Rob arrived at Martin’s house as arranged. After a quick ‘hi’ to the rest of the family and a slight blush as Emily, Martin’s younger sister smiled at him, they went upstairs to play a new game on the PlayStation. Martin was so excited, the virtual reality version promising to take the experience to a whole new level. Rob didn’t get a chance to talk to him. Time just disappeared as they were absorbed into a whole new world, shooting their way out of trouble.
Wearing his VR goggles and the volume of gunfire ringing in his ears, Martin jumped out of his skin when a hand gripped his shoulder. He ripped off his goggles to see his Mum looking cross. Rob, realising the game had been interrupted, took off his goggles too.
“Do you guys realise it’s gone ten. I’ve had Rob’s Mum on the phone wondering where on earth he is.” Rob was out the door and halfway down the stairs before she’d finished the sentence.
The next day a group of mates were at a local cafe after school. Rob sat next to Martin, his best friend since birth, living on the same street. Exams were coming to an end, they both had their last the following day, and they would soon be going off to University at opposite ends of the country. Rob opened his mouth to speak just as Martin laughed out loud at a video playing on Facebook and turned to the mate on his other side to show him. Then a group of them got up to play table football, leaving Rob with his books. Knowing to not even try inviting him to play.
On the way into school the next morning Rob ran up to Martin. He noticed Martin had his earphones in and was obviously absorbed in listening to some music, probably the band he was going to see that night, so turned away. He wasn’t going, it just wasn’t his kind of music.
Martin once again found himself being jostled by his Mum, trying to wake him up after some obvious excesses the night before. This time she was visibly upset. “Martin, you need to get to the hospital quickly, Rob isn’t well.”
Rob’s Mum had begrudgingly let Martin have a few minutes with him in the intensive care unit. She was distraught and angry, the note she’d found implying that he’d tried to talk to Martin. He was wired up to various machines that were bleeping and hissing. His best friend was lying ashen looking, comatose. They had been told it was only a matter of time, it had been too long between taking the paracetamol and his Mum finding him, for treatment to be effective.
Martin sat, squeezing his friend’s hand, tears running down his face. He’d read the note. “I’m sorry mate, I didn’t know you wanted to talk, I thought you were getting better, making progress, you seemed happier, playing games, joining us at the cafe and stuff.”