Imagine a room, an ordinary 15’x12’ sunken into the recesses of a suburban home with one door exiting to an off-white hallway. Carpeting so compacted from years of use and little attention from a vacuum cleaner that its color could no longer be described—as the brochure did—as apricot, but instead retains a desaturated peach. Even that color hasn’t been seen for ages, the floor is missing in action, buried beneath piles of dark clothing, haphazardly flung books, and discarded flyers. Even sunlight thinks twice before attempting to slide between the slats of the window shades.
There is but one light. There is ever only one light.
That light is the wan glow of a 19” monitor casting hazy contrasts of black against the shrouded mounds and mountains in the room that form foothills and hidden paths leading between the three points of interest of the entire domain: the bed, the door, and the computer.
Imagine a girl, an ordinary 5’3” hunched over with teenage bad posture, spending her winter break at home from school in the wan light of her computer. She is ordinary, as ordinary standards go, except for the ghostly complexion of an individual who has not seen their fair share of sun. She is neither popular nor shunned by her classmates and has a regular clique that she runs with during the school days. She has a weekend job working at the local comic book store, smiling while passing out flyers and posters. But she’s taken the next two weekends off.
She doesn’t have a name; she hadn’t chosen one yet.
On the table nearby, taking up the only clear space in the entire room, is a green box. Imagine a box, an ordinary 5¼”x 7½” video game box sporting fold-out inserts for the cover and a preternatural lightness to its heft that belies the contents stored within. Emblazoned over the surface—above the oh-so-handsome staring face of a blonde elf with vorpal eyebrows and nuclear green eyes—display the words: World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.
“You haven’t played one of these games before, have you?” asked the screen that comes up after she installs the game.
Now, to an ordinary person—which for the most part she is—a computer talking, or at least inviting questions of this earnest and soul-searching sort would have seemed strange, but after a certain point for everyone, ordinary must end and extraordinary begin. In her usual day the inanimate have in fact a lot more anima than most people give them credit for, especially computers.
“No,” she replied, “but a lot of my friends are playing it. And they all say that I should try. So I’m going to.”
“Okay. What shard are they on?”
“Where did they say they played?”
She thought hard. She recalled them telling her, repeatedly in fact, to remember a particular word—or world maybe—so that she could find them when she finally arrived.
The screen changed, swirling into a selection of faces. The currently chosen, a green, beefy fellow holding an axe in one hand and displaying a sizable set of yellowed lower fangs stared back at her.
“That’s an orc.”
“I don’t think I want to be an orc. Green just doesn’t match my eyes. I think I was told to be a blood elf.” A click later and a smile crossed her lips. “Yes. Much better.” Displayed on the screen was a tragically thin thing with exaggerated eyebrows and glowing eyes, sporting a very large sword.
“You’re going to have to choose a name. We can’t have people traipsing around with it all hanging out, nameless. It’s just not decent.”
“What about Helvetica?” the girl suggested. “I like the sound of that word. It’s sharp and pointy.”
“Sorry to break it to you, but Helvetica is a sans-serif: it has no points. Why don’t you go with Garamond.”
“That sounds round. I’m not round.”
She spent a lot more time on Helvetica’s hair than she ever did on her own in real life. Flipping back and forth between different hairstyles (even though there only seemed to be seven of them) and changing the color over and over until she found something she liked. In fact, compared to the time it took her to install the game it took her three times as long to choose a look.
“Are we ready to go yet?”
“I think—no wait.”
Click. The hair changed again from something loopy and layered to a more somber, refined hairdo.
“I don’t know. Does this hair color look good with this—”
“What do I look like, a stylist? Do you like it?”
“Yes. I guess so.”
“Then go with it.”
“Fine, fine,” she said, still wondering maybe what her elf would look like with short blonde hair (like hers) instead of long white hair. The mouse moved lazily, almost as if it were pretending to stretch so that it could get its arm around one of the buttons in a movie theater…
“Oh no you don’t!”
“What, I was just—”
“Trying to pull a fast one on me.”
“But I was—”
“Do you want me to pull this video game over to the side of the road, missy?”
She pouted. “Well, no…but—”
“Then get a move on! Move it! Move it!”
“I can see that I’m not going to win this one. I’m going. I’m going.”
Click? Click-click- click. Clickity-click.
“Did you just change her hair again?”
Pretending innocence she said, “She’s always had white-blonde hair.”
“You changed her earrings!”
“Mm, they were tacky.”
“Can we get going now?”
Imagine a start screen, an ordinary—no, in fact it was not an ordinary start screen. As the dear reader may already know there comes a time in the life of every story that extraordinary lies ahead and ordinary is left behind.
And for this story it is that time.
The author Helvetica writes the Helvetica Venture and Hellvetica Chronicles for Vox Ex Machina and proudly supports the works of Kyt Dotson, whose writing includes Mill Avenue Vexations (a gothic webserial featuring cab driver Vex Harrow), Black Hat Magick, and Helljammer and invites you to check out the novel, The Specter in the Spectacles by Kyt Dotson.