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Monday, 7 December 2009

MULTIPLY Wordsmiths Challenge #21: Helping Neighbours

At last Sarah Jones was retired and had time for all those things she wanted to do instead of her day being filled with things she had to do. She could rise in the morning when she wanted and cook her food at home, not having to take a quick lunch in the supermarket restaurant combining it with shopping. Her days were now filled with twenty-four hours of pleasure and not work. There was a small problem.

Sarah liked working, she liked having a target in front of her eyes and now there was none, so Sarah being how she was decided to explore and find what she could. She liked reading, so the first choice was to find a good book. When the book was finished she had to find another one, this was a trifle boring with time. She had the computer and decided to explore its possibilities. Surfing around on internet was also monotonous until she re-discovered one of those social sites where you could correspond with colleagues. There were enough colleagues and now Sarah had time to connect but there was still something missing - it became boring.

One day Sarah discovered a game on this social site. She suddenly had a farm, was connected with people she knew and started to build it up. This was not really the fulfilment of her needs, so she searched further and found something very interesting. An imaginary town existed on the computer, called Myville. She had a look and found a few colleagues were already there, fully equipped with houses, furniture and to a certain extent even a garden. To finance her life in Myville she could work in a factory, earn money, visit neighbours and it even had a casino. Myville had everything. Now Sarah was occupied and had a purpose. Of course, she realised it all existed in the virtual world, and not in the real one, but this did not bother her. Instead of sitting alone at home watching boring television programmes in the evening she could escape into her world of farms and towns.

One morning the postman brought Sara Jones a letter. She was not really expecting anything special, just the usual invoices for the electricity and perhaps for the income tax. Even this had to be paid if when retired, but Sarah had worked all her life and had enough money to live comfortably. She opened the letter and found it to be from a computer software company.

“Dear Miss Jones

It has come to our attention that you are one of the most successful participants in the Myville computer game. We have noticed the talent you have in making progress. It is for this reason we have decided you would be the ideal person to try our newest game “Neighbourville”. It takes place in the town of Neighbourville and the basic idea is to look after your neighbour, feed him, clothe him and in general take care. Money can be earned by fulfilling these chores and you will have the opportunity to gain rewards for your good work.

Enclosed is a sealed envelope containing the computer link and the code words needed. As this game is still in experimental stages we would ask you to keep these details private at the moment. You will be informed further when the game will be available for the general public .

We thank you for your co-operation and we are sure you will enjoy the game.

With kindest regards
The computer “X” company*

Sarah was both pleased and surprised to receive this letter and found that it would be a welcome change to the normal games she was playing. She had been chosen to play and she was flattered.

That evening she decided to see what the idea was and opened the sealed envelope showing the site www.myneighbour.edu. It was even a .edu site, and she was convinced it must be something intelligent. Her entry code was also supplied. It was quite long, a mixture of twenty letters and signs, but she had no problem. When she entered the game she was in a very comfortable room; a fire was burning and the furniture looked very welcoming.

“Welcome to my home” were words printed on the screen. Sarah searched to see where they were coming from and then suddenly one of the armchairs rotated and there was a nice gentleman sitting in the chair smoking a pipe. The words continued.

“Hello, I am George your neighbour. I am not able to leave my home as I cannot walk very well. Here is a list of items I need from the shops, please fetch them.”

Sarah searched for the way to get to the shops and found it written on a tab above the screen “Shops”. She clicked on the name and suddenly found herself in a greengrocer shop showing various vegetables. Her figure had already been supplied. She was surprised she could not create it herself. It just seemed strange that although she was complete as a woman, her face had no features. She decided this was probably because the game was still in the beginning stages. The list of items to fetch was still showing at the bottom of the screen so she clicked on the items and soon she had a basket put in her virtual arms containing everything. She then clicked on the tab showing neighbour and arrived back to George with the items she bought.

She then saw that George started to unpack everything and on the list the items were ticked off.

“The oranges don’t look very fresh” George said, the words appearing on the screen. “You will have to return them to the shop.”

Sarah decided, enough was enough, she wanted to play, she did not need another stressful job in her life and closed the programme, the problem being that it did not close, but George was still sitting there.

“I want my fresh oranges” George said and this time it was not words written on the screen but a voice coming through the loudspeaker.

Sarah was astonished to say the least, and then it repeated again at least three times, getting louder all the time. “I WANT MY FRESH ORANGES”. Sarah travelled back to the greengrocer shop on the screen and again asked for oranges.

“For George” the words came on the screen.

Sarah typed yes and then the words came “you should have told us that before. George has special oranges.”

Sarah then had oranges put into her basket, twice as big as the last time and returned to George. George clapped his hands and took the oranges. Sarah was about to switch off again, but she could not, try as she wanted to, the programme was fixed on her computer.

“I want my slippers” said George, again over the loudspeaker, and cook my dinner. You bought some meat and potatoes, go to the kitchen and click on the cooker.

Sarah did as George said and she found that the food started cooking. Again she wanted to leave.

“You cannot go yet” said George “you have to serve my dinner and wait until I have eaten it. Then you must wash up the dishes.”

Sarah decided she had enough of George and pulled the plug out of the wall, but the computer continued running.

“I am you neighbour, your job is to look after me and I will say when we are finished. I will go to bed in an hour and then you can switch off. I sleep until eight in the morning and expect you to be here again.”

Sarah decided that George was an annoying neighbour. Somehow she felt that she had to do what George was demanding, and an hour later when George went to his bedroom on the computer, Sara was tired and also went to bed.

The next morning at eight the computer switched itself on again and there was George.

“Where is my breakfast? Go to the kitchen, I want eggs and bacon.”

Sarah went to the kitchen on the computer and found only bacon.

“There are no eggs?” said George. This is not good, go to the shop and bring eggs. I will wait.”

“This is enough” thought Sarah and again wanted to close the programme. As she touched the key on the computer she felt a pain go through her hand.

“Ow” she said “what was that”.

“That was my punishment that you forgot the eggs and are refusing to bring them from the shop. I am an old man and need looking after. I am your neighbour and you have to do what I say.”

And so the days passed and Sarah found that George was in charge of her life. After a week she was surprised that George was not in his armchair on the computer when she switched on. She was actually glad. It was then that she saw words written at the bottom of the screen.

“You have now passed all 10 steps of this programme and have qualified. George no longer needs you. You have progressed to the next level.”

A few days later Kate Simmons received a letter in the post from a computer company introducing her to a new game called “Neighbourville”. Kate’s husband had died a month before and she was organising her life without him. It was difficult at the beginning, but with the help of a social site on the computer she found that the evenings were not so boring when she participated in the various games. Now she had received an introduction to take part in a new game. “This will be fun” she thought. She dialled the web site and entered the complicated code she had received in a sealed envelope.

She found herself in a very comfortable room; a fire was burning and the furniture looked very welcoming.

"Welcome to my home” were words printed on the screen. Kate searched to see where they were coming from and then suddenly one of the armchairs rotated and there was a nice lady sitting in the chair knitting.

If Kate had ever known Sarah Jones she would have been surprised as the nice lady looked exactly like Sara Jones, but Sarah Jones had disappeared. The police had been alarmed. Her neighbours had not seen her for some time. Her house was empty and there was no trace. If you looked back further, you would also have seen the headlines in the newspaper that an elderly man, George ……. had also disappeared in the same way a few months before. The similarity in the two disappearances was that the computers belonging both to Sarah and George were missing, never to be found, but the police and neighbours did not notice this.

1 comment:

  1. did you make that up?
    its strange but good

    ReplyDelete