I heard my parents come down the basement stairs. “We’re going to bed now, Eb. Better turn off that game and come up,” Mom said.
“Sure, Mom,” I said on automatic while focusing all my energy on destroying the enemy Galactazoid fleet. “I will.”
“Santa can’t come until you’re asleep,” Dad offered.
“Yeah, right,” I said. I’d heard Mom and Dad moving around upstairs for the last hour or so, putting all the loot under the Christmas tree. Santa had already come, whether I was in bed or not.
“Good night,” Mom bent over to give me a kiss on the cheek. I had to be careful not to miss a shot because her head blocked some of my view of the screen.
Once Mom and Dad had gone upstairs I settled in for some serious blasting. I was going to beat level 37 tonight if it killed me.
A face appeared on the screen. Not part of the game, but reflected off the surface, a person’s face. I shrieked and nearly dropped my controller. It looked like… like my dead friend Jake!
The face vanished as I totally got toasted by enemy fire. Game Over appeared.
With my heart still pounding, I clicked the button to start the game again. Back at level one again. No way.
I must be getting really sleepy to be seeing things like that. Jake had died three years ago in a bike accident. Just thinking about it gave me the creeps. Now I was dreaming his face on my computer screen.
Good old Jake, we used to do a lot of gaming together.
“Yo, Eb!” I heard a voice behind me.
“Jake?” I gasped, afraid to turn around. If I did, I wouldn’t make it past level one. Embarrasing!
Jake, or what was left of him, came drifting sulkily into view. He was only half there, I could see stuff that was behind him. He was wearing a stained t-shirt and cargo shorts, I guess that was what he had died in, but the weird thing was, he was all tangled up in game controllers and computer cables. The controllers made funny plastic clicking noises as he moved.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. “Hey, could you drift a little to the left? I can’t see the screen.”
“I’ve come to warn you, Eb,” Jake said.
“What’s with all that junk?” I looked him up and down real quick while my ship was teleporting to the first quadrant.
He spread out his arms. A computer mouse rattled against an ipod dangling from knotted headphone wires. “These are the chains I forged in life. Your chains have grown even longer than mine in the three years since my death.”
“So, they got any good games on the other side?” I asked.
Jake made a kind of wailing, moaning sound that pretty much meant, “No! You wish!”
“Okay, okay,” I said. “What did you say you wanted?”
“You must change! Repent! Mend your ways! Three spirits will visit you tonight…”
“Whoa, no way, no need for that. I get it. I’ll change. I won’t play so much video games anymore. I promise.”
“Beware!” Jake said as he vanished.
I meant it, too. I was going to change. Just as soon as I beat level 37.