She was tired. She had just run the five-mile obstacle course again after work. She really didn’t have to, but she had some extra energy to burn, and it had worked. At least for the moment. Running the course was her go-to thing, so she really didn’t have to go to her cramped apartment and stare at the walls. It was Friday night, and everyone she knew was settling in for family fun or going out with someone. It was only then when she really felt alone.
Becoming a doctor had always been her goal. She had worked and strived for it in a way that she had never thought was possible. When she had done everything, she could in high school she could to take all those college class she hadn’t thought about the workload she had. She had been so busy that she had forgot about friendships and relationships and the fact neither really mattered to her. Graduation had been a time to open her eyes, though. All the parties everyone was talking about, but she wasn’t invited. She began to regret a few of her decisions then.
College was only six months for her. Then she quickly was transferred into a local medical school. People were amazed with her mental abilities even though interpersonal relationships seemed to be out of her reach, she could find herself in her work. She finished quickly in two and a half years. She was barely twenty when she took her first post as an intern, and then she passed her residence just as quickly. Logging the hours before anyone else. At twenty-three, she could have been a full practicing doctor, but instead, she made a decision that shocked nearly everyone. She signed on as a consultant for the military research unit.
That lead her to where she was at now. Twenty-six and still grasping at straws. She had learned to make friends with the men in her unit. She even called their significant other friends, but it didn’t change the fact her house was empty when she went home. She really didn’t know how to be anything other than what she was.
She walked to her truck in the parking lot, still cooling off from the run and the workout. She noticed other color groups still there talking about their plans for the weekend. She was easily overlooked as she walked by, or so she thought. Her hair wet with sweat and her tank top sticking to her she knew some of the eyes were looking at her body, but they never really saw her. It was a fact for her that she was a brain and had a body, but no one ever really saw her.
She hopped into her truck and headed to her cold, empty apartment. She has long since gotten used to the fact she was alone in the world, and she knew she probably remain that way for the rest of her life as well. She was resigned to that. She had her work. She had a few friends. She had her computer. It was a side to her; no one knew about. her gaming was her release even though she knew some of her co-workers also played the same game she never said anything to them or asked to join their guilds. She was just happy to play alone.
The faint glow of the computer was enough to get her somewhat excited after her shower, and she forced herself to eat something. It was still rather early, and she knew some of the online player she normally would talk to wouldn’t be on yet. She wanted to complete some of her tasks on her list before she got distracted. She logged on and began playing. She was glued to the screen as she completed two of the tasks, and them looked up to see the time. She had lost three hours. It was that easy, sometimes. Though she could easily play for hours on end, she normally limited herself on weekdays because she did need sleep sometimes. The weekends though she could just go for it.
She noticed in the corner it was lighting up as she got mail. She clicked it. It was from GoblinKing one of her player friends.
“What are you doing on beautiful? It is Friday night.”
She sent back a quick message to them.
“One you have no idea what I look like and two who cares if it is Friday?”
She knew this could go on for hours, so when the icon lit up again, she ignored it. She went on to her next task, and it would level her up. She was close to being at the top of her characters limits with leveling without learning a new task as well. That would come later. The instant message popped up at the bottom of the screen from another player, Shadowmaster. “Hey, Princess, Glad to see you on. Thought you would be out.”
“Why, I am always on?” she typed back, and she wondered if her gamer friends were going to push her out as well.
“Don’t you date?” they asked.
“No. Why would that matter?” she asked now getting frustrated.
“I don’t see why you don’t,” they replied.
“Why would it matter to you?” she responded.
“Just saying you are beautiful and smart. A real catch.” They typed out, and she read.
“Do I know you?” she asked hesitantly.
“Would it matter if you did?” they asked.
“I guess not.” She responded.
“Then, let’s leave it at that.” They said.
“Okay, Shadowmaster.” She typed and went on with her mission.
“Call me M,” they sent about five minutes later.
“Okay, M.,” she said as she was reading on her task.
“Princess, what task are you doing?” they asked again. She went on to explain, and then, “Go to comms.” Popped up on the screen. Comms she asked herself, only military personal normally called them comms. She brushed the thought aside and put on her mic. She plugged it in, and she heard the sound of what seemed twelve different people.
“You on Princess?” a deep and silky male voice asked.
“M?” she asked.
“That’s me.” He said chuckling. “I was going to say if you wait five minutes till I can get to your position, I can help you with the task. I had to do it early on. You almost need two people to get it done the first few times.”
“Alright, I’ll wait.” She said as he was typing. “Are those people with you, or are they just background noise?”
“Oh, I am at a friends house. They are all playing, as well.” M said.
“And you’re playing with me and not them?” she asked.
“No, biggie. Most of them are in different sections. Some are in different servers. We help when we can.” M replied.
“You’re military.” She said.
“Army.” He replied. “You are too.”
“No, I’m not. Just attached to a unit.” She said, laughing.
“I know.” He said, and her head snapped back to the screen.
“What do you mean by that?” she asked.
“It is okay Doc.” M said, “I’m not a stalker or anything. We all know you play, as well.”
“We?” she squeaked out.
“The guys in my unit. We saw you talk about it once. We knew you played, we were going to invite you, but then people thought you would blow us off.” He said softly. “I figured out this character was you a while back.”
“And that isn’t stalking?” she asked.
“No, not really. I just wanted to help you on your tasks. You seem to enjoy this world more than the real one.” He said.
“Sometimes, when I don’t have to be me. Yeah, I like this one more.” She said, letting her guard drop for a minute.
“Why is what I don’t understand?” he asked.
“No one expects anything from me here. I mean we trade, we help each other, and no one is the wiser as to who we really are. It is freeing in a way.” She said.
“I can relate.” He said. “Does it bother you we know who you are?”
“Not really. Maybe. A little, maybe.” She said, and he chuckled.
“Look, Princess, I don’t expect anything in the real world, but here we can be friends.” He said smoothly, and it was hard to think that one through.
“I could be okay with that.” She said with a smile.
“Good. Now Let’s go kick some orc ass.” He said as his character showed up on her screen and started to lead the way. She followed. This was going to be the weirdest friendship ever in her mind, but it wouldn’t be the worst either.
Three more tasks done with her new knight in fairy armor, Shadowmaster, better known as M, helped her with. “You’re not tired yet?” he asked in her ear.
“I binge on the weekends.” She replied.
“How do you not go out?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” she asked back.
“I meant what I said earlier. You are beautiful and smart, how are you still single?” he asked matter of factly.
“I don’t date.” She said. “I don’t really have friends either. Hazards of the job. you should know that.” She replied. “I don’t see you out dating. You spend nearly the same amount on her as I do.”
“True.” He said, “But I thought that was kind of obvious as to why.”
“I’m lost.” She said not following his words.
“I wanted to spend time with you.” He said softly.
“You what?” she exclaimed.
“If you were playing, I wanted to be playing as well.” He said.
“Now, I know you are punking me.” She said about ready to rip off her headphones and turn the game off.
“Princess, no, I am not. I don’t date either, hazard of the job. Spending some time with you helps ease that.” He said.
“Fine.” She said as she sighed. She had a hard time believing any of what he was saying, but he seemed sincere at least. “Let’s finish the task, and you can go to sleep.”
“If you’re on, so am I,” he said through a yawn.
“That isn’t fair.” She said as she looked at the screen and saw the time. “You should go to bed. It is late.”
“Princess, that is not how this works.” He said, laughing. “You go to bed first.”
“How about we both go to sleep and agree to come on at a certain time?” she asked.
“That sounds Like a plan, Princess.” He said as he yawned again. “Let’s say seven tomorrow?”
“Am or pm?” she asked.
“Am.” He replied. “We will see about Pm as well.”
“Alright. It sounds like a plan.” She said as she let out an airy laugh.
“It’s a date.” He said as they both shut their computer screens off.
She crawled into bed as she set an alarm to wake up before seven. She was looking forward to the morning in a way she had never thought of before. A date, huh, she thought to herself. It was almost really like a date for her, and she was smiling as sleep found her as she tried to place the voice she had heard tonight. She never realized it was a lot closer to her than she knew.