The Game

We can help you find what you’re looking for.

The words appeared, unprompted, on the screen of computer number 23.

It was my last semester of high school, and I was sitting in typing class, bored out of my skull. I had skipped this class in ninth grade because I already knew how to touch type, but it was a graduation requirement, and nothing could get me out of it. Skills had been demonstrated. Parents had intervened. Fairies had wept. No use.

We can help you find what you’re looking for.

If that included escape from the monotony of matching my left pinky to the pink ’a’ key for 45 minutes, I wanted in.

May we introduce…The Game.

The words appeared over the screen prompts of the learn to type program. I glanced at the computers near me; none of them had messages from the Great AI Beyond.

The object is simple. Find what you’re looking for.

Duh.

Gameplay is harder. As they say, “minutes to learn, a lifetime to master.”

Had another bored student planted a program in the program?

Are you ready?

For what? Stupid question. I typed, “yes.”

The words disappeared. But next period, I opened my backpack, pulled out my book, and there was the granola bar I’d spent ten minutes cavity searching my backpack to find.

Then at home, the blue star earrings I’d been hunting for all week were lying on my nightstand, looking innocent.

Coincidence?

The next day in typing class, I touched left ring finger to red ’s’ over and over, waiting.

Did you find what you were looking for?

I typed, “Who are you?”

We are The Game.

So many questions. I went with, “What are the rules?”

Find what you’re looking for.

Yeah, I got that. Then, “Did you find my granola bar and earrings?”

Yes. We try to be helpful.

“Thanks.”

That was only level one. Today is level two.

The words disappeared again. I kept clicking fingers to colored keys, but nothing else happened. At least I wasn’t bored anymore.

The bell rang, and I walked out the door and right into Jeremy Taylor, the drama club president and my secret crush.

“Oh, sorry.”

“Sorry.”

“Sorry, Jenna, didn’t see you.” (He was talking to me!)

“Sorry, Jeremy.” (I was talking to him! Ack!)

“Hey, Jenna…”

“Yeah?” (Yeah?!?!)

“Uh, I was wondering…”

“Yeah?” (Yeah?!?!)

“Uh, nothing.”

“Oh.”

“Nevermind. See you round.”

“Yeah, sure.” (Noooo!!!)

Did The Game do that? Was it manifesting things I wanted?

Then why did it let him get away?

No. That was me. I let him get away.

I wanted to type to The Game again, but had to get to AP Chem.

The next day, poking my right pointer at purple, The Game came back.

“Did you make Jeremy run into me?” I typed. 

Yes. We help you find things.

“That’s not a game. That’s just making things appear. What happens next? How do I play?”

By playing.

“Not helpful.”

Level two again. Play.

That night, I was doing homework in my room when Dad knocked.

“Hi, Peaches.”

Groan.

“Hey, Dad.”

“How’ve you been doing? I’ve had to work a lot lately, so we haven’t had much chance to talk…”

“I’m fine, Dad. I’ve got a lot of homework.”

“Sure, sure. Don’t mean to bother you.”

As he walked down the hall, my stomach plummeted. I’d been wanting to talk to him for ages, but…what? Why’s it hard to talk when there’s so much to say?

Then I remembered, Level two again. Play.

If only. Talking felt scary. Like gnawing at the only rope that’s been holding us together.

Play.

Maybe we needed another rope.

BYOR?

So I took a deep breath and walked down the hall to Dad’s office.

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hi, honey, come in.”

We talked for over an hour.

In typing class the next day, I got…

Congratulations, Peaches. Level three.

Soon I was impatient for typing class every day, even though it took ages to get to level four. Had to ask Jeremy out to do it, and he said yes (Yes!!!). The date went well (he got me roses!), getting me to level five, and confronting my arch nemesis, Maggie Morgenstein, secured level six. Angels cheered.

Prom night, Jeremy showed up bearing a box of chocolates, though I’d told him I’m allergic.

“Sorry, I forgot. It’s not, you know, all that common.”

Find what you’re looking for.

Which was what?

“Neither are you. Not that common, I mean. I don’t like common. I like you.”

He lit up like Rudolph on Christmas Eve.

Level seven.

School was almost over, and I worried about losing The Game. Once typing class ended, I would no longer have access to the repetitive drills on computer 23, and hence, The Game. It had helped me so much, I didn’t want that to go away.

Graduation day. I wore my new blue dress and my lucky blue star earrings.

“Jenna, you look gorgeous.”

Moms are supposed to say that, but it still made me glow inside.

“I love those earrings. I might borrow them again before you go off to college.”

“Again?”

“I wore them to a company party a few months ago.”

“Wait, what?” I hadn’t told anyone about The Game.

“I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t think you’d mind. I put them on your nightstand.”

“But I thought…”

Hadn’t The Game found them? If Mom simply returned them…No. It couldn’t be. The Game had done so much for me. It got me Jeremy, and Dad and I were talking again, and Maggie had stopped bothering me, and it…and I had done all that. (That was me!)

Then maybe…maybe I could keep on finding what I’m looking for?

On my own.

After graduation, and before I left school for the last time, I went back to the computer room, peeked in at computer 23, and whispered, “I’ll keep playing.” 

On the monitor, although the power was off, appeared, Level eight.

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