an eyebrow at him and smiled coyly.
“Sure buddy,” he said. “Anyway, it’s getting late. I’m out too.”
“Yeah, likewise,” said Luke.
I still need to eat dinner and get some sleep.
Silverstrike disappeared, and then Luke reached his hand into his satchel to do the same. The logout button came in the form of a tiny journal. All you had to do was sign your name, as though you were signing the end of an entry, and the game world would disappear.
Luke suddenly heard footsteps approaching him, followed by a bang. There was no one left in the inn who could have made a noise like that, not that he could see. His stomach twisted into a knot as he quickly signed his name in the journal and felt the world in front of him disappear. There was only black in front of him now, and the headset felt almost claustrophobic on his face without any sensory input coming out of it.
“What’s going on in here?”
What? Is that… my dad?
“Answer me, Luke!” His dad’s voice was loud and immediate, equal parts angry and condescending in tone. “You said you were going to be up here doing homework. Is dicking around in a virtual world more important than your grades?”
Luke pulled the headset off and swiveled around in his chair. It took him a moment to readjust to being back in his room and to get a handle on what was happening. It was late at night, and his dad was standing just inside his door. He glared down at Luke, his menacing gaze difficult to meet, one of his father’s mannerisms that always left him feeling intimidated and wary.
Chris Smith hadn’t been the same since a car crash had taken Luke’s mom, years before. He’d turned to alcohol to fill the void her death had created. Luke was sometimes the caretaker when his father became incapacitated, but more often Luke found himself on the receiving end of his father’s grief, anger, and booze induced abuse.
“Dad, I’m just trying the thing out,” said Luke. “Ben lent it to me, and-”
“You were up in here when I left for the bar!” His dad stepped forward and kicked a book on the ground.
He’s drunk, really drunk.
“It’s the launch day. Of… your game.” Luke tried to hide his frustration as he looked at his father. “Yvvaros. I just thought I’d give it a try.”
His dad stared at him with intense, unpredictable eyes. Luke was totally still. He was worried about setting his father off.
Suddenly, the man burst out into loud, raucous laughter. Luke thought that he might fall over for a second, from the way he leaned back and his feet had to fight to retain their balance.
“You wanted to give it a try, huh?” His dad took a step toward him. “Is that so?”
He made his move suddenly. Luke jumped in his chair prepared to duck out of the way of his father’s fist. But instead of lunging for him, he swept the top row of Luke’s bookshelf onto the floor in a single, angry, sweeping movement.
“You think you can ignore your school work for that stupid game?” He had continued with his rant before Luke had a chance to respond. “And yes, it is stupid. I helped fucking design it, Luke. It’s an addictive waste of time. Playing it is the same as throwing your life away.”
He kicked one of the books on the ground toward Luke. It flew through the air and struck the edge of his desk. Luke flinched, it wasn’t uncommon for his dad to get this drunk, and he’d experienced worse dozens of times.
Why do I care so much, this time?
“You don’t understand, Luke,” whispered his dad. “Not a goddamn thing…”
Luke thought for a moment that his dad was going to spit on the floor in front of him, but he just stood there. After what felt like an eternity, he turned and left the room, stumbling down the hall on unsteady feet. Luke didn’t waste any time when he heard the door close.
His school bag was a couple feet away from his bed. He picked it up and stuffed his books inside, along with the headset and his laptop, shifting