She looks at his face. It’s peaceful as he lays in his casket.
No. That doesn’t feel right. Even as she thinks the word, she wants to spit it out.
Casket. His casket.
It doesn’t make sense. Not that long ago, he had laid on the grass of his backyard, looking up at the moon. She had sat next to him when he’d closed his eyes in a very similar way, a smile on his face as if he had nothing to worry about.
No, this was not right. It was not fair. He should not have been in that stupid box. He would not have been in it if it weren’t for her stupid advice.
On that day, he wrote her a text, which was already strange. He always preferred voice chat. On top of that, it was pretty late. She was up herself because she was obsessed with a new video game, so she had not seen the time fly. But he wasn’t the type to stay up that late on a school day. He was the good one.
“Hey, can we talk?” he said in the text.
“Of course, what’s up?” she replied.
“Can you come to my house? Just go in through the side door. I’m in the backyard.”
It was strange, but she agreed. She quickly threw on a hoodie and put on her sneakers. His house was across the street, so she got there almost instantly. Letting herself in through the side door, she found him sitting out in the middle of the grass. She had always loved his house because it was the one at the end of a cul-de-sac and it had no homes behind it, so it had an open view of everything down the mountain and the perfect view of the entire night sky.
He’d looked up at the stars and didn’t move when she sat down next to him.
“What’s up,” she said.
He didn’t turn to her. “My parents want me to get an enhancement,” he said.
Her eyes lit up at the news. She wanted an enhancement. All the people online talked about how amazing they were, and any professional gamer would’ve have killed to get one. Just a basic cognitive enhancement could help increase your reaction times in the hardest games. And some of the nicest ones let you control the game without an actual controller. It was amazing.
“I’m so jealous!” she said. She shouldn’t have. She should’ve been more receptive. She should’ve told him not to do it. She should’ve told him that it was a stupid decision. Instead, she let her fanaticism for video games control her. “I’d kill to get one. I keep begging my parents for one, but they refuse. They say it’s too dangerous because it’s new technology and too many things can go bad, but the success rate is ridiculously high. Almost one hundred percent,” she said with complete certainty, not actually considering that there was a single percent there that meant death.
But now it is too late to tell him all of that. Hindsight, as they say, is pointless. She can only look at him now. She can’t even talk to her. Just looking at his body makes her realize that she will never log in to her computer and see his user account with a little green light on it. He’s never going to play games with her and get in trouble with his parents for sleeping too late. He’s never going to watch movies with her when she feels lonely because her parents are gone on a business trip. He’s never going to eat an entire bucket of ice cream with him because she wanted to prove that she could do it. They would never binge watch an entire tv series over a single weekend.
He was never going to be there.
He was gone.
He was dead.
And it was her fault.
“Wouldn’t you be worried too, though?” he confessed that night. “My parents say it’ll help me with college applications and future jobs. They’re also very sure that I’ll be able to achieve my dreams, whatever they are if I get it. I guess it’ll help me with my future. But, the thought of going into surgery for several hours while they poke around in my head to insert a microchip scares the shit out of me.”
“Watch the language,” she joked. Jesus, why would she joke then. If she could go back, she would’ve slapped herself for saying that. “It’s gonna be fine,” she said and hugged him. “Maybe now you’ll be better than me in games.”
“I’ll never lose a game,” he said, forcing himself to smile.
“Oh come on. Cheer up, emo boy. It’s going to be absolutely okay. Here, I promise you. I’ll even visit you in the hospital as you recover. What is it, a week of shit hospital food? I’ll be there every day. I promise.”
“You know, people are going to assume you’re my girlfriend,” he teased.
“Let ’em assume whatever they want.” She pushed him away from her playfully. “It’s not like I don’t know you have a massive crush on me.” She knew he actually did have one. By now her theories about it were fundamental scientific law, but she didn’t want to push it. She liked him a lot, but she wanted him to make the first move. She’d always fancied it would be a good way for him to grow as a person. He couldn’t end up in a relationship without ever at least feeling the fear of asking someone out.
He blushed like she had never seen him before, and she broke out in laughter.
“Tell you what,” she said. “After you’re back, consider asking me a question,” she said.
He blushed again and somehow looked even more like a tomato. She laughed at him even more.
“Thank you,” he said, actually smiling at her. “I needed some sort of distraction from this.”
“You’ll be fine. It’ll be fine,” she reassured.
He closed his eyes and lay down on the grass. “It’ll be fine,” he said.
It hadn’t been fine. Something went wrong on the day of the surgery. The doctors said he had a tumor, and somehow proved it by law. It wasn’t their fault. The tumor caused major problems in the surgery, and he died. “He died painlessly,” they had said it as if it would somehow make any difference.
She bites her lip to the point it bleeds. She hates herself because it’s actually true. The doctors weren’t at fault. It was her. She convinced him to go through it.
Placing her hand on his casket, she whispers the last words she’ll ever say to him. “I’m sorry.”