’s inconsequential, the empty filler between the thousand adventures I live daily. It looks like I won’t be having her as a partner after all. Maybe I should just create one…

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