In fifth grade you started playing World of Warcraft because your older brother did. He’d be in his room for hours and you wanted anything that would make you connect with him. Your parents worked most nights so it was just you and him. The night you asked him to teach you how to play he made hamburger helper for dinner and you both ate it right out of the pot.
You picked a bull person as your character (your brother told you they were called Tauren but you forgot almost immediately). You made him a warrior because you wanted him to be strong and tough. Your brother didn’t really watch you play. He sat back and read comics while you entered the world.
You didn’t know how to do quests or fight so you wandered around. You watched other players fly around on dragons and demon horses. Goblins sat on hills drinking and stealing from each other. The colors blew your mind. The deep green of the grass and the dark wood of the taverns and stores pulled you in. You were watching a rabbit hop over a log when he killed you. A player dressed in full armor with a glowing sword. He cut your body to the ground with one slice. You stood as a ghost over your own corpse.
You turned to your brother and asked him why they killed you and he said because they wanted to. That’s just how it worked. Your murderer stood over your corpse and waited for you to get back up just so he could kill you again. You didn’t know what you could do so you did nothing. Your brother logged into his character and you watched him play. It was as if he forgot you were there.
Years later, your brother left to join the army. You were older now but still didn’t quite understand these sorts of things. Your mother hugged your brother in the doorway and cried before he left. Your father stood in the kitchen facing away from the scene. You saw his fist clenched on the counter as if it was the only thing holding him up. Your brother ruffled your hair and walked out the door looking hopeful. A big duffel bag thrown over his shoulder. And then he was gone. His room was empty of most things. You wondered what the world he was going into was like. If he had time to play video games or watch tv or baseball. It kept you up that night for a while. You still had a nightlight at your age and your friends made fun of you for it. You let the glow lull you to sleep and you too were off to another world.