Today I’m sharing a short story I wrote back in college, using video games as a metaphor for life with invisible illness. Sort of my own “spoon theory.” Let me know what you think in the comments!
I’m playing on expert and no one else is. How isolating.
I suppose it’s normal for the hero of the story to not fit in, but like most heroes, I don’t feel like I am one. I’m so different from everyone else, and not in good ways. I’m self-conscious and unsure, though no one else seems to see me that way. I don’t think I’m strong, though everyone says I am strong. I guess I’m one of those protagonists that people love to hate – the emo kind who are always too pensive and whiney. People yell “JUST PICK UP YOUR GIANT SWORD AND GET ON WITH IT!” Do you know how heavy that thing is? Especially when you’re playing on expert.
I can’t relate to anyone in this town. These people go about all day doing the same things day in and day out. The A.I. is horrible here – more than once I’ve seen the townsfolk just walking into a wall for hours on end, never getting anywhere. They always seem to be having the same conversations, and they never notice anything. For instance – my health bar is blaring, the alarm is so loud I can’t even hear the birds. I’m walking around on the brink of death but no one seems to notice or care.
What’s worse, though, is that they don’t seem to have love. No one is in love here. The bawdy barflies at the taverns do not love. The wenches who smoke outside seem even more love-forsaken. Am I the only one following some higher quest? Am I the only one with real intelligence, real feelings, real problems, and a real life? Because of course, I am in love. What hero isn’t? I’m going to save the world too, probably. That’s what heroes do – everything.
Everything alone. There’s no one I could possibly relate to, not even my love. No one else knows what it’s like to be the hero. No one knows what it’s like to fight all day, every day. No one knows what it’s like to have real thoughts. No one knows what it’s like to only have 2 HP left, and alarms blaring, while you try not to accidentally bump up against anything because it would probably kill you.
Sometimes I look at these other people and think how lovely it must be to be them. To not have a single thought in your head except for one that just loops and loops all day without ceasing. To be walking around in one circle for your entire life, and having each round be new and exciting somehow. Nothing rests on their shoulders. Nothing takes their HP. What a beautiful life.
I missed out on that kind of life. I made choices that marked me as different from the rest of the world. But these were choices. I did not choose to play on expert – some higher power did that. That is the part that seems unfair. That is the part that makes me pensive.
I started this game with a handicap – my HP goes down at a steady rate constantly. Battling and questing don’t help. I’ve become addicted to potions, elixirs, healing spells, and phoenix downs. These things have wrought my body with more disability, more dependency, and more need for cures and white magic to fix the status ailments I brought on myself by fighting death away. It seems the more “victories” I achieve, the more quests are added to my list. Does anyone else in this wretched town live this way?
So I journey on, the hero of the story who feels they are not a hero. I am no knight, no solider, no master of anything. I am not strong or beautiful or chosen.
My HP alarms are blaring. It is always time for more medicine. I’m playing on expert but I don’t think I can win. But if this were Final Fantasy or Ultima, what difference would it make? I would much rather play those games on expert any day. But this isn’t a game – it’s real life.
It’s about time I did something about this HP warning. Two pills and a potion later, they’ve stopped, and I have four hours before they start up again – if I’m careful. So what will I do now? Go to work? Class? Run errands? I fight through another day that’s a battle to me, but just another day to everyone else around here. It would be easier if there were something that denoted expert mode – something visible, I mean. But I guess that’s why they call it “invisible illness.” It just comes with the territory. If I needed a wheelchair, or a cane, or I was missing a leg or something, things would be so much easier. I’ve tried to tell people, but with nothing to see, few people understand.
It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch, though, for people to realize the bigger the sword, the bigger the monsters it’s meant to fight. And, of course, it’s heavy. Really heavy.