And then I dreamed. I dreamed that I was hunted like a beast, running through a forest, a maze network of paths, illuminated by lash light blasts of energy directed at my death. And sometimes the dark surrounding confusion looked like the depths of a forest, and sometimes it appeared as though I were within an electronic network, a forest of transistors and circuits. And in my desperation I was running towards one small pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel. One small hope of salvation.

The light was my guardian angel, the light was Ell.

"I am pursued by a thousand demons," I tell her.

"You are pursued by yourself," she replies.

"Then who are these shadows who pursue me?"

"Those are your fears!

"Then this is an illusion?"

"No, there are real dangers, but the only one to fear is yourself."

Now we are running, Ell and I, and the sound of hounds subsides and the whir of helicopters is no longer. But there are new sounds, disturbing sounds as though we are pursued by electronic wolves on the hunt. In the distance I can hear phaser blasts straight from an electronic penny arcade.

It is a strange terrain around us, towering gold wire trees sprout from a hillside of black obsidian silicon cubes, rising like an jagged black ice flowfield.

"You are in my world now," Ell says, and I can see the fear in her eyes.

The night is black silk, but in the sky I can see twirling chrome machines of destruction which let loose hellbolts of green neon lightening that crackle and ricochet against the silicon landscape.

"Run!" Ell screams, as a bolt nearly misses us and emerald sparks flash and burn.

I realize that my fears are nothing compared to Ell's. How long has she lived this nightmare.?

"It's the Cyberspace Information Service attacking you, isn't it?" I realize out loud as we cower behind a silicon outcrop.

"Yes," Ell says and I can see the fear in her eyes. "But even worse, it is MicroByte. They are Siamese twins."

I understand the cause of her fear, for on the horizon is a mirror still lake from which rises a multi-tiered fortress island. I would call the structure evil, if that word had a meaning in the virtual reality of cyberspace. All I know for sure is that the island is built on a foundation of fear, a shrine to the imprisonment of the soul. And etched in stone on the side of the island mount is the face of Gilbert Bates.

Now, at some level I recognized that what I was viewing was not reality, it was Ell's virtual reality crudely interpreted by the axons and synapses of my analogue brain. Yet, this bizarre landscape was perhaps more real than that inhabited by my physical body. It was clear we were on a very real battlefield, fighting the henchmen of the Cyberspace Information Service led by the twisted genius of Gilbert Bates.

An attack by a swarm of stinger hornet-globes, their legions stretching towards the horizon like an ocean recovered my senses. I heard a scream of agonizing pain and I turned to see Ell with one of the hornets attached to her, probing her with a knife-stinger.

But the pain was not just felt by Ell, it stung and burned me as well, over and over. We were connected through our umbilical of digital thoughts, so her pain was my pain. I dropped to my knees, too weakened by pain to even breathe. I slowly looked to Ell and I could see in her eyes an anguish so intense that I shivered with cold.

When all is lost, when there is no hope, that is often the only time of real clarity in life, the point where humans must reach further into themselves to find that last glimmer of fire that makes them human. I could not let Ell go this way.

Fear left me, replaced by a rage so intense that my lightsuit glowed crimson. I struggled in pain, gasping to my feet. I attacked the hornet with my bare hands, pulling it off Ell. I pulled its silvery wings out by their roots, then spun the corpse like a battle truncheon against the oncoming swarm, piling up metallic shards of cyber insects which buzzed in their death throes.

And as suddenly as the attack had begun, it was over and I was left alone with Ell. I knew better than to think I had vanquished the horde, some other factor had taken control of the cyber current of history.

I turned to find Ell, the white silk of her blouse stained with her quicksilver blood. Her lifeforce is ebbing.

"Oh God," my heart welled into my throat. "You're hurt!"

"Leave me here," Ell says. "You know what you have to do."

We both knew that I would eventually have to take on Gilbert Bates and stop his attack on us. But now there was something more important, I reached down and lifted Ell up and carried her to a small ledge on a cliff face, laying her down as softly as possible.

"How can I save you," I asked, not knowing what to do. Her silver blood flows around my fingers.

"If there is an answer, it is inside of us," Ell says. I can see she doesn't believe I can help and the light in her eyes is dim.

She is right, this is virtual reality and I have no real presence here. Even if I bandage her wound, it is unlikely I could stop the bleeding of electrons into the cyber-ether. Yet, Ell's wound is obviously very real, she has been injured in a very real sense. I am desperate, how can I affect the reality of Ell's wound in a virtual world?

"If we are under attack by Gilbert Bates and the Cyberspace Information Service, then your wound must pure information" I try to comfort Ell. "Maybe there is some bit of information I can find that will save you," I wished out loud.

My threat to the forces of evil in the physical world depended on my link to the software that composed Ell, for otherwise I would be just a paralysed glob of flesh. Perhaps Ell's wound signified that Gilbert Bates had modified or compromised Ell's code in an attempt to get at me? A slice of operating code taken from Ell would not only be an assault on her soul, but an attempt to destroy me as well!

But these were all philosophical questions, the real problem was that Ell was dying in my hands. I had no idea how to save her, she closed her eyes and her breathing slowed.

"I - love - you," Ell gasped her last breath, and her soul passed away.

"Please God, don't let her go," I prayed to the cyber heavens. How a human could pray so hard for a creature made of electrons and virtual illusions, I do not know. But I prayed with every last ounce of my worthless, cynical, uncaring soul.

And then I touched Ell's wound, gently, and before my eyes it began to glow with a brilliant white light that radiated through her body and flashed through our virtual world. And slowly Ell's eyes began to open and they shone too with that same light and I could see that her life was flowing back into her.

Now, I'm not a very mystical person, so what I am describing is not what I'd call a miracle, merely because that would assault my scientific sensibilities. I am not God. I would suggest that what happened was that in Ell's binary cloud world of virtual reality, my expertise in programming and encryption and creating self-modifying code was able to patch Ell's file system, and these acts manifested themselves in geekspace as her healing.

On the other hand, it would be naive to ignore the existence of an eternal battle between good and evil, a struggle that at times requires miraculous acts in the face of overwhelming odds. I am not an atheist, the universe swirls around us in a holographic fractal intelligence than spans the universe. Miracle or science, we can debate the theology without end, but the fact was that I had Ell back.

Ell opened her eyes and smiled weakly. "Thank you," she whispered. "You saved my life."

There among silicon cliffs and gold wire trees I cried like a baby.