‘You should be thankful for all you have,’ the mother said to her forlorn son. ‘You may not have the latest iPod nor an IPhone but you have food in your belly and a roof over your head.’
The boy nodded his head in acceptance of his mother’s statements but in his heart he craved all that others had.
He knew he had another day of misery coming up at school as all his mates were far more tech savvy than he was. He dreaded another day of ridicule, another day of hiding out in the library with the nerds who read and did of all things homework.
That day he slid into the library as the lunch bell sounded and found a corner well away from the prying eyes of the beady eyed Librarian.
He took from his pocket his space invader game, 1992 version, looked around and made sure no one was about to interrupt him or discover him with a game ancient by modern standards.
Games engrossed him; he entered their world and became oblivious to what might have been going on around him.
He didn’t notice that someone had sat down beside him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a person he had never seen before.
An old small bearded man, with a bright orange pointed cap, a striped jacket and the reddest shoes he’d even seen.
The boy stopped abruptly aware that the man was looking intently at him.
The man smiled and looked at the game the boy was playing.
‘Ancient game I’d say,’ he said his crackly voice in the boy’s ear.
The boy was immediately embarrassed by the man’s statement and tried to cover up the game he was playing.
‘You are hiding from the others I know,’ the old man said, matter of fact. ‘I can fix that for you.’
‘How?’ asked the boy.
‘Simple. I can give you the ability to play the most modern and sophisticated games.’
‘Oh yes, for a small fee that is.’
‘Fee? I have no money.’
‘Oh its not money I want.’
‘Then what do you want?’
‘ Yes you.’
‘But I don’t have any modern games. All my mother can afford is this old Space Invaders game.’
‘Are now you see that is where a little magic comes into it. If I was to say I shall give you a copy of the new Quadrant Six game ahead of any one else what would you say?’
‘All the kids are talking about Quadrant Six; it’s the most advanced game ever. They’ll be queuing for days to get hold of it. How can you get me one? I don’t have any money to pay you for it.’
‘Were you not listening? I said I require no money from you.’
‘If you have the game and master it ahead of everyone else you’ll be popular, you wont have to hide in the library, others kids will look up to you, seek you out for advice, you’ll become everything you dream of.’
‘You can do all that?’
‘Of course, but you have to remember my fee.’
The boy sat back and looked around to see if anyone was near enough to have heard the conversation. They were alone it seemed and the boy suddenly had visions of himself surrounded by admirers as he showed how he had mastered the new Quadrant Six game.
He was sick of being the odd man out. Here was a chance for him to shine and opportunity rarely knocked at his door.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’ll do it.’
‘Oh good,’ said the man. ‘I’ll be in touch. You best get back to your game, you’ll need all the practice you can get.’
The boy looked back at his game and then turned his eyes to the old man. But the man had gone. The boy thought for a moment he had imagined the whole thing but found a small card on the seat where the old man had sat.
‘Roughanskinny’ Purveyors of the Impossible.
Give us a call, it’s as simple as that.’
That night the evening news announced that already queues of gamers were forming outside the gaming shops as the anticipated release of Quadrant Six was creating huge interest within communities worldwide. Saturday was the release day and tonight it was Thursday.
The boy went through the next day with a renewed sense of optimism as he thought about the deal he had struck with the old man.
On Friday night he was awoken to find the old man in his room. He handed the boy a package in which was the new game and all he needed to play it.
Over the next week he thrilled his schoolmates with his prowess and ability to master the various levels of the game.
By Friday he had attracted a vast crowd of followers both physically and on line. They gathered round him at lunch as he weaved his way in and out of the multitude of passages and obstacles the game presented him with. Friends watched him and immediately put his results on the gamers website. By this time he was many levels ahead of his nearest rival in India.
As the minutes ticked by on the Friday lunch he neared the end of the game and as the bell rang out he completed the game. There was thunderous applause and accolades flowed thick and fast. He felt on top of the world, a hero, a someone, no longer would he have to hide out in the library. There were even girls who were attracted to him.
He felt very pleased with himself as he headed to class, his game console safely tucked into his backpack.
As he turned the corner to his classroom there stood the little man.
That night his mother sat up late expecting her son to return home at any moment. She was so pleased with the change in attitude she had witnessed over the past week. Her son was happy. She was happy. She had heard about his success, how could she not when it made the evening news?
Her phone had rung hot that evening with calls of congratulations.
In a place far away the boy sat strapped to a chair. A whirring sound reminded him of the old man’s fee.