When I was seven years old, I kept a Greymon alive for thirty days. This was a big deal for both myself and the rest of the schoolyard, because back then, successful Digimon-rearing came down to sheer unadulterated blind luck (as opposed to actual motherly care and/or strategy). The sparsely-populated desert wasteland that was the 1998 dial-up internet landscape wasn’t exactly throwing piles of “How to Raise Digimon” guides at me, unlike today’s Google-indexed super-library which practically inundates us all with such things. A demonstration: search for “hummus dip recipes” and I guarantee Google will return on its hands and knees with no less than seven-hundred billion links on how to evolve a Metalgreymon on the original V-Pet device. But the point: I had somehow looked after my regular old Greymon so well that it had lived to the ripe old age of seven-hundred and twenty hours, and I was damn proud of myself (and my excellent luck). I had even stopped battling, so afraid of the trauma it might cause my pixelated dinosaur mutant. And look, again with the point about the lack of easily-accessible information back then: I had no idea whether or not thirty days was a great amount of time, relatively speaking - for all I knew, thirty days could have painted me as an utter skin-waste undeserving of even the rank of ‘novice’ among the hardcore Digimon rearers of the time. Among my friends, however, I was one of the Digidestined - if Myotismon had tried to take over the world back then, they’d have turned to me for help.
It died during class on the thirtieth day. I excused myself, quickly and quietly, and practically ran to the toilets. And there, I cried. A lot.
Here was a thing that I cared about (if only via the virtue of it having existed for longer than two weeks) suddenly torn away from me. I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the whole deal because nothing like that had ever happened to me before - and so in the end, I simply dealt with it in a solemn, solitary manner much in the same way that we might deal with the death of a relative, a friend, or the writing quality over the course of Lost’s final season. In the end, the loss would cut so deep that new Digimon felt somehow different. Even new Greymons looked odd to me, as if certain pixels were misaligned, or simply not there at all. In my melancholy, my interest in the Digivice would eventually wane - it was no longer a toy but a symbol of my own failures; a small plastic tombstone for a lost friend. As far as lessons of death and loss go, that one was top notch, beating out both the “your goldfish is dead” and the “your grandfather is dead” conversations I would eventually have with my parents during subsequent parts of my childhood.
But as with all childhood interests, this one was (Digi)destined to return to my life via the indescribably powerful, universal force of nostalgia: I mean, of course an activity that I enjoyed almost two decades would be just as enjoyable to the jaded and under-exercised loser that I am today, right? I happened across a slightly newer version of the V-pet/Digivice/Thing about a year ago, which would go on to live in the bottom of my cupboard up until a while back, when I ripped apart the mint-condition-ensuring packaging and turned it on. As for the ‘Why now?’ question, we’re talking the recent uninhibited access to the new Digimon Adventure tri. series and Cyber Sleuth game - ingested simultaneously, these two products ignited levels of nostalgia I previously thought unreachable. I needed Digimon, and lots of it.
As far as this particular device goes, there’s no egg, no baby, no infant stages or whatever to take up the first couple of days of digi-rearing. What I didn’t realise at the time is that this was the first obvious sign of behind-the-scenes misplay of both the heretical and supernatural varieties. The dinosaur-thing appears immediately, fully-formed, as soon as the device is switched on - as if it’s always been there, waiting for a human presence to latch onto. (Brooding, if you will.) The idea that this being could be the demonic spawn of one or more unknowable beings from an unimaginable hellscape of conflagrations, torture, and/or eternal death was completely ignored by myself as I took care of the thing, feeding it regularly and disposing of its poop just as regularly. I carried on for a solid week, blissfully unaware that my actions were sustaining the life force of what may actually be a descendant of an Old God, answering its cries and always remembering to switch off its light before bedtime (or, in the words of my younger, more innocent self, from before the coming of the O-Glorious One from Under Whose Darkness We Cower and Beg for Mercy: “beddy-boos”).
But what fickle beings we are when even the best spate of intense nostalgia spurred on by a long-faded interest in one particular category of cartoon monsters lasts for only a single week.
Some time later, after having forgotten about the Digimon under my care, my brain finally elected to pick up on the incessant beeping coming from somewhere inside my desk drawer. It seemed strange that the Digimon was still alive at that point - in my experience it usually took only a couple of days for a ‘mon to die of starvation, insomnia, and/or poo-drowning. Anyway, this is what I saw on the screen:
I hit the poo-wipe button, fully expecting to find a rotting carcass. Instead, the monster was alive and well, though looking a bit worse for wear. I went to feed it, only to find that the food/vitamin menu had changed into something completely different: there was what looked like a speech bubble, and underneath it a skull. I hit the speech bubble, and the monster celebrated. As it turns out, the choice is life or death - the skull choice would of course kill my charge. Short of resetting the device, that’s the only way to kill whatever one might call this nightmare-being.
All I wanted was to leave this thing in a drawer. To forget about it until such times as the Digi-nostalgia resurfaced. But no longer is that an option, for what I have here is clearly an unholy being put on this Earth for the sole purpose of inflicting emotional pain. See, I can’t kill it. That choice is far too hard to make. But neither can I ignore the thing until such a point wherein its deathless suffering is constant. Because every time I think of choosing the ‘kill’ option, or burying the device even deeper in my desk drawer, all I can think of is Greymon. What would he think of me, after all I had done for him? To cause harm to this mutated afterbirth whose coming will spell the end for all humankind would be an insult to the memory of my greatest Digi-success. Greymon taught me the value of life, whether it be good, bad, or so beyond the infantile system of human morality that will be shattered during the first seven-thousand years of this horror’s reign.
And so now I’m stuck, having scheduled my life around the needs of this immortal nightmare baby. When it poops, I clean up after it. When it grows hungry, I feed it. At eight-pm sharp, I switch out its light. My only victories (if one can even call them victories) come on good days, when I feel I can handle its high-pitched wails, and I hold myself back from servicing its eternal needs - if only for a little while. It cries, I wait, it cries, I wait, it cries, and I give in. But some part of me is glad that I was able to cause it that small modicum of suffering.
I hate this monster, and I’m sure it hates me (just as it hates all things). We are trapped in interlocking cycles of abject misery, and only I have the power to end it all.
But Greymon says no.
I’m Scott. Like my things? Here is a Twitter.