Chapter 1- Playing Games

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REL REL hunched in front of the television, slumped to the edge of the small wooden chair, GS7 controller clasped firmly in small, curled fingers. Her green eyes steadily moved about, watching the figures on screen leap and dodge through the fantasy world, magic staff in tow, enemies bursting into twinkles of light. The screen flickered. Music hummed into a crescendo. Sound effects buzzed, rattled, light and color coursing all around her onscreen character. It was magnificent chaos, of the best kind.

She was an odd, gangly 15-year-old with messy waves of black hair that tangled down the side of her rounded, slumped shoulders. Unkempt, purple bangs hung down the edge of her narrow face. She had an equine nose and slender pursed lips. Rel was dressed in her usual purple T-shirt and jeans, that she washed a day ago.

A few days ago, maybe? She wasn't sure. It didn't matter, really.

Her left thumb shoved the dome-shaped analog stick on the gaming controller, aggressively, causing the character to dart about the battlefield. Her right thumb positioned the camera, trying to adjust the field of view, trying to assess the situation on screen. "Crap nuggets," she muttered as a horde of Darklings spawned just over the southern ridge. It looked like they brought a towering, armored ogre-like-thing along with them.

"Oh, freaking bull dunk! An Orc Titan. Oh, no you don't, buster brown!" Rel Rel mashed the O button, followed by a swift combination of the trigger and B buttons, forcing her character to produce a comet of flaming light from his staff! The screen blinked red, flames gushed from the black sky, hurling streamers of light upon the unsuspecting Darklings. "Toast toast, suckers!"

The lower, smaller Darklings were left disintegrating on the floor. Rel smirked, licking her lips in triumph. She sat forward, tucking the controller against her lap, watching the armored ogre-like-thing emerge from the blistering inferno, unscathed, dragging an enormous battle ax across the dirt. Rel Rel took a serious breath, "You want to go? Let's rock!"

The ogre lunged. It was three times the size of Rel's character, a hulking behemoth with rolls of fat billowing across its muscular form, the flesh jiggling as it brought the battle ax down with an earth-shattering shockwave! The force knocked Rel to the floor.

Her character tumbled like a rag doll as her health plummeted from a full, brilliant green bar, to a third of what it was, flashing into a depleting red rectangle. "Um, um, Winter Healing, dangit!" Rel clicked the trigger buttons, spamming the D and C buttons, trying to shake the effects of the attack off. The character rose slowly, animation taking forever to get her character to their feet. "Freaking, let's go!"

The ogre spun the ax around. Rel dodged. Her heal spell was canceled. The red health bar flashed urgently; still slowly depleting. Rel Rel smashed another button. Boom! Boom! She narrowly missed the razor edge, trying desperately to gain some sort of distance between them. She needed to heal. Badly.

The door to her room squeaked open, "Relene. Video games, again?"

"Right, yes." Rel Rel scooted forward, butt balancing at the very edge of the chair, knees shaking, feet stretched on tiptoes, holding the controller against her stomach as her eyes never left the screen. The battle. All she could see was the glaring red flash from her health. One more hit and it was over.

"Turn it off," said some faraway voice. Rel nodded without speaking.

There! This was it. Her secondary bar was filled with golden light! She could not miss it. No, not now! As the lumbering beast chugged around, raising its ax for what would be the final blow, Rel Rel crushed A, D, B, followed by the C button, fingers locked to the triggers as she screamed out, "Ice Wind STORM!!!"

The screen flickered instantaneously to white, ice shards dancing across the battlefield, spiraling into a screeching torrent. It washed over the armored Orc Titan, smashing it into the nearest wall. The monster collapsed, fading into twinkling particles of light. Coins, a dagger, a long sword, some heavy armor, an oak staff, and a bow and arrow popped from the evaporating form of the ogre, all spinning wondrously in place, waiting for Rel Rel to take hold of them.

"Now," said Father, stomping into the room.

Rel nodded, "Sure, I just have to save really..." Her voice trailed off as she spotted the glowing orb, floating just beyond the next hill. A Save Point. After three hours of hard-won adventuring, Rel Rel could finally document her adventures. Her spoils. She could save the blood, controller sweat, and create a record of her epic journey. The tears with her companions, the death of the Elder at the Orc Wraith's blade, and the assault on Dragon's Tower! All of it. At long last. Yes! Her character stepped into the light, the Save Option appeared, unfolding like a crumpled scroll. The words, "Will you Save?" scribbled onto the piece of parchment. Yes-

The screen flickered. Turned black. Now, Rel Rel could only see the dark reflection of her bewildered face, the wall behind her, and the door leading into her bedroom.

"Go outside. Do something productive. Not this," said Father gruffly, lumbering out of the room.

Rel Rel sank into her chair. Eyes glistening. Staring at the black screen, she lowered the controller silently onto her lap. Her eyes drooped down at the video game case, reading the title sprawled on top, "Age of Dragons 3: Orc Wraith's Vengeance." Her mouth hung open, and she took a long, mortified breath, trying to resist the urge to break down, to throw something, or just start screaming uncontrollably. She did neither, instead simply saying, "Three hours... freaking gone. I don't even remember the last time I saved? It was right freaking there. I just..."

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