AN:

I do not endorse or glamorize anything that my characters say or do. Characters are as flawed as real people.

Warning to any victims of depression and suicide. Do not read if so.

Lastly, each of these characters has a profile, which means I've cast them all. It helps me to write more efficiently. If you'd like some information on how they look then let me know in the reviews. I didn't want to force the cast list on those of you who like to imagine the characters.


Chapter One

February 19, 2017

It's early for a Tuesday afternoon—early for whatever kind of leisure this is—but people hardly stop by here. It has a few frequent costumers, loyal even, who are to thank for this place being open, but not many people enjoy games where pixels exist unless it comes in the likes of scavenging pigs and wood. People like their high definition stuff.

Jonathan takes a sip of his stale soda.

"Do you guys remember Moonwalker?"

"Man, you kidding? I own this place! I used to play that game every day," Riker blurts in complete child-like excitement. "And I was twenty-one when that sucka came out!"

Axel shakes his head, but not to say no, instead to express disappointment. "You're really asking that question? Who hasn't played that game? I mean, that game is like one of the greatest of the late eighties to nineties... ironically, of course."

"Yeah! You never even knew what you were 'bout to walk into when you bought that thing, man," Riker says as he also shakes his head, but not in disappointment.

He's just happy.

Even if he hadn't eaten or slept, Riker was usually happy either way. His store barely makes ends meet, yet Riker keeps waking up at five in the morning to reorganize all the games in the front of the store—as if newcomers were consistent.

The sad thing about it is Riker has all initiative and heart. He got this place from his grandfather, but it was a barbershop. His grandfather, according to Riker, was a really tall, stocky guy way shorter than Riker. His hair was all puffed out and gray and his mouth looked like a natural frown, even if he was the most sarcastic man Riker had ever known—before Jonathan. He had a thing, a talent, for hair and he was just like Riker when it came to what he liked. The only difference was his affinity, which was hair.

Nonetheless, he didn't care about whether Riker would continue the business or not. He just wanted to go—go some place different. He wanted to visit the Bahamas and drink iced tea until his sweat started to smell like it—that's something Riker always used to quote. He knew Riker had the ambition to do something with the place, to do anything, and, well, he did. He made a video game store.

Jonathan was ten when he started shopping here. His parents were still alive back then. He was probably just beginning to understand what video games were even going to mean to him then.

Riker was a twenty-nine-year-old with the enthusiasm of a child for games—even now. Jonathan didn't really have friends because he didn't really care to make them. He can only assume he cared for Riker.

"I'm just asking because I was only, like, two? I never got to have that whole release thing—seeing it all brand new at the store," Jonathan says, just a little too blissfully.

Riker and Axel laugh. It's not that big of a deal. The game was pretty underrated. Everyone definitely went a little curious for it, but it wasn't anything that incredibly special at the time. You got the game because it was a Michael Jackson game and that was that. Later, it ended up being one of the most fun games to play at any given age ever.

"It probably wasn't all that, dude," Axel answers completely amused. "Don't choke hold the mojo."

In other words... Don't milk the game.

Jonathan can't understand how that phrase is even remotely natural, but he's learned that Axel is never natural nor normal nor appropriate. If he's made with a normal button or something then he'd gladly like to pull it down. He's been this weird since he met him in high school—after he started sniffing glue and developed bulimia.

Axel was into all sorts of weird things and always did a hit of glue with him in the bathroom after class. It sounds really stupid, and it was, but if it hadn't been for Axel then he might've died that year—which is another reason he secretly hates him. He could never successfully do it, not when Axel was hounding him everywhere. And soon enough, he just gave up trying—that year anyway.

Both Axel and Riker weren't white, which he never noticed nor tried to. Axel told him he was from somewhere deep in the forests of South Asia, but he always exaggerated and lied about everything when he was bored and in need of a creative outlet so Jonathan doesn't really know. Riker was just black—that's it. He was tall, a little pudgy, and looked like one of those guys who always offered out their CD. And he was ridiculously offended when Jonathan told him that.

"You can't go around hurting people's feelings, man. That's just wrong," he remembers.

Axel cackled.

Riker turned around and said, "Why you laughing? At least I look like I make good, soulful albums. You just look like you wait outside of Dunken Donuts for quarters, man."

Then, Axel stopped cackling and his smile fell flat.

Jonathan could remember how hard he laughed after that—he literally cried. Axle had completely shut down and it'd be a shame Jonathan wouldn't be able to see it again. He's glad he saw it.

"—eah, Jonathan," Riker suddenly says, "don't worry 'bout it, man. Let the game just be a game."

"And let the eighties just stay in the eighties," Axel adds, tipping his head just a little at Jonathan. Jonathan didn't necessarily understand why anyone would want to rehash the eighties or at least the nineties anyway. Did they not remember the parachute pants?

He shook his head suddenly, turning his eyes to the phone shuffled out of his jeans. "Shoot," he blurts, "I gotta go. Only got like twenty minutes until—"

"Until?" Axel raises his eyebrows.

"Oh, uh." Jonathan searches through his words. "I have... plans. With some.. person."

Riker shrugs, yet his eyes say different. "Let him live his life, Axel. He got his own thing."

Axel looks at Riker and looks back at Jonathan. Jonathan knows they're probably communicating through their eyes like they usually do, which is completely exclusive but he won't pay mind. He just needs to get going, before the whole schedule falls off—and he never plans anything in his entire life, but this is important. Time couldn't tick slower when people decide to get evasive, specifically Axel. He didn't really have that many friends.

It's 3:40 PM.

"Whatever, dude," finally, Axel answers, resigning to whatever event was happening secretly behind his back.

Jonathan bolted. Not a word after, not a beat behind—and that was the last thing he was going to see.


February 16, 2017

Jonathan never wanted to study law. Suits made him look fat.

However, he hated his foster parents. He was seventeen and desperate to make a run somewhere, somewhere far away. He made a promise that whatever it was he had, whatever gift, that he would let it wrap around him and protect him forever. When he'd come back, whenever it was, he'd feel free. He'd have no one on his back, choking him, making him feel as if he were stupid. It was only two years with them, but it had felt like his whole life.

Sometimes it nauseated him... so he left.

He'd found that he liked to protect things, people. He could take a few punches and his English average was pretty high. His History average was even higher. He's never been the nostalgic kind and yet it seemed like he was.

College was pretty average. He never did go to parties or participate in clubs or any of the things that make college such a fun experience. He might have had a thing with one girl, but that never went anywhere. He just wanted to get his degree as fast and as well as he could. He wanted to leave and go back home, but this time he wouldn't be living with anyone. He would be free—and safe.

It's a year in and that feeling still hasn't set in.

"Hey, Joe-Joe!" He hears before the door actually swings open.

Suddenly, his piteous thoughts are interrupted... by Frank. The only reason he knows is because only his voice booms that loud across the building.

If he didn't feel so sorry for Frank, then he'd probably tell him to leave, but... he was nice. He was nice and it was a little mean to push him out even if he was really creepy. He was the nicest one in this place—in this firm. It's not obvious at first why everyone avoids him. He's good-looking, and it's not that awkward to say. He's nice to everyone and compliments them. He can sing.. too. He's heard him in the bathroom stall and near the coffee machines.

Then, he starts to follow you around. Forever.

Jonathan remembers the last time he followed him to his car. It was the creepiest moment of his entire life, which isn't much since he never leaves his office or his apartment, but it had almost felt surreal.

"That's a really nice car," he had told him, "I knew it had to be yours. You like blue and all those dark colors—I see them on your desk."

Jonathan didn't say anything in return. He stood silently with his car keys in his hand. The sun had suddenly beamed a lot harder on his head.

"It's a good color on you..."

Jonathan still shivers from that. He knows it was all in good intentions and stuff, especially since Frank has absolutely no friends, but that was just ridiculously weird. Weirder than Axel.

"I heard that you won that case the other day," he grins, teeth and all. "You're on a roll. I mean—"

Frank shoots up from the desk. Jonathan struggles to keep watching him. Who could take him seriously? Was he on Adderall or something? Wait—maybe he actually used Adderall? What if he had ADD? That could explain almost everything and honestly it would make him feel like a complete jerk—

"Joe-Joe!" He snaps his fingers in front of Jonathan's face. "Joe-Joe? Did you—Joe-Joe?"

"Oh, uh," Jonathan stammers, "yeah, I completely agree."

Frank looks doubtful for a second, then his mouth grows and soon it's a smile. He starts laughing soon after and Jonathan wonders how he even got stuck in this conversation in the first place. His green eyes remind him of the miles and miles of grass in this city. It almost makes him feel... vulnerable. Like if he's suddenly killed here then no one would know. Frank has that effect.

"With all these wins, you don't even have your head in the right place," Frank comments, smiling a southern smile if Jonathan could ever note one. "Be careful with that, though, sometimes your cases start to mess with you."

As if that's the thing in his head, not the fact that he's actually afraid of this guy. Or creeped out.

However, he thinks about it later, what Frank said—"all these wins." It's terrifying in hindsight. This is probably his peak. He's twenty-nine, working at this law firm, winning all the cases. Then, one day, he'll stop winning. He probably won't get married. He'll still step around the dirty shirts in his apartment. He'll be alone. He'll be unhappy. He'll die—and everyone will remember him as pathetic.

Then, he thinks, Why? Why should I die pathetically? Why die that way? Why not die like Phil Hartman? Chris Farley—well, not in that exact way, but in the exact time: at a peak? Why couldn't Jonathan die right now at his peak? Everyone would remember him as the successful guy who died too young... poor him. He'd be at his peak forever. He'd also be able to finally go off.

It's not a surprise he wants to die. It's also not a surprise he's never stopped thinking about it. Suicide is always awful in hindsight, but it wouldn't be that awful. It'd be worse to be remembered as a fat, lonely loser, than a fat, lonely lawyer. And also he really has nothing to live for...

He lost that one thing a long, long time ago and, honestly, thinking about it always made it harder to think about offing himself. Yet today, today was different. He'd gladly off himself.


February 19, 2017

3: 58 PM

Jonathan never noticed how un-proportionate his body looked.

From the angle in the noose, he can get a pretty good look at his belly. He had no idea he lost weight. Probably six months ago, his belly was a pouch. Now, his belly is nearly gone. There is also no extra weight around his arms, or at least, unneeded weight. He's pretty average now. Not slim or skinny, but he's definitely in the medium or thick range now.

Jonathan refocuses his attention back. All he had to do was step off the chair and dangle himself. Well, he couldn't necessarily dangle himself—more like, let himself loose? That doesn't sound right either, but it doesn't matter.

He takes a breath in then a breath out, wonders where his lost brother probably is—hopefully with people who actually care about him—then takes one foot off the chair.

The doorbell suddenly rings before he can take the other foot off. Jonathan finds his luck never wants any satisfaction out of him.

He has no idea who it is, but he doesn't take long to hide everything. There's a disappointment that swings in his stomach when he has to remove the noose from the ceiling—that took days. He literally had to learn how to make that and then find rope thick enough for his weight. It sounds pretty simple to off yourself, but it's really not. However, there was always time tomorrow. He'd make sure to set up everything before four.

Don't ask why it's four... it's kind of his favorite number.

Stumbling through the shirts and pants throughout his room, he shuffles away everything that could give him away. He doesn't take long—he was pretty quick and organized with this stuff—before he walks out of that room like nothing's happened and nothing will have happened.

In a red shirt and some dirty, probably smelly jeans, Jonathan answers the door. He's a little surprised to find some eighth grader on the other side. His smile is almost ironic to the situation.

"Hi," the weird-yet-familiar-looking boy says, "I'm Damien."

"Oookay..." Jonathan tries to connect the dots together.

"And you're Jonathan, right?" The boy, who really freaks Jonathan out, adds, smiling almost like a sociopath would when he knows that he's figured you all out. Jonathan tries not to get quickly paranoid... though he is completely familiar.

"Right," the older man, who was going to kill himself a minute ago, answers.

"Then..." Damien takes a breath. "You're my brother."

Okay, that's insane. That's not possible at all... that's—

How?

And what is wrong with his luck?

Jonathan thinks whatever higher being is listening in on his worst fears and his please-don't-happen situations deeply stuck under his subconscious is probably getting a laugh out of this right now. Or telling someone else I told you so. Either or, doesn't matter—he's still the guy who was about to off himself at a pretty awesome peak if wasn't for his younger brother, yeah okay, standing outside his door. Literally just before he was going to step off the chair.

Neat.