Layered (A Sample) (Chapter One, page 1 of 4)

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'Welcome. You are now signed in.'

The black on white letters appear in front of me on my screen. I have just signed on for the latest in a long list of popular online games. Sophia, my friend, has been playing it since last weekend and she is totally hooked on it. This is one of the reasons I decided to sign up as well.

The most important reason though is that the summer holidays are looming ahead of me. Five long, long weeks of absolutely nothing to do. There will be no summer camps for me this year. Early every weekday morning, while I am still curled up in my bed, with Salem, my big, fat, black cat huddled too close in the curl of my legs, I will hear my mum and dad leave for work. Then an utter silence will fill the house and long, lonely hours will stretch ahead of me until I hear my mum's key turn in the lock again.

As I roll over, Salem makes an unhappy sound. "Move then, silly cat. Give me some space."

He nuzzles closer to me.

I click on the button on my screen. The one that says: Create your virtual self.

A million different choices load onto my screen.

First, I have to choose my skin colour-white, then my eye colour-brown, my hair colour-brown, the curve of my eyebrows, the shape of my eyes and the roundness of my chin.

Then the choices move to the rest of my body. The length of my legs, the shape of my feet, dainty or knobbly fingers, and lastly whether I want to be really skinny, skinny, cuddly or really cuddly. Obviously, I choose skinny.

The screen asks me: Would you like to review your image?

I click: Yes.

The virtual me appears in front of a floor to ceiling mirror and then starts to rotate in a slow clockwise circle.

I decide I do not like my hair that mousy shade of muddy brown, so I click in to the options again and change it to long, blonde flowing locks. I save my choice and then do another critical review of myself in the mirror before I decide I am happy with what I see on the screen in front of me. I look perfect.

Then comes the fun part. Shopping for clothes. The choices are daunting, but eventually I find the perfect outfit.

After I approve the way I want to look, I have to choose my personality. There are twelve choices and they are all linked to the different astrological birth signs. I choose one which is the complete opposite of me. I am an Aries, but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a Pisces.

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