One upon a time, there was a man called Bob. Bob had very little sense or bravery. He might as well have been dead. He lived in a coma of lies and foolishness. He liked Perfect Dark, and Unreal, and any other game that crossed his path. For kicks, he looked at Sports Illustrated Online's swimsuit issue. As you may see, he had problems.

He lived out of his home, a technology columnist, and as such never went outside. He bought groceries and necessities over the Internet. For a treat, sometimes he ordered pizza, with anchovies and garlic. He never saw other humans, so why would he care about his breath? His life was simple. He did not have to worry about offending people, or housecleaning, or a pet. He sat in his chair and wrote his column, then played Unreal. Sometimes he entered game chat rooms- now that was social.
. Either way, one fine day, he was about to start up his computer, as usual. He yawned once, not noticing the strange smell the filled the room. He leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling. There were little flowers on it. He hadn't noticed them before, and gained a little amusement. At that moment, he felt a small sensation at his foot, next to the computer terminal. It was not quite biting, but it was a small irritation, and worthy of action. He edged his chair over a bit. Still, the small tinge of pain grew stronger. With a sigh, Bob looked down.
To his horror, his beloved Pentium Three was engulfed in flames. Thinking nothing of his own lightly smoldering foot, he rushed to his bathroom and filled a Dixie cup with water. The Dixie cup was not very effective, and he accepted this after the fifth try. He stood for a moment, thinking.
And then he rushed out his door.
He let the sun wash over him, and the sound of birds filled his ears. They had roosted in an oak tree in his front yard, and they sang to scare the hawk above them, a great red hawk.
He knew that he must find a telephone [his had been disconnected long ago.] But the thought of the flaming computer slowly disappeared, and the idea of the telephone too departed him. He had discovered the Outside for the second time- the first when he was young, before his beloved computer, and the second now. He could not say which first discovery had been most beautiful. As he thought and felt and knew this, he stopped walking, and looked toward the sapphire sky. A single cloud floated overhead, and an air plane moved through the heavens, leaving a wispy line of mist behind, as It's sovereign of travel.. I was in an airplane once.. he thought.
Yes, once he was up there, above the people and the birds and the cities, flying as the hawk did that he saw above the oak tree. He had once looked down and dreamed of what he might become one day, what he would do when he was as old as he was now. I had wanted to climb mountains he unconsciously recalled. And he saw, again in his mind, the great white caps that he had confused with clouds, the day he flew as the hawk.
Let the computer and the house burn. I need them no more, he spoke inwardly. And he walked off again, in search of the one whom would help him, help him climb the caps of the mountains he had seen when he flew, and had seen in every dream since.
He walked farther, staunch with the resolve to climb that mountain, the dream mountain. Soon, he saw a small convience store. It was a town, the town he once knew and loved, where he had gone for groceriesā€¦Beforeā€¦ The little Italian restaurant where he had once gone for a good lasagna and a stiff drink- the grocery mart where he found the strange ingredients to a curry or a chutney- the book store where he had gone once before, and spoke of Shakespeare and Voltaire to the old shop keeper- he remembered and loved them anew.
To his surprise, he was nearly flattened by a boy on a skateboard. Just in time, he pulled back, avoiding the imminent trauma to the toes he was sure to suffer.
The boy stopped, whirled to make sure of the good humor of his near victim. His mouth opened to offer some apology., than shut again. No apology came forth.
The boy stepped back.
"Dude, do you live in a coffin or something?"

Bob tried to reply. And then, as he struggled to articulate the words, he discovered that he could not speak. Again, he tried. A small groan escaped him. The boy turned to a man nearby.
"Like, this guy just crawled out of the sewer or something. I think you should call the funny farm or whatever."
The man who was addressed as such yelped and fished his cell phone out of the dredges of his pocket. Bob stood by, in shock. He was horrified that this could happen to him. He had always thought his life harmless. It was fun! Typing in chat rooms and Unreal tournaments had taken the place of speech, and he was happy.
Did he look odd? He looked into the newly washed window behind him, that of the shoe store. He was horrified. His face was gaunt and lined, a bit of stubble covering his chin. His hair was greasy and matted, and his skin pale and unhealthy in appearance. He racked his brain, and could not remember the last time he had showered. How could he, he who had reveled in being neat and well groomed, who always wore deodorant and always bushed his teeth-how had he come to this?

He sat in an armchair. He had a cup of coffee, swirled with cinnamon. He had been aquatinted with Starbucks during his stay at the Physcatric Ward. Starbucks- that god of eternal light and life! The Giver Of The Grande Latte! Starbucks had perhaps been the one deciding factor in his recovery- the light in the darkness of Computer Addiction, the element to compel him to go on living.
He smiled, remembering himself in those days. He could look back now, and laugh. It felt long ago now, too long ago to matter.
He had climbed the mountain of his dreams. The mountain that was called Denali. Denali sealed his dream, refined it. He had climbed the Everest, and K2 would be his next, within a month. He grinned, remembering the view from the top of the world. He had felt the equal of the hawk for the first time, there at the top of the world.

He smiled , then rose from his chair. He needed to vist the library, to get more information on Nepal.
He started his car and drove off into the beginning snow. It was great, large flurries, the type he loved best. He smiled into the snow and drove on. Perhaps he would call his friends tonight. The library appeared and Bob turned off into the parking lot.

The travel section was extensive, and Bob lingered over each book, describing strange lands or ancient histories, mosques and theaters. Perhaps he would visit them all, in time. Well. To business, he thought absently. He moved off toward the section where books on Nepal might be had.
As he was contemplating the relative advantages of Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, he noticed a patch of gray. Curious, he turned in It's direction. It was a computer. Bob stood still, in abject horror. He had not seen a computer in a year, had not laid his hands upon the piece of beige plastic, had not surfed or played. As he was considering this, his hand almost involuntarily started twitching in the old pattern of a mouse click. Inwardly, he howled and screamed in protest. No sound escaped his dry lips, and he did not persist, as his legs moved him toward the computer. His hand was poised over the mouse. Merely an off hand click and he would be back in the world he loved and knew.
I give you safety, he imagined the computer saying, drawing him in like a lure. His finger moved ever closer.
"NO!" The sound escaped him with a clarity that surprised him. He had not screamed inwardly, at that moment, and it had saved him, saved him as nothing else may have.
Noting that everyone in the library had quite probably heard him, he turned and fled, galloping out the door into the snow.

The flurries landed on his face. They were cold, and the sensation jarred him back into reality. He was surprised at his bravery, back there in the library, in the Travel section.
And then, he realized. He had won over the computer, won over him! He had defeated the inner evil within him, had destroyed it more completely than he had ever destroyed a monster or a mob-boss in a game, defeated the virtual opponent or saved the world. Reality was so much better, he realized, so much more pure and beautiful. He now knew beauty, he now knew true human hate and fear and happiness. He was aquatinted with all of them, knew them as he knew himself, and knew that he would never give them up, despite death or adversity.
He was the victor, the victor of the terrible game of life. Bob breathed deeply, feeling the crisp night air fill his lungs and his body, his soul. He crunched through the snow in the direction of the little Italian restaurant, where a stiff drink and lasagna could be had. His friends were waiting.