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Staring at a Mirror

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“Michael?” Jeremy whispered. Just a fraction of a second ago, they were working on some level of Apocalypse of the Damned at an ungodly hour. Probably like four in the morning or something. They lost track after they rolled a few blunts. Somehow, they progressed about two or three levels before stagnating. Then, Jeremy blinked once and found himself in a theatre of some sorts. It was the nicest one he had ever been in. Jet black walls, puce leather chairs, and clean floors were a rare treat. Usually, the chairs would have pieces of popcorn or candy and the walls would be covered in… well, depending on the type of people, bad stuff.

 

“Woah, Jeremy?” Michael appeared next to him.

 

“Michael? Where did you come from?” He asked. His eyes darted all around the ‘theatre’, but there weren’t any exits.

 

“This place is weird,” Michael said.

 

“That’s your first com-”

 

“There’s no shit on the walls!” Michael interrupted.

 

That’s your first comment?” He flicked the taller man’s head.

 

“Ow. Don’t hit me, you twink. What do you think is going to play on the screen?”

 

“How do you know we’re not here to be tortured. What if someone drugged us? What if this is like Saw? I don’t want to cut off my foot, Michael! I really want out of here. All jokes aside, I’m a few seconds away from breaking down,” Jeremy hyperventilated.

 

“Hey, hey, hey, calm down.” Michael pulled him into a hug. His arms vibrated with how much Jeremy started shaking.

 

“Jeremy? Michael?” A familiar female voice chirped from behind.

 

“Christine?” They both responded.

 

“What is this place? Did I stay up too late rehearsing? This is a weird dream,” she responded.

 

“It’s not a dream. At least, I don’t think so.” Michael raised an eyebrow.

 

“How do you know that? For all I know, you aren’t real,” Jeremy responded.

 

“Same goes for you, Jeremy. This argument is already going nowhere,” he sighed.

 

“Don’t fight, guys. Did you guys just blink and end up here?” She interrupted.

 

They both nodded.

 

“Woah, the alcohol must have hit me harder than I thought,” Rich came in next to Michael.

 

“Okay, I’m noticing a pattern. I think that we’re waiting on four people, now.” Michael smacked his fist against his open palm.

 

“You were getting drunk at four in the morning?” Jeremy asked.

 

“I was, but now I just realized that I feel completely normal. Jake, Chloe, Jenna, and Brooke were all there, too. We were in the middle of a party. I must have passed out,” Rich said. “Wait, my stutter is gone!”

 

Jeremy racked his brain and he distinctly remembered Rich mentioning something like that. “Okay, then. But do you think that this feels like a dream?”

 

“What do you mean?” He gave Jeremy a blank stare. “How else would my stutter be gone?”

 

“I don’t know! Maybe something magical? Like a demon?” He suggested.

 

“You play too many video games, tall ass. What demon would take a bunch of teenagers to a theatre where nothing is playing?”

 

“I don’t know. Demons are mischievous creatures,” he shrugged.

 

“What’s up my dream bros?” Jake appeared right behind Rich. “I must have hit my head. This is so real, but so… unreal.”

 

“This isn’t a dream,” everyone else but Rich said.

 

“I think that this is a dream. My stutter is gone. How would I talk normally, otherwise?” Rich extended his arms to emphasize his point.

 

“Doesn’t this feel too real, though? Goddamnit, we’re going to have to convince the girls of this, too,” Jeremy sighed.

 

“What the flecked?” Brooke appeared next to Jeremy.

 

“Flecked?” He chuckled.

 

“I meant fucked. Wait, this is a verbal conversation. How did I say fle-”

 

“Oh, my… head? It doesn’t hurt?” Chloe arrived next to Christine.

 

“So Chloe, Madeline texted me two seconds ag-oh, what the hell is happening?” Jenna plopped down next to Chloe.

 

“And, all eight have arrived,” a voice appeared over the loudspeaker. “Please enjoy the show.” His tone was dull and boring. It could’ve put any of them to sleep.

 

“What show?” Christine was a little bit too excited, considering their predicament.

 

“There is a musical called Be More Chill, and a higher power wishes for you all to view it. It’s a story of Mr. Jeremy Heere right before, during, and after he gets his Squip,” the announcer said.

 

“Wait, how? How is any of this possible? A musical? About my life?” Jeremy thought for sure that he would pass out.

 

“I’m the messenger, Mr. Heere. You’ll find that it is pretty good, despite the parallels to your lives.”

 

The screen flickered to life. No projector or anything was seen, so everyone assumed it was a recording.

 

“Seems we got no choice.” Michael gave an apologetic look.

 

“As if I want to remind myself of this. Or you. Or any of you guys.” Jeremy looked at Michael before his gaze landed on everyone else.

 

“But we all talked about it?” Brooke tried. “It’s just a bunch of bad memories now. Nothing more. I guess that it’s also a song version of our lives, but maybe that sugarcoats it!”

 

“Great optimism, Brooke,” the announcer said.

 

“Thank you!”

 

“Uh, Brooke? I’m not sure that was a genuine compliment,” Chloe said.

 

The music kicked up before anyone had anything to say. It was a warbly tone that gave it a sci-fi sort of feel. Then, a tune that reminded Michael and Jeremy of an old videogame kicked up.

 

“C-C-C-Come on, c-c-c-come on, go, go.” The show opened with Jeremy staring at his computer.

 

“Oh, did you have a project to do?” Christine wondered.

 

“I don’t think so.” Jeremy looked down. That was the day he got his Squip, and that was also the day he failed to…

 

“C-C-C-Come on, c-c-c-come on, go, go. I’m waiting for my porno to load.” Musical Jeremy sang. He pressed down on a bottle of lotion.

 

The other seven bursted into laughter.

 

“You’re right, Christine! He had to work on his ‘project’ for school!” Jenna cackled.

 

Jeremy wanted to die.

 

“My brain is going to freaking explode.” He grabbed at a tissue.

 

“Jeremy, you’re my best friend and boyfriend, but even I don’t want to know about your masturbation habits.” Michael shook his head.

 

A few weeks after Christine and Jeremy started dating, they found that it was too awkward to be together. There wasn’t any fun in kissing or hugging or going anywhere with that strange stress put on the both of them. They found it much easier to be friends rather than boyfriend and girlfriend. It was mutual, and Christine found it easier to date Jenna while Jeremy decided that he had feelings for his best friend.

 

“Now it’s time to hit the road which means I’ll be uncomfortable all day.” He dried his hands with the tissue. He then stood up and revealed that he wasn’t wearing pants.

 

Everyone else started dying laughing. Jeremy saw tears roll down Rich’s eyes and Jeremy curled up into a ball on his seat. Was the entire musical just about his shortcomings and embarrassing moments?

 

“But that really isn’t such a change. If I’m not feeling weird or super strange,” Jeremy tried to pull on his pants and belt, but they were a bit stubborn.

 

“Aw, now I feel bad,” Brooke murmured.

 

“This is comedy gold, are you kidding?” Chloe widened her eyes.

 

“My life would be in utter disarray. 'Cause freaking out is my okay. Good morning time to start the day!” He was still fiddling with his belt. “ C-C-C-Come on, c-c-c-come on, go, go. C-C-C-Come on, c-c-c-come on, go, go.” Jeremy found himself in front of a bathroom mirror. Then, Mr. Heere walked in.

 

Without pants.

 

“Oh my God, is your entire family wack, Jere?” Jake shook his head.

 

“Yeah, we’re all a bunch of psychopaths,” Jeremy muttered.

 

Michael rubbed his back, a huge smile on his face.

 

“Dad! Haven’t you heard of privacy?” Jeremy asked.

 

“We’re all men in the house. Pretend we’re in the army!” Mr. Heere beamed.

 

“Your dad is awesome,” Michael said.

 

“He’s embarrassing, but he doesn’t mean anything by it.” Jeremy said, a dejected look etched on his face.

 

“Just when I get home? Just, please… be wearing pants?” Jeremy insisted.

 

“Ten hut!” He saluted in response.

 

Another wave of laughter from Jeremy’s friends.

 

“Should I take a bus or walk instead? I feel my stomach filling up with dread. When I get nervous, my whole face goes red. Dude, weigh the options calmly and be still.” Jeremy sang about his anxiety while extras handed him his clothes.

 

“You have servants?” Rich asked, a dumb look on his face.

 

“No!” Christine facepalmed. “They’re the stage crew and-or backup actors who are helping to move the show along. I think that they’re making it obvious to be ironic,” she explained.

 

“Not everyone can know everything about musicals and plays like you, Christine.” Jenna rolled her eyes. Christine’s face flared up with pink.

 

“A Junior on the bus is killer weak. But if I walk when I arrive I’m gonna straight up reek.” The light was on Jeremy alone and it showed his inner turmoil about going to school.

 

“What does that mean? A Junior on the bus is killer weak?” Jake asked.

 

“I think that I meant to say that someone as old as me on the bus will make me look uncool. I didn’t get that for a moment, to be honest,” Jeremy responded.

 

“And my boxers will be bunchy and my pits will leak.”

 

“Ew…” Chloe cringed.

 

“Alright, are we done with hearing this stuff? I don’t like male puberty.” Brooke covered her ears a little.

 

“Oh, God, I wish I had the skill. To just be fine and cool and chill.” A bunch of actors circled Jeremy.

 

“Hey, I see me!” Michael rapidly slapped Jeremy’s arm.

 

“I think that most of us are there?” Christine squinted.

 

“I don’t want to be a hero. Just want to stay in the line. I’ll never be a Rob Deniro… For me, Joe Pesci is fine.” Everyone started bouncing to the beat.

 

“Oh, what am I doing?” Michael shook his head.

 

“My face is buried in a book,” Christine determined.

 

“I’m not even in this yet.” Rich frowned.

 

“And so I follow my own rules, and I use them as my tools. To sta-a-ay alive. I don’t want to be special, no, no. I just want to survive.” The supporting actors leaned forward and did exaggerated acts in slow motion.

 

“Why-” Rich started.

 

“Emphasis. Humor,” Christine answered.

 

“C-C-C-Come on, c-c-c-come on, go, go. C-C-C-Come on, c-c-c-come on, go, go.” Everyone sang. The stage changed a little as everyone danced around or out of the stage to make way for the next scene.

 

“So Jenna Rolan said Madeline was all, ‘I’ll only have sex with you if you beat me at pool.” And then she lost at pool. Deliberately.” Chloe growled.

 

Jeremy finally got his turn to laugh with everyone, but he stopped when he realized what came next.

 

“That is so awesome,” Brooke chirped.

 

Brooke!”

 

“I mean, slutty.”

 

“Geez, you don’t like Madeline.” Jake raised an eyebrow.

 

“Shut up!” Chloe glared at him.

 

“It was pretty awesome, though,” Brooke admitted.

 

“Brooke!”

 

“Hey, you even sound like your actress,” Rich laughed.

 

“And then Madeline was all-” Jenna started.

 

“I’m telling the story, JENNA!” A dead silence appeared.

 

“The twenty eighteen equivalent to ‘Shut up, Heather’ has arrived,” Christine giggled. Jeremy and Jenna joined in, but no one else had watched Heathers (Christine forced those two to watch it), so they were confused.

 

“Uh.” Jeremy pointed at his locker.

 

“Oh my God. He was like, totally getting off on that.” Chloe made a disgusted sound as she, Jenna, and Brooke sauntered off.

 

Jeremy blushed in his seat while Michael turned to yell at Chloe. “Dude!”

 

“I’m a girl,” she replied.

 

“Dudette!” Michael rolled his eyes. “Why did you have to say that?”

 

“I didn’t know that it was his locker. I thought that he was eavesdropping,” Chloe responded.

 

“If he was eavesdropping, then why would he make it known that he was listening?” Jenna asked.

 

“Just… okay, Jeremy, I’m sorry.” Chloe groaned.

 

“It’s fine,” he murmured.

 

“Don’t touch me, tall ass!” Rich shouted and pushed him aside.

 

“I was trying to get to my-”

 

“Shush, shush, sh-” Rich interrupted. He took a marker wrote something on the back of Jeremy’s bag. “You wash that off, you’re dead.” Rich lifted up his shirt and threw him back.

 

Michael then turned to Rich.

 

“I already apologized to him. The Squip told me to do it,” Rich said.

 

“It’s fine, Michael,” Jeremy chuckled. It was sweet of him to feel the need to defend his honor, but Jeremy didn’t care about his popularity anymore. Even with cool friends, he knew that if they left, Jeremy would just be a loser. At least he would have Michael. Michael never cared about popularity, right? He wouldn’t leave Jeremy for a bunch of friends that they had for a few months? They were dating, for God’s sake. Despite all that reasoning, the irrational doubt had set in Jeremy’s mind.

 

“Hey-ey! Jakey D! What’s the deal with Madeline?” Rich asked.

 

“I shouldn’t say, but, uh… it’s a good thing I rock at pool,” he responded.

 

“Oh, Jake, you stud!” Chloe put on her best fake French accent.

 

“Only I get to call him that,” Rich barked. Jake gave him a high five and a kiss.

 

“I navigate the dangerous halls-” Jeremy started as another swarm of students appeared. In the background, Michael jumped and made a ‘BREE’ sound.

 

“Michael, what the fuck was that?” Chloe laughed.

 

“I don’t know! I’ve never done that before. It’s a musical!” Michael found himself laughing despite his red tinged face.

 

“Focus on a poster there on the wall. Avoiding any eye contact at all. And trying hard to remain unseen! The poster’s closer now, what does it say?” A beat passed. “It’s a sign up sheet for the after school play!” Jeremy sounded genuinely excited and happy to do the play.

 

“Oh my God, Jeremy. You’re so cute. You remind me of me when I saw the play poster the first time!” Christine squealed and gave him a high five.

 

Suddenly, Jeremy on stage frowned. “It’s a sign up sheet for getting called gay, and that’s not what I need right now, and scene.”

 

“I’m sorry, what was that?” A fire burned in her eyes.

 

“I mean, it’s true. I like play, but I didn’t like being made fun of for wanting to do it.” Jeremy shook his head.

 

“So, it’s your fault then, Rich! I know that you make fun of people who join the play, so I’m gonna kick your butt!” Christine warned him.

 

“I’m blaming this all on the Squip,” Rich said.

 

“You still chose to take it!” Jenna pointed out.

 

“In fairness, the Squip was powerful. It could control our senses to a degree and it would shock us if we didn’t listen,” Jeremy responded. His voice was meek.

 

Michael gave Jeremy a quick hug. Who knew how many nights Jeremy spent awake, listening to the Squip in his head? When a second voice entered someone’s mind, not even deactivating it truly got ‘rid’ of it.

 

“I hang a left and there’s… Christine!” Jeremy sang. Christine started dancing in place and making strange arm motions.

 

“Christine…” Michael sang. A shit eating smirk plastered itself on his face.

 

“Christine…” Jenna, Chloe, and Brooke sang. The same smirk appeared on their faces

 

“Christine…” Rich and Jake sang. They had the, by far, most mocking tones.

 

“Oh my God, leave me alone!” Jeremy grabbed at his hair. Jenna nudged Christine and she buried her face in her palms.

 

“What am I even doing?” The play queen asked.

 

“Christine… Christine… Christine… Caningula!” Jeremy continued to fantasize while she made a few more strange motions.

 

“Christine!” The other six belted out at once.

 

“Christine…” Jeremy moved towards her, but she turned around and he was like ‘nope’ until…

 

“Uh, excuse me?” Christine spoke up.

 

“Uh… yeah?” Jeremy sounded more shy than ever.

 

“I think that someone wrote ‘Boyf’ on your backpack?” Christine pointed.

 

“I… uh… ungh!” Jeremy bolted.

 

“Yeah, and who did that?” Jeremy glared at Rich.

 

“Squip told me to,” he said.

 

“Why couldn’t you just talk to me, Jeremy?” Christine sighed.

 

“I had a major crush on you that I didn’t know what to do with. It was embarrassing,” he said.

 

“Well, that was smooth, that was super pimp. My mack daddy game couldn’t be more limp. No time to wallow, no, instead. Clear your brain and move ahead. Accept that you’re one of those guys. Who’ll be a virgin ‘till he dies!” Jeremy sat down in a mock classroom as he monologued.

 

“Ugh. I say such stupid shit.” Jeremy facepalmed.

 

“This is lowkey sad, I’m not going to lie.” Brooke faced everyone. Jeremy glared at her.

 

“I don’t want to be a baller!” Everyone on stage started bouncing in their seats.

 

“Oh, what the fuck?” Michael asked.

 

“Just want some skills to count on. If my nuts were any smaller, they would be totally gone.”

 

“Oh, what the fuck?” Jeremy cringed. Jenna laughed the loudest.

 

“Don’t worry, you aren’t small.” Michael grinned. Jeremy responded by pushing his face.

 

“If I continue at this rate, the only thing I’ll ever date is my macbook pro hard drive.” Everyone started flailing their heads back and forth. “I don’t want to be Clooney, no, no, I just want to survive.”

 

“I’ll say it again. Emphasis and humor,” Christine giggled.

 

“Michael!” Jeremy turned and cheerily shouted.

 

“Oh, that’s me!”

 

“Jeremy, my buddy, how’s it hanging, lunch is banging. Had my sushi, got my slushie, and more!” Michael danced a little and Jeremy occasionally joined in. They ended it with their handshake.

 

“Aw, you have a handshake?” Jenna glanced at Christine for a moment.

 

“We were best friends. Of course we did,” Michael responded.

 

“The roll was negimaki and I’m feeling kind of cocky ‘cause the girl at seve’ eleve’ gave me a generous pour!”

 

“That sounds like an innuendo,” Chloe mentioned.

 

“Michael getting some!” Jake cheered.

 

“Jake, I’ve been gay. I was just happy that I got more slushie.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“You’re listening to Bob Marley again, aren’t you?”

 

“OH! I’m listening to Marley and the groove is kind of gnarly and we’re almost at the end of the song!” Michael danced liked no one was watching.

 

“You have moves,” Jeremy joked.

 

“Damn right,” Michael huffed.

 

“And that was the end, now tell me friend: how was class? You look like ass. What’s wrong?” He asked. Jeremy lifted up his backpack.

 

“Boyf? Like, what does that even mean?” Jeremy sighed.

 

Michael moved around Jeremy and put his backpack next to his. It spelt out boyfriends.

 

“Michael, your face gives me life,” Christine giggled. “You should be in play with acting skills like yours!”

 

“I’m not a singer. This is some dude playing as me even though he looks like my twin.” Michael shook his head.

 

“I hate this school. Oh, I wrote Christine a letter, telling her how I feel!” Jeremy beamed.

 

“That’s progress,” Michael smiled.

 

“Yeah, I tore it up and flushed it!” Jeremy replied in the same tone.

 

“Ugh…”

 

“Oh, man, Jeremy. This is just sad.” Rich shook his head.

 

“I was right to flush it. She didn’t even like me at the time. She didn’t even know my name,” Jeremy responded.

 

“It would’ve been flattering. Maybe a bit weird, but I would’ve appreciated it followed with a rejection. Sorry,” Christine admitted.

 

“It’s still progress,” Jeremy whined.

 

“Hey, it’s all good. Hey, last night, on discovery channel, I found out that humanity has stopped evolving!” Michael’s tone was a morbid kind of cheery.

 

“That’s… good?”

 

“Evolution is survival of the fittest, right? But now, because of technology, you don’t have to be strong to survive! Which means there’s never been a better time in history to be a lose-r!” Michael danced around Jeremy.

 

“That’s… morbidly optimistic?” Brooke tried.

 

“I’ve never cared about being popular. Jeremy did.” Michael pointed.

 

“Hey!”

 

“So own it! Why try to be cool when you can be-”

 

“Signing up for the play!” Jeremy interrupted.

 

“Yes, Jeremy!” Christine shouted.

 

“I was going to say getting stoned in my basement, but-”

 

“Michael, you’re a stoner? You too, Jeremy?” Jenna gaped.

 

“A little bit,” Michael admitted.

 

“No, look who’s signing up for the play! Christine…” Jeremy pointed. She started tip-toeing to the play sheet.

 

“Christine…!” The six of them started singing it again.

 

“Christine…” Stage Michael joined in.

 

“Christine…” They continued. All throughout the day dreaming, Christine was excitedly moving around the play signup sheet. “Christine… Caningula.”

 

“Oh my God, Christine. Jeremy’s thing is at least cute! You’re just flopping around and dabbing!” Jenna covered her stomach while laughing.

 

“Oh God, people were watching me do that, huh?” Christine scratched her neck.

 

“Christine…” Jeremy started again.

 

“Christine…” They both continued.

 

“Christine…!” Jeremy’s voice went higher as Christine was picked up and given a pen to sign up with.

 

“Okay, that didn’t happen, okay? No one picked me up!” She squealed.

 

“I thought that it was all for humor and emphasis!” Rich mocked her. Jenna had to hold her back from slaughtering Rich.

 

“Christine… Caningula. Christine… Caningula!” The entire stage was singing her name at that point. Then, some of the actors bowed to her after she signed.

 

“I don’t know, Christine. You might be an important character.” Chloe shrugged.

 

“Really? How could you tell?” Brooke asked.

 

“I’m not sure. But there’s something about the entire cast singing her name that really puts a spotlight on her, huh?” Jake said. Everyone nodded along and laughed at Christine’s expense.

 

“I feel my body moving through the air. I see my converse walking over there… Take a shaky breath and I prepare. Who cares if people think I’m lame? Christine signed, I’ll do the same! I grab the pen, I write my name!” Jeremy sauntered over in a much more contained fashion than Christine did.

 

“I fully support you joining the play, Jeremy. I’m glad that I was the one who broke you out of your shell long enough to actually do the play,” Christine beamed.

 

“Gay!” Rich shouted.

 

After everyone laughed, Chloe followed up with one of her most famous lines. “I like gay people.”

 

“Aw, thanks Chloe!” Michael gave her puppy eyes.

 

“She meant me , Michael,” Brooke shoved him. She stared at Chloe for a moment and they both blushed and turned away.

 

“I’m never going to be the cool guy. I’m more the one who’s left out. Of all the characters in school I, am, not the one who the story’s about…” Jeremy murmured.

 

“It’s funny be-” everyone shushed Rich.

 

“Why can’t someone just help me out? And teach me to thrive! Help me to more than survive!” Then, a bunch of students greeted Jeremy or walked past him. They mostly stopped to do a dance sequence around Jeremy. “More than survive. More than survive! If this was an apocalypse, I would not need in any tips. In how to stay alive!” Everyone moved in front of Jeremy on that last line and started dancing erratically in front of him.

 

That earned a laugh from the eight ‘real’ people.

 

“But since the zombie army is yet to descend, and the period is going to end, I’m just trying my best to pass the test and survive…”   Jeremy then stood on a chair while his classmates sat. “Survive…!” Everyone else repeated the opening lines to the song and said ‘go’ about a million times.

 

After all that and despite Jeremy’s embarrassment, he still clapped the loudest.

 

“That was really good, actually! Mortifying for Jeremy and Christine, mainly, but really good!” Michael praised.

 

“Geez, Jeremy, you want the zombie army on us?” Rich asked.

 

“It would be easier to deal with than high school. At least, at that point it would be,” Jeremy admitted.

 

“Jeremy, I’m really sorry for how we treated you,” Brooke started.

 

“I wish that I stood up for you more.” Jenna smiled.

 

“I wish that I went after you when you ran away,” Christine said.

 

“Sorry for writing boyf on your bag,” Rich muttered.

 

“Sorry for not getting to know you earlier, dude. You’re cool.” Jake gave him a thumbs up.

 

“Sorry for assuming you were a pervert,” Chloe finished.

 

“Guys, it’s fine.” Jeremy had no idea what to do with the onslaught of kindness. It was nice at first, but then he started thinking about how he treated them. Brooke, Christine, and Michael, especially. Something told Jeremy that he wasn’t going to be smiling a lot during the musical. How could he let himself act like such a jackass to his best friend, his past crush, and someone who genuinely like liked him for a little bit?

 

“You okay after watching that?” Michael hooked an arm around his shoulder.

 

“Yeah. I’d rather watch that then continue on with this, to be honest. I’d rather be embarrassed than ashamed,” Jeremy murmured.

 

“Jeremy, I told you that it’s okay. Neither of us are perfect, but you’re doing everything you can to make amends and you’ve already been forgiven. The memories won’t be pleasant, but that’s all they are: memories,” Michael kissed his cheek. He turned a little red.

 

“Okay.” Jeremy grabbed Michael’s hand and squeezed it.

 

“By the way, that was called ‘More than Survive’, for anyone curious. The next song is called ‘ I Love Play Rehearsal’,” The announcer said.

 

“Christine,” everyone immediately agreed. Even Christine, but she said ‘me’.