That was my answer. Not that it should have mattered. It wasn’t a real answer. There’d not been a real decision. No, it was all a virtual reality. Role-play. Looking back it seems strange to have been so casual. That question should have been so exciting.
MrHolloway Miss Green, would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?
I suppose you could call that my first proposal. Obviously I didn’t see it like that; it was only a game. So, with hardly any thought, I said yes. After all, Mr Holloway had all that was desirable in our strange, empty world. He was wealthy, intelligent, excellent conversation, was an admirable sportsman and had a good reputation. Our virtual marriage would be the talk of the site. Besides, I didn’t think it particularly odd. I was just so absorbed in this imaginary world. To anybody on the outside it would seem ridiculous. I admit that the whole idea of a virtual wedding must seem like a joke but I was so used to it.
MrHolloway In that case, we’re officially engaged and in time to make a public appearance together at the ball next week.
I’d not heard of any balls coming up which was unusual. I’d done well on the site and usually received an invite to every kind of social occasion. I spent my entire life online, attending weddings, dancing at balls, making polite conversation over tea and hosting dinner parties. However, since starting courting Mr Holloway, I’d been distracted for all those hours sat at my laptop and it was most likely that I had been told all about this ball but had quickly forgotten when I saw the tall, fine avatar of my beloved.
MissGreen That sounds delightful. Who is to be hosting this ball?
MrHolloway It is to be held at Hathrington Park, the home of an old friend of mine, Mrs Grahame.
MissGreen I do not think I have ever made her acquaintance.
MrHolloway Well you certainly will on Saturday for I have told her all about you and she is most anxious to meet the lady of whom I speak so very highly.
I should probably explain all this better than I have so far. Basically I joined an online virtual world where you enter Jane Austen’s world. As you acquire your fortune you build up your estate. You make an avatar of yourself and give it your name and you can go about this world as if it were real. Your avatar can walk, ride, dance. You converse with other members, generally those who rank similarly to you. It’s addictive. Because there’s so much in the game, it’s easy to confuse with reality. People get married, buy property, they spend more time conversing online than in real life. The friendships feel so real. The romances feel real. I accepted that proposal so quickly because obviously it’s not a real relationship but when I think about it now, that relationship became far more real than any I’ve ever had in real life.
After hours of conversation I knew Sebastian far better than any of my real-world friends. I knew more about him than even my own family. He was more real to me than all those people I could see, hear and touch. It couldn’t have possibly have been a real romance but somehow those feelings I developed felt so real. Could I have been really in love?