Breakfast consisted of the normal mish-mash of various canned and boxed foods I could find scattered throughout the cabin. That day’s special was tomato soup, or what resembled it; cooked canned tomatoes in a pot of boiling water. Our supply was running low. As had become a routine, I sat on the arm rest of Cola’s large red leather chair feeding him before I fed myself. I fished out the perfect tomato chunk to broth ratio, making sure I cooled every spoonful before lifting it into the old man’s mouth. The only sound that filled the room was Cola and I’s harmonic breathing and the loud gulps that resulted from each bite of food he swallowed.
The silence was the worst part of watching him die.
He never spoke, and the only movements he made were to perform basic functions; evidence of at least a shred of remaining humanity. All he ever did was stare blankly at a test pattern on an old television set that sat across from him.
I thought that if I stared at the test pattern for too long I might go insane. Red, blue, green, magenta, yellow, white, black: the standard colors of an NTSC test pattern; to Cola’s decaying brain they were everything. Cola’s fixation on the television screen seemed to be the only thing keeping his tiny thread of consciousness intact. Day after day I watched him sit there, unresponsive, unflinching, cold and lifeless, but still breathing. There’s nothing I wanted more than to release Cola from his dissociative state. The man that sat before me had sad, familiar eyes, the same small scar above his left eyebrow, the same snow white beard, but it wasn’t him. It wasn’t the old man that had welcomed a stranger into his home with open arms, and spent hours sharing his knowledge.
The man named Cola was gone.
After I finished feeding him, and lamenting about his state, I figured it was about time to go hunting, and have a real meal for once, considering our supply of canned goods was running low. I grabbed one of Cola’s old hunting rifles from above the stone fireplace, slid on my jacket, and headed out the front door into the surrounding woods.
After about an hour of continuous searching, and waiting for anything to appear, I finally spotted a single doe through a break in the trees. It pranced around with a peculiar confidence, unaccompanied, and seemed to be un-phased by my presence; it was the lowest of low hanging fruits. I didn’t hesitate to lift my rifle. I aimed square between its black beady eyes, and they stared right back into mine.
With the pull of the trigger, the doe died instantly, slumping to the ground in a mess of dead leaves and blood soaked fur. I rushed over, kneeled down, and sunk my knife deep into its flesh. As I tore through the meat, I discovered a gray piece of plastic embedded into its ribcage.
“What the hell?” I muttered.
I carved around the rectangular edges of the plastic, removing the entrails that incased it. It looked like an old computer game cartridge: something from the eighties.
As I soon as I released it from the corpse, a wall of sound roared against my ear drums. Suddenly my head spun at a thousand miles an hour; all I could feel was an unrelenting aching, and burning sensation that encapsulated my entire body. I writhed in pain, contorting like I was covered in a thousand festering wounds and forced into a bath of hydrochloric acid.
When the pain subsided and I opened my eyes, I was no longer in the forest. I was back in the cabin, sitting at Cola’s old wooden desk, staring into the screen of a Commodore 64. I panicked, looking around the room for a trace of Cola. He was nowhere to be found.
The screen lit up, and scrolled through the start-up code. A pixilated face suddenly filled the screen and began to speak, “I am you now, and you are me. I am everything, you are nothing. Death is forever, your death is inevitable. You cannot flee; you cannot escape, welcome to hell Flynn.”