the scholar

his pockets dusty with chalk
he strode through stone halls
nobody noticing
a tall thin man with glasses with a notebook

remembering the last instructions
the final words
he entered the library
dappled with musty sunlight

remembering the sequence
found the right shelf
tucking the book under his arm
he sought solace in the alcove

reading just enough
he smiled while making notes
patting the book like an old friend
knowing his adventure was about to begin

Hidden on the Hard Drive

He awoke to what looked like orange rinds on the inside of his eyelids. Bright sunshine was trying to squeeze through. His eyes were still closed, but his slight headache assured him he was indeed awake. Where he was was another kettle of fish. He was almost afraid to open his eyes. Every time he awoke, the locale was so jarringly different. He somewhat enjoyed waking up on the pirate ship, a half-clad wench plastered up against him on the narrow bunk. The rolling of the boat was remarkably realistic. The sights and sounds were graphically excellent too. Almost as good as the crisp scenery of the Middle East war scene he found himself in one morning. Some of the worst visuals but the best sensations upon waking had to have been the porno. He wanted to wake up with two women servicing him every day. But that was not to be. He didn’t seem to have a choice. Not since he had fallen into his computer.

This story sounds absurd, I know, but I assure you every word is true. My boyfriend is lost to a computer, and not metaphorically like he spends too much time working or playing, but he actually physically disappeared. I know roughly where he is because somehow we are able to communicate via messaging. He sounds rather confused and not at all like himself anymore. I can’t say I blame him after living virtually for over a month.

The way this transpired is really beside the point. With much typing and figuring between us, the best we can guess is that whatever happened can be traced back to the freak electrical storm we had shortly after that asteroid came close to the earth’s atmosphere recently. (I know, such a cliché, but what can you do?)

Since that night when he never came to bed and I woke up alone, he has had some unsettling and interesting adventures! His first foray on our laptop was to find himself in the midst of a racing game. He woke up in an idling racecar, ready to go at the starting line. At the signal, the cars on either side of him took off. He sat a moment, decided it must be a dream, and hit the accelerator. With the first hard turn, his body slammed into the car’s side and he thought it odd to have any feeling in a dream. He somehow finished the race, somewhere in the second heat. Getting out of the car, he felt wetness on his cheek. He swiped and saw blood. Blood? And it hurt! He walked over to another driver, tried to formulate a clear question in his mind but really, what could he say? “Is this a dream?” sounded lame in his head. And even though what he could see and hear looked real, something was missing. Someone handed him a cloth to wipe his face. Someone else handed him a bottle of something to drink. He brought it to his nose to determine what it was. There was brown liquid with bubbles in the bottle but there was no smell. He gingerly took a sip. No taste.

Over the next couple of days he toggled back and forth from the races to the pirate ship. He found some way to communicate with me, which I still don’t understand. He messaged me that he had played a relaxing game of solitaire and a terrifying game of pinball (he said he felt like Indiana Jones running from giant metal balls in the game). We could not figure out how to predict where he would land next. He tried thinking of where he’d like to be and hope to wake up there in the morning. That did not work. I was afraid to mess with any of the laptop’s settings so I just kept it plugged in and let it go to sleep mode when I wasn’t sitting in front of it until my eyes were dry and my head hurt. Sometimes I could make him out in the game, sometimes not. I had an easier time picking him out when he was in a game I knew well. I got nervous with the racing game, as I didn’t know the different possible outcomes.

After a couple of weeks of standing by and feeling helpless, we decided I should start experimenting with the laptop. I started slowly, carefully, by waiting until he was in a game I knew well: the hidden object game. I selected him as my avatar and watched as he got through the first levels of the game. When it came to the first mini-game, I slowly moved and clicked the mouse. It worked. I had picked him up and moved him where I wanted. I clicked and rolled and maneuvered him through the rest of the game. I sat for hours, feeling closer to him than I had in a long time. I wondered at how he felt. Relieved? Angry? Hungry? Tired? Confused? What was next? I had to wait until he could get to wherever he went to message me.

That happened two days later. He was glad I could move him around because that meant there was some control but it was unsettling too for the same reason. He was not hurt or hungry. He said it still felt like a dream most of the time. Except for when we chatted. That was the only time he felt real. We were closer than we had ever been but we couldn’t touch or even really see each other.

He suggested I start trying to open specific programs to see if he would land in the ones I chose. So I decided to try solitaire, as that seemed harmless and he had been in that game already. He joked that I could just as well choose the porno. I tried to look at the bright side that he still maintained a good sense of humor.

So I opened solitaire. I clicked on settings. I looked at the card backing choices. There he was. I selected him and began to play. We got through the game, satisfied that we had a little more control. But how did he get from place to place on his own? The answer came to me when I was in the shower.

I was thinking of the order of the games he had turned up in from the beginning. I realized he was being placed in programs in the order that they had been downloaded by date. This was interesting, to be sure, but what was the next step? How did we get him home? Was he to be stuck in this Quantum Leap/Tron universe forever? Did he still want to come home? I had been angry and worried at his disappearance and now felt bewildered at our situation. It had been over a month, but with little sleep and not much food, and the stress of the unknown, I felt I was going to crack and soon. Something had to be done.

I had seen enough movies – Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, Star Trek, Wizard of Oz – to know that there were lots of possibilities we could try. But waiting for another freak electrical storm or some supernatural event was probably not the most practical approach. So I researched. Googled. Primarily virtual technology and electricity. Some of the information I found was beyond my understanding but I found many tidbits (bytes?) very interesting. To make a possibly long and boring story shorter and possibly nonsensical, after hitting up Google and Amazon and PayPal, I had at my fingertips several apparatuses (apparati?) that I could use to generate electrical pulses, record information, and copy and save the data. I can’t explain what actually occurred that night it all came together. You could picture a sort of Frankenstein’s laboratory, replete with sights and sounds that were impressive, but you’d be pretty far off. It was actually me in a tee shirt and underwear, sitting on the floor with a sort-of generator, laptop, black data recorder thingy and some other stuff that lit up and hummed. After much button pushing and pacing and waiting for downloads… somehow, honest to Pete, it worked. We were together again!

I found myself looking into his familiar warm eyes and we grabbed each other and kissed long and hard. It had worked! He spun me around in a hug and we laughed and kissed again. I could still hear a hum and I could see lights flashing. But something was missing. I stepped back from him for a moment. I looked around and realized I was not looking at our apartment. I quickly kissed him again. We realized at the same time what was missing: there was no taste to our kiss. As we looked around together, I asked him where we were. He sighed, smiled shakily and said that it looked like we were in a space ship. And we should buckle up. We were about to be called upon to shoot at some asteroids hurtling towards the Earth.