She was screaming.
Screaming loud and clearer than ever. Every second, her scream was getting louder and louder. It’s increasing in such a high pitch that one’s ears would start bleeding if they were near her. Yelling into the void, unable to comprehend the adrenaline rush inside her mind sending a surge of electrons to every nerve in her brain. It was so intense that it raddled the entire room like a chaotic pinball machine relaying more than one ball. The girl was unable to remember why she was screaming her heart out. Nonetheless, she kept on going until her throat bleed.
Everything went out like the lull before a storm, leaving her in a pitch-dark terror where depressing silence was choking the girl to death.
Throwing away the VR set, she finally stood up, unable to keep the piercing yells incoming due to a sudden cough attack, the saliva drooling from her lips. The huge machine that a few seconds covered her eyes made small jumps through the wooden floor, breaking her pathetic personal soap opera.
Amidst the anxiety attack that was slowly creeping inside of her soul, all she had to do was to try to keep calm. Her medicine was downstairs, and going outside of her room during this mental breakdown would be a safety hazard given she was starting to slowly lose her breath.
I killed people. I killed people. I killed people!
Self-harming was out of the question as well. She herself had hidden all the objects that could lead her to a poisonous road. Even still, the number of corpses inside that virtual world was enough to cause her harm in more ways than others.
The girl had to calm down somehow.
Her brain was an extinguished fire. Once it burnt bright and she knew of happiness and light; she could see a future... Now her mind was dark, subsisting on the burnt tinder of who she was. In these ashes, there was nothing to even renew a spark. All she could do was huddle at this moment, live from heartbeat to heartbeat. The girl felt like the world wasn't really there at all like it was stolen and replaced with something empty, photoshopped, fake. It made sense in a weird way, the real world gave her feelings of joy. She felt connected to it, part of it. But either it was taken away or she was; every second of every minute of every day all she could do was float in the void.
Succumbing, her tired body fell to the floor with a loud thump. Bless the heaven’s her mother was away at work. The maiden was suffering the consequences of halting the panic and anxiety attack on her own, leaving her extremely tired. She could still hear the screams of pain and eyes filled with rage.
Why in the hell would I do that? I was trapped inside that stupid game and I decided to kill people for fun? I know I am capable of thinking that and imagining it but… actually doing it? I can’t… fathom the mere thought of it…
Crying had always been a healthy release, but for the maiden, it was a habit now. The blue feeling washed in like an unwanted wave, knocking her sandcastles flat. Then what? Was she supposed to construct them again? Get that bucket and spade out and make it pretty all over again? She sat. No more building, no more castles. She sat and stared out of the window, more tears, no surprise there. She let them fall, not raising a hand to stop them. They splashed down onto the couch in a rain-like pattern and soaked in leaving dark splotches on the coffee-coloured fabric. There was more where that came from, what percentage of water was she anyway? Less than a veggie but certainly enough to cry for hours. And what then? Then she'd drink another glass of water and start all over again.
When the tears weren't even halfway done, she was empty.
Was I even trapped there to begin with…? Everything felt so real.
She couldn't have cried even if she wanted to.
A few minutes had gone by, and the fair maiden was finally capable of standing steadily albeit a bit dizzy from all the emotions that went haywire. The least she could do was try to figure out what exactly happened. The girl could barely remember what actually transpired inside Phantasia, but she clearly had visions of her stabbing people and casting spells to end lives, as well as being trapped.
“Mum would’ve taken me to the hospital if she came back and saw me like that. Heck, I would be with a huge ton of other people if that were the case.” Going towards her window, she opened it to see the everlasting grey sky of her city. The palm trees swayed, and the bird chirped. “Seems it’s before midday, even.”
Suddenly, a thought crossed her mind and she wanted to punch herself. Why hadn’t she thought about it first and foremost?! Cursing in her mind, she opened the door of her room, looking amidst the panic… until she found her, sleeping soundly on her oversized couch.
“Doremi… you’re all right…” coming closer to her small caramel fur doggie, she scratched her head and the dog turned over to have her tummy be caressed. “You silly, I was worried about you for nothing…”
Inspecting the living room, everything was the same. The TV was there with her Mint Sweetch, as well as the sofas and her mother’s room. Going back inside her own room, the girl now could clearly see all her anime figures were free of dust, as well as her PZ4 and other handhelds. Heck, she even took a peek by logging into her Magical Impact account and realized her daily commissions were done as well as her Battle Pass.
“It’s like… no, that would be… but what if…” the girl pressed the gacha button. Hae Mikoto was still there as the rate-up 5 star. However, something made her gasp in fear. A truly horrifying realization. She looked at the banner expiration date: 14 days left. “I pulled for Hae the same day she got released… which means….”
Her head pounded.
«…It is my duty to inform all of you that you cannot log out. You are all trapped in my world and unlike other games where you can revive after death, you will die and your bodies will die in real life.»
«…We’ve been stuck in this game for so many years now that even murder has lost its unique spark. No one can beat us… Plus, what else is there to do. We completed everything in this game.»
Her legs gave up for the second time in the day, feeling lightheaded and wobbly.
“What were those… voices… in my head…? I remember that announcement but… the second memory… it… hurts…”
Hearing a pitter-patter, Doremi entered the room. Looking for love and a hug, she went towards the girl asking to be pet. Nonetheless, the worried look in the pupper’s eyes was enough for her to manage a small hug. Hearing her small heartbeat was enough for the girl to calm down and assess the situation.
While petting her four-pawed daughter, she entered into deep thought. How was it possible for the banner to not be gone if so many years had passed? Why wasn’t she in the hospital? Why was everything as if nothing had happened? Was it a wild dream? Did she fall asleep and has a nightmare while having some ASMR of Phantasia while she dozed off?
There was only one way to find out.
Clearing all the stationary and anime merchandise from her desktop, she turned on the PC. While she waited for it to load, she finally decided to look at what she dreaded the most: her phone.
The first thing that she would come face to face when activating the screen would be the date. It was pretty much a fight or flight unavoidable situation. Pressing the button, her heart was pounding out of her chest. She imagines her palpitations melting away; she’s young at heart again. The girl plans to slow down her engine. Even if the worst-case scenario came to be, there was nothing she could do.
Maybe that will help me ease those images from my mind.
“If I can start over, I wonder what I can become from now on…” She muttered with her eyes closed. After a few seconds, she opened them, hazelnut irises melting inside sakura-pink. Her lock-screen had the same smiling girl that had saved her millions of times. Even if she was a JPEG for many, she was number one in her heart. “Let’s see here…”
At a top of the picture of the girl with lavender long hair, she saw it.
January 20th, 202X
Her body gave up and fell into the chair. Maybe it was a dream after all. A hyper-realistic, traumatizing dream. It wouldn’t be the first time she dreamt about killing or being killed and waking up with an anxiety attack that went through the roof. Still, it all felt too damn real to dismiss it. However, as there is always a however with the girl, all her dreams felt way too real.
She had enough dreaming about high school traumas, so when that happened, it was an end of the world scenario usually involving the ocean. Perhaps because she lived near one. Those were the most common. Huge waves destroyed everything in her path, while she watched.
Shaking her head, she decided that remembering those things would just make her anxiety skyrocket, so she went back to the PC. Of course, it was still loading. It was bloated up to the brim with games and editing software. With a sigh, she decided to check on her mobages in order to at least smile a bit. After a few more minutes, the PC was ready.
Nobody had sent her a message via Duskcord, and her Server was as inactive as ever if not for those three people who were usually discussing the meta of Magical Impact. She read a bit and sighed. That wasn’t for her. She just pulled for her favourite girls and boys, and played as she saw fit. As some people say: meta is temporary, waifus are eternal.
Opening up Poodle, she doubted. If it was a dream there was no reason to be afraid, right? Nothing a few pills and weeks of therapy couldn’t fix, right?
Now that I think about therapy, when was my next appointment?
“Dammit, there’s no time to get distracted!” Shaking her head, her chestnut hair went left and right. “Let’s do this, aaaaaaaaa!”
«Phantasia is a VRMMORPG that was released on January 20th of 202X. The game sold over 100,000 units in its first day. Physical pre-order copies sold over 10K units three months before release.»
“No more info…?” The girl was puzzled. “I need to search more than just Phantasia… How about Phantasia News, or Phantasia Incident…?”
She searched those up but nothing came up, except for the random people making clout on Blueddit and Chipper. Maybe she was being too superficial in her search. She needed extra hands.
Glancing over her phone, she unlocked it and pressed RINE. There, she knew she could find help… if that person was awake for starters. She just noticed it was indeed past midday, and it was a 50/50 chance. If not, she would personally call until a reply came her way.
She typed, waiting. She even sent a couple of cute stickers. Man, she loved RINE.
The maiden sent a sticker of a cute bunny-eared girl looking behind a wall.
Now it was a sticker of a menacing twin-tailed girl behind a crackling wall.
A girl holding a knife, pushing her face as if trying to break a window.
“I usually never get mad, but heck when I need you it feels like an eternity!!!” She yelled to no one in particular.
«Yeah, kind of.»
«Nice. I need you to help me with something.»
«What is it?»
«Can you help me look into Phantasia?»
«Isn’t that the game you bought? Does it have a Day 1 patch or something?»
«No, no. You see, urgh, how can I explain this.»
«What do you need help with?»
«Can you look if there has been any… shady news? Like people losing consciousness or idk.»
«Sure but, are you okay tho?»
«STICKER OF SAD BUNNY GIRL»
«Want me to call?»
«STICKER OF CUTE GIRL HOLDING A SIGN WITH YES»
The screen lit up with a nice, melancholic tone. It was a tune from one of her favourite games. Looking at the name, she crackled up a bit. LOSER was calling. She picked up.
“So um, yeah…”
“Take your time.”
How should I even start? Where should I begin…?
“Want me to come over?”
The girl felt the pain in her heart slowly diminish.
Doremi was losing her mind. The doorbell had rung, and the girl knew that person was behind the door. The little pupper loved when that person came to visit, and she had to contain her in order to properly open the door.
Once the fair maiden saw what was at the other side, she had to swallow up her tears.
“Macchan…!” with a hug that seemed to last an eternity, she finally made Macchan come inside. “You took longer than your usual 45 minutes…”
I feel like I haven’t felt your warmth in so, so long.
“It’s summer, the highway was packed. It was a full-blown nightmare.” Macchan sighed. “Do you have something to drink?”
“Yeah, some cola coming right up!”
After drinking a couple of glasses, they both went upstairs. Macchan sat in the girl's bed, while she took the computer’s chair.
“So… yeah… I had a panic attack but no worries, I’m fine now!” She smiled.
“You sure?” Macchan wasn’t buying it.
“Mhm… so… you know how I have strange dreams and… all the supernatural stuff that has happened to me. This is why I ask you to please believe what I am going to say to you. It might sound like a wild dream but…” The girl gave a long sigh, preparing herself. “You see, I had… a dream… I guess. Although the more I think about it, it feels as if it was reality. I logged into Phantasia and found myself trapped for years. I…remember killing people and thought it was… fun. You know me, I have this sadistic side I show only to you and some people I utterly despise but I… I see their faces Macchan. Cursing me, crying, screaming, yelling… begging me to stop and I… just kept going, relishing in their pain. I found it mundane and something as a matter of fact since Phantasia had me and another handful of players stuck inside with the classic if you die, you die in real life stuff.”
Macchan was silent, still listening.
“If it was just a shallow nightmare, I could forgive and forget everything but I know it wasn’t just a nightmare. I was... Truly trapped in there… And I searched and searched and couldn’t find anything online! I came to my senses screaming the fuck out of me. I even had a guild… and… and… God, everything is so fuzzy…” The girl held her head. Macchan stretched out an arm but she politely declined. “It’s… it’s fine… I’m just… Remembering… Trying to remember more stuff… I wasn’t alone. There was… someone by my side… or something… I can’t quite make it clear…”
Another hug came her way.
“I believe you. I know you wouldn’t make this up. I know your darkest secrets, as you know mine. You’re not one to lie for attention.”
Refusing to cry, the girl let herself be indulged with love. She isn’t a lovey-dovey person, neither one for hugs and kisses. She finds it hard, and difficult. Nonetheless, Macchan accepted her that way, and even everything about her last love experience that was nothing but a spiralling abyss of despair.
“I feel like… I need to go back but… I’m scared.”
“Who wouldn’t after an experience like that… Let me log in with you.”
“No! I… what if… that was a premonition of the future… or something… I couldn’t bear the thought of you being trapped with me.”
“I can’t bear the thought of you going through that alone!”
“I wouldn’t be alone, nii-nii wouldー” The girl’s voice came to a halt.
“Nii-nii?” Macchan asked. “One of your online friends?”
“That’s… weird…” The fair maiden looked through her Duskcord DM’s, but none of them had someone going by that name.
“Hold up a second. I remember something you wrote to me last night about Phantasia. That you would be busy with someone else playing that game. Let me check RINE.”
Tied down by shackles and corruption, just to encounter a single light. In this room, I’m a prisoner who has always been waiting for something that I've long forgotten. What have I forgotten…?
“Here we go… look.” Macchan shared his phone with the girl, scrolling up the messages. “You said you would be playing with your brother?”
“I’m an only child,” She replied matter of factly. “You know that.”
“Then… huh. Does this ring any bells?”
I saw a name on the ever bright screen.
Even though I woke up from this shallow dream, everything is lightly and gently falling, and for some reason, I’ve grown lonely. From this shallow dream, tears spilled out. Now, if I can still go back to long long ago—
Now, if I can still go back—
The girl opened her mouth, a salty flavour making it to her tongue.
For someone in the distance, that isn’t here before nor now. But alas, is at the end of the world if all.
“Who is Wolfy?”