Tom almost burst with enthusiasm as he hopped onto the stage to debut his new video game.
“Hey everyone!”, he said. “allow me to show you the next big thing in gaming.”
He clicked a button, the lights turned low and screenshots of his game cycled through on a massive screen. As Tom scanned the crowd to gauge their initial impressions, he felt drops of sweat pour down his forehead. He wiped his brow before he continued .
“I’ve listened to your feedback on my previous games,” he said, “and this time I incorporated some of your thoughts into this one.” Tom saw a couple of eyes twinkle and huge smiles, with glowing white teeth, became visible.
“But this time I decided to make it a freemium game.”
Now the audiences transformed into a bunch of belligerent Hydes. They contorted their faces in a grotesque manner and their booing rendered Tom’s speech inaudible. Suddenly, red blobs flew through the darkness and splatted on the stage. They were tomatoes! Tom ducked and searched for cover to no avail. He tried to run off the stage. Instead, he slid on the red mash and landed face-first before fading to black.
When he awoke, all he saw was red. If Tom had been a character in his game, his vision would return and his wounds would heal after avoiding gunfire for several seconds. But Tom had not yet developed a way to heal human beings or give them clearer vision; that was beyond him as a game developer. He rubbed his aching head, which hurt as if he had been partying all night. Except he was alone. The audience was gone.
The janitor, wearing a dark blue uniform, was now the only other person in the auditorium. The janitor swept up all of the dirt, plastic cups and garbage into a massive landfill in the corner of the room.
Tom stumbled toward the edge of the stage and sat on it. His already oblong face seemed longer than normal. He sat there and licked some of the tomato juice from his mustache. “Mmmm. At least it’s tasy,” he thought, even though his eyes were downcast.
The janitor stopped sweeping for a moment and glanced at his only friend in the room. “Hey buddy,” said the janitor, “I think you got something on your face.”
As he sat there, a piece of tomato pulp slid down Tom’s cheek and splatted on the stage. He sighed with enough force to blow dead leaves off autumnal trees. The rest of the night was a blur for Tom.
Tom woke up possessed: he had been slaving for hours behind a hot pot on the stove without remembering how he got there. His girlfriend entered the room, grabbed a big wooden spoon and dunked it into the pot. She licked the spoon clean and nodded. She titled her head and looked upward before her eyes lit up and seemed to jump out of her head.
“Wow! That tastes better than my nonna’s sauce, just don’t tell her I said that haha. Most tomatoes are pretty bland this time of year. How’d you do it?”, she asked.
Tom winked at her.
“It’s a secret,” he said.