WHAM!  I put my opponent through a table, viciously knocking him into twitching unconsciousness with a powerful throw.  He lay on the ground surrounded by splintered wood and blood from his gushing forehead.  I raised my fists in victory as the crowd chanted for me.  Dan gave me a high five as I passed back the controller and he took his turn on the video wrestling game.

            As we pummelled our opponents with chairs, delivered brutal slams and kicks, bludgeoned them into comas and showed no mercy, I discovered an inner mean streak.  I savoured the visceral thrill of combat, even in this simulated form.  I took out petty frustrations and long buried wrath on my digital enemies, unleashing my inner demons.

            Dan endlessly encouraged me in these endeavours.  We worked out at the gym, jogged up the hill, ate in the cafeteria, watched television and did our homework.  He was doing his best to stay out of trouble for Teri’s sake, and using me as a template for virtue.  But through it all he was quietly mocking others, pointing out flaws, making fun.  He might have slowly begun a process of becoming a better person, but I was swiftly becoming meaner.

            “Look at fatty,” he’d point at someone on a treadmill at the gym, “What a pathetic loser.  She needs to stop kidding herself.  Running for twenty minutes won’t fix the extra large pizza she’s eating for dinner.”

            Then at the cafeteria, Dan would nod my attention towards some skinny computer nerd.  “Bet he’s a virgin until he’s fifty, and I don’t think rubber dolls count.”

            I would laugh, and feel sick to my stomach, and laugh some more.  I felt bad, but somehow that felt good.  As a child, I had been the target of Dan’s taunts.  It was nice to be on his side for once.  Or, that’s what I told myself.  A small voice inside said that the child in me would hate what I’d become.

            I tried to shake off thoughts about what I was doing.  I felt like a sea of memory, drowning in the past.  My conscious thoughts bobbed like a cork, pushed into the depths by external forces, making me remember things better forgotten.  I tried to distract myself, stay on the surface of my mind where it was safer.  Where there was no sign of the shipwrecks of the past, or the sea monsters lurking amidst the flotsam.

            I’d gotten into the habit of decorating my room with my sketches.  I stood there after dinner one day, and looked around the room.  My drawings had taken on a more sinister edge, as comic book characters from my childhood gained spikes, claws and weapons.  I thought about it.  I wrote regularly, and realized that stories I was working on had become more violent, dealing with the shadow side of life.  Poetry dealt with anguish, misery, my fears from a long year of uncertainty.  I was more sarcastic, more reclusive than ever, and I knew it.  I enjoyed it.

            I could see it happening, like watching the sun go down and shadows lengthen at evening, shrouding the world as darkness falls.  And part of me celebrated the coming night.

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