I3 DiCicco

In the future, when you die in a video game, there’s no coming back. That was my doing. I did that. And I’m not sorry.
            If it upsets you, that’s a good thing. It’s important for you to get upset. It means you’re human.  In the future, that’s more important than ever.
            Because things can get blurry. They were. For me.
            They’ve gone to great lengths to fix the blurry parts. In the future, things are more clear. Because, in the future, when your character dies after he gets shot—he fucking dies.
            It’s like having one quarter. Actually, it’s worse.
            Before I was born, there were arcades where you could pump machines full of your money. You never paid more than you were worth. That’s something. That’s why I can’t even compare it to that. Because even then, if you had a quarter, it probably entitled you to at least something like three lives—three chances to do something epic.
            My grandfather told me that one. He cried the whole time too. Told me how he blew up an entire alien base once and slaughtered a city of zombies. Now he never completes the first level because he’s afraid to die. Sometimes he doesn’t even start the game. He only watches the intro with the sound all the way up.
            In the future, my grandfather hates his real job. He wishes it were more epic than estimating monthly revenues. Sometimes he types his name into the Player One Database, and acts like he forgot his ID. He’s hoping they’ll let him on, as if he were some young Dominic Dillianhaul from Nebraska who has never played the game before, as if he were someone different and new.
            Someone other than himself.
            They know the trick. One game. One life. That’s all you get. All you need is proper ID to start. Then you can play the game, Dominic Dillianhaul.
            My grandfather, along with most of the population, doesn’t have the money to spend on a new game.  There was this one that got released the other day called Dimes and Dames, a first-person futuristic cowboy adventure where you basically are just about the most badass hero I’ve ever seen. I thought about it, looked at the price, and decided that an education and maybe my first home weren’t worth it. In the future, games cost more than you might think you’re worth.
            My grandfather and the rest of America used to hope someone would die quick and sell their game. But it doesn’t work that way anymore.
            I took that one away, too.
            I’m supposed to be sorry about that, so, sorry. If it offends you, you should seek help.
            In the future, it’s like going on an organ donor list. You have to wait and have a reason. Why do you deserve to play Simon DeFinch’s Gales and Ruin II game? What? You just want to see what it’s like compared to your own? I’m sorry, sir, but your application has been denied.
            Used games are reserved for those with broken or defunct ones, games where they didn’t even have a chance to begin, to really start. Shit. That must be depressing. Just starting and BAM. The game console turns red and the game shuts off or something won’t move or your character can only walk, never jump.
            My cousin had a son who couldn’t use his kidneys. He must have felt like a broken game. The boy next door, the one in the wheelchair, I wonder if he feels that way too. I wonder if he plays.
            In the future, once you lose, it’s over. The game can never be used again. In South Dakota, a kid’s military pursuit character jumped off a ledge because most of his friends’ characters in the game were dead. There was no more point. He hasn’t been able to get a new game yet, and so the police finally promised him one, anything to get the kid off the roof. His parents won’t let him play though.
            Why would they after what happened to me?
            In the future, some guy who played with the same pack of wackos who had managed not to die for some six long gaming years, he gunned down his entire group during a Sunday night mission. Not the people—the characters, the game-version selves.
            But in the future, that’s the same thing.
            They’re suing that guy, one couple who was part of the group. They’re pressing charges, claiming he can’t feel, that he’s dangerous to anyone in or out of the game.
            I never liked them anyway though.
            In the future, that guy will have a whole lot of nasty charges pressed against him. It’ll be a landmark case. It’s the whole point of the laws after all, a respect for death, for life, for adventure, for greater deeds and my grandfather.
            I’d shoot them again too though, but I’m not getting another game anytime soon. And neither are you.

When I was little I couldn’t see. Not a thing. Not my dead sister Sally, my mom, or the sky. In front of me there was a greatness so black and vast that you would’ve thought it was death. That’s where I played with the rabbits and made myself seen.
            In the dark, a blind boy can find all sorts of things that other people can’t. When my mother called to me in the night, Where is the remote?, I found it. It was sitting next to her on the floor by our Labrador, Oodles. Hey, boy, get out of the way. Mom needs this.
            I needed nothing. Not even a flashlight. Except when it rained.
            Thunderstorms sounded an alarm for me. Inside my chest a pounding clock would bump, counting down until the lightning struck. When it did, I could see everything.
            I could see my best friends the rabbits, hurrying to get to their holes. Once I even saw my mom talking to my dead sister, just sitting there on Sally’s unmade bed, next to the window, beside herself with guilt.

Before I was blind, I had a pet rabbit, black as the night. He was outside and I was in. And when it started to storm, I would get scared for him, all alone inside his cage, with only a roof to shelter him away from the wind.
            I’d run to him, and make sure he was alright.
            The time I ran to him, into the night of wind, rain, and lightning, I was dressed like a knight with tin foil and pans. I had a television antennae I’d found in the garage, extended to its full height. And with my lance held high, I stormed out and was promptly struck down by God.
            He blinded me and freed my rabbit. It was a sin. I blew right into the hutch, broke my arm and dislocated my shoulder.
            My mother cried in the hospital and apologized about not being there to stop me.She said she was sorry I couldn’t see anymore and that we could go home the next day.
            She was wrong.

I dressed like a knight because it felt good to swing my sword and free the villagers. The night I went blind I wanted to save her, my mom, from her boyfriend, to stop her from going to his lair.
            It was hours before the strike.
            I charged out of the house to see her car pulling away, down the drive, dust and gravel kicked up by how fast she drove to him.
            I waved my antennae in the air and shouted, Who goes there, but if she saw me in the rearview mirror, she didn’t stop. She kept on to him, so I kept standing, in the road, in the gravel and the dust.
            After the wake of her car subsided, I entered my house through the front door and sat down on the sofa.
            I can still do that. Without looking.
            That night when the storm rolled in, I forgot what I learned about electricity. Which was nothing at all. In school I drew pictures of underground warrens where the wild rabbits lived and where my bunny was king of them all.

The sound of raindrops has become so loud to me that I no longer try to do anything else but wait for the thunder and for a glimpse of whatever it is I’m going to see when the lightning strikes.

The rain the night I went blind pounded into the ground so hard that I kept thinking it was my mother running up the porch steps and pounding on our front door.
            When the wind whirled around the house in such a way that I thought I was Dorothy and that was the day I would fly away, I ran out the front, with a hard right to the hutch.
            When the lightning shattered me and threw me and took away what I thought was mine, I was holding my antenna lance, feet away from what once was my black-as-night pet rabbit.
            When the lightning took away my sight and my breath and almost my life, I did nothing more than seize in a puddle and have a nosebleed. I didn’t even swing my sword.
            I could tell my ears were bleeding too because they were warmer than the rain and nothing sounded the same. Not even the ground.
            After a shudder and a pulse, I listened to the beating rain and considered my blindness.
            And the lightning flashed. I saw beads of water, thousands coming down on me.
            Then, a blackness so vast.
            And the lightning flashed. There was the broken hutch, twisted wire and splinters.
            Then a dark so deep you would’ve thought it was death.
            And the lightning flashed. It showed me everything I needed to see.
            It crackled and sounded like bees in my head—a blue-white streak zigzagging from heaven, hitting the field far away, letting me watch my little black rabbit disappear through the grass. He made it to a hole in the ground, no more than six feet away, under a tree, vanished, free.

The holes rabbits run to, shelter away in, and live out their lives are networking tunnels that go on and about, so far and so winding that only the family members who belong there know where the holes start and where they end.

After the hospital, I would lay there, in the same spot where I crashed into the hutch and fell to the ground, my ear to the scorched earth. I didn’t hear a thing there so I had to move closer to where they were beneath the tree.
            I asked my mother to help me find the hole. It wasn’t hard for her.
            Then, I heard the warren. I heard all the rabbits.
            I was worried they would reject mine, and fail to make him their king. But one afternoon he emerged; my mother saw him. She told me.
            She shouted and described what I should have seen.
            She wanted me to see him. She told me where he was in the yard, and that there were other rabbits following him. Then he was gone, she said, down the hole.
            I pressed my ear to the ground right there, near their home, to listen to his sounds. There was a whole family of rabbits living and loving and taking care of each other. I could hear them, even the black one who they loved most of all.

The day my mother saw my rabbit and I heard him become king, a storm came and blew the roof off our house, but I didn’t care.
            I ran into the yard, ten feet to the tree, two feet to the right, and I screamed when I put my ear to the ground.
            It was water that I heard, the swishing current of an underground river of sound.
            Theyre going to die, I screamed, and I felt her hand.
            In the lightning’s flash, I saw her kneeling next to me with a small metal pail. We looked at each other as another bolt struck somewhere off in the field, my mother’s small hands holding a bucket and a little tin cup. I took hold of the cup and attempted to do what anyone would do for someone they love.
            I bailed the water out of the hole and hoped they’d survive.

Christopher David DiCicco loves his wife and children, and sometimes, writing short stories, which he does in the attic of his Canal Street home in ever-happening Yardley, Pennsylvania. He is a friend to words and small animals, and doesn’t mind that he teaches high school English or advises a small student-run literary magazine called Howler. It’s just what he does. His work has appeared in Nib Magazine’s Flash Friday feature—he currently looks forward to having two more of his flash fiction stories published this year in the literary journal, Intellectual Refuge.

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