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Not The Same As It Used To Be

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==> [s] Davesprite: Don't think about elephants.

He moved. You know he did.

You've built him up a bed from whatever you could find across on the checkered plane of Faux Skaia: sashes, blankets, charred flags, loose leaves, the abandoned sheathes of various weaponry. You've been watching him for a little while, now. Minutes. Hours, maybe. Time escapes you quickly these days.

You tried shaking his shoulder. You tried flying him to a height and jarring him with the sharp, sudden sensation of falling. You tried backslapping him across the face (perhaps a few more times than necessary). In spite of all your attempts, his body remained as loose and flimsy and pliable as it had been when you started, like a life-sized comatose Sleeping Beauty ragdoll decked out in tacky purple. You're beginning to doubt yourself, beginning to wonder if you imagined that subtle twitch of his index finger out the corner of your eye, the first sign of voluntary movement of his aside from breathing since some period of time longer than two years ago. Two years is when you stopped counting.

You're at the end of your rope at this point. You've resorted to laying down next to him in your carefully constructed resting place, your cheek propped up on your palm as you lazily begin poking his face with the end of your ghosty tail.

hey

hey

heeeeey

dude

wake up

cmon

The way he jolts up startles you. You flinch backwards, fluttering your wings.

He looks at your ethereal lower half as if you were an actualized figment of some half-remembered dream, some illusion dancing in the slumber of his eyes, like a child waking up Christmas morning to see Santa Claus standing over his bed in all his obese jolly red glory. It's hard to take him seriously with the Sweet Bros and Hella Jeffs you doodled in bright pink and green sharpie across his face when you were bored, but you bite back the will the laugh at him.

hey

sup

He glances around himself.

why am i in a nest

and wearing stupid pyjamas

You don't answer, even though you've rehearsed this moment in your mind a thousand times. This feels new, annoyingly new, and you hated being unprepared.

You switch out the environment to make him more comfortable. The flaming grounds of Skaia shift in a dizzying, split-second motion-blur, and in a flash, the both of you are idling in Faux Bedroom, the makeshift fabric-leaf-weapon nest replaced right out from under him, with a mattress and a familiar card-suited blanket.

He takes note of your silence and doesn't press the issue. You can't see his eyes behind his Stiller shades, but you feel his vision pass over you, lingering everywhere that wasn't your face: the healed hole in your abdomen which has faded to bare outline, the blood stains on the medallion around your neck, your gimp right wing. He wants to ask how you've been, but the sight of you leaves the question to die at the end of his lips. You aren't surprised.

you got hurt

you got old

hahaha sorry i thought we were playing the obvious game

The corner of his mouth twitches, half-grimace, half-smirk.

He's sitting upright and you notice he's taller now (of course he is); his jaw is stronger, more pronounced, his hair just like yours but still not quite (his is shaggier). His shitty glasses from that shitty actor aren't too big for his face anymore, not like they still were on yours. He's sporting a goatee that lies somewhere between Leonardo DiCaprio and Howie Mandel and you make a mental note to tell him sometime how big of a fucking douche it makes him look.

i forgot about you

yeah no shit

(Fucking douche.)

He hears the sting in your voice, and heaves a sigh as he pulls himself off the bed to stand. He's taller than you expected. You hover a little higher.

listen im sorry okay i didnt know you were here

think about it why would i purposefully leave myself to rot in some godforsaken limbo

where the hell are we anyway

not sure

im not dead yet and neither was your dream self so i figure wherever we are must still exist on a physical plane

but because this place is powered by memories it also has to be some kind of bubble at the same time with limits and borders

there are some places in this city i cant go because i recognize them as places ive never been before in the real world

its like a shared dream space made up of memories

an expanse of infinite raw subconscious

you got that from inception

whats inception

well shit

its this weirdass hit movie that came out after we left the game

christopher trollan is one deranged motherfucker

anyway saito does that mean youre in control of this dreamspace

most of the time

sometimes you have nightmares

He pauses for a moment. You decide he doesn't have to know about what you've had to fight away in his dreams.

He strolls around the room, scrutinizing, like every object in here was a fond yet dubious afterthought. You figured wherever he lived now was probably a lot different from this, but fuck it, this was your memory. This was your room. You used to spend a lot of time in here, so the layout was precise, down to the last extension cord, the picture of Ben Stiller above the closet, the stand-up electronic fan whirring in the corner. Yet, if you were to pick up, say, one of the copies of Game Bro off the desk, the pages would be filled with a jumble of letters, fuzzy pictures and blank pages. The photographs hanging from the clothesline by the window were blurred beyond recognition. The view from the window was the same as you remembered it, save for abandoned cars and barren streets. Only the inanimate objects and electronic concepts you committed to memory were allowed to exist here. No people allowed.

Save for the once-comatose Alpha Dream Dave that creepily and ragged-doll-ily stuck with you with every stage shift. The one up and about right in front of you, the one skirting his glances, refusing to face you properly.

He looks through the closet to find a lone bottle of apple juice. You suddenly had the strong urge to punch him.

the virus that ended the game took one of each player to the new timeline

(The urge fades.)

(You wanted it to go away and come back at the same time.)

oh yeah

yeah

megido said multiple versions of myself existed before the virus transferred me out

stable independent versions that werent dead or secured in time loops

the singling out effect of the virus doesnt affect heroes of time because we operate seperate from the timeline or some shit

meaning im the only one who brought all versions of myself out to the isolate timeline with me

so alpha dream you alpha you and me

yeah

i found this out a few days ago ive been trying to wake up here ever since

whos megido

one of the trolls

i dont think youve talked to her

A bag of bricks settles in your non-existent stomach.

sure you can trust her bro

She did take a pretty long fucking time to tell him about you, didn't she.

yeah man shes cool

i know about the shit that went down i wasnt too fond of the aliens at pistols fire either

but they ended up helping us out and at the finish line it was a troll that broke the winners tape holding up the virus baton like a motherfucking olympic torch

turns out the reason why they hated us was all a misunderstanding of elephantine proportions

(It was all a misunderstanding.)

(You and John and Rose and Jade were all just a misunderstanding.)

He traces his fingers across the turntables and the library of records and the equipment. He lives years from now, you suspect he's laughing in his head at how retro all your shit was.

records still play but the beats always sound a little off

its like hitting play on my memory of a song

i gotta work with what i got though

Finally, he reaches the plasma-screen television you moved in here, along with all the peripherals and consoles and game discs. You take note of his silence, and press the issue.

the game isnt over yet is it

thats why youre here

You aren't prepared for the way he looks at you.

The light pouring in from the window gleams in a way to make his dark lenses translucent; you see a shade, a bare shade of the expression in his eyes and you're back at Bro's side, your hands soaked in red, tugging at the shirt of a dead man, feeling like a child. You had prototyped with a sprite at an age just shy of fourteen. You would always be stuck as this prototype, just shy of fourteen. He knows it, Alpha knows it, and it's why he doesn't tell you how long you've been stuck here in solitude idling in limbo, and it's why you know he probably never will.

He tilts his head and his gaze disappears from you.

do these video games still work

Shake it off. Nod.

some more than others

theyre kind of fucked up though

they run on memory too right so they fizzle static snow in places i dont remember too clearly and the dialogue gets all weird since i dont have the scripts memorized

He pops out a disc from a case you can't see. He snickers. It sounds hollow.

back when i was fiddling with time shit i remember thinking to myself that if anything went wrong my one regret would be not finishing mgs 3 before i died

That earns a small smirk from you. Your face almost doesn't register the expression.

whenever i play i take on the boss cqc style

you know in the fucking field of breezy flowers

then when she reaches about half life it fades to black and resets

i never made it past that point so i dont know what comes next

He throws the good PS2 remote at you.

i do

He plops his stupid ass on the floor in front of your television. He's real, tangible, touching the buttons of your damn video game console like he had any right, the entitled twat. It's not until you decide on having a seat next to him when the notion that you are no longer alone strikes your nerves and sinks in to the fullest.

You feel your hands wrap tight around the controller. The Playstation plays off its start-up intro; it reaches the main menu, you start a new game. Both of your memories collaborate in the emulation of the game, and if the drastic increase in quality meant anything, it must've been one of his replayable favourites. You rip through the first stage with little effort. He pretends not to notice the gentle shaking of your shoulders; he pretends to overlook the silent tears slipping out from the bottom of your shades, sliding down your cheeks. He makes a nonchalant jab at the length of the cutscenes instead, and you're thankful for it.

protip man you dont go cqc with the boss you just snipe the bitch

oh great i grow up to be a noob

stfu