I slam down the laptop lid and fight for breath. I just saw my missing friend online. So she's not dead. She's just out there somewhere playing the computer. In fact she might be at home right now, found, snuggling up with her mum. The only way to find out is to ask Leah herself. I re-open the laptop and stare at the screen. I stare at Leah, much prettier online than she is in real life. Slowly and hesitantly, I pace towards her. Maybe it's just a hologram. Maybe she isn't there at all, and my mind's just playing tricks on me. "Leah...?" I whisper, my voice pleading for an answer. She looks up from the book she's reading and smiles.
"Oh hey, Tabby," she replies. She looks normal, showing no signs she's been abducted or killed.
"Leah, I got a call from your mum, and she said...you'd gone missing, like...kidnapped or something?" I say to her. She looks down and shuffles around uncomfortably. I sit down next to her.
"I have no idea what happened," she starts. "I was just...playing online at Palm City, and then I blacked out, and woke up in the game. I can eat stuff here, I can feel things, smell things, everything. I live in Palm City." Her words strike my mind, and fear rolls into me.
"That's impossible..." I whisper. I shake my head, trying not to let myself believe it. "I've, um, got to go," I lie. I log out of Palm City as quick as I can, get out of my cold, chilling room, and run for the living room. Only when I sink into the warm, sqaushy sofa do I feel safe. I flick on the TV, and let the first channel lick onto the screen. BBC News. Pfft. A man in a white shirt and black blazer rolls onto the screen, holding a mic up to his thin lips. It looks as though he's in London, as I can make out the London Eye in the background. He's with a plump middle-aged lady, who's quivering, her tearfilled eyes wide and scared. "I'm here in London"- my guess was right-"With Mrs Longsdale, who's 14 year old son recently just went missing. Can you tell us a bit about what happened?" He looks at Mrs Longsdale expectantly. She swallows down her tears.
"Well," she starts. She has a strong cockney accent. "I was just downstairs making his tea, and he was upstairs on his laptop. I called him down once tea was ready, but he didn't come down, so I went up to fetch him, but he was gone. Only his laptop was there where he had been sitting."
The man pulls the microphone back to his own lips. "Very strange," he says. "What about the laptop. No suspicous things on there. You know what I mean? He hadn't been talking to someone online and planning to meet up with them or anything?" The lady shakes her head, and the mic is back to her.
"I had a quick look at what he was doing, but there was only some website called...um Palm beach? No Palm City, yeah that was it, palm city was up on the screen," She says. The mic is back at the man's mouth.
"Well we have no idea what happened to this boy," He says, speaking to the camera, smoothing his hair down with one hand. No, I think, You don't have any idea. But I do. I know he's in the game. Palm City's pulled him in, and he's a virtual being now. A picture of him appears on the screen. He's handsome, for a 14 year old. He has quite curly blonde hair and green striking eyes. I turn off the T.V. I don't want to see anymore. I let myself be swallowed whole by the sofa.