Anxiety. That was the only word to describe how he felt. The fear of being alone in a store surrounded by unknown people with no one to anchor himself too was akin to a ship out at sea. His mind continued to race as he carefully made his way down the aisles hoping to find his uncle who had taken him to get groceries and medicine for his mother. Racing down the aisles, he searched for his uncle as he carefully avoided the people around him – averting his gaze from their eyes.
Continuing down the aisles, he managed to catch a glimpse of a man rolling a shopping cart before he disappeared down one of the aisles. Rushing as fast his he could, he turned the corner only to find that his uncle was no where to be seen. Fear and the fast beating of the boy’s heart was the only thing that he could feel as his mind continued to spin in a panic attack of trying to find his uncle. To him, the store felt more like a maze as he continued to search for his uncle in the never ending hell aisles and people.
Before long, he reached an open area that was home to various stocks of fruit and other assortments of dry food. He could start to feel his anxiety heighten to critically alarming levels. Large open areas made him feel as if he was drowning in a sea of despair to the point that he wanted nothing more than to leave and return to the safety of his small enclosed room. With his heart pounding and his body shaking slightly from the nervousness, he scanned the area in hopes of finding his uncle. In the distance, he could spot a man spotting a signature red baseball cap of a team that the boy was unfamiliar with. His sports knowledge was abysmal compared to the few areas of expertise that he had studied.
With a haste in his step, the boy made his way over to his uncle. Looking in the shopping cart, he could see a few small items for food and a large case of beer. After grabbing another item off the nearby shelf, his uncle turned to him.
“All right, I think that’s everything. You need anything?”
The boy had lied so causally. He knew that the food in the cart wasn’t enough but he didn’t want to stay in the store any longer then required. His mind was still racing with too many thoughts, combined with the anxiety to offer him a tranquil peace. It didn’t matter to him if he would be left starving for weeks on end, he simply did not wish to be there any more. With no words exchanged between the two, they made their way up to the counter for checkout.
“I’ll go get the car so when can unload the groceries when you’re done.”
Anxiety. Yet again, the chill of being left alone scared the boy. On top of the added complexities of entering in the pin number for his mum’s food stamp card, he had to interact with another human being. The fear continued to dig itself in as he tried to create structure in the chaos.
Step one: Unload items onto the surface for the cashier to scan them.
Step two: Engage in a simple greeting.
Step three: Punch in number on the card.
Step four: Place food items in cart.
Step five: Pay for beer with card.
Step six: Leave as soon as possible.
Going over each of the steps in his mind, the boy awaited his turn after a cheerful woman buying some food for the weekend. Looking behind him, the boy ensured no one there as he moved his cart forward. As he begin to unload the items, he noticed a couple pulling up behind him – a nightmare that he had hoped to avoid. Unloading all the items, the boy began to feel himself losing control of the steps that he had tried to cement in his head.
“Hello, how are you doing today?” the cashier asked in a polite tone.
The boy tried to speak but his voice failed to carry out as he struggled to exchange a simple greeting.
His greeting fell on deaf as his he started to feel the anxiety approach a critical level. He wanted to throw up and just leave everything. The cashier continued to scan the items one by one as the boy crossed his arms over his chest. Avoiding eye contact with anyone, he waited as the cashier finally finished scanning the last item.
“Your total is six-sixty dollars and sixty-nine cent.”
“…It doesn’t scan…”
Even though the boy’s tone was low, the cashier had somehow managed to understand him and quickly input some numbers into a keyboard.
“All right, go ahead and type it in.”
The boy tried to focus his mind on the task of inputting the numbers into the keypad. One digital after another, what should have only taken a few seconds, took a whole minute of the boy’s mind processing each number as he typed it out. He had become so focused on the task that the woman bagging the items was puzzled that the boy hadn’t pushed the shopping cart forward so she could place the items in it. Once the boy had finished typing in the numbers and confirmed the passcode, the cashier smiled and handed him a receipt.
Quickly placing the card in the right cargo pocket of his olive-drab military-style pants, he pulled out his bank card as the cashier rung up the beer. The boy was ready to leave, his body was shaking to the point that he didn’t care about anything. He only wanted to go home to his room and never leave it again.
“Your total is twenty-two dollars even.”
The boy nodded and shoved his card into the slot on the keypad. Error. Taking it out and putting it back in resulted in the same message as before. He could feel the stares of people around him judging him as he tried to figure out why his card wasn’t working.
“Oh, you’re putting it in the wrong way. You need to put it in where the chip is at.”
Inserting the card in quickly, the boy type in his passcode and placed the card in his wallet. After getting the receipt from the cashier, the boy didn’t wait around to say thank you. Loading the items into the cart with haste, he rushed out the door and waited for his uncle to pull up. The build up of anxiety put the boy into a state of wanting to throw up. He hadn’t had food for well over six hours and his stomach was painfully aware of the issue. Still, that didn’t compare to the never ending suffering he would have to endure at the thoughts of his own mind. He would be forced to relive that moment in his head over and over again. It would continue to eat away at him as he wished for a way to undo the mistakes he had made.
At the sight of the car pulling up, he saw his uncle get out and unlock the truck of the vehicle. Loading the groceries quickly into the car, the boy soon realised that he would have to take the cart back inside as there wasn’t a place to storage carts out front. Bordering on a mental breakdown, the boy rolled the cart into the store once all the items were loaded into the car and placed the shopping cart in-line with a large stack of others.
Even after entering the car and driving off, the boy could feel his body shaking to the point that he wanted to just end his life. He continued to sit in silence as he prepared himself to try and pretend he was fine. Pulling up to the house, he was greeted by the sight of his mother and little sister. Doing his best to push aside the thoughts on his mind, the boy unloaded the groceries and brought them into the house. While his mother was best smoking a cigarette outside, his sister smiled cheerfully.
Even though she wasn’t there, she could sense something was wrong with her brother. He could never hide anything from her no matter how hard he tried. Once he had unloaded all the groceries, he made his way up the stairs to the quiet sanctuary of his dark room. Inside was a room that always made his sister annoyed. Various items scattered about, trash littered throughout the floor and clothes simply thrown about, make it painfully clear that his room hadn’t been cleaned in well over a year.
Alongside the mess, his desk, night-stand and other surfaces showed clear signs of dust to the point that anyone would question rather the room was safe to live in. Still, the boy didn’t care. He knew exactly where everything was at and knew his room like the back of his hand, even in the dark. Closing the door behind him, the boy made himself comfortable and sit down on the air mattress in the corner of his room. Hugging his knees to his chest, he began to recall everything that happened in the store. His mind raced with what he should have done and all the things that had happened. It continued to replay in his mind until a knock on the door snapped him from the entanglement of his own mind.
Opening the door, the boy could see his sister standing there with a smile on her face. Making her way over to her brother without bothering to turn on the light, she sat down beside him. For a moment, the room was silent. Without warning, the boy embraced his sister tightly. She didn’t say anything for a moment and simply returned the gesture.
“I almost threw up. There were too many people. Our uncle just left me there alone… I had to—”
“Shh. You’re fine, nii-nii. You’re safe now.”
His sister spoke calmly and patted his head gently.
“Sorry I couldn’t go with you. I had some work to do but I’m finished now.”
“It’s okay. I just… I don’t want to do that every again. I’ll starve before I go through that.”
“I’m not going to let that happen, nii. I noticed you didn’t get a lot but it’s okay. You want me to make you something to eat?”
The boy didn’t let go as he continued to hold his sister tightly.
“Please… I haven’t had anything for about six hours now.”
His sister sighed but smiled as she patted his head once more.
“It’s okay. I’ll go make you some food, all right?”
Wolfy cleared the virtual world from his sight as he stared off into the black abyss of the darkness around him. He had replayed every memory of his time with his sister in the real world to the point that he was starting to go crazy. He had given up his chance at being free from the world he was in so that he could save his sister. All the memories he watched continued to remind him that he had done the right thing. She was better off in the real world working hard to better her life while he would continue to be alone and allow his dreams to take shape in a fictional world.
Opening up the menu by only his thoughts alone, he was greeted with six different menus, all coated black with green text like that of terminal console from an old computer used by hackers. Type in one of the search fields, he looked over all the files the previous system admin, Yara, had left behind. All of the files were different formats from system logs, user data, files that contained various text documents and even videos. Opening up one of the text documents, he moved the contents of the menu over to one side before using another menu to scroll through more files. After opening up three more files, Wolfy read over each of them as he tried to piece together the information he was looking at.
The files each contented the biographical data on all the staff who had created the game. Of the three, Yara, her husband and another designer named Doctor Arisa Yukimasu were considered the original creators of the game. Looking through the mountain of text, Wolfy read through each of the files and felt his depression of his old life creeping up on him. All three of them were skilled and talented as well as had degrees to boot.
“Why is everyone more educated than me?”
With a heavy sigh, Wolfy leaned back in his computer chair and closed his eyes. The painful memories of his real-world self was started to surface.
“No need to think about it, I’m in this world now. I can be whatever I want to be.”
Snapping his fingers, he formed a can of the world’s version of an energy drink. Even though it was meant to increase agility, he loved the taste which reminded him of a similar drink from the real world. Downing the whole can, he threw it to the side and looked over the information on Doctor Arisa. As he looked over all the biological information on the doctor, he couldn’t help but be surprised.
“Damn doc, what can’t you do? You’re list of skills is impressive… and starting to make me incredibly depressed.”
Scrolling through more files, he found one entitled Arisa-Fetish-Videos that appeared to be a large file.
“Great, you’re a kinky doctor and you made a sex tape. Perfect. Doc, I think I love you.”
Pressing play pulled up the video followed quickly by an error message.
«This video has been corrupted, please reupload the video.»
“Damn it doctor!”
Snapping his fingers, he made another six cans of energy drink appear. Downing the first one, Wolfy looked over more files until he felt his mind starting to grow bored. While he had learned much about the system controls and privileges the admin had, he was nowhere near the level of mastery like Yara. Looking over at another menu, the time showed that it was nearing the night hour in the real world. That was one thing that remained consistent throughout the world, the fact that the time was equal to that of the real-world clock.
“I wish I could at least see how life is going for my sister. She’s probably studying hard and working for her master’s. That or she’s with her partner, probably watching some popular anime or sex.”
Wolfy chuckled as he down another can.
“Yeah, right. She wouldn’t do that so likely anime. Still, at least she has them to help her through everything. I just would end up dying. Definitely glad it was mean that decided to stay here. I’m in my element… as well as being incredibly bored. How many days have I been in here?”
Looking over to one of the menus, he took note of what day it was and how long he had been in the game.
“Wait, I’ve only been in for nine days since becoming the system admin? Are you kidding me!”
With a heavy sigh, he down the can and popped open another one. His mind was growing stale from the boredom and he wanted something to do.
“I guess I can always drown my woes in the sweet memories I had with my sister seeing as how I can’t kill myself here.”
Closing his eyes, Wolfy thought about all the good times he had with his sister. Every memory with with her was a wholesome moment that he never wanted to forget.