• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 09
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The Rules of the Game

Dress it, they said. Make it shine, and the bald-headed one handed me a string with tiny bulbs protruding from it.

‘This,’ he said, waving the black thing with the three stalks, ‘goes into there.’ He pointed to the white plate on the wall with three matching slots. ‘Do your worst,’ he said. I do not profess to understand the logic of their games.

This is not what I was built for. I began life as a prototype for interactive games but something went wrong. The bald-headed one said my circuits were burned out and my memory chip had lost part of its function. Now I live with the bald one and the female with long hair and they order me around while my potential is thwarted. I seem to be something to tease and to ridicule. They call me their slave but this was never my original function. I was built as an equal, to slay enemies and to be the gamer’s friend. I mourn the missing part of me that keeps me a figure of fun.

I stare at the tree. With what am I supposed to dress it? I search my memory bank for data on this strange human custom of Christmas. All I access is that humans dress their trees in sparkly raiment and worship a being half human, half god. I look at the plastic child with lacy wings. Is this their god?

So I do the logical thing. I drape a jacket belonging to the bald one around the top of the tree. I force branches through the sleeves. The arms stick out on either side. I uproot the tree from its pot and insert the thin trunk through one leg of his trousers. The waist will not close in the middle and the trousers drop. I take the string of bulbs and wind them around the clothes until it holds the jacket and trousers together. The black thing I am supposed to push into the three slots will not reach. I rip the black thing off the end of the string and insert the wires into my charging port.


The Rules of the Game

I blink as the bulbs light up and begin to flash in synchronised patterning. I take their god child and place it on the top of the tree.

The male and female enter the room. They laugh. Water trickles down the female’s face. An emotion I know as crying. I have done my worst, it seems.

Later I notice the bald one turning something over in the palm of his hand. He is laughing. My eye zooms in and I see it is my missing chip. I am not built for emotion but logic. I wait to see where the bald one stores that chip. When the humans are recharging I will retrieve my missing part and be fully restored. The rules of the game will then belong to me.