It's also my first ever work, and the writing and story is a little... shit now. Well, I think so anyway, people keep trying to tell me otherwise. I hope you enjoy it regardless.
The school day was going to go by at a glacial pace, I just knew it. Normally I would arrive at my high school and the day would become compartmentalised. Each class owning its own separate timescale and once over, becoming forgotten. My memories were not linear like society led me to believe was normal, they were filed according to subject, not date.
I could remember which math class Jeremy had flicked a piece of paper at the back of Mr Farrowman’s head and earned himself a detention. I could not tell you how in the timeline of my life that event lined up with the time Jeremy, Greg and I stole some dry ice while our science teacher wasn’t looking. Anyway, school was going to take a long time to get itself over with today, because the first real VRMMO had come out today. My friends and I were all going to dive right in and play after school. I was beyond excited.
Those reading this who are from the US or Europe or literally anywhere else but the small island nation I live in will become confused when I start talking about our school system. I won't bore you with an in depth lesson on how things work here, but I’ll say that High School starts at year 9, and ends at year 13. Year 9 kids will be around 13 years old, and Year 13 kids will be around 18 years old. Things get a bit more complicated again when you realise that college is just another word for high school over here. Oh, I’m from New Zealand by the way.
My knees were really cold. It’s still technically summer, so we have to wear the summer uniform. The guys Summer Uniform means shorts, and shorts in the driving rain means cold knees. The weather makes no sense here. Daydreaming of the warmth and safety that I would find in first period english gave me the motivation to trudge up the school driveway. I wondered where Jeremy was. Normally he’d join me some time along the walk to school but he was nowhere to be seen today. As if summoned by my thoughts, a car pulled up and Jeremy tumbled from the passenger side door.
“Shut the damn door Jeremy!” Hollered an aged feminine voice from inside the vehicle, probably his mum.
“Yeah okay geez,” grumbled Jeremy with quintessential teenage eloquence.
With the door shut, the car sped off to the exit and Jeremy turned, to move into the school, spotting me as he did so.
“Sup Sam,” He nodded while still clearly shaking off his annoyance at his mother.
“Hey Jeremy,” I said, my voice betraying my miserable drowned rat status.
“Dude did you walk through this? You’re nuts man,” he laughed.
“I know,” I grumbled.
I looked up at him as he brushed past, his short brown hair was starting to get plastered down by the rain. Without a word I followed after him, continuing my journey towards warmth.
Jeremy was around six inches taller than my 5 foot 8 inches and was one of those people who was both lanky and buff at the same time. He was also annoyingly attractive and was constantly chatting up our female peers instead of being productive. Which was what he was trying to do as we made our way through the twisting corridors towards english. I watched shyly as he greeted people I barely knew while we walked, how did he so effortlessly just talk to people like that? Checking my phone and noticing we were running out of time, I grabbed his wrist and tugged him out of yet another conversation with someone much cooler than myself.
“Come on we’re going to be late. I don’t want to get detention today,” I growled at him.
Giving me a funny look he replied, “Yeah you’re right, calm down though, no need to get so worked up about it.”
“I’m not getting worked up,” I sighed dramatically.
“Yeah you are man,” he replied, rolling his eyes.
“Ugh, okay maybe a little, but it’s gonna be me who has to deal with your whining during detention when we can’t go home straight away and play Pellan Rise.” I grudgingly acquiesced.
“Wait that’s today?! Oh man lets get there!” He exclaimed, rushing forward.
I rolled my eyes. He’d been the one who was the most excited about the game out of our little group. Normally I would be just as keen about it as him, but I’d been designated as the tank again, and I was really not interested in taking up that role for the umpteenth time.
Bustling through the door, we rushed to our seats and waited for class to start. I was too engrossed in the luxurious feeling of a heated room to notice Dana take the seat next to me. Dana was the only girl in our gaming party and also the group mumfriend. Currently, her uniform was plastered to her short curvy frame by the rain, and her medium length dark hair was sticking out in all directions.
She gave me a big smile, “Did you forget your coat too?”
“To be honest, it didn’t even look that bad when I left, but mum warned me it was going to change,” I said, feeling a sheepish smile answer hers.
“Yeah same here... Oh well, that’s what the heaters are for right?” she laughed.
Changing the subject to the game that dominated all of our thoughts I asked, “Can you believe Jeremy forgot that Pellan Rise was coming out today?”
Leaning over to look at Jeremy she raised an eyebrow, “Really? You were super hyped on like monday!”
“Yeah I’m hyped, it’s just mum was being like a huge bitch this morning. She made me do a bunch of extra chores and shit,” he grumbled.
Dana laughed, “That’s no excuse!”
Jeremy opened his mouth to reply when the teacher arrived, heralding that it was time to slog through fifty minutes of over analyzed metaphors.
We didn't get to discuss our excitement any further until morning tea. Morning tea being the 15 minutes after second period in which those of us who slept in late and forgot breakfast could finally get some food in ourselves.
When I arrived at our usual hang out spot jeremy was the only one missing of the four of us. The place we met to eat and hang out during the two breaks in the day was really just a bunch of benches bolted to the outside wall of the music block. Dana and Greg were busy canoodling on one of the benches and didn't notice my arrival.
I watched as Greg got his hand under her shirt and on its merry way further up her body. Something he did must have tickled her because she giggled and squirmed. When she gained control again she saw me quietly sitting there and I raised an eyebrow in greeting. Greg followed her gaze as he took his hand back out from under her shirt.
“Oh hey Sam!” he greeted me, clearly unrepentant but also uncaring that I’d interrupted his fun.
“Hey guys, sorry to uhm, bother you?” I gave a nervous laugh. Nice Sam. Way to make things weird.
Dana, a little flushed, quickly steered the conversation to Pellan Rise. “Yeah. Uh, so did you hear we have a problem with the party? According to reddit the standard groups are six people. We have you as a tank but we haven't decided everyone else's roles yet.”
“Yeah so we need two more people. I think Jeremy was going to be heals this time,” Greg rumbled in the baritone that was so at odds with his skinny nerdy body.
“Noooo, it's Dana’s turn to play heals this time!” groaned Jeremy as he sank onto the bench next to me.
“Hah, thanks but no thanks, I’m playing dps this time,” she shot back.
“Well so am I,” said Jeremy as he plunged into his backpack looking for his food.
“We’ll just get an outside healer it's fine,” said Greg playing the peacemaker.
“Yeah that could work, so long as Sam plays a tank we should be able to nab a healer,” Jeremy mumbled around his food.
It was about this point that my own search through my bag for food ran dry. I groaned when I realised I’d left my lunch on the kitchen counter.
“What’s up?” asked Jeremy around a half sandwich that was being stuffed into his mouth.
“Forgot my lunch,” I mumbled sheepishly into the opening of my backpack.
“Oh, uh, here,” he said, casually tossing the other half of his sandwich to me, “Just buy me a pork bun or whatever from the canteen at lunch.”
“Thanks! I forgot to eat breakfast too,” I admitted while I almost reverently savoured the feeling of food going down.
“Whats up Sam? It's not like you to forget things,” Dana asked, ever the worried mother, despite us all being the same age and not related in any way. At least I hoped she wasn't related to Greg. That would be weird.
“I was up all night reading about Pellan, I couldn’t sleep again. Did you see how many races and subraces and crap there are? Makes pathfinder look tame. It’s gonna take me forever to get through character creation!” I caught myself before I rambled further.
“I think I’ll probably just go a generic race. The differences between all the races don't seem too huge,” said Jeremy, “I’ll just make up for any racial problems with skill!” he continued, flashing his signature heart stopping grin.
Cute! Fuck, no, friends. Friends friends friends. Come down from the moon space cadet. He’s straight. Shush. Ahhhhhh. Crap. Don't let them realise. Don't let them figure out that you're gay Sam. Now, like we practiced, look away.
Finally recovering from my encounter with the sunlight on this miserable day, I nodded, trying to play off my lapse in concentration as being deep in thought.
“You can probably get away with just a primary race and not bother with subraces and stuff. So yeah, should be fine,” I finally replied, making furious eye contact with the last bite of the sandwich he’d given me.
“Uhhh huuuh,” said Dana, drawing out her words, “well we’ve got to get going if we want to make it on time to painting Sam.”
“Oh right, yeah. Time to get to it! Bye guys,” I waved a little goodbye to Greg and Jeremy’s shoes.
“Cya, “ they both chorused disinterestedly.
Dana kept giving me funny looks as we made our way up the tower block to where the art department is, and I studiously ignored those looks.
Dana and I quietly worked through our painting class while the rest of the class babbled around us. Mr Yossan was about as lax with discipline as you could get for a teacher, preferring to participate in the rukus rather than quell it. The piece I was painting was a stereotypical fantasy man standing shirtless on the battlefield with his sword thrust in the air. Dana was painting a nearly naked Greg... She was a lot better than me at painting, her strokes more confident and precise.
She had previously described my own ‘style’ as wild and impressionistic. Which is to say I wasn’t very good. I always had problems with my big guy hands shaking when I went to put brush to canvas, and that ended up causing me to over correct and make a mess. I wished I had smaller fingers like Dana so I could actually get the strokes in my head to come out on the canvas as intended.
All too soon painting class was over and it was time to head back and greet our friends once more for lunch. I owed Jeremy something from the Canteen. After doing battle with the infamously riotous blob that was the line for the canteen, Jeremy and I exited the crowded place with assorted sweet and savoury foods to eat for lunch. We always did this, found some excuse to eat the yummier bought food rather than the healthy fruit and veges of our packed lunches. With a sense of deja vu, we came upon Dana and Greg getting handsy with one another again. Standard stuff. Awkwardly ignoring their PDA, I sat down to eat my food.
“Since this is like a full immersion thing or whatever, I think I’m gonna play a chick character. Probably a ranger or something since I already know kinda how to shoot a bow IRL,” Stated Greg to the group.
Dana gazed at him pensively for a moment before replying, “Yeah, you know that you won’t actually feel what it’s like to be a girl though right? Something about the artificial sensations and feelings having to work with what you already have.”
“Yeah,” he shrugged, “still, will be fun you know? Messing with people who think I’m a girl will be awesome fun!”
“Sure,” She replied with an eye rolling wink, “Just make sure you look hot for me.”
“Obviously,” he laughed.
Conversation halted again as the four of us continued to eat, that is until I broke the silence with something I’d been working myself up to through all of painting class.
“Guys, I really don’t want to play tank this time. I’m so bored with it!” I blurted.
“Come on man, we really need you on tank. You’re always real good at it, and plus its full immersion this time, it’ll play differently,” groaned Greg.
“Yeah and plus if any of us play tank instead we’ll probably be bad at it. You don’t want us to have a bad tank do you?” added Dana, oh so helpfully.
The both of them turned to Jeremy to support, and with a sigh he weighed in on the conversation, “I mean yeah, you’re always a top tier tank dude, it’d be a bummer to not have you rocking it again.”
I glared at the three of them while they sat there and thought grumpy thoughts about the upcoming shitty role I’d have to play.
Dana piped up again with more ‘insight’, “And plus if you end up hating tank you can just make a new character.”
Clasping my hands around my temples I said, “But then I’ll be behind in gear and levels and... ugh fine whatever, I’ll play tank for you guys.”
“Thanks Sam, It'll be fine I bet you’ll have fun,” said Dana as she lay a comforting hand on my cold knee.
I didn’t reply, and spent the rest of lunch in my old little sulky world, planning petty revenge on my friends.
The rest of the day passed with the same time warping boredom that it had previously, only now I was grumpy and upset at being peer pressured into the role of tank. I spent the remaining classes studiously refusing to speak, and my friends left me to it. They were used to my bouts of sulking when something didn’t go how I wanted it.
That doesn’t mean others didn’t try and talk to me however. Kegan, one of the buff rugby players that was oh so popular for his looks and skill at the game, spoke to me outside one of my classes.
“Yo Sam why you look all shitty at life?” he rumbled.
“Just my friends being dicks,” I mumbled, feeling awkward that someone like him was even trying to talk to me.
“Ah shit, don’t let them push you around dude! Just punch ‘em out if they’re getting in your face!” he said, punching my arm in what he probably thought was a light friendly blow. It wasn’t, ouch!
“Uh, okay Kegan, I’ll try that next time,” I lied.
“You know it bro! Got to be a skux as dude if you want to get chicks,” he grinned.
“I thought skux went out of style like ages ago?” I asked, giving him an odd look.
“Nah cuz! I’m gonna bring it back! It’s a sick as word,” he said passionately.
“Right,” I said, very unsure about the whole thing.
“Yeah awesome!” He exclaimed, before turning to one of his friends and yelling, “Yo Ranno! You hookin’ up with Juliet yet?”
“Dude why would I want to? Like yeah she’s fuckin’ hot but she’s a psycho dude! Cold as fuck!” Aaron replied.
They began talking about things I really wasn’t interested in listening to, and I tuned them out and focused inward again.
The last class of the day was an exceptionally boring one, and I spent the time gazing randomly around the classroom. My gaze eventually landed on one of my classmates, a boy named Zach. He was known for being very shy and antisocial. I wondered what his deal was? I’d seen people try and talk to him before, but it was just hopeless, like talking to a brick wall. He’d have none of it.
Currently he was randomly doodling on his notepad, but I couldn’t see what it was. Oh well, not my problem. Surviving this shitty high school is my problem, I thought.
When the clock struck 3:30pm and we were finally free, I already had my stuff packed and ready. The bell rang, but unlike the rest of the class I did not bolt for the door. My enthusiasm to get home and play the new game having been sapped by my friends. During the class that had just finished, one that all four of us were a part of, my friends had decided that tonight we were going to just do our things, figure out where we had all started, and then meet up at a central location ingame the next day.
My walk home was the complete opposite of my walk to school, the sun was out and beating down on the city, causing steam to rise from the roads as the rain water evaporated. The walk home took the usual 45 minutes, and was fairly pleasant, all things considered. I did witness two cars collide lightly as one tried to back out of a parking space while the other tried to park in the one directly next to it. It was funny, I laughed. The positive effect on my mood that walking home had returned some of my previous excitement to jump in and play Pellan Rise. I went over what I knew of the game world in my head as my feet made the transition from inner city to suburbia.
The world was a bit different to what we were used to in games. The world was based on a single continent for now, one that was made up of several country sized plateaus of land, with vast valleys taking up the extra space in between these plateaus. The whole arrangement was surrounded by a mysterious sea that no one had ever crossed. Read that last part and imagine me rolling my eyes. The lore reasons for why a game world was limited were always thinly veiled, and Pellan did not break that mold. Where Pellan did break the mold was the size of those limitations. The game world was quoted at being 18 million square kilometers. That’s 7 million square miles for those of you who are over 50 years old or live in the USA.
The game did not have a class system, and instead allowed you to do a kind of point buy system during character creation. You could spend all of your points on an overpowered race, but start with absolutely nothing else, or you could choose human and start with a bunch of different spells and abilities. Your starting location would be determined by what you spent your points on in character creation. It was all terribly complicated and I loved it. I was extremely excited to dive in and begin the task of building my character the way I wanted them to be.
As I climbed the small set of stairs to my home, my eyes fell on the package I had known was waiting for me. It was large, easily as big as a microwave and then some. I almost tripped over myself as my need to get to the box outweighed all else. It was here, the holy grail of gaming. An actual full immersion VRMMO. I was giddy. Taking the box carefully in my arms, I carried it to the door, where I realised I’d made a mistake.
Placing the box back down on the ground, I got my keys out of my pocket and unlocked the door. With the box once more firmly in my embrace, I shunted the door open a bit more and awkwardly made my way inside. Making my way further into the house, I found the small hallway that led to my room. My family was both abnormal and normal. Abnormal in the traditionally held sense, and normal in the real 21st century sense.
My mother and father had split when I was around 6 years old after he caught her in a double whammy. It had turned out she was both a drug addict and sleeping with her dealer. Quick to get me out of there, my father filed for custody and divorce in the same breath. Since then he has remarried, meeting a lovely woman I tentatively call mum. My step mother and I have tried to bond properly as parent and child, but it always felt strange for me, and I expect she felt the same way. There was talk in the house of adding more children, but none had appeared so far.
Both of my parents were workaholics, and would be home late. Some weekdays I wouldn’t see them at all, depending on how late I’d been awake playing games the night before. This worked in my favour today, as I wouldn’t have to make an appearance before them. Depositing my treasure as well as my backpack in my room, I hurried to get my afternoon chores out of the way.
Two hours later, the downstairs had been vacuumed, and dinner had been cooked and left in the oven to stay warm for them, and I was heading to my room. Placing the box that contained all the equipment necessary to play Pellan Rise onto my bed, I carefully figured out how to unwrap it. Peeling the tape off the side of the box I gingerly lifted the polystyrene packaging away from my prize.
Sitting there cradled in more packaging was a sleek black helmet that evoked images of both knights in armour and super cars. It was gorgeous. Carefully removing the helmet from the box, I found the instructions for setup underneath. With great care I extracted the power cables and the screws that would keep the cable secured into the helmet. Plugging everything in was deceptively simple, only one cable needed. The connection to the web was handled by the new ultra fast quantum linked satellite network that hovered tens of kilometers above me.
Changing into my sleepwear as fast as I could, I did a quick once over of my mind to make sure everything was as it should be. Yup, everything was good. Climbing into get with the helmet on my bedside table, I got myself comfortable. I’d be sleeping in VR after all, the tech had been designed to allow the body to rest while we were off saving a virtual world.
Without anything to keep me on boring old earth, I placed the helmet over my head and activated it.