“Do you know where you are?”
The voice was distant, yet penetrative. At the sound, Troy winced, afraid the cadence might haul him away, or burrow itself inside of his brain. It was always like that; attempting to separate one reality from another was like trying to tear himself in two. The act itself seemed violently meddlesome – profane, even. Most of the time, Troy accepted that he was in two places at once, and that both were equally verifiable (as long as he didn’t force himself to verify them).
Troy was compelled to reply to the voice, but could only form the words in his head. He thought he remembered writing at one time or another to keep track of where he was and who he was interacting with. But one day, he reviewed his journal and found it to be evidence only of his own delirium. It was a book of amphigory; smug in its ability to mock its author’s complex mind. The problem, he decided, was that he was in two places at once. That was always the problem. The solution was unclear, the problem was not.
“Can you tell us what happened to Peter? Can you tell us what you remember?”
The voice sounded more agitated now. Closer, too. It echoed a buzz from Troy’s right ear to his left. He tilted his head towards the direction he thought it was coming from. He only saw chaos: blackness, orbs of light, shadows of faces he knew from one reality or another. He squeezed his lids shut.
Peter was dead. A version of Troy was sure of that. A throbbing penitence in his chest threatened to crack him open and stick needles in his mind’s eye; poking the most sensitive spots. Some of the other gamers he had met had called that ghost pain, but Troy knew better. It was pain being bestowed upon him in one place, but not in the other. Their insatiable thirst for truth turned them into monsters. But Troy couldn’t give them truth because it didn’t exist – not in the isolated way they expected it to. In fact, there were a couple truths. Just as there were a couple Troys. One Troy, he was beginning to think, had done something very, very bad.
“Why did you hurt Peter, Troy? Was it part of the game?”
But it was just a game. It was just one version of Troy, in one version of reality. Two places. Two truths. Hadn’t that been the point of the game? To live out fantasies and scenarios in one reality that might not be acceptable in another? The developers, the marketers, the goddamned ads; they all said that.
Unleash Your Darkest Fantasies.
That’s what the ads said. One reality was for fools, but trying to balance two at once – that was shredding Troy up from the inside.
“Troy? Troy, you have to stay with us.”
He could feel himself being pulled away. He needed to get himself, his whole self, out of the two places and into just one. Not this one. This one was full of contradiction and amercement. This one told Troy to indulge, and whipped him when he did so. This one was cruel.
Troy’s heartbeat amplified, his temperature rose, and his brain continued to pulsate against his skull. He hissed, and cried, and tried to scream.
Two realities, and to neither could his contentment belong.
Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©