by Victoria P.

You've always known you were different. You wake up and feel like you're still dreaming. Sometimes you can't tell the difference between reality and dreams. You sometimes feel like your skin isn't your own, and you itch to shed it.

But you keep quiet about it, because nobody wants to be different. You try to fit in, and for a while, you succeed.

You've always known you were different, but you never knew quite how different until the day you broke your boyfriend's ribs during sex. You freak out and run, north and west and just -- away, but you can't get away from yourself.

You end up in LA and somehow, that feels right.

You meet him at a party where you see things that you've never seen before, didn't believe existed. Demons. Vampires. Myths and legends coming to life around you, and you can't tell what's real and what's not. Something in you recognizes something in them, and you fight when they try to take you.

He and his crew of monster killers come in and destroy the place. Something in him recognizes that something in you, and he calls you Slayer. You smile. You've spent most of your life hunched over a computer, trying to figure out how the world works. You are the furthest thing from a legendary slayer of demons that you can imagine, but you accept the name, accept the task. You think you've found a place you can belong.

He tells you the world can't be explained with ones and zeroes, that far older forces are at work, and you have been chosen to fight. But you are not the Chosen One. Not the only Chosen One. He drones on and you wonder how someone so attractive can seem so boring, so full of useless trivia. All this mystical stuff sounds like a load of shit to you, but you can't explain why you can suddenly kill vampires and not even break a sweat -- why you suddenly accept vampires, when you never believed in them before -- so you listen with half an ear. He tells the story of how it used to be -- one girl chosen to stand against the forces of darkness (he actually uses the term 'forces of darkness and you have to hold back a laugh, because you may be a geek but you don't game). And then a girl named Buffy changed the world, changed your life, by making every potential a Slayer, and there you are.

You stick around for a while, play the game. You still can't quite tell the difference between dreams and reality, but the others don't seem to have a problem. They're confident they live in the real world and you're just a freak among freaks. So, no fitting in here, though it's better than it was back home.

Then you hear rumors of something called the matrix, and you spend hours tracking down those rumors. You learn about Morpheus, and you know he can show you the truth, the reality beyond the life you're half-living, spending your nights staring at a computer screen when you're not out staking vampires and killing demons. You acquire legendary status of your own, the name Trinity is spoken in whispers and typed with reverence in certain quadrants of the Internet. You feel a small sense of belonging, of accomplishment, but it's not enough. The more you discover, the more you need to know. The question drives you, and you must find the answer.

You start to drift away from Wesley, away from everything that seems false, that makes your skin itch with the knowledge that there's something else, something even crazier than demons and Slayers and vampires, oh my.

And the day comes.

You get the message.

Morpheus wants to meet you. You tell Wesley you're leaving, you can't stick around anymore, you need to find yourself.

You think he'll accept this -- he's been in California long enough -- but you can feel him following you through the dark streets when you go. You can't tell if it's because he thinks you need protection or if he no longer trusts you -- if he ever trusted you at all.

You end up in a club, lights strobing white and green, bodies pressed together in a manic charade of sex, of togetherness. You stand at the bar and wait, brushing off all comers with a cool smile, always aware of Wesley standing in the shadows behind you, watching.

You're almost ready to give up, your head pounding from the music and the smell of sweat and sex and smoke, when he glides past you, brown skin and black leather and a confidence you've never seen before, not even in Angel in his finest moments.

You follow, mesmerized, to a small room in the back of the club, where the lights are dim but steady and so is the beat of the music. When Morpheus tells you of the Matrix, you nod, all the pieces finally clicking into place. You feel like you're living a waking dream because you are, and you see that you are not the freak, you're the only sane one within miles.

Morpheus offers you a choice that's no choice at all. You reach for the red pill. Your hand is approaching your mouth, all doubts that this is the right thing are long gone, when Wesley bursts into the room, shotgun at the ready. Morpheus's silent guards pull their own weapons and Morpheus rises, hands outstretched in a calming gesture. The guns are lowered, but the tension in the room prickles along your skin, raising the hair on your arms and the back of your neck.

The two men stare at each other, past and future, dreaming and waking.

"Wesley Wyndham-Price," Morpheus says. He taps his chin as if thinking, then, "You have a great capacity to believe in things you do not see, and to see things that others do not."

"Thank you," Wesley replies, unshaken by the fact that a stranger seems to know him. He jerks his head at you. "We should be going."

"I'm going with Morpheus," you say.

Wesley's lip curls. "I didn't think you preferred dreams to reality."

Before you can respond, Morpheus says, "You have it backwards, Wesley. This is the dream. I could show you reality, but your mind is not ready."

"Words," Wesley spits back. "Meaningless drivel dressed up as false aphorisms."

"I'm sorry," you say, swallowing the pill. The gun in Wesley's hands begins to rise. You are suddenly aware of every movement in the room; the world is melting, a phone is ringing, and you don't even get the chance to say goodbye before everything goes black.

You can't tell if you're dying or being reborn, but you've finally found the place you belong.


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