In case you missed it, you can read part one by clicking here!
It was a video game. Twelve video games, actually. Eleven of which the boys didn’t care about and one of which was chess. Daniel’s father had been kind enough to lend it to Charlie so that he could prepare for what Daniel told his father was the “most important competition ever known to mankind.” Charlie had never played a video game before, but after a few minutes of Daniel showing him the basics, he managed to figure out some of the more complicated aspects quite easily.
To test it out, Charlie began playing a round of chess with the video game set on easy mode. The boys watched Charlie ‘uming’ and ‘ahing’ for 10 minutes, before he finally had the video game in Check-Mate. Michael and Daniel high-fived and Daniel snatched the video game from Charlie, telling him it was useless him playing the game of easy mode. “You could clock that mode in the time it takes me to eat my dinner,” he said. “If we’re doing this thing, we’re doing it properly.” Daniel set the chess game to ‘Very Difficult’ and handed the video game back to Charlie. Charlie couldn’t quite beat the video game on that mode before Daniel was called away for dinner. He told Charlie to take the video game home with him to practice, but not to let anything happen to it.
The next day, Charlie wasn’t at school. Michael and Daniel were worried, as the last time Charlie had a day off from school it was because he had broken his arm while in second grade by falling out of a tree at the local park. The boys tried to find out from their teacher what had happened to him, but she wasn’t willing to give them any information. The school day moved very slowly and the boys were on their bikes, riding towards Charlie’s house within seconds of the bell ringing to head home. They knocked on the door and Charlie’s mother answered. She explained to the boys that Charlie wasn’t feeling all that well, but that he might be well enough for them to go up and see him if they would like. They headed up the stairs to his bedroom, knocked and opened the door.
Charlie didn’t look well at all, but it was obvious to Daniel and Michael that it wasn’t because of any illness they had seen before. Charlie was playing the video game and his eyes didn’t even leave the screen as the boys entered and announced their arrival. It took Daniel to run up and jump on Charlie’s bed to even get his attention. Charlie looked up with a look in eyes which seemed as though he didn’t even recognize his two friends. Daniel made the mistake of trying to take the video game from Charlie, saying, “C’mon, man, let’s. Jump off that thing and we’ll head down to the bike tracks.”
Charlie pulled the video game close to his chest and raised his voice at his friends for the first time since they had met. “Leave it alone!” he exclaimed. “I’ve got keep practising for this tournament. It’s the only way to beat the son of a world champion.” Angry, Daniel and Michael left the bedroom with Michael telling Charlie that he hopes all of this is worth winning that chess game for.
The boys didn’t see Charlie at school for the next week. And, although they hadn’t left on the best terms, Daniel and Michael ached to pay their friend a visit every afternoon. Three days before the chess tournament was due to start, they couldn’t hold back any longer and knocked on the door to his house at three twenty-four in the afternoon. Charlie’s mother greeted them again and, when they asked if they could see Charlie, she explained that it was probably best they didn’t head up to talk to him. She closed the door before they had a chance to ask any more questions. “I say we just leave him until the day of the competition,” said Daniel. “He’s bound to turn up. Right?”
Michael shrugged his shoulders as the boys left the house.
The day of the tournament arrived, and Daniel was nowhere to be found. Jacob Conroy won with ease as the boys watched on in disbelief. Unable to figure out what might have happened, Daniel and Michael decided not to go back to Charlies’s house after school, but instead to try and sneak into his room once it got dark. They settled on a meeting place and at seven thirty, they met under the tree to Charlie’s bedroom. As quietly as they could, they climbed the tree, giving them access to Charlie’s bedroom.
Daniel looked through the window but couldn’t see Charlie anywhere. The boys knew that Charlie always kept his window unlocked, so, despite Michael’s concerns, Daniel opened the door to Charlie’s bedroom and hopped inside. Charlie wasn’t in his bed, but the video game was placed on top of the pillow. Out of curiosity, Daniel turned it on to see how far Charlie had made it through the game. To Daniel’s surprise, Charlie had beaten every high score there was to beat. That was when Daniel noticed something strange. The screen went blank, then an unfamiliar menu showed up in its place. Daniel dropped the video game on the floor and rushed back out of the window to a very confused Michael. “Just go!” Daniel said in his hurry to leave the room.
The video game lay on the floor with the menu still flashing one simple instruction: PRESS START TO VS WORLD CHAMPION, CHARLIE BATEMAN.
This tale has some connections to Tale #5 – The Tale of Two Runners. Click here to go deeper!
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