My friend died last year at around this time. He was my best friend in the whole wide world, and we would always do everything together. We would go biking, skateboarding, play video games and swim together. We would hang out often because my parents were busy and never had time for me. Then he got run over by his own dad in a car “accident.” I hated his dad. His dad would always send me home early and always smelled remotely similar to the rubbing alcohol in my bathroom at my house. Sometimes, my friend would show up to school with bruises on his face, but when I asked him about them, he would change the subject and plaster a grin on his face for long enough until I told him something that made him laugh, replacing his fake grin with something slightly more real.
He is dead now. I miss him a lot. He was my only friend and was so much fun to hang out with, but now I can’t. I’m alone now. I am not okay with this. This isn’t fair. Why can’t life be fair? Why does it have to be so mean? Why is he dead? Why did he have to die? Why did he have to leave? Why did he have to leave me? I have these questions in my head since he left.
I had a dream the night he died. It was of me and him. We were playing in a sandbox. We were building a fortress to protect ourselves from invaders. He working on the pillars while I was working on the walls. The castle fell down constantly. After the third time, the castle fell down, my friend got an idea while I was regathering the sand to rebuild the castle again. When I bent over to collect the sand, he knocked me over into the pile I gathered. I was going to tell him that was kind of mean of him, but when I looked up, he was laughing. I liked seeing him laugh, so I laughed along with him. He didn’t laugh often, so it was always nice when he laughed. I know he secretly liked to laugh, but it’s hard to laugh when you’re in pain.
My friend then spoke: “You always did make me laugh.”
This made me confused when he said “always did.” I asked him: “What do you mean ‘always did?’”
He then responded: “Don’t you know? I’m dead.”
“What do you mean you’re dead? You’re standing right here.” I said.
He then responded: “This is a dream and a dream is basically the world, where one would live out their fantasy, or whatever was in their thoughts, for a single night and escape the regular pain that is daytime through sleep. Death is when you sleep forever.”
As he said this, the world around us turned gray, like someone dipped their entire hand in the gray paint, and spread it everywhere on the sheet. My friend changed too. His skin turned pale and yellowish, and black rings grew around his eyes. His clothes also changed. Instead of the regular t-shirt and pants he wears, he was wearing a gray onesie with a hood on it. The sandbox we were playing in disappeared as well and was replaced by just gray sand. It was like I was in a gray desert, except it was cold as a winter night.
“Who are you?” I said.
“Can’t you see? It’s me,” he said.
I was in disbelief. “No, you can’t be my friend! He’s not dead! I saw him earlier today. He was hit by a car but the hospital should fix him up. He’s going to be better! My parents told me so!” I shouted. I didn’t want to believe him. I didn’t want my friend to be dead.
I was still on the ground, holding back tears, trying to figure out how this could be. A memory flashed through my mind this morning of the accident, like camera photos of different parts of the event. I thought my friend was going to be alright. I thought he was going to get better. I thought…
“Remember that time you nearly drowned. We were on a beach last summer. I was the one who pulled you out of the water,” he said, interrupting my thoughts. “What about the time we went biking together and I fell off and split my lip. You had enough Band-Aids to help me. We went through these things together.”
Those were vivid memories to me. I could have easily dreamed my friend bringing them up. I needed something I knew only he could say. It must have shown too because it was then when he said: “You know that safe I had in my bedroom; the combination for it was 5-4-2-6.
I had totally forgotten that combination. He told me it last year and it never came up ever again. We were playing in his bedroom while his dad was out when he showed me the safe. He opened it up and in it was a necklace from his dead mother. He told me it was the most precious thing to him, and that he hid it from his dad to prevent him from selling it. He said I was the only one who knew the combination other than himself.
I stood in disbelief, overcome with this. It was him, and he was dead. He is dead. He was no longer alive. He was dead and would never come back to me. He left me. Here. Alone. By myself. It made me angry.
“Why are you here?” I said as small little trees started sprouting up around us. The ground covered itself in dead leaves. The little trees became big trees and had grown into an entire forest. The forest leaves were red. I heard a rustle in the bush beside me. From the bush came two kids smaller than I was. It took me a while to realize that they were of my friend and I. It was a memory of me and my friend, playing out as if I was watching from a distance. I knew how this would go, but they did not seem to see or hear me, so I just watched as this day played.
“This seems to be the perfect place to play hide and seek.” the younger version of my friend said.
“Are you sure we will find our way back?” the younger me responded, looking nervous. I was always nervous during the first few days of knowing him.
The younger friend of mine looked to younger me and said with a silly smile on his face: “Don’t worry, I come here a lot when I argue with my dad. I know this place like the back of my hand.” I appeared to loosen up slightly
“Now, who hides first,” he said. He then pulled out a coin and held it up to younger me. “Are you going to call it?”
I appeared to think about what I would call, then heard myself settle on heads. My friend flipped the coin and it landed on heads. What a surprise. My friend awed in disappointment and proceeded to turn his back and count to ten. The younger me ran the other way as fast as he could in order to find a good hiding spot. It was in the bushes, far from my friend.
“No,” I tried to say to myself. “You’ll get lost, and they won’t find you for a while.”
The younger me didn’t listen. He didn’t even hear me. He just kept running. I just kept running. All just for a difficult to find hiding spot. I did get what I wanted, though.
The younger me hid in some red bushes. Time seemed to flow slower after that, waiting for my friend. More time passed. He felt alone. I felt alone. It seemed like my friend abandoned me, just like he’s doing to me now.
“Where are you?” the younger me shouted. He sounded so scared. I sounded so scared. It seemed like he would never get me, and I would be lost forever.
That’s what I’ll be. Lost. Forever. Because he’s dead. And will never find me. He abandoned me. It made me angry. I’m sure he knew how much he meant to me, and I’m sure he knew how devastated I be, and it made me angry.
“Why did you leave‽” I said myself. “Why did you have to go‽ Why did you have to go here‽ Why did you have to leave me‽” I shouted at the top of my lungs. I was trying desperately to fight back the tears that had been welling up.
A light shined on me. I didn’t realize how dark it turned until now. It was my friend. The “real” one. The one wearing the gray pajama onesie. He gave me a smile and said: “Hey, we all have a time to go, and I did find you eventually. Both then and now.”
A flashlight shined on the younger me, the holder of the flashlight revealing to be my friend, along with my mom. He did come back for me and is coming back for me now.
The red forest faded, along with the two younger versions of us. The forest was replaced with a field. This field had soft green grass, though you may not have been able to tell due to the darkness outside.
I looked to my friend. He had a frown on his face and looked as if he was trying to hold back something. Most likely tears. We sat down on the grass and looked up. There was a midnight sky above us. It looked as if you could see all the stars in it. I then turned to my friend and said:
“Is there a way to bring you back? Or maybe there’s a way to come with you.” I said. “Please, I don’t feel I can live without you.”
“You can, and you will.” my friend responded. “Even if I wanted to go back, I can’t now that I’m this far, and you have to stay there. The world needs you…”
“But I need you,” I interrupted. “You were my only friend in the whole, wide world. How will I go on without you?”
“You could try to plaster a smile on face until one day it turns genuine?” He responded. “I personally was never able to see it through, but I’m sure it works.”
I could not hold myself together anymore. I broke down, then and there, and cried out loud. My friend grabbed my head and put it on his shoulder. I proceeded to grab the sleeve of his onesie and continued to cry.
“It’s okay. I will still be around, just not physically,” he said, “but you have to go on. You must live. Don’t let yourself be so sad that it drags you down. You need to continue your own path. If for no one else, do it for me. Let me live the life I never had through you. You’ve been great to me and you were the best friend I’ve ever had, but it’s time for me to go on. I can’t do much there anymore, but you can. So accept that this is how it going to be and that there is no way to change. Not by me, or you.”
I dried up my tears on my friend’s sleeve and nod my head. “Yes, I will live, for you, for us.”
The sun began to rise on the horizon and the dream began to falter. I looked to my friend and uttered my last word to him:
“Goodbye, and remember this night,” he responded.
I woke up to the sound of my parent arguing over something. My face was wet. I must have been crying in my sleep. My parents were saying something about how they should tell me the “bad news.” I knew what was coming to me. So I got out of bed, washed my face, went downstairs, and prepared to cry all over again.
This was my first short story.