Log Title: Beneath The Skin
Summary: The doctor has their own issues.
IC Date: 02 18 2381
OOC Date: 02 19 2019
Related Logs: None



Winter walked their last patient to the door of the office, collecting a few tissues as they passed the coffee table and offering them over. The tearful man smiled appreciatively and gave his nose an impressive honk before clearing his throat.

“Same time next week, Doc?”

“That would be fine, and you can ONI message me earlier if you have an episode before then.”

He nodded, offered Winter another watery smile, and stepped out into the Neon District, fully and garishly aglow now that night had fallen.

The bell jingled, the door closed, and Winter let a slow breath out as one hand lifted to press against their ribs. God, how did anybody breathe with all this weight around them? How did anybody prefer it? The drag of bone, muscle and fat. The inflation of pulmonary parenchyma, the squeeze of the heart as it forced blood through arteries and veins. VR simulated such things, but it was lighter, freer, without finite restrictions. Winter could stretch themself across the sky or curl up inside the empty shell of an acorn. They were constrained only by their own imagination and perceptions. In the real, it was nothing but limitations. Everything was singular, distinct, heavy. Their hand was trembling and they curled it into a fist as they locked the door, turned the sign hanging from it to Closed and killed the lights so that the only illumination came from the large aquarium against the back wall.

“Good night, Otto,” they murmured to the octopus program currently projected there, tucked up into a rock cave with one arm curled around a small jar, now open and empty.

Winter stepped into the back room, closed and locked the door and took another slow breath in and out. These are your lungs and this is your skin. This body houses your soul. Houses don’t have to change. You can leave them and come home again. They were pretty sure the mantra wasn’t making much of a difference, but three months inside the same sleeve meant nothing was making much of a difference, anymore. They’d never gone three months in any sleeve. Every day was a new record. And that… helped. That sense of accomplishment. Even if it didn’t actually help enough.

Winter didn’t have an apartment or a home away from their office. They didn’t have a bedroom or any sort of living quarters. There wasn’t any need. They loaded up the program on the console and stretched out in the waiting chair. With another exhale, this one of relief, they slid the jack into the base of their neck and finally unfurled.

They’d picked a beach this time because it was one of the few programs they had that provided a space larger than a house and loaded smoothly enough that you had to be paying attention to notice when one environ shifted into the next. They started as they were in the real, their edges already blurred and trailing colors as rigid form and structure gave way to nothing. Everything. Anything. They were a ribbon of light. A middle-aged man. A collection of leaves. In VR, you were held back only by your own self perceptions, and Winter lacked any rigid sense of structure. That was difficult in the real, but here, it just meant freedom.

They collapsed into the sand, hair and skin shifting tones as they stared up into the cloudless sky and luxuriated in the lightness and ease. The lack of skin that made their skin feel so wonderfully right.

This was home.

And that was a problem.