When an avid user of VR games finds his console missing, the effects of prolonged periods of time away from reality start to affect his emotional well being and the way he views the world.


“Where could it possibly be..” I exclaimed as I turned my room inside out. The set was gone. 

The ear-deafening sound of the bell filled the school, as chatter poured into the hallways. 

“Only one more class to go,” I said to myself. My sneakers dragged on the concrete as I headed up the flight of stairs to biology. This week had been stressful, but it was in the past now. Sitting in my chair, I looked around the room. Everyone had settled in, having quiet conversations with each other while tuning out the lesson being taught. I could hear bits from each conversation, but I wasn’t really a part of any, so I turned my attention to the clock. It’s ticking echoed in my head and its hands inching their way from one number to the next kept me occupied. 

My trance was broken as the second bell rang, signaling that class was over. I threw my bag over my shoulder and before the bell could stop ringing, I was out the door. The trees that lined the sidewalk and the cars speeding by on the road were nothing but a blur as I sprinted through the neighborhood. 

Home at last, I creaked the door open and tiptoed up the stairs. Closing my room’s door behind me, I dropped my bag and rummaged through the drawers. Finally, I felt the cool surface of the controllers hit my palm. Soon after, I found the headset gleaming on top of the dresser. I had waited all day for this. The headset sat on top of my head and the controller snugly in my hands. The opening screen flashed before my eyes, and I was elated. I was back where I had left off, in the middle of the lost city sand dunes map. I had played almost every level in the Orphic VR series and this was the last map I needed to complete before I would face the final boss and complete the game. 

Navigating through the world was second nature to me at this point, as I walked through the ruins collecting loot along the way. The game had a pattern of springing surprise attacks on the player, so I was aware of my surrounding but I knew it wouldn’t be anything I couldn’t handle. I was immersed, my brain locked into the game; I couldn’t sense or feel anything else, solely focused on the virtual world in front of me. 

As my character continued to pace around, the floor from underneath one of the ruins gave out. I barely avoided the sinkhole, but I gave into my curiosity and decided to look into the void that had formed. In the far corner stood a figure made completely of shadows. I couldn’t discern what it was doing. I reached for my armor and weapon then followed the shadowy figure slowly into the sinkhole, never once taking my eyes off it. I was prepared to do whatever it took to reach the final stage. I inched closer and closer towards the figure as adjusted to see my every move. This was it, I had to rush into the fight to catch it off guard. As I started to sprint towards it at full speed, the screen went blank. I took the headset off to see what had gone wrong, but someone was at the doorway. 

“It’s a bit late to still be playing on that don’t you think Alan?” Mom said. 

The sun streaming in from my window had faded into the night and I could see the moon staring down at me from the sky. I would have felt remorse if it wasn’t for the rage of the unfinished game. I looked at her and she gave me a sigh of disapproval while walking away from the door. My eyes were strained and there was a pounding feeling in my head, but I needed to finish the level. I hadn’t spent all that time to be stopped by a malfunction. I sat on my bed trying to reboot the system but a wave of fatigue washed over me and I couldn’t hold my head up any longer. My eyes started to close even though I was fighting to stay awake, but I couldn’t help it as I drifted asleep. 

I was woken up by my mom banging on my door, yelling at me to get to school before I was late. Before I could get dressed I looked around trying to see where I had left the headset.. I somehow managed to make it to first period in time, but I couldn’t think of anything other than the level that I had played yesterday and the whereabouts of my headset. The splitting headache from yesterday came and went in waves over the course of the day. I tried my best to pay attention in the rest of my classes but my mind was thinking of so many other things at once. As the last bell rang, the fatigue slowly started to fade. The final scene of the game was in my mind as I kept analyzing the game over and over in my head, like an instant replay that wouldn’t stop. I finally reached the stairs leading to my house and I tried to climb them as fast as I could. 
After what seemed like a lifetime, I was in my room. It had been taxing, but I thought I figured out a way to finish the game. I looked around for the headset. It wasn’t on the nightstand or near the window sill. Not on my bed or my desk. I started to panic.

Had I misplaced it?

No, there was no way. I checked and rechecked every spot. In my frantic attempt to find the headset, I turned my room upside down.

“Where could it possibly be?”

My panic sent my head into a frenzy, making my headaches so much worse than before.

What would I do without it?

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