The Walking Game
Book by: GhostOfTheRain
My name is Aura.
I'm a high school student.
I am normal.
I get high school crushes, and the worst problem I have to deal with is how to watch out for face acne.
I sighed as I pushed myself up out of bed, and out of my daily mental ritual. My eyes stare out of my window and towards the grass in our backyard, quietly wishing, that I could just run through it. Through that thick green grass, barefoot, without a care in the world. Without having to worry about...No I can't think about that now. I quickly turn my mind back to running, imagining my legs pumping, sweat pouring down my brow.
I shook my head back into reality reminding myself that wouldn't be happening anytime soon. I scooted myself closer to the edge of the bed. Grabbing my legs I swung them over until they touched the floor, there was no feeling as they swept across the wood, but my eyes told me they were there. Sometimes though, I swore I could feel them tingling below me, telling me not to give up hope on them, but the doctors told me that was normal. Then again nothing about me was normal, I'd never been normal. That didn't stop me from trying to believe that I was. Looking down at my legs I wondered why the universe sometimes let me feel them again. Maybe it was a cruel sense of humor or maybe it was just punishment for the things that I had done in my past...
I had lost my ability to walk from a disease called Transverse Myelitis. Normally when caught early, treating it isn't that big of a problem but the fact that it had grown so quickly we... I hadn't been prepared. About a month later, I had lost just about all feeling in my legs and even the simple-necessity of standing become hard. I had tried to hide it from my parents for as long as I could. My mom and dad had spent so many nights calling together house meetings so that we could go over possible scholarship funded colleges. They had been so proud, I could practically feel the excitement radiating from them. So I sucked up the pain and spent most of the time in my room secretly crying into my pillow. Every now and then I would yell through my door telling them that I had started to feel better,I could feel them smiling through the door everytime I presented them with good news. It made the lies worhit, but the thing about lies is that they have a nasty way of coming back to bite you in the ass, well I can't feel my ass but you get the picture I'm painting.
My parents rushed into my room when they heard me scream no longer being able to keep this to myself, they were livid with the fact that I had hide myself from them. They immediately rushed me back to the doctors, .You know, it’s funny, I thought hearing from the doctor that I was going to be paralyzed most likely forever would hurt, that the news of not being able to walk again, or experience what it felt like to run again would hurt. All of that combined wasn't as bad as how felt knowing that I had done this to myself. The doctor told my parents that if we had come in sooner we would have had a fighting chance. I had done this to myself; I had hidden this from them for what? Pride? Fear that they wouldn't love me if I couldn't walk? I had been stupid to think that, but then again a lot of stuff in this world didn't make sense to me. I had always felt like some kind of alien here. All my life it had felt like me against this world.
For a while I hated myself, dark thoughts floated their way to the front of my mind, dwindling waiting for me to act on them. Dark thoughts that hadn't gone through my mind since...It didn't matter, that part of me didn't exist anymore.
After about another month or so I had now lost full mobile capabilities of my lower half, I turned my attention to the internet. I spent weeks looking for a hero, or some sort of Professor-X mentor to help me get through...whatever this was. I don't think I was prepared for what I ended up finding instead, actually I don't think anything could have prepared me for what I found.
A search that I had started, to hopefully find a light at the end of this dark tunnel shattered my faith in this world. News article and blogs of people who had gone through the same thing that I had. People, like me who hadn’t been able to get the miracle they needed, talking about just giving up on life, suicide notes. Eulogies, I wanted to vomit, it was at that point in time that I needed to be my own hero, I had been looking for someone to help me through this to help me fight the emptiness that gnawed at me, trying to demolish whatever was left that kept me hanging on but all I had needed was myself.
I made a decision that day that, I would fight for myself. This was my fight, my problem, I needed to be my own cure not to mention I was tired of blaming myself. During the research about my condition, I came across a video of someone getting physical training to help them walk again, the therapy the instructor had told the girl every time she left, “Get in your chair and live your life.” It always made me laugh at how ironic it was that he thought the chair was the thing that was helping her or anyone one of us live, but I knew now that I was what was pushing me to live. So I decided to take that little mantra of his and make it my own, I had to use a little creative license of course. Now the mantra would be, “Live your Life, Get out of your chair!” What better way to motivate myself in the morning then by telling myself that I would one day be able to get out of the chair? And what better way to convince myself that this was who I was now?
I inched myself even closer to the edge of the bed and reached for my chair. My parents always made sure that every night; my chair was only about 5 inches away from my bed. They both knew that I hated being taken care of, it just made me feel like I wasn’t in control of my life. Sure taking care of myself had landed me here, and I wasn't the best person to be left alone by myself but damn it I was trying to change. So I let them sneak into my room at night though, because I knew that them, pushing my chair closer to my bed made them feel needed. Like, no matter how old I got, them checking in at night gave them an excuse to think that I was still their little girl, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t that little girl who used to wake them up crying because to get to the bathroom or kitchen for a glass of milk. I was stronger now.
I smiled thinking about how hard it must have been to put up with me. Pulling the chair towards me and I slowly sat myself down in it. Shuddering as the armbars and cold leather touched my skin. The doctors assured me for years that the wheelchair was supposed to give me the feeling of safety and comfort. I guess I just hadn’t reached the point where it felt like any of those things yet. The chair had always felt like just another restriction on my life. Sure I could move, and get around, but even so my motions were limited. I still couldn’t use the stairs, or make quick split leg-themed decisions like a normal person. Things were different now I knew that, and I was starting to be okay with that there was still quite a ways to go though.
My hands tightened on the wheels as I rolled myself out of my room and towards the kitchen. “I’m coming!” I yelled down the hallway smiling. At least I could yell at my parents like a teenage girl. When I reached the kitchen I caught my mom and dad kissing. “Mom, Dad I’m in a wheelchair, not blind, oh come on please don’t do this over the breakfast food…” They broke apart almost immediately giggling like caught elementary lovers on the playground before turning around and smiling at me.
“Good morning honey!!” My mom chimed while rushing towards me, dropping down to give me a kiss. It was a little sloppy for my taste. Probably because she was still coming down from her makeout session with Dad. Yuck.
“Morning Mom, breakfast smells great!” I smiled and turned towards my father, “Dad.” He saluted me and then ran up and smacked my mother’s bottom. My jaw dropped to the floor...What in the hell was going on.
“Robert, she isn’t blind, remember?” My mom's cheeks were starting to flush red.
“Oh come on honey, she doesn’t mind. Right, Aura?” He gave me a little wink and placed his hands on his hips like some arrogant super hero.
“Actually Captain Morgan, I do care and please...please don’t ever wink at me again. Old men winking is just creepy!”.
He nodded with a look of understanding then said “See, honey, she’s fine with it.” He smacked my moms’ bottom again. Nope, her face was definitely red now. Pinching my nose I tried to avert my now burning eyes by looking up at the ceiling. I didn’t understand why the universe was punishing me; it had put me in this situation and didn’t even give me the decency of having legs to run away from it.
“Actually Aura, there is something that your father wanted to tell you. Isn’t that right Robert!?” Excitement radiated off of her body in waves. Something was definitely up; they never acted like this...well not while I was around. It had to be a very special occasion.
“Uh, okay. .what is it? Did dad get a promotion or something? Or, oh my God…Mom are you pregnant?” My mother started laughing and shook her head. Phew, it had to be the promotion thing then Dad had been talking about how over the past few weeks.
“Not exactly baby girl, see you know how I work in the virtual reality division of the game company?” How could I forget? He had been mentioning it at dinner for weeks.
“Well, anyways, my boss has taken a special liking to a game I designed... for people quite like you.”
I tilted my head not quite sure what he meant by that. “And by me do you mean...it’s designed for girls? Oh please Dad tell me you didn’t make a virtual reality game to give girls a fake boyfriend? I told you and mom I would get one when I’m ready!”
He dropped his head down in defeat; my mother gave him a nudge of encouragement. “No Aura, people like you. You know with disabilities.”
I nodded, should have seen that one coming. That's odd, I thought, it wasn’t like people like me couldn’t play regular video games. Why would he be working on a game just for us when we weren’t incapable of playing regular ones?
“What makes this one so different? I mean why not just make a regular game?”
He smiled like I was missing out on the biggest joke ever. “Aura, this is a virtual game. Basically it’s played by placing a sort of visor over your head, which then links with your mind to help create an avatar of yourself inside the game. The cool thing though is that avatar is the utmost perfect version of you. Any..." He seemed to struggle finding the right word to say. ..."setbacks that you have in the real world are gone. Illness, sickness, amputations, paralysis….” He fell off on that last word, as if hinting something to me.
I thought about it for a second until it snapped. This was a game that created a perfect version of yourself. Full. Whole. No problems, it all started making sense now. What he had meant by it being designed for people like me, why his boss would start to feel like it was such a great idea. That’s because it was, it was actually the best idea..… like, ever! I could feel my heart start to race. I needed to know. I had to know if this meant…
“Are you saying that...this game that you're making? Inside of it... I can walk?”
My father and mother beamed at me .The corners of my mouth started to twitch and I could hardly control myself. Get ahold of yourself girl come on don’t you do it, don’t you-And there went the tears. I couldn’t help it, because well honestly I couldn’t believe it! I shook my head and wiped some of the tears that had snuck their way out of my eyes.
My father walked over to me slowly, letting me get my life together before he made any contact, when he felt it was safe however he embraced me. “We need some people to test run it for us only a few, but I figured you might want to do it. So I told you about it first. What do you say?"
That’s why I needed this game. ,It was a way for me to make amends to myself and my parents. To give myself a purpose again, to be the daughter my family deserved again. To be that girl that I once was again. I knew I would never fully be her again, I had darkened and my emotions were raw but I could try. I would try.
I had been forced to grow and live in a world where I had to be strong for myself. The early years of this I had pushed my parents away and made it hard, so hard, for them to be there for me.I just wanted to survive and live in this world, not fail and become another pessimistic online blog. I had pushed myself to learn to smile, joke, and slowly enjoy life again; picking up the pieces of me and putting it all back together.
“Live your life and Get out of your chair.” That’s what I lived by, and this game was going to let me live the life I had taken from myself so long ago.
There was no way I could pass this up. My dream of going out into the backyard and running through grass again was about to come true. My dream of being Aura and not....who I was before...
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