Hello Stranger

hello stranger

(Inspired by an original idea by ‘Denim Man’)

 “Will you be my friend?”

The request came, as they often do, right out of the blue – a complete stranger, barely a week rezzed – one of those things you tend to get used to after a while.

“i’m sorry, dear, i only accept friend requests after i’ve had a chance to get to know people – that’s how it works around here.”

There was a long pause and i could almost feel the disappointment in the silence, then:

“Aww.  : (  That’s really sad  – you seem like such a nice person too and you have some really interesting things in your profile”

Well, this was something new – a noob who took the trouble to read profiles? Wonders never cease! Coming to think of it, she hadn’t asked me for lindens yet… perhaps she wasn’t so bad after all? Let’s see whether she really was too good to be true.

“So, er, Fartblossom… i have to ask – why on earth did you choose that as a name?”

The answer was a little while coming – i could tell that i’d hit a raw nerve before she even answered.

“It’s not completely my fault. Nobody tells you what to do or how things work around here! I was just having a laugh and put the first thing that popped into my head – nobody told me I’d have to walk around with my name on display to everyone I met, and I honestly thought I’d be able to change it once I’d had a chance to think of something better!”

It was hard not to giggle, but not without a pang of sympathy too – there must be quite a number of people wandering around sl, labelled with names they wished they’d never thought of. She was right, nobody tells you these things when you arrive, it’s no wonder people get confused. Uncharacteristically, i found myself warming to the girl – what the hell, we’d all been noobs once and i’m pretty sure that there were a fair few avatars out there that i’d tried befriending in my innocence. There were quite a number too, who’d happily helped me through the early days, despite the innumerable irritating habits and questions that i’m sure they suffered from me. Sighing inwardly, i took the plunge and accepted her friendship offer.

friend1_001“Oooh! Thank you so much! We’re going to be the bestest friends ever!”

The involuntary groan that escaped me said it all. What was i thinking? Anyway, i supposed it would be a case of waiting a few days, during which she invariably wouldn’t stay in touch and, after a decent cooling-off period, i could simply unfriend her, and that would be that. It was high time that i logged out and got on with the business of everyday life anyway, so making my apologies, i wished her well, exchanged a virtual hug and poofed, almost instantly forgetting my new found friend.

ooOOOoo

“Hi! How are you?”

This was within moments of logging in – in point of fact, this had been the scenario every day for the past week. Blossom – we’d decided fairly early on to drop the ‘fart’ – seemed to be continuously inworld; i don’t think a single day had gone by that i’d not logged in, to almost immediately be greeted by a welcoming IM from her. In a way, it was rather charming, but in another it could be terribly wearing and not a little creepy.

In that first week, Blossom had latched on to me like a blood-hungry leech. Don’t misunderstand me – she wasn’t constantly in my face, but she had the annoying habit of just ‘getting in the way’. If i was having a private conversation with someone, i’d be interrupted by an excited message from her about the latest freebie clothes she’d found or some new sim she’d discovered; if i was trying to build, my concentration would be broken by TP invitations or a copy of the latest picture she’d taken. She’d ask to come along to clubs and music venues with me, hang around when i was with friends and, generally – in the most inoffensive manner – make a blasted nuisance of herself!

Of course, i tried dropping subtle hints. but she never seemed to get the message, either that or she’d think i was trying to push her away, (which, of course, i was) – then she’d play the ‘you don’t really like having me around’  card, and i’d cave in. It wasn’t that i didn’t like having her around, i just didn’t want her around me all the time!

Blossom was both terribly needy and incredibly demanding – never in a nasty or self-serving way, but it was taking its toll on me. There were times when, desperate for a little space, i’d log in with an alt – never something i was particularly comfortable with at the best of times. Even then, with crazy regularity our paths would cross – wherever i happened to be, somehow she would end up in my proximity. In an empty sim, i’d find the one other avatar on the radar would unaccountably be her; or in a crowded club, i’d suddenly see her black, spiky hair, bobbing above the other avatars’ heads. In the end, it became pointless to use my alt – we ran into each other so often that i was sure she’d ask to be my friend… and that would just be too much to bear: i returned to being myself.

It was several weeks later that i cottoned on to the fact that other people were beginning to find her presence a little strange:

“That Farty girl you’ve been hanging around with”, remarked my old friend, Dodgy Crumble, “don’t you ever get fed up with her – ‘cos you don’t seem to spend a minute apart… is there, erm, something y’know… going on with you two?”

i was mortified!

“No way Dodgy! You know i’m not up for any of that kind of stuff – strictly here for fun, shopping and the music!”

He looked at me knowingly, if that’s possible from the point of view of an avatar! At least, it felt like he was looking at me knowingly, and his next words didn’t help in the slightest…

“I’m not so sure – surely there’s more to it than that… especially with all the things she’s been saying about you and her?”

Now i was worried. What the hell had that little bitch been telling people?

“Nothing to be ashamed of”, he continued, “me and Astra are dead pleased for you… we all are in fact! And this little cottage you’ve got for yourselves sounds lovely! Any chance of an invite to the house-warming?”

There are moments when, faced with certain revelations, even though you may only be pixels, you just have to sit down. This was one of those moments. i asked Dodgy to bring me up to speed on what rumours Blossom had been spreading.

It turns out that – according to Blossom – i was indeed her ‘bestest friend ever’ and that i’d taught her everything she knew about sl – apparently, without my help and friendship, she wouldn’t have lasted a week and she was saying there was no way that she could never repay my kindness. She’d told everyone that i was constantly by her side and that we shared everything. As for the cottage… it was a lovely little retreat on the shore of the Blake Sea, where we could retire to and spend hours in each other’s company, without a care in the world. This was all news to me – and i really didn’t know what to say.

Inevitably rumours had spread, fuelled by Blossom’s ridiculous gossip, a number of my closest friends – Sheena, Stale and Bobby, Dee, Tony, and Regal, to name just a few were convinced that we were an ‘item’. Gina Underfloor was even on the lookout for a new hat, ‘for the upcoming wedding of the year’!

It was at that very moment that the subject of our discussion should choose to IM me:

“Hi! Aren’t you talking to me today? You’ve been logged in for ages and you haven’t even  said ‘Hello’. Is everything ok?”

Definitely, the wrong question!

“No! Things are not at all ok! You and i have some serious talking to do! – i want to see you, in my skybox in 5 minutes… and, if you’re not prepared for some straight-talking and answering some hard questions, then you can wave goodbye to our friendship! Is that loud and clear?”

Fuming, i apologised to Dodgy and said goodbye… it was more than about time for me to get to the bottom of all this nonsense!

Blossom was already waiting for me when i arrived at the skybox – it was only later that i realised what that meant… she’d never been there before, and i’m sure that i’ve never sent her an LM – however, i was too mad with her for that to occur to me.

i told her to sit down and then i let her have it – both barrels – and full on. Poor girl didn’t have a chance to answer back: i was speaking so fast you could barely read it for all the typos! i demanded to know what was the idea of her putting it about that we were anything more than just friends, insisted she explain all the nonsense about how she ‘owed me everything’ and then took her to task over the mythical cottage by the sea, where we were supposed to hang out together and spend so much time in each other’s company.

Eventually, i calmed down and gave her an opportunity to speak, only to be horrified as prim tears started to roll down her cheeks.

“I’m so, so, sorry *sob*”,  she sobbed, “that’s not how things were supposed to work out at all! You’ve been such a good friend to me, ever since we met… you’ve put up with me hanging around all the time, and I know there must have been times when you’ve been sick of the sight of me, yet you’ve never pushed me away. I just want everyone to know how lovely you are and how much you’ve helped me, even though you never had to… and now it’s all gone wrong… everyone has the wrong idea and you hate me. *sniff*”.

Now i felt crappy, but there were still unanswered questions:

“Don’t be silly, Blossom. i don’t hate you at all… i was just a bit angry about the rumours that are going around. Speaking of which – what’s all this about a cottage?”

“Oh!”, she replied, “That was meant to be a surprise! Ummm, there’s something I’d like to show you, and then I’ll explain everything. Can I send you a TP?”

friend2_001i nodded and watched as she poofed, moments later she sent me a TP request to the Blake Sea. On arriving, i found myself in an old-fashioned English country garden belonging to a quaint, homely cottage; Blossom was stood in the doorway and invited me in, before giving me a guided tour of the little house. It was a lovely place, but by now i was completely bemused.

Sat in the front room on an old, comfy sofa, with views through the leaded windows over the colourful garden, Blossom rezzed a pot of tea, and explained:

“I wanted to do something to say ‘thank you’ for all you’ve done for me, and I remembered you saying that your ideal home would be a country cottage by the sea… so, this was my way of showing how much I appreciate you. I thought it could be a place for you to disappear to when you needed a break, and that maybe, if you didn’t mind, I could visit now and again for chats, and tea and things… but it seems that everybody – including you – has the wrong idea. I’m sorry, I should have asked first.”

It doesn’t happen often that i’m speechless, but on this occasion i found myself completely at a loss as to how to respond. i gathered my thoughts a moment, then – trying my very best not to hurt Blossom’s feelings, but also trying extremely hard to get my point across – i responded.

“The thing is, Blossom, the cottage is absolutely beautiful and i’m really very touched by your gesture… but it’s far too much – you don’t need to give me anything to thank me. Why don’t you live here instead, and i can come and visit you, whenever you want? As for all the other stuff, well, i’ll have a word with everyone and put the record straight, but surely you must understand why people have been talking?”

“There’s a couple of things that we need to sort out though… i love spending time with you, i really do, but i have other friends too and there’s things i like to do on my own sometimes. It’s not that i don’t want you around, but sometimes i need my personal space – so, maybe we could agree that we don’t always have to be in each other’s pockets? Y’know, it’s OK to say ‘hi’ when you see me log in, but we don’t always have to have a long conversation, and there’s no need for you to show me every single photo you take, or go to every club that you do… it’s fine for friends to be apart and be doing different things, you know? SL is just like rl: sometimes you don’t see friends for ages, and then when you do see each other, it’s always a lot more fun… Is that alright with you?”

My little speech was followed by a long, long, silence – i could tell that it hadn’t gone down too well, but then…

“I guess you’re right. I can be a bit intense, I suppose – I can’t help it, I’m sorry. I’m just a bit insecure but I’ll try my very best. And…

we are still bestest friends aren’t we?”

“Awww, of course we are! And now this silly misunderstanding is all cleared up, that’s not going to change! Hey, why don’t you get to work furnishing this place to suit you? It’ll keep you busy and give you plenty to tell me about when it’s done, and then, if you’re ‘at home’ tomorrow, how about i pop round for a cuppa and a chat, and maybe you can show me some photos too?”

Her reply was almost instant:

“Oooh, yes! What a great idea – let’s do that! I’m going to start furniture hunting straight away.”

i almost let slip my wholly inappropriate ‘Yay!’ gesture, but managed to stop myself just in time! Instead – breathing a heartfelt sigh of relief, and looking forward now to some peace and quiet – i passed her some LMs – “These should come in handy, they’re some of my favourite furniture stores”, and then i slipped her a wad of lindens. “Here you go – i feel bad about what’s happened, use these to cheer yourself up!”

i had to laugh – she did a double-backflip right there on the sofa – i got the impression that she was a lot happier now, and so was i!

Anyway, it was time i left her to it – we said our goodbyes, gave each other a big *hug* and i logged out.

Free, happy and off the hook… or so i thought!

ooOOOoo

And that’s where things began to go horribly wrong.

Despite our talk, Blossom seemed determined to have things her own way – i’d log in to find huge swathes of text clogging up my messages, all from Blossom, telling me in minute detail about the things she’d been up to, together with photo’s and LMs. i’d arrive inworld to find her messages filling my screen, with all my other messages capped and lost. When i tried contacting her, she’d be ‘unavailable’  but seemed to magically know when i was at my busiest and would contrive to IM me in the middle of something important, or simply appear uninvited at the most inappropriate moments – it was incredibly frustrating.

Worse still were the occasions i’d arrive to find her waiting for me in my own skybox – “I just feel like some company”, she’d say; “don’t mind me, just pretend I’m not here.” That was something i just couldn’t tolerate – it had to stop! We had a big row about it, which ended in her storming off. Did i feel bad about it? Not at all – she had to learn that privacy is not to be abused… mind you, i suffered for it – next time i logged in, she’d practically written me a novel about how friendship is all about ‘give and take’, that she couldn’t understand why i was taking things so badly, needless to say, i didn’t respond. The following day i received an even longer message, apologising profusely and begging me not to ‘throw her on the scrapheap’. My reply was brief and to the point:

“Just stay outta my way for a while. Cool it, calm down and give me some space – that’s all i’m asking”

Fat chance of getting some space – after several days of relative peace, bar the occasional begging IM, i logged in to the biggest shock of my SLife! Every single plot around my little piece of land had been bought up by a land developer – Tourniquet Smythe. i arrived to find my peaceful garden completely surrounded by tower blocks, sleazy nightclubs and strip bars, garish neon hoardings and constantly blaring sound. i reeled in utter horror at the desecrated and ruined ground around my own plot – a tiny island of beauty in a maelstrom of light and noise… and then i saw her, waving to me from a tower-block balcony – it was Blossom.

friend3_001“What the hell is going on?”

“I’ve got a new friend”, she replied, “his name is Tourniquet and he was looking for some land. I happened to mention that the land around here was really cheap and, before I knew it, he’d bought the lot! He even paid me commission – how cool is that? I think he’s rather anxious to buy your plot too, but I told him you’r never sell up… but just think of all the fun you can have exploring these new places!”

Devastated didn’t even begin to describe how i felt – my virtual paradise had been destroyed and it was all down to her! This was the last straw… i unfriended her.

You don’t want to know about the tirade of abuse that followed, or the griefing attacks, unwelcome guests and shocking occurrences that became a regular feature in and around my land: it was driving me mad, but there was no way i was giving in. The worst of it was the message that popped up every single day – ‘Fartblossom would like you to be their friend…’ – a message that received exactly the same derisory response every day, and would do so until the end of time itself!

Weeks passed and the situation went from bad to worse. Although i’d unfriended her, she’d joined the same groups as me, visited the same stores, the same clubs and hung around the borders of my land whenever i was about. These days she rarely talked, but she was always there, in my peripheral vision – a blot on the horizon that i couldn’t erase. To make matters worse, she was twisting things to her advantage with all my friends. Although she’d be utterly evil when around me, Farty continued to tell my friends how wonderful i was; what a great time we were having sharing our cottage by the sea and how much we enjoyed spending time together – and, dammit, she was convincing!

Nobody would believe me when i told them she was evil – when she turned up at events, i’d be the one who had to leave, because i just couldn’t stomach her lies: she was just too damn nice, going out of her way to show everyone what a great team we were – i couldn’t handle it.

The final blow came when she discovered the ‘Mega-grief deluxe’, a ‘personal protective device that even the most determined avatar will be unable to evade’. This noxious device somehow overloaded its target with self replicating scripts – the unfortunate victim would slowly grind to a halt in a sea of lag, before succumbing to the inevitable, and crashing horribly. She delighted in turning her new toy upon me at every opportunity, waiting until the most ‘amusing’ moment to zap me and send me crashing out of sl – often several times in as many minutes.

That was it – either she went, or i did!

i stopped logging in at my normal times, avoided my usual haunts and became a virtual recluse, but somehow, she always found me out. Eventually, the inevitable occurred…

It was supposed to be a night out – fun and games with friends at the local club with ‘The Rocker from Rio’, Lupus Leamington – it turned out to be the worst night of my life. Within the first hour, she’d turned that infernal contraption on me at least half a dozen times and i was at my wit’s end – just one more time, i vowed, and that would be it!

The familiar ‘ding’ of an incoming IM caught my attention – it was my old friend, Neryn Blackberry:

“Hey! Are you sure that you and Blossom aren’t alts? Or could it be that you’ve hooked up in RL and haven’t told anyone?”

Baffled, i asked her what she meant.

“Well, it’s just so weird the way that you both always crash at the same time – it’s almost like you were sharing the same connection. Who knows though, with SL, it’s freaky at the best of times”

It was freaky! i actually looked behind me in rl, to check she wasn’t stood there! Then, before i could dwell on it further, that familiar laggy feeling came over me again: the bitch had zapped me!

Enough was enough. i wasn’t going to wait for the crash – she’d won and i’d lost, and all i wanted now was to get the hell outta there and as far away from her as possible. i hit ‘Quit’ and logged out of sl for the very last time.

Goodbye friends. Goodbye Fartface. Goodbye Second Life… i’ll miss you.

ooOOOoo

Back in ye goode olde dayes, St Ruperts would have been called ‘the asylum’; in more enlightened times, although before political correctness reared its ugly head, we’d have called it ‘the mental home’ – these days, it was just known as ‘The Institute’ – the inmates were still barking mad though.

Doctor Cheung paused in the corridor outside room 412 and turned to his colleague:

“This next case is fascinating, Robert – multiple dissociative identities and borderline psychosis. When she first came to us, she exhibited archetypical ‘Jeckyll and Hyde’ type behaviours but, unlike most of the patients we see with such symptoms, she’d experience them simultaneously – for want of a better example, I’d use a ‘Fight Club’ analogy.”

Robert Fender pursed his lips, glancing at the notes Cheung proffered.

“Well, I agree she’s an interesting case, but I wouldn’t say fascinating – I don’t think the Journal would want to publish if that’s all you have.”

“Oh, but they will! You see this particular case has a quite unique twist – the patient only has limited awareness of her true self and, prior to her arrival at The Institute, spent a significant proportion of her waking hours online, living vicariously, and contemporaneously, through her dual alter-egos. The identities with which she most strongly associates are both constructs – virtual projections of her thought-processes. In layman’s terms, reality is – for her – experienced virtually, through – if you like – twin online personalities… one, a ‘good’ twin, the other an ‘evil’ twin – the ‘twins’ represent and act out her mental and emotional conflicts. She experiences her world separately through both identities but is completely unaware that they are representations of one and the same person – herself. As for how she relates to the real world, she is barely conscious of it.”

Handing the notes back to Cheung, Robert smiled broadly. “Now, that is fascinating! Shall we take a look then?”

friend4The two psychiatrists walked into the room. As they entered, the girl perched on the edge of the bed, slack-jawed and empty-eyed, looked slowly up at them.

Cheung smiled brightly at her, “Hello Blossom, this is Doctor Fender – he’d like to ask you some questions.”

The girl sneered at the men, a look of sheer hatred crossing her face.

Fender raised a quizzical eyebrow towards his colleague, who nodded in response. He took a step towards the girl, who snarled silently as he drew near.

“Blossom, is it? That’s a lovely name! And, can you tell me how to spell it?”

Suddenly, a warm smile filled the girl’s face and she looked shyly up at Fender – “Yes, i can, she whispered…. it’s s-e-r-e-n-d-i-p-i-d-y”

ooOOOoo

No matter how I try,
I just can’t get her out of my mind
And I when I sleep I visualize her.
The Divine Comedy – Our Mutual Friend

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