- Associated Press - Friday, August 22, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The boys don’t say much as they burn through another Friday night playing video games.

They’re both 18, settling in for a long evening of playing a medieval fantasy video game replete with evil skeleton warriors, magic spells and heroic missions. Darius Martin sits on a black stool; his buddy, Colton Shrum, sits immobilized in a wheelchair, his paralyzed arms propped up by a dresser drawer.

This is how they spend most of their nights, two best friends side by side, dwelling in a fictional world. By one in the morning they’re ready to call it a night.

Darius removes Colton’s eyeglasses and silver necklace, setting them on his nightstand. Then he takes Colton’s shirt off and hands him his anti-anxiety pill. Colton lowers his head to his hand and takes it. So begins the drill that Darius and Colton have performed countless times in their six-year friendship.

Darius pulls out a green, canvas-seat sling from the closet and brings it over toward Colton’s wheelchair. He gently eases his friend’s back forward and slips the sling beneath him.

Darius connects the sling to a power crane that allows him to lift his buddy into his bed.

“Good?” he asks after attaching the four corners of the sling to the crane.

“Yeah,” Colton says.

The crane hums into motion, gently swinging Colton over his bed, where he now hangs like a prize in a claw machine.

Once Colton settles in, Darius pulls the covers up.

Darius grabs his pillow and a beat-up foam mattress pad from the closet and unfurls it next to Colton’s bed on the wooden floor.

In the darkness, their chatter yields to sleep.

There’s a grim understanding between the two teens: A terminal form of muscular dystrophy is slowly consuming Colton’s body, paralyzing all but his forearms. Darius has stayed by his best friend’s side.

Their journey began in a sixth-grade English class.

Darius was the shy classmate who struggled to make friends. Unlike his triplet brother and sister, he avoided social situations. Instead, he preferred the refuge of his room, listening to music or studying flying squirrels or other animals that fascinated him.

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