Chapter 3:



A memory of VR is a like a memory of a dream.

To put it blatantly, I was… obsessed, since I first put on those goggles. Even when I was all alone in that world, before I convinced Dylan and Wire to take the plunge with me and put holes in their heads too, it was still unlike anything I’d ever experienced. All at once, the rules built up over this long and boring adolescence of mine had all been broken. Reality was not so pure a thing. The aesthetic atmosphere grounding us to this world, different though we are, turned out to be little more than a suggestion. And in this dimension where my own imagination was king, anything was possible.

I have so many memories there, and in shape they are no lesser than memories spent looking at the real world. But their appearance is so much more fantastical that my mind struggles to place them anywhere else than wherever it stores my dreams. It can’t properly reconstruct something so unruly in texture, so all the time I’ve spent there feels unreal. I can’t place how long each session has been or what it was really like for my body as I waved my controllers around. All I know’s how it looked, felt, and sounded. All I know’s how fun it was.

School is hell for people like me. Sure, we might be able to sit still for the eternity they require you to each day, but our brains sure as fuck can’t. I know I’ve gone through all these thoughts before. But as I sit in the back of math class, alone as Wire’s forced to work with some other group, I really have nothing better to do. I just want this day to be over. Soon as it is, I can catch up on my real life. My meeting with Gormage is today, and all my friends are coming too. He said it’d be fine so long as I know that if they leak anything, I’ll still be the one responsible. I’m not really sure what he’s so worried about in the first place. I mean… possession of illegal chips is a lower social severity than, like, pirating anime. Hell, PSICO’s biocomputer experiments in New York are technically illegal by the same mandates. But everyone knows about those, and Mr. Tollbridge of FRiDAY doesn’t seem to give a shit.

I’d like to say the class is over before I knew it, but I only now step out what feels like centuries later. I stare down the repeating hallways of titanic teenagers once again, my memories tripping over themselves as every time I’ve seen this exact image before itches at my dying mind. I had seen every inch of this building within my first year here, and now, as a soon-to-be graduating senior at Lakewater High School, its layout has become a wound carved into my memory. In this building, I almost feel at peace. I’m sure there would be no better school for me. And I still absolutely fucking despise it.

A familiar figure approaches me in the hall.

“So uh, Molly.” Dylan checks in, tilting his neck down at me. “You said what time tonight?”

“One. And don’t you forget it.”

“One? Sheesh…”

“Come on, it’s the best I could get. He’s up 24/7- the guy’s schedule is still fucked like you won’t believe.”


“Not gonna argue?”

“What’s the point… it’s set in stone anyway.”

“Good boy. And hey… would you, um… skip class with me?”

“Skip class? For what?”

“No reason. The day’s just- getting to me is all.”

“Can’t you… do it alone?”


We ignore the people trying to walk around us as we freeze in the middle of the hallway, Dylan’s shy face thinking through the risk.

“Just one class?”

“Just one. We can be back for lunch.”

“Where do you wanna go?”

“I didn’t think that far ahead…”

“Well, um.” He adjusts his hair, eyeing the wall. “We could… try the quiet hall, right?”

“I guess…”

Dylan frowns at our lack of decisiveness.

We end up back there again. The most boring place in school, a hallway without classes or teachers or children. But it’s not the same boring as the rest of the school, so it’s got something going for it. It’s a wasted, useless space. Locked doors hide empty rooms just across from unlocked, equally empty lockers. This school never needed to be as big as it is, but when you make something that long ago you’re only setting yourself up for failure. Nobody can predict the future, obviously.

Dylan knows I’m nervous. The spot’s isolated, but there’s no reason someone else couldn’t just walk in here if they felt like it. We could get caught at any moment. Would we? I don’t personally think so. But I’m shaking nonetheless.

“Too bad there’s nowhere to sit.” I mutter to part the silence.

“Mm.” He responds, just trying to find someplace to look.

“Dill, are you scared?”

“Maybe… I mean- I’d rather not get in trouble. But who am I to say how I feel? It can be hard to tell sometimes.”

“You have a slow mind. Be grateful for that.”

I can tell something’s making Dylan feel a little sad right now. Conflicted, even. Yet it’s not how I just insulted him.

“Molly… why are we doing this?”

“Skipping? We’re fuckin’ bored.”

“It’s the final quarter of our high school career.”


I look at Dylan like he’s just said whatever backwards political take one most disagrees with.

“Uh-huh. What’s it matter?”

“Well shouldn’t we be… I dunno, living our lives to the fullest?”

“Don’t see how we aren’t. What more is there to do? Honestly, I say skipping is at least more interesting than whatever they have for us.”

“Yeah… I just… I don’t know.”

“Life don’t matter until after high school, anyway…” I half-say, just filling space in the conversation.

“What do you plan to do after school?”

“Shit, Dill…” I kick the air. “You sure know how to bore a girl out. You know what I’m doing anyway.”

“No…?” He squints, confused.

“What I’m doing right now. You know, summoning Elopas.”

“…” Dylan settles on looking at the hard tile ground. “Ain’t that just… a bit?”

I look at him in such a way that he in turn will be forced to look at me.

“Dylan.” I say. “I know you’ve had your doubts, but this is my dream.”


“I heard her one day.”


“I don’t remember when, but it was around last time we played.”

“That would be Monday or Tuesday.”

“She giggled, Dill. Right behind me.”

“In the real world… or, like, in the headset?”

“Headset… I know cause I ripped the thing off looking for her and didn’t see shit.”

“Sounds kinda like… I dunno, maybe she wasn’t there to begin with. That giggle… could’ve been anything. I mean…”

“No, she was there!”

My hands go over my mouth to shut myself up. Too loud. I don’t wanna get caught. Don’t wanna get caught.

“Sorry… she… she was there. I heard her. Fuckin’ swear.”

“I hear you… it’s just… don’t you know that PSICO computer isn’t even real? I thought you were just playing into something, but, like… you do know that’s been all but proven as a hoax for at least a year, right?”


Dylan doesn’t get me, but I keep talking, because I can tell he’s listening. He wants to understand, even if he has trouble believing in much of anything.

“It’s real, dude. It’s real, alright.”

“And your proof…?”

“…S’too cool not to be.”

“It’s too cool to be.”

I finally got him to look at me, but now I’m the one facing off with the floor. “Dylan… can’t you just let a girl live in peace?”

“I’m really trying. Just saying what’s on my mind is all.” He rubs his neck. “I am… sorry, though. S’what I think. That’s all.”

“No. No, it’s fine. Don’t worry, your opinion doesn’t weigh too heavily in my mind.” I snort. “But one thing I’ve noticed… you do act weird now.”


“Yeah, you. You act weird.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“You’ve always been a little strange, but this whole year… you’ve been such a cloudy little boy. You hear me? Whenever I try to read you, if it’s not embarrassment I sense, it’s flat-out nothing.”

“And since when on Earth can you read people?”

“I’ve always been capable. In my mind, at least. I feel I have good interpretations of most people I meet, surely enough for them to benefit me. And you’re by far the strangest person I know.”

“That’s a lot coming from you.”

“I’ll bet. Now tell me Dill. What is your desire?”

“And… by that you mean…?”

“Well you don’t have an Elopas. So what do you have?”

“I’ve got you, I guess… Wire… my car.”

“…Yeah. And you have all those things. What I mean is- what’s something you don’t have?”

Dylan thinks for a moment.

“I’ve got just about everything, I feel like.”

“Oh yeah?” I find myself fascinated by this boy.

“I know I’ll… go to college, soon’s I graduate. But uh… why would I need something more than that? After college, I’ll work. You know. Ain’t that everybody’s plan?”

“So if I could grant you any wish, all you’d ask for is… what, to graduate? To get a job?”


Dylan thinks for longer this time, but not by much.

“Maybe I’d ask for a girlfriend. N-not you, of course. And not a boyfriend either. So don’t-“



“Who would you want to be your girlfriend?”

He blinks at me.


“Well, who?”

“How’m I… supposed to answer that? I don’t know. It’d just be nice to have a girlfriend, I guess.”

“You really are helpless…”

We stood in that silence-stained hallway for the whole class period.

“See you tonight.”

“See ya tonight.”

After another day spent in room-temperature hell, I’m back in the lab. VISTA resting on the bed, ready for my face to wear it, ready for whatever this meeting’s gonna be like. There’s no parents home tonight to get me in bed at a reasonable hour, they’re off doing something they haven’t told me much about. Date, maybe? They haven’t done that in years. Though it’s a very minor convenience to have, I have thank Elopas for my impeccable luck on this fated night. This goes well, and I’ll be headed straight for her soon. Just wait for me, Elopas…

“A new map, I see…”

Charlie “Wire” Johnson is punctual as usual when it comes to joining the instance. We’ve entered a different VRchat server than usual, but still a privately-owned, heavily modded one- that being Gormage’s himself. He calls it “CHEMPLANT” and it’s used almost entirely for secret deals and meetings like these. And the map he’s asked us to be in by this time is exactly the kind of aesthetic I adore from false, virtual reality- that being, quasi-realistic nature.

Next to a waterfall in a woodland clearing straight out of a Zelda game, me and the giant faceless monster man Wire inhabits stand around waiting for the other two. I love places like this. I wish any of them existed in real life, but anytime I’ve gone to see the sights, something always ruins it. Hiking with my family is lame. Going out in public places is a drag. If only the whole world was like this, just me and my buddies in an underdeveloped continent. Now that’s what I’d want- and of course, it’s just another fantasy. There might not be a single “real” thing in this world that I can enjoy. Chuckling at this, I turn up the music my earbuds. There isn’t anything a little Acetantina can’t make even better.

Abruptly, a tall brick of a man walk-animations out of the woods, sliding up to us. I don’t recognize the model, but it’s got Dylan’s tag.

“Dill? That you? You forgot your makeup.”

“Eh, I'm tired of those models. Everybody uses them, anyway.”

“Whaaaatever. I’ll be keeping mine, though. Where the fuck’s the ‘mage? It’s thirty-past one.”

“Perhaps he lied.” Wire suggests.

“No, not this guy.” I state. “He asked me to write a Sonic character analysis, he’d better show.”

“I’ll believe you.” Wire says, looking down on my smaller character from above. We wait for many minutes like this before we finally hear something.

“In Sword Art Online…”

A voice rises out of the trees.

“In Sword Art Online, everybody meets each other for the first time in a virtual world. After that, most don’t see each other again… well… that’s my headcanon, at least… I only watched the first few episodes.”

A cartoon green cyborg shark humanoid with a big head and hotdog limbs steps out, the name “GORMAGE” pasted above its head. The OC walks towards us, arriving from the opposite side of the trees, announcing his presence with a select few more words:

“Hello, everyone. It’s me… Gormage. In the virtual flesh.”

Wire can’t suppress his uppity chuckle. “He treats VR almost as strangely as you do, Molly.”

“Whatever!” I shout. “If we all just act like it’s normal, the cool factor goes away instantly!”

“Exact- exactly!” Gormage follows up. “You gotta... remember that this isn’t normal, ya… ya know.”

“Nice to meet you.” Says Dylan.

“It’s uh, great to meet you all, yeah.” Gormage responds. “And I’m here to talk as long as you want to, I’ve got a MACRO, but it’s- uh, hooked up to a power cable.” His deep, scattered voice explains.

“A MACRO? No shit?” I blurt out. “You’re rich.”

“Well it’s uh- yeah. I mean, it is really strong. But it… they made it turn off, if you spend too long on it. That’s what the power cable’s for.”

“Oh. So hey, still kinda like a VISTA.” I remark. “‘Course, ours just run out of power ‘cause the battery sucks.”

“At least they’re portable.” Dill adds.

“You’re the only one here who gets any use out of that feature.”

“It’s nice to see you, though… uh… and… names? You’re… Elopostle, yeah? On RedeadHillZone… but uh, your name here’s Acidgirl. What do I use?”

“Just call me Molly. I have no interest in secrecy outside of aesthetic appeal.”

“Alright. And them too?

“Dylan and Wire. I’d trust them with my life… or at least a homework assignment. Though that’s just Wire’s job. Dylan’s a leech.”


“Dylan’s cool.”

“Alrighta, yeah…” Gormage lets out a breathy chuckle. “They seem fine. But just know… if anyone DOES squeal ‘bout this, we could all be in some shit… so keep your lips zipped, yeah alright?”

“Alright.” I say for them. “Don’t exactly get your level of caution given we’re basically talkin’ hacked Nintendo Switches here, but I’ll play by your rules. Anything else I should know about?”

“No. Not really. Those Nintendo Ninjas though, they’re real… you know. They gotta be. I heard stories.”

“The guys that kill ya for burning Wii games? I’d sure like to believe it. That said, you make it sound like what you’re afraid of’s a whole lot scarier. Suspected me of bein’ a fed? Just how bad could these chips be?”

“Come on, I’ll show ya. Live demonstration, no cap. Right this way.”

The anthropomorphic elasmobranch walks back into his neck of the woods as me and the boys are forced to follow. Wire’s laughing a tad and Dylan’s more confused as I am.

“Why are we- moving locations? Isn’t it all the same?” He asks me.

“The atmosphere’ll be different, I guess.”

“Come on, uh- humor me, will ya? I’m a real bored son of a bitch, you know.” Gormage pipes up.

We arrive at the mouth of a small cave. Wire crouches down to look in through the stone hole.

“Just through here.”

Inside, it’s what you’d expect. No special features, just a nice place to talk in. I kinda dig that. I guess me and this guy see more eye-to-eye than I thought.

“Molly, I’m gonna be showing you, uh, most of what I’ve got. Then we can talk about getting it to you.”

“And you won’t ask why I need it?”

“Why… I mean, we all use chips like these for the same reason, don’t we?”

His model poses strangely. I can tell he’s dropped his controllers to use his real hands for something. I figure he’s probably putting the chips in. He sniffles.

“…Ah. Sorry. Just had to get ready. So listen, I’ve got uh, twelve, thirteen different kinds of chips loaded into this headset at all times. And I’ve got dupes of ‘em, plenty. So I’ll show you them all, then you can, uh… you can let me know what you think. ‘Course, you mighta… might know some, given your air of expertise. Like uh… well, no use showing off my Maxfeel unless you want me to.” The controllers go back into their proper spots, his OC’s hands reattaching to the correct length of his sausage arms. “And I’m sure you know all about Overchargers, Simfeels, Blockers, and Copyware, yeah?”

“Got most of those loaded right now. Wire over here got me a real nice port set up.”

“Great. But uh… you know about, like… what they’ve been doing in the mod community nowadays? Like… the uh, Y’know, the underground one.”

“Only a little.”

“Seen the Breakchip?”

“The what?”

I can’t see Dylan’s face or anything right now, but I can tell he’s the slightest bit scared. Guess he expects Miss Molly to know everything when it comes to VR.

“Okay… check this fuckshit out. Molly, take a swing at me.”

“Take a whuh?”

“Punch me. Let’s go, hard as you can. My avatar, I mean.”

“Oh. Uh, alright.”


As soon as my polygonal fists phases through his mascot head, his character recoils back in pain. Over the mic, the guy screams and wails like I just really hit him. It doesn’t hit me right away just what the fuck is wrong with him.

“Ah… ahaha… ahaHA! CHECK THAT SHIT OUT!” He cackles, shaking off the “pain.”

“What exactly just… wait… wait, don’t bullshit me… did you-“

“It hurt! It really fuckin’ hurt, holy shit! Only done that with another person a few times… that’s crazy!”

“A Breakchip…” Wire is sufficiently interested.

“It… stimulates, like… the fuckin’, pain receptors in your mind or whatever… and really hurts you! If you crank it up enough… they say this shit can even put you down for good!” He laughs.

“That’s wild. But I don’t think it’ll do too much for me. You got anything else?”

“You have no idea.”

He shows off a buffet of cutting-edge consumer-made tech. He’s got something for everything. A chip to make you forget your headset is even on you, one to keep you feeling energized at all times during headset use, and even one to scan and make accurate models of your own body for use ingame. 

But most importantly… a malfunctioning experimental design- a “magatsu chip.” While it doesn’t exactly “work” in the marketable sense, as he describes it- it’s supposed to run through every single “setting” on a headset device interface instantly. Based on code-breaking devices, it tries every possible configuration of inputs in a system in order to leave no stones unturned in an experiment. In other words, it’s exactly what I want- a torch to light up the dark unknown of wherever Elopas, my idea, may reside.

“So how’s that? I got plenty of everything.”

“Gormage.” I speak. “I’ve got something I need done, and I think a chip you’ve got can help. But… I don’t know if I can do it… without your direct help.”

Dylan pulls me aside. “Are you crazy? Molly, this guy, doesn’t he seem…”

“Can it. And we’re not in real life you know, he can still hear you.”

“Ah, it’s… it’s okay.” He says, his avatar still scoping out Dill anyway. “What’re you, uh, going for here? I mean, if it’s interesting enough.”

“You bet your ass it is. Listen… I’ve got this dream… I’m using the PSICO servers to generate an entity.”

“An entity? Like, like they speculated about in the articles?”

“No, my own thing. Yes, a physical manifestation of a virtual character, but not just that- living fiction incarnate. Interested enough?”

“Crazy kid… I’ll bite. So which chip was it you were looking at using with me?”

“The code output chip, of course.”

“You really… want that piece of garbage? I’ll be honest, it’s uh… it’s not gonna do anything for you. And alone, it’s not gonna…”

“It won’t be alone.”


“When I had a Maxfeel, I heard my entity giggle. You may not believe it, but I experienced that moment in more detail, more reality than I have anything else before. I have to recreate those conditions… and if you can get that magatsu chip running better, I’ll be all set.”

“Yeah… uh-huh. But you… can’t expect me to go that far for you. I mean… lady, I like having something to do, but…”

Maybe I can read people after all. I may have just been bluffing to Dylan earlier today, but… I think I get this guy, in a way I wouldn’t be able to get a normal person. He’s not just bored… 

He’s lonely. 

You can see that even through his virtual body. He’s just as desperate as I am for the things that’ll bring him happiness… and I just so happen to know what those things are.

“I can pay you, but not much. I can, however, be your friend. After all… I’d love to talk more Sonic with you.”

Wire tilts his head. Guy knows I don’t have the slightest bit of knowledge or interest on the subject other than my nagging Tails brainworm.

“You… yeah? I mean… shit, alright… just as long as I can take my time with it… I’ll sell you that Maxfeel right away though. How’s $600?”

Dylan starts to say something, but I stop him.

“That won’t do. Most I can get you is $200. I’m just a high-schooler. How’d our friend afford one anyway?”

“Gave it to her. Not to… toss shade, but… unlike you, she needed it. Dunno why she handed it over to you if you were just gonna blow it up.”

“She doesn’t need it anymore anyway, Mr. Mage. You see, I cut that girl’s leg off for her.”

“Nothing you say makes a lick of sense… you really are interesting. $300. But only if you keep me updated every step of the way. And not a penny less than that either.”

“Fair. See you online.”

“See you.”

With that, Gormage leaves us alone in his custom map. My brothers in arms both look at me. I guess they’re realizing it.

“Molly…” Dill starts. “Are you, like.. actually crazy? I mean… to go this far to do whatever it is you’re trying to do, even knowing it’s not… not possible…”

“But Gormage was right.” Wire pontificates. “It is interesting, you know. One could say this is the opposite of a secret. Even if you knew it, you wouldn’t believe it. Our Molly… correct or not, genuinely believes she can summon this “Elopas.”

“Damn straight.” I grin, thankful they can’t see my blush as my ego grows beyond what it’s been capable of up till now. “I’m a witch. I’m a scientist. Hell, I might be god… once Elopas is mine, that settles it. Anything… anything can be done. Just as the aesthetic of the outside world can be broken by this one… so too can it’s very rules and principles. Do you two understand now? Do you two get why I am the way I am?”

“Perhaps you really are crazy.” Wire admits. “Just don’t let that get to your head.”

“Are you kidding? My head’s too damn full already.”