Love In The Time Of Video Games

The TV flickered with bright lights. The living room was somewhere between fluorescent and twilight at any given second. They were playing an old shooter on a last generation console. He was twelve, she was thirty; they played co op on a split screen. She was okay with him seeing blood and violence but she drew the line at online play. He didn’t need to know how terrible people can be quite so soon.

The game was going decently enough. They were both fully loaded with grenades and NATO certified munition for their M14 Enhanced Battle Rifles. It was very important to know the name of the rifle and the fact that it carried twenty rounds, not thirty. She knew this because her son told her so. She also knew this because she use to play first person shooters the first time they were popular and you always remember your favorite weapons. Kid had chops though, he was playing expert like it was easy.

Their unit came into an old beaten hotel and she got the weirdest feeling of deja vu. The enemy was suddenly all around, six stories below. Through the comm they learned that the way down was destroyed and it was too hot for air evac. They were stuck, ten thousand miles from home, strangers in a strange land. Then she saw something on a shoulder, a black 27 over a yellow V on a red field. She knew these roughnecks.

She tried to tell him, tried to explain what was about to happen but she didn’t have the words. She never talked about his father, it just didn’t come up. She had read all the forms and signed the releases but it never occurred to her that she would ever see her husband again. Sure enough, the soldier turned and it was PFC Stevens. His eyes were just that shade of blue and his hair just north of a Marine barber’s preference, like it always was.

“I guess I don’t get to go home this time. Kim if you’re out there, I always loved you, I always will.”

Then an RPG came hurdling into him. The world was white and buzzing and when Kim and Jake came to, Private First Class John Stevens was gone, just gone. He always did know how to make an exit. The checkpoint cleared, the game saved. Kim forced Jake to his room, off to do homework. She turned off the TV and the console. She clapped and the living room returned to it’s natural nicotine yellow. The game case was sitting face down on the floor. She read a blurb that said 2 million sold. At least hundred thousand people (it was pretty late in the game, on highest difficulty) knew that PFC Stevens loved Kim. Somehow, Kim loved him more.

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She The DVD

It was cold the day her memory skipped. Ever since, there has been a scratch in Jessica’s mind that would bring her back there when she thought of certain things. She sometimes recalls, the little girl with pig tails and untied shoes. And then there’s so much blood. Poor girl has a hole in her and there’s nothing Jessica can do. Someone some 100 yards away had missed and then a little girl who had no enemies in the world was dead.

Jessica will then fantasize, cruel and delusional daydreams. She usually saves the girl. She counts her seconds, and she waits for the girl to tie her shoes. As the girl puts the rabbit’s ears together, Jessica grabs the girl and pushes her away. Jessica sacrifices herself nobly. Sometimes, Jessica grabs the girl and the both land in the lawn, inches safe from the bullet. The girl stares at her astonished, she reveres Jessica. They become good friends, Jessica’s the little girl’s confidante.

Then some days, Jessica’s still too late and vengeance is the only thing she can do. She runs down through yards and alleys until she finds the man. He’s a big man with two tears tattooed under his eye. It doesn’t matter, Jessica is righteous and capable. He is still holding the offending weapon in his hand. Jessica makes her way through the other drunks and slugs him in the face with her right. As he reels bleeding from the mouth, the gun flies out of his hand. The roll of pennies breaks and it rains Lincolns. Her nails are nice and sharp and she’s down on him while the crowd laughs. She laughs too. His blood mixes with the little girl’s as the knife cuts deeper and deeper.

Next thing, Jessica realizes it’s 10:30 am ten years after and that girl is still dead, the man is in jail and Jessica is alive and free. The spirit of the staircase wallops her with coulda, shoulda, woulda. She couldn’t and therefore she wouldn’t but it’s a lie that goes too damn deep to be cleaned out. She lives with it, limps with it. The little girl sleeps on the other side of a big mega store. She feels strange being there, like a party where she doesn’t know anyone. She looks down at the little girl’s stone. Jessica leaves after a brief moment of silence, a guest should never overstay their welcome.

On the other side of the road there is a diner and Jessica finds herself drinking too much coffee desperately hoping to spark something in her mind that’s not the little girl. Little thoughts come to her but nothing substantial. Nothing lifts her from her tried and false scenarios that she runs in her mind. The fries are good though and that’s almost enough to do it, almost. She catches the 8 home and cleans some DVDs. As she cranks the device the dirt becomes apparent and she wipes it clean.

If only psychiatry worked liked that.

Until I Finally Let Death Do Us Part

“Hey honey, how’s it going.”

Adeline spoke kindly hoping to smooth over the rest of the conversation. Winston looked at his wife. His eyes gave her the sudden feeling of being drunk while doing a trapeze act. Awkward doesn’t quite cover it, she was in dire straits. Her life as she knew it was pending on how she handled the next few minutes. Winston felt the back of his head and found something foreign.

“Sweety, this isn’t my skull.”

“It’s most of your skull, I just patched it a bit. I had to, you sprung a bit of leak.”

“After you hit me with an iron skillet.”

“I feel just terrible about that really.”

“Yeah, you always do. Problem is, you keep doing it.”

“I know but I’m going to anger management classes.”

“Are you really or have you just been saying that you’re going to the classes?”

“I mean to, I really do. It’s just my work is so damn important.”

“Adeline, how many times has this happened?”

“Ten, not counting that close call two years ago.”

“So you’ve tried to kill me eleven times. Does this sound conductive to a healthy marriage?”

“I guess not.” Adeline pouted inappropriately.

Winston knew he was in trouble the moment he learned she was a necrobiologist. It’s a field that shelters more than a few psychopaths. When he learned that she was an experimental necrobiologist, he should have just called off the marriage. It was her eyes that stopped him, big round things that can stop a speeding semi. It was her eyes that were tempting Winston to forgive.

“Next on the agenda, whose skull is this?”

“Your’s now, used to be a soda can.”

Quietly, Winston toyed with the revolver under the pillow. It was bad enough when she salvaged parts from neighborhood pets. It was terrible when she did it with transients but something about the fact that she was now ready to use just plain old found objects made this feel like the precipice of darkness. He was breathing deeply, trying to create an unnatural calm. It would steady his aim.

“You know Winston, I remember our wedding vows.”

“That priest sure will.”

Winston may have been the only person since Josef Stalin to put forth a scenario where he would have to put down his wife and then write it into his vows. Adeline simply altered the final line: Until I finally let death do us part. The priest thought it was cute but he was naïve of the ways of mad science.

“Are we really at that point Winston?”

He thought for a second and then dropped the gun.

“No, we’re really not but I have to know, if you don’t want Italian what do you want?”

“Actually, Italian sounds good now.”

“You are so lucky I use expensive bullets.”

“Honey, I’m lucky just to have you.”

George’s Afterlife In Data Entry

Five hours and 65,000 keys in to his current workload of data entry, George realized much to his shock that he was alive. Before, he had been shoveling the sidewalk. He remembered th pain in his arm that became the pain in his chest. He remembered the bright light. He lost time between the cold snowy ground and the slightly chilly desk in the nondescript office building. It all felt a bit wrong and more than a little ominous.

He looked to his right and saw gray woman with blond hair. She was working diligently but somehow she seemed vacant.

“Excuse me, do you remember dying?” He asked as politely as one can ask such an odd question.

“Shh. The boss doesn’t like us talking about it.”

“I only ask because I do. I vividly remember dying.”

“Look, just shut up. We talk after work.”

“Uh, when is that?”

“In thirteen hours we get a six hour work break.”

“That’s not much tine to sleep.”

“Luckily, we don’t. Only reason we get any off time is they have to make sure all our computers and peripherals are spic and span. Sometimes they replace keyboards, sometimes they reattach arms. It’s no biggy.”

The two went deep and silent into work. Time passed methodically, every 13,00 keys another hour was gone. As George the seventeenth hour of work, he realized that he had just went through two work days straight, without grievance or even any notice of his own exhaustion. It took the recognition of apathy to instill fear. He couldn’t quite figure out if it that was ironic, but it was sad. 13,00 keys later, quitting time.

All around people stopped, mid entry even. George stopped at the last letter of an entry. It pissed him off, but he couldn’t find it in himself to continue. A maintenance crew suddenly swooped in and gave George a once over. It was strange to see a man in an orange jumpsuit carry a stethoscope but George was too tired to question it. The computers were confiscated, keyboard, monitor and all. The blond women turned back to him.

“Smoke ’em if you got ’em.”

“How on Earth would I have ’em?”

“Look in your bottom drawer.”

As he opened the drawer he beheld his own personal lending library of narcotics, pharmaceuticals, liquor and junk food.

“Jesus, does Hunter S. Thompson work here?”

“No, they’ve got him doing editorials I believe.”

He waited for her to say just kidding, the moment passed.

“So, what poison would you recommend?”

“Poison? Darlin’, you can’t die. There is no such thing as poison.

He picked up a small bag of weed, it was a familiar blend from down Mexico way. He knew it by smell, sight, and a wasted freshman year of experience.

“Mary Jane, you sure? Mom always says that stuff will mess you up.”

George simply stared at her waiting for her common sense to catch up to her mouth. He began liberally seasoning a snack cake with the stuff.

“Sorry, sometimes it’s hard remembering the new rules.” She spoke as she tied surgical tubing around her arm, preparing a shot of heroine.

As he downed the second cupcake he looked back at her glazed glassy eyes.

“So what’s the deal anyways?” Why am I alive again?”

“Because you’re too good of a temp to die, also your cheap. Here at Necrostaff, we provide business solutions from beyond the mortal veil.”

“God damn.”

“He sure did, but the pay is good.”

“Pay, what pay?”

“After this quarter, if you’re not utterly destroyed, you get reimbursed at the tune of 11 dollars an hour. Plus, you get to live again.”

When all is said and done, you have to admit, it is a pretty good deal. Especially, if you consider the alternative.

Pyre Of Man

Somewhere on top the fire, we find are true selves. As the last bodies burn, we are left absent of purpose. With no war, the war party disbands. In the fire’s pale orange light the city is revealed to be ruined thoroughly. During the rushing battle it had all seemed so glorious and right. Now our grievances are obviously petty, our transgressions against humanity grave. The fire did not make us ugly. No, the pyre of burning men proved us to be ugly.

In the span of three months the free world fell over the brink. Those men that wanted power found it among the starved angry masses. We followed Strom Dug, war veteran and middle manager of a convenience store chain. We followed him because he was led, leaving us comfortably numb to our various atrocities. We followed him into the suburbs and the valleys building our numbers. When we met those who might spite us, we took their hands.

We were owed the world for we were the strongest. We were great in size and ambition but indiscriminate in choice of enemy. Heroes and monsters were crushed underneath our boot just the same. Yet some heroes did survive in those trying times. They kept the bread moving from factory to people. The lights returned to Dallas, the water flowed in St. Louis. They rebuilt the world as we broke it down.

It became clear that we were on the verge of peace and we scurried. Strom Dug fell to his lead advisor and we fell upon the city Indianapolis where I was raised. A horde now, we searched streets for prize and others did the same. So many acted so cruelly. Civilization was coming moving down from Chicago with trains, asphalt crews and law. There was an army on the march full of righteous conviction and we were suddenly so very small. left with so many bodies, so much evidence.

So, the fire burns and we hope there is no after life.

The Roommate



The dead man beside him was rotting. The smell was so pungent that Frank could no longer discern between smell and taste. He drank heavily of it and it tasted terrible. Through a hole in the barn door, Frank could see natural light. The door gave him hope and Frank could do nothing but hate the door for it. Frank didn’t want hope; he wanted help. Hope did not sustain him, it merely made him ache more and more.

Ever since the cross beam had broken, Frank and his dead friend had been stuck. For the first two days, Frank screamed his damn fool head off trying to get someone’s attention. His voice gave out before the second day’s end. It was no use, no one lived in the surrounding mile. There was just a small house where Frank lived and a barn where Frank found himself a dead man.

Frank and the dead man had been roommates for five days. Frank couldn’t have asked for a more courteous roomy, although the man’s hygiene was not up to par. The poor fool had found Frank’s pitchfork and stuck it in his back. Death must have come slow to the man. The face read like a book. He had time to comprehend, time to come out of shock and feel the pain all over, time to see every damn thing he was slip away. He had so much god damned time.

Because his roomy looked bored, Frank was telling a story. It was about a boy named John and a girl named Bill. They were walking up a hill to get something and they were happy enough it seemed. Then John went and broke his arm. Bill cried and it all rhymed or at least it was supposed to. Something was wrong and no matter what Frank tried the story didn’t quite sound right. He was missing something and couldn’t even quite grasp the shape of the absence.

Frank tried not to think about the hereafter but looking at his roommate made it damn hard to forget. Really, it wasn’t ever easy to forget that death was inevitable. Between his corroded valves and off beat heart it was all just one wrong revolution from ending. Frank wasn’t quite sure where he was going but he was pretty sure that there is a god. However, he was also not quite sure whether or not he was on the just side of such a fellow. He wasn’t sure of much at all.

On the fifth sunrise since, Mr. Wilkerson was walking his dog. The dog was a scent hound and slightly more than half as nosy as Mr. Wilkerson. Frank and Mr. Wilkerson had talked in great loud conversations about Mr. Wilkerson’s penchant for trespassing but he was quite welcome to explore at this point in time. Mr. Wilkerson being Mr. Wilkerson, did just that.

Mr. Wilkerson’s better half found a curious smell coming from the now collapsed barn. In no time, Mr. Wilkerson broke and entered into through the barn door, with wanton disregard for law and safety. As the ammonia wafted upwards, the little wuss actually puked on the poor dog. Frank enjoyed that. The man found his cellphone and called 911. Soon the proper authorities came and carted off Frank’s roommate.

Frank was somewhat irked at the way they all ignored him, but he couldn’t keep that anger. He was just too tired and the falling leaves were too beautiful. That day was full of Indian Summer and downright gleeful in most dimensions. The night was cold out in the barn but Frank had no trouble going to sleep.

Faking It

I’ve got myself a new drug, a true wonder of modern convenience. It’s a smile on my face, a bounce in my step, and a song that I can’t help but whistle. It’s a good feeling everywhere but my mind. It’s called Obstubliss and it’s just wonderful. You take your syringe and you fill it up until there’s nothing left in the little bottle and then shoot up in the place where you’re most comfortable and then look happy all day. I warn you, this is Jimmy Stewart happy not the unmitigated insane joy that clowns exude. If you need that, try puppies.

It works on your brain, but somehow keeps the motors and the mind kosher. I don’t really understand the science, but I know it involves some sort of complicated chemical morse code type thing that the synapses understand and read as “Act happy!”. It usually takes about three hours to kick in. If you take it right as you get out of bed and someone finds you grumpy just say you haven’t had you first cup of joe or breakfast. That alibi always works for me.

I can keep my stormy weather on the inside and it’s all sunshine outside. All I have to do is shut up and let everyone else gush molten grievances and my smile stays. When they look at me, they see this small smile undeterred by their petty problems. I become a shelter from the storm instead of just another jagged place hidden in deep waters. I say a couple well worn words of encouragement with a fake voice of wisdom and they feel better

My life’s gotten a lot better since this drug came into it. I have friends, acquaintances and even just the odd happy stranger that wants to talk to me. People look at me and start smiling. If I start laughing, seems like the whole word chuckles. If this city gets any happier the CDC will quarantine my ass. I never understood the phrase fake it till you make it but that’s because I never made it. Well, I did and here I am, honestly happy.

 

David Banner is a real person, one of millions that use and enjoy Obstubliss.

 

Warning: Does not cure Bipolar Disorder, Dementia, or Depression. Do not use with an MAOI inhibitor. Do not use if pregnant.

 

 

Consult your doctor today to see if you’re ready to start looking great.

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