And There Was Ninja Moustache (Chapter 36)

    I took a slice of cold pizza from the fridge and then joined Rory on the couch.

 “Wanna play?” he offered, gesturing to the extra video game controller on the coffee table.

 I picked up the controller and hit the start button. As Player 2 on the screen, I found myself dropped into a post-apocalyptic cityscape, in the midst of a humans versus insectoid aliens battle. My options, Rory explained, were to kill the aliens with an automatic laser gun or to kill them with a glowing machete. I discovered a third option: if I stood still while trying to figure out how to fire the laser gun, the aliens would run up to me and impale me with their serrated stingers. After taking this option twice, I excused myself from the game and set the controller back on the table.

 “Had enough?” asked Rory.

 “Yeah,” I said, through a mouthful of pizza. “You know I suck at video games.”

 “Yeah, you do.” He paused the game and thought for a moment. “I remember that.” He laughed and resumed the game. “I could always beat you at video games.” His character stood on an alien’s neck and shot it through the head a dozen times, spraying green goo in all directions. “I’ve been forgetting things… but I remember that.”

 “It’s easy with aliens,” I said.

 “What do you mean?”

 “Well, killing is bad, right? You’re supposed to feel guilt. But with aliens it doesn’t matter. They’re not human—just outer space monsters—so you can kill as many as you like.”

 “That’s true,” said Rory, his character hacking off an alien’s head with a machete.

 “Like that guy there—you chopped his head off, but what if he was more than just an ugly insect creature? Maybe back on his home planet he had a wife and kids. Maybe he ran a small business. Maybe he did a lot of charity work.”

 Rory laughed. “Yeah, well, if he had called me up on his intergalactic phone and asked me to donate to his work with underprivileged alien youth, I’d have been happy to help out. But instead he invaded earth so his species could feed on human brainwaves—”

 “No kidding? Is that the storyline?”

 “Ha, yeah. Pretty bad, huh? But the game is fun.”

 I watched him annihilate a small horde of extra-terrestrials.

 “What do you mean you’ve been forgetting things?” I said.

 “Hmm? Oh, uh, well it’s like there are things missing, like blank chunks in my memory. All recent stuff I think.”

 “Like what?”

 He paused the game. “Well, I mean, I was in the gulag for weeks, but I don’t remember any of it. LaShawn told me all about it yesterday, while you were at Ezra’s. He told me about the prison escape, the flight… but I can’t remember it. Before that though, I remember most stuff.”

 “That’s weird,” I said. “Maybe it’s trauma. I mean, you were in Nelson Prison. That’s a hell of a lot to deal with. Maybe your mind has blocked all those awful things out, to give you a chance to recover. Give it time, I’m sure your memories will return.”

 He nodded. “Yeah. Maybe.”

 He hit the start button on his controller; lasers blasted; aliens shrieked as their heads exploded.

© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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