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This story was originally written in spanish, I'm not really a translator so some of the personality may have been lost in the translation.

I wrote this story earlier this month and it was the main thing that prompted me to remake part of the site. I decided I had something to tell and got carried away by the keyboard for a couple of afternoons. It's the first time I've ever written a story, get to the point where I can tweak it and decide it's "done."

P.D. Yeah I stole the title from DBZ, tried to resist the edgy urge but couldn't.

Angels we were

One day I was fooling around on the computer and something amazing happened, something that had never happened to me before. It was the day I saw a person through the screen. It wasn't an image or a video call, it felt genuine, as if my monitor had turned into a window, it happened like this:

I have an obsession that, luckily, I share with a lot of people. I really like to log all the games I have played in my life.

Having lists like that sometimes help a lot, but when I say I have an obsession, it means a true obsession. It's not just adding games I remember and that's it. It means adding everything I have played, even the most obscure ones I can think of.

One of the main obstacles that an obsessive of game lists comes across, which at the same time is a solid reason why I like to have these lists, is when my memory starts to fail and I can't remember a damn title. On the internet there are entire communities dedicated to helping people find games they've forgotten. But sometimes, no one else has my answer, or my memory is too vague and I'm not able to articulate enough details for someone else to identify the game I'm thinking of.

One night an MMORPG came to my mind that I once played with my friends. It was a game we played together, I even have hilarious anecdotes of our adventures in that world. But no one remembered its name again.

The most vivid detail I remember, which is probably the only thing that distinguishes it from other MMOs, is that one of the first mounts was a giant crab. I went round and round looking for it but my memory is so vague that even if I get to see a gameplay of that game, I doubt that I'm ever going to figure out which one of the MMOs of the period was it.

I was about to give up but something occurred to me: my gmail, which I've had for over a decade. A very useful thing about Gmail is that it allows you to look at your mails starting from the first ones you received. I had already gone through my old mails once, but during previous explorations, I was looking for more personal things, i.e. messages from teachers and classmates I've had, that sort of thing. But now, the search was a little weird, I was looking for mails that were sent by machines, the type of mail they send you when you register on a web page.

The first sin I committed in that search is to open mails that haven't been read. It feels like I have broken a harmony that should not have been destroyed. What I should have done was to walk in the footprints that already were on the sand, so as not to ruin that landscape, besides, if they were unread there was surely a good reason. In a sense I was underestimating myself when I was thirteen years old. Those unread mails were phishing and of the good kind. And I thought that identifying such mails was a skill I acquired much later.

Suddenly I came across an email from a sender that caught my attention, maybe it was what I was looking for, I thought. It was a message from IGG, a host for several online games.

Checking their catalog I realized that the MMO I was looking for was not there but in its place there was another one. It was an online video game from Taiwanese developers called "Angels Online". I remembered that game, I even had it on my list.

But another thing I like besides making lists is to get into MMOs that are on the verge of death, I kinda find it poetic or romantic. Seeing the last inhabitants of those worlds, it's like a village in the middle of nowhere where few people live but they all know each other, and that's why from time to time I go to visit them. It may sound cruel but I like to see that, no one really knows that I'm just doing some sort of nostalgic tourism. And even more so considering that this time I wouldn't be visiting with a new account. My old account was born in 2008. That made it a much more exquisite offer for me.

I downloaded the game. After a couple of hiccups and outdated launchers in between, I managed to log into my old account. My character still exists. I selected it and connected to the world. That's when I looked at the second sin in the eye.

There is a somewhat known internet meme, it's about a sad experience that usually happens to people who have been on the internet for a long time. It's about having an internet friend who never logged in again, the famous "last online X years ago". But I realized that in this instance, I wasn't the one who lost the friend, I was the one who went offline, never to return.

And that's not all, I also realized something else:

A couple of years ago I did something similar to what I was doing now but with my Gaia Online. I had logged in after many years. I should have learned from that mistake. I had broken a harmony, it no longer said "last login 2007", now it said 2017, it was no longer poetic, now it was mundane.

That's exactly what I'm doing with Angels Online right now. Even though the game didn't count the years offline like Gaia, something didn't feel quite right.

I was looking at a landscape I saw when I was thirteen, the same character, the same NPCs, the same map, all in exactly the same place where I had left them.

I couldn't move, both in real life and in-game. I was seeing what my self from more than a decade ago saw, before I grew up, before I became tall and grew hairs, before I got a job, before I became boring, before I innocently closed the game to go to eat or sleep, without realizing that at the same time I was closing a book with years of anecdotes, friendships, loves, everything that could have been, everything that could have happened between the moment I closed the game for the last time and right now when I opened it again.

I couldn't move, I didn't want to move. A good MMO can accompany you for years, it can be a life that advances in parallel to yours, an extension of you, and there I was, watching the exact moment when it was decided that all that was not going to exist.

Taking a good look at that screen, green, with oval-eyed characters and pre-rendered graphics, I begin to distinguish a silhouette.

And I can't help but wonder. Is that person on the other side of the monitor looking at me too? Is he proud of who I am?

At that moment I realize that it's already midnight, that tomorrow there's school and I have to get up early, so without doing anything else I close the game and go to sleep.

Echinops - August 31, 2021