He tried to talk to her about the game one Sunday lunchtime in mid June. Some friends had invited them over for dinner, but Jonny had been playing Affrayed in the morning and he was agitated before they left.
‘Gennie,’ he said urgently, while she was trying to decide what to wear, ‘I have to talk to you.’
She carried on looking through the wardrobe. ‘Go on, then,’ she said.
‘It’s about Affrayed.’
She slammed the wardrobe door closed. ‘I don’t want to hear it.’
‘You have to listen,’ he said, ‘and you have to believe me. It’s not just a game. I’m sorry I spend so long on it, but you should play it too. It… it’s important.’
Imogen turned to him. ‘It’s a game,’ she said. ‘Maybe it’s fun, maybe it’s interesting. It is not important. Not more important than your real life.’
‘Gennie,’ he said, ‘you know I wouldn’t be saying this if I didn’t believe it. I know I sound like I’ve lost my mind, but you’ve seen me play without touching the keys-’
‘I haven’t,’ she said. It was true that sometimes she’d turned and seen him with his hands in his lap, but as soon as she looked at him- when she really looked at him to try to ascertain whether his claims were true- he’d snap out of the game and come back to reality again. She had never actually witnessed him controlling Affrayed with his mind as he claimed.
‘Please,’ he said, ‘Gennie…’ he sounded so desperate, and when she replied a little sob crept into her voice. ‘Jonny, I don’t understand,’ she said, ‘it’s a game. You have to let it go-’
‘But it links me to the other players,’ he said, ‘I know things about them. Things I couldn’t possibly know. And there’s something else as well, it links me to something else, to this… being. I can sense it-’ her face must have shown what she thought because his desperation increased. ‘I’m not crazy,’ he said, ‘when I’m in Affrayed it links us together and I feel… I feel part of something. I’ve always said there has to be a better way of living and I think Affrayed-’
‘It’s a game,’ Imogen said, ‘a game where gangs of people roam around killing each other for resources. I’ve heard about it. They talk about it on the news. How can you say it’s a better way of living? I’ve heard the sorts of things people can do to each other in that game and it sounds… it sounds disgusting to me. The people who made it should be ashamed.’
‘Gennie, no,’ he said, ‘it’s not like that. I don’t mean the violence is good, I mean the… the unity, the togetherness…’
Imogen turned away from him and rubbed tears from her eyes with the back of her hand.