The word was frivolous.
They could have been doing something important. There was the guilt which was instilled by everyone else who insisted every moment had to include as much importance as the moment itself was. That weight remained, no matter how much it shouldn’t have mattered.
This was not important. A lot of people would say that. As if they had any right to comment.
They held their controllers. She nudged his elbow. He started the game.
They had fun.
He had to turn on all the lights. Open the curtains. Put on his headset. It took long enough to get ready.
“What’s taking you so long?”
“Nothing.” He chewed his bottom lip. “How scary did you say this game was?”
“Please stop stalling. Wuss.”
He took a moment, then started the game.
He was so close.
There was the clock, ever-present, ever-taunting. Trying to distract him while he was trying to ignore it. Oh, the clock was important. The timer told him when the inputs would stop.
His muscles were tense now, so tense. Trying not to twitch, because every single motion needed to be important, needed to be exactly what it was. He had to be on top of it, needed to complete it all before the time destroyed all possibilities. He needed to watch, he needed to listen and he had to be one frame before-
Time ran out.
“Hah! Who’s the winner now?”
He shut his eyes and dropped the controller on his lap. Well, there went his title. He used to be so much better in brawls.
Cerys’ life suddenly blossomed around her once again. She readied herself for what would happen today. Running, jumping, exploring, bartering, killing, and yes, sometimes dying. It happened.
Not as often as it used to. The girl behind the controls had gotten much better. Cerys appreciated the paths they took, the choices they made, much more than she used to. The girl had become as experienced as Cerys’ stat page showed.
Good job, Cerys wanted to tell her. But that was impossible. They lived in two entirely different worlds. The only communication was through the controls and what could be conveyed back to her, in whatever way it was that the girl experienced Cerys’ world. Cerys could only guess how it was that worked. Her life consisted of a story, one she had many ways of experiencing. When she hit the end, she would start it again. Either with everything or anew. Cerys had never regretted that.
But there was something about this girl. Cerys didn’t know what, but she wanted to know. She wanted to ask.
Who are you? How invested are you in me?
But then the session would be over and Cerys’ life would be put on pause. Everything froze.
The growl escaped him unintentionally, but he knew the instant it happened. As did his fellow gamer, who looked thrilled about his loss of temper, as they always did.
“Not in control now, are you?”
He didn’t deign to respond, because it was true. If just for the sound, not for the game. But saying otherwise would be a rapid loss of control and that was what they were waiting for. He focused on the screen, wondering when their co-op mode had turned into some sort of competition. Not that he was surprised, he just wished he had been more on point for when it had. Losing wasn’t an option for him. At least, not one he wanted to accept.
The occasional chuckle from them was his only clue as to how well they were doing. He could glance over, but he knew they were waiting for that, if just to pick up all of the loot and run off ahead. With gritted teeth, he kept his focus on his character and moved onward.
When he won, it was by a few points as their scores tallied up in front of the both of them. He felt the tension melt from him as he glanced over at them.
They grinned back at him. “Not too shabby. It’s almost as though you didn’t lose your temper for a moment then.”
It took little effort to fight back a similar retort, instead smiling back smoothly with a very pleasant expression. “What temper?”
They still laughed, but he didn’t mind.
At least now he was in control.
When it got too hot, William wanted to go play his video games. His sibling was used to that, though he hadn’t returned to his console since last weekend.
“Do you finally want to go outside?” they asked their brother.
Will made a face. “No, Riley. I don’t. It’s too hot.”
Typical. “Then read a book.”
He groaned and plopped himself on the couch next to them. “No, I don’t like reading.”
Riley rolled their eyes and finished tying their shoes. “Well, whatever. See you later, twerp.”
“W-wait, you’re leaving?”
“Of course. Unlike you, some people like the outside.” For some reason, Will didn’t like that thought. He never cared before. They could not think why that would have changed. “Play your video games then.”
An odd whine escaped him, but Riley left. Brothers were like that, they decided. Stopping just outside, they went around to the back of the house to knock against the basement window.
“Hey there. My bro saw you and is freaked out. Behave, won’t you?”
Riley left. Behind them, a ghostly hand came out of the wall and gave them a thumbs up.
William screamed. “A ghost!”
For a while it was silent. Then the door opened as his older sibling looked inside, rather annoyed. “There is no ghost. You’re being ridiculous.”
“I-I never said there was one!” he retorted from where he hid behind the curtains. His sibling scoffed, just as he knew they would. It was why he had lied. But he had definitely the ghost rise up through the floorboards, give him a thumbs up for beating Sonic 2, and then return whence it came.