The main menu’s music looped once more as he stared vacantly at his character, Cyril leaned hugging on him from behind, and her head on his shoulder with the sweetest smile. Their characters were married. No, that wasn’t right, he was married to her in the game. Her avatar was her. Not that shriveled husk that could not even let her enjoy the world he lived in. Half of him hoped that if he logged into that game world, she would be there to greet him within seconds. The other half hoped she wouldn’t.
Reality dictated that he would never find out that possibility, though, he knew she was gone already. The game servers had been deactivated and its access revoked from everyone.
With a sigh, he looked away from the faded red button that said “Enter World” and the “Log Out” button was reluctantly clicked. He felt a disoriented as his consciousness was pulled from the machine. It lasted a split moment before he found himself face to face with the tinted glass shield that kept users from being “Tampered” with while they dove in their games.
The filtered and conditioned capsule he laid in felt comfortable; more so than his own bed. Maybe it was the hours of diving, or maybe the small confined felt reassuring, but he found it easier to sleep in it than a real bed. At the very least, he reasoned, he couldn’t be stabbed in his sleep.
He pulled the manual release latch and the locks disengaged, allowing the sleek and futuristic glass piece to rise away from his face. His face cringed as he smelt the pungent scent of sweat and ass chase away the filtered air. He sat up, swung his legs over the capsules edge and came face to face with the dim room. It was awash in a dim cyan color that illuminated portions of clothes, dishes, and a half-open door.
He clapped his hands three times and the light exploded in the room. He had to blink away the momentary blindness as his eyes adjusted. The room was destroyed as pieces of clothing littered the floor as if they were the rug. Dishes were piled on a desk next to a dusty computer monitor. Letters and bills were thrown into a heap on the floor next to the desk. The only clean spot was the computer chair, where a black suit laid in its plastic armor. He had yet to open it after he picked it up from the dry cleaners the other day. He was not eager to slip into it either.
He turned his sight from it and got off the capsule before he turned to the white piece of advance tech that was used for nothing more than video games. It looked like something from Star Trek. Its form sleek and white without any sharp edges. Almost like an egg had been painted like a car and outfitted with a large window that took up half its side. A screen was just past the edge by the footrest that logged his game time, a few other meager details and he buttoned in the red off button.
The screen blinked away and the shield lowered itself. The near-silent hum of the internal fans died away before the room became quiet, aside from his own heavy breathing. He picked up a small white box from the side table and pulled a new cigarette from inside. He lit it with the lighter on the table and took a long drag to burn away the misery that threatened to overrun him.
The smoke barreled down his throat and crashed against the bottom of his lungs. He didn’t stop there as he continued to inhale; the cig’s end burned bright against the soft white light as if both were in a competition.
By the time he finally exhaled, half the cig had turned to ash and fell away onto the clothes below. He let out a bellow of smoke, that made covered the room in a haze. The pungent smell of the room was cashed away with the smell of burning tobacco.
His lungs burned and, for a moment, he felt free from his misery as his body shuddered from the fit of coughs. The relief was short last, and futile, as in his attempt to escape; they came back worst.
It had been trying to run from these emotions for months and now it all came rushing out. So much had happened in such a short amount of time. He couldn’t process it all, he was not as strong as Cyril. O, how he wished he was…
. . . .
He spat tar laced spit into the bathroom sink. His eyes were puffy and his eyes bloodshot from the tears. He cleared his throat, which turned into another coughing fit. He looked up into the mirror and glared at his sorry state.
“What the fuck are you doing, Jax…?” He asked himself. “Do you think they want you like this?”
Of course, the answer would always be a resounding no. Yet, he could not help but run to drinking. Run to smoking. Run to destruction.
Cyril had been the catalyst that anchored him to sanity. He knew he had become too depended on her. He tried to run from it, but… She was the drug he could never stop taking. Now she was gone and the withdrawal of her from his life had finally sent him spiraling into this pitiful state. His once handsome tanned face had become slightly pale with a bushy beard. His once bulging muscles had faded away in the last few months; He had prioritized spending Cyril’s last days with her.
His social life had left him. His job… Well, Cyril’s father gave him money. Yet, after everything laid in ruins around him – He didn’t regret any of it.
He exited the bathroom in only his food-stained shorts, out his room, and into his dimly lit apartment. He came face to face with Edward, as if the old saying “Speak of the devil and the devil shall appear.” He sat facing the large screen TV, though, it was off. From his spot, he only saw the man’s right side.
“Sober?” Edward asked.
“Hung over.” Jax replied.
“So long as you’re functioning, I won’t complain.” Edward sighed.
Jax noted that the living room was strangely cleaned and smelled of spring. He felt he may have jumped forward in time, but he felt relieved when he looked out his sliding door to Edward’s book. There was a blizzard.
“Since when did you clean?” Jax asked in a half-serious, half-joking, manner.
“I had a company come in.” Edward answered. “If you spent less looking at your character screen and more in the real world, you would have noticed the bustle.”
Jax felt a hint of anger at his remark, but he bit it back. Today was not the day to get in another fight. Especially not today. Edward was already in his suit and he looked to have aged a hundred more years.
No… Today is the day… I’ll behave… Jax told himself as he walked into the kitchen and fetched a bottle of water before he made his way back to his room.
“I’ll be ready in a few minutes.” He said in passing.
. . . . . . .
After the two had set everything, Jax found himself enjoying the snowfall as he smoked another cigarette. Snowflakes clung to his slick gelled back hair. Edward had made a quick stop to have Jax made presentable at the Saint Seraphim’s Cathedral in the wealthy part of town. Jax’s eyes never left the parking lot where the cathedral’s steps ended.
His eyes burned with a mixture of emotions that he couldn’t put into words, so in his fashion; he tried to burn them at the stake that was a cig. It never worked. It never had. It never stopped him from hoping it would. Just like the drinks never numbed his pain. He wondered why he continued this cycle, but his thoughts were interrupted by the sudden arrival of cars that began to pour into the vacant lot.
BMWs, Lexuses, Porches, Infinities, and a bunch of other brand name cars from out of the country. It fact, it was his old beat-up Toyota that now looked out of place in the sea of white that housed the fleet of luxury. Like a tug boat sailing between tens of yachts. It was even noticed by the newcomers. Most only glanced at it, but a few man poor jokes about the car. However, in this situation, he found it funny as well.
What the fuck am I even doing here… He asked himself. His only reason to be here was the Bailey family; but so were they though.
The attendees filed in past him, and he didn’t receive the usual disgusted stares his previous look would have elicited. For nearly twenty minutes, he watched the folk shuffle as he lit a cig in his right hand. He took a drag of the cancer stick and exhaled it in a slow deliberate manner as the smoke made him feel warm inside. The attendees had become sparse with a few stragglers who arrived late as a man in white extravagance robes approached him from the cathedral.
“It’s nice to see you again, Brother Jax.” The man said, his wrinkled face plastered a smile that almost felt patronizing to Jax. “But I was hoping it would have been a happier circumstance.”
“And this isn’t?” Jax spat back at the man.
“I would say a funeral is not a very happy event.” The man said. “But should you need someone to talk too, someone is always available. Brother Edward has already made sure that we are available to you by phone should you need us.” The man’s voice was soothing and soft, and it bothered Jax.
“Tsk.” Jax stuck the butt of the cigarette into his mouth as he turned to him. His glared at the man, but the man only kept his peaceful expression. The stare down ended when Jax had decided it would not have been appropriate or even smart, to blow his smoke in the man’s face. So, he turned his head and exhaled a large sideways mushroom.
“I’ll keep that in mind, Cardinal.” Jax hissed.
“Grieving for loved ones is always hard.” The Cardinal said. “I understand you are going through a very unpleasant time. It won’t be easy, but time and God will heal your heart. The church can offer you solace from your pain should you need a place to rest your heavy heart.”
“I have my solace right here.” Jax held up the short cigarette that was an inch away from reaching the orange section.
“Those will take you to our Lord much sooner than you should.” The Cardinal commented. “You should at the least limit your consumption of them.”
Before Jax could retort, music began to play inside the church. The Cardinal turned from Jax and took his leave with a small goodbye. The outside world was bright, desolate and lonely now. The storm had done quick work to remove all trace that a large crowd had passed by. The snow had already perched itself on his shoulders and head, but he hadn’t bothered with them. With one more look at the winter sky, he finally went in just as the Cardinal took the stand.
“We’ve come here today to mourn and remember the life of a dear sister, Madin Bailey.” He announced as Jax decided to stand behind the last pew.