“Thanks,” Angela said. She turned for the exit, then hesitated and glanced back. “We could have a rematch sometime… if you want.”
“I’d like that,” Leigh said. “I’m sending you my contact info now.”
Angela’s phone buzzed. Without removing it from her pocket, she could “see” the contents of the message; email address, phone number, Twitter handle, and a couple other services Angela hadn’t even heard of.
“See you around,” Leigh said.
“Bye,” Angela replied.
As she made her way back down to the game store, she could barely contain her excitement. With her phone still in her pocket, she composed a new message.
“I think I just made a new friend.”
She added Genesis as the recipient and was about to send the message when something held her back. This sinking feeling came over her, telling her that she was about to make a huge mistake.
She canceled the message and stepped into the store.
After work, Angela headed straight home and logged into Akkraemyth. The game seemed so different now. She could see through the surface to the underlying systems beneath; the rules governing enemies, non-player characters, the in-game economy. It all just made sense.
She didn’t even need to use her keyboard and mouse to play anymore. Her character moved by thought alone. As if Angela and Talon were the same person.
She joined up with Lilith on the outskirts of Sal Ish’aek and they ventured into the desert together. Talon made short work of the sandworms and basilisks this time, even without elven assistance.
They played for a few hours, traveling from one end of Kal Ekred to the other, until finally Angela needed to call it a night. After making plans to meet up on her day off, she logged out of the game and headed to bed.