Letter to my readers:
Hello, and thank you so much for taking the time to visit my story! For those of you who read the original HEAL ME when I wrote it six years ago, welcome back! This is the edited and updated version - VERY updated. In fact, a few chapters are entirely new, and other chapters have been completely re-written. The entire story is much more fluid now.
I sincerely hope everyone enjoys reading about Laura and her roommates, SMITHLOL and Mason and Greg. I loved spending time with them - which is how I feel whenever I put on my headphones and dive into a chapter, getting to escape the realities of my own life in favor of being at the coffee shop or the pool hall, or even Laura's room with her computer and a box of Whoppers. And a glass of wine;)
Also, if HEAL ME interests you, stay tuned for the other books I've written and will be posting soon.
Let me start off by admitting my two, and only, weaknesses. The first is World of Warcraft. There, I've said it. (Hi, my name is Laura, and I'm a hopeless Warcraft addict…)
You wouldn't think so to look at me, though. If I were holding up the game store line, keeping you from getting the latest first-person shooter, you'd assume I was lost on my way to Abercrombie and Fitch, because let's be honest – I have an obvious tendency toward personal hygiene. I don't have any stains on my shirt. My teeth are still white because I've learned coke isn't water… You'd take one look at me and think that because I wear Uggs and no makeup, because I have long hair and a linen scarf, that I drive a Prius. But I wouldn't much appreciate the judgment.
Anyway, I like to stay up late raiding with strangers around the world. And not many of my friends understand what I mean by 'downing bosses', but I don't care. I don't have very many IRL anyhow, not now that all I care about is getting epic gear, and showing up that stupid, egotistical Smithlol, bringing me to my second weakness: A teeny, tiny streak of anger that only erupts every so often. Like... two or three times a day.
[Healslater] That was not my fault.
[Smithlol] Really? Was someone ELSE supposed to be healing?
It might have been my fault.
[Healslater] Well if you'd stay in range once in awhile!
[Smithlol] Oh sorry, I didn't realize I needed to hold your hand.
[Healslater] What? I have to hold YOUR hand? You're the one who's almost died seven times.
[Smithlol] Because someone can't seem to heal.
[Healslater] Because you keep running out of range!
It didn't matter. When people die in a game, it's always the healer's fault. And we were in a decently easy dungeon – one I'd seen a hundred times before. We should have been able to zip right through, no problem. But since Smith the ultra-tank couldn't seem to wait for the rest of his group, we kept wiping.
Which means everyone dies. Which means, it's obviously my fault.
[Healslater] You know what, don't be a jerk. If you want me to resurrect you…
[Smithlol] Can you handle a resurrection spell? You have to actually click the button.
Which I did, almost breaking my mouse in the process and wishing I had the power to leave him dead. Forever. But that wasn't a real thing in the gaming world. He would simply teleport to a graveyard and res himself. Healers had no real power.
[Smithlol] It's the one with the hand in a pool of blood. It's called Redemption.
[Healslater] Thank you, oh wise one.
[Smithlol] You're welcome.
[Healslater] I was being sarcastic.
[Smithlol] I forgive you.
For real? We had only known each other twelve minutes and virtually. Yet, in that time he'd figured out exactly how to get under my skin.
[Healslater] That was NOT an apology.
[Smithlol] Nobody's perfect.
Seriously? Of all the misogynistic, egomaniacal pieces of... I couldn't think of a scathing reply that didn't make me look like an angry kindergartener trying to reclaim my stolen paste. So, of course, I got defensive.
[Healslater] I don't need your forgiveness, because I didn't DO anything WRONG. If you would learn how to tank, I wouldn't have to resurrect you!
The rest of the guys in our group (or girls, since it's unfair to assume all gamers are pre-pubescent, male outcasts - though let's be honest, the majority are), were quiet observers to Smith's and my constant squabbling. There was a quip here or a joke there, but mostly we were making them too uncomfortable to speak in group chat.
[Smithlol] Okay. Are you done? I know you can't res and lecture at the same time.
I was about to type that I absolutely COULD res and lecture at the same time when I realized one very important detail. My character wasn't casting any spells. Apparently, I'd never actually selected Smith's avatar before clicking the res button. And now Healslater was just standing there, among the renegade of corpses, posing in oblivious indifference to our plight.
What a bitch.
[Smithlol] Anytime now.
I smacked my forehead with both palms, willing my brain to think of a great excuse.
[Healslater] I have lag.
Which is basically the best excuse of all time. It's the computer's fault, the game, the internet, anything but the gamer! I clicked Smith's little icon and hit the spell correctly this time, saw my character wave her hands.
[Healslater] It's working now.
[Smithlol] Great. At this rate, I'll be planning my funeral by the time we finish this run.
Or maybe sooner, I thought, clenching my teeth. If only I had the skills to hack his computer, then he'd be sorry. I sat there vindictively dreaming of what I would do - strip his character of all its epic gear and sell it, then send myself the gold? Delete Smithlol entirely, gear and all? Sending him into the digital abyss; little bytes floating away like dandelion. Never to be seen again.
[Smithlol] Hey at least you were honest with your name. Heals LATER.
[Healslater] It's not heals LATER. It's Heal Slater.
[Smithlol] Are you sure?
I ignored him and brought everyone to life again. We made our way down another dark corridor. Someplace you would never see if not for games like this. The cracks in the walls were life-like, the dragons ahead breathed crimson fire.
[Healslater] It's a color. It means grey.
[Smithlol] No, it doesn't.
He pulled one small dragon from the side and had him down to half his life before the rest of us even jumped in to help.
[Healslater] Yes. It does.
[Smithlol] No. It doesn't.
[Healslater] I'm a literary major. I'm PRETTY sure I know what I'm talking about.
Still, I took note that nobody needed my assistance and switched over to my internet browser. The synonyms for Slater: Charcoal, ebony, grey.
Smugly, I switched back to the game and saw that Smith had responded.
[Smithlol] Slater is a noun, sweetheart. It refers to someone who lays slates.
What? I switched back and quarried the actual definition. Slater [n].
[Smithlol] What school was that?
Asked my lovely tank. I was humiliated, but refused to leave the group, because I knew once I left they'd all start bad-mouthing me. Saying what a baby I was. Only they'd probably use a more demeaning word than 'baby'. And I was no quitter.
[Healslater] It means both things.
[Smithlol] Whatever makes you feel better.
[Shocksalot87] Come on guys. Can we just do this in peace?
[Loverboy] Yeah, I don't have much longer. Wife agro…
[Smithlol] Tell Heals Later. We could probably get through this quicker if we didn't spend so much time wiped across the floor.
Before I could think of a witty, scathing reply to elevate my stature from shitty, illiterate healer to shitty, bitchy healer, Smith was in the mix of bad guys, fighting for his quickly ebbing life. He really had no patience. I clicked a couple of buttons – the green beside his avatar icon filled up again.
Of the five of us, Smith was tank (supposedly the person who holds all the agro and takes all the damage), I was healer (supposedly the one who keeps us all alive), and the other three were damage dealers (the ones responsible for killing whatever we fight). So far, none of us were really doing our jobs…
There were still several more mobs of guys to kill before even the first boss. And there were three total bosses to down before getting the main prize, whatever that was. None of us really cared; we were all in here for points that we could eventually use to buy stuff in the game. We drove through two more mobs without incident, unless you count Loverboy and his continuous rant that his wife was threatening divorce if he didn't spend some time with her.
[Loverboy] Seriously, guys. My wife is pissed – I gotta go.
He logged off; there was a tiny, red lightning bolt through his name to let us all know he was gone.
He voted to kick Lover, and we all sat patiently waiting for a new member to be beamed in. It was a nice bonding moment as we all banded together to whine about deserters.
[Smithlol] What the hell? Is it so difficult to keep a one hour commitment? People are rude.
And maybe – just maybe – I was trying to get back on the tank's good side by agreeing with him.
[Healslater] Yeah, they are.
[Smithlol] I mean, maybe you can't heal worth shit, but at least you stick it out.
I wasn't sure if that was a left-handed compliment, but it was probably the best I could hope for. Plus, I didn't want to start fighting again. Not yet.
[Healslater] Uh… Thanks.
[Shocksalot87] Not really his fault – except that it sounds like he married a total bitch.
[Smithlol] Doesn't matter. DPS are a dime-a-dozen, anyway.
DPS = Damage Per Second.
[Shocksalot87] lol… whatever, man.
[Smithlol] Just being honest. Everyone rolls at least one.
[Shocksalot87] Yeah, true.
The new player bleeped onto our screens. He (or she), called himself 000slash000 – a rogue.
[000slash000] Hey peeps – how goes it?
And based on his language skills, he was likely a kid who may or may not have to log off for bath time at any second.
[Smithlol] K, let's go. Buff us up, Heals.
Bossy much? Ever in a hurry, the tank moved on. I clenched my teeth and clicked a spell that would give us all extra armor and followed behind Smith's large, lumbering form. He was all decked out in plate metal gear; his weapon glowed blood-red. Still, he was difficult to find amid the sparks as everyone shot off their spells a little too early. I worked as quickly as possible, tensely hitting keys and muttering under my breath. By the end of the fight everyone's life was down to ten percent except for Smith. He was at zero, and he wasn't all that happy about it.
[Smithlol] Fuck. Seriously, Heals?
My heart pounded with anger, but before I could start spewing insults at 75wpm, the others came to my rescue.
[000slash000] Dude, that was a tough fight, man.
[Papaplayswow] Yeah, take it easy. She said she was new to healing, remember? Give her a break.
[Smithlol] I did. The first and second times I died. This is bullshit.
I decided to stay quiet. I wiped sweating palms on my jeans, took a sip of my energy drink, and hit the pink res button on my screen. Smith's form reanimated; I healed him, begrudgingly.
[Smithlol] This next fight is a boss. I doubt we'll be able to take him with this group:/
Cocky bastard just couldn't keep his mouth shut long enough for me to regain control over my emotions. I gave in and typed what I was thinking.
[Healslater] Not instilling much confidence.
Smith dove into the fight, hardly waiting to make sure we were all behind him. The dragon took his life down to half in a single swipe.
[Smithlol] Not my job.
I resisted the urge to let him die, healed him instead, and started typing.
[Healslater] Actually, that little mark above your head? The leader symbol? It means we have to follow you. As leader, it's your job to make us confident.
[Shocksalot87] It's only a game, guys…
Smith ignored him.
[Smithlol] Don't get your panties all bunched up. Just fucking keep me alive this time. And stop typing!
[Papaplayswow] Got ads over here!
Papa was a fragile mage. He'd die if he stood on the boss's shadow, or if one of the minions breathed in his direction. I watched as his character ran around in a circle. Smith drew everything off him just in time. But now the main dragon guy was all over Shock. Fortunately, he was well armored as a Shaman. And by the time the fight was over – everyone had lived.
Because of me. I gloated.
[Healslater] How's that, Mr. No Confidence?
[Shocksalot87] Great job, Heals.
[Smithlol] A little luck never hurt anyone.
Our group headed in the same direction, through a majestic doorway, into another part of the dungeon, where we wiped one final time. And now everyone was pissed at me, not just Smith.
[000slash000] Fail, man.
[Shocksalot87] What the hell happened that time?
[Smithlol] Ask Heals Later.
[Healslater] What? You can't keep agro for shit, Smith! And I spent half the time sheeped!
Translation – I was incapacitated.
[Smithlol] Heh… I couldn't tell. You were healing same as usual.
Just then, one of my roommates came home. The front door opened and closed. A bag was dropped on the counter, along with a set of keys.
"Hey, Cat," I called through my open bedroom doorway.
"Hey, Nerd," she returned tiredly. "Do anything constructive today?"
The fridge squeaked; a can of soda popped open to remind me how full my bladder was. I figured it would be a good three minutes before the group was ready to go again, so I ran to the bathroom. When I got back, my character was sitting all lonely-like in the center of town. I was no longer in the dungeon, no longer part of the group. They'd chucked me out like old meat.
"What?" I scrolled up to see what they'd said about me.
[Shocksalot87] Why is Heals doing 8.5k damage?
[Smithlol] Because she was concentrating on doing damage instead of doing her job? Might have been the problem. I vote for a new healer.
"That asshole kicked me?" I was talking to myself, but Cat was in my doorway now, leaning in her usual lanky stance and drinking regular cola since synthetic sweeteners come from hell.
"Who kicked you?" she asked, irritated. "Sweetie, there's nobody else in here."
"On the game. I was doing a run, and the fucking tank just kicked me out!" I was beyond angry now. I was traumatized, and premenstrual, and irate!
"The nerve." Cat casually sashayed over to my bed where she took a seat, but only after tossing a pile of clothes to the floor.
"Hey!" I turned halfway around in my swivel chair. "Those were clean."
"How can you tell?" She gave the rest of my room a confused once-over.
I glanced around as well. There were three different laundry baskets in various phases. One clean, one sort of clean, one decidedly dirty. I had jeans and scarves tossed over the top of my open closet door. Stacks of summer clothes, having never found their way into a storage box, were stacked in my window seat. And piles of books were everywhere.
"Well, you've been so busy," Cat said. "I can see how you wouldn't have time to clean your own room."
"Maybe you need a maid," she joked.
"Be my guest."
"Thanks, but I've been busy working an actual job. You know, one of those things people get when they grow up and get responsible?"
"Because they're suckers?"
She rolled her eyes and set her soda, condensation and all, on my very expensive oak nightstand. "So, your masters from Columbia was just for decoration?"
"And to make my father happy."
Cat's jesting tone turned empathetic. "You know you want to be a writer."
"Yeah, yeah." I rolled my eyes at the unwelcome sentimentality. "Use a coaster."
She complied, grabbing something glass and handmade with dried flowers inside - a treasured token from one of Dad's and my trips to a swap-meet back home. "That trust fund isn't doing you any good. It's crippling you, in fact."
"Says the girl wearing my designer jeans."
She laughed. "They look better on me. You've lost your curves. Speaking of..." she tapped my trash can with her foot. "Energy drinks are not a food group."
"Either is that soda you're drinking."
"Touché. Is this all you did today?" She asked, waving toward my beloved computer.
"No..." I gave her a pointed look. "I paid my rent today."
Suddenly, her confidence mellowed into chagrin. "Is it the fifth of the month already?"
"And I paid yours." I went back to my computer, only to realize with a certain measure of distress that Smithlol wasn't even on my realm. He was using an entirely different server, one that I wouldn't be able to access without starting a new character.
Oh well. He couldn't be allowed to just get away with brushing me off. That would set a very bitter standard. I jotted down the words Smithlol and Winterhoof on a blue sticky note, planning my revenge.
The front door opened again, only this time it didn't close. Someone left it hanging lazily open.
I eyed Cat who stood from the bed. "And I paid hers," I sang, talking about our third roommate who liked to title her occupation as a 'dancer'.
"What time is it?" I asked rhetorically, checking the clock at the bottom of my monitor. It read 5:35pm.
"Stop it," Cat warned. She knew all too well what I was getting at. That innocent Sarah had been out all night and day – she was probably coming down off a coke high.
"I know, I know." My hands went defensively into the air. "She's been your friend since daycare, and she's just going through a 'hard time'," I parroted Cat, using very emphatic air quotes.
"You've never had to work for a fucking thing in all your sparkly, little life, Laura," she seethed before storming from the room.
And she had a point.