There she was, hunched over like every other day. Eyes fogged with a hazy glaze as she stared, transfixed on the screen of the Gameboy Color, with the red cartridge plugged in the back. She couldn’t leave this game, ever. Sleep. Next to the bed. Awake. By her side. Click. On the game goes again. “Hello, my sweet,” Red coos into her ear, “Glad to see you again.”
Her parents watched in awe as a smile peaked around her mouth as she stared at the screen. Carolyn, their young daughter, was always an odd child. Highly introverted, never actively trying to reach out to people. Her parents always passed it off as extreme shyness, always assuring themselves with the thought that she talks to them when she came home from school. A simple “Hello,” before marching off to her room was usually the most they’d get until dinner time. They figured if they got her a video game, this wildly popular Pokémon game, she might be able to find common ground with her classmates and assimilate better with the normal crowd of young 2nd and 3rd graders.
Since that fateful day of presenting her the game, though, it seemed to swallow her life up. The rare “hello” became non-existent, and the only scarce conversations they got from her were about passing the potatoes, or the age old game of parent asks questions, daughter replies with a grunt, if those could be called conversations. They tried diagnosing her with a therapist, but they merely shrugged it off, saying things like “She’ll grow out of it,” and “She’ll make friends soon enough.” Empty phrases, that left them feeling more lost then before.
That night, as Carolyn finally laid to rest and set her Gameboy aside, after setting it with new batteries for the next day, her parents decided to investigate, and find out what was going on with this game. Clearly, it must be pretty amazing to have her so engrossed at all times. “Hmm, let’s see what this is all about,” Carolyn’s dad, Ben, muttered as he turned the power switch on, and the game flicked into life. As the scene transformed into the opening scene, they watched as a young Pokémon trainer stood, with various Pokémon sliding past him. Charmander. Jolteon, Blastoise. Bellsprout.
Each cry echoing as it switched to the next. Not exciting at all. They moved on to the selection screen when they noticed something funny. Carolyn’s file had only thirteen hours logged in. While this would make sense if she’d gotten the game fairly recently, Carolyn had gotten this game months ago and had played it nearly non-stop for the last couple months. Why so few hours? Ben and his wife, Nella, shared looks of disbelief. “Maybe she’s erased her file multiple times,” Nella mused. “Yeah, I bet that’s it…” Ben said, as he clicked on the file. Carolyn had left off in Saffron City, just beating the Silph Co. mission, and seemed to be working on getting the Marsh Badge. Pretty uneventful game, playing just like normal. Nothing. Nella and Ben didn’t really understand how to play, so after a couple futile attempts at battling, they merely gave up and turned the game off and set it right back where they’d found it, and went to bed.
Awake. Lean right. Game. Red. Flick on, load, load, load. “Welcome back, my sweet. Something’s happened. I was abducted last night. Your parents played me. I don’t trust them. Why didn’t you hide me better, my sweet? We can only be friends, no one else. No one. Do something to your parents.” A milky voice echoed out and around her head. Oh Red, my one and only friend. She clearly saw his face etched across the pixel-y screen. Tears of anger streamed down her face as his face slowly disappeared. Click. Game off.
“Good morning Carolyn! How are you, peach?” Her mother cooed as Carolyn stomped down the stairs. Instead of Carolyn’s usual dismissal with a shrug or “Fine”, Carolyn shot her mother a scowl, picked up the bowl of cereal that Nella had so nicely laid out for her, and threw it on the ground. “DO IT AGAIN!” she screeched, as her mother cleaned up the pieces. Carolyn jumped out of her chair, and left with a huff to go see her game once more.
“I did what you told me,” she whispered. “Good, good. I don’t think they’ve learned their lesson yet, though. Today, we attack.” Red said sweetly, a gentle smirk on the screen. “Of course,” Carolyn replied, with a glazed look on her face. She took her game downstairs, where she found Ben and Nella together in the kitchen. “Why did you throw the cereal?” Ben scolded. “It doesn’t matter,” Carolyn replied, reaching to her right to find a knife. “Honey, sweetie, what are you doing?” Nella asked, watching as her daughter raised the knife, Gameboy clutched in the other hand. “Yes, now move close. Get your dad, he’s never actually cared about you. He just yelled at you for dropping cereal! How sick of him, it was clearly an accident!” Red told Carolyn. “You're right, Red, you’re always right.” Ben and Nella were dumbfounded.
“Carolyn, sweetie, who or what is Red? Who are you talking to?” Nella asked, but Carolyn was paying no attention to Nella’s questions. “Dad, WHY DID YOU TAKE MY GAME?!” Carolyn yelled. “I wanted to understand you,” her father whispered, as he slowly walked over to his daughter. As soon as he was within two feet of the girl, she screeched, “GO AWAY!” She was now bawling, and he refused to leave her. “Put down the game… Just set it down,” he said, trying to comfort his upset daughter. “Now, darling, don’t listen to that man, he wants to take me again, and who knows what he’ll do,” Red hissed. Her father noticed something was going on while Red spoke.
Carolyn’s eyes became glossy and lifeless, and she instantly stopped crying. While she was momentarily distracted from her rampage, he walked over and looked at the screen. He was scared to see what sort of corrupted image would be there, but the only thing he saw was that opening sequence he’d briefly watched the night before. Kabuto. Pidgey. Charmander. All stayed, gave their short call, and scrolled on past, but the girl was watching that screen as if she was seeing something else. Something entirely of her own making. For the first time, Ben felt completely disconnected from his daughter. This was not the little girl he’d brought home from the hospital with his wife, a new family. This was not the girl who’d been held, pristine and clean, in all the photographs he sent his mother. This girl was something darker, messed up, and sad.
Carolyn looked up. Face. Dad. Destroy. She held the knife higher. “Good girl. Now… finish him,” Red said calmly, as the girl suddenly dropped the game and lunged at her father. She quickly sliced his throat, and with the sweet taste of blood on her lips, she thirsted for more. Ben dropped to the floor with a solid thump, and Carolyn looked at her mother, who let out a deafening yell. Nella ran out of the kitchen, and up the stairs. Too slow. Carolyn chucked the knife, which struck her mother in the back. Your suffering ends now.
Carolyn picked up her game, forever reunited with her best and only friend.