Six months ago if you had asked what my favorite computer game
was, I would not have been able to withdraw myself from the screen long enough to provide an answer. My best friends were RPG
characters and robot voiced psychologist
programs. I got off to porn
comprised of 0’s and 1’s patterned into stimulating images. Now I don’t even own a TV. I suppose it is somewhat ironic that I am choosing to post this onto a public Internet based forum
, but it seems an appropriate location considering all that transpired. One could attribute my love for technology
as the impetus for my destruction; however, it is my feeling that the true reason has more to do with my idolization of Gary Durnham.
I could always tell when Gary was excited about something. His eyes would sparkle with a profound glimmer usually noticeable only in the religiously ecstatic or the criminally insane. His normally slow drawl would speed itself up in a seemingly endless rush of words strung together in a jumbled monologue of free association. But most uncharacteristic of these frightening euphoric states was the graceful, almost bird-like way his lily white hands would flutter as he spoke- quite a change from their rigid position glued safely to either side of his body. That day though Gary’s usual agitation was replaced with a more subdued air of anticipation.
“Look, look.” Gary produced a tiny bottle filled with a viscous clear fluid.
“What is that?”
“Nothin’, nothin’. Just a little potion I picked up in the Bronx. How’re we looking?”
I turned to Gary and shrugged. “It all looks ok to me. The network is up and running, but the system is still giving a few glitches.”
“That’s all right. Problems or not, we’ll do just fine.” Gary paused and turned the bottle over in his palm several times. I shifted my seat to look at him for the first time and smiled.
“I sure hope this works. Do you think we advertised enough?”
“It doesn’t matter. My brother told all his little rich friends about the store so we should be seeing pretty decent business. Besides,” Gary held the bottle aloft once more. “That’s what this is for.”
“You still haven’t told me exactly what you got there.”
“Insurance. Do you have the timers working?”
“Yep. The user should receive a shut down warning after thirty minutes—“
“That’s no good. Make it a full hour. Then we can raise the price on every chunk of time we give away.” Gary ran his hands through his hair and began to pry the lid off of the bottle. His shirt was stained with sweat as though he had been running a marathon. I knew this was just a sign of his heightened state- Gary never walked more than the distance to his car. Unnecessary physical exertion was some sort of crime to him. Despite his athletic physique, the various poisons Gary ingested made him rather sluggish at most times.
“How much did you get?” I nodded briefly at the now open bottle. It made me uneasy to look at it too long.
“Enough for a test run. Nervous?” Before I could make any gesture of consent Gary was brandishing the bottle beneath my nose. “See, no smell.” He flashed a grin at me and took two steps to the first computer station. A few strokes of a paintbrush and the keyboard was coated in an invisible layer of the fluid. “Once this dries a bit it’ll only be activated when heat is applied. The keyboards are safe until someone starts playing. Even then the kid will be so wrapped up in his game that they’ll think it’s just their own sweat that’s making their hands all sticky.”
A self employed, self-described genius, Gary was the bearer of scattered knowledge on a wide variety of subjects. He always said that specialization would destroy him. Nothing frightened him more than being boxed in to a particular area of interest. We used to go to the same high school together, and it seemed inevitable that we would meet at one of the computer shows held throughout the year. He frequented the bazaars because he felt that technology was going to be the means by which he raised himself out of the crappy two-room apartment he shared with his father and younger brother. Our friendship began when Gary realized that I had the money he needed to buy what was necessary for his schemes. I had my suspicions as to Gary’s motives for approaching me, but didn’t really care. The privilege of working alongside such a person was enough for me. After graduation I went to college while he proceeded to make a few quick thousand selling toys and creating web sites for affluent local businesses. Gary led the ideal existence. He’d work for months at a time, then quit in order to properly fund a new capitalistic venture. Whenever a brilliant idea spawned itself inside Gary’s illustrious mind, I was called into action.
Even now I have to admit it- the plan was good. For Gary’s latest entrepreneurial ploy his wish was to have a lasting effect on the community he felt had been keeping him down his whole life. My admiration of his somewhat rebellious yearnings allowed me to feed off the fire of his ambition. In order to accomplish this task he took over the role-playing game store where he had first tasted the sweet elixir of a fast flowing cash stream and set about restructuring. The stroke of genius came with the implementation of a new, state of the art gaming center. My role would be to buy and set up a vast network of the fastest PC’s on the market. I was in heaven. Every day after school I’d work on customizing the hardware for the store. I spent more money on games than my wealthy Luddite parents could make in a year. The fact that it was their money never came out. Once the video game raised children of the local bourgeois discovered our climate controlled technological Eden there would be no stopping Gary. I had no delusions as to my continued involvement in the store. Most likely I would be offered my share of the profits and return to my all expense paid trip through the American educational system. This was fine by me.
“That’s great, but what the hell is it?” Gary’s silence concerning the bottle was becoming a nuisance.
“Shut up! I think someone’s coming.”He had just finished coating the second keyboard as the door clattered open. Three young children, they couldn’t have been older than twelve, entered and approached my desk. My voice cracked as I spoke.
“You guys want to play the computers?” They nodded in unison. “Ok, well they all have the same games on them, but numbers 2 and 4 have the best speakers.” A brief conversation later and it was decided that the two oldest would take the good computers while the third played separately. “That’s twelve dollars for the first hour—“
“Hey, the sign says $4 for a half hour.”
“But this way you can play longer. Besides, we have the newest games and the fastest internet connections around.” Gary was all charm. The kids all knew him through his brother so it didn’t take long for them to get lost in the games. I turned back to my own monitor to block out the explosions and taunts as the kids destroyed each other and were reborn. I didn’t want to see them kill themselves. Gary sat back and watched their nimble fingers dance proficiently along the keys. After a while the exuberant voices died down and I began to suppose that they had left.
“Psst,” Gary whispered in my ear. “Check it out.” I glanced over at the still seated children at consoles 2 and 4. They made no noise. Mouths open, eyes glazed- they had become instruments of death carelessly handing money over to Gary. “It worked, it worked! While you were gabbing away online, the other kid got bored and left. They’ve been going for two hours now. Once they’re gone, we have to coat the other keyboards.”
“I’m not sure I like this. What did you do?”
“They’ll be fine. Look, it’s not a hallucinogen- just a depressant. Kids are already so dependent on drugs; they’ll probably have five espressos before they get up the block. Mommy and daddy won’t have any trouble recognizing their little brats then.”
I turned back to my monitor and remained silent for the remainder of the evening. The kids stayed for another two hours before they realized how tired they were. Gary immediately sprang up and raced to the computers. Any reservations he previously held about the experiment had vanished.
“See, it’s all gone. Perfect!” His hands were gesticulating wildly- trying to depict the effect that the drug would have on his profits. “I’ll buy some more tomorrow. But now we must celebrate. Come, m’boy- let us sojourn to the nearest watering hole and quench our thirst for life!”
Over the course of the next few hours I listened as Gary regaled me with stories of his future plans, his bitter feelings toward nearly everyone he had encountered throughout his life, his joy, his joy, his joy. I didn’t tell him of my guilt or my desire to go back on the deal. Eventually, I made up some excuse about feeling sick and plodded my way home. I kept remembering the expressionless faces reflected in rows of computer screens and wished I had never gotten involved.
The coming weeks would nurture that wish to a degree I had never experienced before. Every afternoon was spent watching the local kids return for their fix. Their numbers evolved until I had to install a whole new row of computers. Somehow no one caught on. Either the parents were too stupid or too busy to realize the changes coming over their children. The store was nearly always full- even during school hours. It wasn’t the vacant; trance-like state that most were reduced to that frightened me the most. Rather, it was the difficulty of watching their stooped forms and painfully curled hands that would make me spend as much time as possible in the back. Images of hunchbacks with carpal tunnel syndrome plagued me whenever my eyes closed. Aside from all this, however, was the external effect it had on Gary. He was now in a constant state of mania- parading down the aisles of automatons like a proud king. His mumbling, gesticulating, wild-eyed presence haunted the store day and night. I, his humble servant, was relegated to the background to ruminate over my reasons for staying. Due to the growing amount of responsibilities he now had I doubted if Gary ever left the store. Only once did I go in the back to find him cradling his head in his hands. I said nothing for I understood the futility of the situation. Gary was as much a slave as his victims. Whenever I had any vague notions of mistimed heroics the store, with all of its overpowering, glittering machinery, would reduce my ambitions to nothing. I had to escape.
So I stopped going.
After my withdrawal from the business I sold every piece of computer equipment
in my possession, and have been slowly trying to pay back the money I had stolen. What I kept for myself I put into a small apartment
far from the center of town. From time to time reports find their way to my solitary abode
. Apparently, the community minded parents of the town have been complaining about their children’s poor attendance record
s. Several of the other gaming stores in town have been closing their doors. Competition is too strong. I think I may change majors again. Schoolwork has become my sole refuge from current events. Occasionally, when my curiosity gets the better of me, I walk by the store
, but I never enter. Usually the lights are out so I don’t even know if there’s anybody around, but sometimes I can see, barely visible in the faint glow of a computer monitor
, a ragged form hunched behind a desk.