This short story on clubbing in the metaverse was inspired by my research on the virtual nightclub market.
“Wait, you still do that?” asked my sister Megan, the corners of her lips dipping down into a frown. I immediately regretted bringing up the Pixel Bar at lunch.
“Yeah…” I said, “what?”
“Nothing, Mia! I just think you should get out more, you know, actually meet real people, living real lives, in the real world.”
I rolled my eyes and thought here we go again.
“I do go out. I do meet real people. If you tried it with me, maybe you could understa-”
“I don’t do that,” said Megan, beckoning the waiter to come bring our check. I pushed around the food on my plate, wishing I could close my eyes and escape into the metaverse.
At the Pixel Bar, I headed straight to the crowded dance floor. It pulsed with squares of rainbow lights, and metallic bubbles popped in the air around me, silver and gold dust glittering above our heads. The DJ played in a cage hovering above the dance floor with tentacles of black and gold lights squirming around the bars and down onto the dance floor.
I didn’t look like me IRL, but I finally felt like myself. In this world, I had a choice. I could match my body to reflect who I was on the inside and this version of myself was sexy, fluid, and feline. When I danced, all eyes in the club moved with me in hypnosis. After a year of dominating the dance floor every weekend, I thought I knew everyone in this small world.
“Mia!” I heard the double scream rattle in my headset.
I turned to see Isla and Ike hovering towards me, gold lasers fired off behind their heads like fireworks.
“Are these new claws?” They asked in unison.
I held up my cat paws to show off my new neon pink claws. I wore a tight, mini black dress to show off my legs, a neon pink cat ear headband, and two thick black pigtails so long they dragged behind me like a cape.
“I think you have a secret admirer,” said Ike. “That girl over there has been checking you out all night.”
“Who even is that? I’ve never seen her here before.”
“Why don't you go find out,” smirked Isla.
My eyes locked with hers from across the room. She smiled and turned her head away in shyness, so I waved my paws in a come here motion. She fluttered across the dancefloor with micro steps; ankles locked in permanent pointe. She looked like a medieval ballerina with silver chainmail suctioned to her entire body and a stiff, sharp iron tutu, but the one thing that stole my focus was her blue and green eyes. She told me her name was Aurora and we danced side by side the rest of the night.
I couldn't stop thinking about her all week and when Friday finally came, I was the first one at the Pixel Bar, hoping she would be there. I danced, I talked to my friends, and I went into the cage with the DJ, but I couldn't keep my eyes off the door. Would we meet again? I wasn’t sure what these feelings meant, but I knew they were different. I found a family in this community, but I found something else in her.
It was getting late when she arrived. I ran over to her, relieved to see those colorful swirling eyes again. We danced until Aurora wanted to find a spot to sit down and talk.
“I dance in real life too,” Aurora said. “I’d love to dance together.”
“I love dancing here!” I said, bouncing to the music and avoiding any conversation about life outside of here.
“Me too. I don’t like to go to in-person clubs anymore.”
“Who needs them?” I laughed.
“Umm, I don't know. I guess I used to like it. It's just, like, too many aggressive guys, and one time, this guy pulled me away from my friends. I had to pull so hard to break his grip it bruised my arm. And some other stuff happened, but here is so much better. I can actually be myself.”
“I feel like myself here too.”
We continued to meet every Friday night for months and texted obsessively when apart. I showed up to the bar early and she showed up late. We danced until we couldn’t breathe, finally finding a spot for just the two of us. Sometimes, I could see Isla and Ike, a crowd of partiers, anime girls, and furries surrounding them, looking and pointing in our direction. We always tried to find isolated spots away from the crowds and away from the pounding strobe lights, but my friends couldn't mind their business. I loved them for that.
Aurora and I talked about our dance moves, our favorite books, and music. She loved classical music. I didn't really care about the music, I just wanted it to pound in my chest and make my ears ring in the silence of my room when the party was over. We both loved to watch the snowfall. We shared a respect for spicy food. We hated being touched.
“I want to know you,” Aurora said one night.
“You do know me,” I laughed, bemused.
“No, Mia, I want to meet you, like, outside of here.”
A tab of panic dropped into my stomach. It fizzed and bubbled up until I felt like a middle school volcano project about to erupt. I felt closer to my metaverse friends than anyone I knew outside of it, but I never met anyone in real life, nor did I plan to. I was living a double life and meeting Aurora in person felt exposing, frightening, and too real.
“I have to go, I’m sorry,” I said to her before logging out and ripping off my headset. I threw the controls on my bed and cupped my face in my hands. My phone lit up for the rest of the night.
Where did you go? - Aurora
Is everything alright??? - Aurora
Dude, what happened with Aurora?! - Isla
Will you come back? - Aurora
You are blowing it, she liiiiikes you - Ike
I’m sorry 🙁- Aurora
I couldn't bring myself to look.
By Thursday, I missed her terribly. I didn't want to dance, or go to the Pixel Bar. I wanted to feel what I felt for her in the metaverse in my real life for the first time. I texted her, where do you want to meet? She sent back an address.
“Megan, I need your help.” I pleaded on the phone. “Can you drive me to meet a friend?”
“One of your metaverse friends?” she teased.
“Fine, I’ll find someone else.”
“No, no, no. I’ll help, I am your sister after all.”
In the car, she trapped me in a lecture.
“I brought a baseball bat just in case.”
“In case what? I asked.
“In case she turns out to be a creepy old guy. You never know who you are going to meet online and if you are going to start to meet people in-person, you better be prepared.”
I took a deep breath and shook my head. “She's not a creepy old man.
“Well, does she know about your… condition?”
“Megan, please. I’m already nervous.”
“I’m sorry. I just want to see you happy for once.”
“But I am happy! I have good friends, I go to clubs, I dance! You know I can’t do those things here. And I met someone I really, really like. It's not as easy for me as it is for you.”
“Okay,” she said and zipped her lips with her fingers. We drove in silence the rest of the way. When we pulled up to the address, I checked it ten times to make sure it was correct, but I knew by the sign right away. Aurora School of Dance. This was her studio and there she was, sitting on the steps outside, waiting.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” I said, but Megan was already halfway out the door and walking to the trunk. Aurora ran over to the car and wrapped her arms around Megan.
“I’m so happy to meet you!”
“Ohh, I’m not Mia. That is Mia.”
Megan opened the trunk and lifted out a wheelchair, placing it by the passenger side door.
I opened the car door, lifted myself into the wheelchair, then looked up at Aurora. I smiled, “You have the same blue and green eyes.”
“Let’s go inside,” said Aurora smiling back at me and grabbing my hand, “I have so much to show you.”