First Days

Sandy brushed crumbs off her skirt. Or at least she thought that’s what she was doing. She could see crumbs clinging to her new outfit. It was the first day of school. She wanted to make a good impression. New outfit, new grade, new friends? Sandy didn’t know yet. First grade seemed like a big deal, but she hadn’t ever been.

“Everything ok, Sandy?” her father asked. “I saw you fidgeting with your skirt. Does the headpiece feel ok?” He leaned over his daughter to adjust the halo of technology encircling her smooth, shiny hair.

“I guess,” said Sandy.

“I guess so, too” replied her father. Nobody really knew what to expect.

“I never sent a kid to VR school before,” he continued. “I’ve never even been to VR school myself. I’m afraid I really can’t be much help, Sandy, except for helping you get your equipment fitting right. And of course I’ll be close by, if you need anything.”

Sandy nodded. She adjusted the headpiece and squinched her eyes tight. She knew when they opened, she would be at school. Well, still at home, but also at school. Weird.

Some years ago, a virus spread across the world. Sandy was just a baby so she didn’t remember the early years. Since then, there had been too many waves to count. Constant lockdowns. Lots and lots of masks. No touching. Playing together, but separate, always outside. As a final solution to keep schools open, the district had decided to go completely virtual. Not just online classes, but everybody and everything would be online too, virtually, attending, learning, and playing together as avatars. This way they could get close, “touch,” not wear masks, and stay safe.

Of course Sandy was one of the lucky ones. She was able to stay at home to attend VR school. Some of her classmates had to go to the actual school. Once there, they remained in an air-controlled cube all day. The cubes were big enough to move around in. They all contained a desk, chair, and some hooks for coats and stuff. Bathroom breaks had to be coordinated.

Sandy opened her eyes. First day. The air felt crisp. The sky shimmered a brilliant, cerulean blue under the gleaming sun. She brushed her skirt again, for real this time, and skipped towards the door.

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