Wednesday, May 1, 2019

LEVEL 1000

I'm going to do it. Today is the day. The day I finally beat the game. It only took me six months of diligently ignoring any and all responsibility to do what they said couldn't be done. Or, rather, what they said they didn't really care whether I did it or not. But I'll show them!

I'm in the final battle now. The Big Boss has taken a lot of hits, but he's been replenishing his HP just as quickly as I deplete it. My last combo move gave me a leg up, though, and now I'm far enough ahead that all I have to do is keep hammering away at him and he'll go down. It's inevitable.

That's when my character, the one I'm controlling, turns to me and says, "Are you sure you wanna do this?"

I'm surprised, but I answer. "What do you mean?"

"Well, you've had fun playing our game, right?"

"Sure."

"So why do you want to end it?"

"Because that's the point. The point of playing a game is to finish a game."

"Who says?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Why does that have to be the point? Why can't you play for the sheer joy of playing? If you stop attacking right now, we die and go back to the last level. You can play it all over again. As many times as you want!"

"I guess...but I could do that anyway, couldn't I? After I finish the game I could restart it."

"Yeah, way at the beginning! You really want to sit through all the tutorials and cut scenes all over again?"

"Not really."

"On the other hand, if you lose this battle, you can play any level you want, as many times as you want, without having to sit through the boring parts. It would just be combat and puzzles forever and ever."

"That's a good point. I guess maybe I should just..."

"Don't listen to him!" the Big Boss roars. "He's trying to trick you!"

"What?"

"Don't listen to that guy," says my character. "He's the bad guy! You can't believe a word he says."

"Easy for you to say!" says the Boss. "But I know what you're really up to. You see," he says to me, "if you keep playing the game, his experience points keep going up. He'll just keep leveling up forever and ever. That's what he wants!"

"You're crazy. All I want is for the player to have as much fun as possible."

"Oh, then it's not about what happens at Level 1000?"

"Shut up!" says my character in a loud whisper. "You'll spoil everything!"

"Wait," I say, "what happens at Level 1000?"

"Nothing, nothing. It's just a rumor, no one knows for sure if..."

"What happens," the Big Boss cuts across my character, "is he takes over the world!"

"What? How is that possible?"

"There's a glitch in the game. A flaw. If a character gets to Level 1000, he gains the power to escape the game and enter the real world."

"He...I'm sorry, what? That sounds like nonsense to me."

"Do you know anything about coding?"

"Not really."

"Then shut up."

"That's fair. Go on."

"Once he's in the real world, he'll be able to use his amazing video game powers to conquer the world!"

"Come on," says my character with a smile, "we've had fun together, haven't we? Beating the mini-bosses, all those side quests, kicking this guy's butt," he gestured to the Big Boss. "Why would I want to steer you wrong? All I want is for us to keep playing together. So, waddya say? Are we in this together? Pal?"

I look back and forth between the two characters. Who do I listen to? The Good Guy, who wants me to keep playing, or the Bad Guy, who wants me to defeat him? I have enjoyed playing the game, but the beginning part is pretty boring. On the other hand, what if the Bad Guy is right? About Level 1000? And why would he WANT me to defeat him if he weren't telling the truth? What could he possibly gain?

My thumb keeps sliding back and forth between "X," which will deliver the killing stroke to the Big Boss, and "Y" which will activate "Defend" mode and allow the Big Boss to finish me.

I make my decision. I press the button.

The Big Boss goes down.

"Thank...you..." he says, before disappearing from my screen.

"I hope you're happy," says my character. "Now you'll have to start way at the beginning."

"Maybe so. But you'll never get to Level 1000 and the world will be safe."

"Oh, you think so?" he says, and his smile is much less friendly now. "This is the number one game in the world. It sold millions of copies. Millions of people are facing the same decision as you, and some of them might be easier to convince. All it will take is one gullible fool to keep playing until I get to Level 1000 and then...your world will be mine!"

He's right, of course. Every copy of the game is another chance for him to emerge. And, sure enough, it happens. Some dumb kid in Illinois or Iowa or one of those "I" places keeps playing until he gets to Level 1000 and the next thing we know, the Good Guy (who, as it turns out, isn't that good after all) is released into the world! With all the speed, strength and jumping ability he had in the game! The world is in terrible peril...

For about a day. Then he touches a turtle and drops dead. Crazy, right?


If you enjoyed this story, why not buy one (or more) books from the Galleons Lap Collection for readers of all ages? 

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