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WARNING: Contains depression and bullying. May be triggering.

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There's an old story of a creature that dwelled within the files of Animal Jam. This creature wasn't your typical jammer, or a hacker of any sorts. Sure, some called it a virus, others called it a myth. Think what you will. But you should keep in mind that it doesn't exist, no matter what it shows you or what it tells you.

Because of its lack of name, the few people that have heard of this creature call it "It" or, more dramatically, "A Virus". A Virus is an imagination. It isn't a being that is there, no matter how hard you look in the files, no matter what anyone tells you. A Virus doesn't exist.

Why am I telling you this? Hah. That's a question that can't be answered easily. How about I tell you about one of the encounters someone had with A Virus? That way, I can go in full detail, and you may understand. ________________________________________________________

A young boy, by the name of Mathew, had..problems. I wont go too deeply into it for his safety, but things weren't fun at school. Bullies, name-calling—that's what he had to deal with every day of his life. This ten year-old felt trapped, isolated. In order to escape reality and allow himself to breathe, he would go on the internet after school or on the weekends. It gave him safety. A place where no one could judge him face-to-face.

His favorite place to go on on the internet was this little game called Animal Jam. He loved its cheeriness, and its certain aura of warmth. Though the people there were naive and, admittedly, rather dim-witted, he enjoyed himself. However, he was a nonmember, which resulted in some problems with playing the game. Lack of animals, clothing, the like. But, honestly, he didn't mind. All he cared about was playing with his friends. That was what he enjoyed most about Animal Jam.

Ah, but unfortunately, things started to go downhill. His nonmember aura started to drag attention. Due to school, Mathew was becoming agitated. And so, as all young children do, he took his anger out on jammers who decided to pick on him a bit. The teasing started small. It was just a silly name here and there, nothing too extreme.

But Mathew had a low-tolerance for any sort of that, and fed the anger thrown at him. He yelled, called people names, and even swore a few times. All sorts of attention came upon him, and the teasing quickly became taunts. The taunts flared to abuse.

Then the abuse became death-threats.

Because of his own foolish decisions, Mathew had begun the war upon him. Day after day, the child was verbally abused both online and real life. He was the laughing-stock of Animal Jam. Even his own friends turned on him, calling him "jerk", "pathetic", "useless", "troll".

He was alone. He grew stressed and depressed, and would often sit alone in his room and try to regain his composure; only to fail.

He went on Animal Jam one early morning, now at the age of twelve. He was at his breaking point, and after two years of leaving the site, he thought with a twang of hope that maybe everyone forgot about him. For once, he wanted to be invisible. So, he made a new account and hopped on.

Everything was...different.

He found his newly-made wolf standing in nothing but black. There was no merry music, not even a background noise. Only silence. And so, Mathew waited patiently. He wandered his animal around a bit, finding that he could move his character around freely without any limitations. For a long moment, it was rather relaxing, just being surrounded by that silence. He happily edited his wolf with different colors, and experimented with the free time he had, allowing the silence to soothe his anxiety.

But, then the silence gradually began to get into his mind. It played with his nerves, and he found himself beginning to tense up. Horrible, horrible memories began to slip into his brain. The silence became suffocating, unbearable, painful. The thoughts that this could be an error rang out, and in order to break the silence, he tried to open a tab to put on some music to calm himself down.

He couldn't. His breath hitched, and his eyes widened when a silver-and-white wolf appeared in the black void. The wolf's eyes were a normal brown, and it held still in a sitting position. Suddenly, his character couldn't move, and he was stuck staring at this mysterious entity with no nametag.

Mathew shook violently, trying desperately to hit the shutdown button. Nothing. His anxiety lifted, and distant voices echoed in his head and tortured him to the point of insanity. The silence had to be broken. He had to get out of there.

"Calm down." The wolf spoke, a speech bubble appearing over its head. Mathew froze, taken aback. Was this an actual person? Were they stuck here, too? "You're safe."

Shaking with adrenaline, the boy responded hesitantly through the chat, "Where am I?"

"Somewhere safe." The wolf merely replied, unmoving.

Trying to swallow down his nervousness, Mathew continued to ask questions. "Who are you?"

The wolf replied immediately, as if it had expected his question. "Does it matter?" It asked curiously.

"I guess not?" Mathew replied, growing slowly more confused and unnerved. His fingers trembled as he typed in the next set of words. "I don't trust you." He admitted, biting his bottom lip.

"I know. But that's okay." The wolf seemed to murmur, completely unfazed by his statement. "All that matters is that you feel calm."

The boy frowned, confused by this stranger's words. What were they playing at? "I don't really."

"Why?"

"The silence." Mathew put it simply, not wanting to admit his silly fear. "Can you hear anything?"

The wolf seemed to be a tad confused by his question. "But don't you like it here? Isn't the silence calming?" The entity continued to speak in an oblivious fashion, "You can't hear their voices now. They can't hurt you here."

Dread hit him. Was this complete and total stranger talking about his...bullies? How? How did he know? But his fingers wouldn't allow him to ask that question. Instead; "But the silence causes bad memories. It was nice at first, but.."

"Oh. I'm so sorry." The silver-and-white wolf said after a long pause. The pause made Mathew fidget uncomfortably in his chair and his tension only rise. "What can I do to calm you down?"

"I want to get out of here." Mathew stated, breathing shaky as he typed. "Please. The silence hurts me."

The wolf was silent for a long moment before it finally responded. Its words sent a chill down the boy's spine, "I want to help you. Stop pushing me away." The wolf's typed response seemed to snarl, despite its absence of sound.

Taken aback, Mathew managed to reply. He was getting all the more nervous. "I'm not trying to! Please. I need to get out of here."

Its reply was sharp and quick, as if it didn't need to think about it. "I'm trying to help."

"I know." Was all he could type.

"Then why are you saying these things? They hurt me." The wolf snapped, its figure having not moved since it arrived. "Tell me how to calm you down."

Mathew began to panic. He no longer knew if this was reality or not. "I can't hear anything. I can't. Let me leave."

The wolf's brown eyes flashed gold for a quick moment, catching the boy off-guard. "I'm trying to help you. Why do you insist upon hurting me with your words? Why do you wish to push me away and forget about me?"

The boy couldn't muster up the energy to type. He began to sob, watching as the wolf continued on. "Am I nothing but a plaything? Can you not hear me?" The entity seemed to screech, "You need help! The only thing that makes me happy is your happiness!"

"It would make me happy if you let me leave."

"Why don't you want to see me anymore?" The wolf snarled, and Mathew suddenly realized through his blurry vision that the entity had its mouth open to reveal sharp, jagged teeth. Its body was hunched over, and its eyes were a complete gold. "Do I scare you? Do you hate me?"

"No."

"Then why do you hurt me?"

"I'm not trying to." He couldn't take it much longer. This conversation, along with the silence, was driving him crazy.

((TO BE CONTINUED))

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