Ugh. I continued on. The enemies were dropping more rapidly and I started to work up a sweat - or rather, I imagined my on-screen persona working up a sweat - a real problem when you don't have a bathroom in your apartment.

>that's right, that's right

The wee echochrome men dropped like mortar fire, nearly as violently as the increasingly disturbing conversation occurring a few feet from my avatar. Then-

>SQUIRT

image

I had to get out. I fled to the exit as fast as my prosthesis could carry me. Then I waited for the Central Plaza to load. And then I fled again, as fast as my prosthesis could carry me. Except I didn't. I'd managed to not only run back into the Bowling Alley loading area, but actually confirm loading the Bowling Alley. I caught a glimpse of the two lovers in the corner. My exit was quick, and I waited for the Central Plaza to load once more.

...

Then I fled, as fast as my prosthesis could carry me. I ran across the plaza winding my way through the yammering herd and back to the entrance of my apartment, where I stood and waited for it to load. But something was wrong. It wasn't loading. Had I moved to the wrong spot? I tried moving - no use. I was stuck.

I sat there flailing about madly as people made their way past me, brushing against me and sending my shoulder flying backwards. I looked like an inflatable knock down doll. And, as if on cue, there he was.

>lol wuz up john tesh

blunt_killa7329 was mocking my misfortune. People started to gather to watch the large, ugly man flutter in the door.

I couldn't bear it - I had to shut down the system. I reached behind my PlayStation 3 and flipped its main power switch, rather than powering it down properly. I didn't care. I'd log back on, alter my creature and be done with Home for the day. echochrome wasn't going anywhere.

Upon rebooting the system and re-entering Home, I saw a message. In that moment, a million thoughts rushed to my mind: Maybe I'd made a good impression on someone; maybe they were going to invite me to their clubhouse where we'd drink dark coffee, plan turf wars and schedule bowling nights. I opened the message.

go away, it said. That's all. No subject line. Just a message from someone I didn't recall within the game world telling me I wasn't welcome there. That's fine. I can take a hint..

I shut down the PS3.

Jonathan Glover is a writer living on the East Coast.

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