Authors: LK Chapman
Tags: #loss, #marriage, #suicide, #short story, #meaning of life, #existential, #videogames, #prequel, #video game addiction, #networked
Copyright 2015 LK
Cover image by Ashley
Thank you for
downloading this ebook. You are welcome to share it with your
friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for
non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete
original form. If you enjoy this book, please return to your
favourite ebook retailer to discover other works by this author.
Thank you for your support.
The characters, events
and locations in Too Good for this World are fictitious and any
similarity to real people, events or locations is not intended by
To my husband, who
makes all of this possible.
They called it
the only suicide note that any of the players had left. Imogen held
it in her hands, clutched it to her chest, and then pressed her
lips against it, as she had done almost every day in the two years
since Jonny’s death. Because of its links to the worldwide
phenomenon that was Affrayed, the note had been shown on the news,
and people had tried to decipher it- the last ever communication
from her husband to the world he’d left behind. Many people put
forward possible explanations. Everyone had an opinion. But nobody
What could anybody hope to understand from a stupid
picture? That’s all it was, a stupid picture on narrow ruled
notepaper of stick people on top of skyscrapers. The people had
their arms stretched up to the sun which was beating down on them,
except instead of rays of light the sun beat down rays of weird
code- 0G11ATC00G- repeated over and over, the order changing, but
the letters and numbers always the same. Above the whole scene,
written dark and black across the page, was the statement “I’m not
Affrayed anymore”. The words had some obvious potential meanings,
but people had had a go at interpreting the “code” as well. The
letters A, G, C and T had been suggested to represent the four
bases in a strand of DNA- adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine-
that made up DNA sequences. This made no sense to her. Jonny hadn’t
been a doctor, or a biologist, or anything like that. As for the
zeros and ones, even she could see that they were binary sequences,
but that made no sense either. Jonny hadn’t been a computer
programmer, or a mathematician, or a physicist so she didn’t know
why he’d draw anything full of binary code. He wasn’t sciencey like
that. He had been a thinker, but he hadn’t thought about science.
He thought about people, and the world. That was what he loved. It
was that love which had killed him.
It was late.
She had just finished the stack of marking and sat back with a sigh
at the little round dining table by the window. Jonny was at the
computer, hunched over below his shelves of books- books about all
sorts of things; philosophy, sociology, religion, psychology. Over
the past couple of years he’d added a collection of books about how
to survive in the wilderness, or the accounts of people who had
done just that, and he had been reading these avidly- more avidly
with every passing day. Until recently.
There was no
response from him. The light from the computer screen flickered
across his lifeless face.
late,’ she said, ‘let’s go to bed.’
He didn’t even
look round. He was playing Affrayed. He played Affrayed every
evening now, and half the night more often than not. Imogen got up
and went over to him, feeling the beginnings of anger, but trying
not to let it show. ‘Jonny,’ she said again. He was still
completely absorbed, so for a moment Imogen watched the action
unfolding on the screen.
Try as she
might, Imogen couldn’t see the attraction of Affrayed. Apparently
it had originally been something else, some sort of elaborate
multiplayer game of hide and seek, but then it had changed- evolved
into a huge online game of survival. Imogen didn’t understand how a
game could change, but how a game could change was not important.
The fact that the game had changed her husband, that was what she
worried about. Because he had changed. As each day went by she
became further and further locked out of his life, and out of his
thoughts. She looked again at his face. His blue eyes were glassy,
his scruffy hair beginning to get the sheen of grease that it
always had by the end of the day. He looked like he was barely
alive. This was going to take some doing.
shouted, right next to his ear.
said, blinking like he’d just woken up, ‘what’s happening?’ He
looked around as though expecting to see a fire, and then his eyes
rested on her again.
happening,’ she told him quietly, ‘I just wanted to snap you out of
his forehead. She saw his eyes slip longingly back towards the
screen, but he forced them away again. ‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘I’m
sorry, Gennie. What time is it?’
‘Oh,’ he said.
He closed the game with obvious reluctance, and when he followed
her into the bedroom he still looked distracted.
to get undressed, hoping to attract his attention, but when her
body failed to draw so much as a glance from him she gave up and
pulled on a baggy old t-shirt. She thought Jonny might at least say
a few words to her, but he was just sitting silently at the end of
the bed, so she sat down by his side and nudged his knee with
alright?’ she asked him.
his silence as though she hadn’t spoken. Imogen looked at her hands
in her lap, then at Jonny’s hands, and was alarmed to see they were
said, touching his arm gently. ‘Jonny, what’s wrong?’
‘The game,’ he
Imogen took a
deep breath to calm herself. She was sick of hearing about it.
‘What about it?’ she asked, as patiently as she could.
‘When I was
playing it just then,’ he said slowly, ‘I… I swear it was
responding to me without me actually
understand,’ Imogen said. She began to feel frightened.
you came and interrupted me my hands were in my lap,’ he explained,
‘and I think they’d been there a long time. Didn’t you notice?’
said, ‘why, what… what are you saying?’
it,’ he said, ‘the keyboard was on the desk. My hands were in my
lap. But I was playing. I was still playing.’
like that one played on her mind now. She couldn’t remember where
his hands had been. She hadn’t been paying attention. She’d
probably just assumed they were on the desk because that’s where
they would normally be, and if they had been anywhere else it
simply hadn’t registered with her.
distracted from looking at Jonny’s last message to the world when
she heard her mum get home. She put the picture away carefully in
the drawer in her desk. Her mum disapproved of her looking at
Jonny’s suicide note. She said it was morbid and would do nothing
to help her move on. Reluctantly, Imogen decided she should go
downstairs. She didn’t feel like talking to her mum, but she found
people were more inclined to leave her to her own devices if she
made an effort now and then. If she shut herself away they started
to get worried; they started to think she might go the way Jonny
walked into the kitchen she found her mum making a cup of
awful-smelling fennel tea and Imogen wrinkled her nose in disgust.
Her mum loved her weird teas, her superfoods, her herbal remedies
and horoscopes and tarot cards and helpful anecdotes. Imogen had
the sense that to her mum nothing was so catastrophic as to be
permanent, not even death. She spoke a lot about the world having
its own wisdom and its own designs. Apparently Jonny killing
himself was part of some design for Imogen. Her mum said that
people weren’t sent any tests they didn’t have the strength to deal
with, and that one day the grief would make Imogen stronger. Imogen
had pointed out that Jonny had clearly been sent a test too big for
him to deal with, but her mum had simply said, ‘Jonny was too good
for this world,’ and that was apparently that.
Imogen’s mum said, ‘I was talking to a woman today who met her
second husband on one of those dating websites.’
rummaged in the cupboard for a jar of instant coffee and started to
make her own, more appetising beverage. ‘Is that right?’ she said,
careful not to show any emotion.
‘She said the
whole thing was a much better experience than she expected. Not
creepy or anything.’
down at the kitchen table. There was a stack of books in the
middle- one about herbs, one about mindfulness, one about eating
for better mental health, and one about the healing properties of
gemstones. Her mum had given her a gemstone last week. Amethyst.
While her mum
babbled on about dating sites, Imogen looked down at the gold
wedding band and sapphire engagement ring on her finger. Both were
second hand- Jonny wasn’t keen on buying new things. He’d said the
meaning was far more important than something new and shiny, and
that the fact these had been owned by somebody else meant that
their lives and their marriage were linked to the past, to the
larger world. She’d suggested that perhaps they’d been owned by
someone who had got divorced. ‘They weren’t,’ he’d told her, ‘I
asked the man in the shop. They were owned by a woman who was
married to her childhood sweetheart her whole life.’ Imogen had
never been sure how he could know this for certain, but Jonny never
told lies. Maybe the man in the shop had, though. That wouldn’t
have crossed Jonny’s mind. He thought everyone was as honest as he
‘I had a look
at a few myself,’ her mum continued, oblivious to Imogen’s
disinterest, ‘some of them don’t seem quite right for… for you… but
there are others that match you really carefully, you just fill in
‘I don’t want
to talk about this,’ Imogen said.
mum said, ‘listen to me. I know it’s hard, but all the signs are
that it’s time-’
her chair back and stood up. ‘Jonny wouldn’t want me to go on a
dating site,’ she shouted, ‘he wouldn’t want me to put up an advert
for myself and try to sell myself to people. He… he hated
For a moment
her mum was too astonished to speak. Imogen stood frozen to the
spot for a second longer, then, before her mum could open her mouth
again, she ran from the room.
Twenty one was
young to get married. That was what everyone said. They’d only just
finished university; Imogen was going to train to be an English
teacher, and Jonny was determined to get a job campaigning or
raising funds for a charity. He hadn’t decided which one- he
supported many different causes, and would be happy to work for any
of them, just so long as it was a charity. That was apparently the
only employer he would consider, since he refused to work in the
private sector or for the government. Strangely, while he looked
for his ideal job, he had no hesitation getting paid for waiting
tables in a restaurant. ‘Money isn’t really real,’ he said.
‘Sometimes you have to play the game, but if you don’t use it the
way they want you to, then you’re still following your own
before the wedding they went camping, even though there was still
lots of planning to be done and they could barely spare the time.
They sat outside their tent while the stars came out and Imogen
said, ‘do you think we’re too young to get married?’ She didn’t
look at Jonny and made a show of stretching out her legs and