What would it be and why?
“I woke up thinking the end was near. It felt like a roller-coaster was doing a never-ending loop inside my stomach,” said the old man.
“Tell us the story again, Grandpa!” said the kids.
The two kids, dressed in red, sat on a carpet in their bedroom. They stared at their Grandfather as intently as if a magician had mesmerized them. Not even an earthquake could shake their focus. They set their bright eyes, which seemed to sparkle like diamonds, on the man they loved.
The old man looked like the children, but he had wrinkles of wisdom. He had many, many wrinkles; one for each hardship he had experienced. He looked out the window and up at the sky as he began to recount one of those hardships. He felt a little too cold, a little too distant to cry as he recalled the story, but it was not too cold to rain outside. Outside, the birds in the sky flew forward, but the sky seemed to move backwards as if the old man was time traveling.
His grandchildren’s youthful enthusiasm and intent listening renewed his hope. He smiled, turned away from the window and looked at them.
He spoke up again, “I remember long lines of people who were desperate for help. The lines started on the sidewalk, and like a long snake, bent around corners. Other people would run around the empty street — there were no cars — pushing wheelbarrows. The wheelbarrows were overflowing with worthless money. And every time a light breeze came along, the money would scatter in every direction. These wheelbarrow pushers would pant as they chased fluttering bills, trying to stuff some under their hat. It was sad. Money, which had always been worthless, had stripped a priceless human being of dignity.
I’m sad to say many were losing hope in this setting. Either that or their horizons were limited to survival by any means. Caring about others didn’t seem to matter.”
The old man sighed and looked out the window. Teeny tiny droplets of water had replaced the torrential downpour of rain that first fell. He took comfort in his grandkids’ smiles and continued to tell the tale.
He said, “But there were murmurs and talk about a better place. I could see a glimmer of hope on the horizon. As he said this, a rainbow appeared outside. We worked together, stood tall together and moved forward together. Soon the snakelike lines and money chasing were a thing of the past. We did find ourselves in a better place. We could even sit down and play video games together. Games had always been an important part of my early life, but they became a luxury during those years.”
“Will we get to play them with you now?, Grandpa,” asked the kids.
“Sure,” he replied. Then a warm smile appeared on his face just as the sun shone outside. “First you two should take a nap.”
The kids didn’t want to move, like they were frozen, and were curious to know more. “Grandpa, what’s the moral of the story?”
He scratched his chin and pondered their question deeply before replying.
“Always remain hopeful,” he said.
The year was 2050. The sky was a vibrant shade of blue that February 5th. The clouds had dissipated because they wanted people to appreciate the view. Even the birds had stopped flying and, while perched high on sturdy branches, stared in wonder at the vast blue expanse that dominated their horizon.
However, the situation on the ground was very different. A small puff of smoke rose from a shiny rectangle and floated toward the sky. Still other puffs followed until they obstructed the free and open enjoyment of this blue oasis in the air. And the source of the puffs was obvious: bulldozers, dump trucks, cement mixers and bobcats. These machines worked to block out the sky with their acrid smoke, to dull wonder. But the machines were not the only one’s working.
In a nearby empty field, a young boy stood with his shovel slung over his shoulder. He had heard, if one dug deep enough, one could find all the money in the world and a path to China. He was not sure which potential discovery excited him more.
With a deep breath, he stopped pondering and started doing. He shoved his shovel into the dirt and digged as deep as his arms would let him. He unearthed quite a lot of Earth but had nothing to show for it. Then he thought he had struck gold.
The shovel hit something hard, and the shock of contact reverberated all the way up the handle until the boy himself felt shaken. He looked down and grabbed the object. It was a bow and arrow, which was probably hundreds of years old. He tossed it aside like it was a penny.
He dug deeper and deeper until he had a little mountain of dirt next to him.
He had struck something again. Was it the long fabled gateway to China? His grin grew wide and he reached down to uncover a priceless dinosaur fossil — thousands of years old.
“Pfft! Good riddance,” he thought as he threw it away.
The boy, determined to find the gold and the gateway to China, kept digging. He started digging until sweat was dripping down his face. Enough droplets fell to the ground to turn some of the dirt into a paste. His muscles wanted to go on strike; they screamed at him for better hours and a vacation. But he paid these signs no mind. He dug and dug and dug until he heard beautiful music.
It was the sound of contact again, and now he saw a case at the bottom of his pit.
“It’s a case holding bars of gold. And I bet China is only a few shovels away now,” he thought.
In a state of delirium, he scooped up the case, not even disappointed by its lightness. He swung it open only to find an unusual gold bar: it was round and dusty. To his deluded eyes, he was staring at a disc of gold. The boy rubbed this round object clean and squinted as he tried to make out the text on it. He proudly read the text, even though he had no idea what it was, aloud.
“ET: The Extra-Terrestrial!”
“Boy,” he thought, “I bet this is worth millions of dollars.”
Once upon a time, there was a tall man with long, frazzled grey hair. His white gown covered his wiry frame and his plastic goggles protected his bulging eyes. Liquids bubbled from beakers around him and electrical currents zipped and zapped through metal coils so much so that passersby would have seen a blinding light through the window. This was a mad scientist hard at work.
A small, hunched-over figure, his disfigured face covered by cowl, appeared in the doorway behind the mad scientist. The figure spoke: “Master, pray forgive me for this most rude of intrusions.”
“Ugh— what do you want Igor?”, said the mad scientist, “what was so important that you had to interrupt me while I work on my video game system?” The scientist said this while he poured neon liquids that smelled like rotten eggs into test tubes.
“It’s the villagers, master. They are amassing at the castle gates and chanting ‘off with his head!’ They demand to know what happened to all the money they gave you.”
“Yes, well, my head shall stay firmly tethered to my head. There will be no beheading today. You may ignore them.”
“Yes, master.” Igor turned his crooked back and waddled out of the room.
“Wait. I didn’t say you could go. Allow me to show you my latest creation,” the mad scientist said. He sat down in a regular office chair, and it squeaked as he swiveled around and slowly slid across the room. Then the chair stopped, half way before reaching its goal, without warning.
“What did you wish to show me, master?”
“Oh, do shut up. Wait while I get this confounded chair going again.”
The mad scientist’s chair needed some grease. But he decided instead to push his long leg against the floor, as if he was rowing, until he reached his destination. He extended his arm, his eyes sparkled in the light and he pointed toward one corner of the room.
“It’s my latest creation and my pièce de résistance.”
The mad scientist’s chair finally reached the control panel he was aiming for. He then slapped a large, red button, and a spotlight revealed a massive object hiding in the corner. The object was so tall that its tiny head almost touched the massive ceiling in the room. The rectangular body of the object seemed to stretch on forever without end. It also sported a pair of VR goggles for eyes, giant boots, boxing gloves for hands and a power-on button in the center of its chest. And of course, since it was freezing outside, it had a tiny toque.
“This killer video game system will destroy my competition and help me to dominate the video game industry from my castle.”
“So that’s where all the villagers’ money went. Master, do you think it was wise to take so much of it and invest in a risky project like this?”
The mad scientist kept talking. “Look at this system,” he gestured at the machine, “It’s a thing of beauty. It’s too big to fail. It’s going to be a great success; it has to be a great success. Now let me just press one more button, over there, to get this thing started.”
The mad scientist swiveled his chair again and pushed it wish his foot. As he glided across the room toward the second button, he let out a maniacal laugh. The laugh was so shrill it sent marauding mice, hoping to find cheese scraps, scurrying for cover in their homes. Then the chair abruptly stopped short again.
“Oh,” he glanced down at the chair with a frown, “hold on a sec.”
He propelled the chair forward with his foot and let loose another laugh. This one was about as pleasant to hear as nails scratching a chalkboard. And the chair stopped again.
“Wait, wait— I think I got I’ve got it. Yes, Yes”
The chair came to a halt in front of a massive computer. The mad scientist, rubbed his palms together and a child-like glee overcame his face. He flipped open the plastic lid and hit a massive green button with his palm.
“Mwhahahahaha!” he cackled. His insane laugh was so loud that it echoed throughout the castle and even the villagers could hear it outside.
The video game system’s started to rotate its head. It was moving.
“It’s alive! It’s alive I tell you!” yelled the mad scientist.
The system lurched forward awkwardly as it took its first steps, its baby steps.
“Yes, that’s right,” said the mad scientist, “come closer.” A grin, like the Cheshire cat’s, appeared on his face.
But then the system made a rapid move away from the scientist and closer to a wall.
“What are you doing? Stop!”
The system lifted its mighty arms, and punched through the castle walls, which crumbled like a cookie, until the twinkly stars were visible. Then the system ran. It ran far, far away into the cold, dark night.
“Nooooo! This can’t be. My life’s work is lost to the darkness.”
The mad scientist fell to the ground and beat the pavement with his fists. His tears and sweat created a small puddle beneath him.
Igor rushed over, lay his hand on the scientist’s back and gently patted his shoulder. “There, there master.”
The mad scientist sniffled and looked at Igor through bleary, tear-stained eyes.
“Everything will be okay, master. But the system didn’t work. It’s time to give the villagers back their money.”
We do so much for video games. We tend to virtual gardens, mine for space gold and keep the games company for hours on end. What do video games do for us? Yes, they are bright and flashy, but I am a sophisticated and discerning connoisseur who expects more than that. I have done some deep thinking, and I think video games should have these features.
- They should help me to be a better cook. Maybe if I tap “X” repeatedly these herbs will finely chop themselves. It will be even more effective than the Slap Chop.
- They should give me infinite energy. How else will I stay up all night playing video games and still work?
- They should pay me. I have collected so many coins while playing video games, and I deserve a share of the winnings. I am still working on a deal with my accountant and lawyer. I will let you know the final figure.
I felt small as I glanced at the cave’s 10 foot tall entrance. I felt like a guppy about to be swallowed by a bigger fish’s mouth. Then the goosebumps broke out.
I inched forward as if I was wading through knee-high levels of snow. I nearly peed myself as I entered the cave and bumped into a set of teeth. My heart was about to burst, and my mouth hung open as I turned to notice the teeth were only a jagged set of rocks. I sighed, chuckled and moved forward with a smile on my face. Nothing was going to stop me from getting to the bottom of this place.
Just then I heard a lightning strike in the cave. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, I tripped over myself and fell face first into the dust. When I got up, I brushed the dirt off my face and shoulder, and I could see clearly now. A tiny pebble had fallen and the echo had frightened me into thinking I had heard lightning. I laughed at myself, “Imagine! A grown man afraid of a falling pebble. Get it together Adam.”
I came to what looked like the end of the cave. I glanced beneath me and saw a sort of ladder built into the crumbly mud with rotten wooden panels. I held my head high and then I started down below.
There was a constant dripping sound in the distance as I took each step. Each drop of water became a loud thud that caused the veins in my neck and head to bulge and my eyes to blink. To make matters worse, each wooden panel creaked as I moved. The dripping and creaking became something like an unsettling song that played in my head as I descended. I told myself that the song was precisely that, just something in my head. The cave was getting to me.
And that’s when the cave got under my skin. I nicked my finger on a rusty, ragged nail sticking out of a panel. I ignored the pain, the adrenaline pushing me forward, as I skipped one or two dilapidated panels. I reached the bottom of the cave. There was no more light.
I found myself at the beginning of a long, mud hallway, and now the dripping was as loud as thunder. As I moved through the hallway, I found the source of this sound: it was a tiny sink. I washed the cut on my finger and dried it with a nearby towel. I noticed mounds of dirty laundry all around the sink, and I gulped.
I turned the corner and saw a massive black rectangle, in landscape mode, that resembled the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. As I squinted, I thought images were flickering on it. And I could have sworn there were hands moving behind the rectangle. In the foreground, no one could have missed the brown and bear-like couch.
Suddenly, a head popped up from the couch and turned around to face me. I stood deathly still as sweat ran down my cheek. I looked the other way, screwed up my face and closed my eyes. My face wore an expression: brace for impact.
“Hey dude,” said the head, “I’ve been playing video games all day. Care to join me?”
A lone figure waddles down a dark and dangerous road. The figure, surrounded by slowly dissipating mist, inches closer to us and becomes visible. The figure’s tongue is lolling out, his eyes are bulging out of his skull, and his shredded shirt is covered by spittle. He is a zombie!
“Grrrrr. Brai– wait,” he says.
He scans the horizon and sees nothing but trees and utter darkness. Not even an owl could be heard in the distance because the darkness, like a true glutton, consumes everything that crosses its path. The zombie sits down on a tree stump next to the road. He leans forward, flexes his arm and rams it under what is left of his decomposing chin. He is the zombie thinker!
“What am I doing here?”, he asked. “Why am I alone? Siiiiigh!”
As he sits thinking, he shakes his head so hard that a rotten ear falls off and plops to the ground. In his state of boredom, he kicks a pebble and it hits a boulder before downing a dying tree. But no one is alive in the forest to hear it fall. The zombie sits on the stump growing roots when he feels his exposed, bony knees begin to shake.
“What is that sound?”
The ground now shakes so hard beneath him that the earthworms ascend into the air, and if they could fly, they surely would have gone on vacation. A whooshing sound rushes through the trees and enough leaves fall to the ground to make a giant woodland salad. A zombie herd, after running their fastest, now pops out of the woodwork.
One zombie from the herd pokes his head around a tree. He talks to the zombie on the stump, “Look alive, Dave! The video game’s about to start.”