Control Alt Delete (extract)

Laurie Steed Control Alt Delete

PLAYER 1

My father bought my first computer when I was nine years old. It was a win-win situation:  he wanted to make up for leaving us and I wanted to watch a screen until my family went back to normal.

My very own Commodore 64 played off-key music, eight bar headaches. My mother fragmented; my brother keyed cars and my sister shouted four letter words. I'd play video games until her words were bleeps, sound files that echoed off the walls and out into the garden.

 Mum was lagging. Did she need a reboot? Scheduled system maintenance? Was she simply too far gone?
 

PLAYER 2

I met Mike that year. For twelve months we played cricket, football and video games on a TV the size of a building block.  I had a friend and brother in Mike. He wasn’t sad or drunk or stoned. He liked football, cricket and being my friend.

We talked about books and movies. We ate our way through vacuum packs of ham and sliced wedges of cheese off the family block; we kicked and threw and caught and dived, and when Mum came home she’d drink wine in her living room as we played Green Beret in ours.

I decided Mike was my best friend in the world. I know, kind of weird, but sometimes people like you, and sometimes people are like you. We’d talk, laugh, and sometimes sit in silence. We seemed to know some things were better switched off or saved in the memory.

On the day I got my first computer we played and played until it was time for him go home. I saw him in the screen's reflection, walking out the back door, and he was gone, just like that.

Consoles came along when I was twelve years old. The games were better, the colours, brighter, and you didn’t have to press play and wait as the computer squeaked and squealed. 

The games worked for the most part, only occasionally they skipped, froze, or shuddered. Sometimes they’d celebrate my achievements. They’d congratulate me, saying, “You’re a winner,” and for once I felt like one. In real life, success was a mistake; with every “A” I got, I’d be told not to trumpet, as if being successful were some sort of character flaw.

Cords coiled around my wrists. Mum squeezed out the last drops of Banrock Station, my sister disappearing for hours at a time. Whenever I got a high score I wrote my name on the screen. Soon all the scores were mine. I was king, a three-initialed king with a sandwich and a bunk bed.


 PLAYERS 3 AND 4

At fifteen, a boy called Luke made my sister do a thing she didn’t want to do. She came home different that night, as if she’d been hacked. She’d close her bedroom door but if I leaned in close I could hear her crying.

She drank and drank, more than Mum most nights. It didn’t matter what, she just needed to be drunk. Sometimes she’d want to hug me but her breath smelled like tequila. Mum said she couldn’t get through to her, not anymore. I said she needed a strategy. “If you want to win,” I said, “you’ve got to have a strategy.”

 

'Control Alt Delete' Appears in Etchings 12: VisualEYES

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