A Serious Game

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: The adventures of a teenage writer

A story chilling story of one family's Halloween night.

A dull gray house that has survived several decades resides in a small neighborhood.  This house is the furthest, of the thirteen that occupy the area, from the only point of exit.  Dust covers many of the fragile windows.  Five individuals live inside the house.

A young girl, the only daughter, trots around in her fairy princess costume.  “Dad when are we going?”

Her father takes on a grave smile.  “Soon, Justine, quit asking.  There will be plenty of candy for you.”  He pats little Justine on the head as he focuses his attention towards his wife.  “Vicky, will you be joining us this year?”

Vicky smiles at the idea.  “No, I don’t think so.  I have some stuff to do around the house.”

“Alright,” replies her husband as he kisses her farewell.  “Will.  WILL, YOU READY TO GO?!?!”

In a secluded room of the second story two brothers are chatting.  The younger of two is dressed as a grim reaper.  He paces through the room in excitement.  His mountain is open just a crack as he breathes in the familiar flavors of his favorite candy, the best his imagination can do.  “Franky, aren’t you going to come with us?”

Franky stands tall with an exhausted expression on his face.  He is dressed in a pair of black jeans and darker shirt with a skeleton on it.  His eyes watch the progress of his charging phone waiting for just few percent to restore its battery life.  “Not this year, Will.”

“What?  Why not?”

“I don’t feel like it this year.  I am too old for that stuff anyway.”

“Too old for candy?  Is that possible?”  This is when their father’s call is heard.  Will turns towards the direction of his father’s voice.  “COMING, DAD!”

 

At the front door, Vicky watches her husband head outside with Justine leading the way.  He calls one last time.  “HURRY UP, BOYS!”

Will stomps down the stairs in a rush to get to the front door.  “Franky isn’t coming, Dad.  He said he is too old for Halloween stuff.”

“Well, that’s a shame.  I guess that leaves more candy filled adventure for us.  Come on let’s go.”  Then the door shuts leaving the house in a profound silence. 

Vicky heads to the kitchen to prepare a relaxing cup of green tea with a touch of milk and honey.  With a couple satisfying sips she retreats to the couch.  There she ignores the widescreen TV, her dusty bookshelf, and an unplugged radio.  They have all been replaced by a phone.  Vicky pulls out her phone and clicks on a game app, Space Catastrophe.

It is a popular game bringing aliens to a popular genre of real time strategy games.  This one offers a moon base in which the player develops army troops, defenses, and resources.  Every item is packed with upgrades that use real time.  One upgrade can take anywhere from minute to a few weeks.  Impatient players fall for the trap of spending real money to speed up the time for these upgrades.  With an army one can attack other players and still their resources.  Yet, playing creator is not the only force of addiction working for this game.  Any player can join an alliance with other players and there is a chat box for the members to be social.  Sometimes alliances battle other alliances to add to the games competitive nature.

The game only takes seconds to revive her moon base, one with two years of work put into it.  She checks the alliance dialogue.  Her alliance is titled Recipe4Greatness.  As founder of the alliance her account is labeled commander, a title with perks like removing scoundrels and handing out ranks to the dedicated.

As she plays the game, she is uninterrupted by visitors.  No one even bothers to come to the door.  Not that it is uninviting.  A jack-o’-lantern lights up the porch with a bowl of assorted candies before it.  Even the children who tend to take advantage of the lack of supervision are not drawn to the display.  They are out exploring the wealthy neighborhoods searching for the house with the best treasures.

After collecting some of the game’s currency, Vicky checks the dialogue page.  A fellow clan mate is on.  His last message, typed a minute earlier, still lingers.  Who all is here? – ObserverDeDoom.  The message is nearly a half hour old.

Vicky smiles as she types.  I am – Vicky36F.  She turns on her tablet and goes to the same game.  Me too – FamilyForce30.  She stares at each of the screens awaiting her reply.

The reply takes a couple minutes.  LOL Vicky’s – ObserverDeDoom.

Vicky smiles satisfied with the reaction.  In the process of contemplating her next message, another clan member responds.  Don’t forget me – Franky7XI.

Laughing, Vicky types her next message.  I not allowed to son ;) – FamilyForce30.  She adds another comment with her older game profile.  A mother never forgets – Vicky36F.

The general typed conversation is interrupted as a request for troops is sent.  Lv4+ troops only for defense – Hiredhitman#1.

The next post is that of Hiredhitman#1 being kicked out of the clan by Franky7XI, ranked a lieutenant in the alliance.  He adds another comment afterwards.  That jerk didn’t deserve to be here - Franky7XI.

Vicky eyes widen with shock at these words.  Franky you need to ask before you give someone the boot - Vicky36F.

Franky’s response comes quickly.  He is a jerk who has given me trouble in other clans before - Franky7XI.

The guy looked inactive too - ObserverDeDoom.

Vicky maintains a neutral facial position as she replies.  He was talking earlier during my lunch break at work and seemed fine - FamilyForce30.  Vicky thinks for a second.  Plus our ratios for donations just got reset - Vicky36F.

Oh.  I forgot about that and wasn’t on earlier - ObserverDeDoom.

The chat log shows no sign of slowing down.  Each message is replied to in only seconds.  The pompous jerk also only asks for troops better than his own - Franky7XI.

That isn’t grounds to kick him without warning - FamilyForce30.  Vicky now dedicates a hand to each of her devices’ chat log.  Demtins com e furst - Vicky36F.

D…??? - ObserverDeDoom.

Demotions* ignore typos - Vicky36F.

You never trust any decision I make, you hate me! - Franky7XI.

I DO NT HATE U SON - FamilyForce30.  Vicky’s fingers now tremble as she types.  And u are lieutenant now becuz I DO TRUST U - Vicky36F.

Hey guys let’s try to calm down - ObserverDeDoom.

You never agree with any of my decisions!  You always second guess me. - Franky7XI.

Shut UP and LISTEN TO ME! – Vicky36F.

NO! I’ll teach you a lesson. Just watch me. - Franky7XI.

And what is that?!?! - FamilyForce30.  Vicky sips her tea with one hand and replies with the other.  Yet, this reply is only greeted by silence.  “Cold already?”  Vicky’s arms start to shiver and then she gets up to check the thermostat.  “Off?”  A window curtain dances with a breeze of outside air.  Vicky restores power to the thermostat and closes the window before returning to the couch.  Again, she checks her devices for dialogue.  The last message is now several minutes old.  Franky…where are u? - Vicky36F.

Franky is your son, right? - ObserverDeDoom.

Yeah…why? - Vicky36F.

And he is thirteen and should still be living with you right? - ObserverDeDoom.

Yes - Vicky36F.

Then he should be home unless you allowed him to stay over with a friend, right? - ObserverDeDoom.

“Ha ha…silly me.”  Vicky stares at the path to her son’s room.  A straight walk through a couple rooms and then stairs lead the rest of the way.  She reaches a hand out to follow the path but then freezes.  “Wait, I can send a text.”  She closes the game on her phone and nervously puts her thumbs to work.  Franky, what are you doing?  Vicky’s eyes glance at the silent chat on her tablet before returning her attention to the route to get to the room.  “Five minute walk.  Don’t let the holiday spook you, Vicky.”  She carefully starts the walk, lost for words.  Her phone remains in hand.  At the foot of the steps she sends another message.  Can we talk for real now?  Please tell me what’s going on.  Another minute of silence passes and Vicky starts up the steps.  They only take her seven minutes to overcome.  Upon reaching the top, she hears gasps for air and a phone smash against the ground.  This quickens her pace.  She soon comes upon the door and pushes it open to see it all.

Inside the room is the identity of her son.  Posters of role models cover the walls.  People like Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Neil Young.  A class picture of his sixth grade school year sits on his night stand.  A letter sits under it.  Then Vicky sees a stranger in the closest hanging from a black tie Vicky had bought for her son a few years earlier.  The dropped phone lies under the stranger’s hovering body with one last message sent.  Good bye ;) - Franky7XI.

Vicky faints and falls helplessly to the ground as life is absorbed by the room.  Vicky’s phone partially survives the fall.  A few scars split the screen.  The falls shuts off the texting app and returns Vicky’s phone to the home screen.  It features a family picture several years back, a time before touch screen devices came into their lives.  Now cracks on the screen isolated Frank and Vicky from everyone else.


Submitted: April 25, 2019

© Copyright 2021 Forrest Obzerveer. All rights reserved.

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Comments

hullabaloo22

Wow, Forrest, you touch on quite a few important issues in this. Growing up, growing apart, the temptation of distant communication instead of direct speech and that's just the first three that come to mind,. Excellent work.

Fri, April 26th, 2019 6:55pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, I'm always happy to see people appreciating the deepest aspects of a story. And the nature of this story gave me the chance to play around with a texting-like version of dialogue. I haven't seen a lot of stories do that.

Fri, April 26th, 2019 3:06pm

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