Y'know that feeling you get when you want to sneeze?

That compressed tingling sensation pestering your nostrils. The achoo out of a dozen that's just too stubborn to be huffed out making your face contort into a circus clown of horrors?

You might say, "Oh wow, I do indeed experience such trivial misfortune recurring ever not so often in my life, and it sure indeed does rustle my jimmies shall I be so unlucky to incur its wrath. This person is able to deduce and be aware of such a mild annoyance, therefore he is relatable and as such, I am able to properly connect and immerse myself in sync with his well-being."

Or you could have also said, "Maybe, I don't care, make your point, please."

And to that, I say - Fair enough, you made it this far, I suppose I could elaborate a bit. I mean, what else am I gonna do?

Well, this comparison is roughly in line for a topic that's near and dear to my little soulless, decaying heart.

In an era of rapidly advancing technological discoveries, near limitless possibilities broaden the world's eye and many anticipated what would come next. Planetary colonization? Synthetic life? Artificial organs? Probabilities eventually would become reality in a new tomorrow, and as stated, all were keen for the big breakthrough that would change all that we knew.

Anyway, fast forward to twenty twenty-six and we got virtual reality now. It's used for games... and things. So that's pretty cool.

My headgear laid on the bedside table, as pristine as it was when I first unboxed it three years ago, a result of some tender nighttime polishing that was always dutifully followed.

Yet despite having had it for so long in my possession, never, and I mean never once had I played a game on the damn thing. Many games already existed for the virtual platform since its inception, but no, I never touched them, for they were never the reason I took those stupid part-time jobs for. Though the occasional skimpily clad waifu-bait game does tempt the joystick down under (If you know what I'm sayin'), what dignity I had left will ultimately repressed these urges.

Why? For what mad reason have I strained my thin delicate figure, have yucky sweat dribbling down my inky black hair, and also deprived my hazel eyes of the animes it yearned for so desperately? What foolish purpose justified such heinous torture?

It was that stupid sneeze.

It started small. An article on a news site, a work in development, spearheaded by a prestigious gaming studio. Gradually it would culminate. A press conference at the following year's E3 expo, unveiling a sequel to the long-dormant "Medieval Saga" in the form of a VRMMORPG expressing intent to replicate the world of the classic anime "Sword Art Online".

Now I wasn't much for MMO's, but if you wanted to take me hostage, all you'd gotta do is give me even a sliver of a glimpse of anything related to SAO and boom, I'm yours. So you bet I gobbled that shit up. Poor taste, I hear you say? Pssssh, I hardly even know her.

Having had made a sizeable community enter a state of pure euphoria and ecstasy, they finished us off with a date of its release, affirming the iron grip they had on all of us.

The date in question, the moment many awaited, breath bated, underwear moistened, to be able to get their hands on for an experience of a lifetime, when was it, you ask? Three years ago.

Three long years of the sneeze building up.

Almost achoo number one was a change in developers. Worries were apparent but quickly were quelled and appeased by a reasonable release date and a promise of polish.

Almost achoo número dos touted a different story entirely. Rewrites in the programming pushed that date out the front door and told it never to come back or it'll get a restraining order and a sexual assault charge. No release date was given, no further news to assure.

I could go on and on, rambling about the many almost-sneezes that plagued throughout development but I won't.

Eventually, the game saw the light of the day.

Though it had since lost the masses, the devoted few they've retained went and faithfully purchased a copy on the day of its release and played it on the exact same day. All except for little ol' me.

Almost achoo number five million and one was me, having my internet down for two weeks, hence resulting in a network drought so dreadful, I might actually have to go for counseling as a result of severe PTSD.

As you can see, the sneeze culminated, stifled beyond limits, verging past mere eruption. It was ready to blow, and blow it will.

ninety-seven percent, ninety-eight percent, ninety-nine percent... hundred.

ACHOO!

An ever glorious beacon in the murky gloom set ablaze the darkness to be cast forth, enlightening me to the throne of the ascended, beckoning me towards a paradise belatedly received.

By that I mean, the notification icon popped up on my computer telling me that the game was finished installing and that I can play it now.

The afternoon's sun merciless glare blazing through the window glazed the monitor, there, a reflective shine stared back at me. Hand clenched with his head held high, tears welling from his sunken eyes, briefly, he thought of the trials of the past, all the endeavors that lead him here to this point, before, with a triumphant smile and a clap of his hands, he spoke out loud, "Fuckin' finally... holy hell, that took forever."

My chair reeled back as I stood, hastily swooping up the headgear to my hands. Eagerness had the setting-up done faster than you can say, "Get a life" and before I knew it, my body laid rested on the bed, headgear and all equipped.

This was it. My first step into the virtual world, the first glimpse of a world one I will embrace... two weeks later than everyone else. Should I tell Minatsu to not disturb me? That I won't be coming down for dinner or for the rest of my life for that matter? Nah, too lazy to get up.

Okay, the two words. The open sesame to trump all open sesames.

"Link Start!"

There was a brief period of nothingness shortly after uttering those words and then, light. White, bright, a strain to the eyes. Where's the brightness slider, geez.

A sensationless sensation... standing in a void, feeling nothing and everything simultaneously. I know that makes no sense, but drifting through endless white isn't something you usually can describe. Bear with me.

Before long, a small prompt appeared.

Please insert your username

Guess they're going for the minimalistic approach when it comes to character creation. Not even any BGM. Welp, I'm gonna be here for a while.

And indeed, as I typed away a moniker befitting a man of my caliber, the prompt was whisked away and another came in its place. Then another, and another, another one, another one, another one, another one.

And another one.

You got your usual "select your gender" and "customize your appearance" mumbo-jumbo, which in all honesty I got bored off rather quick, and instead prompted for the option of basing off real-life appearance.

After a final "are you sure?" I was finally greeted with something new. The barren white all around faded to a black, consuming sight and my being. A deep resonating boom echoed throughout the dark space... allowing an ominous dread to fester.

In a world...

Oh my god, its a cutscene. a stupid, piece of bad word, cussing, swearing, cutscene. That scared the hell out of me.

-A time not long before man...

Ah man, I have to sit through this now. Where the shit is the option to skip? Where's the skip button? Oi, how do I skip?

-Dawn of a new age, an age of prosperity, an age of peace...

An age of where is the skip button so help me God, I just want to play the game.

Alright for the sake of everyone's well being, I'll omit the absolute dreariness I just went through trying to play the game. No one wants to know how I figured out how to swing a sword or jump in the air or how I cramped my finger navigating the menu system. So I'll just summarize it by saying it took 'Centuries'.

See what I did there? No? Kay then.

Finally, jumping over the final tutorial hurdle, I took my first real steps into the virtualistic dreamworld paradise I've so sought after. And let it be known, as a cascading sunset painted gold the infinite blue sky harboring a flurry of birds soaring up high, as wind blew breeze at townsfolk NPCs responding with almost lifelike precision. Yes, let it be known, as I conquer and stand atop the hundredth floor, smiling at another sunset: That I did not regret it one bit.

But as many of you already know, not everything would go as planned...