Thoughts about being something else.
You’re choking on your own blood, your claws embedded in the ground in a death grip. Bodies surround you. Primal instinct just registers a deep exhaustion. You look up at the enemy, tall with blood-stained armor and a masked face. There’s movement, and your remaining eye drops its gaze to the sound – someone short maneuvers from behind the enemy.
It’s a small and smartly dressed bipedal canine, so vividly yellow and out of place, like a fluff of a dandelion that’s come to rest on the battlefield. The splatters of blood matting some strands of fur are only minor details in the face of something so sunny and bright. The marshmallow yellow is almost lurid in a place like this.
You don’t think you noticed the canine before, but the frenzy of battle has been a blur. Your instinct shifts – fight versus flight, carnivorous hunger making a dying gasp – easy prey, you think. (With so much of you broken, easy prey is the last option.)
You make a desperate lunge for the pup – but flinch back when it whips out a blaster. The last thing you see is the canine’s yellow fur softly lit by the glow of the weapon before your body caves in.
And then you respawn somewhere else again, and the whole thing repeats. You wonder if the canine is a new bug from a glitchy patch.
You were fresh off a tour in the brawler’s tournament ring when he first came to town. Your future pal. Doomguy.
At first, remembering the excitement of the arena helped you with boredom in the office. You were already counting the days until you could return to the tournament circuit, feel the tactile thrill of a hit landing, contemplate battle tactics and see your friends from that multidimensional world of martial competition.
Then as reports of the world beyond the island crackled over the radio, it helped more with stress.
And then he glitched into your world. You even thought he got lost on the way to the tournament circuit, another third-party participant like Cloud and Snake. But no, Doomguy didn’t receive an invitation other than his likeness inspiring a costume. (Officially, anyway. The mod circuit was another story.)
He was still kind enough to invite you to his world.
Thinking of the arena, you quickly but politely but eagerly accepted. If you couldn’t make it back to the arena yet, this was the next best thing.
And then it became its own thing. Your thing with him. Our thing.
In the arena, sometimes there were tag teams. But most of the time it was a 1v1 martial sport. And you love that, you do. You enjoy having nothing but yourself to compete with your friends.
But Doomguy’s the first to show you how fun co-op can be too. It’s always co-op in Doomguy’s world. Always you and him against the countless hordes. In the arena, you find joy in discovering what you can do alone. With Doomguy, you learn the comfort of having a partner by your side.
Rip and tear. Rip. And. Tear.
The armory in Doomguy’s world is less varied than the Smash tourneys, but more specialized in a way. Rows and rows of metallic grungy weapons that delightfully clash with your paws but feel gratifyingly solid.
And the hum and then the roar they make when they unleash bursts of energy that hit hard enough to make your fur flutter against the shock waves. They’re massive hulking living machines in your grasp that carry out one very simple but spectacular function:
Rip and tear.
Sometimes you toss all external weapons aside and just use your given ones, all fangs and . . . that’s about it. Your claws are regularly trimmed by a neighbor on the island (but maybe you’ll let them grow out).
Fangs are all you need. You can never use them in the arena. Not tournament legal.
But here Doomguy cheers you on, and the blood is sharp and sweet in your mouth, igniting instincts you hadn’t realized you still had.
There’s joy in learning something new about yourself that you like.
You get into the habit of leaving care packages for the demons to find once they respawn after you and Doomguy have torn through their ranks. Little boxes wrapped in white paper and tied with a red bow. Inside they’ll find a mix of peaches and oranges, all sorts of fruits from the island.
Your universe is an interconnected web of digital worlds, and you will take advantage of that. You will embrace the mercy it offers.
The afterparty back at your place is just as fun. You do find it nice to chill after such high-octane thrills. But for Doomguy? If something deep inside you finds itself needing some raucous aggression in a secure space with no lasting consequences, then he craves something soft and slow to flop back on.
You give him a net, and he immediately warms to catching butterflies and other insects. (Between him and the arena, you now have the confidence to use the net with spiked ornamentation, something you had previously bought but then felt too self-conscious to wield until now.)
There’s something about watching Doomguy animatedly talk to Flick about bugs that you find endearing. (Later you’ll commission a statue replica of a Monarch butterfly from Flick, already preparing a gift for Doomguy when the holidays come.)
It’s the same when he eagerly donates specimens to the museum (and you had pulled Blathers aside, stressing to the curator to drop his vocal misgivings about bugs because your friend really likes them). And then you both spend hours browsing the collections of insects, fish, fossils and art. You marvel at the exhibition design and get coffee at The Roost.
Doomguy grows to love getting clothes from the Able Sisters shop and then wearing them for fashion shows on the island. You adore taking selfies of your fur streaked with red, with him over your shoulder similarly stained.
You have a meme bookmarked in your web browser about a girl’s taste in music symbolized by a demonic-looking goat. You watch Aggretsuko. And little by little, you feel a bit more seen and a bit less alone. You contain multitudes and layers. You like tulips and throwing people off a floating arena. You like doing yoga with your neighbors and you like blasting demons away. You have K.K. Slider vinyls and old Linkin Park CDs on your shelf. You’re delighted when Doomguy emails you digital albums from his world.
Perhaps both of you are chasing things outside of the normal you were made for and grown accustomed to. But you start to think it’s a thing that ends up feeling natural and true – there is a push and pull, isn’t there? A balance, in a way.
There is definitely a balance between you and him, at least. You both make a good team.
You invite Doomguy to attend a neighbor’s graduation with you. And then birthdays, weddings. So many of these happen on the island these days.
When you do switch back to news on the office radio, you’re texting Doomguy afterward about another run through his world. (You need to rip and tear something apart.)
You both share lunch together with picnics on the beach, but also dinners at night, especially during meteor showers and after he’s first chatted with Celeste about constellations and mythology.
One night, you talk and you talk, and you wait for him to tell you everything will be okay. And immediately you feel guilt; again, you think: you’re too much—
He points out a shooting star above the island, and you think you know peace by his side. It’s enough.
You excitedly bounce around Doomguy and splash in some puddles of blood as you tell him about the indie band that emailed about doing a music video on them. You ask if he saw, you tell him that he was on it, how it was sent to you both (you’re too flattered and excited to reason that he obviously knows), and you ask him if he would like to—
Doomguy says of course, and your tail quickly wags.
Doomguy squeezes into your office after-hours to watch the music video premiere with you on a work computer. Somehow you simultaneously worry about his comfort and think he fits perfectly here. How could you feel such contradictory things at the same time?
But then you remember the answer when his armored hand fondly ruffles the fur on your head once the video’s over.
Different but needed, you and he complete each other. That’s all there is to it.
Because at the end of the day, you both make the perfect team.
* * *
Alyssa Wejebe is a writer and editor specializing in the wide world of arts and entertainment. She has worked in pop culture journalism and in the localization of Japanese light novels. You can find her on Twitter @alyssawejebe.