Portrait Of A Deadly Bond

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REMEMBERING: The father of a victim destroyed the memorials for the two killers last weekend

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When Harris was turned down by the Marines on April 15, it was because of his antidepressants. A day before, Brandi Tinklenberg had turned down his invitation to the prom. Did these failures set him off? It's impossible to say. But five days later, he and Klebold started shooting. Fittingly, they had already computer-modeled their crime. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tracks Internet hate groups, discovered last week in its archives a copy of Harris' website with a version of the bloody shoot-'em-up video game Doom he had customized. In Harris' version there are two shooters, each with extra weapons and unlimited ammunition, and the people they encounter can't fight back. When Harris and Klebold went into Columbine on April 20, says an Internet investigator associated with the Wiesenthal Center, "they were playing out their game in God mode."

Brooks Brown makes much the same point. "What they did wasn't about anger or hate," he says. "It was about them living in the moment, like they were inside a video game." As long as they were rolling with the plan, Brown argues, the slaughter didn't seem real to them. But that explanation absolves the killers too easily: Is it really possible that the flesh and blood of the maimed and dying was no more real to them than pixels on a video monitor? Brown thinks so. "Then they can't get out of the library, and they have a moment of overwhelming remorse," he surmises. "Or maybe one does, while the other is still lost inside the game."

Harris' customized Doom game was programmed so that the shooter who runs out of ammunition dies first. Inside Columbine, that was never an issue. But maybe one of them ran out of fantasy first. "I think Dylan would have snapped out of it, while Eric was still in the moment," says Brown. "Maybe that's when they get into their own gunfight." Rumors are swirling among the students that the end did not come with a double suicide. "I keep hearing that Eric's bullets were found in Dylan's body," says Terra Oglesbee. Another version has Harris and Klebold counting to three, then executing each other; some law-enforcement sources say it could even be true. Though ballistics results have not been released, District Attorney Dave Thomas told TIME that the forensics suggest double suicide. But given the location of one wound and the fact that the bullet that passed through Klebold's head has not been recovered, he doesn't dismiss the possibility of a murder-suicide. Says Thomas: "We may never know." Game Over.

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