Flash: Not All Who Wander

Image courtesy of the Internet Hive Mind

Today’s flash is based on a sign I saw while delivering mail today, “Not all who wander” and below it was a painting of a RV. And I thought to myself, “Not all who wander, leave home.”


Becca stood, leaning against the tree nearest the cliff’s edge, to watch the specular Aurora Polaris, doing her best to ignore the black hole in her field of vision on the left side stating the game simulation number, the companies involved in programming it, and all the other required matter so people never forget virtual reality is not actually reality. She could hack the credits spot to non-existence, but then she would spend another six months in rehabilitation without VR and there was no way she was going through that again just to get rid of the annoying spot.

She did have a list of things she was willing to get banned for, but not for simple credits. Getting rid of all credits … maybe, be people deserve to get paid. Especially – Becca glanced over to the credits space, expanding it for a moment – Northern Reaches, who developed the Northern Lights visuals. She snapped her eyes back to the green and blue curtains dancing across the sky.

“There you are.” Garret dropped on the ground next to her.

“Here I am.” She agreed, nodding at him.

“I just wanted to thank you for your help in the underground fortress.” The fighter, and leader of the gaming party who hired her character, plucked at the grass, not meeting her eyes and somehow shrugging down so his nearly seven-foot half-giant frame didn’t tower over her while he sat beside her. “Virgay and Daph wouldn’t have made it through without your healing.”

“De nada. You paid me well for that task.” Becca waved a green hand, the Aurora lights sparkling against her scales.

“I was…” Garret coughed to clear his throat, “I was wondering if you would like to join our band of adventurers.”

Startled, Becca made eye contact. “Um, well.”

“I mean, not to take you away from your normal group-“

She cut in. “I don’t have a normal group.” Rocking against the tree, she tried to decide what to say next. The last three days had been awesome, especially Garret. He made her laugh more than anyone had since, well, more than anyone ever. They talked late into the night. But that didn’t really change the reality side of her life. Better to bite the bullet now, because as idyllic as this episode had been, VR recreation time would end soon. “What I do have is a very unpredictable schedule. I mean I like you peeps well enough …” Becca switched the cutoff mid-stream. Her life had enough lemons, and Garret-time had made the normal lemons feel like a souffle these past few days. “and I really liked you. But I don’t know when-“

An internal alarm went off.

“You are kidding me.” Becca glanced over at her personal dashboard. “Already?”

“Becca?” Garret glanced in the direction of her stare.

“Garret I’m so sorry, I’m… will you shut off! I heard you the first time…about to have my Unplug Time.”

He stood to reach out to her, she could see the protest in his golden eyes.

“Look, I don’t know when my next…Turn Off!” Becca stabbed the air until the alarm stopped. “Look, I really like…Damn it, it’s pulling me out.”

Garret blinked as the dragon-kin cleric disappeared. Triple Zed. He really liked her. And his party was going to need another cleric soon. That had only been the third chapter of the adventure. The half-giant fighter meandered back to the rest of his party.


Becca carefully touched each finger on her right hand to her right thumb while waiting for the VR tube to open, then did the same with her left hand. Success. Every finger worked!

She waited for the medical bot to unhook vitals, help her swing her legs over the edge, and do the basic tests. Becca couldn’t feel her toes today as the bot checked. You win some, you lose some. Still an improvement over the state she was in before she started the most recent round of therapy. The new VR suite cost triple what a normal one would, but it pumped her full of medications and worked her muscles throughout her Hookup to the specific therapies her doctors recommended instead of just the standard maintenance of health. Before her degenerative nerve condition had her to the point of not even being able to move her head. Now she had motor control of her hands, arms, and shoulders.

“Did you have a nice time Becca?” The robot asked. Its base programming included minor companionship interaction. People didn’t react well to a tool moving them around.

“The rec time went well, thank you for asking R9.” Becca rocked with the robot as it transferred her to her mobile-chair. “What is on the program for today?”

The medical robot reviewed the two doctor visits for the day, as well the food orders and other basic maintenance normal Reals needed to do during their required Unplug day. While listening with half an ear, Becca did something she had never done before. She sent a Contact Card to Garret’s dashboard. He could now message her outside the game if he wanted.

Not meet her. Never meet her. Who would want to deal with the medical trainwreck of her life? But … maybe … be a virtual friend?

(First published 2/27/2022; 879 words)

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