When I was a kid we used to go to a place called Video Studio Twenty. The guy who worked there was named Tom, he was cool. I remember once he told my brother and I, “every time you move to a new town, date a fat girl–she knows all the best restaurants and always pays.” I was too young not to laugh when someone cool says something cool. I laughed.
When new movies would come out, we’d call Tom. He’d hold the movie for us if they still had a copy. But sometimes, they didn’t and we’d have to ask Tom to call us when the next copy came back. That would sometimes be two, or even three days. It was torture.
I realize now, I’ll never feel that again. I try to think of other things I’ll never feel again; the moral superiority of lying about a semi-known fact without the challenge of Googling it, blowing on the inside of a Nintendo Game cartridge before putting it back in, not knowing where my childhood friend Tammy ate her last meal. This list goes on. But I still get to experience the wonder of an unexpected knock at the door.
I open it. I look down. DEATH stands there holding a six pack. She’s got on a baggy black shirt with a big red X on it. Her hair is a mess. One of the beers is out of the six pack, opened, hanging from her other hand.
“It’s started,” she says.
I look at the beers, her hair, her waving eyes.
“I thought you quit?”
She stalks passed me. “Shut up.”
I close the door and follow her into the kitchen. She hops up on a chair and pulls my laptop to her.
“Who the hell is Tammy and why is she posting pictures of sushi?”
I sit and pull the computer to me, shut the lid. DEATH hands me a beer, it is warm.
“What’s up?” I ask.
She shrugs and starts patting her pockets. I pull out my cigarettes and pass them over. She takes two, lights them and passes one back to me.
“It’s over,” she sighs.
I take a sip of beer, it’s not good beer.
“What’s over?” I ask, resisting the urge to add “drama queen.”
She waves her hand at my laptop. I slide it over. She opens it and starts typing. I lean forward and look. She’s just typed, “no one cares Tammy, no one cares.”
I grab at the laptop, “nice.”
“Wait!” she cries, “just wait. Sorry, couldn’t help it, hold on.”
I sit back and continue my journey to the bottom of the very crappy beer bottle. Finally DEATH pushes the computer back to me. I look at the top of the screen: SimTech FAIL!
“What is this?” I ask.
DEATH sighs, “just watch it.”
I read the description: “First man to be downloaded into SimTech’s new program SimLife gets attacked by his own imagination.”
I hit play. To my surprise, a face I recognize comes onto the screen. I laugh.
I point at the screen, “I know this guy, he used to work at the video store near my house, huh.”
DEATH rolls her eyes, “good for you, just watch.”
I do. I watch as Tom gets hooked up to some nodes giving thumbs up to the camera. There is some buzzing and a flash. The scene changes. Tom is standing in a blank space. He starts cheering, dancing. He snaps his fingers and a table appears. Again he snaps and there are beers. He picks one up and takes a drink.
“It’s so bleep real!” he cries. He starts snapping again and again and the whole scene becomes full of all sorts of things. A whole world appears around him. Then people start appearing, beautiful people. Tom runs around making them eat and drink and dance until one steps forward. It slowly starts to contort. Tom stops and looks at the person, then begins to back away.
“Mom?” he says. Suddenly all the people on the screen start turning into the same overweight woman in a nightgown.
“Pull me out!” Tom starts to scream as all the mothers descend on him. The video ends. I can’t help but laugh. I look at DEATH. She isn’t laughing.
“What? That’s pretty funny,” I tell her. “Especially if you knew the guy, he was kind of a scum-bag.”
DEATH looks at me and her eyes start to lose focus. She reaches over and opens herself another beer.
“Oh, what could you possibly be upset about, you know I think you just want to be miserable sometimes.”
From her look I can see I’ve said the wrong thing. I hold up my hands. “I’m sorry–really, I’m sorry, please just tell me what’s wrong.”
DEATH looks into her beer before killing it in one. “That’s the beginning. Soon, all of you will be in there.” She waves at the computer.
I look at the computer, then at her. “It’s a game,” I remind her.
She almost laughs, but lights another cigarette instead, “for now.”
“And then?” I ask, but I realize the answer before she says it.
“And then, nothing. If you are all in there, what do you need me for?”
I nod, “I see,” I whisper. She gives me a sarcastic one-thumb-up. We finish the rest of her beers without saying anything. I pull a bottle of whiskey from the cabinet.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I ask.
She shakes her head. I pour us some whiskey and sit back down. I get an idea.
“Want to play chess?” I ask.
DEATH looks up and frowns. “Why the hell would I want to play chess?”
I sit back and sigh, “Dunno, thought it was a death thing.”
“Just shut up and drink,” she says.
So, we do.
** This is our 365th day, our 365th story. That means this is our final story in our year long challenge that we set out to do on October 17th of last year. Starting in December we will be continuing DEATH’s story on PATREON through our Flash Comics. I hope you join us.