One day, the Starling got home from her job and, instead of going inside to play on her computer, she took a walk outside. She linked arms with her husband, a tall man with the face of an elegant ferret. Her spare arm clutched a thick black leash attached to a monochrome hound.
They walked in the dying light to a park.
She climbed high on the rarely-used playground equipment. She called to the pooch below. He looked up, worry in his brown eyes, fear speckling his face. His mother was so high, so far away. The dog knew that she was a klutz, and could tumble down.
Perhaps directly onto him.
Meanwhile, the Robot Overlords who owned the Matrix or what-have-you were displeased.
“Why has she not returned to us?” they chirped in their fuzzy dial-up-modem language. “Have we not offered up a veritable feast of Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Vine, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads, Instagram, Amazon, and more? What else could this hussy possibly desire?”
Then the girl and her husband ordered in Chinese. When it arrived, they ate at at the table instead of in front of the television.
They spent the rest of the evening hanging a gallery wall of the artwork they had collected during their 12 years together.
The Robot Overlords gnashed their teeth, chipping them into a gritty spray if ones and zeroes.
“What can we do to bring her back?”
The following morning, Starling went to brunch with visiting friends.
At an antiques store, all photos and paintings were analog.
The Overlords screamed. The Internet trembled.
Dinner was flatbread pizza, wings, locally-sourced rum, independent soda, and craft beer. The Starling and her unfeathered flock toasted to an upcoming wedding. The lady fiancées held hands, not phones.
Exhausted, they went home, made dessert from scratch, and discussed a lavender-grey-black literary color scheme.
The morning came, and Starling heard the call of the Internet. She went back to it, like an old friend. In the time apart, she and the Robot Overlords’ relationship didn’t feel the same.
Some parts of the Internet felt good. Starling liked sharing photos and stories. She liked looking at images of smiling people she knew with their pets and children. She relished the unearthing of a new font, discovering an artist with a fresh vision, reading a news story with a happy ending.
The Overlords had gifts for her. And she had scraps of herself to give to it in return.
But they would have to spend time apart occasionally.
She had to speak with her voice, not her fingertips, sometimes. She had to smell food instead of looking at pixel depictions of it. She had to let the sun dye her skin while she walked; and ink dye her palms while she drew. Books begged to be read. Flowers longed to be planted. Sneakers and whiskered friends called out for dirt, grass, and pavement.
It was time to leave. Not forever. But now and again.
The blog post is wrapping up, and it’s time to go outside.