Author: Frances Koziar

I had only paid for an hour of the tech, and when the end came, I wasn’t ready for it.

I had a visor over my eyes, muffs on my ears, finger-control gloves on my hands, and a sensory top suit, but I didn’t feel any of it. I had gone off the beaten path of the game, away from the quests and into the common room of an inn. I wasn’t there to say or do anything so much as to drink in their smiles and their laughter. To eat the food I wished would reach my aching stomach. To have them refer to me as the warrior, as if I had a job or a life. As if I could even walk anymore after the accident and the inevitable nightmare of poverty that had followed it.

When I handed the gear back to the attendant, an android dressed in far better clothing than my rescued scraps, I didn’t regret the money I’d saved for the game. But as I dragged my broken body away, I stumbled over something and had to catch myself on a wall with great heaving breaths of grief. I couldn’t see what I’d tripped over, couldn’t see anything at all, because my tears blurred the winking lights of the arcade until I saw nothing but shattered dreams.