Nethack taught me a lot of things. It taught me about frustration and perseverance, about luck and fate, about addiction and obsession, about hope and fear, even about the importance of exercise and healthy eating.

But most of all, it taught me about death.

My own death, of course, which I learnt will come when I least expect it, when everything is going right for once - that when no threats are apparent and I feel I can relax a little, it will be then that I choke over a tin of spinach, or mistake a blue e for a blue o, or a pink h for a pink h. It taught me that my life will flash before my eyes in the last seconds of my life - a catalogue of newly understood possessions, of attributes, of those I've severely wronged, and of moral codes I've followed and broken. It also, of course, taught me that a single magic word uttered on my demise will allow me to reincarnate as a youngster of my choosing.

Most of all, though, it taught me about the death of others.

You have a sad feeling for a moment, then it passes

How beautifully summed up. And that's it, there, in that one sentence, the entire "grieving process" compacted into a line. The shock, for it comes when you thought your friend was healthy and off frolicking on his own somewhere nearby in the cave. Sure, you heard noises, but you assumed it was just that he'd found a new temporary play-mate to maul. But this brings you to. This has happened.

And then through the shock, your hand paralysed over the space bar, come the memories. Teaching him to play fetch when he was only little. Throwing him treats as he purloined ever richer treasures from unsuspecting shops. Even christening him. And the time you realised he'd really grown up, and that the roles had reversed. The time you knew you were going to die, when a disembodied eye had you entranced as it hovered hypnotically before you, such that the newt or xan pecking at your leg couldn't distract your attention, though with each click of the clock you watched, mouth agape, as your life force was drained. When you knew it was the end and could barely bear to watch. And then, then he came bounding out, your saviour, and remembering your kindnesses destroyed the creature that plagued you, ate its corpse in victory, guarded you till you came to. He saved your life, as you saved his. You were a team. And now he's dead.

And yet you move on. As these thoughts come to a close, your hand descends, and time unfreezes. You have a sad feeling for a moment, then it passes. Then even that thought passes, and new more pressing messages replace it in your consciousness. And life goes on, for you, and you find new pets, and perhaps you even start to forget about your first - except occasionally when little things remind you, like blowing a whistle and being surprised for a second when it's her, and not him, who comes bounding to your side. But the feeling is no longer sad. Merely wistful.

No, it's true. You have a sad feeling for a moment, then it passes.

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