(IP) And then she hears three little words tha…

“Finally! Zara, you did it!”

The words came through a cloud of static, and she punched the air, grinning widely. It had taken ages to beat that level, and she winced, sitting up. Her neck and back popped in several places; she really needed to remember to stretch in between gaming sessions. She didn’t remove her headphones; the presence of Grayson on the other side of them was comforting in the loneliness of her messy, disorganized room.

“Hang on,” She said, and put the headphones down on the desk. She went to the bathroom quickly, then walked to the kitchen, in desperate need of nourishment after sitting at her desktop for so long. She rummaged through the cupboard and came out with a bag of chips, a king-sized candy bar, and a cola; she was so thirsty, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t cold.

When she returned, she stood in the doorway, her arms full of food. Her computer screen was glowing with a rainbow of colors, and a strange, mysterious music was playing; it sounded to her like carnival music, music you’d hear if you went to the circus. The room was drenched in color, and when she finally looked away from the screen, she could hear Gray’s frantic voice, coming through her muted headphones.

“Zara? Zara, where are you? What’s happening?!”

His voice had gone thin and reedy with panic, and she scrambled to turn her mic back on, the food forgotten.

“Gray! Gray, what’s going on? I ran to get some snacks, and–”

“After you beat the level, my computer started going haywire, and it’s all glowing and stuff–”

“Yeah, me too!” Zara replied, feeling her throat tighten with sudden panic. “What’s happening?” Gray’s voice drifted away from her, a mere whisper. He was drifting away from her, and so was her room; everything was starting to spin, and soon she was knocked off of her feet, caught in the maelstrom.

How had this happened? She’d been playing the game with Gray, desperate to beat the level she’d been trying to win all week. Then she was swept up in a storm of color and sound, the wind howling in her ears. She wanted to be in her room. She wanted Gray beside her.

It felt like she’d been floating forever when she finally hit the ground, hard enough that all the air left her chest. She coughed heavily, her eyes streaming in her effort to breathe. She looked up at last, and had just enough time to roll out of the way before another body crashed to the earth. A familiar voice was swearing and cursing a blue streak, and if she wasn’t so confused, she would’ve laughed.

She got her wish for Gray after all.

Her relief dissolved when she saw his attire; he was wearing an armored uniform straight out of the future, complete with rocket blasters on the arms and a tempered glass face mask.

Why did his clothing–armor–look so familiar?

Her stomach dropped to her toes when she sat up and looked at the barren, rocky landscape.

She didn’t know how it had happened, but in beating that level, she and Gray had somehow landed right inside of their favorite game.