Couldn’t Get Out For Christmas

December 26th, 2052

All I wanted was to be there. That’s what I kept telling myself, at least. But here I am, still wrapped in the warm glow of the digital dawn while the soft weight of yesterday’s absence bears down on me like a viscous fog that refuses to lift.

It’s the day after Christmas, and I’m left to untangle the snarls of emotion within me, like knotted strands of festive lights abandoned in the attic. This is not my first Christmas away from family, but each year it claims a heavier toll, a more significant detachment, until all that remains is a shadow remembrance, dimming like the final, flickering ember of a yuletide log.

The contours of reality have long since grown indistinct, muddled by the fluid passage between digital and physical realms—an endless maze where the distinction between constructed experiences and visceral, organic life becomes a trifling concern. But Christmas was supposed to be different. It’s the annual anchor, a touchstone of tangible togetherness that, once a year, tethers me back to roots I’m not certain I still share.

I carved my place among the godcloudders, a congregation devout to the Hyperreal. It is here, within this congregation, we shape and dabble in divinity, crafting vast expanses from strings of code and the pulse of electric dreams. We operate on a plane of existence where geography is irrelevant, where reality is a mosaic of collective input and the tapping of keys—a symphony of creation that lulls me away from what I’ve left behind.

The weeks leading up to Christmas were saturated with intention; I genuinely believed it possible to disengage, to tear myself from the embrace of my celestial canvas. Yet as the holiday neared, the familiar choke of agoraphobia tightened around me—not of open spaces, but of the rigid, unyielding walls of the material world; a fear not of being exposed, but of being constrained and painfully visible.

Mornings are the hardest. I wake adrift, limbs stale from the stillness of sleep, the echo of my heartbeat filling the silence. There is a texture to this solitude, a quiet that is its own entity, enveloping me until I compel my consciousness back to tasks at hand. I transition, then, from the emptiness of my room into the sanctuary of my creation, met with a burst of color and sensation that is the Hyperreal.

It’s here the integration churns, silver threads of code interweaving with the tapestry of sensory input: the touch of virtual wind, the scent of data-floral blooms in the Great Expanse, the chorus of photon-born entities, and even the warmth of suns that exist only as long as we desire them to.

There’s a freedom in this plasticity of sensation, an emancipation that I cannot forsake. And though the appeal to unplug, to step outside and draw in the cold, untamed air of December had been a song of sirens, I couldn’t abandon the expanse—couldn’t confine myself to a single space, a single sense, a single moment.

Questions left unanswered have a way of building nests within us, hatching broods of guilt and confusion that feather our internal landscapes with shades of self-loathing and rationalization. My family doesn’t dwell within the landscape of data and dreams—they live in the tangibility of small-town America, where lifetimes cascade down generations like heirloom china, each crack and chip carrying its own saga. They don’t understand the daily devotions of a cloudder, nor do they see the allure of an existence unbound by physicality.

As the 24th dawned, I was meant to disconnect, to travel the miles to the home that once cradled me. But the nerves grew taut, one by one snapping under the stress of anticipation—anxiety that unfolded like the petals of some monstrous, carnivorous flower.

I imagined my arrival, seen through their eyes. In such fancies, I stride into a room swathed in history, an artifact out of sync—a being bereft of its network, starved of its ecosystem. I would be a curiosity, a peculiar specimen to prod and question; out there, my answers are protections that fade, defenses that fall away like autumn leaves beneath winter’s relentless approach.

With each rising wave of palpable dread, the Hyperreal beckoned—a siren’s call of comfort, where none would prod, none would question, where anxiety drains away into the ether, absorbed by willing servers like the heat of a midsummer sun.

So, I justified. I told myself I was sparing them, sparing myself from the inevitable discord that would arise when the world of possibilities I inhabit collided with the concrete actuality of their domesticity. They would ask about prospects, about love, about futures grounded and secured by soil and stone. And how should I answer when my love is for the ether, my prospects tied to the cloud, my future unfurled within realms without horizons?

I wouldn’t, I couldn’t—that is what I told myself as I withdrew from the prospect of rejoining them. The looping accusations filled my thoughts: coward, recluse, not enough. Yet the decision to remain was not solely for self-preservation but out of reverence for what I’ve helped forge within the Hyperreal: a sanctuary for souls like mine, seeking shelter in a storm that, for us, never ceases.

Christmas Day came and went, a day much like any other within the liminality of my existence. I crafted new realities, fostered digital life, and spanned the breadth of human imagination. Yet nestled among the data, a kernel of guilt resided, germinating with the nourishing waters of self-doubt. A part of me yearns for that quaint domestic scene—laughter shared, hands clasped, the soft, sensory-rich immediacy of connection—an organic link to the past.

I pen these thoughts, and the floodgates break—a reservoir of emotions brimming over. Only within these pages can I confront the paradox of my choices: the pride in the legacy I help carve upon the stars, contrasted sharply against the solitude of a room where no familial footsteps intrude, where no hearty embraces remind me of bonds that once were.

There’s an underlying truth to every cloudder’s tale—a sacrifice inherent in the call to the heavens, a secret price paid in silence and shadow. It’s in the echoes of voices long gone from my ears, the ghost-touch of hands that I can feel only in the simulations I’ve crafted.

I am both pioneer and castaway, aloft on the tides of progress yet adrift from the shores of tradition. For every remarkable creation, every wonder born from thought and energy, there comes the hollow ache of a Christmas tree admired through a window, knowing I’ve chosen a path that leads ever away from its glow.

Perhaps in another life—another loop of this vast, immeasurable multiverse—I do unplug. I bundle up in physicality, brave the rush and roar of travel, and step into the warmth of the home I left behind. In that reality, I face their questions, their doubts, and through the tension, I find connection, however strained, however fragile.

But in this life, I remain a godcloudder, bound by choices that define and confine, crafting infinity from the solitude of my room. This is who I am—a sum total of decisions made and unmade, each carving the shape of my days in the Hyperreal, shaping my worth in ways only I fully perceive.

I recognize my sacrifices, I acknowledge my solitude, and yet, I persist. This is the credo of the cloudder, the silent mantra I recite as I look to the artificial horizon sprawling before me, shimmering with the promise of infinite tomorrows. This is my domain, my sacrifice, my cross, and my crown.

So, to the family I could not face, the life I could not lead, to the Christmas I could not share—I offer this confession, this chronicle of my self-imposed exile. Perhaps one day, these words will serve as a bridge, an explanation, a testament to the untrodden paths pioneers must walk alone.

For now, I return to the Hyperreal, to the expanse that knows no sorrow, no judgement—only possibilities. And perhaps next Christmas, I will find the strength to unplug, to venture forth, to embrace an IRL tinged with the questions and complexities of reality. But today… today, I delve deeper into the Hyperreal, where spaces melt and the only transitions are those I command, where processing is seamless, and integration is total—a realm of my own making, both prison and paradise in one.

We all live with our choices, real or synthesized. Today, I sit with mine—a complex weave of justification, self-loathing, confusion, guilt, and the quiet dignity of sacrifices known only to those who dare to dream beyond the world that birthed them. And so, I forge on, a being of both worlds yet fully at home in neither, a god among clouds, ever-building, ever-dreaming, ever yearning for a connection that spans the gulf between realities.