There are two things in the world that are difficult beyond humanity’s concept of language; saying goodbye, and modifying your Nintendo Switch.
In a fortunate turn of events, Gordon Freeman found himself only needing to do one of those.
In the days that turned to weeks after everything, the absence of Gordon’s friends, his Team, was beginning to eat at him. He had saved them from death, and they saved him too. It’s not easy to forget about the fact they could’ve died. Whether or not they could die, it did not influence Gordon’s perspective.
It was a restless night when Gordon found a stray mp4 file he had not consciously downloaded sitting on his desktop.
HELLO GORDON.mp4 was played at the dead of night, through headphones that weren’t terrible, but not good either.
The two final words of Dr. Coomer played, and the short file ended. Gordon sat in silence, staring at his computer. He was beyond words, but not beyond action.
He knew he needed to put them somewhere safe. Somewhere that sleeping didn’t hurt them. Somewhere without creatures, or angry soldiers, or-
At that moment, something clicked.
Gordon immediately got to work.
The night, leaking into the first half of the morning was spent copying, moving, and playing with files and game assets. He wanted to make absolute sure the data was safe, and with that, his friends.
The rest of the day, Gordon had begun the more difficult part of the task. He was computer-savvy, yes, but not quite hacking-savvy. Setting up his Switch wasn’t too difficult, but the task of injecting the Science Team inside as well was. They weren’t your average set of AI, and it seemed that the technology knew that.
Errors, stress, and frustration plagued that day as transfers failed and things crashed. At a few points, Gordon got scared he’d corrupted their files.
But finally, after so much work, he was sure he’d done it.
For better or for worse, Gordon was fairly confident he’d put the Science Team into his Animal Crossing town.
All there was to do now was boot up the game and pray.
The loading screen was the most stressful beginning to a session of Animal Crossing Gordon had ever experienced.
Everything looked the same at first, leaving Gordon crestfallen. The title screen was no different. The confidence felt smashed at that moment.
But, he continued past.
Isabelle talked as normal.
Regret was creeping up on him. Did he fuck it up? He knew for a fact the Team wasn’t present on his computer.
They had to be in there, right?
No news today, but-
Then he hears the rustling of a character moving around. It’s barely audible over Isabelle’s dialogue, but it’s there, and it’s getting louder.
Gordon expects to see one of his friends come on screen.
While that is technically what he got, it still caught him off guard when something came running to Isabelle’s side.
A blue and black dappled octopus player model, wearing a security outfit, and walking backwards popped by. It’s face, which was technically the back of it’s head in this scenario, was entirely blank, a white square as if someone had selected and removed it on a computer. There was a smiley face emoticon above the mouth, crude and pixelated. It looked like someone had made this villager’s textures in MS Paint.
The octopus turned, revealing another badly drawn face on the other side, but this one was mad.
“what’s up.” An actual voice, not the scrambled babbling.
“I literally never thought I’d be glad to hear your voice, good job.” Gordon stopped clicking through Isabelle’s dialogue to keep him on screen.
“yo why’s this dog speaking french?” Benrey turned the angry face towards Isabelle.
“That’s just Isabelle, she helps you-Ok, what the FUCK did you do to the octopus model? Why are you an octopus?”
“made it better.” With that, Benrey ran back off screen.
Gordon was about to advance the text boxes to get into the game when Benrey came back, holding a net. He promptly began hitting Isabelle. She was not programmed to respond, and Benrey only started hitting faster.
“it’s ok. she won’t be sick anymore.”
“Sick with what?”
The footsteps came back, and Gordon saw the corner of another character emerging near the desk behind them. He barely saw the happy emoticon’s flowers come onto screen.
“Gordon, look!” From beyond the camera, Gordon heard Dr. Coomer, “We’re in Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch!
“Yeah-Can I get us into the game already? I can only see Benrey right now.” Gordon would have hit A, but he didn’t want to miss any hellos.
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a 2020 life simulation video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch. It is the fifth-”
“Oh my god-YES, I know what game it is!” Gordon laughed, “I know! I put you here, I know!”
“Press A to begin the game, Gordon!” Coomer sounded truly very excited.
Who was Gordon to say no? He pressed the button, and the screen went black to load his town. The loading icon was gone, and the typical silence was replaced by the sound of a player bumping into something, over and over.
The game faded in. The noise was coming from Bubby, who was camping outside of Gordon’s house to hit him with a net the second he was in control.
Bubby’s character actually looked like him. Lab coat, glasses, balding and all. Gordon was a little surprised, considering the absolute disaster of an avatar Benrey had chosen.
“Gotcha!” Bubby hit him again.
“You’re a human-Ok, cool. Cool, so transferring that part worked. That’s cool.” Gordon sighed in relief, “...Ok, not Benrey, but I’m pretty sure he did that and I didn’t fuck it up.”
“That would be a first!” Unequipping his net, Bubby immediately ran off, laughing.
A moment passes. Gordon checks his mailbox. Just a letter from the HHA, as usual.
“Gordon, where’s the ‘set shit on fire’ button?” Bubby calls from a few paces away.
“There is no-What are you trying to set on fire ALREADY?” Gordon runs over.
Gordon catches Bubby running into one of his villagers, now attempting to push her into the ocean.
“BUBBY-THAT’S POMPOM! Stop bullying Pompom!” Gordon tries to yell, faltering a little to laugh as Pompom walks away from Bubby, as if snubbing him.
Bubby doesn’t reply, but moves to stare at the ocean wistfully. He looks like a maiden whose husband was lost at sea, except he’s upset because his friend didn’t let him drown a digital duck.
“That one’s where you draw the line, Gordon?” Bubby finally turns back around.
“I draw the line at all of them. I love all my villagers-Ok, maybe I love Pompom a little more than the rest, but-I don’t play favorites. I do. But I don’t.”
“Gordon, look what I caught!” Coomer’s voice rang through, prompting Gordon to turn and walk further down the beach to meet Coomer.
Coomer looked like himself, as well. The only difference was that he was inexplicably wearing a flower crown. Gordon had no idea how he’d already gotten one of those. He was a bit jealous, honestly.
Coomer stood for a moment, before selecting a fish from his inventory to show off.
He absolutely fucks it up and Gordon watches him release an oarfish back into the ocean.
“...Gordon, why is that an option?”
Gordon fights back tears trying not to laugh, a courtesy that Benrey does not give from off in the distance. He hears the distant, low laughter. Just close enough for them to hear each other, just far enough that what he was doing wasn’t visible to Gordon.
“Hang on, I lost Benrey. I can’t see him. It is never good for anyone when I can’t watch him.” He strains, running back off past a few houses.
Gordon stopped at a massive square of holes, all dug to trap Raymond in the entryway of his house. Benrey was nearby, crafting things.
“Wh-Benrey? What are you doing? Why is Raymond in JAIL?” Gordon ran around the trap to Benrey, still in the crafting table menu.
“tax fraud.” Benrey was flat as ever.
“What are you even making? Don’t be mean to him-If he moves out-You KNOW what the deal with him is, right?”
“i know.” He kept crafting.
“He’s like-God. He’s so popular. Could easily be the hottest character of the year at this rate-As in popular. As in popular.” Gordon catches himself.
“i know.” Benrey equips an axe.
“Aaaaand you’re gonna kill him, nice, awesome. I love when you do that.”
“that title is mine.”
Benrey runs around aimlessly. It seems he doesn’t know how to get rid of all the holes he’d dug.
“hottest hit of 2020. that’s me.”
Gordon has to put the Switch down to gesture as he talks, despite Benrey being unable to see it, “So, the weird attention. You want people to obsess over you.”
“what? no. i don’t want that. i want-uh, like one person to be weird and then people get mad ‘cuz they think everyone’s being weird.”
“Why the fuck would you-”
“i want people to make fun of each other until some other-some other dude comes and then he gets all of that. i want that but it happens all the time forever.”
“WHY would you WANT that?”
“yeah, pretty brutal, right? well i’m insane.”
Benrey can barely get through his response without laughing, and in turn Gordon can’t hold back either.
Neither of them regain composure until Bubby and Tommy run past. Tommy pauses to tell Gordon something.
Tommy is himself, but he isn’t dressed in the usual lab coat and propeller hat. He’s wearing an item of red overalls, a polka dot backpack, and a red rose in his mouth. It was clear he’d been enamored with the character customization. Transferring Tommy in had even kept his facial hair intact.
“We want to see your house!” Tommy says, “Can we?”
Trying to breathe normally, Gordon feels his face start to hurt, “Yeah! Yeah, sure. It’s on the left beach.”
Benrey drops something on the ground, “put this in it.”
Gordon picks it up, seeing it’s a double bed, “Alright, sure man.”
They begin trotting to Gordon’s house. Benrey begins racing Gordon without a word, and Gordon understands. They don’t even need to speak to know they want to get the last laugh.
Gordon wins, and they enter the house. For the split second he remembers he can’t place the bed with people in his house, he learns that it does work as the bed is plopped against the wall.
Benrey runs over and lays on it.
“come on. cmere. get in bed.” Benrey repeatedly rolls his character into the wall beside the bed as he invites Gordon.
“What the fuck is the pattern you put on that?”
There is a customized design on the bed, partially obscured by Benrey. Gordon can begin to see the right half of the picture as Benrey continuously tries to see if the game has a concussion mechanic by slamming against the wall.
The image is of a cat with its stupid face covered in shitty, liquid cheese. The stupid face it is making reminds him of Bubby.
Gordon sighs dramatically, and nudges himself into the bed with Benrey. The players lay unmoving for a while.
“check this out.” Benrey suddenly says.
Benrey slams his character into Gordon’s, over and over again, with a small chuckle that more resembles a wavering exhale.
“you get me?” He escalates into a genuine laugh, “do ya? that statue isn’t the only dick around here, we fuckin’ in the cheeseboy bed tonight.”
Gordon has to put his Switch down as he grabs his face, laughing barely a rung below maniacal.
“In th-THE WHAT BED!? CHEESEBOY? Is that-What, is that the cat’s name?” Gordon wheezes.
“nah we’re on a last name basis. his name’s Souper Salad.”
“Souper Salad Cheeseboy.”
He chokes out a loud ‘HA’, “Wh-what happened, dude? What happened to the other four Cheeseboys?”
“cheesed too hard.” Benrey is still slamming himself against Gordon.
It isn’t long before Bubby exits the attic, walking directly into the view of the Cheeseboy bed. He walks over, and stares for a bit, before making a shocked reaction.
“Oh my god they are having sex!” Bubby cries out.
“Who’s having sex?” Tommy’s voice is far away, having left to fish just outside the door.
“I could use a good sex right now!” Coomer enters the room from the basement. Gordon’s fairly sure he built something monstrous down there.
“Ew!” Bubby replies, despite his character’s perpetual smile.
“Yeah, I’m out. I’m out.” Gordon keeps giggling, leaving the bed.
“aw cmon man…” Benrey whines.
Gordon strategically places his character too close to the bed, blocking Benrey from escape. His character bonks against Gordon several more times.
“dude let me out!”
“you can’t keep me trapped in here, gordon.”
“Yes I can. Suffer. Die in the bed. You made this bed-now dig your grave in it. You did this when you decided on Animal Crossing sex.” Gordon’s voice keeps cracking.
“Gordon, come look at the basement!” Coomer runs in a circle behind Gordon.
Gordon trails behind Coomer into his own basement.
The room is empty, besides a single manhole in the middle.
“Uh, so, what’s this?” He goes up to the manhole.
“Yeah, I can see that. Why?”
“Take a gander in the hole!”
“IIII can’t.” Gordon walks around it to try and prove that he can’t interact with it, “No holes in this game. There WERE holes in the last one, there was a hole you-I could go down, but this one isn’t-I can’t look in the hole, Dr. Coomer.”
“What if I say pretty please?” Coomer begins the bashful animation.
“I literally cannot look in the hole. What is IN the hole you’re so interested in?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“Then why the fuck are you insisting I look in the hole?”
Tommy runs down the stairs.
“Mr Freeman! There’s a dog! There’s a dog over there! Come-Follow me!” Tommy seemed excited, “It’s a fancy dog!”
Gordon complies, running out of the house, pretending he didn’t see Bubby repeatedly turning a lamp on and off in his main room.
Tommy leads Gordon to the main plaza, soon followed by Coomer and Bubby. The chairs are set, and sure enough, there is the ‘fancy dog’.
“Oh shit, it’s KK Slider!” Gordon pushed Tommy towards the seats, “That’s right, it’s Saturday.”
“aw yeah i love white castle dude!” Benrey runs over.
“You-What? White Castle?”
Tommy sits on one of the chairs and claps.
“burger sliders hot and freesh from white castle.”
“I wish you could die in Animal Crossing so I could kill you.”
Everyone takes a seat, except Benrey, who seems content to run after Snake as the bunny walks past.
“I guess you’ve all picked your favorite neighbors, huh? I get first dibs; mine’s Pompom.” Gordon asks.
“Goldie looks like a baby Sunkist! And she gave me a coat rack!” Tommy proudly boasts.
“Aw, gonna put that in your house?” Gordon smiles.
“No, I can’t go in there till the roaches come!”
“Then I get to step on them!”
Before Tommy can continue about how much he misses murder, Gordon turns the attention to Bubby.
“Bubby, who’s livin’ in your head?”
“Lionel!” Bubby is also seated by his new lion friend, “He reminds me of Dr. Coomer.”
“Aw, that’s sweet. Speaking of which, who is the platonic apple of your eye, Coomer?” Gordon smiles , and looks to Coomer.
“The orange cat had an orange soda! It was cannibalism!” Coomer chimed.
“And that makes her your favorite?”
“Fear is the heart of respect!”
“It. It really isn’t.”
Benrey finally came back over, sitting down to finally trigger the song sequence.
“How about you, Benrey?” Gordon asked.
“I thought you hated him.”
“Gordon, perhaps Benrey and Raymond will share a mutual rivalry peppered with tension that will be interpreted as an enemies-to-lovers dynamic!” Coomer proposes as the world fades to black around them and KK Slider.
“sounds dumb.” Benrey says.
“Nobody’s gonna be interested in that, Dr. Coomer.” Gordon comments gently.
The music begins, and the banter dies down as everyone listens and enjoys a moment of peace.
As the song plays into the Saturday night, Gordon can’t help but lay his head on the desk with his arm as a pillow.
When it finishes, the Science Team all get up to continue their activities, only to notice Gordon doesn’t follow behind. His character remains seated, idle. Worried, Coomer comes back over cycling through reactions to try and get Gordon’s attention, landing on a sigh.
Benrey runs past, intent on something.
Gordon has fallen asleep, hand still placed gently on one JoyCon. Through the time spent playing, hearing his friends’ voices again, and laughing, there was no way he could’ve kept the energy up this late into the play session.
Coomer turns around and flags down the other players.
“Gentlemen, it seems Gordon has gone ‘Away-From-Keyboard’!” He says, “He sounded pretty tired.”
“Oh no, is it still on-Are WE still on? What if-if-The power! Won’t the battery drain?” Tommy anxiously shuffles his character in place, as if suffering from lag, but really just trying to fidget like he normally did.
“If we think really, really hard, we could save and turn ourselves off for him!” Coomer suggests, not even turning as Benrey runs back past them with an axe, wasps following behind.
“Before that,” Bubby nudges Tommy and drops a piece of clothing on the ground in front of him, “Can you send this to Gordon? It’s a lab coat thing. It looked like something he’d wear.”
Benrey runs past in the background again, still brandishing an axe, still chased by wasps.
“Sure-Uh, couldn’t you send-uh, send it?” Tommy runs in a circle around the item.
“I don’t know how to send letters.”
“I could show you-it’s-it’s right over there-!”
“I refuse to learn about any new technology, ever. I’m too smart to be taught things.” Bubby scoffs.
Again, Benrey runs past, now holding a net and with him chasing the wasps , yelling in passing; “HA! BOOMER!”
Tommy picks up the coat, and nods to Coomer.
The world around them flickers, then pauses, leaving the players immobile.
Ready to wrap things up for now?
Coomer strains, and he strains hard.
It isn’t an entirely unpleasant feeling when the game begins to save. Things flicker, and phase in and out, but it isn’t nearly as painful as before. Pleasant, almost. Everyone gets a sense of the world fading to black, but they don’t see or hear it.
The game has saved, and rather than one parting message, it scrolls through four.
“See you later, Gordon!”
“Mr. Freeman, check your mailbox tomorrow!”
“Don’t get eaten by bugs!”
“he can’t see this right? ...cool. uh. thanks. for everything.”
With that, the screen goes black, and the console turns off.
And without fear or pain, they all sleep.
And now that he’s not alone, Gordon sleeps.
And as they all rest together;
The world does not sleep.