REPATR _Berit El 1. He sat in his friend’s rusty car. They were driving up a ramp, chatting. The car in front of them stopped. His friend didn’t see it, he was too busy talking. They were going to crash. But instead of running away from the fear he went towards it. “Finally I will see a crash first hand,” he thought. “Are they as bad as people say?” The sky was wide and blue. It filled the ramp, the car, his friend and himself. The openness swallowed him whole. His friend braked hard. The seatbelt bit into his shoulder, hair flew around his face. They stopped right behind the bumper of the vehicle in front. No one said anything. Then his friend started laughing. “That was close,” his friend said. “Yeah,” he said and laughed too. That night he fell asleep inside the sky of the near accident. In the morning he woke in the same place. 2. He was a married-with-two-kids blue collar yob from Northern England. He played the online game in a small den in the garden while his wife and kids slept. In the virtual world he was a muscular elf in heavy armour. Saturday nights he was drunk and loud, eager to fight the game’s big bosses with his friends and shout over the microphone in voice chat. Afterwards he celebrated by drinking more and talking about his feelings. “Why do you play an elf?” I said. He was inelegant and graceless, not only on Saturday nights. I wanted him to see himself. “I like elves,” he said. “They’re
the best warriors, brave and loyal.” Getting drunk at weekends and talking about his feelings to semistrangers online didn’t match the literary description of elves. But I couldn’t hurt him after all, so I said nothing. I became involved in a childish but interesting power struggle in the group. When I lost I left in anger. Afterwards he listened to my complaints. Weeks passed. I didn’t see him. I joined one of the game’s private chat channels to have someone to talk with while I played. “What’s she doing here?” someone from the old group said. “I’m so glad to see you!” the blue collar elf said. “It’s good to be here,” I said. It was Saturday night. He was drunk and wanted to talk about his feelings, just like a real elf. I listened. 3. He woke carrying the body of a cat instead of a man. Next to him his cat dreamed it had a human body. His hands were gray and round and soft. When he saw that he cried. He propped a ground floor window open with a shoe and fled outside. He ran to his brother’s apartment. His brother was asleep, calling his name. He didn’t know what to think. They had always been very close. His first thought had been to run to his brother. He lay down by the sleeping man. He felt a lot of love, but didn’t know if it was a cat’s love or a brother’s love. He cried some more. When his brother woke he petted him. Then he fed him meat and water while he made morning coffee. They watched TV together and talked. When it got dark, his brother drove him home.