Short Stories

Video Games and Fads

sTaRs ALIVE. I FORGOT!!! Almost. I remembered in the nick of time when I was cackling about Robert and co and their future pain that you won’t see. WHICH IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING! Not very edited but I’ll be fiiiine. Maybe.

April 26, 444 EoP. Friday 17:00

It was the fifth day since Robert had arrived at Laconic’s Academy for Powered Heroes. After one all-nighter with his slave driver (aka, Jovan), he had finally caught up to all the school work—or, basics, at least. Unfortunately, that had been followed up with another almost all-nighter when he’d stayed up reading a book, so Robert was quite eager to finally rest after the gruelling year group Friday Combat session.

But as fate would have it, his rest didn’t come as soon as he wanted to.

“Robert…Robert!” a voice half-sang, half-called.

Ah, Denise…he thought before turning around and shutting the door to locker 45.0. “What’s up?”

What was up was that she was accompanied by some of the friends he’d seen her hanging out with after school. He recognized them as his classmates—Sofi Bak and Ausma Tiryaki—but he’d never actually spoken to them yet.

To be honest, Robert was completely fine in keeping it that way, but somewhere in his hazy mind, he remembered Jovan telling him around 4 AM to give his classmates a chance.

“They have more to them than being superheroes-in-training and a lack of classroom focus, Robby. Give them a chance.” Jovan had accompanied that with a poke to the forehead, which was his way of slapping his brother.

And so, stifling a yawn, Robert gave a polite smile as Denise rapidly said something about going outside and hanging out in their school’s café if he wanted to join. “—cakes are really…” Denise finally stopped as her fuchsia eyes saw his face. “Are you okay, Robert? You look like you’ve been run over by a truck and left to bleed out.”

And there’s the pale skin comment, Robert snarkily misjudged. Sorry, Jovan…giving my classmates who still tend to be quiet in class a chance might have to wait. Unless you want me to interact with them while sleep deprived and sapped of energy.

As it was, he spoke without thinking.

“I kind of was,” he acknowledged. Jovan definitely qualified as a truck…a snowplow, maybe. At their startled looks, he shifted the topic. “Uh, figuratively, that is. And with Combat, and everything, I don’t think I can today, so I might just head back to my room.”

Denise gave Sofi and Ausma a sad look, but surprisingly, Sofi laughed. She twisted her straight but rather silky black hair to the side and gave him a nod. “That’s fine…I’m sorry we won’t get to talk, though, Robert.”

With a slight tilt to his head, Robert gave a nod. Well, that was unexpected, he thought to himself but kept his mouth shut.

“What are you planning to do for the rest of the day, then? Sleep?” Denise interrogated him.

Sleep? Unlikely. I’m tired from two late-nighters and my muscles are dying, but this is perfect…I might be able to sleep before 2 AM today. He shouldered his bag and smiled at the perky brunette. “Well, no…I’ll just probably do my homework and then play video games.”

“Hold up. You’re a gamer?” Ausma, the other girl with dark skin and dark brown eyes, perked up. When Robert nodded, she widened her eyes. “Ohhh, what games do you play?”

I knew it. I knew if I talked to them, I’d realize they’d have personalities and not be able to properly hate them. Robert wondered briefly if he should run away, but he steeled his nerves and answered, one hand on the cold locker metal. “Uh, I like Space Farm, Feed the Piranha, and I also play Infinite Battles.”

Denise and Sofi looked rather stunned at the titles—stunned in the sense that they had no idea what he was talking about. Ausma, on the other hand, looked interested. “I’ve never heard of Feed the Piranha, but I love Infinite Battles. It has one of the best storylines in the video game world. And I play Space Farm with my sisters sometimes.”

Feeling slightly drained from standing in front of the lockers, Robert decided to take drastic measures. “Hey…if you want, we can play together and show Denise and Sofi how to play.”

Someday. I forgot to add someday. It sounds like I’m inviting them now. Ach…please say that you made a reservation in the café or something, he thought crabbily, spacing out a little as Ausma said something to the other girls. I mean, okay. I shouldn’t have invited them if I didn’t want them to say yes, but not today—

“Sure, we’d love to play today! If you don’t mind.”

Ah, well…too late for that.

Robert didn’t bother to smile. “Awesome…come on then, let’s go.”

As he led the ladies to his and his brother’s flat, he silently cursed himself. I’m…not really the type to invite people. What’s—he glanced behind him for a moment and saw Denise’s face giving him a cheerful grin. Oh, her. Being with an outgoing, cheerful person is affecting me.

Not being able to help it, Robert decided the die had been cast and that he should commit Sofi and Ausma’s faces and names to his long term memory.

So…Sofi, for starters, actually seemed like a nice and friendly person. She seemed genuine when she talked about getting to know me better. Which honestly sounds like a terrible idea. Even I don’t want to get to know me better. Negative ten out of ten, wouldn’t recommend. But mostly, she seemed genuine in letting me escape.

Moving on, Sofi was quite pretty, like all Friesdaians tended to be—and she was obviously from Friesdai, the icy country in the north of the Southern Republic, or at least had parents from there given her distinctive golden skin tone exclusive to the area. Her straight black hair also was a feature common to the Friesdaians, matching nicely with her dark blue eyes. And to finish off the impression, Sofi was a touch taller than Denise, giving what otherwise would have been a friendly air an imposing touch.

Ausma, on the other hand, had dark brown skin and equally dark brown hair. Or, so her roots betrayed the fact that her white hair had originally been dark. From the contrast of her lighter brown skin tone to Denise’s dark Southern complexion, she was likely from Athnyn, Central’s largest kingdom.

All in all, though, Robert thought Ausma seemed just as nice as Sofi. Maybe quieter, but clearly not an evil monster, unfortunately. And the fact that she enjoyed video games with her siblings kind of settled that “nice” fact.

Ah, yes…three beautiful girls and—huh, would they be the popular clique in a movie? Robert wondered as the dorm houses came into view. Well, he hadn’t had time to observe the dynamics of his classroom yet, but he guessed that at least, these three were close enough to flock together most places.

When they’d reached the accommodation houses, Robert led those three to the common area of the flat he and Jovan shared with five other teachers. The common area was just a simple room with a wooden floor, a lounging area, and a mini kitchen.

“Wait, you live with the teachers?!” Denise jolted Robert out of his sleepy analysis of classroom hierarchy.

Setting his backpack down on the floor next to the main sofa, Robert bleary looked up and nodded at Denise. “Yeah, I think Jovan said something about staying together, so they just shoved a pull out bed in his room and here I am.”

The girls were staring at him with surprise in their eyes, a look Robert pretended not to notice. No energy for that. Let’s play and then you can shoo. Instead, he crawled to the shelf below the TV and fished out two video game controllers, handing one to a slightly stunned Ausma.

“So…the teachers don’t mind?” Denise blinked, her eyes scanning the premises.

She and Sofi sat beside him and Ausma as the TV blinked on and loaded the game currently on there. “Do you mind if we start with Feed the Piranha, Ausma?” Robert asked her. A nice uncomplicated game for his tired mind sounded perfect.

At her, “sure, sounds fun,” Robert peered over Ausma back to Denise. “Actually, I don’t really see the teachers. They tend to wake up earlier than students and come in later. I know your brother and our history teacher are in here, but I don’t know who the other three are.”

The screen blinked, and out came pixelated, distracting, angry piranhas.

“Woah…this video game looks super old,” Ausma laughed.

His fatigue strong, Robert had to concentrate on regulating his voice. “Well, it is about fifteen years old…but it was a pretty big fad when I was in elementary.”

“Huh?” Ausma frowned at Robert. “What do you mean?”

Fad…it was popular, he snarked. “It might’ve just been for Northwestern, since this is a game developed here,” Robert suggested.

“No, I mean, what’s a fad?” Ausma asked, her face straight and definitely not joking.

Turning to Denise and Sofi in mild confusion, he was rather shocked when he saw the same confusion mirrored on their faces. Oh, okay…so apparently superheroes don’t know what a fad is? That…actually makes me like them better, dang it.

“A fad, as in, um…something that’s popular for a short time and then fades. Like…a craze.”

Sofi frowned and glanced at the blinking TV screen. “I think my sister’s mentioned fads before…” She hesitated, then lifted her dark blue eyes at Robert. “Uh…what do you know about dating rings?”

“Dating rings?” Memories flashed in his mind, banishing a good 20% of his fatigue, and Robert couldn’t help a fond smile at that. “Oh. Yeah, that was one fad when I was around eight…it was mostly popular among high schoolers but I do remember kids from my church giving them to their crushes.”

Dad also bought one for Mom, he privately remembered. I actually remember her face when he brought home two of those tacky things for them as a joke replacement for their wedding rings.

While Sofi and Denise glanced at each other with amused incredulity, whispering, “What?” at his explanation, Robert shook his head out of the memory with a smile and nudged at the TV screen.

“So, Ausma…do you want to play?”

She blinked at him, then at Denise and Sofi, then back at the screen. “Oh, right, right. Uh…how do you play it?”

Fiddling with the controls, Robert set up a single-person game. “It’s simple really…you just have to feed the piranhas with the right foods as they swim across the river. Negative points if you feed them something like a tire or plastic, points if you feed them things like bugs or other fish.”

Truth be told, the game sounded pretty boring. But it was the only game Robert could manipulate Jovan into participating since it was a game they both had played with their game-loving mom.

My life is a mixture of memories and fads, Robert thought dryly to himself as he easily ascended from levels one to twenty-two.

“Wow, your fingers are fast on that controller,” Ausma choked, her dark eyes bouncing from the screen to the controller in his hands.

The girls watched him bounce around from the three lanes of rivers and eat the food necessary to ascend to the next level. It was actually pretty quiet, and Robert almost forgot he had guests.

“Let me—um. I mean. Can I try…?” Ausma broke the silence when he finally lost.

Shifting a little for the white-haired gamer beside him, Robert glanced back at the other two. Denise looked like she wanted to say something, and from her pink eyes fixated in fascination at the badly animated fish… “You guys want to try next?” Robert asked them.

“Oh, can we?” Denise brightened, her face splitting into that painful-looking grin.

Robert just handed the controller to Denise. “Go ahead. Just set it up as a two-player thing, if you want. I’ll go get us some drinks, if that’s fine with you all.”

That was fine with them. And that was also how Robert found himself playing Feed the Piranha with three of his classmates and a bottle of soda.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

See you next week. 😀

©Lemon Duck, 2021. All rights reserved.

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