I hovered around the edges of the group by the music. I could feel the memories, the despair starting to climb inside me and I fought to keep it at bay. It’s hard to imagine that all it takes is one moment, a singular moment of metal and plastic colliding and a person could be locked in his head, unable to move or talk. But still alive, still awake.
It must have been horrible. No wonder every year since, he’s volunteered to host the party, here in the home he’s made in his mind. I looked around — it was uncanny. If you didn’t pay close attention it looked like any luxury apartment. But it was too perfect, too clean. And the ‘costumes’; for a group of people who never grew out of playing dress-up, the opportunity was too tempting.
“Nice t-shirt.” The voice came out of a sleek chrome and black leather sofa, and I jumped. At least my real body did, but my avatar simply smiled.
“Thanks,” I said. “I think you’ve got ‘most unexpected’ sewn up this year.”
“Ha!” the sofa said. “Very funny. But you have ‘most inscrutable’ for sure. Or maybe ‘most meta’? Dressed up as a person who couldn’t be bothered to dress up? Kind of impressive.”
I laughed, revelling in the moment of normalcy. Friends, making jokes. No one accusing anyone of anything. It was freeing.
“Would it be inappropriate to sit on you?”
“Nah, I’m game.”
I perched on the sofa and tried to pick out Emil from the gryphons and rainbows and impossibly beautiful people in the room. Once, I’d have thought I’d know him anywhere. Each year I found I was wrong.