This is a revision of “Extremes.” The original version may be found HERE.
She looks at his face. It’s peaceful as he lays in his casket.
This doesn’t feel right. She crosses her arms, almost hugging herself.
Even as the word lays on her silent tongue, she wants to spit it out.
She shudders and then takes a few steps back, bumping into one of the many chairs lined up for people to sit.
It doesn’t make sense. Just a little while ago she had spoken to him. 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.
It is not fair. He should not have been in that stupid box. She should’ve never opened her big stupid mouth.
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 gaming as usual. But he wasn’t the type to stay up that late on a school day. He had always been 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 finished the game, threw on her hoodie, and put on her sneakers. His house was pretty much across from hers, so she had always been able to see it from her window. It was the house 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. She’d always been jealous of the view.
She crossed the street and let herself in through the side door. He sat on the middle of the grass, where he looked up at the night sky in silence. He didn’t even move when she sat down next to him.
“Got up to the top ten of the last match. Should’ve seen it. Sniped this dude from across the map,” she said. “He totally rag-dolled off the mountain.”
He didn’t turn to her. “My parents want me to get an enhancement,” he said.
Her eyes lit up at the news. “No fucking way.” She jumped up, a huge grin on her face. All the people online talked about how amazing enhancements were, and any professional gamer would’ve 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 what you could do with a computer integrated with your brain.
“I’m so jealous!” she said.
She shouldn’t have said it though. 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.
“I’d kill to get one,” she continued. “I keep begging my parents for one, but they won’t give in. 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 had spoken with complete certainty, as if she were some scientist. But in reality, she knew nothing. She wasn’t a doctor. She hadn’t read anything about them besides what the commercials said it. And on hindsight, of course the people who survived the surgery would condone it. It wasn’t as if the dead would speak against it. Still, she should’ve been smarter about it. That singular percent meant death.
But now, as she stares at his body, focusing on his sweet smile, it is too late. She can only look now. There’s no talking to him. Just looking. She will never log in to her computer and see his user account with a little green light on it. She’s never going to play games with him 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 her because she wanted to prove that she could do it. They would never binge watch an entire tv series over a single weekend.
He is never going to be there.
He is gone.
He is dead.
And it is her fault.
“Wouldn’t you be worried, though?” he confessed that night. “I didn’t think my parents would say yes, but they let me. They agreed that it would help me with my college applications. 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 had joked. Jesus, why would she joke then. She would’ve slapped herself for saying that if she could. “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.
“Oh my god, you’re adorable,” she teased.
“Okay, okay. You win,” he tried laughing his embarrassment away. “I’m sorry I called you here so late. It’s just that I thought I wanted this, but now I’m not sure.”
“You’re worrying about this whole thing too much. In a few years, everyone is going to have enhancements. Might as well get it now. Maybe when they see your grades, my parents will finally let me get one too.” Her eyes glowed. “Yes! You should totally get better grades after.”
“I have good grades already,” he said, a grin on his face.
“Shit, that’s true,” she crossed her arms and looked down at the floor. She had legitimately thought about it as a plan.
She had seriously thought that he should do this so that it benefited her. God, what type of monster did that make her?
She waved her hands. “Whatever. It’s fine. You be the cool one. I’m sure they’ll eventually relent.” She winked. “I can always do the sad puppy eyes when I start my college applications.”
“You actually plan to graduate? I thought you weren’t gonna make it.”
“Wipe that stupid grin off your face before I wipe it for you,” she narrowed her eyes at him. This was exactly why she liked spending time with him so much. They had pretty much grown up together, and they just complemented each other. If it weren’t for him, she would’ve never passed English or History. She did okay with Math, but all the other stuff was an absolute pain without him.
He had been a good friend.
“Thank you,” he said, still smiling at her. “I needed a distraction.”
“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 had repeated her words. “I’ll be fine.”
It hadn’t been fine, though. 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 wipes her eyes, the ball on her chest ever growing. She bites her lip to the point it bleeds. It as true. The doctors weren’t at fault. It had been her. She convinced him to go through it. He was scared that night. If she had said something against it, he wouldn’t have done it. Eventually, they would’ve found the tumor and they could’ve saved him.
She can’t hold the tears back anymore. Placing her hand on the casket, his casket, she whispers the last words she’ll ever say to him. “I’m sorry.”