I guess I’m supposed to start this by bragging about my obsession with a game or something. That’s how most of these start. I mean, I certainly liked Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Not as much as my brother, unfortunately, but more on that later.
…Actually, does it really have to be later? He’s kind of the main part of this and I’d rather like to get this off my chest. I mean, I could just immediately dump the fact that SSBB ruined my life, but that’s hardly a good story. Right? I guess I just don’t really know how I should do this. I'm not used to confessions.
I guess start with my family. My brother, Devon, and I were fraternal twins. So, we were born at the same time, but we don’t necessarily look alike and all that junk. My family isn’t really super rich; we make enough to scrape by, but we don’t have a lot of money for the stuff most of you guys have. That’s why we were kind of surprised when, for our 17th birthday last year, our parents got us a used Wii. It was probably like a hundred bucks max at GameStop, but that’s still more than we were used to for a birthday present, so there were no complaints from us. Our parents also got us a (used) game each, Twilight Princess and the aforementioned Smash Bros.
So, considering we’re brothers and had to share the system, we figured, the moment the Wii was plugged in and whatnot, we’d start with Smash Bros. The game started up normally with no problems or ghosts or anything, because this is a story that actually, well, happened. Because I’d rather not bore you with unnecessary nonsense, here’s the short story to our first playing: We played for a bunch of hours and had a bunch of fun and Devon quickly got used to Donkey Kong and found I was decent at Pikachu.
So, a quick thing I ought to mention is that Devon was always a bit less social than I am; though he had friends at school, he was usually more of a loner. I think my Psychology teacher would refer to him as “introverted”.
Anyway, we had school the day after (our birthday’s in February), and that went mostly normal, though Devon, whenever he saw me, told me he couldn’t wait ‘til we got home for more Smash Bros. At the time, I found no reason to see anything weird about it; we had a new toy and he was always way more into that kind of thing than me, you know? Anyway, because high school is kind of a joke, the moment we were home, we just jumped right in front of the couch and played more Brawl.
The more often we played, the more I realized that Devon is, well, way better at this game than me. He always destroyed me and found new ways to destroy me. That night, I had a dream about the game. Nothing too surprising, I suppose. In it, I sucked just about as much as I did in real life. Donkey Kong beat Pikachu around for the full 5 minutes, with little time for him to even try to fight back. Final score: Donkey Kong, 20; Pikachu 0.
You’re probably wondering why I’ve been complaining. Sounds like two normal brothers playing games, right? The problem is, this wasn’t some instantaneous thing; life was pretty normal for a while.
That weekend, we played Brawl as often as possible. I don’t remember sleeping, but I must have, since I remember my dream: Generic losing for a while until, at the very end, it got a little...dark. Devon’s DK grabbed my Pikachu by the head and crushed him into the ground, slamming down as hard as he could as Pikachu cried out in pain. A small crack was heard and DK kicked him away. Donkey Kong, 29; Pikachu, 0.
I didn't really think anything of the dream. Just a silly video game dream. Unfortunately, they didn't get any better. The next night, after another full day of Brawl (to this day, I have no clue why our parents never made us go outside), I eventually fell asleep.
This dream seemed to begin right where the last one left off. Pikachu looked horrible. He was covered in bruises and limped, only using one of his hind legs. His ears were sort of pointing down and he had two massive black eyes. Despite his condition, Devon’s Donkey Kong didn’t hold back: He picked up Pikachu and threw him against a wall, with all his might. He punched and kicked him against the wall. He then picked up a sword and started cutting Pikachu furiously. Just when it seemed like it would never end, he threw Pikachu on the ground, grabbed his tail and head with his two massive, brutish hands and stomped on Pikachu’s back, bending his spine. After several loud cracks, he grinned wickedly, kicked him hard onto his back and crushed his ribs with his fists. A thousand more cracks. Donkey Kong, 30; Pikachu, X.
I woke with a start. I decided to take a break from Brawl for a bit. Besides, Devon mentioned he was interested in the single player. That was my justification in my head, at least. In my defense, I wasn’t about to admit I was quitting because I was having nightmares about a video game.
After about two weeks of a break, I figured I could try another game of Brawl. I knew that I was going to lose, but that wasn’t much of a change. After getting my little work and crap done, I went over to the couch, which Devon had ran to the moment we got home from school.
“Hey, man, want to do some more multiplayer?”
More silence. I tapped his shoulder. He jumped and stared at me. “What? Whaddaya want?”
I smirked. “Someone’s getting lost in this. Feel like more multiplayer?”
Silence for a couple seconds. Finally, he grunted a yes.
Looking back, I’m not sure why I wasn’t worried about this. Though awkward, Devon was never this spacy or blunt. On top of that, his hair had been unkempt lately and his face was greasy; he had been jumpy all day and was shaking pretty constantly. During basically any of this time, I never remembered him ever sleeping; he was always playing when I headed to bed and he was always awake and in front of the TV by the time I woke up. Of course, this is all in retrospect. At the time, I just thought he needed a bath.
First game, the first thing he did was slam me into a corner and spam his ground-slap…thing. In my defense, I never paid a lot of attention to his strategies in the game, though I did notice he was a lot more violent and aggressive than usual. Again, didn’t say anything, because I’m an idiot in retrospect, but yeah. I remember a lot of grabs and smashes, basically anything to make sure I was to do nothing but see my Pikachu get hurt.
That night, I had another nightmare, this one only more gruesome. Pikachu was practically dead; he lay flat on his stomach, his ears broken off and his tail bent almost completely downward. His legs barely moved, his face was one big bruise. And then his back. His spine was effectively broken, partially revealed at points, and his ribs had completely burst through his skin in places. He could only barely move, and each time he tried, he let out a loud groan. Not the cute “Pikaaa!” usually heard in the game. Nothing about this was cute. It sounded like he was trying to scream, but was in too much pain to even muster that much. DK glared at what had become of Pikachu, arms crossed. He let out a growl, one that seemed to say, “Where the hell were you?” He walked up and attacked mercilessly. He stomped Pikachu’s head, back, legs, whatever he could. Anything to make him scream. When Pikachu’s screams started to quiet, he became more brutal. In the end, Pikachu lay sprawled on his stomach, bruised and bleeding all over, barely (if at all) breathing. His legs lay bent in ways they shouldn't be able to, he was bleeding out his chest and it appeared that his ears and two of his fingers had been torn off in the fray. The scoreboard in the dream read: Devon, 31; Pikachu, X. Before I woke up, DK growled again, baring his teeth and clenching one fist. He was saying I couldn't escape him. I can't run.
After that, I swore off the game for some more time. No matter how silly, I couldn't shake these dreams from my head. “Devon, 31”? Devon?
Fortunately (or not, as it turned out), not long after that was spring break. Our parents said we were going to visit our grandmother for the break, because we couldn’t afford a “real” vacation. Devon, to my surprise, pleaded to stay home. After what felt like days of arguing back and forth, they eventually gave up and said he could. I liked an excuse to get out of the house, so I decided to go on the trip. My parents left out food for him and told him to call if anything happened. Before we left, I joked to him to try to get some sleep. I kind of wish he’d listened.
We were gone the full week. When we got back, we were treated to a…surprise.
The house smelled horrible. The ground beef they’d left out was covered in maggots. Flies buzzed everywhere. The living room was only worse.
Bugs littered the ground, swarming any crumbs. Bags and cans were everywhere. The TV was blaringly loud, though serving as the only light in the room. There were flies all over this pile of ratty clothes and black grime in front of the couch. Then I realized said pile was my brother.
Devon clearly hadn’t moved from his spot the whole week, let alone slept or bathed. Seeing him from the back initially, his hair was practically a rat's nest. He smelled like death. He didn’t seem to notice the flies. He was focused intently on the screen.
“Devon! What the hell happened here?!”
No response. The only sounds were my parents scrambling to clean the kitchen and the buzzing of flies.
Still nothing. I grabbed his shoulder. It was soaked with sweat.
He jumped, punching me in the arm.
“Jesus, Devon, it’s just me!”
Then I got a better look at him. One of his eyes was covered by strands of his hair, most of it tangled up above him. The other eye was bloodshot. Dark circles underneath. His face was pale and covered in acne. He had tired lines all down his cheeks. His clothes were disgusting, covered in grime and sweat and flies. Though gross, this wasn't what unsettled me.
He was grinning.
He had this horrid grin covering a good half of his face. A wicked, almost skull-like grin. A fly landed on one of his yellowing teeth. Again, he didn't seem to notice.
He finally spoke.
“Sorry about that.”
Something about his voice was wrong. He sounded tired and that he was holding back laughter. But...there was another feeling to it.
Anger. Like my very existence was a bother to him.
“Devon, what happened here?”
Silence again. He was shaky. He kept looking back to his game every few seconds, as if it was interrupting his thinking. Or, more likely, like his thinking was interrupting the game.
Finally: “…I dunno.”
I sighed. “I think you do. Did you—“
“Wanna play some Brawl?”
He asked this…weirdly. It sounded sort of menacing. Again, he sounded angry. Bored of this conversation, annoyed with my interruption, and tired of having to talk.
“What? No, we have more important th—“
“Okay, whatever.” He immediately sat back down and unpaused the game.
At this point my parents saw what was going on.
For about ten minutes, my dad yelled at Devon. Said ten minute mark was when he realized Devon wasn’t listening. Dad hit the power button on the Wii.
I had never seen Devon that angry. I thought he was about to strangle our dad. But he didn't. He just sat there, glaring as he spoke, his fists clenched.
As this was going on, I quietly ejected the game, figuring that, between my nightmares and Devon’s obsession, there wouldn’t be a lot of play in it for a while.
After what seemed like hours, the lecture was over. Devon was grounded, no games, the works, and we did our best to clean the house. I figured everything would be normal. I hid the Brawl disc in the dresser in my room.
I had another nightmare that night. I dreamed I was at school, everything normal enough. Then Devon showed up. His hair completely covered his ghostly white face. He was shaky and was being swarmed by flies. Hunched over, he started walking, his fists hitting the ground with his legs, effectively walking on all fours. His hands were huge and made loud thud noises every time they hit the ground. The moment he saw me, he bellowed and tackled me. He screamed obscenities and started punching and shaking me. The background shifted. Final Destination, in Brawl. He kept punching and screaming. Attempts to fight back were met with bites and harder punches. He finally grabbed my neck and started choking me, hitting my chest with his knee as he did. It switched to the score screen. Instead of the normal lineup, we were still in the same position, Devon strangling me, my body limp and lifeless. The score was different. Devon’s side read “Devon, 32”. But my side didn’t have a number. It just said “Save yourself.”
I woke up in a cold sweat. I looked around uneasily and heard a sound. I wasn’t alone in my room.
Before I knew it, someone was on top of me. Their hand covered my mouth before I could muster a scream.
“Shut up!” a voice hissed. Devon’s voice.
I tried to yell for help. It only came out muffled. He punched me in my stomach.
“Just tell me where the damn game is. Okay?” he whispered angrily.
I could barely see anything. Just the dark mass of my brother, holding me down and forcing me silent.
I had no choice. I pointed to the dresser. He jumped off and quickly and silently ran to it.
To this day, I don't know why everything happened like it did. I don’t know why I did what I was about to do and I definitely don’t know why Devon did what he did.
As he searched my dresser, I slowly crept up on him. The moment he found it, I grabbed him and tried to wrestle it out of his hands.
He lashed out at me, punching and kicking, trying desperately to keep the disc. I hit back as best as I could. We fought for what felt like hours, though it couldn’t have been more than a minute or two.
Then, a disaster of sorts happened.
The disc snapped.
And with it, so did Devon.
Seeing his beloved game in pieces, he lost it. He roared and grabbed me, pushing me into walls and kicking my face and neck. Then, he stopped. He looked at the broken disc. That horrid grin of his returned.
I was in too much pain to get up. I could only scream. As loud as I could, I yelled. I yelled for him to stop and I yelled for help.
He dashed for a shard and immediately tackled me, the sharp edges inches from my throat. I used all my remaining strength to stop him.
As my parents slammed open the door, he wrapped one hand around my throat as he turned to see my door.
He yelled at them to stay away. They threw on the lights and ran toward him. Time slowed down. My eyes stung from the sudden light. Tears running down my face, I couldn't see anything. I only heard a scream.
My eyesight returned just in time for the worst of it.
Devon, the brother I grew up with, saw as a best friend and, up until very recently, would have trusted with my life, was cutting his own throat.
He stabbed his throat with the disc shard, deep as he could, and cut his way across. Blood seeped out rapidly and he quickly started to collapse. I could only hear screams as I passed out.
I don’t remember dreaming. I only remember waking up in the hospital, later that day. They told me my right arm and several of my ribs were broken. I didn’t ask them, they just told me. They told me everything they could, every single detail about my injury, how long it would be before it would heal, what they were doing to help it, what I could and couldn't do in the meantime, anything to avoid answering my only question. Anything to avoid telling me about Devon.
It's been at least a year since that whole incident. Police questioned us, I guess to make sure there wasn't any foul play or anything. They decided Devon was clearly just a suicidal maniac.
So, here I am. An only child. My twin, who I knew my whole life and trusted, reduced to little other than a deranged kid; my closest and greatest friend, little more than a memory that attacked and tried to kill me.
Not so surprisingly, I haven’t thought about replacing Brawl. Nor have I thought about getting the sequel. Or any new game for that matter.
I haven’t really thought about much. I’m too haunted by my dreams.
Devon, X; Me, 1.