This character is In honor of my dear friend, Will, who I have since lost to suicide.
You know, I used to know a guy.
It was the summer I graduated high school. I was already accepted to college, I had a good job at a nearby grocery store, and things were just good. I was able to play videogames whenever I wanted, I could hang out with friends at a moments notice, and even smoke a little bud to relax if I really felt like it.
I met him playing RuneScape.
I’ve always been the kind of person to trust people. Obviously, not blindly. Like, I wouldn’t have trusted a random crackhead on the street with my debit card, but I’d still do some pretty stupid stuff, from juvenile things like letting people I barely knew on RuneScape borrow my most expensive gear to more important things like letting my friends in on my most personal sorrows.
We bonded quick. Super quick. We would talk on TeamSpeak and Skype literally all the time.
When I first came back to RuneScape in twenty-fourteen, I had to shut the game off after a few minutes of play. The nostalgia hurt that bad. It was a mixed feeling of stress and contentment. I just thought of how things used to be, and then of how things were. And even though the way things were at the time was still very similar to how they had been in the past, I still couldn’t shake the feeling.
A few years later, the guy had truly become my best friend. We wanted to meet up in person.
I’ve never been the type of person to cry. When my uncle and grand dad passed away in two thousand and seven and twenty eleven respectively, I didn’t appear very moved. I mean I was, obviously, but I wasn’t animated about it. You know, I remember thinking to myself while I was a depressed kid in high school that I would only find the capacity to cry when my future wife died. Yeah, future wife. I mean, thinking about that now it just sounds pathetic and creepy, but at the time I was really just unsuccessfully trying to find someone to give my everything to. Regardless, given the state of the world, it'll forever be a pipe dream, from now until forever.
He was Ukrainian. His name was Oleksander, but I just called him Alex.
Back when I was younger and in middle school, I gained an infatuation with Europe and Asia. It wasn’t that I wanted to move to another country or learn another language- in fact, I was already very content with living in Alaska. I just wanted to see what it was like to be somewhere foreign. Maybe spend a semester studying abroad, or something like that.
One day, Alex hung himself.
The summer going from junior to senior year in college I had finally saved up a few grand into my bank account. I was finally going to leave the United States, even if just for a little while. I wasn’t going straight to France or the United Kingdom or Germany though. I was going to Ukraine to finally meet my friend in person. We were going to first spend a few days together in his hometown of Kyiv, and then go on to explore a lot of eastern and northern Europe together.
I was the first one to find his body.
When my plane touched down in Boryspil, Alex wasn’t there to pick me up. I connected to the airport’s internet to message him, but he wouldn’t respond on WhatsApp. I waited a few hours until texting him on the app that I was going to Uber to his place. After a forty minute drive and some awkward conversations with my driver, I had arrived at his address.
I never thought that that’s what a dead person would look like in real life.
I went to bang on his door, but it was already unlocked, and it opened the second I put pressure on it. I got a bit paranoid. My first thought was that he had been robbed or kidnapped. A bit extreme for something to think of right away, I know, but I wasn’t too far off the mark. As I turned the corner from his home’s entryway into his kitchen, I saw him, swaying back and forth. My first thought was that he was taller than I expected. My second was that he was going to be dead from now on, forever. I felt stressed more than anything else, but also content, in a way. I just accepted that he was gone and started to realign all the plans I had made in my life that involved him. Then short after, reality hit, I whispered, “shit.”, and I started to cry.
His face was an off putting shade of pink.
The first thing I did was go to his neighbors. The first one who answered the door was an old lady that didn’t speak English, but she knew his name when I said it. The next door down consisted of a younger guy of about my age and someone who I only assumed was his girlfriend, and they both spoke pretty good English.
When the authorities arrived and we went back into his house, his eyes had began to secrete a black goo, and he had started to move.
I spent a long time alone. My initial plan was to move west towards more English-speaking-friendly countries, but I guess I got turned around somewhere along the way because I pretty quickly found myself against the mouth of the Dnieper river and the Black Sea instead of in another country like Romania or Poland. At that point, I just said fuck it and picked a direction and went. Yeah, it probably wasn’t the best of ideas, but it’s at least gotten me to where I am now.
While I was getting here, if I can really say that I was even trying to get here in the first place, I ran into a few lone wolves, some of whom tried to rob me. They weren’t all bad, but enough were for me to make the distinction that people alone are more likely to do bad things than people who’re together. It probably has to do with the fact that if you’re alone, no one can judge you twenty-four seven. And I will admit, that was a nice part of it, but I got really lonely and bored after a while.
I ended up joining with the next group of kind looking people that I ran into. I had a few guns to trade and scavenged ammunition to share, and they had a lot of food and spoke some English, so it was a win-win. We managed to exist together for a month or two until one of the girls’ husband disappeared one morning. She made us organize a search, and while it was the morally right thing to do, it wasn’t necessarily the smartest thing to do in terms of our supplies and morale.
After some time, we did end up finding her husband. He was just wandering around in some random field. The guy was alive alright, but extremely shaken. He wasn’t ‘normal’ anymore. He kept looking around all paranoid-like, and wouldn’t speak in English anymore- only Czech. Things just kept getting weirder and scarier from then on too, like how one guy in the group started whispering in Chernarussian as he slept, or how another girl began to constantly feel her pockets for her gun magazines the same way someone would have done for their phone or wallet in the past. It was almost like she was doing it for reassurance that they were still there. I eventually decided to just peace out of there, because I could tell that shit was only going to get worse until something actually happened.
So now I’m a lone wolf again. Only difference this time is that I’ve got no idea where the fuck I am.
Same shit, different place.