Be More Chill: The Bonus Level

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Taking place after the events of Be more Chill, Jeremy and Michael attempt to dispose of the remaining SQUIPs, though old habits die hard, and the SQUIP may be here to stay...

Featuring cameos and references to Dear Evan Hansen, Heathers, and "Goodbye Song" by George Salazar, Be More Chill: The Bonus Level is the must-read fanfiction for stans of Be More Chill.

Submitted: February 23, 2020

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Submitted: February 23, 2020

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“You sure that’s the last of them?” Michael asked.

At least two dozen green prescription bottles lay on the table. It had been a while since the “Squip-cident”, as it was now being called, but it had taken a while to collect the remaining Squips. Even now, Michael wasn’t sure if they had found all of them.

“Yeah, I think we did it,” Jeremy breathed.

“Awesome!” Michael said, holding a hand up for a hive-five.

“But how do we dispose of them?” Jeremy asked, ignoring Michael’s hand.

“Isn’t there a trash bin under the sink in your kitchen?”

“We can’t just throw them away,” Jeremy said. “We have to destroy them. Like the One Ring, you know?”

“Yeah, but where are we going to find a Mount Doom to toss them in?” Michael asked. “We can’t exactly just fly over to it, because we wouldn’t be able to afford the airplane tickets. And it probably doesn’t even exist anyway.”

“Maybe we should just burn them the regular way.”

“Great idea!” Michael exclaimed, pulling the bottles in a plastic bag. “I’ll make a campfire, and then we’ll get rid of these bad boys for good.”

Jeremy’s phone buzzed. He turned it on and looked at it. “Hey, Michael, I gotta go help my dad with something. Hold onto the pills. We can burn them later.”

“Yeah, sure,” Michael said. “Is Mr. Heere having trouble remembering how pants work, again?”

Jeremy laughed. “Something like that. See you later. I have to go find my jacket.”

“The blue one?”

“It’s gray.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s blue.”

“It was probably just the lighting.” Jeremy left the room, jumping as he pulled on his socks.

Michael looked back at the bag of Squips. They’d definitely gotten them all. And even if they hadn’t, who would be dumb enough to take another one after what happened?

 

 

“Oh, totally,” Brooke agreed, scrolling through Jeremy’s social media while talking to Chloe on the phone.

“It’s pretty rough,” Chloe’s voice said. “I have, like, a dozen colleges spamming me with emails, but I’ve already decided on going to University of Alabama, you know?”

“Have they been emailing you?”

“Not yet,” Chloe responded. “But I have a pretty good GPA, and I’m super pretty and unique and diverse and everything, you know?”

“Of course,” Brooke laughed.

“That sounded super pretentious, I know,” Chloe admitted. “But you’re my friend, so you get it.”

“Have you seen Jeremy recently?” Brooke asked. “He hasn’t updated in a while, I think.”

“Oh my god, Brooke.” Are you still going on about him?”

“I don’t know. I mean, I know he’s going on dates with Christine now, but we’re still, like, friends.”

“Look, Brooke,” Chloe said, “I know plenty of single guys. Like Jared Kleinman—he would be insanely cool for you! But anyways, it doesn’t make sense for you to find a boyfriend and then leave him forever as you jet off to college. Where are you looking to go, anyway?”

“Maybe Ohio State University.”

“Are you kidding me? Ohio is crazy!”

“How do you know?”

“Everybody knows!” Chloe said. “They’re insane in Ohio. Didn’t you see in the news that time—that thing about that kid blowing up that high school? I think it was Westward High or something…”

“That’s just one high school,” Brooke said. “I’m sure not everyone in Ohio walks around in trench coats, killing people and stuff.”

“Well, do whatever you want, Brooke,” Chloe said.

“No, I believe you,” Brooke said quickly. “Ohio is probably insane. But there’s plenty of other schools.”

“Good choice. Talk to you later.”

“Wait!”

“Hm?”

“I was thinking,” Brooke said, “maybe we should all get together. Like formally—outside of school. Before school ends and we all get wrapped up in colleges and stuff.”

“Okay,” Chloe said. “I’m interested. This isn’t some excuse for you to hook up with Jeremy, is it?”

“No. I’ll invite Jeremy’s friend too. And Christine, I guess.”

“Okay. If you get around to planning it, just send me the date then.”

“Yeah. Bye.” Brooke hung up. Jeremy’s last post was a month ago, before the Squip-cident. She was worried about him. Chloe may not believe it, but she still cared about Jeremy. As a friend. She hoped he was okay. He was probably fine. He had Michael. Michael always seemed to make him feel better.

Hm, Brooke thought. Is Jeremy actually gay? She shrugged.

 

“Hey! Rich!” Michael called, ducking his way through the crowded school halls to reach the only kid in school who thought it was cool (or even mildly acceptable) to wear tank tops and camo pants. Michael tapped Rich’s shoulder. “Hey.”

Rich spun around. “Are you talking to me, dork?”

“Umm… Actually, it’s geek, but…”

Rich broke into a goody grin. “I’m just kidding, Mikey. What’s up?”

“Oh. This is going to sound a little weird, but do you know how to make a fire? Because they sell these kits at Walmart, but the only ones I can find include the wood, which I don’t really need because I can get my own wood, but since the kit comes with wood, it’s kind of pricey, so—”

“Relax,” Rich said. “I got you. I know how to make a campfire. I just need a shoelace, two sticks, at least five rocks, maybe a handful of palm fronds.”

“How about a lighter?”

“Oh, that might help.”

“You know how to make a fire without a lighter?” Michael asked.

“Yeah. One of my old friends, Kurt Kelly, his dad was a camper guy. Real back-woods redneck type. Anyway, he taught me how to set fires.”

“Ohhhkay.”

“I know that sounds really weird coming from me.”

“No, it’s cool. Can you help me after school today?”

“Help you what? Set this dump ablaze?”

“No!” Michael exclaimed. “Why would I—nevermind. I mean no, I just have to burn some things at my house. It’s the, uh, Squip pills.”

“Oh. Why not just throw them away?”

“It’s kinda like the One Ring, you know?”

“What’s that?”

“It… doesn’t matter. Jeremy just thinks it will be better if we burn them. That way the garbage men don’t eat them or whatever.”

Suddenly the bell rang, signaling the start of the next period. Michael realized that he was alone with Rich in the hallway.

“Shit,” Rich said. “That’ll be me fifth tardy. Anyway, I’ll catch you later tonight, Mikey.”

“Yeah.” It would be Michael’s seventh tardy.

 

 

Michael heard Jeremy drop his tray down next to his and sit down.

“Hey, buddy,” Jeremy said.

“Heyugh,” Michael responded, a gas-station negimaki roll in his mouth.

“So I was just invited to a party,” Jeremy said. “It’s actually more like a get-together, with Brooke, Chloe, Christine—the whole squad.”

“Cool,” Michael said.

“I was wondering if you wanted to come.”

“Oh. You know how I am at parties,” Michael said. “It’s kind of awkward. I usually end up crying in a bathroom or something.”

“This one will be cool, I promise. I’ll have your back this time. We’ll play it like a two-player game, okay?”

Michael took a long sip from his slushie.

“C’mon, Michael,” Jeremy said. “This could be the last time we all can be together before school ends and we start colleges and stuff.”

“Oh,” Michael said. “Are you going to college right after school? I thought we were waiting a year.”

“I know,” Jeremy said. “But my parents think it would be good for me to start after school. That way I can catch my brother in his senior year. For whatever reason, that’s supposed to be special for me.”

“Where’s he?”

“Some fancy place in New York. I’m actually pretty surprised I got accepted. I guess he must be doing extra special stuff up there for them to think any of his greatness overflowed into me. How he got there, I have no clue.” Jeremy leaned closer to Michael. “I think he might have used a Squip to boost his SAT score.”

“Oh,” Michael nodded, continuing eating. “You know, I kind of wish I could go with you to college. Remember how we used to talk about ‘ruling in college’ and all that.”

“C’mon, Michael.”

“I’m sorry, I just thought we did things together. I mean, there’s no way I’m going to score enough on my SAT to go with you to that college in New York. I don’t know… I guess maybe you can fly down for the holidays, right?”

The pair sat silent for a while, until Jeremy spoke up again.

“Hey, I was thinking you could come over to my place after school. I can’t believe I missed this before, but apparently there’s a two-player mode in Megaman 7. I have the cheat code to unlock it right here…” Jeremy took out his phone and started looking for something.

“We’re supposed to be burning the Squips tonight,” Michael said.

“Oh yeah,” Jeremy said, setting his phone down on the table.

“How could you forget?”

“I’m just moving on, I guess. But you’re right. We still have to clean up the last of the Squips before we can completely forget about the Squip-cident and all that.”

“Rich is coming over to help us start a campfire, because what do we know, just two gamers—”

“Hey, Jeremy!” a voice called form across the cafeteria. “Come sit with us for s second!”

Jeremy looked at Michael. “It’s Brooke. I gotta go. You understand, right?”

“Yeah. Sure.” Michael watched Jeremy leave. He felt tears coming to his eyes, but ehe didn’t know why. Jeremy was just going over to another table for a few minutes, but somehow this just felt like symbolism for something much bigger. When Jeremy would fly away to New York for good, and make new friends, and play newer games, and completely forget about his kooky friend in the orange sweatshirt, drinking old mountain dew by himself… playing one-payer mode.

Unless Michael could go with him. Michael’s vision tunneled and all he could see was Jeremy’s phone, forgotten on the table. Michael glanced over his shoulder, and then quickly picked up Jeremy’s phone and unlocked it by putting in 2002, the year Apocalypse of the Damned was released. Michael opened up Jeremy’s contacts and scrolled through, searching for his brother’s number. Aaron Nickels…Alana Beck…Anthony Heere! Michael pulled out his phone and copied the number into his contacts, and then he turned off Jeremy’s phone and put it back.

 

 

Rich held the lighter to the pile of sticks he had set up. It eventually caught, and a warm light started to emanate from it. “I’ve got a blaze going, Mikey.”

“Oh, good,” Michael said glumly.

“You depressed, Mikey?” Rich asked, offering a nervous laugh. “Do I need to check your arm, or—”

“It’s just that Jeremy should be here,” Michael said.

“Heh. Jeremy Heere. Should be here. That’s irony, right?”

“I just feel like he’s moving on,” Michael said suddenly. “Like he’s leaving me behind and making new friends and going new places.”

“That’s no true,” Rich said. “I was just invited to some group-up with the old crew. You were invited too, right?”

“Yeah,” Michael mumbled.

“So then you’ll be there too,” Rich said cheerily.

“Theoretically,” Michael said under his breath.

“Lighten up, Mikey,” Rich said. “We’re burning the last of our problems tonight. Where are those little gray bebops anyway?”

“They’re inside,” Michael said. “I’ll go get them.”

Michael left, and Rich waited. The fire kept dwindling, so he blew on it some more. After what felt like forever, Michael came back out with a plastic bag.

“Is that all of them?” Rich asked.

Michael nodded, handing the bag to Rich.

“You sure you don’t want to do the honors?” Rich offered.

“Go ahead,” Michael said, gesturing to the fire.

Rich tossed the bag onto the flames.

 

 

Anthony Heere glanced at his phone as it buzzed. It was an unfamiliar number.

“Who is it?” Darrel asked, setting his Solo cup down. “That Goodman girl?”

“It’s not Natalie’s number,” Anthony mumbled. “Probably just some jerk trying to sell me plastic surgery or something dumb like that.” Anthony declined the call.

“Naw, come on, dude,” Darrel said drunkenly. “Call the number back, just for shits and giggles.”

Anthony grinned. “Whatever, dude.” He called the number back. “You talk to him,” he said, handing the phone to Darrel.

Darrel held it to his ear. “Yo… Aye whaa—do I know you?” He looked up at Anthony. “Some punk who knows your brother.”

“Shit, I should probably take this.” Anthony took the phone.

“Hey, is this someone else?” the voice on the other end asked.

“It’s Anthony. Who is this?”

“My name is Michael. I’m Jeremy’s best friend… I think.”

“You think?”

“Yes. I am.”

“I don’t care. What do you want?”

“Are you at college?”

“…Yeah, sure. What do you want?”

“Okay,” the voice called Michael said. “I heard some rumor and I wanted to know if it was true.”

“Whatever it is, I didn’t do it,” Anthony said.

“You didn’t take a Squip to score a better SAT score?”

Anthony’s face suddenly felt hot. “What a sec—who is this again?”

“I’m your brother’s sidekick, and I have bag of Squips in my hand. I need to know if they can, like, help me be smarter. For the SAT. Specifically.”

“You have multiple Squips and you’re asking me if you should take them?” Anthony asked in disbelief.

“Why, should I not?” Michael asked in a worried voice. “I mean, a bunch of terrible stuff happened when my classmates took them, but something even more terrible is going to happen if I don’t get a good SAT score.”

“No, you should…” An idea crossed Anthony’s mind that made him grin. “You should definitely take them. Maybe even take two. They definitely helped me, and they’re definitely help you.”

“They’ll help me score on the SAT?”

“Take two of those pills, and your cause won’t be lost anymore.”

“Okay, thanks, bye!”

“Wait!” Anthony said. “What are you going to do with the rest of the Squips?”

“I was going to burn them,” Michael answered.

“Okay,” Anthony said. “Well, I guess that’s fine.”

“And Anthony,” Michael said. “Please don’t tell Jeremy about this call.”

“Yeah,” Anthony said slowly, his voice catching in his throat for a second. “We don’t really talk that much anymore. At all, really…”

“Oh… I’m sorry.”

Anthony hung up.

“Deep convo, eh, Anty?” Darrel asked.

“Something like that. The kid had freaking Squips.”

“Really? Don’t you still have one of those things jammed in your head?”

“Yeah. I do. He’s still here.”

You’re damn right, Anthony, Keanu Reeves’ voice said from inside Anthony’s head. And as it seems, I’m only going to be getting stronger.

 

 

 

Michael dropped one of the Squips into the bottle of Mountain Dew. Rich had already left, and he had no idea that Michael had spared two more Squips. Michael had decided to hold off on the second Squip until he saw what one of them could do. The truth was, he was pretty worried. He had witnessed firsthand what the Squips could do, but once Michael took the SAT again, he could easily just drink some Mountain Dew Red… Right?

Michael closed his eyes and took a swig from the bottle. For a few moments, it appeared as if nothing happened, and Michael breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly, his body arched backward as he spasmed onto the floor. He bit down on his tongue and closed his eyes, trying to ride through the experience he had already heard of from Jeremy. Finally, everything stopped.

Michael Mell… Welcome to your Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor, Bob Marley’s voice said. Your Squip.

“Whoa,” Michael breathed. “How did you know I like Bob Marley?”

I’m in your head.

“Yeah, but how did you know?”

I’m in your head, Michael.

“Oh. Well,” Michael said, “do you mind not using his voice? It’s just a little weird to be hearing dead people in your head.”

Would you prefer something else?

“Do you have any Josh Groban?”

Okay, the Squip said, in Josh Groban’s voice.

“Great!’ Michael exclaimed. “So now I can get SAT help! And by ‘help’ I mean answers, of course.”

You took a genuine Japanese Squip for SAT help? The Squip asked in disbelief.

“Yeah,” Michael said. “Why, is that weird? I need to get a good score so I can get into the same college as Jeremy.”

Jeremy…

“Jeremy Heere. He’s my best friend.”

Have you ever considered, Michael, the Squip said, his tone darkening, that a simple SAT score won’t get you into college? It’s too late to change all the terrible work you’ve done all year. And by ‘terrible work’, I mean no work.

“No, it has to work!” Michael protested. “Jeremy’s brother took a Squip to get into the same college.”

You’re not exactly Jeremy’s brother, are you?

“I’m better than his brother.”

Are you? Look, Michael… It might be too late for you to get into that college, but you can stop Jeremy from leaving.

“How?” Michael asked.

You saved a Squip, I see…

“No… I can’t,” Michael said, realization dawning on him. “Not again.”

If you can get him to take the other Squip, I can sync with him. And then you two can be best friends. Forever.

“He’ll hate me.”

He’ll love you. But if you would rather give him up and let him go to college, you’ll right back to where you started before you met him. A loner. Getting stoned in your own basement.

“Before Jeremy… how do you know about that?”

I have access to your memory, Michael. Now enough wasting time. You need to make a choice. You… or you and Jeremy.

“I… don’t know,” Michael said. “I need to think.”

I’ve laid out the facts, Michael. It’s time to make up your mind.

 

 

 

“Just the lamp,” Chloe told the cashier at Pottery Barn.

“Okay,” he said quietly, scanning the lamp.

Chloe’s phone rang, and she answered it. “Hey, Jeremy.”

“Hi, Chloe,” Jeremy said. “I was wondering if you were open this Saturday. I was talking with Brooke, and we’re thinking of scheduling the get-together for that date.”

“I might be able to find time,” Chloe said, checking her fingernails. “Who else is coming?”

“Brooke, Christine, Rich, I think…”

“What about your stoner friend?”

“I don’t know,” Jeremy admitted. “I will ask him again. He didn’t seem super enthusiastic last time.”

“Do you want a bag for this?” the cashier asked.

Chloe rolled her eyes. “It’s a lamp, Evan,” she said, reading his nametag.

“I know, but sometimes we put them in bags, because people just like to carry them and not everyone wants it all in a box with paper and everything, and—”

“Whoa,” Chloe said. “Slow down, I’ll take it in a box. And somebody to carry it to my car.”

 

 

Before Jeremy knew it, it was Saturday. School was over, and the graduation ceremony was in a week. To Jeremy’s surprise, Michael wanted to join everyone at the pizza place, where they were scheduled to meet. In fact, Michael even seemed excited about it.

When Jeremy walked in, he saw that Michael was already waiting for everyone at a table.

“Jeremy, my buddy!” Michael greeted him.

“Hey.” Jeremy sat down at the table. “Isn’t it a little early?”

“It’s not anymore,” Michael said, “since you’re here. I got the drinks, and I think bread rolls are coming.”

“Thanks,” Jeremy said, reaching for a glass.

“Oh, actually,” Michael stopped him, “that one is yours. I ordered you Mountain Dew.”

“Mountain Dew?” Jeremy asked, confused. “Isn’t that a little weird, after the Squip-cident and everything.”

“So I figured going back to drinking Mountain Dew would a good sign that we’re moving on,” Michael said. “I don’t know, it was just a thought…”

“No, it’s cool,” Jeremy said, taking the Mountain Dew. He took a sip. Michael watched him closely. “Uhh… It’s good.”

“Hey, guys,” Brooke said from behind him.

“Ahhhh!” Jeremy suddenly screamed, spazzing out of his chair.

“It’s just me, Jeremy,” Brooke said from above him. “Brooke.”

“Nooooaaargh!”

You always were a screamer, Jeremy, the Squip said. But I can’t say it isn’t nice to be back.

“Eeeeuuuuuyugh!” Jeremy cried, gritting his teeth. “Micheeeeeuugh!”

“Are you okay Jeremy?” Michael’s voice asked as Jeremy’s vision faded.

The Squip became the only audible voice in the room. Michael can’t help you, Jeremy. He did this to you. Now let’s just sync you too up, shall we?

 

 

 

Brooke watched in horror was Jeremy twitched on the floor.

“I’m sorry, Jeremy,” Michael said, looking nauseous. “I’m so sorry.”

Brooke looked up at Michael. “Did he take a Squip?”

Michael nodded, in tears. “It’s all my fault. It was an accident…”

“What happened?” Brooke asked desperately.

“Hey, why is Jeremy on the floor?” Rich asked form behind Brooke.

“Jeremy has been Squipped,” Brooke said.

“But didn’t Michael destroy all of them?” Rich asked. “I know he did. I threw them into the fire myself.”

Michael was on his knees beside Jeremy. “I spared two.”

“Two?” Rich asked. “So Jeremy has two?”

Michael shook his head and burst into tears. A crowd started to form around the group.

“Do you have one too?” Brooke asked Michael.

Jeremy suddenly sat bolt upright. “Phew. That was weird.”

“Jeremy?” Michael said. “Are you okay?”

“Absolutely,” Jeremy said. “Better than ever.”

“It’s the Squip,” Brooke said. “Michael, don’t you have any Mountain Dew Red?”

Jeremy looked around himself quickly. “We have to leave, Michael.”

Michael’s face looked conflicted.

“Michael?” Brooke said softly. “We need to get Jeremy some Mountain Dew Red.”

Then Michael and Jeremy moved in unison, running past Brooke and toward the doors of the restaurant.

“Well that’s not good,” Rich said.

 

 

Michael and Jeremy ran around the building and watched Rich and Brooke run out the doors and to the parking lot.

You’re welcome, Michael. This is what you wanted.

“We’re free from them” Jeremy said. “You know, maybe it is just better to spend the day with you. I saw those guys too much at school, anyway.”

“This can’t be Jeremy,” Michael told himself quietly.

But it is. Thanks to you, this can be Jeremy now and forever.

“To tell you the truth,” Jeremy said. “I don’t even really like Christine. I just felt like I needed to fit in. But now I think we should just be losers… together.”

“You’d never say that,” Michael said. “Jeremy would never want to be a loser, or a geek, or whatever!”

“I want to be whatever you are,” Jeremy said. “I’ve always admired you.”

“C’mon, Jeremy,” Michael said, almost pleading. “You’re acting like you’re in a bad fanfic right now. This doesn’t feel genuine.”

Does it have to? The Squip asked. It’s happening.

“It’s the truth,” Jeremy insisted. “I’ve always admired how shameless you were, so proud of being a loser that you made it seem cool. I just didn’t see it that way before. But from being with everyone else and doing what they did, now I see that they’re not as cool as I thought. You were the cool one that whole time.” Then Jeremy leaned forward and kissed Michael.

Michael tried to move, but he couldn’t.

You’re welcome.

“Let’s head home,” Jeremy said.

 

 

Michael’s mind raced as he drove Jeremy. Something felt very wrong, but at the same time, Michael felt like it was he wanted. Was there such thing as too ideal?

Michael pulled up in his driveway and got out of the car. He began walked up to the front door with Jeremy.

“You wanna get stoned in your basement?” Jeremy asked.

Michael’s hand hesitated on the doorknob. This was what he wanted, and if what he wanted could truly never be genuine, then what was wrong with this? Michael unlocked the door and went inside. He had taken barely ten steps in, when he was knocked down and grappled.

“So… sorry, Mikey,” Rich managed, trying to hold him to the ground.

“Wait!” Michael yelled. “Stop!” He could see Brooke trying to grab Jeremy out of the corner of his eye. “Please!”

“We need to turn it off!” Rich said, struggling to pop open a Mountain Dew Red while holding Michael down. “And last I checked, these sodas work better than gasoline.”

Michael felt the cold, fizzy liquid being poured on his face, and he began spitting it out. Then he saw Jeremy above him, and Rich went skidding off of him.

“Agh!” Rich cried in pain, clutching his side. “Michael! Help!”

Jeremy pinned Rich to the ground and began choking him. “Tie Brooke up, Michael! Then we can leave.”

Michael stood still, the can of Mountain Dew Red still leaking on the floor.

Now’s your chance, Michael.

“Michael, I need your help!” Jeremy said. “Don’t you want this? Me! I won’t go to college in New York or ditch you for these losers—we can be together, just the two of us!”

“No,” Michael said softly, picking up the Mountain Dew Red. “No, I didn’t want this.” He took a swig.

No! the Josh Groban’s voice yelled. What have you done, Michaeelluyugh—

Michael pulled Jeremy off Rich and grabbed him in a bear hug. “Rich! We need another Mountain Dew Red!”

Rich gasped for air. “Yeayugh.” He scrambled out of the room.

“Michael,” Jeremy said, his voice getting higher, more vulnerable. “Please. Think about it. You may have screwed up your Squip, but it’s not too late for us!”

Michael didn’t listen, and Jeremy stopped trying to escape him.

“Think about it,” Jeremy repeated. “You kill my Squip, and then what? You think Jeremy’s going to thank you?!”

Michael’s heart pounded.

“You’ve already ruined this relationship,” Jeremy continued. “The only way to salvage it is through me—through Squips. If you take me out, we’re done. Jeremy will hate you, and you will be alone… again.”

Michael felt hot tears running down his cheeks. It could be true. Jeremy could resent him forever for trying to put a Squip back in his head. But Michael had already made up his mind. “I may have already screwed up,” he said. “But now I have to fix it, even if I have to face the consequences.” Michael’s voice caught in his throat as Rich approached. “And Jeremy may hate me forever, but I have to help him… because I’ll always be his friend.” Michael pulled Jeremy’s head back as Rich poured the can on his face.

 

 

As it turned out, the get-together never really happened. Actually, it might have happened, but Michael wasn’t there. Jeremy hadn’t spoken to him in weeks. Maybe he had already left early for college.

Michael collapsed on the couch in the basement, the scent of weed filling his nostrils. Almost surprisingly, no tears came to Michael’s eyes. His mouth was numb from sobbing, but his eyes were now dry. It was as if his heart just didn’t know what to say.

Michael’s head lolled to the side, and something caught his eye from under a disc case of Apocalypse of the Damned. Michael pulled out the thin piece of paper. It was a photo of Jeremy and him. They were sitting together on beanbags, game controllers in their hands. Jeremy was giving a cheesy smile while Michael’s head was tilting back, laughing hysterically. He might have been high, but then again, he always felt high around Jeremy.

“Thank you,” Michael said, then he laughed a little at himself for talking to the photo as if Jeremy could hear him. “I wish you would come. But I know you can’t. So stay… wherever you are… I just wish I could be with you, but the universe won’t let me.” Michael gently ran a finger over Jeremy’s face. “You’ll get along just fine without me. Don’t be scared. You’ll be fine. And I’ll be right here. So please be good, and don’t you… forget me.”

Michael let the photo fall to the ground and his rolled his back over on the couch. The song came softly in his head, and he slowly let it out his lips, quiet at first, but building. “And when you look to the night skies, don’t think of goodbyes. Think how I’m right here, ever. Ever. Ever, ever, ever, ever…”

 

 

Mr. Heere watched his son, tears in his eyes.. “You ready, son?” he asked Jeremy.

Jeremy closed the trunk. “Thanks for helping me pack, Dad. Are you sure you don’t want to come with me to the airport?”

Mr. Heere looked at his son. “I think it would be best if we said goodbye here. I just wish your mother could see you now.”

“Okay,” Jeremy said, opening the driver’s door. “I’ll text you when I get to the airport. Goodbye.”

“That’s it,” Mr. Heere laughed. “You’re not going to sing me some kind of ‘goodbye song’?”

“I don’t think so,” Jeremy said. “Just bye.”

“Well, bye then. I know you’ll be great. I believe in you.”

Jeremy closed the door, waved at him one more time, and then drove out of the driveway.

“Hang on a minute,” Mr. Heere said to himself, “the airport is the other way.”

 

 

Jeremy was driving to Michael’s house. He didn’t know why exactly. He hadn’t talked to Michael since he got the second Squip out, but the truth was that Jeremy felt guilty. He felt guilty because he could see Michael’s side of the story, and in a way, he could feel the pain Michael was in.

That was the reason Jeremy was going to Michael’s house. Not that he knew what to say, but he knew he had to say something.

Jeremy pulled his car up in Michael’s drive way and got out. He approached Michael’s door and stopped, remembering what happened last time he passed through the doors. It was strange, because the Squip was definitely controlling him, and Jeremy could feel that, but part of him felt like the Squip was just helping him—pushing him to do things he never felt comfortable doing before… but not necessarily things Jeremy didn’t want to do.

Jeremy’s finger pressed the doorbell. He suddenly wanted to yell out to Michael, to tell him that he was sorry for everything, and he didn’t want to go to college, and… but what if Michael didn’t answer the door. A terrible feeling began building in Jeremy as the seconds ticked by, and the door didn’t open.

“Michael!” Jeremy called, in case the doorbell wasn’t working. “Michael? Buddy?”

Oh my god!

“MICHAEL!” Jeremy yelled, trying the doorknob. It was locked, and he threw his body against the door. It gave way and Jeremy stumbled into Michael’s house.

All the lights were off. His parents must have been out. Jeremy found a light-switch and turned it on. A brightness filled the kitchen. Jeremy saw that there was a stack of old Nintendo games on the counter, and on top of that stack was a picture.

Jeremy picked up the photo, and tears began to fill in his eyes. His throat started to hurt in that scratchy way, when you know you’re about to cry and you aren’t going to stop anytime soon.

On the card was words written in the desperate scrawlings of a Sharpie. The handwriting was Michael’s. It read:

Dear Jeremy. I’m so sorry. I’d have stayed if I could, but I couldn’t. And that’s why I’m sorry. Goodbye. Ouch. I know it hurts to say. Just please be good. And although I’ll be out of sight, dear, know I’ll be right here. Ever and ever. So please leave with that in mind. And when you look to the night skies, don’t think of goodbyes. I had to go, but you can’t come with me. So go.

On the bottom of the photo, in tiny letters was an additional message: please stay out of the basement. I’m going to leave a note there for my parents. Just take this one.

“Michael!” Jeremy screamed again, panic overtaking his voice. He stumbled through the familiar path to the stairway to the basement.

There was a light-switch by the basement door, and Jeremy flipped it. Old, dim lights lit up leading down the stairwell.

“Oh, Michael, please, Jeremy pleaded. He jumped the last several steps and turned to look into the room. “Michael, no!”

Jeremy ran toward Michael and knocked him over. The gun fell out of his hands and went off on the floor, blowing a hole in the wall.

“Jeremy,” Michael said, sobbing.

“Michael,” Jeremy wrapped his friend in a hug. “I love you.”

Michael’s arms wrapped around Jeremy tightly. “I’m so sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry,” Jeremy said. “And I’ve missed you.”

There was no more talking after that. Jeremy didn’t need words to understand everything Michael was going through, and he sat with him on the dirty carpet, crying together… for themselves, for what happened. For each other.


© Copyright 2020 logan weisberg. All rights reserved.

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