The Most Complicated Avatar
Mary E. Lowd
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Copyright © 2012 by Mary E. Lowd
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It feels strange to me, deep in my stomach, that I can't find my ten-year-old girl in real life -- but that, maybe, I can find her here.
My hand shakes on the computer mouse as I log in to Second World, using one of the default avatars -- a woman with straight blonde hair like a plastic shell and the expressionless face of a crash-test-dummy. I try messaging my daughter through the in-game chat window right away, but my message bounces back. I check for her name, "fluttercat," on the online user list, but it's not where it should be between "flutter14" and "flutterkid." My throat constricts with a swallowed sob, but I refuse to believe this tenuous connection to my missing daughter won't pan out. Maybe she's set her status to hidden.
I begin navigating my avatar through the in-game trams from one city to the next, bumping into walls and getting stuck in the occasional corner. Everywhere, I look for Daria's avatar. Yet, I have no real plans until I notice the scribbles of flowers taped to the corner of Daria's monitor and remember her latest Second World obsession. If she's here, I know where she is.