The backs of my eyes ache from lack of sleep as I write this.

Today is pleasantly cool with an infrequent chilly breeze.

Today the sun rose and glared at me through my southern window in the house I've lived in all of my fragile seventeen years.

Today my world fell apart.

I had fallen in love for the first time last October. The violent surges of emotions it has caused over the last nine months have been nothing short of Hellish.

The entire ordeal took place online. A thousand miles separated us, however, our barrier can't truthfully be defined in tangible terms.

We were both stereotypical depressed teenagers; fraught with mental disturbances and every other cliche I could list. We were geeks. We were roleplayers. We had everything in common.

By the time she admitted her three year old suicide attempt to me, I was willing to do anything to make her feel better. If she asked me to, I'd have jumped out of an airplane without a parachute. The next day I told her I loved her for the first time.

Rejection, acceptance, trust, doubt, troubles of identity, euphoria, agony, secrecy and occasional boredom splashed together in our rainbow drink of a relationship. I was ripped and torn everywhere in the spectrum of feeling.

Between the two of us we endured pneumonia, hospitalization, a severely unstable friend, and a broken ankle. The amount of worry we put into each other was infinite.

Christmas went smoothly. For the first time in my life, I was happy. I had goals, ambition, a will to live, and a girlfriend to love.

After the holidays she began descending into one of her self described "black moods". The positive facade everyone admired was crumbling. I choked on the flakes and fragments of her mask, unable to save her.

A planned trip in February took her away from me for a week. One week turned into two. Then it was March fifth. She posted a few times on her message board. I ran home, so out of breath I wanted to collapse and die on the floor from exhaustion. I was ten minutes too late.

I stayed up over forty-eight hours waiting for her; waiting to see if she would post again or if her AIM screen name would pop up. Nothing.

Her real life friends stopped posting on her board. Information was leaked that indicated she had been institutionalized. Silence dominated the board. Her cyber-only friends were left clawing for information.

Why the communication blackout? What happened? Was she still alive? Three and a half months living in torture; worried about her.

The remaining friends, including me, had become suspicious. We delved into board archives; looked for any indications that might explain recent events.

Her homepage was taken down, revealing the index of files. It was in a Geocities account originally created by one of her old friends. Something looked odd. Everyone knew this old friend, Catherine, and another one of her real life friends, Tony, were a couple. We knew they had gotten pregnant over New Year's. But these family pages showed that they had been married for several years. That was the first we had heard of it. Many of us assumed they weren't married because of the way they were acting about the pregnancy.

On a birthdays page in the account, it listed Catherine's birth as February 18. On the board's birth date thread, Catherine's birth was supposedly in June, and my girlfriend's was February 18. It was an unexplainable mix-up. How could they have made a mistake like that? It bothered all of us.

A member's profile was found on a Farscape fansite. It had my girlfriend's name, but the information was ... wrong. It was some kind of distorted version of the person I knew. The photo on this profile matched her other photo only in vague ways, as if she had been described using words and two different girls were shot that matched the description. She never lied, not even on trivial things like that. She was always honest about her identity.

Little pieces of evidence started congealing into an unclear picture. Something was out of place.

Upon reinspecting the earliest message board archives, I noticed startling similarities in the writing styles of all the people that had physical contact with her.

Today I figured out why that profile was so strange.

It was a prototype. The profile was the predecessor of the person I knew.

My girlfriend wasn't real.

This person that I wrote bad, angsty teen poetry about, the person I gave so much support to, the person I chatted with incessantly, that I had loved, really, really loved, wasn't real. She was a character created by Catherine Miranda Esta. Not only my girlfriend, but four others as well.

All of the odd details fit perfectly now. Her reluctance to empirically prove her existence, her father's security company and the excessive caution, her incredible offense at my doubts. They all fit, and that birth date was the cornerstone of Catherine's mistakes.

Today, the world that I've been living in for the past nine months fell apart. I had been living in a lie, a colossal mass of fabricated details, people, places and events.

It's frightening, knowing I've lived in a lie. The seams of my perception are cracking. It's tremendously difficult to cope with this idea.

I was gullible and stupid. I was drawn into one of the best made and conducted forms of interactive fiction ever produced. I was a part of the artwork. I had believed.

And now ... my whole life feels so ...