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Ken should have known better: do not open E-mails from unknown sources and ESPECIALLY do not download attachments. But this had turned out to be great. He seldom played games, just some solitaire first thing in the morning to stimulate his mind. He was supposed to be a full time writer now and needed stimulation especially in this tiny back room that Edie had decided could be his office. He didn’t blame Edie for resenting him a little. Here she was going in to work to bust her butt every day, and all he had to show for his efforts so far was $300 in fees or prizes.
The game this download recalled was from the early days of computers. Yes, it had been DOS, C-Basic and it was on his very first IBM. Amazingly it was totally text – not a single graphic – but you would read along like in an exciting novel that would draw you in so deeply, it was near impossible to get away. And it was absolutely beautifully written. The game part was periodic questions, the choice of a doorway or objects to collect. At first he didn’t remember the details, just that he never was able to get past this tiger to save the lady. Also if you made the wrong choice, you weren’t killed – although it was always threatened - but sent back to the room where you started. That reminded him that the name of it was Déjà vu. There was something very Freudian about the whole concept.
Now on his new plasma screen Ken was there again, but presented in superb graphics, in the same great hall, the entrance to the castle with the high ornate ceilings, festooned with ancient cobwebs and spider traps, the magnificent gothic columns stretching to the threatening darkness above, floors of splendid, ancient tiles, cracked with age. Torches inserted into the walls provided what shadowy light there was. The graphics were fantastic. They really did draw you in.
There were six possible ways to go: two stairways up, a stairway down, and three entrances to other rooms. He remembered, downward, there was some object he needed to take upstairs. Dank stone steps led into pitch darkness and Ken eased the mouse to take him there. He could see beads of moisture on the walls. No wait, the torch, he needed to take a torch from the wall. And the sound – this modern version probably had fantastic sounds. Ken turned on his speakers and sure enough, his downward trek, was accompanied by creepy dripping sounds and the echo of his footsteps.
There was so much he remembered. The gnome was there holding a bottle of wine. A corkscrew lay barely visible on the ground nearby – too often he had forgotten that.
“I’ll take that wine, and the corkscrew, thank you,” Ken said. Wonderful, the game was picking up his voice through the PC’s mike.
“You’ll want the sword too, won’t you?” said the gnome through his gnarled teeth and filthy beard.
Did he? No, there was another sword, it was the big curved sword you needed. It was in the armory off the great hall.
“No just these,” said Ken. He headed for the stairs but suddenly a spiked gate came down and blocked his way.
“You need to answer a question first. Who is the first to be rescued, the king or the princess? Or perhaps someone else?”
It was the princess of course, she would help to find the hostaged king. Ken told him so.
He was in the great room with the cobwebbed ceilings and six ways to go.
Now he remembered. There was a page who held a key and he was locked up in the armory. OK, no problem, the second time the gnome would go a lot faster.
Everything was coming back. Ken had all the answers, with only a couple of setbacks and it wasn’t long before he found himself in the chamber where the tiger blocked his way to the tower where the princess was. But suddenly he became aware that he had been playing for an awfully long time. The clock in the corner of the screen said it was nearly eleven. What a way to piss away a morning. Oh, well, it was pissed now, he might as well play till noon.
The Tiger. He had always been defeated by the tiger. The sword, would only be ripped out of his hand and hurled back at him. The wine wouldn’t mollify the beast at all. He needed to say something. No, it could something to do with the corkscrew. No. “Please let me through, I need to free the princess,” said Ken but the tiger only roared and showed his teeth.
Ken thought he heard a noise, a real noise and leaned forward to turn down the speaker. The front door was opening and someone was coming in. Edie, for lunch maybe? She never did that. He got up and walked into the hallway toward the stairs.
“Ken, oh Ken, please come down. Something terrible….” It was Edie and she was sobbing pitifully. Now what, another stupid accident with the car. Damn. Ken turned to look back at his computer room with regret.
“OK, just a minute, sweet. What happened?”
What Edie called up was a hysterical keening: she had been fired, something about harassment . He’d have to go down but for some reason he hesitated – the Tiger, he had the answer - stepping back toward the computer room as if it were calling him. But wait, Edie! No.
He turned back toward the PC and plunged through a black abyss.
He was in the great hall, entrance to the castle with the high ornate ceilings, festooned with ancient cobwebs and spider traps, the magnificent gothic columns stretching to the threatening darkness above, floors of splendid, ancient tiles, cracked with age. Torches inserted into the walls provided what shadowy light there was.
And it was so cold.
This was fun just because the guys around me get SO caught up in these games - you can't help but wonder what world they believe they are living in. Nice rhythm to the phrases. I enjoyed it.
Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
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