by TheMajorTechie

Come back,

Lisa watched as hands once again emerged from the ravaged windows, cutting and pulling her brother from his seat. She yelped as another hand grabbed her by the elbow, yanking her against her seatbelt as more yells came from outside.

"Somebody got a knife?" The voice of the one tugging at Lisa yelled, "We might need to cut the seatbelts if they're stuck!"

"Here, use mine! I just used it to get the boy out!"

The hand let go of her arm, instead feeling for her seatbelt.

"C'mon, clear out!" A distant, gruff voice echoed over the vehicle, "We've got firefighters and paramedics waiting for y'all to make way!"

The hand disappeared from view. Beyond the window, the boots of the drunkard slid away, dragged with their owner to the sidelines by officers. A groan of metal shrieked through the skeletal vehicle as the structure further weakened in the raging flames. Lisa screamed as a flaming chunk of flooring fell past, narrowly missing her head.

"Lisa!" A distant voice cried out.

"Lisa!" The voice called again.

An invisible hand seemingly took hold of the girl, shaking her by a shoulder.

"Lisa, snap out of it!"


Lisa groaned, glancing up from her seatbelt. She blinked, turning to face Samantha, who took her hand off of the girl's shoulder.

"C'mon, don't go around having nightmares in the middle of the day now!"

"Definitely seemed like a doozy to me." Argall commented from the front, "Samantha, how 'bout you let her recover a bit before you shake her up even more?"

Andrew folded his arms, nodding. "Yeah." He added, "Lisa, you've been crying in your sleep since we were stuck in traffic back there."

"And we still are." The Professor deadpanned. The car inched forward, stopping again moments later.

Just outside the windows, Lisa watched with wide eyes as first-responders pulled two children from the burning wreckage. Both lay limp in their arms as they were rushed into a waiting ambulance, life rapidly fading from their frail bodies.

Professor Argall cringed, turning his head to avoid looking at the scene as the vehicle pulled further forward.

"Nasty things..." Andrew began, "...But, sadly, a common occurrence."

The car swerved to the left, following closely behind the one in front as the lanes were redirected. With one final lurch forward, the car exited the congestion. Lisa peered through her window as the wreck faded from view amongst the traffic.

Argall sighed, his shoulders slumping as he relaxed. "Finally." He mumbled as he made a right turn, the click-click of the signal piercing through the vehicle.

Lisa glanced out the window. The fiery accident was long-gone from view, but the thick curls of smoke continued to rise over the buildings lining the roads.

"What's up with you and staring out the window?" Samantha jeered, poking her friend. "Every time I look over, you're either sleeping or looking at something outside."

Lisa shook her head. "It's nothing," She began, continuing to watch the smoke, "I just like to do this."

Samantha leaned back in her seat, relaxing as she closed her eyes.

"Well, if I remember correctly, we're practically here now."

"Finally," Andrew groaned as he stretched, reaching for his sack under the seat. "I was thinking we'd be driving through to the next town over at this point."

The car made another turn, rumbling onto a residential street. Far into the distance, the smoke of the wreck faded into nothingness, giving way to a uniform blur of tan hues as houses rushed past on either side. The reflection of Argall's eyes glinted in the mirror as yet another turn was made, the vehicle slowing as it neared a cul-de-sac.

One last turn. Lisa squeaked in her seat as the car rolled up the driveway, coming steadily to a halt in front of the garage.

Andrew glanced out the windshield as he unfastened his seatbelt. "So," he mused, "Two car garage, eh?"

No reply. Argall opened his door, the car still idling on the driveway. He stuffed his hands in his pockets as the garage door opened.

"Well, I guess it's time to get out."

"Huh?" Lisa turned to her friend. "This... this is where Argall lives?"

Samantha nodded, shifting in her seat as Andrew pulled up his belongings. "Yup." She replied, "I'll probably be returning to my own house now, but you'll stay here with the Professor, 'kay? I can tell that Argall misses you, and honestly, I'm pretty sure that they miss me quite a bit too."

Lisa nodded, staring at the house looming before her. "O...okay."

Lisa remained close to the walls, lingering in the shadows as she entered the house. Though it was well-lit, the bright daylight that flooded in through the windows had since shifted to the golden yellows and oranges of sunset. Heavy, yet somehow familiar shadows were cast all around the girl as she made her way deeper into the building. She turned her head for a moment, catching Andrew lounging on a sofa as she passed the living room.

The Professor wandered into view, a glass of ice water in his hand. "Oh, hey."

"...Hey," Lisa stuttered in return, waving a hand at Argall. "So... this is where you live?"

"Where you lived." Professor Argall corrected the girl. "Before I retired, I tended to spend more time working than I did at home." He took a sip of water. "Anyways, go ahead and take a look around. I've tried to keep things tidy around here, even if I was the only one in the house after you joined the simulation."

Argall paused, staring at the ice cubes at the bottom of the glass before disappearing back into the kitchen.

"Wait!" Lisa called, chasing after the Professor, "You lived alone all that time?"

Professor Argall shrugged as he refilled his cup. "Yeah, what's the matter with that?"

"Don't... don't you have any family?"

"Nope." Argall shook his head, taking another sip of water. "Closest thing I had to family was you." He paused again, his cup still full this time as his eyes caught Lisa's. "Are you planning on leaving again anytime soon?"

Lisa pursed her lips. The Professor continued staring, the ice in his cup clinking against the glass as his hand trembled.

"...Are you, Lisa?" He repeated, setting the cup down on a counter, "You could always, perhaps... maybe stay here in real life. I don't think you need the simulation anymore, after all."

Lisa frowned, glancing to the wristband that still clung to her. She looked back to the Professor.


Argall nodded, a sad smile forming across his face. "I used to have my work to take my mind off of things, but with retirement and whatnot, it really gets quite lonely nowadays."

"I'm... I'm not sure what to do." Lisa began slowly, "I know I've still got to return soon to the simulation, but... I still want to stay here, too. I don't really know why, but it's just this... this feeling that I've been getting lately."

The Professor's smile widened a little, his demeanor brightening. "Well, by all means, stay!" He exclaimed with a laugh, "Oh, I have nobody to talk to these days anyways." Argall sighed, picking his cup off the table. "Well, I'm gonna make some dinner for us now. If you can't find it, your room's just upstairs to the right."

Lisa nodded slowly, turning to the staircase opposite to the kitchen. Step by step, she climbed the stairs, never taking her eyes off of the first room to the right. She paused at a turn in the stairs, turning back to Argall, who now stood at the bottom step.

Go on. He signaled, taking another sip of water.

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. The worn carpet cushioned her feet, dampening the creak of the floorboards underneath. Finally at the top, a cream-colored door sat closed before her. She took a step forward, reaching for the doorknob.

Abruptly, the girl paused, the creeping sense of familiarity once again finding its way into her mind. She teetered on her feet, gripping the doorknob for support.

"Lisa!" Argall's voice echoed, "I'm home!"

The girl burst from her room, her hair tied back into a greasy ponytail as she rushed down the stairs. "Hey, Professor Dad!" She exclaimed, "You wanna see my progress on the project?"

Professor Argall shook his head, setting the bags of groceries on the floor. "No, Lisa." He began, "I have to make dinner right now. Later, alright?"

Lisa nodded with a smile, running back up the stairs to her room.

Still in a daze, Lisa turned the doorknob. She paused again, releasing it as she turned and stumbled towards the railing at the top of the stairway. Peering over it revealed that Argall had since returned to the kitchen. Lisa took a deep breath, turning back to the door. Once more, she set her hand on the doorknob, a light rattle emanating from it as she began turning again.

A wave of cool air escaped from the room as the door opened inward, rushing past the girl and escaping into the rest of the house. Nothing seemed to be out of place, or even out of the ordinary in that matter. Lisa strolled into the center of the room, her eyes wide as she took in her surroundings. Rows upon rows of books sat untouched upon the shelves. A desk sat directly in front of her, cluttered with papers neatly organized in stacks that rivalled the size of the monitor that they obscured.

It looks so much like my library... Twilight's voice echoed through Lisa's mind. Sure, it's quite a bit smaller, but there's books, and they're organized, and-

My bedroom. Lisa's own thoughts overshadowed the mare's rambling. My...

The girl turned, her eyes flitting across the spines of the books covering the shelf. A select few stood out to her.

The Advanced Virtual Reality Programmer's Handbook

A Guide to Scripted Artificial Intelligence

Brain-Computer Interfacing

One final book sat at the edge of the topmost shelf, covered in a heavy layer dust as opposed to the pristine tomes that neighbored it.

Lisa's Diary - DO NOT READ!