The Console That’s Always On

Little Johnny was never more excited to start and finish his homework. He knew that if he did the work, he could play video games for one hour, not a minute more. He quickly slid his pencil over the paper and carried that last one and dotted that last “i.” He finally was free to play.

Yet a scary thought had lodged itself in the back of his head before he picked up a controller. The idea of playing for more than one hour was tempting him, but he couldn’t shake his fear of the consequences. He foresaw fireballs raining down from the sky, the ocean boiling, and trouble with his mom. The last of these images scared Johnny the most, for his mother had the power to revoke his video game privileges. The other images paled by comparison.

He did not waste much mental energy on these fearful images because he started playing mere seconds after they had popped into his head. Now he was satisfying his wanderlust by wandering around a strange digital land. He leveled up and walked down every tunnel to explore every crate and explosive barrel. With twenty minutes left on the clock, he thought he had seen all the world had to offer him. Then he tripped over a new map and tumbled into a new world.

He found everything on this new game’s map only to uncover yet another land. With ten minutes left on the invisible hour-glass, he investigated everything before him. The lake was tranquil and glassy, the sky was clear and sunny, the air smelled, he imagined, of fireplaces and burning wood. Achievements unlocked, he overcame challenges and time vanished faster than he thought possible. There was one minute left in the imaginary timer in his head. Then time was up. Better to stop playing now, he thought, before he regretted his actions.

He sighed deeply as he weighed the heavy task before him: the execution. He had to off the box. It seemed so innocent, and what had it ever done to him? It had done nothing but offer hours, or in this case 59 minutes, of uninterrupted joy. But none of the mattered now. He had to feel cold as an Arctic night and act before his mother punished him.

He got up to turn off the console thirty seconds before his imaginary timer went berserk. He clicked the power button, but it didn’t budge.

“Ugh!” he grumbled, “surely this is some kind of sick joke.”

But it wasn’t. The box didn’t have a sense of humour, and the game kept playing itself. What an awful twist, he thought, that I use the console as an object for play, but it is acting like a nonstop working machine.

He pressed the power button with so much force that the table beneath the console shook and swayed. “No! This can’t be happening.” he yelled. But it wouldn’t turn off no matter what he did, even after he unplugged it from the outlet.

Now he began to sweat as though someone had turned the furnace on during a scorching summer day. It wasn’t the console that was his problem. It was him mom’s imminent arrival and the loss of his beloved video games.

With a mere five seconds to spare, his mother’s key began turning in the backdoor. She fumbled and dropped her keys, and she gifted him another ten seconds, another opportunity to off the console. But no amount of button mashing would shut down the cursed box.

And then, before he could account for her appearance, his mother was in the same room at 5:01 pm. His hair stood at full attention as if that would help.

“I’m not playing. It won’t turn off. I swear.”

“Sure,” she sighed. She didn’t bother to verify his claim as she looked the other way. “Just get ready for bed. It’s been a long day, and I don’t have time for impossible stories.”

As Johnny walked toward his room, he glanced at the console which was now behind him. He heard snickering. And he could have sworn the console wore a sneering smirk on its half-full power button. But that faded in an instant, and then it was off. The console sat there neglected once again.

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