Dino opened his eyes, back in the world of Fantasy Journey, back in the forest where both he and Data landed. The dimension transceiver, the mobile phone, sounded. Jana had sent in the rest of the information about the situation.
Her voice rang in his ear while he ran to the healer’s hut where he left Data. “He got access to this massive database of the world animation from the 1900-2000 dimension. He wanted to show our world the beauty of that old art form, so he created the jumper system. It was a way to recreate what we currently do for games, and to use it with animation. But none of the faculty saw its potential both for archival purposes as well as for another form of entertainment. So he sank deeper into his old cartoons, and then mastered the jumper system. Then he lost himself in it, the way some gamers stay in the game worlds. He had not created a fool-proof pullback or time-out command for his jumper system. I don’t think he even wants to leave.”
Dino grumbled. He just wanted a new second-hand TV. Not an inter-dimensional adventure.
When he reached the healer mage’s hut, Data was already sitting up in bed, with the mage watching over him.
“The mage told me about it,” Data smiled at him, weakly. “I’m sorry you had to carry me.” He pixelated again. He still looked pale. “But I think I’ll be alright now. We’d better get going.”
“You’re FAR from alright,” Dino scolded him.
But Data slowly stood up and took up his satchel from the end of the bed. He swayed and took large steps as he walked. “See? I’m fine now. We can get on our way again.” He thanked the healer mage for all the help, then said that they had to go on their ‘journey’ again. Dino wordlessly followed him.
As soon as they got out of view of the mage, Data took out the mobile and reached out to his wristwatch. Dino grabbed him by the left hand and blocked him from using the jump communicator.
“No more jumping, Data. Send me back home,” he said.
“Not just yet, not just yet,” Data tried freeing his left hand from Dino’s grip. “There are two more places I want to go…”
“No more, Data.”
“But time has stopped at your place,” the boy stammered, “so you don’t have to worry about missing appointments…or people finding out…”
Startled, Data raised his head and paid attention.
“You can’t go on doing this, Haya. You can’t stay in a dream state forever.”
“Sure, I can,” Data grinned, but uneasily. Data wrenched himself free of the grip on his left hand, and he punched in a few numbers into the mobile then pressed on the wristwatch.
But instead of landing in another animated world, the two found themselves surrounded by blue and hearing the ear-rending white noise of a television station with no signal.
“You’re breaking down,” Dino said. “You can’t keep this up for much longer. You’ll DIE if you stay here!”
The jumper kept grinning. “That’s why I need your help–”
“I can’t help you! I can stay only as long as you can keep this up! If you disappear, I disappear, too! We’re both on an illegal connection, remember!”
The grin changed to a frown. Data lowered his head and whispered. “Oh. Yeah. That’s right. I forgot.”
Dino took him by the collar and shook him. “Go back to your real world. Face reality, before it kills you.”
“There’s nothing for me there,” Data muttered. “My skills aren’t needed. No one needs me there. So I’d rather spend my time here, and enjoy myself.”
“Are you enjoying yourself…really?”
He looked into the distance, but had no reply. He began to pixelate by various degrees before returning to normal.
He finally spoke. “People need you only when you do what they tell you to do. People like you only when you do what they want you to do. I tried to show them something new by taking from something old…they told me to get back to work and to stop dreaming. But everything I’ve done up to now is the result of dreams that came true. Why can’t I take my dreams now and make them come true? Why?” He walked around Dino, in the midst of the blueness. “You understand, don’t you? Don’t you get those days when the homework, when the projects, when the pressures all just pile up…and you just want to make it all go away? Just disappear in these alternate worlds, even if just through your old image converter? Doesn’t that happen to you, too?”
Dino let him rant and pace around. Then he put a hand on Data’s shoulder. “Jana’s worried about you, Haya.”
“Jana…” The boy hung his head.
“That’s why you can’t really love it here. You can’t share it with anyone. And you know you’re running away.”
Data grabbed at Dino and hugged him tightly. “I…I…can’t go back…I…don’t want to….I want to stay here.”
Dino answered with calm. “It’s real life that makes us love the unreal even more. If there is no escape from the real world, we become overstressed. But if our world is filled with only the unreal, we become unstable. Either way, we become miserable. We need both.”
Data gave him another tight hug.
“Wake up, Haya. Go back. People do need you, just for yourself. Wake up. Go back.”
Dino did not want to sound cold and heartless, but he had to make his point. He tried to say it with concern, though.
Data finally let go, then sighed. He punched the buttons on the jump communicator at his wrist, then punched more buttons on the mobile.
Data Fix began to fade from view. Dino looked down, and he saw that he was beginning to fade as well.
“That’s right,” Dino smiled at his companion.
“I’ll see you again?” Data asked, almost begging.
“I dunno, really,” Dino answered. “That’s up to you. As long as I don’t have midterms or finals or major projects, I’ll be around.”
“Thanks. See ya sometime.”
Those were Data Fix’s last words, before dematerializing…before Dino felt like the TV was switched off with him inside it.
He heard a knocking at the door. He heard Andy’s voice from behind the door. “Dino! Dino! We’re going out for dinner! Wanna come?”
He looked around. He was back in his dorm room, like nothing happened. He looked at the window and realized that the sun had already set and the stars were already beginning to appear. He stretched for a bit while he walked to the door and let her in. He could not believe how tired he still felt, despite the feeling that he had been dreaming for such a long time.
“So, how’s the new TV?” Andy asked. “You got it working?”
He looked at the television. It was acting like a normal television should, airing commercials. But one thing kept bothering him.
“Um, Andy?” He pointed to the floor where he had dropped the remote. “Could you grab the remote and put it on channel 157?”
Andy scratched her head while she reached for the remote control. “Do we actually have a channel 157?”
“I dunno, but could you just check?”
She pressed the necessary buttons at the television and waited.
To both their surprise, they got a clear reception on channel 157. It currently featured a drama set in a future dimension. The scene involved a room full of machines and monitors, all surrounding a teenaged boy on a hospital bed. Beside the boy and holding his hand was a 20-something woman in tight pants but a looser uniform.
“Jana,” Dino muttered. “It’s Jana.”
“You know this show?” Andy asked.
“I’m…not sure…” he replied, glued to the television.
Slowly the boy in the hospital bed began to stir. The machines and the monitors accordingly began to bleep and beep faster and more regularly. The boy opened his eyes and looked around. The young lady with him pressed his hand harder and looked at him closer. “Haya?” she called out. “Haya? Are you alright?”
The boy pressed the young woman’s hand and faced her. “Jana.”
Andy gasped and faced Dino. “You KNOW this show! What’s it called? What’s it called?”
“Shhh!” Dino raised a hand.
The young woman in the television screen began to speak again. “Haya!” Tears flowed down her cheeks. “I thought I would never get you back.”
The boy tried to reach out to her but was too weak, and his arms fell back. “I missed you.”
Jana reached over instead and embraced him as the tears kept falling. She had no words left to say.
Dino could not keep a smile of relief from forming on his face.
Suddenly the scene disappeared, replaced by television white noise and a blue screen.
“Awwww,” Andy frowned. “Show’s over. Hey, can we go have dinner now?”
Dino’s eyes lingered for a while longer at the now blank channel 157. “Yeah, Andy, let’s go.” He switched off the television.
Andy led the way out the door. “Hey, I just noticed. That’s a nice new watch you have on.” She pointed at his left wrist. Dino looked at his left wrist as well.
He still had the jump communicator.
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