Chloe mentions that she got her new track pants in the metaverse when she went shopping with Alessa and you hate to think that they’re hanging out without you in some virtual Ivy Park and getting matching tattoos while you’re sitting at home eating salmon salad with your parents. She told you she’d get a matching tattoo with you, a real one when you both graduate – two halves of a butterfly – but you’ve heard that in the verse when you have tattoos like that and you line up the ink, the blue outline will shiver and crawl right out of your skin, hover above you as you hold onto each other on a roller coaster at Cedar Point even though you’ve never left Florida.
Shit is so much cooler in there. Tattoos mean something in there. People go places in there.
She stops laughing at your jokes slowly and then all at once and you know you’re losing her, not in the same way where one of you gets super into knitting and the other joins a Rugby team but more in the way where there’s this whole other world you’re not a part of. You don’t exist in there. You don’t know what goes on in the virtual Target where you buy virtual deodorant and pick out virtual press ons and put them on your virtual nails.
So you pay the nerd who spends free periods on VR in the back of the library to let you borrow his goggles. You slide the sweaty set over your eyes and step into his skin and you can tell he doesn’t buy virtual deodorant at the virtual Target because his Sim has an old green microwave feel to it.
The second the place absorbs you, your skin prickles. She’s here.
Even if the nerd doesn’t know Chloe personally, he spends a lot of time watching her stories and reels on social media and following her here in a metaverse literal way – a remora sort of way – and you realize you know how he feels even though it’s also really creepy and sad. So it doesn’t take long to locate her in the high definition screensaver area on the edge of Marinha Beach in Lagoa, Portugal.
She’s alone. The waves rush up to her lapis painted toenails and drift out over and over again.
She doesn’t notice you and if she’s sitting here, thinking about anyone, it’s probably Alessa and definitely not you because you’re not a beach person. You don’t know what to do so you just stand there in the sand for a while, the granules getting into the ruts of the nerd’s virtual kicks.
And when you decide to reach out your weird boy hand for her regular Chloe shoulder, there’s a split second where you’re in the same place and she sees you. Really sees you.
In that moment, you know it’s all true. But then, she’s gone.
Salena Casha’s work has appeared in over 50 publications in the last decade. Her most recent work can be found on trampset, FlashBack Fiction, Bending Genres, Scrawl Place, Rejections Letters, and Pithead Chapel. She survives New England winters on good beer and black coffee. Follow her on twitter @salaylay_c