After two attempts at saving this to a memory stick and my old laptop respectively, and them deleting it of their own accord five thousand and seven thousand words in respectively, I gave up and broke out the floppy disks. Yes, I still have those. And they work. They're slow, but they work, bitches. Try to corrupt one of those accidentally and if you manage it then I will have a breakdown. I had a tough time classing this one - it could be friendship, angst, humour... Why, FF, why oh why do you only let us pick two categories? Also it can be Crenny if you really want it to be.
Also, since the old laptop was on the way out anyway I hit it with a big hammer. Several times. I had a new one raring to go anyway so I lost nothing. And of course the laptop needed to be punished. So balance is restored to the universe. The reviews box is at the bottom, you know what to do. Incidentally I know on my profile I've issued the challenge of spotting the Les Misérables references in all my submissions. For this one, it isn't the glaring one near the end. I'm looking for the other one. That said, if you're keeping track at all you've got my utter disgust anyway.
Oh, by the way, Uki, scarylolita, Evangeline, Cookie, Matt, howtodisappearcompletely, if any of you guys are reading, I love you guys. I love everyone who's taken the time out to read my stuff, but you guys especially.
2:49PM on a Friday was hardly the sort of time anyone was paying attention in class. Even the teacher was fighting off sleep. Kenny took a look around to see the states of his classmates. Cartman had his Nintendo 3DS out and was playing something or other on it, Kyle was actually asleep, Stan and Wendy were busy talking about whatever it was they talked about… In fact, everyone except him was doing something that they were generally expected to not do in a history class.
Kenny couldn't blame them. It was coming up to the end of term anyway. The kind of time where the sun could very well go down between when Kenny got out of school and he got back to what he hesitantly called his house. Being in the middle of the mountains didn't help, either. All that did was reduce the hours when the sun could actually get to the town and not get blocked by a huge lump of rock poking out of the ground that nobody had asked for.
At 2:55, though, the teacher perked up a bit. "Shit, I nearly forgot…" she said. "Uh, we've got to dish out your end of term projects today." As one, the class emitted a loud "AWWWWWWWW!"
"Oh, shut up," she hissed. "You'll need to partner up for this one." Kenny instantly started looking around. Kyle and Stan had already fist bumped, Cartman was distracted and Butters wasn't around. That left one option, anyway. He tore a page out of his pad, scrunched it up into a ball and hurled it at the person one row in front and three seats to the left.
Craig turned around and visibly deflated a bit. But, knowing that Kenny's skills at annoying him out of his wits were the stuff of legend, he nodded. It was good timing too – at that precise moment, Cartman unwedged himself from between his chair and desk and waddled over to Kenny.
"Hey, Kenny, you want to buddy up?"
Kenny swivelled around to face Cartman. "Nah, I'm working with Craig." Kenny couldn't quite make out what Cartman said next – it was very loud, and he caught a few swear words in there, but for the most part it was incomprehensible. The teacher had noticed though.
"Eric, shut up! You're already in detention today, do you want to double it up?"
There was a pause. "God dammit…" Cartman muttered before returning to his seat, very much in a huff. Kenny found it immensely funny.
"Okay," the teacher continued, one eye on the clock. "To stop you all copying work of each other you're all going to be doing different topics on things you should either know already or be able to find on Google or something. There's going to be a lot of leeway too, so you can basically do whatever the hell you like. Now, I need one person from each group to come up and take a number out of this box." One glance at Craig told Kenny that it was him who was going up. He stood and picked out a number seven.
"You've all got numbers now, so here's what you're all going to be doing. Number one…" Kenny zoned out, not really caring what anyone else was doing. He briefly tuned back in to hear "Seven, crime and punishment, eight…" then stopped listening again, in order to think of what they could do. Several ideas passed through his head, checked a few boxes, didn't check a few others, then got discarded.
It was his sixth idea that he decided on. It was going to be a very interesting presentation if he could get Craig to go along with it, which he suspected he could – if there was anyone either emotionally dead or otherwise apathetic enough to go along with this one, it was him.
The bell rang. "It needs to take any presentable form. Film, slide show, poster, talks, anything like that. It has to last at least ten minutes and it has to be interesting. I'm done for the day, now off you all fuck."
Craig was closer to the door, but Kenny still caught up with him as he tried to slip away. "So!" he said, slapping Craig on the back much to his discomfort, "I've got an idea, can I talk to you about it?"
"Too bad!" Craig groaned – he should have seen that coming from the next galaxy over. "So we're doing crime and punishment so I'm thinking we do a thing about executions."
Craig utterly failed to see what Kenny was getting at. "So what makes it so awesome, Kenny?"
"I'll tell you when we get back to your place. Just need to pick up a few things from home first."
"You're not coming back to my-"
"Yes I am."
"There's a Red Racer marathon on tonight and I'm going to be watching it."
"So record it." Craig didn't bother arguing further – Kenny could always be a bit overbearing, mainly because he'd long realised that if he really wanted something off Craig he could just keep bugging him for it and Craig wouldn't care enough to argue back for longer than Kenny was willing to bug. So he'd stopped arguing back altogether. "I'll be round yours for five. Is it alright if I bring Karen along? She gets on well with Ruby somehow."
"Yeah, whatever." Craig pointedly turned towards his house at the school exit, which happened to be in the opposite direction to Kenny's. Kenny followed him, which seemed weird. "Your house is that way," Craig informed him.
"But the elementary school is this way," Kenny countered. "I need to pick Karen up tonight." Craig didn't respond – if he was going to have to spend an extended period of time in Kenny's company, he intended to not talk for as much of it as he could. Eventually they passed the elementary, where Karen joined Kenny in walking in the opposite direction and Ruby walked a few feet behind Craig, not interested at all in conversation.
Outside their house, Kenny turned to Karen. "Okay, Karen, mom and dad are probably out on the couch so we'll need to be quiet. Okay?" Karen nodded. "I need you to gather a few things and come right back here. We're staying at Craig's for a few days." Another nod. In truth, Karen was curious as to why the unannounced visit to Craig's was necessary, but she trusted Kenny.
They entered the house and silently padded around the couch to get to their rooms. Kenny didn't have to pick much up – a spare parka and that was about it. He waited outside Karen's room for her to be ready, and eventually she came out. "Alright, let's go."
The two of them arrived at Craig's place just before half past four, the walk across town being a long one. Kenny knocked on the door and, as soon as it was open, pushed past Craig and bounded up the stairs four at a time, finishing with a gravity defying leap that kicked off the opposite wall and landed right outside Craig's room, a manoeuvre Craig had last seen either done by the British guy who was supposed to be more ethnic than he was from Star Trek, or by Kenny when he was dressed in purple tights and had his briefs over the top, generally looking like a complete butthorn in Craig's not so humble opinion.
Karen shrugged in apology then walked in to rendezvous with Ruby, while Craig made his way upstairs in much less spectacular fashion. He walked into his room to see Kenny lounging around on the bed. "Off the bed." Kenny didn't listen. Craig didn't bother trying again, so he sat down in his chair. "Alright, what's your idea?"
Kenny rolled to face Craig. "I said executions, right?"
"Okay." Kenny leaned forward with what he hoped was an enigmatic expression on his face, something that was completely lost on Craig. "What if I were to tell you, hypothetically speaking, that I knew someone who for a small price could die over and over again and was willing to put himself through archaic execution methods for our project, so what would you say to that, eh grumpy?"
Craig didn't miss a beat in replying. "Well, firstly I would hypothetically ask you if you would like me to phone up Arkham Asylum and have them take you away or if you could find your own way there. And secondly, I would tell you that I'm not grumpy." His tone of voice sang out the complete opposite of that sentiment from atop the highest mountains. What Craig noticed, though, was that Kenny wince a bit at the asylum comment – he knew Kenny, and he didn't do stuff like that if he was lying.
"Look, what I'm offering is absolute gold. Bear with me here, Craig."
"Alright, what would this small price be?" Craig asked, somehow getting even more sceptical.
"Free room and board for me and my sister at your place until the project's in." Craig put a few things together from that sentence.
"That's why you brought Karen around, isn't it?"
"...kinda" Kenny admitted. Craig sighed.
"You know what this means? It means you, Kenny McCormick, are an absolute and total thundercunt." He paused for a moment to allow that particular insult to sink in a little. "So you're this guy?" Kenny nodded. "Well, I guess that changes things a bit."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, if you're lying I get to kill you and never have to put up with your bullshit again. If you're not, I get to kill you over and over again and that will give me immense satisfaction. So yeah, I'm in." Kenny stared for a second, not sure whether to be happy that Craig was going with it or disturbed at what he'd just said.
"O….kay….get your camera, we're going to town first."
Specifically, as Kenny had filled Craig in on the way there, they were going to stop in at Jimbo's place. Kenny wanted to do firing squads first, and for that they'd need to improvise a bit. Truth be told, Craig didn't believe Kenny about the whole not dying thing. But he didn't mind the prospect of being rid of the little gobshite, so he was willing to go along with it on the off chance that Kenny wasn't just bullshitting.
Kenny walked in first. Jimbo looked about to yell at them about being in a gun shop and not being eighteen, but he softened significantly when he recognised his honorary nephew. "Hey, Kenny, haven't seen you in years!" he greeted them in his usual uncomfortably loud voice.
"Uncle Jimbo," Kenny said, "I need a favour, you can help me out." Jimbo leaned forward, always eager to help out. "You know all the stuff you probably shouldn't have in the basement?"
Jimbo looked wearily at Craig, but softened when Kenny nodded, indicating his safety. Jimbo opened up a trapdoor in the floor and climbed down a ladder to his armoury, with Kenny and Craig in tow.
Kenny knew about Jimbo's gunrunning. He'd tried enough times to get him to stop on his night shifts as Mysterion, but over several months had decided that Jimbo was just a bit too dumb to get the message and had just given up. But even then, he was surprised by the extensiveness of the stash. If there was a gun in existence not there, it was either because it was new, antique or basically useless, and even then there was one of those stupid Liberator pistols there that was made of plastic and so fell apart or otherwise exploded the moment it was used to shoot anything more powerful than a small pea that had been bullied by its peers for its entire life.
"Anything particular you need?" Jimbo asked. Kenny turned to him.
"I need an M134 and about a minute's worth of ammunition, I'll have Craig bring the gun back when we're done."
Jimbo looked dubious - he didn't want to think about why Kenny wanted four thousand rounds, but he obliged them. He pulled out the appropriate minigun and a huge jerry can shaped metal box at about waist height on Kenny. "That's a minute's worth of ammo there, thread the belt through this-" He gave them a rectangular curved tube that looked like it fed one end into the ammo box and the other into the gun. "-then into the gun, that'll keep it from making too much of a mess. Don't worry about paying or anything. You want a mount for the gun?"
"That'll help, yeah."
Between them, Craig and Kenny lugged the minigun, ammo store and tripod up the hill Kenny had chosen to do their demonstration on. They set the gun up, then Craig stood behind it, lifted the flap up off the safety and turned the gun on. Kenny, meanwhile went off to start the filming.
He set the camera up so that the gun was on the far left and he'd be in the centre. Then he started recording.
"Hi, I'm Kenny McCormick and welcome to Jackass. So today, we're going to be simulating death by firing- OW!" Kenny fell face first into the snow as Craig's snowball hit the back of his head.
"That joke was fucking lame, Kenny," he said.
Kenny shook himself, and didn't dignify Craig's observation with a response. "We're simulating death by firing squad. I say simulating because I couldn't get my hands on an actual squad, but what I could get is one guy who hates me and a minigun." He gestured to Craig, who nodded at the camera once. "So, I'm going to stand in front of it and he's going to ruin my shit." He paused for a second, then decided to continue.
"I'll just give you an idea of what's about to happen, that is an M134 Minigun. I think this one saw service in Vietnam. It's .308 calibre, near enough, and fires at four thousand rounds per minute. It's not entirely accurate, which is why you'll use it for indiscriminate damage. You fire it at a car or something, that car's not getting used again. Fire it into a crowd, you're hoping half that crowd are going to drop. And you fire it at a thirteen year old at close range on a snowy day, he's going to be liquefied."
Kenny retreated, taking off his parka and throwing it to Craig. Craig stared for a second. "Those things aren't cheap," he elaborated. "I'm not going to ruin one that I don't have to, just leave it on your floor when you get back." Craig dropped it on his right and then took up position, setting the gun whirring.
"You ready?" Kenny asked as the whirr of the spinning gun became loud.
Craig stared back. "Are you?" Kenny raised one arm above his head, braced himself, then like he was commanding a platoon of invisible elven archers to open fire on the boy who was clearly more technologically advanced, dropped it. Craig opened fire.
It was kind of surreal, watching Kenny getting ripped apart at seventy rounds per second. It was quite a spectacle, too. The bullets left bright yellow streaks showing their path, and there was a dark red aura surrounding Kenny - the gun was pretty powerful. After five seconds, he fell over - Craig adjusted his aim to make sure he got as many shots as possible. After thirty seconds, Craig couldn't even see Kenny any more. After a minute, the gun started clacking and Craig let go of the thing.
He waded out of the reservoir of spent cases he'd built up around himself and examined the mess he'd made of Kenny. There wasn't much left - just a red smear peppered with bone fragments and the occasional tuft of blond hair. Craig shrugged, turned the camera off and got to dismantling the gun.
He singlehandedly dragged everything back to Jimbo's. "Hey," he said. "Where's Kenny gone?"
"Went straight home," Craig replied immediately.
"Eh, fair enough. You want to know a bit about this gun, son?"
"No." Jimbo didn't listen.
"I sat behind it it 'Nam. She does four thousand rounds a minute, .308 cal-"
Craig went home and turned his TV in his room - as killing Kenny hadn't taken too long at all, the evening was still fresh. It even looked like he'd be able to catch most of the Red Racer marathon before bed.
Craig woke up. It was Saturday, so he checked the time - it was half ten. He groaned, rolled over and pulled off his pyjamas, swapping them for his usual black jeans, blue coat and blue hat. On his way out he deliberately trod on Kenny, who groaned in pain in response. Craig smiled.
He went downstairs to get breakfast, followed a few minutes later by Kenny. Karen and Ruby were long since awake and playing games on Ruby's Wii, not noticing the boys coming downstairs at all.
Craig poured out two bowls of cereal and took the bigger one. When Kenny got there, not having bothered getting dressed further than his shirt and the briefs he'd slept in, Craig didn't acknowledge him at all.
There were a few minutes of silence before it was Craig who spoke up. "So we should probably start the project today."
Kenny had expected Craig to forget, but he was still a little crestfallen. "We started yesterday."
"No we didn't. We watched Red Racer." Kenny rolled his eyes.
"Look, get your camera out, check the memory card." Craig looked dubious. "There'll be a video that wasn't there yesterday. Watch it. That's what we did yesterday."
"Stop bullshitting, Kenny."
"I'm not." Craig looked at Kenny for a few seconds and saw that he had his serious face on.
"Alright. I'm not the one who's going to look like a complete idiot though." Kenny grinned at him through a mouthful of cereal.
They went back upstairs, Craig having decided to humour Kenny in order to humiliate him. He opened his camera and pulled the memory card out. Placing it in his computer, he did notice there was a file that he hadn't seen the day before. He didn't turn around, but he somehow guessed that Kenny was grinning.
He opened it up and started the video. The screen filled up with Kenny's face. "Hi, I'm Kenny McCormick and welcome to Jackass. So today," Craig saw himself picking up snow and patting it into a ball, standing behind a minigun for some reason. "We're going to be simulating death by firing- OW!" Despite not remembering filming this, he couldn't help being proud of the way Kenny went sprawling into the snow.
The video went on to show Craig fire the minigun at Kenny, yellow streaks hitting him and causing huge red sprays of blood behind him. Craig found it surprising that Kenny didn't go flying backwards, but if the bullets were going straight through then the physics seemed pretty much sound. A few memories started to surface - Craig did remember doing this after all.
Over the next minute, Craig watched himself liquefy Kenny. When the video ended, he leaned back then turned to Kenny, who was smiling in an annoyingly cocky way, like he'd just had a threesome with a supermodel and Craig's sister. For good measure, Craig punched him in the face.
"So you're not a ghost. What are you doing alive?"
Kenny shrugged. "Fuck if I know. But this has happened hundreds, probably thousands of times. Not always as deliberately as this."
A few other things came back to Craig. "So this is your idea? We kill you over and over again and you can give a firsthand account of what the methods feel like, what's the worst and stuff like that?"
"Yeah. You want me to type the accounts up or not? If I'm going to be speaking then I'm going to be better making it up on the fly."
"Well then, don't type it up. You can help me with the slide show instead." Craig opened up PowerPoint. "So, how's this working?"
Kenny had a quick think. "Embed the video into one slide, then I think we can do two slides on each method for the boring stuff. You know, what and why and where. And I can give a little talk on what it feels like."
Kenny thought about it. "Twelve different ways, that way I get the Sundays off." Craig nodded. There were a few seconds of silence. "I need the bathroom, I'll be right back." Kenny got up and left, then the moment Craig's door was closed he started jumping up and down, silently cheering and dancing his way along the corridor – he'd finally gotten someone to remember. And oh, it was such a good feeling.
It was a few minutes after Kenny got back that Craig started asking questions. "What's death like?"
"What, afterlife or what?" Craig nodded. "Well, it changes every time. Most of the time I end up in Hell. It's not actually too bad, I mean, Satan's a nice enough guy. He owes me a favour, actually." One of Craig's eyebrows started to inch upwards. "And I really get on with Damien, remember him? I play board games with him. Have to let him win, though, he's a really bad loser. Thing is, though, Hell doesn't get personalised for you, you just get dumped there and as long as you don't cross Satan your death is pretty much the same as your life.
"Then sometimes I get into Heaven. That's a great place. Hell's not bad, but Heaven is... well."
Craig had to ask. "What's so great about it?"
Kenny considered. "Well, I could yap on about all the paragons of humanity that are up there or the unremitting waves of eternal love you feel on arrival, but really, what it boils down to is naked seraphim with massive tits."
"I mean, they're like two basketballs nailed to an egg noodle. Absolutely no sag. I get to use one as a pillow whenever I'm there." Kenny seemed to be enjoying the memories, which made his sudden change of mood about as jarring as flicking over from the Muppets movie to a compilation of the horrible bits from I Spit On Your Grave.
"Then sometimes..." There was a long pause. "Sometimes there's just nothing. Absolutely nothing." Another pause. "Just... No air, no light, no sound. Nothing. Sometimes I'm only there for a second or two but sometimes it lasts forever. And it scares me." Craig didn't say anything. "I really worry about that place. That one day if I die permanently I'm going to end up there. On my own, with nobody else there..." Craig noticed Kenny was crying a little – not full on sobbing but there were tears being generated.
"Maybe..." He paused. "Maybe that's Hell. Your personalised hell. And the Hell with Satan's just purgatory."
Kenny shook his head. "No, I've seen purgatory. There's people there and it's grey. Nice theory though."
Craig lost interest and started working on the slide show.
It was about an hour before those first few slides were all neatly polished. Naturally, Craig had gone for a very functional style – literally just black words on a white background – since he didn't really appreciate adding any kind of sparkle on the basis that it just overcomplicated things.
"I'd like to do burning today," Kenny said abruptly.
"It's a horrible one and I'd like to get it out of the way. Really painful. There are reasons for that, obviously, but-"
"Alright, I get it. Let's do it." Craig started thinking about what they would need. Wood and oil, basically. He could siphon fuel from his dad's car for oil, but for wood they'd need to supply their own. His dad also had an axe, though, so that could come in handy.
They went back up their hill, Kenny carrying two cans of petrol and Craig carrying the axe and a box of matches. Once they got there, Craig threw the axe to Kenny and sat down to play iPhone games. Kenny looked at the axe for a second. "What am I going to do with this?"
Craig stared at him without interest for a second. "Well, I don't know. We're on top of a hill that has a few tree outcrops on it, we need wood and I'm giving you an axe. What are you going to do?" He returned his attention to Angry Birds.
It was two hours before Kenny had gotten enough wood. Two trees had been completely felled and a third was missing most of its branches. Over the course of the work, Kenny had worked up quite the sweat, even in the heavy winter snow, so he'd ended up discarding his parka and shirt, much to Craig's distaste. Not because Kenny was showing off or anything, it was that he looked a bit undernourished. Craig made the note to start feeding Kenny up a bit so that if he did catch sight of him without his shirt on again he wouldn't be quite so disgustingly bony.
Kenny started to arrange the wood he'd cut into a sort of doughnut shape, with himself in the centre.
"Craig." Craig stood up and started distributing one can of petrol around the wood. Kenny took the other can and poured it over himself, keeping his mouth very pointedly closed and making sure he was very well doused. It did mean he was kind of unrecognisable for the camera – the orange trousers were a giveaway, but the lack of parka and his scruffy hair being flattened by the petrol made him look like a slightly different person.
Craig went to start filming. "Day two," he told the camera. "Burning. Over there you'll see Kenny, showing off his poor excuse for a body. He is also currently covered in petrol. And I'm going to light him on fire." He went back over and struck a match. "Ready?"
Kenny hesitated. "Absolutely not, I hate this one. That's why I want to get it out of the way."
Craig shrugged. "Your life. Lives...whatever you call it." He dropped the match, making sure to jump away before things started catching fire.
He very quickly found himself wishing he hadn't acted so casually about it.
What got to him most was the scream Kenny let out. By the time he'd turned back to look at the result of what a single match could do to a couple of gallons of petrol, a few kilos of wood and a malnourished thirteen year old, Kenny was doubled over, all his hair had vaporised and Craig was certain he was fighting the urge to drop and roll on a part of the floor that wasn't on fire.
He turned away and put his hands over his ears, not wanting to have to listen. It wasn't enough though. He heard a thump which he guessed was Kenny falling to the ground. As much as he tried to think of happy thoughts, most of which involved Stripe, he couldn't quite block out what was going on behind him.
A few seconds later the screaming stopped. Craig looked again, but Kenny was still moving and writhing. There were a couple of places where he could see exposed bone behind the wall of fire, which made Craig gag. He turned away again.
He didn't turn back until he felt the heat from the fire die down. Even then, he turned the camera off before looking. There wasn't much left of Kenny, besides a very blackened skeleton. Craig just about staved off throwing up, then picked up Kenny's shirt and parka and left.
He didn't have such a peaceful night that night. He kept waking up from horrible dreams about what he'd seen. Every time he woke up he checked the floor next to his bed, but Kenny wasn't reappearing.
It was the fifth or sixth time, around 3AM, that Craig woke up that he saw a blond scruffball without any clothes on his upper body climbing through his bedroom window. He was awake immediately – he yanked Kenny through and hugged him tight.
"Craig…" Kenny choked out. "Can't breathe!" Craig let go and grabbed Kenny by the arms.
"Don't you ever make me have to do anything like that again, you asshole!"
"Okay, fine! That's about as bad as it gets anyway, you won't have to."
Craig then pushed Kenny off his bed, resulting in a pained yelp. Now that he knew Kenny was alright, he thought he might sleep a little more uneventfully. "Oh, and don't you ever break into my room again."
"How else am I supposed to get in?" Kenny asked as he pulled his shoes and trousers off. He pulled the blanket on the floor over him. Craig didn't respond – he had nothing to say to that. There were a few minutes of silence.
"I'm sorry." Craig said nothing. "I'm not used to people remembering this shit, I mean... Up until now everyone's always forgotten, they don't have to remember. But I guess you do now. I should have thought about it." Craig thought about that. He even considered the apology for a full femtosecond before disregarding it.
"Oh, shut the fuck up, Kenny." Kenny glumly obliged.
The next morning, the boys woke up within seconds of each other. Craig had uploaded the video to his computer the day before, so they could get to work immediately. Kenny started working through points he'd say when describing it – most of it would be made up as he went along, naturally, and as such he'd need some way of keeping some tits on his mind to keep himself from overthinking things and ending up making a cock of himself.
Once it was all done, Kenny turned to Craig. "I was thinking we could go bowling today."
"I'm not talking to you, you asshole."
"Come on, I know Ruby likes it, Karen likes it, and I haven't really had the chance to spend time with her since we've been here."
"I'll pay." Craig glanced at Kenny who displayed a few notes. "I don't get much allowance but I can save up when I need to." A bit of a grin came onto his face. "And when you're not at home and your dad's drunk himself into catatonia, his wallet's open game."
Craig stared for a second. "You stole from your dad?"
"He's only ever going to spend it on drugs or booze or something. And he's going to beat the crap out of me when I go home, but the thing is I'm just kind of used to that." Craig ticked that over for a few seconds then punched Kenny in the kidney. There was a high pitched yelp.
"Sure you are," he droned. "Well, I guess if you're paying, fine." He paused. "You're still an asshole, though."
They went downstairs. It was much the same as the day before – the girls were on the Wii, Craig poured two bowls of cereal, but this time he passed the larger one to Kenny in his new quest to make him not so repulsive to have to look at.
After that, Kenny went to the girls. "Hey, would you guys like to go bowling up in Denver?" He got two nods, Karen's more excited than Ruby's.
They caught the bus down to Denver where Kenny took them to what was not the greatest bowling alley in the world, but wasn't exactly dingy either. Despite what he'd said earlier, Craig paid for himself and his sister, while Kenny footed the cost for him and Karen. They headed over to a free lane where Craig tapped the information in. Ruby first, then Karen, then Asshole, then himself. Kenny almost freaked out when he saw what Craig had done, but saw the funny side when Karen laughed at it. He had to remember that she wasn't too young to know words like that any more – especially in their household.
Craig went off to get drinks while the girls bowled. Kenny was next, and through sheer luck managed to get the spin right on a throw that by all accounts should have gone in the gutter to hit a strike. Craig came back and promptly matched Kenny's first bowl.
The girls went again and Craig sat next to Kenny. "Asshole," he said. Kenny detected it wasn't a random insult, but rather a way of getting his attention that happened to be an insult. "Yesterday when I started remembering, you had this look on your face."
"You looked like Bill Gates had died and left all his money to you and Karen. Why was that?"
Kenny sighed. "I don't want to talk about it."
"But I want you to."
"And I don't want to, go figure." Craig opened his mouth again but Kenny cut him off. "Just leave it at this. You saw how bad burning was for me, yeah?" A nod. "I would have gone through that a thousand times. I would happily spend all eternity in that void I told you about if it meant one person would remember once."
Karen was just going up to bowl, so Craig carried on talking. "Alright, how about a bet?" Kenny looked interested. "If I win this game, you have to tell me whatever I want to know about whatever the hell is wrong with you."
Kenny thought. "And if I win?" Craig shrugged. "Okay… If I win, you have to tell me what the fuck is up with your hair."
That was a new one. "You what?"
"Craig, last week we spent three hours in biology class drawing Punnett squares. Something I picked up on is that a blonde and a ginger can't produce a black haired kid."
Craig attempted to dodge the issue, and failed miserably. "This from the blond whose parents are brown haired and redhead?"
"No, no, no, Craig, that's possible." Kenny was grinning infuriatingly by now. "See, underneath my dad somewhere is a beautiful blond angel like me. I got lucky. But you, Craig, you're impossible."
Craig didn't really want to have to admit to using hair dye. Naturally he was, as Kenny had so tactfully put it, a beautiful blond angel as well. But he hated that. He'd been dying since before preschool. On the other hand, he was confident in his bowling technique. "Alright, you're on."
Kenny went up again. It very rapidly became two games at once – Karen and Ruby saw that their brothers were getting competitive so concentrated on beating each other, while Craig and Kenny were getting a flurry of decent shots, never getting less than a seven. Come the last frame, Kenny was eighteen points ahead with only Craig left to bowl – Craig promptly hit a strike.
His next ball, though, bollocksed things up by leaving him with a five-seven-ten split with one ball left. If he wanted to beat Kenny, he'd need to hit two of the pins, so he threw to knock down five and ten. The spin on the ball, however, disagreed and knocked five straight between the outer pins. It was a draw.
"So, Craig," Kenny said, slapping him on the back. "We both telling or neither of us?"
"Neither." Craig was curious, of course, but not so much it was worth coming clean about his dye for. "Want another game?"
On the way back to the bus station, the four kids decided to stop off at Burger King. Kenny couldn't help noticing Craig had bought him and Karen the largest reasonable size of meal, but he didn't pry - it was warm food and someone else was paying for it.
With Karen and Ruby engrossed in conversation, Craig decided to try prying at Kenny again. "When you come back, what's it like?"
Kenny shrugged. "I just kind of wake up in my bed." He took a bite from his burger and carried on talking through his mouthful. "Exactly the same as the time before."
Craig froze. "Exactly the same as last time?"
"Yeah. Minus injuries, anyway, I'm in perfect health, but apart from that... There's no point cutting or trying to tame my hair because when I come back it's just as messy and long as last time. There's no point trying to put on weight because I'm always down to eighty pounds, which means I can give a lot of food to Karen, in fairness, I mean, she needs it. I don't...uh...why did you bash your head on the table?"
Craig spoke into what was left of the fries that had just been crushed against his hat. "No reason." He lifted his head up again, annoyed that he'd just paid for a slap up meal for a boy who was going to be back underweight by the next day anyway.
Kenny noticed some pulverised potato on Craig's hat. "Uh, Craig, you've got a bit of-"
They went home after that. Rarely, that night, Kenny was there to wish Craig a good night. Craig didn't care either way, and only responded with a middle finger. Kenny found that immensely funny.
It was school the next day. Craig and Kenny happened to have drama class together before lunch so they hit the lunch hall at pretty much the same time, with Craig walking several feet ahead of Kenny and pretending to have nothing to do with him. Craig got roast beef, or at least what the canteen staff thought was roast beef but could easily have been rat meat, while Kenny got some pink. Pink what was up for debate. The canteen thought it was a gammon steak.
On their way to their table, Craig completely ignored Stan and Kyle as they walked past, while Kenny high fived them. The two sat down next to each other on their table, as usual. They didn't speak - Kenny started eating and Craig fished a straw out of his bag and put it on his tray before doing likewise
Eventually, Stan and Kyle arrived and started the conversation. "Hey, guys."
"Hey, Kyle," Kenny replied. "Stan." Craig didn't respond until Clyde arrived. The table slowly filled.
"Where's Cartman?" Kyle asked, wondering when his day was going to be ruined.
"Detention. We'll be long gone by the time he gets here. He really needs to control his fucking mouth," Kenny informed him.
"Huh." There was a pause. "So Kenny, you going to bother coming to practice tonight?"
Kenny glanced at Craig, who shook his head - they'd planned to hang Kenny on the way home and Craig couldn't really wait around. "Nope," Kenny informed. "You have fun with your wide receiving and..." He looked at Clyde. "Tight ending?" He chuckled a bit. "Oh, god, that sounds gross..."
"No it doesn't," Clyde said. Then he thought about it. "I see what you're saying, but it's really not gross at all." A pause. "Maybe to you, actually. But us normal people, you know, we don't get it."
"You got it," Kenny observed.
Kyle shook his head, sighing. "Kenny, coach is missing his cute little blond safety."
"That is because coach," Kenny said through his alleged gammon, "is a pedophile." Kyle opened his mouth to defend the coach, ticked over what Kenny had said, and promptly closed his mouth again. He had to admit Kenny had a bit of a point.
Stan was chuckling. "You guys wonder why I don't play?"
Craig didn't look up to deliver his mandatory and scathing response. "Because you're shit at football?"
There were a few seconds of silence as Stan tried to think up a decent comeback to that. Eventually he settled for a weak "Apart from that..." Kenny started laughing uncontrollably.
Once he'd stopped and he'd started picking leftovers from other people's plates, which earned a nasty look from Craig, Token arrived at the table, followed closely by the sound of cutlery, a plate and a mug rattling around on a tray. There was a plop - the drink had spilled. Kenny heard the noise pass him and settle on Craig's other side.
Craig didn't look up again, instead just passing the straw over. "Hey, Tweek."
Clyde took the initiative. "So how are you guys' projects going?"
"Not bad," Kenny said.
"What are you doing it on?"
"Capital punishment throughout history." Kenny omitted the fact they were adding demonstrations in there. "What's your project on, Clyde?"
"Me and Token are doing the Confederacy, from the secession to reintegration into the union. Nice big segment on the war in there. Including General Sedgwick, the guy whose last words were 'I don't know what you're all running about for, they couldn't hit an elephant at this dist'. Then the sniper hit him in the face."
"We can go one better." Attention turned to Kyle. "Our topic's the Napoleonic wars so we're doing the Battle of Trafalgar, it was a pretty big deal. Huge naval battle, Britain against Spain and France. Britain kicked their asses, but get this. Their admiral stood up on the bridge of the Victory covered in all these fucking silver badges and medals. He was hit by a French sniper from fifty feet."
Kenny scrunched his face up. "Nasty."
"Do you know where that sniper was?"
"On top of the mast of a ship, in the middle of a fucking ocean. And this is, like, in 1800 so the guns are only a bit more accurate than a slingshot in a tornado."
"Fuck," Kenny said, considering that. Then he saw a flat cap on the far side of the hall. "Hold on..." He stood up and cupped his hand to his mouth and yelled. "HEY! PIP!" The Brit turned to see who was yelling. "YOUR PEOPLE SUCK! YOUR PEOPLE SUCK GREAT BIG SWINGING DONKEY DICKS! YOUR PEOPLE FUCKING SUCK!" He paused. "AND YOUR SHORTS ARE GAY!" Then he collapsed onto his seat laughing again, along with everyone else on the table, and indeed everyone present in the hall.
After school, Kenny and Craig stopped off at a hardware store to buy a tow rope. They went back up their hill and Kenny started tying a noose with what looked like a practiced hand. "How do you tie nooses so good, Kenny?" Craig asked.
"You ever hear of autoerotic asphyxiation?"
There was a beat. "...ew. Isn't that dangerous?" Kenny gave Craig a very condescending look as he finished off. "Oh, yeah."
Kenny started testing branches to see what could take his weight. "So, are we going old style hanging or new?"
"What's the difference?" Craig asked disinterestedly.
"Glad I did the research... More recent hangings mount the rope under the left side of the jaw and drop the victim eight feet, it snaps the neck. But old style hanging is at the back, you asphyxiate to death." Craig thought for a second, then Kenny cut him off. "I think old would be better, we'd need a pretty strong branch to do an eight foot drop without snapping it and I destroyed enough trees on Saturday."
Then he chose a branch. He got Craig to tie the loose end of the rope around the branch and went to start the video. "Day three, hanging. We're doing it old style, I will be asphyxiated to death and I'll have nasty rope burns too. How fun." He turned. "Ready, Craig?"
Craig tugged the rope a couple of times. "Ready." Kenny went over and put his head through the noose and Craig tightened it up. Then Kenny jumped.
It wasn't as bad as the burning had been, but Kenny still writhed around a bit much more than was comfortable. Still, Craig was able to watch. Eventually, Kenny stopped moving, shortly after his head turned an unhealthy shade of purple.
Craig checked for a pulse, then, satisfied that Kenny was in fact dead, stopped the recording. He let Kenny down then out of interest took the body home to see what happened to it if it was left overnight while Kenny regenerated.
The duo made very good process over the next week. By the next Sunday, they had gotten through firing squad, burning, hanging, boiling in oil, falling off a high thing, flaying, for which Craig had had to utilise a potato peeler very creatively, electrocution by hooking Kenny to the car battery, and impaling. Craig had been disappointed that Kenny had opted to go onto the improvised spike face down rather than vertically, for which Craig could literally stick a spike up Kenny's arse.
On Sunday they'd decided mutually - by Craig saying they would and refusing to take any of Kenny's shit - to just stay in and take the day off, in part because the snow was a bit too heavy. Craig intended to pry some more, as Kenny had been slowly opening up about everything.
As a result, naturally, Craig's XBox had been broken out and they were playing NBA 2013. "So," Craig said as he made LeBron do a standard overly powerful slam dunk, "how've the afterlives been?"
"Not bad," Kenny replied. "No visits to the void, and me and Damien are having a game of Risk. He's winning, naturally. I mean, like I said, you don't beat him at anything unless you want a few thousand years in the acid fountains."
"That happen to you?"
"Once. It's how I learned."
Craig thought about it for a second. "A few thousand years?"
"Yeah. For punishment purposes they can screw around with time. Most of the time it runs the same speed as it does at life, but I was only dead eight hours. Four and a half thousand years, and how do you think it felt when it hit crotch level?"
Craig screwed his face up, trying not to think about it. He changed the subject a little bit. "Kenny, I've been thinking about a few of the things you've said."
"Mhm?" Craig turned - Kenny was taking free throws so he didn't have to pay attention.
"You know... Remember last week, when we were bowling? What you said about if you could get one person to believe you once?"
"I've got a theory I want to talk about." Craig was genuinely curious here, so there was an unusual amount of emotion in his voice - which is to say that there was any measurable amount of emotion in his voice at all.
Kenny sighed. "Mmmmm?" he intoned in what might have come off as a disinterested way if he hadn't paused the game at the same time.
"Nobody could remember you dying before me, right?" Kenny nodded. "And you said you hate that void of yours, and each time you die you run the risk of going there for what could potentially be a really long time."
"What's your point, Craig?" Kenny's voice had fallen into a serious tone, unusual for him. That was two unusual voices going around the room.
"Why'd you want to kill yourself over and over again then?"
Kenny stared for a second, then couldn't maintain the eye contact and sighed. "Alright. You got me, well done." He leaned back in his chair. "Thing is... I really hurt over this. I hate it when every time I die, Stan just yells 'OH MY GOD THEY KILLED KENNY!' and Kyle calls them bastards."
"Who's them?" Craig asked.
"Like I fucking know. But that's it. They just move on, and they forget by the next day. And I swear, you've got no idea how much that hurts. It's bad enough dying all the time, but..." Kenny sighed. Craig noticed a tear forming in Kenny's eye. "When people think I'm just making it up for attention or something, that really tears me up." He sounded a bit angry, but mostly upset.
There was a long pause. Even though Craig did hate Kenny sometimes, he was finding himself feeling sorry for him. He let him carry on in his own time.
"The reason I'm willing to go through this over and over again. Burning, getting crushed, crucifixion some time next week, and risk the void every time... It's because if that means I can get them to believe me, if I can get them to see what I'm going through, it'd make things a whole lot easier for me." He paused again. "Even one person I could just confide in, to let things out..." He trailed off.
Craig thought about that for a few seconds. "You could have told me."
"I did, you needed proof."
"No, I mean... I knew that at the very least you thought you were being honest." Kenny raised an eyebrow, which didn't work as well as it would have being as there were tears running down his face. "I know I call you an asshole a lot, but I know you, Kenny. I know you a lot better than Stan or Kyle or Cartman do. If they'd looked a bit closer, they'd have seen you weren't making things up."
This wasn't helping Kenny's situation - the tears were increasing in frequency, and his nose was running. "How... What if I was just a really good liar or something?"
Craig shrugged. "You're not Cartman." Kenny looked a bit confused, or as confused as one could look while crying. "You don't make things up just for attention. I don't think the kid who spends his nights being Mysterion could lie about anything more than what he had for breakfast at all. I think that kid's the most honest person around."
Kenny asked again. "What about..." He sniffed. "What about why I said I was bringing Karen over?"
"You were honest there." He shrugged. "You didn't tell the whole truth, sure, but you didn't tell a lie. Kenny, I told you. I know you."
That was about as much as Kenny could take. He broke down completely, doubling over with his hands on his face and sobbing loudly. Craig didn't feel awkward at all. He just reached out and pulled Kenny towards him so that the blond's head was against Craig's chest. He held him there, hugging him until Kenny had let it all out.
"Craig..." Kenny sobbed.
It took a few seconds for him to reply. "I... You've got no idea how many times I've cried myself to sleep over this." He was whispering - it was quiet, and it was weak. "Every night for years..." Another pause as Kenny came to terms with everything.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have pried..."
"No, no," Kenny said. "Thanks for listening..." He wasn't done crying though. They were there for another fifteen minutes before Kenny was done. He pulled himself up to sitting height and Craig promptly went to change his shirt.
They didn't talk for a while after that.
It was Thursday morning. Kenny had woken Craig up early. Over the week they'd done more complicated stuff that needed a little preparation. An after school breaking into the chemistry labs had provided them with cyanide for a poisoning, Craig had managed to stone Kenny to death over the course of several hours, and had afterwards decided that stonings worked much better with more than one person to throw stones. Then the next one had been nasty - Craig had broken out the axe again and after three attempts had managed to decapitate Kenny. That had been the night before.
"Don't worry about it."
"I took three swings, it must have hurt."
"Ozzy Osbourne bit my head off once, I have had worse." Kenny wanted to drop it.
"Still... How does the human body hold that much blood in it?"
Craig shrugged. "I mean, it went everywhere. It was like a bloody version of the Amazon or something."
Kenny shrugged in response to Craig's. "Several major arteries leading straight to the heart, what were you expecting?"
"I don't know..." Kenny led Craig to a tree. "So what time is it?"
"Half four. This one takes a while." Kenny picked a tree and climbed up onto it. Craig dropped the toolbox next to it and started setting up the camera. "Now, remember what I said. You absolutely, absolutely have to get the position and angle right or I'll just bleed to death." Kenny started testing branches to see what could take his weight. He picked two then removed his parka and shirt, then his shoes and socks.
"Why the shirt?" Craig asked. "It's going to be a cold day."
"Craig, crucifixion was generally done completely naked. It was supposed to be humiliating."
"Okay, just keep your underpants on or whatever."
Kenny shrugged and removed his trousers as well, much to Craig's distaste. He picked an LED torch out of the toolbox and shone it at Kenny - it was still very dark, but it was enough for the camera to make out the pale and underweight figure in torchlight. Craig started recording.
"Okay. It is now Thursday morning, half past four. This is why Kenny wasn't in school yesterday, by the way. This video's going to be sped up a few times because crucifixion takes a long time, if I can get it right. What'll happen is water will build up in Kenny's lungs, and he'll essentially drown. If I don't get it right, he'll bleed to death in a couple of hours."
Craig turned to Kenny, who held his right arm out against a nice thick branch. Craig got out a nine inch nail he'd bought the day before after beheading Kenny. "You ready?"
"Get it over with. This is going to be the easiest bit, it'll get worse..." Craig nodded, and held the point of the nail against a little reference cross Kenny had drawn on his wrist earlier that day. He glanced at Kenny, who was checking the angle. "Down...down...up...there!" Craig held it steady. Kenny nodded - he hit the nail.
Kenny screamed, naturally, but Craig continued hammering until the nail was clean through the tree branch. He went round the back and hit the point into a bend so it couldn't be pulled out. Kenny didn't appear to be bleeding too badly considering the hole he had in his lower arm, so it looked like he'd done alright. "Next one?" Kenny nodded, teeth grit like magnets on honeymoon. Craig held Kenny's arm against the other branch and repeated the process, prompting more screams.
Of course, they'd chosen a nice desolate place to do this in. They couldn't have someone come along and let him down - they'd gone out of town a bit, into a small forest with so many trees at least one of them had to have been suitable. Again, Craig seemed to have gotten the nail right so he pulled the final nail out. Kenny looked sufficiently in agony but he was nodding frantically at Craig to continue.
He lifted Kenny's feet up and rotated him so his legs were pointed to the left and the knees bent as far as they would go. As a result, Kenny dropped a few inches pivoting around the nails - he screamed again. Once he'd stopped slipping down the trunk of the tree, Craig pushed Kenny's feet together, side on against the tree, and glanced up at Kenny. "This one's got to go through bone, it could take a while."
More frantic nodding told him Kenny understood. He started hammering, It took several powerful strokes to penetrate the heel bone, then more to penetrate the other heel. Craig was doing his best to block out Kenny's screaming, but it was still painful to listen to. He returned to the camera.
"That's Kenny nailed up. Now, he can't move much without causing himself extreme agony, but in that position after an hour or two water's going to start building up in his lungs. That'll make it tough to breathe. He can lift himself up a bit to make it easier for him to breathe, but that's going to take effort and it's going to hurt him like a bitch. This could extend the lifespan until the guy dehydrates after a few days, so the Romans had a tendency to break the legs with a wooden mallet. Now, if Kenny isn't dead by the time I get back here after school, which is close to twelve hours, I'll be doing that."
Then Craig left. At eight o'clock he returned with a battery powered heater, just to make sure Kenny didn't accidentally freeze to death, then went off to school. After school, Kenny was doing well so, as promised - and making sure he was alright with it, something Kenny conveyed with a nod that seemed a bit too solemn for someone who was nailed to a tree - Craig swung at his shins with the mallet a few times, prompting more screams.
Then he went home.
Kenny woke him up at three in the morning, climbing in through the window and bringing back the camera and the heater. After hasty embedding and editing of the footage to make the twenty hours it had taken Kenny to die pass in ninety seconds, plus the normal speed introduction and leg breaking.
They had history in the afternoon – as it was the big project day, they were in for three hours, getting to skip gym before lunch in favour of watching people talking about boring things throughout history.
As Craig and Kenny ended up doing their presentation last, they were intensely bored throughout the whole day, save for the point at which everyone turned to point and laugh at Pip over how awful the British admiralty had apparently been when it came to self preservation. After Kenny's outburst in the dinner hall, Stan had even persuaded Kyle to add in a slide that just said "NOW TURN AND LAUGH AT THAT LIMEY BASTARD".
Everyone else's projects hadn't really gone far over the ten minute guideline, which left plenty of time for Kenny's videos. "Okay," said the disinterested teacher. "Final group come up and do your thing. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to my office to get some coffee. And yes, Tweek, you can have some too." Tweek spazzed out in thanks – he'd just sat down from his presentation about the Roman Empire, which had been sufficiently padded with regular shrieks and other symptoms of a life spent drinking too much coffee than could possibly been healthy.
Craig stood up and plugged his memory stick into the computer that was in turn hooked up to the projector. He opened their slide show up.
"Okay," Kenny started. "As you can see we were the ones doing historical crime and punishment. So, capital punishment. I know all of you sick fucks like the thought of deaths so…" He clicked onto the next slide. A glance at Craig confirmed he wasn't planning on talking for a while. So Kenny continued.
"We'll start off with death by being shot. There were a few ways this could be done, a single shot to the head-" Kenny was using a laser pointer Craig had produced from one of his drawers to draw attention to particular areas of the slide. "-or strapping someone to the front of a cannon, but the one we were interested in was firing squad.
Kenny realised he was starting to overthink things so he started thinking about a pair of stonking great titties he'd seen on his most recent trip to Heaven and immediately relaxed. "The way this would be done in the military is a few men with rifles that have been prepared with a mix of lives and blanks. That way, no one man can be sure that he's responsible or not. In civilian terms, it's still in use in Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates, but it used to be used in other places. Here it was used in Nevada and Utah, but it's also been used in Cuba, Italy, and a few other places in wartime."
Craig spoke up, switching to the next slide. "So we decided to do a demonstration to give an idea of what this would look like." Kenny started the video.
"Hi, I'm Kenny McCormick and welcome to Jackass. So today we're going to be simulating death by firing-OW!" Craig's snowball earned a bored laugh from about a quarter of the class. When it got to the implication that Kenny was going to be standing in front of the minigun, people started paying a little more attention. "I'll just give you an idea of what's about to happen, that is an M134 Minigun. I think this one saw service in Vietnam. It's .308 calibre, near enough, and fires at four thousand rounds per minute. It's not entirely accurate, which is why you'll use it for indiscriminate damage. You fire it at a car or something, that car's not getting used again. Fire it into a crowd, you're hoping half that crowd are going to drop. And you fire it at a thirteen year old at close range on a snowy day, he's going to be liquefied."
Everyone was leaning forward as Kenny watched himself walk backwards to directly in front of Craig and his minigun. It started rotating. Kenny swore he could head Kyle say in a hushed tone "No fucking way…" Then there was a moment where everyone couldn't quite believe what they were seeing. Then, around the time at which Kenny crumpled and Craig angled the gun down to start the process of turning him into jam, every jaw in the room had dropped - minus Kenny's and Craig's, obviously.
Once the video was over, Kenny, as casually as someone who had just realised he'd trodden in dog shit but didn't want to look clumsy in front of his friends, moved onto the next slide. "Now, a victim of this, naturally, would be in pain for a few minutes before they actually died. A bullet through the heart doesn't kill you straight away. What you saw there was a little quicker than that, but still. Actually being shot stings like an absolute bitch." Kenny saw Stan, behind the shocked expression that he was sharing with everyone else in the class, nodding in agreement and absently rubbing his left arm. "So being shot three times at once would be worse, but it's a quick way of going compared to some shit we looked at."
"So, onto death by burning," he said, not taking any notice of the stunned expressions on everyone's faces. Or at least, taking notice but not showing it. "This one was used in Britain a lot. Joan of Arc got burned when she was nineteen, then women who'd done treason got it too. The men were hung, drawn and quartered, but women were burned so that they didn't have to be shown naked in public. Which is a shame, isn't it?" Craig glared at Kenny, as did Wendy.
"Depending on the size of the fire, death could be caused by smoke inhalation or the actual fire or heat or, you know, whatever gets to them first. Or on occasion, this is a good one, again in Britain the executioner could be bribed to put a bit of gunpowder round the victim's neck to make them die faster."
Craig picked up. "Another big use was for the early Christians in Rome, before… I think, Tweek, was it Constantine?" Tweek nodded, hard to discern since he was shaking anyway but Craig saw it. "Yeah, before Constantine said that being Christian was an okay thing to do, they got burned a lot. Occasionally crucified but we'll get to that later." He clicked onto the next slide. "Naturally, Kenny did this to himself as well."
He started the video, starting with his own face in front of the camera this time. Craig made a point of not watching or listening to what was happening.
Each time Kenny died, he saw that the history class were getting more and more bemused by this, that if they'd been entertaining the theory that there was some underhand trickery going on they weren't any more. The teacher hadn't yet come back, and everyone was beginning to suspect she had done a runner. Hanging was rather unspectacular, as was boiling in oil, but Craig was in for a minor surprise come the falling.
Kenny had started the video after finishing a talk - Craig had presented this one as stoically as ever. "Day five. For this one we had to come to Denver to find a building high enough to do this from. This," Craig continued, turning the camera around to look at a building a couple of hundred metres away, "is Republic Plaza, the tallest building in Colorado. And if you look really closely," he said, zooming in until the camera appeared to be shaking around like it was being held by Tweek on the day he'd forgotten to wear clothes and the Frost Giants of Jotunheim had decided to invade, "you can see someone with really bad dress sense climbing the side. He should be fine climbing without much purchase to hold on to, we all know what he does at night." Pause. "Apart from that, obviously." He saw Kenny reach the top of the tower, and then the surprise came.
They'd been in contact over their phones. Craig lifted his up. "You ready up there, Kenny?" he asked. The thing was, Kenny having had opera training, he had a taste for musical theatre. Normally this wasn't a problem, it was why he'd taken drama class. And Craig had known that Kenny had been singing the end of Javert's Suicide for a few seconds before jumping, as he'd sung it straight down his phone into Craig's ear.
What he hadn't expected, though, was for Kenny to overlay the soundtrack from the film on top of it so that there was an almighty and overdramatic flourish as he dropped from the tower. Even that Craig might have forgiven despite him not even particularly liking Les Misérables, if Kenny hadn't landed spine first on the edge of a much smaller building before flipping down to the road below, and the asshole hadn't timed it in so that the hideous sound of a spine breaking came just as he actually cracked his spine on the building. Craig closed his eyes, took a deep breath and turned to Kenny.
"You, Kenny McCormick," he said, not betraying any emotion at all, "are an absolute and total thundercunt. You do know that, right?"
"Yeah," Kenny said, "you told me that before."
"Well, just so you know."
Kenny shrugged it off, laughing.
The rest of their presentation went about as swimmingly as it could. Right up until the crucifixion at the end, which Kenny hadn't really wanted to watch being as it had taken most of twenty hours to die and Craig had had to break his legs, but it turned out to not actually be that bad. The teacher finally came back after they'd finished, not apologising but explaining that there had been quite the queue to use the coffee machine.
She'd asked the class how the presentation had gone, and nobody had answered for a few seconds. Then it was Kyle who said "Just give them As." He sounded really dejected – he hadn't expected Kenny to come up with something so good, and yet he'd completely blown his presentation out of the water.
The teacher shrugged. "Alright." She checked the time – it was quarter to three. "Yeah, you can all go home early, I don't care." The class rushed out of the door.
Kenny had to stop by his locker before leaving, along with the other guys. He opened it up and emptied it, it being the last day of term before Christmas and all. After dumping everything in his bag minus one cigarette, something he'd had to cut down on in Craig's house because of Craig's disapproval and his not being able to steal any more, he turned around to see Stan standing behind him, looking a bit sheepish.
"Hey, Stan. Something up?"
Stan nodded and buried his hands in his pockets. "You, uh..." He paused, evidently still trying to wrap his head around what he'd just seen. "You weren't making it up, huh?"
"Making what up?" Kenny wanted to be absolutely sure Stan was talking about that before getting his hopes up.
"Not dying." Stan sighed. "I'm sorry, dude, I'm sorry I didn't believe you."
Kenny sighed as he put the cigarette in his mouth and started chewing the end a little, impatient to get outside. "Stan, I don't blame you. If someone were to come up to me and tell me they couldn't die, I'd want proof too." Kyle quietly joined them. "And you couldn't remember, that was part of it. But you do now."
At that point, Kyle spoke up. "Kenny, I'm sorry too."
"No…" Kyle was looking sheepish himself. "I'm sorry for… You remember when I said it'd be pretty cool? You blew up in my face?"
"Yeah?" Kenny didn't like that memory. He'd apologised to Kyle over it, of course, but he still hated himself for having done it.
"I'm sorry for that. I didn't know… Those descriptions you were giving, they were from experience, weren't they?" Kenny nodded. "I didn't know what it was like. I mean, I still think it's pretty cool that you can come back afterwards, but… I get that it's got to be bad for you when you actually die or whatever it is that happens." He paused, sighing. "And I'm sorry I couldn't remember."
Kenny shook his head and smiled. "Guys…" He pulled them both into a hug, dropping his cigarette to the floor. "It's really not your fault." Kenny felt himself welling up again. He was trying to keep himself from breaking down completely, but he was having trouble. "You remember now though, that's what matters." He buried his face in their shoulders and started crying again. He looked briefly up at his two friends with the warmest, most genuine smile he'd ever had on his face.
"Guys…" He couldn't say anything after that. Kyle and Stan hugged him back, only being able to imagine what it was Kenny was feeling - how bad it had to have been for him with nobody realising what it was he was going through, or believing him when he tried to tell them. Kenny was so overwhelmed with emotion he wanted to die right there and then just to preserve the moment. Finally, finally, his burden was getting lighter. Not a lot lighter – he was still going to die, and it was still going to hurt him, but now he had people to confide in.
Maybe that could be enough.
Then Kenny looked up, right at Craig just down the hall, leaning against his locker arms folded. Craig gave him a flicker of a smile and a nod, then he turned away and left with Clyde and Tweek. Kenny disengaged himself from Kyle and Stan, then threw his arms round their shoulders. "Guys, you're great friends, you know that?"
They nodded, smiling back at Kenny. "Come on, Kenny," Stan said. "We're going round Kyle's to play games, we'll get you a burger on the way or something."
Kenny sniffed as they started walking towards the exit. "Fatass coming too?" Kyle shook his head. "Awesome!"