My first day in Vingaard had been crazy. Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for how realistic it was; leaving the world through the Stonehenge-like portal, I re-emerged into my Cloister sleepy and numb like I had just woken up from an oral surgery after being put under. The real world was… real but it didn’t feel real. It felt old and worn, drained of color. Compared to the sterling paradise that was Vingaard, ablaze with the primordial and mind-bending particle effects, Earth was just empty.
I was so out of it that I didn’t even realize Sora had been helping me unbuckle for the last several minutes. His hands nimbly undid the complicated array of buckles and straps so quickly that I felt he was a Transformer from one of Michael Bay’s filmic travesties; that is today, he did the seemingly impossible with ease. Later, I would realize that it was only because my mind was off-kilter and that he was actually taking his time, but at the moment, he seemed radiant— literally, his body heat warmed my chilled body.
I attempted to lumber my way out of the Cloister. Like a drunken log-cutter duel-wielding chainsaw, it was met with comedic results— me stumbling over myself and banging my head here and there like a toddler. Sora helped me steady myself and gently guided me out of the Cloister. Holding his arm around my shoulder, he steadied me.
“Don’t worry, take it easy, bud. It is okay for your limbs to feel stiff and cold. That is the Cloister’s cooling effect; as we run amok in Vingaard, our actual limbs still move somewhat and so our bodies need cooling least we overheat. Sometimes the machine can get a bit too cold and result in us feeling like a Popsicle.” Sora’s voice was distant; I think I nodded my head.
He sat me down on a seat near The Cube. Together we massaged my limbs and got the blood flowing into the newly warmed up appendages. After a while, I began to feel like myself again, though the world still seemed off-putting. I tried to return the favor and massage Sora’s numb legs, but he removed my hand from his thigh saying that he had long ago acclimated to quickly recovering from The Cube’s effects; I felt awkward. But, we got up and walked out of the Technology Commons.
“It’s fine to feel disconnected for a while,” said Sora. “Vingaard is rendered in such detail, color, and have such glossy coating that the real world can appear like a pale reflection, but this is normal. It’s not just you. I was the same way the first time I left Vingaard.”
Sora didn’t lie. I felt weird, that was sure. Looking at the world, I perceived it as horribly elongated, like a God-like giant had grabbed it and stretched the world far beyond its normal dimensions; on walls and the floor, the interior of rooms we passed, things simply looked gray and ill-defined. Like if it was a video game, the world was blocky and made from just a handful of polygons. The few people we passed didn’t look any better; or, that is the way it seemed, anyway, with some of them giving us dirty looks as we passed. I only belatedly realized that with Sora helping me limp back to my dorm, some people likely had mistaken us for lovers.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got back to a dorm. It was only when we entered Sora’s room and I realized that it wasn’t my own, that I realized I wasn’t in my own dorm. I objected, trying to ask why I wasn’t back in my own room but Sora had remarked that I agreed to come back to his room so that he could keep an eye on me as I recovered from The Cube; Sora reiterated that he thought I looked particularly ragged from the experience and that I would do well with a pair of friendly eyes monitoring me. Evidently, I had agreed and then promptly forgot.
I was too tired to argue. Besides, I thought that after the altercation between the rest of my teammates and I, hanging out a bit with someone like Reno would be great. Heaven knows that since I had entered Uni, I hadn’t had much time to myself or to socialize with anyone else. Some quality time with a bro on good terms would be nice. So, I relented and slumped into a chair to watch a couple episodes of a popular TV show before hazily climbing into Sora’s bed to take a nap; a moment later, Sora climbed in next to me saying he too was tired and that he usually napped for a couple of hours before resuming the rest of his day. Sora asked if I wanted to be returned to my own dorm so I could nap in peace since he said that I looked better, but I was too exhausted; the idea of walking all the way back to my room seemed ridiculous. I closed my eyes and let sleep overtake me, just barely away of Sora’s warm breath on my neck.