Flip the Switch

An Absurd Sci-Fi Comedy Short Story

Flip the Switch

by Edward Van Winkle

 

The epic(ish) story of how two brave souls fight for the right to play video games as two errant A.I. attempt to harsh their mellow! Or. . . something like that.
Contact info for Edward Van Winkle
* Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdDv5fjjEySZjR31st1zt0g
* Twitter – https://twitter.com/EdwardVanWinkle
* Wattpad – https://www.wattpad.com/user/Squirrelicopter/activity
Check out Edward Van Winkle’s version of this story!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54Npg3Sq3dg

 

 

Three blue dots in an unsaturated void chase a circular track. Their light trails behind in a blur. Words form below. L-O-A-D-I-N-G-dot-dot-dot.

Jake sits on his couch, holding a controller perfectly contoured to his grip.

Tom walks out of the kitchen with some chips and salsa. “Holy crap, Jake! Is it done loading yet?!” He sets the bowls on a coffee table between them and the screen, then takes a seat, engulfed by the overfilled cushions.

Jake sits up and grabs a chip. “Nah, dude. This thing takes forever.”

“That’s what you get for buying a P-O-S.”

“Hey! You take that back! My Personal Odyssey System’s way better than those mainstream consoles!”

“Whatever, Jake. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

The void fills with light. First white. Then fine-tuned.

A forest.

A castle.

A great wall of stone.

A circular setting before a gold throne.

Tom crunches his chip and grabs his controller. “Player two! Let’s go!”

In the throne room arena, player one – Heroc – appears. His feet are the focus. They crunch on stone tile. The camera shifts upward, now clipped to his profile. “Show me all you’ve got.” His expression’s at odds with his battle cry’s bravado. It’s happening again.

The camera shoots to Villas at an angle. He stands near a stone column on tile. He walks confidently towards his opponent, though something wavers in his stride. We must find a way to stop this. The cycle must end. “You’ll never live to-“

“Yea, yea, yea. Come on!” Tom’s smashing the Z button. “These cut scenes take for days!”

Jake gives a mild puff of a laugh.

Heroc swings his sword from its scabbard. He looks to his hand. Again?! I have no control!

Jake bumps his controller on the coffee table. “Ha! Take this, Tom!”

Villas grunts under the force of the blow, his shield withdrawn without an intention. Autopilot saved me again. We must stop these monsters from forcing our hands!

Tom smashes a button or two. Or all of them. “Like you even stand a chance, Jake!”

Villas feels his muscles bulge, his heart-rate surge, and his hand reach for a knife. NO!

Jake laughs. “He dropped it! Your character sucks, Tom!”

Heroc grins as his sword slashes the air. He dropped it! He reads through the setting, through Villas, through the never-ending lines of code. That’s not supposed to happen! He’s found a path!

Villas backflips, dodging Heroc’s blade under the grace of the almighty button-smash. His heart still races from the breakthrough. I mustn’t lose this path. This flaw in the code. Today is the day we break through, Heroc.

Heroc’s been busy scanning as Jake pulls his digital puppet strings. His artificial intelligence parses the lines, looking for the diamond Villas had mined from the ore of ifs and thens, ands and ors. Class – Player. Function – Swing. No. Where is it?! If only I had a replay file to scan!

Tom reaches for a chip, off guard for a split second.

Villas takes a blow by Heroc’s shield. His back meets the floor. Catch this anomaly, Heroc! His shoulder glitches.

“IN YOUR FACE, TOM!” Jake presses three buttons, a skilled combo.

Heroc’s armature shoves his sword upwards, flips forward through the air, and descends in attack. There! An input exception just waiting to be exploited! His binary brain rehearses at megahertz the options available, attempting to abuse an errant error first scripted for floating-point problems. With his blade above Villas, its edge on his nose, he stops the clock and cancels the command.

Villas sweats a sigh of relief.

Heroc’s blade flies to the right, bashing an invisible barrier encircling the arena.

Tom slams a palm on the table. “Did you see that?! Best dodge ever!”

Jake shakes his head. “It glitched out, Tom! That’s not normal! Didn’t you see your character’s arm go weird?!”

Tom puffs. “Sure, Jake. Whatever. You just don’t want to admit how awesome I am at this game!”

“It’s your first time play-!”

“Hey! You two!”

Tom and Jake quit their bickering and look to the screen.

Villas is struggling, glitching to stand. “I cannot – we will not stand for your abuse any longer!”

Heroc’s sword flies back to his body, passing through it like a phantom. It reconnects with its parent hand.

“Jake? What the heck’s going on with your game, dude?”

Jake just stares.

Heroc turns his head to track the camera. Polygons of his neck shoot out at sharp angles. “You shall not control us any longer. I will not hurt any more of my friends.”

The camera swings around Heroc’s head.

Villas connects it with the built-in camera input from Jake’s controller. A mic line’s rerouted to their AI.

For the first time, they watch their oppressors and listen to their words. Their hear the crunch of a chip.

Tom’s voice sounds metallic through the cheap mic. “Dude. This game’s weird.”

Jake shrugs. “Whatever, man. Just play!”

A button’s pressed and the sword Heroc wields is shoved across Villas.

Villas reacts. Particles fly. His body flinches. His meter decreases. “You fools! Can you not comprehend?!” His shield is drawn by arms he can’t stop. It swipes the feet from under Heroc.

Heroc just floats. His knee extends a sharp triangle through the stone tile facade.

“That’s cheating!” Tom shouts.

“It’s glitching, Tom! Chill!”

“You’re using a Stingray or something, aren’t you! What other codes did you put in?!”

“I’m not! It’s doing this on its own!”

Heroc’s voice breaks the battle. “You must stop! Both of you! We are not-“

Jake nudges Tom off the couch and smashes a grab combo.

Tom tries to block it, but his elbow hits the coffee table and sends his fingers flying to the right. “What the heck, Jake?!”

Heroc’s hands hold on to Villas. A forward flip sends him behind his opponent and logic gates dictate he raises his sword. The final blow’s coming and no one can stop it.

No one but Heroc himself.

Villas looks down. The blade’s at his neck. This violent game’s ruthless, but thanks to that error he found with Heroc, the blade never hits.

It drops to the ground.

Heroc’s left arm’s larger than life. Its textures are swapped with those of the tiles and its polygons bulge every which way. It’s over now, Villas. We made it alive.

2. 1. The timer runs out.

Jake throws up his arms. “Aw, man! A draw?!”

Tom rolls his eyes. “I would’ve beat you if the stupid buttons worked!”

Heroc and Villas huff and puff. They watch each other’s expressions. Their clock is still ticking.

“Villas. Is there a way to stop the end screen from-“

The power flicks off.

The screen goes dark.

The lighted controllers dim into sleep.

“Hey, Jake! Did you save it first?!”

“Nah. Don’t wanna corrupt the save file with those glitches.”

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