How can tomorrow even exist for us if you won't fight for yourself today?

Tempest Crossing

The Grand Challenge - Chapter 9 (Remember)

It wasn't always like this, huh?


My entire body attempts to rile upwards as my feet violently thrash and I jerk upright into the sitting position. I immediately take the headset off and toss it aside without giving it a second thought. I take a steady glance at my surroundings, and yes, it is once again the bedroom of my apartment, left just as disheveled and disorganized as I had left it. Suddenly remembering the waves of pain that continually washed over my body not even moments ago, I gingerly touch my skin and find - nothing out of the ordinary. No jolting pain or twisting torture from simply moving around. Finally taking in that I was back in my own reality, I turn slowly to look for the VR headset I tossed aside so frantically, and find it precariously perched at the edge of my bed. ‘Thank goodness it didn’t fall onto the floor’, I thought to myself as I was casually reaching over to the headset and suddenly remembering -

[ All that happened to me in the blink of an eye.]

which quickly stopped my hands from moving any closer to the headset. I’m… not sure what will happen if I pick it up so suddenly. Will I be whisked away into that realistic experience once? How easy it is to get back in there? Touching it with one finger, the headset remains still, not a care in the world. I slowly turn the eye visors away from me in case looking into it sucks me back into that world, and slow place the headset back onto its charging dock. After gingerly setting it down to its usual resting place, another thought passes through my head - what happened to Anim? No, it wasn’t real, it was just an unusually immersive experience. These false words of uncertain confidence is what I decided would settle my thoughts with as I turned over in bed and attempted to go to sleep in, unenthusiastically anticipating the next work day that was upon me.

That night, I stayed awake for what seemed like the entire night. I hadn’t been sleeping too well prior, but tonight’s reason was a little different from normal. I spent time awake in bed looking at the ceiling, thinking about all the things I could have done differently in that scenario. The plan I came up with was stupid and spur of the moment, there had to be something else that could have been done to trigger the win condition. If I had assessed the situation with even a modem of seriousness, I probably would not have taken the initial hit from the monster to quickly assess what the physics were like in that experience. True, I would have been shocked at how much pain I could cause myself as quick proof (punching a nearby washing machine would have presumably been my plan), and maybe I could have formulated more options to escape the junkyard monster. At Anim’s full physical capacity, she probably still would not have not been able to outrun the monster, but at she could have hidden from sight, or maybe find another area with a drop trap, or maybe there was some sort of magic core powering this thing and we could have smashed it and -

It doesn’t matter ultimately in the end, because I failed Anim and her avatar suffered a sudden and painful death unworthy of anyone, real or not.

But the lingering guilt of everything I screw up was something I carried with me everywhere, and this wasn’t the first instance of it happening. Most of the time, I usually lock away any unpleasantries somewhere underneath - there isn’t any need to dwell on them in my life if they can’t be resolved. And a majority of the time, things go by rather uneventfully, but this instance was different. I usually do a slightly above average job at work to make sure I don’t end up at the bottom barrel of the employee performance axe, but today and the following days have showed me putting in more a more lackluster performance than usual. I hope my boss doesn’t call me out on it.

I also haven’t been able to eat ever since that day. I originally moved out on my own to develop a sense of freedom and adulthood, but that vision of myself quickly dissolved as I became lackluster with the quality and taste of the food I created. It wasn’t great, and it wasn’t going to get better. My diet pretty much resolved to frozen food at the grocery store and sometimes app-based deliveries from local chain restaurants if I really wanted to treat myself. It was still garbage comfort food, but at least it felt a bit fresher.

But looking at all the packaging, the to-go containers, the once-and-done plastic bags riled up a sickness inside of me. It reminded me of the world Anim inhabited, too close to my own reality, and the smells and senses of that encounter welled over my body once more.

Still, eventually even I had to succumb to the bare minimum requirements of my body, and I mindless decided to change things up and walk to the grocery store instead of the quick car ride per normal. For the first time, I noticed how much the smell of gas exhaust bothered me. Once I got to the store, I wandered over to the fresh produce and grains sections. I racked my brain for something easy I could cook to satiate my appetite, and settled on raw broccoli, a carton of eggs, and a small bag of rice. This could make a simple meal, and would probably settle with my stomach a lot better, and with a lot less waste.

sizzle sizzle sizzle



The broccoli and rice I set in the steamer finished cooking and I finish frying a simple egg with a small fryer I happened to have on hand at the apartment, and apathetically put the ensemble together on one of the three cheap porcelain plates I bought a long time ago to christen my apartmenthood lifestyle. Carrying it over to my computer desk ( I didn’t bother buying a kitchen table after moving in), I sit down and settle in to mindlessly take the first bite. It didn’t taste like much, nothing really has in a while, but something about this texture, and this smell, and the wave the fresh heat radiates off the plate. It reminds of an experience I had tucked away long ago - somewhere where fresh food like this was made everyday, and several magnitudes more delicious. Without realizing it, I feel a small tear tolling itself off my face. I wipe it away without much thought and begin to take the second bite when -


I get a notification on my phone. Pulling up the screen and unlocking the screen instinctually, I read the notification text and drop the fork in my other hand.



Dialogue & Discussion