Spookymilk Survivor X — Challenge #12: Aladdin’s Lamp

Okay, this week’s Spookymilk Survivor writer’s challenge proved to be a bear. The goal? Write a story where the protagonist is granted three wishes. One wish has to have positive consequences, one negative, and one with no consequences at all.

It took a while, but eventually I came up with an idea that I believed satisfied the requirements of the challenge. And since I had some time to actually write it, I decided to further handicap myself: Spooky has mentioned before to me that he can generally identify my writing (even though it’s done anonymously), so for some added obfuscation, I made myself write it in first person, and with a young girl as the main character. Out of my comfort zone, but here’s the end product:

Sunday afternoon is my favorite time; among other things, it means I get to go to Game Stop and browse the PS3 games. My mom thinks it’s strange for a fourteen year old girl to be so into video games, but I don’t care. And since this happens to be Super Bowl Sunday, chances are I would have the store all to myself. Myself and Peg, that is.

Peg used to be my babysitter many years ago, and now works the Game Stop next to Petco. She’s goth, but more in appearance than in attitude. My mom got along well with her up until she dropped out of school her senior year, then they had some kind of falling out. That all changed when she gave Peg “the shirt”.

Peg NEVER liked being called by her first name, Peggy, which all the kids called her. One day, I suppose as a sort of peace offering, my mom gave her a black t-shirt. On the front was a cartoon of a vampire with a stake in its heart, X’s for eyes and the whole works. Next to the stake, mom had added the letters “PEG” in appliqué. Ever since, they’ve been as close to friends as anyone is with Peg.

Mom usually dropped me off when she went to get her nails done and then a bit of grocery shopping before she picked me up again, so it was an hour or so to play. Sometimes Peg let me “demo” games with her, which was a blast. This time, however, I didn’t really feel like it.

“Hey Goof, what’s with the long face?” Peg was the only one that called me that, from her babysitting days.

“When mom sees my grades from this quarter, she’s not going to let me come here on Sundays anymore.”

Peg squinted at me, then pulled her laptop up closer to her on the glass counter top. “That might be something that I can help you with.”

“What?! No way! You can, like, fix my Beginning Algebra grade for me? I’m getting a D in there because of a really bad test.”

Peg didn’t answer, but continued typing. I came around to see what she was doing, and at first she turned the screen away from me, but then thought twice and turned it back so I could see, too. At the top of the open window it said, “West High School Grade Maintenance System” with a list of names under the heading “Freshman Class” and a toolbar with lots of icons on it. “How about that, Goof — Mrs. Watkins still hasn’t changed her password,” she said, with a smile on her face.

“Can you fix my grade?” I asked, glancing around the store. I couldn’t hardly believe this was possible.

“Sure! I gots mad skillz.” She moved the cursor on the line across from my name, stabbed the letter “b” on the keyboard, and suddenly my grade point average on the right jumped by half a point. “Just that simple.”

I looked around the shop uneasily, but with the Broncos in the Super Bowl, pretty much no one else was going to be there the entire afternoon. “So, can you change my Creative Writing grade as well?” I was starting to feel a little greedy.

Without answering, Peg hit the left arrow a few times, highlighted another grade, and hit the “b” key again. I saw my grade point average go up .125, but we both noticed at the same time the red letters “UNAUTHORIZED” flashing on the screen. “Bastards!” shouted Peg, while I felt myself suddenly needing to pee. “Bastards! Bastards! Bastards!!”

“No! Change them back! CHANGE THEM BACK!” I was starting to cry, as I bounced back and forth between my feet. I was going to get like at least a week of at-home suspension!

Peg stared at the screen for a bit longer, and then quickly clicked the logout button followed by her fingers flying over the keys when the login screen came back. “Ha! Unbelievable.” When the “Freshman Class” name list returned (along with the flashing red “UNAUTHORIZED”), Peg placed the cursor over “B” and typed “d”, then dropped the cursor over to the left and put back the “c”. I had to look twice to be sure the screen no longer had any flashing red text on it anymore.

Peg leaned back in her chair and breathed a big sigh — or was that me? “It’s been five years since “Gray Fox” retired from principal, and not only have they not removed his login, but his password is still the same!” She was still shaking her head as she hit the logout button and closed the window. “Sorry Goof, looks like I can’t help you after all.”

Just at that moment the door opened and my mom walked in. “Hi Peg! Sorry, hon, I’ve got to cut you short this time. I should have realized the nail salon would be closed today, what with the Super Bowl and everything.”

I glanced briefly at Peg, and still felt pretty nervous. Peg closed her laptop, and said, “Mrs. Stevens, I was just going to suggest, if Goof ever needs some tutoring or anything, I’d be happy to do that when you drop her by on Sunday afternoons.”

“Why, what a nice offer, Peg! I’m sure she’s doing pretty well, but if her grades do let down any, we would love to take you up on that offer. We’d better get going though. If the score I saw at the Hugo’s store was right, someone is going to need these antacids when the football game is over.”

I’ve been reading the Millennium trilogy (currently on The Girl Who Played with Fire), so Peg has a bit of Lisbeth in her. K criticized me for making the main character’s speech meaningful and in complete sentences, so I added a couple “like” to her conversation. Also, a shout-out to the true Gray Fox, Principal Rudow.

Just curious — who does I Write Like think my writing matches this week?

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Well, that’s different. I’ll take that aspect as a success, then.

So, how did this one fly? RESULTS. Not so much. Everybody loves a forced curve, don’t then? Thank God for the immunity. Judges’ takes:

K: Tim Tebow is in the Super Bowl? What is this, a horror story? I do like the setup here with these characters, but watching people work on a computer does lose me after a bit. I would have stuck with it if the computer hacks were all of a different nature, but this one essentially was the same all the way through, though I did dig the tone and these people. 1

DK: I like just about everything about this except it doesn’t feel quite as sharply drawn as a few of the others, and the ending dialogue gets a little obvious-feeling. 2

And the sad ending is that another SPOILER ALERT! writer is pushed aside. I’m not happy.

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