Funny how fast things go just when you try to slow down.
Needless to say, I never tell any of my friends about my VR selfcest, much less my fucking suicide attempt. I don’t talk to them about much of anything really. The next few weeks pass like cars on a highway. All of a sudden my life‘s on fucking Adderall- like it just ran out of ways to slow things down. The days got so boring and long that I guess they just had to loop around and start going Made In Heaven-fast all of a sudden.
Yet here I am complaining. Fuck, I’ll take this any day over waking up every morning being present for class one to two to three to four etc, etc. But I don’t know- the slower things go, the more I despise it- Yet the faster things go…. the less real it all feels. Not that it ever felt real in the first place, but all of a sudden it’s the last week of my senior year of high school and it doesn’t even feel like I’m the one who got me here.
I mean, I guess I knew this was coming all along. Before I ever started school, I had a dream. My mother told me that we were going to something called “preschool-“ and I remember in this dream following through and going to it for just one day- one day only- and when I came home my mother, she asked me:
“Do you want to keep going?”
And, of course, I said no. No I don’t wanna fucking keep going. I don’t remember what happened there, but that shit sucked. I wanna be at home for the rest of my life.
And I don’t know how I knew it would suck, because I had never been to school in my waking life. But sure enough, when I did go, it was the worst thing in the fucking world. Sure I might’ve had some fun along the way, but I mean, here I am, it’s over, and I’m not one degree better for it. After all that bullshit- after all the delusion, misunderstanding, mental illness and discarded romances- it’s all ending. None of it mattered. It really did feel like going through levels of a video game, like this was just a career I had to work my way all the way through to reach some bullshit ending.
God knows I don’t have any future plans or anything. All I thought of up until now was summoning Elopas, and all that went down the shitter, so I guess I have to figure out what my life is really all about now. But hey, what’s the rush? I’m not even done with it yet, much less with the two or three gap years I’ll probably end up taking as I try to finish all the media I’ve been saving. So it’s really no big deal. Either way, whatever happens- I’ll still be me.
MONDAY, MAY 8th
THREE DAYS REMAIN
Dylan didn’t even talk to me this morning. As I sit with Wire, our never-changing seats arranged just as they were on the day I met Debby, he asks me about the only thing that’s supposedly still going on right now.
“So… you broke up with Harmony, is that right?”
I grumble something vaguely resembling the English word “Right.”
“Prom was strange. I saw her dancing with some guy from my biology class. It was perturbing, just how happy the look on her face was… er. I don’t mean to anger you by saying this, of course. It just goes to show the girl is as crazy as any of us are. She really is an expert at lying to herself. Why, I bet she’ll look back on this all quite fondly.”
“…That’s ancient history. I’ve already forgotten about her.”
“…I see.” He steps down as if he’s actually believing the words coming out of my mouth.
“Hey, Wire? You just did it, you know.”
“You said she’s “crazy as any of us.” You callin’ yourself “crazy?”
“…I guess I just did. Pretty pathetic indeed.”
I skip language arts.
When I get home that day, I’m surprised to see my mother waiting for me.
“Molly. It’s been too long since we’ve spoken.”
In my eyes, it hasn’t been long enough.
We sit across from each other at the table like some kind of ritual as the woman asks me things.
“You’re graduating soon. I know it’s been hectic around here, but we’re all so proud of you.”
“…Nevermind that, Molly. What matters is you’re loved. You’ve accomplished something. So long as you don’t screw it up in the last few days.” She laughs, though with a faint hint of nervousness. Good to know she thinks I still have that potential. But honestly, even I don’t have it in me at this point to drive off the rails. I’ll keep my head down, for now. Might as well.
“So…” she continues, I’m guessing ‘cause I didn’t bother to respond. “What comes after this? I know you’re a smart girl, Molly.”
“Not really.” I say. “But I’ll live.”
“What is it… you want to do, though?”
“M’ not sure.” I should probably come up with a lie soon. People are gonna be asking me this a lot from now on.
“Well… you’ll need to figure that out. Okay? You can still do this, Molly. You can do anything. You’re you.”
TUESDAY, MAY 9th
TWO DAYS REMAIN
My morning is almost identical to my last. Dylan doesn’t talk. Wire says more or less the same things he did yesterday. Pointless.
In the hallway, she manages to find me again. The girl knows my route by now. Hey, I’m just glad it’s her and not someone else I used to know.
“Hey, Molly…” she says shyly, like talking to a crush and not someone who physically assaulted her last week.
“Hey.” I force out. “Got anything for me?”
“L-like…” Debby stutters. “An apology…?”
“Fuck no.” I air. “Just something interesting.”
“Well, I, uh…”
“Then you’re wasting my time. I liked you better when you knew this wasn’t real.”
I walk down the hall, dodging the quiet hallway in case I’m not the only one skipping language arts today.
Elaine talks to me again when I get home. And she says the same. Fucking. Things. Again.
I make it a point to answer in the exact same way I did Monday.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 10th
MOLLY’S FINAL DAY AT LAKEWATER HIGH
As I sit down in homeroom, I look at Mr. Palpe’s bored face.
How many times has he done this before?
How many classes has he seen go?
How does he keep doing this?
How long does he expect to keep it up?
What kind of monster do you have to be to teach a high school class?
“…it’s our last day.”
Suddenly, the person next to me is speaking.
I turn to Dylan.
“Just… thought I’d say it.”
“…well. It sure is.”
I look at his still hands.
“We’re gonna graduate. And we’ll never sit here again.”
“You’re taking this pretty rough for someone I thought didn’t care.”
“…I was wrong.”
I try to look Dill in the eye as the kid finally speaks.
“I wanted to care. I really wanted… to be a highschooler. Kinda wanted… to have memories here, to. I thought… that wasn’t possible. I gave up. It made me feel better, for a while.”
“But here I am… last day. I never did go to high school. Never did a single thing. And sitting here now… I dunno how I’m supposed to be an adult without having the memories everyone else does.”
“…I wanted to go to Prom.”
FRIDAY, MAY 12th
I step into line as soon as my name is called. Between two people I don’t know, I’m dropped into line, clutching my loose, misfitting cap.
The room is abuzz with the chatter of children. That bitch is here somewhere, and so are my friends, and the amputee. I’ve managed to avoid all of them.
“Okay-!” The unrecognizable teacher up in front says with a hint of hesitation and excitement, like this is a big moment for him. “Let’s move, ladies and gentlemen. This is it!”
I keep stepping on my gown. The arena is ahead. We’ve rehearsed how this will go. It’s no big deal.
We walk through the crowd as they cheer. Elaine is here somewhere. I’m sure Huey is too.
As I take my place in my assigned seat, I’m happy I don’t share initials with anyone I know. The girl to my left is talking with her friend. The guy to my right is leaning over the seat behind him to chatter with his own someone-or-other. Meanwhile, I watch the stage.
The principal has a smile like the Titan that eats Eren Jaeger’s mom, the wrinkles on her face creating a deep tapestry of madness. As the buzz of clapping from the sea of guests softens into a silence, she raises the mic to her face like this is the best day of her goddamn life.
“Good afternoon, everyone.”
Twelve seconds later:
“…I cannot express… just how proud I am to stand up here today. To all the parents, families, and guests here now who have supported these bright, kind individuals on their journey to this very moment, I would like to express my upmost gratitude.”
Five seconds later:
“I’m sure it has been… difficult, at times to get here. But through challenging circumstances, an ever-changing world, and a global pandemic… your children- my wonderful students- have made it through. Tonight…. is the single most important moment in these young people’s lives up until this point. The moment they rise up from their roots as children- and blossom- into beautiful, strong, charismatic adults. From this day forward, they will no longer just be the children you raised- but rather individuals, capable of walking this Earth for themselves. Yet that is not to say… they will cease to be your little ones. Your babies that you worked so hard for to raise right. To put them in a better place than you were. So let me tell all of you- if you’re seated here tonight? You’ve succeeded. And I can guarantee your child is worthy of, deserving of, and more than ready for this big step up. This promotion in our world. I am honoured to be the one to bestow it upon them.
No clapping. My heart is still.
“…But before these bright young minds leave our nest, and follow down the paths they’ve so-deftly carved for themselves, I would like to impress upon them all one last thing. Please, allow me to impart on you one final lesson.”
I feel nothing.
“You will all face more hardships in life. But each and every time, you will overcome them. Because you are strong. You are brave. You are courageous. But most- most importantly, above all else- you are you. You are unique. You are special. And you will always and forever remain you, with no end in sight. Do not fear, all of you seated here today. What is currently just tomorrow… will very soon become your present. And what are now your dreams… are about to become reality.”
This life is undeniably false.
This story is a work of fiction.
“Thank you. Now, before we begin with the ceremony, one student of our school would like to speak a few words.”
The principal sits down in the row of suited people near the back of the stage. In her place stands an especially young-looking girl whose voice is higher than mine.
“T-thank- thank you, Principal Hoover.”
She shuffles into place, a few of the students around me cheering as the audience slowly begins another wave of applause.
I have never seen this kid in my life.
Four seconds later, the clapping ends. The girl continues speaking.
“M-my name is Charlie Dalgaard. I am… a graduating student at Lakewater High, part of the class of 2023.”
Three seconds later:
“My time at this school was something- something I will never forget.” She recites. “I… spent the highlight of my youth here, and… to be honest, it doesn’t feel quite right that it’s all over now. But I’m happy… happy I had the time I spent here. S-spent here. Because… all of it made me into the person I’ve become. I… entered this school, like anyone else does… and then… it made me something. I made… friends, the best of which… Bailey Hoffman, I just have to thank so much… for getting me through those few times when things didn’t go as planned, or, or something went wrong… she was so good to me, and I-“ she sniffles. “I’m glad we… all have someone like that, at Lakewater High. It’s a- it was- a great place… to spend my life so far. The memories I made here… will last me forever. I’m sure that rings true for all of us here. After all… seeing you all everyday, it felt like we were one big family. I…” finishing the part she knew best, the girl stammers for a moment before continuing with the novel. “…I just know you’re all so- proud of us, and I’m so grateful you were here to support us- our friends, families, teachers, and… everyone who made our tests, or runs our government… I’ve… been all around Kansas my whole life, but… this spot in particular has been a great place for me. For anyone, really. I wouldn’t- wouldn’t trade it for anything. So… thank you, everyone who came here… for coming to see us tonight. Thank you… for celebrating with us.” She fumbles the mic. “Thank you.” She walks off stage and back to our seats.
Before I know it, the endless torment is over.
The first students are being called to the front lines.
I’m not standing yet, but I will be soon.
Dylan goes up. I see in his eyes what almost looks like determination.
But as he’s called to receive his diploma, I spot his still pupils as he shakes a suited man’s hand onstage.
That stillness is the icy chill of this false reality.
My row stands. Soon enough, I’m behind the curtain, waiting to be called in front of the huge audience of families.
Five people in front of me. Then four. Soon, three. And in a flash, I’m watching the girl ahead of me walk the stage.
“Molly Hitchcock.” The announcer calls like this is E3 and I’m a world premiere Xbox title. I don’t think I’m one anyone will play, though.
I step my short little legs onto the stage.
To my surprise, I’m not the least bit afraid. Not of the ceremony.
I’m spoken to by important-looking people I don’t know the names of.
“You did it.”
“Have a good one.”
The diploma is placed in Molly’s hands by a man in black.
In return, she shakes his hand.
And then she sits, an hour passing as she waits for every single other student to be released from their high school education.
She sits in that chair for a very, very long time.
So long that eventually… my eyes draw back to the stage, and I see something just a little bit interesting happen.
Whispering among the adults.
Laughter among the students.
…I guess we aren’t students anymore, but…
Nobody shows up.
I imagine where “Ryan” might be right now…
Does he not even fucking care…?
I envy him.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8th
MANY DAYS LEFT
I’m in bed, thinking about things.
Still thinking about school.
Still thinking about them.
I slap my hand in the general direction of my bedside table, briefly making contact with my dust-gathering headset before I finally grab my phone.
I wonder if I should read the texts everyone sends me.
I am pretty bored here.
But I don’t want to respond.
And I’m too lazy to turn off read receipts.
I drop my phone to the dirty carpet.
I shove my face back in my pillow.
All of a sudden, I’m scared again.
ALL LIFE’S A LIE
TAKE IT INTO YOUR HAND- THE FUTURE
TASTE IT WHILE YOU STILL CAN
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