Arts Illustrated

July 20, 2020

Waiting for Reality

What happens when a ‘retired’ character from a computer game and a character from a ‘traditional’ fantasy art painting are waiting for the bus to take them to a Correctional Facility? They dialogue. And they wait.

Meera Rajagopalan



Very atypical, as were the circumstances.

The Undead and the neon green Inchworm made for a strange pair. Perched on steel benches, waiting for their bus to take them to F. Alcatraz, they stared ahead. Undead wondered if Fantasy Alcatraz would be worse than the “real” one.

‘Inevitable,’ Inchworm said.

‘Course,’ Undead agreed.



‘My creators.’


‘You know how much they feted me, when they created me? How much they slogged to get my appearance right? They wanted me to be perfect: all of them loved all of me. For my part, I simply had to save Princess What’s-Her-Name.’

‘How would I know?’

‘No, that WAS her name.’


‘And then they wanted me to be bigger and better, more three-dimensional. In my first version, I was art. Then I just became a tool.’

You got that right, thought Undead.

‘They gave me eyes and ears, which I was not crazy about, but whatever. But a worm that looks like a human? THAT’S their fantasy?’

Oh crap, thought Undead. A video game character! They were known to be unable to function without audio.

The Undead longed for the peace of his frame. The silence of static art, which moved people, and not itself. The joy of enjoying the effect he had on people: usually fear or disgust. To be fair, this Worm character was acing the second.

Inchworm had not let up yet. ‘You know what they did? They released a 3D version of me. Even that was okay. But they pitted me against others and said I was not good enough. ‘The wacky tale of Inchworm Ian is inching, nay, rushing towards oblivion’  is what they wrote in Wired. Can you imagine that?’

Undead could, but kept his own counsel (Not literally, of course. He should not have kept his literal counsel. Case in point: current situ.)

‘The new guys have everything – they’re like the real thing. Real men, real women, real armour, real muscles, everything is so. Effing, Real. What is the point of video games that are real? Why not just live life, if you want real? You come to video games if you want a crime-fighting, princess-saving inchworm, right? Right? Who wants real?’

Undead Inchworm Fantasy Alcatra Wired Meera Rajagopalan

Not me, Undead thought. Where was the blistering bus?

‘Anyway, after the article in Wired, I was junked. Just retired. No reason whatsoever. Then someone wanted to resurrect the ‘franchise’. Suddenly, they wanted to ‘work on me and make me better’. You should have heard some of the things they said about me. I had to hear it all, now that they had given me ears. Anyway…’

‘Real has a way of shattering our world.’

Inchworm was taken aback. He had likely assumed he was speaking into a black hole.

‘In your world, you think you and your creator are one inseparable team. When you’re in magazines, she never fails to mention you. You make a cute couple.’ (Well, as cute as an undead-inclusive couple can get.)


‘You think you are going to live a nice retired life, and an interviewer comes home. Asks her all sorts of questions, but the one that opens the crack that shatters your little fantasy world, is this: Do you also paint serious art?’

‘Are you serious?’ Inchworm asked.

Did they make them like this by design? Undead stopped talking, but his mind went back to her reply: ‘I work on other mediums too. A lot of my serious work is in galleries. These macabre drawings, you know, they pay the bills.’ And the laughter. The bloody laughter.

To his credit, Inchworm reached over and placed a hand on Undead’s shoulder. The hand dissolved. It didn’t seem to have any effect on Inchworm’s monologue – speed, intent or volume.

‘So, anyway,’ Inchworm continued from where he’d left off, as if Undead’s story was but an ad break.  ‘They came up with a newer version of it. Me. They had a big launch, and called everyone. Including Wired. And that’s when I showed them my finger. In all sorts of inappropriate places. Even Princess What’s-Her-Name was laughing hysterically. They’d have rued the day they gave me hands in the first place! Serves them right. They called it a virus, and quietly sent me here.’ Inchworm’s eyes took on a glazed look.

There was a faint light on the horizon. Undead’s eyes trailed it. He moved closer to Inchworm and waited.


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