Just another computer game, right?
| Mary browsed through the video games at Gold and Silver Pawn, looking for something that her son Adam might enjoy. He already had a large collection but, like most boys his age, he quickly mastered them and moved on. Mary refused to buy new games for him, because they were just too expensive. Pawn shops always had a large variety of cheap used games though, and Mary had become something of a preferred customer here over the last few years.
A flashy cover caught her eye, and she pulled it out. Twisted Death, she said to herself. Never heard of that one... I wonder why they have to use such horrible names for these things. She saw that it was one of those shoot ‘em up types of games, and Adam loved those. Despite the fact that he was only eight years old, Adam wasn’t interested in games that were created for his age group. Mary had finally given in and started buying him the Teen and Mature rated games against her better judgment, and found that they really weren’t that bad. Sure, they were violent and sometimes bloody, but so was everything else children were exposed to these days, to include real life. She checked to make sure the game was compatible with Adams computer and moved to the register.
When Adam got home from school, he was delighted with his new game. He rushed through his spelling words and math homework as fast as he could, and turned on his computer the second Mary gave the OK; skipping his usual after-school hotdog. Mary smiled to herself. He really was a good kid, and making him happy made her happy.
“Hey Mom, check this out!” Adam yelled from his bedroom. “You can create a profile for the bad guys on this! It even lets you upload a picture for your character and the bad guy character! This is awesome!”
Mary leaned against the door frame in his bedroom. “I’m glad you like it sweetie,” she said. “I’d never heard of it before, but I thought it was something you’d appreciate.”
“I never heard of it either, but it looks really neat!” Adam replied, dividing his attention between the instruction booklet and the installation process. “Hey, do you have any pictures I can use to try this out?”
“Oh, I’m sure we can find something,” Mary said. “Let me look around.” She went to her bedroom and pulled the box of pictures out of her closet. Mary was one of those people who took pictures of every get-together, every party, and every event, so she had no shortage of pictures. She selected one of a young man she really didn’t know that had been at her husband’s birthday party last year.
“Here you go honey; you can use him for your bad guy. I think his name was Donald, he’s some guy your dad works with.” She watched him scan the picture and import the image to the game setup. “You are so smart with that computer. I just don’t see how you can remember all that stuff!”
“Aw, it’s easy Mom!” boasted Adam, handing the picture back to her. “I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember!”
“Well, I remember when there was no such thing as a computer,” Mary chuckled, “but I won’t bore you with those old tales. Have fun with your game!” She returned the picture to the box, and moved to the kitchen to begin preparing supper. She could hear gunfire, cheers and peals of laughter occasionally coming from Adam's room, and congratulated herself on being a hip mom who still knew what was cool. Supper was just about finished simmering a few hours later when Gary came home from work.
“Hey baby, how was your day?” Mary greeted him at the door. She gave him a quick kiss, and went back to the stove and turned off the heat.
“You won't believe this.. hell, I can't even believe it, and I was there,” Gary said, grabbing a beer from the fridge. “You remember Donald, that kid that works over on the assembly side of the plant?”
“Yeah, the one that came to your birthday party last year,” Mary replied. “What about him?”
“Well, when the whistle blew, we all clocked out and headed for the parking lot, like we always do,” Gary went on. “All of a sudden this car comes flying down the street beside us while we were walking out. Some guy leaned out the window and started shooting, and killed Donald. He was right there in the middle of us, but nobody else got touched except for him. It was downright freaky.” He paused and took several swallows of beer.
“Oh my God,” Mary said, her face going pale. “That is bizarre! Was it drug related, or something?” She sat down heavily in a chair.
“Hell, those kids may have been hopped up on something, but Donald isn’t in to that stuff. Remember my party, when he wouldn’t even drink a beer?”
“That’s right,” Mary murmured. “It’s just so strange. I pulled his picture out for Adam and his new game just this afternoon, and now he’s gone...” she trailed off. Adam walked into the kitchen then, and they hastily changed the subject.
“Hey kiddo,” Gary said. “How was school today?”
“It was okay,” Adam said. “I learned a new word in spelling.”
“Let’s hear it!” Gary tried to shake off the thought of Donald, and focused on Adam while he explained his new word and what it meant. Mary busied herself getting supper dished out and setting the table.
“Alright boys,” she said a moment later. “Time to get washed up, supper’s ready.” They ate and chatted about random topics, mostly following Adam’s description of school. When the meal was finished Mary cleared the table, and Gary went into the living room to watch television.
“Hey Mom, can I play my game a little more before bedtime?” asked Adam hopefully.
“Oh, I suppose,” she answered distractedly. “Just keep the volume down so you don’t disturb your father. He’s had a rough day at work.”
“Okay, I’ll keep it low,” promised Adam. He sprinted off to his room.
Adam continued to play his new game every spare moment over the next few days. On Friday he seemed to be running a slight fever, and stayed home from school. Mary found his yearbook from the previous school year on his desk while cleaning up his room, and guessed that he had moved on to making other new characters in his game to play against. It wasn’t until Sunday that she began to wonder what was going on.
“Dear, come look at this,” Gary said, browsing through the Sunday paper. Mary filled up her coffee cup and walked over to see what he was talking about. “Read this article right here.” She sat down and pulled the paper around, and began to read.
Principal, 3 Teachers, and 2 Students Die in Vicious School Shooting
An unknown gunman walked into the Eastbury Elementary School Friday. First fatally shooting veteran Principal Mike Johnson in his office, he then walked down the hall and entered two 1st grade classrooms and fatally shot three long-time teachers. He then moved to the playground, where recess was in progress, and shot and killed two second grade students. Names are being withheld at this time. After the seemingly targeted shootings, the gunman walked away and disappeared. At this time he is still at large. If anyone has any information concerning this horrific incident, please contact the Eastbury police department by dialing 911.
Mary read the article a second time, too stunned to comprehend what it said. Gary sat staring into his coffee cup, waiting for her to finish.
“Did you hear anything about this?” he finally asked.
“No! I hadn’t heard anything! Why didn’t someone call us? I... this can’t be right, right? I mean, this is Eastbury, things like this don’t happen here!” Mary struggled to maintain her composure. “Jesus, what if I’d sent Adam to school Friday? Oh my God.... I just.... what...”
“I think we need to keep him home until they find this guy,” Gary said. “It won’t hurt him to miss a few more days of school, and I’m not willing to risk it over a few spelling words that he might miss.” He took a long drink from his coffee cup.
“Should we tell Adam what happened?” asked Mary. “I mean, do you think it would traumatize him or something?”
“Well, he’s bound to hear about it at school when he goes back,” Gary said thoughtfully. “I’d rather he heard the facts from us instead of wild stories from his friends.”
“Yes, you’re probably right,” Mary said. The telephone rang, and she moved to answer it. “Hello?”
“Hi, Mary?” a trembling voice asked.
“Yes, this is Mary,” she answered.
“Mary, this is Katie Davis, Billy’s mother? We’ve met at PTA meetings once or twice.”
“Oh yes,” Mary said. “I remember you. Have you seen the paper this morning?”
“Well, that’s what I’m calling about,” said Katie. “I know Adam and Billy were very good friends, and I don’t know if Adam knows or not, but Billy was one of the boys killed Friday, him and Tommy Alexander.” She paused to blow her nose. “I’m sorry, this is just so difficult for us right now.”
“Oh no!” Mary wailed. Gary jumped to his feet as she burst into tears. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” she moaned. They sobbed together without saying anything for a moment. Gary put his arm around Mary, unsure of what was happening.
“We just... I just wanted to tell you,” she cried. “I’m sorry, I have to go.”
Mary hung up the phone and wrapped her arms around Gary tightly.
“That was Billy’s mom,” she sniffed. “He and Tommy Alexander were those poor boys who got shot. Those are Adam’s best friends,” she cried. “How do we tell him this now?”
Gary stroked her hair and hugged her, too stunned for words. They stood there holding each other for a while, neither saying anything. Adam wandered into the room a few minutes later and looked at them, bewildered.
“Mommy, what’s wrong?” he asked.
“Oh honey, sit down for a minute,” she said chokingly. “There’s something we have to tell you.” She slid into a chair, pulled Adam onto her lap and rubbed his hair lovingly. Gary sat down next to them and patted Adam’s knee.
“Son,” he said quietly, “while you were home sick on Friday, a very bad man went to your school and killed some people.” He paused, and took a deep breath. “This is very hard for me to tell you, and I know it’s hard to understand, but Billy and Tommy were two of the people he sent to live with Jesus.” He stopped then, unable to go on as Adam burst into tears.
“You mean they’re dead?” Adam asked in a wavering voice. “I’ll never see them again?”
“That’s right, son,” Gary trembled. “Go ahead and cry, it makes it easier to deal with. See, even Daddy’s crying,” he said, pointing to his own tears. “It’s a horrible thing, and we’re so sorry to have to tell you this.” He looked away, wiping his eyes. The telephone rang again. “I’ll get it,” he muttered.
“Hello,” Gary said gruffly, trying to hide his sorrow-filled voice.
“Mr. Jackson?” asked the man on the other end.
“Yes, this is Gary,” he replied.
“Mr. Jackson, this is Sergeant Jeff Rhodes, with the Eastbury Police Department. You were a witness to the shooting of Mr. Donald Jamison, is that correct?”
“Yes, I was there when it happened,” Gary answered. “What can I do for you?”
“Sir, I’m terribly sorry to bother you on a Sunday morning, but we’re in a hurry to catch this guy, and I was hoping you could come down and give us a few minutes of your time. We think this may be related to the school shooting, if you heard about that. Are you busy right now?” asked the Sergeant.
“Um, no, that’s no problem,” said Gary. He felt guilty upon realizing that he was relieved to be getting away from the tense situation at home. “I’m happy to help; I can be there in fifteen minutes.”
“Thank you very much sir, we appreciate it.” The two men hung up, and Gary looked at his wife and son.
“That was the police,” he said. “They want me to go give a statement about the guy that shot Donald, and they think it may be the same guy that did the school. I’m going to go see if I can help them get this bastard.”
“Okay sweetheart,” said Mary. “You go do that, and Adam and I will talk about things for a while.” She leaned over as he bent down, and gave him a kiss before he walked out the door. Then she turned back to Adam, and saw that he was beginning to shake.
“Honey, it’s okay, it’s okay,” she said, drawing him into a tight hug. “Mama’s going to take care of you and keep you safe.”
“Mommy?” Adam asked haltingly.
“Yes dear,” she murmured.
“Did any of my teachers die? Like, from last year?”
Mary jerked in surprise. “Um, well, yes, actually, there were three teachers from first grade who did. Did you watch the news or something? How did you know that?”
“I just guessed,” Adam said, wiping his nose on his sleeve. “’Cause I put Billy and Tommy in my game and I beat them, and they died, and then I put my old teachers in there, so I wondered if they died, too.” He began to shake harder, and his crying intensified. Mary sat stunned in horror, wondering if it was possible, this nonsense he was saying.
“Honey, who else did you put in there, anyone else from your yearbook?” she asked, almost in a panic. Adam cried even harder.
“My... my... my principal,” he stammered. Mary’s heart stopped momentarily, then began beating with a ferocious intensity.
“Oh no...” she whispered. The phone began to ring again. “Anyone else?” She hesitated, waiting for his answer.
“Daddy,” he whispered. “I played Daddy this morning.” Mary shrieked and jerked the phone off its hanger.
“Hello!” she shouted, almost hysterical. “Hello?”
“Mrs. Jackson? This is Sergeant Rhodes, from the Eastbury Police Department; I’m afraid I have some bad news...”
(word count: 2413)