Dekinai left with the two men, without protest. He “enjoyed” a cup of black coffee and a bowl of unflavored oatmeal that one of these nurses gave him before he left. While they hated him and wanted him dead, they knew the island’s justice will do him in, so they followed protocol to the letter in terms of aftercare from the simulation.
Dana watched the unmarked black car drive off, several security cars following behind. Samara sighed.
“Well, that was a hell of a way to end a game, I guess. Sucks that they can’t salvage it.”
“Yeah, Dekinai pretty much ended up being a virus when he tried to enter Yetunde like that… Fucking weirdo.”
Dana turned around and looked at both of them.
“I hope Yetunde is going to be okay,” she said. The group was silent. They walked back to the pod room but stopped at the doorway. They watched as Yetunde was curled up on Shouta’s chest, sobbing quietly. She held his thin hand tightly, her lips moving quickly as she talked to him.
When the simulation had shut down, he had flatlined for 10 seconds. When his heart started beating again, he went back to as he was before. Yetunde snapped. She started cursing and throwing full carafes of coffee at the wall, screaming at the top of her lungs before she fell on the floor sobbing.
That was an hour ago.
Dana wasn’t sure if Yetunde was mourning from having this wound re-opened or that Shouta is still not at peace.
They had left.
Yetunde didn’t move for hours, staring at the wall as she rubbed her thumb over Shouta’s hand. It was warm even though it was so small. She remembered how big and strong his hands were. She remembered how he held a pencil as she scribbled complicated math down, how they held her own hands, how they felt wrapped around her ankles.
She listened to his slow and sleepy heartbeat. She looked up at his face.
She stared at him wide-eyed, her heart caught her throat, stopping the bile from coming up. He blinked and kept smiling. He blinked again, a tear rolling down his cheek. She reached over and held his face in her hands, crying all over again.
Dana and friends were sitting outside the room, coloring in books they had found down the hall. Ekundayo looked up, hearing Yetunde. Samara got up and looked inside. Yetunde looked over and smiled.
“H-He’s awake,” she said quietly, Samara straining to hear her.
Samara blinked and started jumping up and down.
“What?” Dana asked, standing up.
“SHOUTA’S AWAAAAAAAKE!” Samara screamed. Dana and Ekundayo screamed as well, running into the room with Samara. Shouta looked over at them all and grinned. Doctors and nurses started filling the room 10 minutes later. It was an hour before they rushed him out the room to go to a proper hospital.
“The road to his full potential for recovery will be long, frustrating and tiring,” one of the doctors said.
“If I can recovery–” Yetunde started.
“You weren’t brain dead for 2 minutes.”
Yetunde stopped talking. The doctor cleared their throat.
“Shouta should be ready for visitors in a week. Meanwhile, you should also go see your doctors tomorrow. I will be faxing them my findings on what happened here and will be checking up on you. I’m so sorry your simulation didn’t work out, but I assure you, our company would love to work with you again. I have never seen such beautiful work with such standard tech.”
“Shouta knows how to run a computer,” she said. The doctor nodded.
“My understanding is that he interned with us back when we were just a start-up?”
“Yes. Look, you’re not going to get any secrets on how the shit works from me, okay? Excuse me.” Yetunde rolled past the doctor in her chair.
With the project over, the facility shut down. 10 years of work was nothing but an empty building nestled on a big empty grass lot 20 miles outside of a city in the North. 6 months went by before Yetunde sent a message to Dana.
Dana, Ekundayo and Samara had moved into a house together in the South, within walking distance to a private beach on the Edge.
Everyone huddled over Dana’s computer.
It was a video message.
Shouta was sitting down with Yetunde talking to him behind the camera.
“Okay, it’s on… One… two… three!”
Shouta stood up on his own. Yetunde started screaming. Dana and Samara started screaming. Ekundayo started to cry as well as scream.
“Okay… Okay, now do the other thing…”
Shouta smiled and cleared his throat.
“Hello, Dana, Samara and Ekundayo.”
Everyone started yelling, the video shaking in joy.
It was another 3 months before Yetunde and Shouta stopped by. Yetunde had a cane and Shouta was rocking a walker. They were dressed in matching black and red dress wear. They had arrived for a dinner party.
That’s what Yetunde had imagined as the machine for Shouta’s heartbeat started to flatline. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. She got up from Shouta’s bed and sat in her wheelchair, watching as the doctors and nurses swarm Shouta’s bed, their voices sounding far away and muffled.
The slow motion and fogginess didn’t seem to let up until they rushed his body out the room. Ages seemed to go by when two doctors came to talk to her. She just stared between their heads as they talked.
She snapped out of it hours later when Dana pushed her into an elevator, the ding bringing her back to reality.
Samara glanced down at Yetunde, putting a cheeto into her mouth. Ekundayo was dabbing his eyes and nose with a tissue. Dana stared straight ahead.
“…So…” Yetunde started.
“He’s gone,” Samara finished.
Yetunde nodded, tears falling freely from her eyes.
Dana pushed Yetunde into her room.
“We’ll be right outside if you need us,” she whispered, closing the door.
Yetunde watched the sun go from yellow in blue to orange in purple. She sat with her thoughts and her tears, wringing her hands and balling her fists. It wasn’t until the next day when Dana walked in with breakfast that Yetunde finally snapped. She started to howl, throwing her tray of food on the floor. The rage and sadness she had felt once before came back. She snarled, picking up her mattress and flinging it off the box spring and frame. She screamed as she started smashing her electronics and her mirror.
Feeling strong and brave, she stormed out her room and down the hall. Dana and Samara took off after her. Yetunde sniffled and mumbled to herself as she walked, going up 2 flights of stairs weakly.
She passed Shouta’s room. She stopped and took a few steps back, looking at the door. She hesitated and took a deep breath, before pushing it open.
A large window faced the forest that the facility was hidden in. The sun peeked through the leaves as it made its way to position itself at the 11 o’ clock hour. Yetunde sniffled and smiled, laughing to herself.
“You always loved jasmine,” she whispered, looking around the room. Dust was everywhere, a layer of it taking over the room. She moved to his desk, wiping it off and turning on the computer. She smiled as the background picture was of her and him at a party years ago. She clicked around on the desktop, opening files and skimming them, opening pictures she didn’t have and emailing them to herself.
Dana and Samara knocked on the door.
Yetunde looked up and smiled sadly.
Dana slowly walked in and sat on the floor by the desk. Samara sat on the bed.
“Where is Ekundayo?” Yetunde asked, looking at them.
“He’s writing a prayer,” Samara said matter-of-factly. Yetunde nodded and went back to going through Shouta’s files. Aside from the clicking and clacking, it was quiet for a time. An hour went by before Samara left the room. Another 2 hours went by before Ekundayo entered the room. Dana had fallen asleep on the floor. He smiled and scooped her up into his arms and kissed Yetunde’s head before leaving the room.
Yetunde sat in the quiet. Her fingers rested on the keys on the keyboard as she stared at the screen. A file had caught her attention. It had her name in it. Her breathing started to pick up, her eyes watering again. She clicked it. The screen went black before Shouta’s face popped up. It was back from… before the simulation even got started. His face was fuller, his 5 o’clock shadow coming in right on time. His glasses rested on top of his head, something that annoyed Yetunde, but here it was a welcome sight. He smiled at her. Her lip started to quiver.
“Hi, Yetunde. If you’re seeing this… Well… I’m sorry that I left you. I… Promised didn’t I? I’m so sorry that I betrayed you. It wasn’t… Wasn’t supposed to end like this.”
Shouta looked down, Yetunde tilted her head to try to see his face out of habit. He looked up and laughed, tears rolling down his face. Yetunde stared in awe; she had never seen him cry, even with all the things going on with his father.
“You are… The most amazing person. I honestly still can’t believe you even said… Yes to hanging out with me all those years ago. You should… You should be out there dancing and laughing with friends, not here in this creepy old building with me. I don’t deserve you. You deserve someone so much better than some code monkey…”
Yetunde chuckled, sniffling.
“I’m sorry that I let you down by fucking dying in the fucking simulation. WHO DOES THAT?” Shouta laughed.
“Since you opened this… IF you opened this, just know that my lawyer knows this. And my updated will and all that shit will get mailed to YOU. You will be cared for. And… And if… When, rather. When you move on, your family will be cared for as well. Be soft, ‘Tunde. I… I love you so much. You have no idea. I can’t even say in words how much I love you. I love watching you doing whatever is you’re doing. Sleeping, walking, eating… The way you stand when you’re on the phone. How your hand goes up when you’re annoyed… Your fingers on my face… You’re so beautiful. I don’t think you understand. You move like silk in the wind. Your smile is so fucking infectious. I had the worst day of my life months ago and there you were with that smile. It was like seeing the sun come up over the horizon. And you smile like that ALL THE TIME and I just wish we would have gotten married instead of doing all this. I wish… I would have done things differently. This project… Had I known what I know now, I would have said no…”
“But this was your baby…” Yetunde whispered.
“I wasn’t really interested, felt like I couldn’t do it… But you pushed me to feel like I could and I… I didn’t want to let you down. But I did it! But… I don’t know if I want to go through with it. I’m honestly pretty terrified…”
There was a knock in the video.
“Shouta? You ready to go to dinner?”
“That’s me,” Yetunde said. “Oh, Shouta, why…”
“I’ll be there in a minute, babe! …Heh… I love you, Tunde. Never ever forget that.”
The facility took months to pack up and give the technology back to the company that Shouta had a contract for. During those months, Yetunde had to plan a funeral. Ekundayo helped.
The 4 walked to the spot where Shouta had proposed to Yetunde on the Edge. The cliffside overlooked the ocean from miles up, the sun going down, coloring the sky orange. Yetunde held a small urn full of Shouta’s ashes. She was dressed in a long red dress, a hood covering her head, shielding her crying eyes from the others. Samara wore a dark green pantsuit with a matching cape, a baggy cowl around her neck. Dana wore a bright yellow dress. Ekundayo wore all black, his face covered in white-painted symbols. He started to sing, Dana and Samara humming in unison behind him. Yetunde walked to the edge of the cliff and opened the urn. She took out some ashes and spread them in the wind, watching it blow off into the sun.
Ekundayo started to dance, Dana and Samara circling him like vultures.
Yetunde dug her hand back into the urn, spreading another handful of ashes to the wind.
Ekundayo shouted and sat on the ground, Dana and Samara following his lead. They watched Yetunde as she put hand after hand of ash into the wind. She stopped where there was one handful left. She closed the urn and clutched it to her chest, watching the sun duck down beneath the horizon.
After the funeral and the shutting down of the facility, Yetunde kept in contact with Dana and them through video messages since the three moved down South. Yetunde moved North, finding an apartment that was like her old one, but not really.
One rainy day, there was a knock on the door. Yetunde answered, greeting the delivery driver, taking a package and a manilla envelope and closing the door. She tossed the package on the couch, opening the envelope, pulling out a packet of papers. She read through them and started to sob. Shouta left her all his money that he had gotten from that contract. All $50m of it. She fell on the floor, trying to catch her breath. She looked at the ceiling, wondering where she could send it. What she could do with it. She looked over at the package, kicking it off the couch with her foot. She opened it, a small device inside. She stared at it, pulling out the note that was inside. The header had the stamp from the company contracted for.
We are deeply sorry for your loss. Here is everything we managed to recover. We hope it brings you peace and closure. Please insert this device into your computer.
Yetunde squinted at it before getting up, doing as it said. Her computer started to sound like it was about to take flight. She gasped before she fell back onto the floor in a slump.
When she opened her eyes, she was laying in the grass. She quickly sat up, looking around.
A figure that stood in front of her turned around. Yetunde stared wide-eyed.