Haley is a political science major at Wilkes University. She enjoys writing and intends to pursue civil rights law in the future.
I could feel the heat soaking through the blanket that was wrapped around my legs. Gross. Slowly, I sat up feeling the dizziness pool from the back of my eyelids and coat around the front like a black gel. I willed myself to turn the corner and manage to the bathroom. Jesus Christ, I swung the light on and draped myself over the sink, grabbing my balance and bowing my head. Something snaps, and whipping my head around, nothing. The water is cold. Too cold. I wince. Suddenly, a ringing fills my ears, and I drop to my knees. My hand reaches up to search for my phone, tears forming in my eyes as the sound is so piercing, I grab it and dial Pete.
“Hey, hey, no, yeah, um I think something is happening right n— No, Pete, I told you, come on, yes I took my medicine, it’s just,” click. Really?
After he genuinely let me stay up for 3 days —I stood up to the mirror which was now covered in black lines. I backed up, tripping over the tub and landing in the shower, my knee cut open and blood spilling down my leg. I stand back up, thank God, the mirror, back to normal. I grab the washcloth of the side and try to scrub the blood off my leg. How is there this much. It won’t come off. Desperately, I feel the panic bubble in my stomach and my vision goes black. I catch a glimpse of my reflection and I can see my skin. There are blisters opening on my cheeks, my fingers try to patch the holes, and my eyes, I can’t stop crying. What is happening to me? I wipe the tears from my eyes, wait, what…what? What? It’s blood, it’s– looking into the mirror I can see my smile widen, my fingers fly to my mouth. There is no smile. I hear a voice whisper in my ear. Nothing. I see nothing. Everything is dark.
There is beeping, a lot of beeping. My arm is sore. My knee is sore. And there is a piercing swollen pain in my head. But no visions, no voices. I hesitantly open my eyes to find myself in the hospital.
“Jane?” I hear Pete’s rough voice yell to a nurse that I have supposedly woken up. “Jane, are you awake?”
“Yeah, just could you lower your voice maybe,” I painfully smile. He grabs my hand, staring at me. “What, uh, what happened?”
He tells me how after he hung up, he called back four times. Obviously, no response so he got in his car and knocked on my door. He found me on the bathroom floor with a knife in my hand.
“A knife… no, I tripped, I just fell,” I looked at him. He had a tear falling from his eye.
“Jane, did you, did you play again?”
This startles me, deeply. He squeezes my hand, “Jane, when was the last time you slept? I haven’t seen you in three months.”
“Three months…” My eyes shut, there is absolutely no way. “Pete, seriously, I was just with you and Luke, I think that’s really not funny.”
His eyes dart to my face, “Jane. I’m not being funny. You ended things three months ago.”
I shut my eyes and start to cry. “Maybe you should go,” I let go of his hand.
“I don’t understand, what happened after you went home that night, Jane?” he grabs his jacket. “They found piles of hand-written notes connecting you to characters from this stupid game. You know, we really tried so, SO God damn hard to get you to go to sleep. So, if you want to isolate yourself and disappear into this shell of yourself, be my guest, but in all sincerity don’t you dare blame me, I tried my best.”
“Seriously, I think you should go,” I turned from him. “And get a nurse in here would you, I want to go home.”
The nurse entered the room, and somehow, I could just tell it was not going to be easy to get out of here. Laura was her name, a tired old lady who looked like she would willingly trade places with me if she could.
“So, you want to leave?” she grunted.
“Uh, yes ma’am, I just think I want to rest at home,” I gave her a shy smile, while bringing the top cover blanket of styrofoam to my chest.
“Huh, well if everyone could just leave whenever they wanted to, I would be out of a job, don’t you think,” she grabbed the clipboard at the end of the bed. “It says here,” grabbing the glasses from up top of her head, “that you were hospitalized twice for your history of schizophrenia and mania. Are you on medication, Jane, is it?”
“Yes ma’am, I just have been a little exhausted, that’s all. Still taking my medication,” I fiddled with the hospital bracelet, avoiding eye contact.
“Exhausted, right. Well, extreme sleep deprivation will do that to you. It says you were suspected to have been awake for over five days?” she looked up. “I also spoke to the police and that boyfriend of yours honey, they pretty much told me to not let you out of my sight.”
“No, really, he has no idea what my life has been like, we have been broken up for three months at this point. I really,” I paused, looking to the ceiling, “would just like to go back to home. I have this game that I play, it’s like virtual reality. A lot of people are counting on me, so if I promise to just sleep, hydrate, and take my medicine, will you please just let me out?” I looked at her. “Listen, I am not crazy, I just, please?”
At this point, Laura took her glasses off and sighed. “Well, you know what you have been here for a month, and someone else needs this hospital bed anyway, just do me a favor, ok? We get tons of kids in here, exhausted, and mentally cracked because they spend all of their time wrapped in some virtual world. Your mental history really could make this dangerous and I—”
“I get it, okay! Pete has told me all about this and really, I am FINE,” I rolled my eyes, the fact she said a month was enough to send me over the edge. Why is everyone just lying to me about time? She signed the discharge papers, tossed them on my bed and I walked out.
You know what, Pete has a lot of nerve. He is the one who showed me that game to begin with. And it was incredible, you know? Getting to escape everything. I remember after playing for a while, everyone seemed to just dip, my best friend, Carol, my parents, everyone. Everyone was so pressed I was playing this game for a few days. So self-righteous, like they have never been interested in some escapism? Two alcoholics and a drug addict? Yeah, right.
I got to my door and walked inside. There was still blood on the floor. That’s really nice no one cleaned that up. In the living room, there she was, my beautiful game. I turned her on and felt the heat of the console and felt the rush of soon forgetting the loss of my life. I dropped my bag on the ground, the bottle of meds spilling out on the floor as I put the headset on.
Life went by so fast. There was the car accident, the blood-curdling scream as I swerved over the double yellow line in front of the truck and managed to just miss it. The blood that was covering my hands nightly. The whispers at night, the creaks, the screams, the blood, the blood. It became something consuming; six months had gone by since the hospital as I found myself waking up in random places: the library, the café, the tire shop. I eventually got back on track with my meds and tried with everything in my soul to not turn the console on. I could only sleep once it was already 4 am, my room was diseased with filth as I had no motivation to clean it. I had not spoken to anyone in months. I knew I needed to stop it, the visions became so real, it was like I could stick my hand through glass, through people. The voices became overwhelming, they told me to play and to keep playing and never sleep. I lost 43 pounds and had begun to feel an intense violence that brewed inside of me just as I brewed a pot of coffee every night at 2 am to keep playing. I turned all the mirrors around, I saw people walk up my steps, steal my coffee mugs, leave notes for me telling me “Eat something or die,” and yet, here I was, about to play again. I heard Pete’s words: “I tried my best,” and the spinning collisions of every mistake I continued to make after the hospital manifested as hauntings from my own mind. The only remedy, the only purpose, the only savior now was this game. I didn’t want to anymore. I had lost everything, everyone, and I thought if maybe I showed up to Pete’s house, maybe he would wrap me in his arms and keep me from the headset. A week later, I tried. His door was promptly slammed in my face after, what I guess was a test, he asked if I wanted to play with him and Luke. I went home and all I saw was darkness flood my vision, just like the bathroom and I felt the blood dripping and coagulating from my eyes into my hands. It went black.
My hands were restrained. White, white walls, white ceiling, white floor. What… I hear men outside the white door speaking. One comes inside and yells to the other, “her eyes are open,” and takes a syringe and jams it into my arm. I glance down from my stiff neck and see dragged marks of what looks like a serrated bread knife down my arm and look back up. There is a man sitting on a chair, and he looks at me grinning. “I bet you wish you slept more, huh. Now it’s just you and me here forever.” Everything was white.
Grinspoon, Peter. “The Health Effects Of Too Much Gaming – Harvard Health”. Harvard Health, 2022, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-health-effects-of-too-much- gaming2020122221645#:~:text=Gaming%20has%20also%20been%20associated%20with%20sleep%20deprivation%2C%20insomnia%20and,the%20strength%20of%20these%20connections.
This source will be used to discuss in a general sense how gaming addiction can affect mental health and what psychological issues it can produce. It was written by a Dr. and published by Harvard Medical School’s health blog. It will aid where the plot begins after my character with a history of mental illness plays virtual reality too long, specifically discussing typical gaming injuries.
Shams, T. A., George, F., Zawadzki, J. A., Marshe, V. S., Ishraq, S., Müller, D.,J., & Wong, A. H., C. (2015). The effects of video games on cognition and brain structure: Potential implications for neuropsychiatric disorders. Current Psychiatry Reports, 17(9) doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11920-015-0609-6
In this journal article, statistics from 2011-2014 are discussed in relation to mental health, cognition, brain structure and how to improve cognitive functioning. This will be beneficial to my story in order to make the symptoms and effects of virtual reality on her more realistic and accurate. Specifically, it will be used in reference to working memory and reasoning and how that leads into her psychological spiral.
Von der Heiden, J. M., Braun, B., Müller, K. W., & Egloff, B. (1AD, January 1). The association between video gaming and psychological functioning. Frontiers. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01731/full
In this article, the depth of psychological functioning as affected by video games is explored, looking at multiple variables such as coping, affect, shyness and loneliness. The article gives an analysis and results section which can be applied to the story in order to cite the aftermath of the effects as well. This will also be used to specifically discuss the genre of gaming and those effects as well.