A Story by Charles Konsor
“Earth 2 . . . because we all want a second life.” It may sound like a cheesy tag line and of course you’d never be taken in by something so lame, telling yourself, “I’m happy jus the way I am.” But I’m here to tell you that it will get you. No matter how much your try to avoid it, eventually, inevitably, the thought will worm its way into your head—and once it’s there, you can never get rid of it.
Not until you’ve died.
It starts simple enough, your dog barks too much and you think to yourself ‘I wish he would just shut up’, but it only grows from there—wishing you didn’t have a dog at all, wishing you had a new job, a new house, even a new wife . . . and there is that worm of a thought saying ‘you can have a new job, a new house, a new wife, a new life.’
And so you log onto Earth2.com—the graphics are flashy, the site’s inviting. ‘Perhaps I’ll just register, see what it’s all about.’ But there, that moment, it’s there that your life changes, for it’s in that moment that you, like millions before, realize you have been born again. With all the choices of a new born baby, but with the mind of an experienced, weathered, and knowledgeable adult you embark upon your new life, your Life 2.
Once you begin, it’s easy to see why Earth2.com has sucked in so many people from Earth 1. Here you are given a new start, a chance to follow your dreams, follow your heart, follow your fancy, your whimsy, or whatever else it was you didn’t follow in your first life.
Widowed grandmothers become graffiti artists.
Businessmen turn to pimping.
Abstract artists become gynecologists.
Fry cooks run major businesses.
Children become bounty hunters.
Your aunt distills liquor.
Your father rides the rails.
Your sister takes up politics.
But you don’t know it’s your sister. You don’t know it’s your father or your aunt or a child or a widowed grandmother, and that’s the whole point of Earth 2—Earth 1, Life 1, has no effect whatsoever on who you are now.
I went rather conservative—an accountant in Life 1, I became a fisherman in Life 2. It seemed a simple life, hard work I supposed, but seeing the Earth 2 graphic renderings of the ocean every day was well worth it.
Not to mention I get to live in San Francisco, far away from my Life 1 residence of Denver. Indeed, I’d advise any new member of Earth2.com to move as far away from your Life 1 home. It makes it that much easier to keep them separate, and isn’t that the whole point, to have an entirely different and separate life.
My house isn’t as big in Life 2, what do you expect on a digital deep sea fisherman’s pay, but it’s a content life—a roof over my head; good, hearty friends; plenty of food on the table; and a cute girlfriend.
It’s a strange phenomenon of Earth 2, all the girls are noticeably more attractive than in Earth 1. I think that has something to do with women’s obsession with beauty—instead of dreaming of sailing the open sea on a rusty old fishing boat, they dream of being sexy, being sensual, being beautiful—but I’m not complaining. I much prefer my Earth 2 girlfriend, Kelly, to my Earth 2 wife, Mary. And not just because of her beauty. Well . . . I guess I have to admit that Mary has put on a few pounds lately. Not that I’m shallow, it’s just . . . stuff like that seems to show a lack of respect for yourself—but I’ll stop there. I find that the subject of love (or love faded) really does bring my two lives too close together, and again, the whole point is to keep them separate.
Seeing as much of the internet world in Earth 1 was centered around San Francisco, the Earth 2 version has naturally drawn quite a large population. Indeed, San Francisco 2 has surpassed both LA 2 and New York 2 in size. What’s more, it’s on the cutting edge of new technology so, while some little town 2 in Idaho is still stuck with lo-res graphics and slow load times, us Earth 2’ers in San Fran are able to do almost anything at lighting fast speed.
Everything from the fish I catch to the plants in my house is displayed in Hi-Def. Earth 2 stores stock everything from pots and pans to fishnet stockings. Street corners in the red light district are populated by every kind of w***e, hermaphrodite, she-male, and pimp imaginable. Trees grow, eggs hatch, children cry, dogs bark (unfortunately), the sun rises, the moon waxes, and street construction still takes forever.
In short, Earth 2 is just as complex as Earth 1. Indeed, it even has some things you can’t get in Earth 1. Hackers routinely unleash massive hurricanes and earthquakes. Many sci-fi nerds have discovered a way to grow working wings. And innumerable religions—worshiping everything from Jesus 2, to Big Bird, to that mold that grows on oranges—constantly appear on the evening news having just claimed some miracle (usually just a glitch in the program) or having committed mass suicide in hopes of transcending to Earth 3.
But this all is only the most sensational. Most of Earth 2 is just as simple as Earth 1—and that’s what’s so appealing.
You’re not escaping your Life 1, you’re not turning your back on it, you’re just starting another life, separate but equal to your first. I still have to mow my lawn, I still get into fights with my girlfriend (though not nearly as much as with my Life 1 wife), and I still dream—dream about the future of me and Kelly, about winning the Lottery (substantially larger in Earth 2), about retiring on some island in the Caribbean 2. Indeed, I’ve been thinking of taking Kelly on a trip there, perhaps I’ll even propose to her.
She really is quite wonderful. A beautiful blonde, not the most beautiful of course, but perfect for me. She doesn’t talk much either, just listens as I tell her about jokes Charlie made on the boat today, or how Tom was almost thrown overboard while tying his shoe.
She’s a good cook too, makes excellent chicken marsala, and is generally quite kind to me. It’s just nice to have someone different. I’m sure you know the feeling, thinking you’ve missed out on so many experiences, wishing you had another chance to do them. Well, Earth2.com lets you. Wife, children, barking dogs—none of that matters in Life 2. I’m not a polygamist, not a cheater, I’m just two men. An accountant from Denver with a wife but no kids, and a fisherman from San Francisco 2, dating a beautiful blonde.
Kelly suggested we barbecue tonight, so I’m starting up the grill. Propane tank feels a little empty, I’ll probably have to get it refilled tomorrow on my way home from work.
“I only marinated it for twenty minutes,” Kelly says as she brings the chicken out to me. She doesn’t add any extra words onto the sentence, no apology or timidity, the gentleness is in the way her typing comes across the screen. You can tell a lot about a woman by the way she types, how slowly each word forms, how each part of the sentence flows from her fingers.
“Perfect,” I say and give her a small kiss on the cheek as she hands me the plate.
“Would you like another beer?” she asks, a small smile on her lips now. I love how she smiles—always small, never the wide, pretentious lip stretchers the over passionate Earth 2 member uses.
“No, I’m fine. It looks like the Watson’s are putting in a new fence.” I say, motioning to our neighbors yard where a white picket fence sits half erected. “Keep their damn barking dog away.”
Kelly smiles again, small as always, and retreats into the kitchen. I can’t help but watch her go. How her hair flows in the wind behind her. It really is amazing what they can do with computers these days. Indeed, I’ve heard people talking about a possible scent application for Earth 2. How often I’ve wondered how she smells.
“Suppers ready,” a voice shouts and I’m suddenly dragged away from world, from my Life 2. I hate these moment’s the most, when Life 1 interrupts, and so I clench my teeth for a few moments before shouting back. “I’ll be out in a minute Mary.”
There is no gentleness in either of our voices, not like when Kelly and I talk. Of course, Kelly isn’t perfect . . . but again, I’m mixing my two lives which defeats the whole purpose of Earth 2.
Kelly is sitting in a lawn chair, watching me in front of the grill. I’m sure she’s noticed my momentary drifting, we always notice it and we always know that something is happening, but she won’t ask me about it, we never talk about it, you can’t . . . it’ll drive you mad wondering who this Kelly is in Earth 1, who she loves, is she even a she.
Don’t think about it. You can’t.
“Do you not like any dogs?” Kelly asks, her sleeves rolled up, trying to tan her arms, but her pale skin never darkens.
“What do you mean?” and I flip the chicken, making the criss-cross grill marks you always see in the commercials.
“What about smaller dogs?”
“I guess they’re alright. As long as they don’t bark.” I say. As the sun sets, I have to shield my eyes with my hand, but I can still see Kelly smiling, always that small smile.
“I was thinking perhaps we could get a dog. Just a small one. One that doesn’t bark.”
But suddenly the door of my study is thrown open, and again I’m pulled between two lives.
“It’s going to get cold.” Mary says.
“I said I’d be out in a minute.” I reply, not looking at my wife, nor at my computer screen. I find it’s best to look at nothing during these split life moments.
“I made your favorite . . . chicken marsala.”
“In a minute.” I say and a moment of silence follows. I still won’t look at her, but I know Mary’s watching the screen, watching Kelly, and I hate her for it.
A moment later she steps out the door, and quickly I turn back to the computer screen, trying to slip into Life 2. A little of Life 1 lingers though, this usually happens with strong emotions—anger, hate, love. “And I don’t like your chicken marsala,” I say softly.
“What’s that,” Mary shouts, bursting through the door again.
“Were you listening at the door.”
“You don’t like my chicken marsala?”
“Can’t you give me some privacy woman.”
“So you can be with your w***e.” Mary shouts. Again I clench my teeth, staring at nothing.
“This doesn’t involve you.” I say simply, hoping it’s enough to calm her, but she stays in the doorway, staring at me. “It’s not me, this is something else. I’m not me, your not even there.”
Still she stares at me. I hate these moments, having to justify myself.
“It’s just pretend.”
“Well, pretend with me.” She says, clearly having rehearsed this response since our last fight. “Yeah, I can be your sluty nurse, or your super model—”
“It’s not like that.” Something on my computer screen flashes. Glancing back, I just have time to read ‘I think the chicken’s burning.’
“What . . . is she horny again.”
“Just calm down,” I say, turning back to Mary. “It’s just food—”
“Do you like her food better than mine?”
“It’s not her food or your food. They’re not even in the same world, or the same life. It’s just . . . just pretend.”
“And what about her chicken marsala?”
I know what I should say, I know I should calm her, reassure her, but tonight I’m tired. Accountant by day, fisherman by night, it’s a tough life sometimes, and right now I just want to enjoy the San Francisco sun.
“It’s out of this world.”
Mary glares at me for a moment—a glare I’ve long since learned to ignore—and then storms out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
“Sorry, I like it extra crispy,” I type quickly, and I’ve forgotten all about Mary.
Kelly is more talkative then usual tonight. At first I’m worried she’s thinking about why I let the chicken burn, wondering what distracted me, but she doesn’t ask me about it at all—doesn’t hold it against me or use it to manipulate me. Its moments like this that I’m sure she must be a man in Life 1, but again, I can’t think about it.
She asks more about getting a small dog as we eat our dinner. Indeed, she’s very excited about it—the same small smiles, but more frequent than usual. I guess it’s a natural step for us. Lots of couples get dogs, like pretend children. For me, never having had any children or any pets in either life, it’s a big step . . . but it’s one I want to take. Not just because of the fight with Mary (which creeps back into my mind more often than I’d like), but because Kelly is just so very sweet. So gentle and kind, she’d make a good dog owner, make a good mother.
I’ve saved up enough to pay for that trip to the Caribbean 2; a dog might cut into that a bit, but we should still be able to go in late summer. Of course, I may have to save up for a ring too.
All this talk of dogs and thoughts of marriage bring about an unusually affectionate evening for me and her. Dinner drifts into the living room where the couch hosts our coos and kisses. More whispers of dogs, then soft whispers of children. She smiles, small as always, and I can’t help but kiss her lips.
Her neck too, oh how I love her neck. A taste application probably won’t come out for a few years, but it’ll be worth the wait.
Clothes are discarded—shirts first, wrinkled by our bodies as we squirm against each other—then socks, toes kissed, her bra (even in Earth 2 I struggle with it), and I kiss her neck again. So soft is the skin that I do not notice a change in her mood—her small smile’s gone, her bodies tensed, and her fingers dig lightly into my shoulder.
“Peter,” she types in a whisper “. . . I think someone’s here.”
Instantly I roll off of her, slip over the edge of the couch, and fall hard on the floor. I’m back on my feet quickly, however, for I too can see the person—a woman, thirty five perhaps, black hair, tear stained cheeks, gun in hand, and the name of Mary hovering above her.
“Mary,” I say, suddenly lost in a whirlwind of confusion, my two lives intertwining far more than they ever have before. Kelly quickly grabs her wrinkled shirt to cover her chest, then looks from Mary to me . . . to Mary to me. But I can only stare at Mary.
“Mary . . . what are you doing her?”
She says nothing, types nothing. Never having logged onto Earth2.com, I can’t imagine she knows how to use it very well, but she knew it well enough to get a gun, to find me.
“Mary, put down the gun.” For some reason my thoughts are on dogs. Only dogs. God how I hate it when they bark.
“I want you back,” she says, pulls the trigger, and my computer screen goes black.
Slowly the words ‘goodbye’ appear on my screen—an automated message from Earth2.com—and I stare dumb struck at it.
‘Goodbye . . . what do you mean goodbye. This is my life. One of my lives is gone. Gone. I’ve just died.’ The idea is laughable. Indeed, I almost start laughing, but this is quelled by thoughts of dogs, small dogs that don’t bark. Kelly, trying to tan in the lawn chair, her smile, always small—and I kick out my computer chair, storm out of my study, run down the hall, and burst into the bedroom.
There she sits on the computer—Mary, tear stained cheeks, staring at the screen where my dead body lays, where Kelly weeps over me, showing more emotion than I’ve ever seen her show before, and my rage is only increased.
“What the f**k did you just do?”
My voice is shaking I’m so angry. In fact, it’s all I can do not to grab her neck and throw her against the wall. Mary, however, seems calm—though still crying—and simply rises from her computer, turning to me, staring at me with her teary eyes.
“Why did you do that?”
“It’s just pretend,” she says softly. I look away, punch my fist into the wall—knocking over several pictures—and turn back to Mary, just as mad as ever.
“What the f**k is wrong with you?” But she doesn’t answer. “Why can’t you let me have a moment’s peace? It wasn’t hurting you. I just need some privacy. I just need something else. Why the f**k couldn’t you just let me have that?”
“I’m pregnant,” is all she says.
“What?” and over the length of that word, my anger fades to a mild annoyance, a hope to be angry.
“But . . . but I thought . . . I thought you couldn’t . . .”
“Well . . . here I am,” she says, holding her hands around her belly as if presenting an act at a freak show. Tears are falling off her chin.
“And . . . is it . . . is it mine?”
“Yes . . . the one time you’ve touched me in the last year . . . even if you were thinking of her.”
This is not true, I know I wasn’t thinking of Kelly, I never mixed my lives, never . . . but right now, explaining that doesn’t seem important. “How . . . when . . . why . . .” finding something else to say, however, is proving quite difficult.
“I want you.” She says when my voice fades to mumbling.
“You shot me.” Is my only response.
Her voice is gentle, kind, unlike it has ever been before—perhaps it’s the crying that’s changed it, perhaps the baby—and I suddenly feel a strong desire to hold her. Anger still lingers inside me, however, and so I stay rooted to the spot.
“So . . . a baby?”
“Yes . . . yours . . . ours . . . and I want you to be with me . . . all of you,” she says, answering all the questions in one go.
My feet want to step towards her, but something holds me back. She too seems to be holding back, her arms hanging unnaturally stiff at her sides.
“And . . . and you’re sure.”
She says nothing to this, she’s already said everything.
“I can’t believe you shot me,” I say with a smile, with a laugh, and my feet loosen, taking a small step towards her.
“She seemed nice.” Mary says, and my feet stop again. “She seemed to love you.”
“Yes,” is all I can think to say . . . and silence ensues.
“But . . . but I don’t care about that now,” Mary says, tears falling anew, and I find my eyes watering too. “I need you . . . I want you here . . . we can figure everything out later, but right now . . . I just need you to hold me.”
My feet move again, but not as freely as before. I’m terribly aware of every step, each a conscious decision. It doesn’t go smoothly, there’s too many thoughts in my head, but as I near, as I catch her eyes staring at me, I can’t help but continue on until I’m a foot from her, until I’m holding her hand.
We stay like this for a moment, a long moment, just holding hands, not even hands, just fingers—my fore and middle wrapped around her pinky—but then I step in close, she falls against my chest, and my arms wrap around her—the sweet smell of my wife filling my nose.
© 2008 Charles Konsor
Wouldn't it have been so very sad if in the last sentance Mary 'typed' her smell or action or thought to him?! making us wonder which was real in the first place? I'm opnly mention ing this becuase that was my thought as I rounded the corner to the last paragraph. God knows why I felt like saying it aloud?! But on to things you should care about. I have to say the story did keep my attention. I found several typos, and a few places where I was confused, but otherwise, really good.
Posted 6 Years Ago
Very well written. I was expecting to have trouble bouncing back and forth between worlds, or some unwieldy story of someone who can't keep them straight in their mind.
Definately makes me think of WoW and all the hours I spent on my roommate's machine, ignoring my life here. I don't think I've played more than three hours in the last 6 months. I'll admit it, I do miss the game, but if I get my own copy and account, then I can play it my machine, and still interact with reality...
Posted 6 Years Ago
Very Very good. I am an avid sci-fi reader and I thought it was great.
Posted 6 Years Ago
There are some weaknesses in this, but the concept and the story kept me reading despite them. Honestly, aside from the narrator being slightly unlikeable, I found most everything about this engaging.
Of the concept, I think it could partially be very true, because I can see many people doing something like this (SIMS and the such). On the other hand, the fact that the narrator almost abandons his real life for stuff on a screen makes me think that anyone who would participate in this kind of experience would be a ridiculous human being. Which is why I don't particularly like the narrator.
All that said, the story itself is very much quite wonderful and I feel like it could be turned into a longer, more fully realized futuristic morality tale, a la the movie "The Final Cut."
Posted 6 Years Ago
That was so moving amd really creative. Sometimes I think there areall people wewould not mind shooting in a virtual world. Did you base it off of that website life2.com? I really have to give this a top rating. Very well writtten.
Posted 6 Years Ago
This story reminds me of when a person I knew in real life approached me online and kind of blew the cover of my internet persona (not that I'm totally fake online but I'm different). She might as well as shot me dead. Aside from that it's a story that flows well and gets you into the world really quickly. Plus I love the title.
Posted 6 Years Ago
This was highly original. You've done some good work with the material, and I'm glad I read it.
Posted 6 Years Ago
WoW/TheSims, different FPSs - I know many who have lost years to these games (myself included). The ending struck me as overly sentimental, but ll in all it was quite entertaining, the introductory paragraph was fantastic.
'Would you like another beer? she asks, a small smile on her lips now. I love how she smilesalways small, never the wide, pretentious lip stretchers the over passionate Earth 2 member uses.'
Did you mean Earth 1 or Earth 2? I think that was typo.
Posted 6 Years Ago
Good story, exceptionally original in every sense.
Posted 6 Years Ago
In the effort of showing rather than telling, this story might work better without the explanation of Earth 2 at the start of the story. You could work in enough detail into the body of the story so that you don't have to explain all about what Earth 2 is before you introduce your characters. I think this story could easily begin at "Kelly suggested we barbeque tonight." There are some things I really like about the first few paragraphs, though, so I would love to see them worked into the main action of the piece.
Posted 6 Years Ago
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on February 12, 2008
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