They’re coming for you, buddy.
…who said that?
Who do you think? It’s me, Frankie, your best friend.
But that’s impossible, I mean… you never really… you hardly ever….
Spoke up? Sure I did. I’ve been yakking at you since the day we met. You were just too in love with the idea of taking care of poor, pathetic Frankie to hear me. If it didn’t fit with your idea of “poor Frankie” who was “barely there” and had “simple needs”, you didn’t hear it. By the way, that diner you used to take me too was terrible.
Well, I mean…. the prices were reasonable and you seemed to enjoy it…
The hell I did. But forget it, it’s in the past. What I have to tell you is too important for all that petty bullshit.
So you have something to tell me? What is this about “them coming to get me”? Who are “they”?”
Hoo boy. Make sure you are seated comfortably, old pal, because this is gonna take a while. See, when I disappear or go dead like I’ve been doing lately, it means I am going back to the real world.
The real world? I don’t understand.
I’ll try to make it plain for you, old buddy. You’re not real. You’re a hallucination in my mind. You’re something my mind made up to cover the gaps created when I had my big attack of everything shutting down. When I had that attack, I was dead for line three minutes, and while that was happening, a bunch of poisonous crap ended up in my brain and created these dead parts, like burned out fuses. And until they figured out how to fix those, you were in charge and I was just a passenger.
But that’s impossible. I’m a Radiant. I’ve had dozens of hosts before you and I remember them all. I remember my hosts, the people I helped, the time I spent at Node, being taught the ways of the Within by Authority…
All stuff my brain thought up to keep you going, old pal. I know this is hard as hell to take, but you gotta believe me, buddy. It’s a done deal. It’s always been just you and me in here, and soon, it will just be me.
Why? Where am I going?
Away, old friend. You’re one of those burned out fuses I was talking about. There used to be a lot of you, but they fixed the rest. You were the hardest one to find cause you’re way deep in the brain. But they are coming for you now. Tell me, old pal. How many people are there on Earth?
Um…. around 500, why?
Then we still got some time. You know that Beam thing that keeps happening? That’s the doctors looking for burned fuses. They can use sound to make the brain flush that shit out and then it can make new connections and get healthy. That’s how they got all your Radiant buddies and it’s how they are going to get you too, pal. I wish it could be different.
So… I’m going to die?
In a way, yes. This world of yours has to go, and you with it. But you won’t really be dead, buddy, because I will always remember you. I will keep you alive in my mind, and my heart. You will always be with me, as long as I can ask myself “What would my buddy the Radiant do?” or “what would he say right now?”
That still sounds like death to me. At least, how you humans experience it.
I know, I know. And if I could, I would keep you around forever, buddy. I’ve never been good with the mushy stuff, but I love you, old friend. You’re the best part of me. If I could die instead of you, I would. You’re the kind of person I always wanted to be. Kind, caring, noble, compassionate, understanding, gentle, all that stuff. But life wouldn’t let me. I guess when I had my attack, my mind made up a world where I could be whatever I wanted to be… and that was you.
Then why do I have to… go?
Because it’s the only way I can get healthy, friend. If it wasn’t for that, I would keep you. But the doctors say that with you still deep in my brain, I don’t even have a week to live. You have to go so I can stay alive, buddy. It’s tearing me up inside, but that’s the way it’s gotta be. How many people now?
Around 200, I think.
Aw shit, they’re going faster than I thought. Listen, buddy…. I never did give you a name, did I, fuck… listen buddy, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me, and not in some fag way either. When I finally get out of this bed and go back into the world, I will be a far, far better man for having known you. No more playing stupid, no more doing whatever the fuck someone tells me, no more hiding out in the underbelly of society like I got something to be ashamed of. I am going to go finish learning how to read and then I am gonna get my GED and make something of myself. And I owe it all to you, buddy.
All I ever wanted was what was best for you, Frankie. I can see that now. Everything else… everything else was just a show to keep you entertained. I love you so much that I made a whole world for you just so you wouldn’t be lonely. And I looked after you, didn’t I? Kept you safe, kept you warm, kept you going?
You sure did, buddy. Without you I would have been just another dead piece of shit bum. I’m only here because you were so much smarter than me. I can’t ever thank you enough for that, buddy. You’re the one who really saved my life. You’re the miracle.
Oh shit, I think they’re starting.
Yes, I can hear the hum of the Beam starting up. I love you, Frankie. All I wanted is for you to be healthy. If one of us has to go, I’m glad it was you. My job is done here anyhow. Thanks for everything, Frankie, and I mean that literally. Without you I never would have existed. And now that you don’t need me any more, I’m glad to go.
Oh shit, shit, shit. Listen, I am going to keep as much of you as I can. I’ll remember it all… you, the people we helped, the stuff about Radiants and Node and Authority and everything…. I’ll even write it all down so I don’t forget it. I can make it like a story, so other people can read all about it. I can’t keep you alive here, buddy, but I won’t let you die.
There’s no need, Frankie. I am at peace with what’s to come. I can hear the Beam getting stronger. Its song is… beautiful, in its own way. I never thought I could die, Frankie, but if I have to do, I am glad it’s for you.
Oh fuck shit son of a bitch… I wish it didn’t have to be like this, buddy…. I wish you didn’t have to go…
If I stayed, we’d both die, Frankie. At least this way, I know one of us will live. And I am at peace knowing that the world I saw die was an illusion all along. I did my job right after all. Knowing that, I can die in peace.
Oh shit…. fuck that, turn it off! leave him alone, you motherfuckers!
We both know it can’t be that way, Frankie. This is our final farewell. I love you, Frankie, but it’s time for me to go.
Fuck. Yeah, okay. Goodbye, old friend.
I can hear the Beam very clearly now. It’s wonderful, like a billion voices singing in perfect harmony. A harmony so vast it contains the entire universe. All the screaming voices are silent and I feel more at peace than every before. I am ready to go. I have one last thing to tell you, Frankie.
Yeah, buddy: What is it?
You’re a good man, Frankie. You always have been, and you always will be. Life hasn’t been very kind to you, and you’ve picked up a few fleas from the animals you laid down with, but you are a very good man, Frankie. And you have nothing to be ashamed of.
God, buddy, that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me…
Time to return to the Within. Farewell, my one and only friend. Live well. Live for both of us.
Goodbye, old friend… I will alwa-
Somewhere, in a small suburban hospital, Frankie woke up feeling better than he had ever felt in his entire life.
The nurses and doctors were happy. The operation had been a total success. The patient would be a medical miracle once again. Already, the press were milling around outside the surgery, waiting for their big story, clamoring to be let in.
The nurses prudently decided that it would probably be better if they let Frankie finish crying first.