Romantic Paradise

“You’ve been to the AlterNet, right?” Carly asked as casually as she could. The question itself was awkward. Nicole, Carly’s best friend, took every opportunity to talk up the VR network to her. “What’s your take?” Carly knew Nicole’s opinion of the game; her friend never shut up about it. The two women were sitting at Carly’s table enjoying their weekly Monday lunch when she brought the subject up. Nicole grinned to herself. If Carly wanted to talk about it she wanted to try it.

“It’s like this…,” Nicole used her hands to gesture at the entirety of Carly’s quaint kitchen. “…but with more magic.”

“I’ve heard it’s so real that you can lose track of reality…,” Carly said. Nicole shook her head.

“Anyone can say anything. Have you heard of people actually losing track of reality or just heard that it’s possible?” Carly narrowed her eyes to slits and stared at Nicole; the same way she always did when her friend made her think about things in a different way. It’s part of why they were friends at all. Carly appreciated having access to different viewpoints. No viewpoint was more different from her own than Nicole’s.

“It’s not that you lose track of reality,” Nicole said. “It’s more like you don’t care anymore. Right now I’m sitting here in my best friend’s kitchen having a delicious lunch and enjoying her company. Is it real?” Nicole shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. I’m enjoying it.”

“Of course it’s real,” Carly giggled. “We’ve known each other since elementary.” Nicole smiled.

“But what is real?” How do you define reality?” Nicole knocked on the dining table. “Feels real, but so does stuff in the AlterNet. Nothing’s real,” Nicole pointed to her eye. “We perceive everything through our senses. Our eyes only see a small slice of the spectrum and even then I might interpret it in a different way than you. There is no objective reality, not to us.”

“So you’ve probably taken a few too many trips,” Carly said with a smirk.

“Yeah, maybe. So what kind of character are you gonna make?” Nicole asked.

“I always wanted to be a Dancer…,” Carly paused to think. Nicole shook her head and smiled.

“I know you and I know you decided already,” Nicole said smugly. “Friends since elementary, remember?” Carly’s eyes sparkled and the corners of her mouth twitched upward. Nicole read her instantly. “You sneak! You already went without telling me! When? How’d it go?”

“This weekend,” Carly said with a full blush. “I don’t know what came over me. I was out for that conference…,” Nicole nodded. “… and my suite had a private mudroom. It was right there, I couldn’t resist!”

“And then??” Nicole leaned forward over the table.

“And I said what the hell? Reality be damned! So I got in the dirt and logged in to make my character. It was a disaster,” Carly hung her head. “I wanted to pick someplace nice to just relax for the weekend. One server looked promising,”

“Oh no,” Nicole said. “You didn’t…” Carly nodded.

“They should put better descriptions in the server names. The Paradise server was not what I expected,” Carly said.

“Yeah,” Nicole said with a smile. “It’s kind of a running gag in the AlterNet.”

“Well thank you for telling me,” Carly began to blame Nicole but her friend wouldn’t accept it.

“Thanks for going without me!

“I was in another city!”

“It’s a NETWORK. The whole point is accessing it from somewhere else.” Carly narrowed her eyes again.

“Oh. Yeah. Well, it worked out anyway.” Her smile and blush came back stronger than before.

“I met someone…,” she said. She bit her bottom lip as her cheeks began to almost glow red.

“Get out! Who? Tell me about him!”

“He’s…Unique,” Carly said in a near-whisper. Nicole jumped out of her seat.

“GET OUT!” She screamed with a giant smile on her face. She ran around the table and started shaking Carly. “TELLLLLL MEEEE!” Carly lifted her arm as Nicole jostled her, and pointed at a black hole that appeared in her kitchen.

“Wanna meet him?” She asked.

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