Author : Daniel R. Endres

The glasses gave her a headache. With clenched teeth and a hand that wouldn’t stop shaking she put the neurolenses down on the coffee table beside the sofa that served as her bed. Her chest burned again and she cursed not for the first time her inability to resist the allure of cheap Mexican fast food.

Donna had been there again. She’d deleted her over and over again, erasing her from every preloaded dream-sim she owned, but she kept popping up. More often than not Donna was nothing more than another face in a crowd that just happened to stand out a bit more than the others. While she might be playing out the role of a police officer on patrol or a bike messenger handing out parcels, Donna would be on the street, watching with the same cool grey eyes that had defined her in Nancy’s mind.

Sometimes however, the encounters were more intense. In the sim she had just closed, she had been a professor of metaphysics at Campton and Donna had appeared as one of her students. By the time she’d pried the lenses from her head in the real world, things had progressed to a situation better suited for cheap freebooks than for her dream-sims. Even at their most exciting, her friends had often teased Nancy for the dullness of her scenarios. While they lived out imaginary adventures full of fantasy and action, Nancy’s sims were simple lives most people would find mundane… unless Donna was there.

She was a virus. Nancy knew that. There had been a real Donna once, sure. Hell, somewhere there still was, but she hadn’t been a part of Nancy’s quiet life for years. This Donna, the Donna that ironically enough wouldn’t leave Nancy alone even when she wanted her to, wasn’t real. After this encounter Nancy knew that she was more than just an unfortunate glitch that’d latched onto one of her memories. This anomaly had purpose. She would keep coming back no matter how many times Nancy deleted her profile from memory. It wanted something.

This last time, when Donna had pressed her too comfortably tight against the desk of her imagined office, she’d whispered something into Nancy’s ear. In the moment, Nancy hadn’t given the words much thought. Her mind was too torn between wanting the lenses removed as quickly as she could tear them from her face and wanting to see just how far things with this phantom Donna would go. Now though, with time to reflect back on the experience, she could recall exactly what she’d said.

“Meet me at Baker’s.”

Nancy didn’t know anyone named Baker, and even if she did was she seriously considering taking directions from a virus? It was absurd. No, this had gone on long enough. As soon as she could motivate herself to throw on her blue sweats she was going to Tommy’s. He’d sold the neurolenses to her in the first place. He’d gotten her a discount through his job and had insisted she buy a pair. If he couldn’t fix the piece of junk, then maybe he could replace them. Her warranty was still good for another two months and despite her initial protests against buying into something she saw as a fad, she’d grown fond of the simple little fantasies she could come home to. As boring as they may have seemed to her friends, they were an absolute vacation from the soul crushing data entry work she did from home.

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