Mary sat in the dark in her home office beside the living room. She quietly shimmied open the desk draw and removed an Augmentium headset. She slipped it on, leaving one earpiece off.
She was still in her office, but a parallel version of it. A version she couldn’t have in reality, but one which she’d still found a way to enjoy as a private pleasure. Tall wide-based candles sat on the corners of her hardwood desk, wax from a dozen uses sitting in frozen pools beneath well worn rivulets. They were still lit now—they never went out—and their golden flicker threw shadows across her walls of ghostly trinkets that only existed in this digitized realm: small statues of marble and of brass which she herself had made; cut glass accolades and honors which threw prismatic shards into dim corners; and leatherbound tomes written in pictograms and runes unique to this world.
Footsteps approached from the hall. It was Dean.
His hair was full and thick and dark, and he wore that tailored sport coat that complimented his form so well. “It’s so good to have you back,” he said, his voice as clear and sure as a sixteenth century church bell. “You look wonderful. May I show you something?”
He approached and held out his virtual hand to help her to her feet and escort her somewhere magical. She sometimes ventured out into the deeper recesses of this fantasy world she’d created, but not often. Not tonight.
“Another time perhaps. Could we just talk for a bit?”
“Certainly.” He smiled, more with his eyes than his lips, and sat in an overstuffed armchair that her real office couldn’t accommodate.
They enjoyed a lovely conversation that flowed as melodiously and harmoniously as sheet music. And then she heard footsteps again, with her other ear this time. Coming down the stairs.
It was Dean. The real one.
Mary ripped the Augmentium from her head and threw it into the drawer, shutting it forcefully.
“Mary! Who the hell you talkin’ to down there this time o’ night?” Dean called from the darkness halfway up the stairs.
“No one, darling. I’ll be up to bed shortly.”
He muttered something unintelligible and shuffled away. Mary remained in her office for a few minutes more, looking longingly at her desk drawer.