“Thank you for helping me, George. Now we’re having double the fun.”
“Sun’s going down fast, Heidi,” speaks a concerned George, still working upon his own castle. He’d been at it for about 45 minutes now. “Maybe we better go look for Philip and Marion. They may have forgotten about us. Especially Marion, you know. And Philip gets sidetracked in a different way.”
“Oh, they’re not concerned about us,” giggled Heidi Hunt Ives. “They know I can take care of myself. *And* you.” She stopped her castle building for a moment and looked over at him. “13, you say?” George nodded, beginning to hollow out the castle door more. “You really don’t look any older than me, truth be told. But look around, George. Do you know where you are?”
“I’m here with you,” he replied smugly, still engrossed in sand sculpting. “In a playground. In Capitol City. On the Gaeta V continent. In Our Second Lyfe. In Virtual Reality. Does that answer your question?”
“Right on the last two counts at least,” Heidi said innocently. With this, George finally looked up, saw the snow-less ground all around the sandbox. Saw the surrounding brick wall peppered with graffiti. Stood up and stared at the tall, disrepaired apartment building behind him.
And then, in an instant, it was all gone, clean, snowier part of Capitol City returned.
Flushing, he turned toward Heidi. Only one castle was in the significantly smaller sandbox now: her own. “There never was a second castle, George,” Heidi explained straightforwardly while still crafting a turret. “Not yet.”
“Do you hear that?” she whispered, strangely concerned now after all that went on before. Then George heard it too. Crunching, soft but unmistakable. Someone walking on the other side of the picket fence.