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Pixel Courage 41

“C’mon, Chris. Try a sip.”

“I really don’t want to.”

“It’s good.”

“I…

“Just a sip.”

It was back in college when I tried alcohol for the first time. As with so many things, it was Alex who had to get me out of my comfort zone.

“It’s good.”

“Yeah, you see?”

“Yeah, it’s… I’ve had beer before, but–”

“Beer is different, Chris.”

“Yeah. This tastes good.”

“Haven’t I told you I’m always right?” It was a weird thing to say, but Alex said it with a big smile, so I couldn’t be so mad.

I sort of liked that she was always right. When I was around I didn’t have to worry so much about things. So long as she was happy, I could be happy.

The two of us started out the night just sitting in her room — chatting, chilling, having a good time. But time wore on and I drank more and more.

Without me really understanding what was happening, Alex took me to a party at some guy’s house. I didn’t know the guy, and I’m not sure Alex did either. Still, we weaved through the house: empty beer cartons strewn about, sticky floor, people I didn’t know.

Alex told everyone we were dating. We hadn’t talked about it, but I was so happy to feel like I belonged to someone.

We danced. We made out. I was so happy.

Nobody else mattered.

After a while, Alex took me into a corner of the room. There was loud music playing — something pop, no idea what. Alex took a plastic baggie out of her pocket. Handed it to me. She took another plastic baggie out, and opened it.

“Take it,” she said.

They were mushrooms.

“I don’t know.”

“You liked the Rum and Coke, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Then trust me, Chris. This’ll be fun.”

I opened the bag of mushrooms and began eating them. Leaned my back against the wall as I chewed.

At first, nothing was different. I don’t remember what we talked about. There was a sense that something was coming. I felt like things were different, but I knew it was a psychosomatic. When it hit, it hit hard.

“You feel it?”

“I… Yeah.”

The music was louder, almost overbearing. I thought about myself, about my relationship to the world. Wondered if I was doing the right thing. If I was living up to my potential.

Alex and I stumbled around. I told her I didn’t want to be around the loud music, so we walked through the frat house, eventually finding some guy’s bedroom. It was just him and a couple guys playing a video game.

“Hey, we’re gonna crash here for a bit,” Alex said. “My friend’s not feeling well.”

Head was throbbing. I thought hallucinogens were supposed to make you see weird shit, but that wasn’t the main thing. The mushrooms were making me feel weird. I would move my hand, and then only realize I’d moved it a second or two ago.

I was forgetting my past. Forgetting all the awful things my parents had done to each other, forgetting all the times I’d wondered if I was trans*.

I was forgetting everything.

The guys were playing a game. They were on the waiting screen, which meant a black screen with big letters scrawled across it. The screen said, Bullet’s Reign: Dead Harmony.

“Bullet’s Reign: Dead Harmony.” The words tumbled from my lips.

Alex grabbed my hand and shushed me.

The game took place in a futuristic dystopian New York. It looked a little film noir, honestly, with shadows and silhouettes drenching the place. There were alleyways you couldn’t trust and taxi cabs that would’ve belonged in the 20’s, if not for the fact that they could fly.

The screen was divided into four sections, each one following the perspective of one of the players.

There were four of them. Two were probably new at the game. They were running around the city, not able to find anybody worth shooting.

The other two, I could tell, had plans.

One was named Zed, the other MarkFucksYou.

While the two newbs were constantly changing direction, whirling their cameras around while attempting to get a bearing on their surroundings, Zed and MarkFucksYou both moved in a more assured fashion.

Zed found a dumpster in an alleyway. He opened it up.

MarkFucksYou, meanwhile, was leaping from rooftop to rooftop. Hard to tell whether he was running towards something or away from it.

I ignored the two newbs. Just trying to watch their screens made my head spin.

Inside the dumpster was a bazooka. Zed had a pistol in his hand, which went in his inventory so he could wield the bazooka. He aimed his bazooka towards the street. There was no activity going on there, and it was late at night.

MarkFucksYou jumped off a roof, but this time he didn’t seem to be trying to land on the next one. He turned his gaze down, gun in hand. Below him was a player, whom he shot at repeatedly. He landed on the player, killing him.

One of the newb’s screens lit up bright red.

On Zed’s screen, he wasn’t moving. For a moment, I wondered what was happening. What was his plan? What was the meaning of all this?

Then the other newb ran through the street, running in the direction of Zed’s aim. Zed shot the bazooka in the newb’s direction. One shot, one kill. The newb exploded.

Watching the guys at their controllers, killing virtual selves over and over, I had to wonder. Was this just what people did? Was the urge to kill so great that people couldn’t let it go? Maybe it was better to shuffle that impulse out of this world and into a fictional, virtual one.

These games weren’t games in the traditional sense. They weren’t like board games, or card games. They were about blood and conquest. You could link them back to riots and protests; to the French beheadings and Christian crusades and the fall of Rome and Julius Caesar’s stabbing and Cain and Abel. They all spoke to that same fundamental need, that need to say: I’m here, I exist, I matter. And perhaps, most frighteningly: I deserve life more than you.

After a couple hours the worst of my shroom trip passed. The guys turned off the game and Alex brought me back home. I had the worst nightmares and woke up still a little high. Still, even with my senses and thoughts feeling completely whacked out, Alex’s presence was calming.

“That was weird,” I muttered, staring up at the white ceiling, Alex laying next to me.

She wrapped an arm around my torso. “It was good though, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. I knew it was what she wanted to hear.

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