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They told me I was lucky to be awake. Evidently the longer you're out, the less chance a coma victim has of waking back up. I didn't feel lucky, though. For some reason what I felt was a deep, persistent sense of loss and, oddly, indignation. Like I'd been lied to about something important.

My psychologist seemed to think that was interesting, but neither of us had any luck identifying the root of either emotion. The loss at least made a sort of sense. I'd lost three years of my life, after all.

With time, the feelings faded, helped along by the frustration of physical rehabilitation. I wouldn't have thought three years would be enough to lose basic skills like walking in a straight line, but boy was I ever weak and uncoordinated. A lot of days I felt like a baby chick trying to figure out how to fly.

And to make matters worse, the game that I'd sunk so many hours into and almost died trying to play had mysteriously closed up shop just before I woke up. It was strange; the development studio that made the game was evidently still active, but no one could figure out what exactly they were working on.

I had a rough couple of years there. On the plus side, being virtually helpless meant that I had a chance to reconnect with my parents, and since there was no question about me getting a job in the early days I also was able to reconnect with some old friends I'd fallen out of contact with. Made a few new friends, as well.

And then Born Again Online came back as the first full immersion MMO, powered by some sort of crazy quantum computing breakthrough. I looked into it since I was curious, but couldn't make head or tail out of how it actually worked. It was all just…very quantum.

I didn't start playing right away, though. For one thing, I couldn't remotely afford the hardware or subscription. I didn't even qualify for the special loans that were starting to crop up to allow people to get full immersion setups.

Instead, I finally gave in to my parent's badgering, got an entry-level job, and started trying to establish a bit of financial stability.

I'll admit, though: I didn't wait very long. As soon as I qualified for the loan, I jumped on it. I'd been hearing such good things, that even though I wasn't planning to get back into streaming again I really wanted to play. There was a nice surprise when I joined up, too: although the current system didn't allow for alt characters, for those of us who had played the original game we could pick one of our old characters to use as the basis for our new one. I chose a Spider-born I'd loved playing back in the day, and away we went.

It was…okay, I guess. I mean, the technology was amazing, and actually moving around in the world of BAO was a dream come true in a lot of ways, but for some reason every time I played I had this niggling feeling like something was missing. It was really messing with my head.

I started trying new things just to distract myself: I went on a long trip around the starter towns to sight-see, not doing any quests or anything. I picked up a few non-combat oriented skills and dove into the job system.

One day, I found myself at the grand unveiling of the new cosmetic companion animals. I didn't particularly want one for myself, since they seemed pretty useless, but I was still trying to figure out whether there was any reason for me to be playing this game at all, and it was as good a distraction as any.

I decided to attend the event for Peck-Pecks, a kind of fluffy owl-like thing. Normally players would just approach the NPC, spend some bling, and receive a full adult Peck-Peck to hover over their shoulder until they got sick of it, but the game devs had evidently pulled out all the stops for the relaunch of companion animals and folks were queued up to receive actual Peck-Peck eggs.

It was a zoo, with tiny little fluffballs hatching left and right. At some point, I got tired of the whole thing, and had turned to go when something caught my eye. A pair of people had just received their Peck-Peck: a pretty generic looking early level Sprite-born and one of those Nix-born you just automatically want to punch in the face. The Nix-born was blatantly ignoring the Sprite-born who was trying to get his attention, and what attracted my eye was that her Peck-Peck was acting really weird. Most of the things nuzzled their owners after hatching and then immediately flapped up behind their shoulders. This one, though, appeared to be having some sort of panic attack.

The Sprite-born wasn't having any luck with the Nix-born, who pushed past her and stalked out, leaving her looking completely lost with her hands full of fluff.

I'm not sure why I did it. I mean, it wasn't any of my business. But I found myself approaching her anyway. "Hey there, you doing alright? If there's something wrong with your Peck-Peck, I'll bet you could trade it in."

"What? This little fluff-kins? No way, he's perfect!" She clutched the thing to her chest dramatically. It twitched.

I had to laugh at that. He clearly was not perfect, but what could you do? Not really my problem, in any case. "Well, no worries!"

I should have moved on, at that point. Normally, I would have moved on. But something stopped me. "Hey, want to share contact information? I'd be happy to go on a few quests sometime if you ever need a partner who isn't a…Nix-born."

"Sure, that sounds fun!" She was clearly just being polite. From the look on her face, I didn't think she had any plans to play with anyone other than Mr. Absent. Oh well. We traded in-game contact info anyway, and I put the Peck-Peck hatching event behind me.

So it was quite the surprise when I received a message months later from a completely different account claiming to be the Sprite-born I'd met at the Peck-Peck launch event and asking if I was still interested in playing a few quests, albeit starting ones since she'd just created a new character for some reason.

I'd been playing a lot less regularly lately as my continued search for a meaningful reason to play came up blank, so I figured, why not? Maybe it would get me back in the game, and ever since waking up from the coma I'd had a much greater drive to meet new people for some reason.

To: FamiliarLucy Date: August 8

Sure, I'd be happy to meet up, and starting quests are fine! I've been thinking lately that I could really use someone to play with. I'm free most evenings, and I've unlocked teleportation at all of the starting zones. Where and when should I meet you?

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A note from EO Tenkey

Well, look at you, Mr. Familiar! He even got the girl. Or guy. That never was actually cleared up, huh? Oh well, depending on your inclinations you can imagine a romantic moment, a realization that he's into guys, or a hilarious case of mistaken identity if and when they ever decide to meet up in real life.

In any case, we made it! Quick point of order before I get into afterword-type things: I am taking a brief hiatus now that Mr. Familiar is complete to focus on a non-writing related project, but I will definitely be publishing new stuff in the future. If you would like to be notified when I start a new series (or do something news-worthy, like revising and publishing an ebook of one of my past series), please sign up here:

https://eotenkey.com

That out the way, thank you so so so so sooooo much for reading this somewhat quirky story all the way to its conclusion! I hope that you enjoyed the journey. You folks are why I keep writing.

So, real talk: a list of some of my favorite movies and TV shows includes things like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Your Name, Golden Time, Steins;Gate...are you sensing a theme here? I have no clue why, and people who know me tease me ruthlessly about it, but for whatever reason romances where the romantic leads forget each other at some point really do it for me.

When I was coming up with Mr. Familiar, I spent most of my time figuring out the characters and then just kind of let them do their thing, but I did know from the very beginning that I wanted a bit of forgotten time travel romance involved. Not sure how well I built up to that or if it came completely out of nowhere, but there you go.

In any case, thank you again for reading to the end! I look forward to seeing you on my next novel-writing adventure, whatever that may be.


About the author

EO Tenkey

Bio: Read all the things. Write all the things. Sleep? What's that? Does it taste good with chips?

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