Every morning Joel Hardy was awoken by his alarm at precisely seven thirty-five.
He would have a shower in the master bathroom on the third floor of his home. He would
then eat a hearty breakfast, (prepared by his beautiful wife Joanne), with his daughter,
Jennifer. Then he hopped cheerily into his new Mercedes, and started to work. Joel
worked at Virtual Tech. Computers, a new computer company that specialized in virtual
reality. Joel was the chief design editor and brought home a handsome one hundred and
twenty thousand dollars per year. Joel had many friends, both at work and in the
community.

Joel sounded his horn as he came to a stop in front of Kyle McNeil’s apartment.
Joel did this every morning as Kyle was a very close friend of his, and worked in the same
company. Kyle however, was not a lucky as Joel, Kyle did not have the three story home
that Joel did, nor the outrageous salary, nor the beautiful wife and daughter. He did not
have the luck of being at the lab when the reality-cam was finished, the idea that gave Joel
his claim to fame. If it would have been Kyle working that shift maybe things would be
different. Kyle was a loner, and a struggling loner at that. “Good morning Kyle,” said
Joel.

“G’ mornin’,” mumbled Kyle in a saddened voice. Joel instantly sensed that
something was wrong and upon further questioning found that Kyle had lost yet another
one of his “bimbo” type girlfriends. Joel pretended to be sorry for him for a while, then
they spoke of work.

Kyle never really envied Joel’s success or his life until that day. Kyle was trying
one the new reality simulators called “American Dream”, which was a program which
enabled the user to have an ideal American life. Kyle experienced things that he had never
before experienced; the love of a child, the security of your own home, and the devotion
of a loving wife. Kyle eventually became obsessed with the simulator, using it for four and
seven hours per day. He began watching happy situation comedies on television instead of
violence filled action movies. He was captivated by the idea of having a family, love, and
without knowing it, Joel’s life. Kyle never told Joel about his new fixation, and continued
to travel to and from work with him as if nothing had changed. Sometimes Kyle would
stay all night in the simulator, and all of the next day, it was an obsession in the true sense
of the word.

Kyle didn’t want to live his family life in a fantasy world anymore, he wanted to try
and invent or create something that would give him a raise and the money to start building
his dream. Joel was working on a new program that would revolutionize the computing
industry. He kept it secret, only working on it at home. He didn’t even tell Kyle about it.
But one night, while watching a football game at Joel’s house, he discovered that Joel had
left his computer on and unprotected. Kyle sat down just to browse around, but upon
finding the new program he saw that this could be the key to his new house. Kyle quickly
copied the program onto a disk and took the disk with him.

The next day at work Kyle took this disk to one of his superiors and by the end of
the day Kyle had a new job, car, and house. All Joel had to say was that he was proud of
Kyle, and that it was ironic that they were both working secretly on the same idea. They
just chuckled and smiled together for a while, then Joel stopped, but Kyle kept on smiling.

Kyle’s girlfriends were now substantially more classy, but still none that stayed
with him. He wanted a wife. He wanted a partner. He wanted Joanne. That night Kyle
invited Joanne somewhere secret and special. A place that would intrigue any bored
housewife, a romantic park, in a dark wood. Kyle had a blanket, and on it burning
candles, and incense. Joanne, for one short passionate moment fell in love with Kyle. But
that was all it took.

“Do you know what’s odd Kyle?,” asked Joel

“No,” replied Kyle.

“Joanne went to her mother’s last night,” said Joel, “and didn’t come home.”

“I’m sure she’s fine,” said Kyle as he looked down at his computer screen and
smiled.

Kyle arranged other meetings with Joanne,