Wire and Ivy Plants

Amy Brueckman


            He was always attached to some kind of wire or screen.


            The technological revolution had grabbed him with its metal robot arms and held him hostage. After a while he got used to the steel and the flashing lights. The whirring of machinery wasn't so bad after he adjusted to hearing it constantly.

            Wires entangled him at all times. ipod headphones and charging batteries and DON'T unplug that cable or my game will die before I get to level five and then I'll be REALLY pissed. He stayed up till all hours of the night, bathed in reflective blue backlight, simply because he had nothing better to do and didn't even notice the time passing anymore.

            Every once in a while he looked away from the screen and blinked, stretching his arms over his head. He glanced at the clock that flashed 3 a.m. in fuzzy green numbers from across the room, causing him to scratch his head in thought, trying to remember if he ate dinner or not. The game was minimized and Google surfaced, telling him what restaurants were open and delivered at this hour of early morning. None. Damn.

            He grumbled about how if he ran the world, businesses would be run by robots at night and could therefore be open 24/7. The thought was pushed from his head after he realized that the idea would make the human being completely obsolete. Now that would make a good movie, if it wasn't one already. He would consider pitching it to Spielberg if Left 4 Dead wasn't consuming his soul at the present.

            Anyway, Easy Mac gourmet it was. The cuisine was prepared under the solitary beam of one kitchen light (turning the others on would be too bright). Then it was back to the industrial blue of the computer.

            In the next few hours, hundreds of mutants would die, the home base would be protected, and back in the Real World, the horizon gradually began to brighten. Natural yellow light started to filter through the blinds that his mother had left open, claiming that the ivy plant she had placed on top of his dresser needed sunlight to live. He had assumed this was some kind of trick and that the woman had ulterior motives. Humans needed their vitamin D as much as the next chloroplast.

            But soon those brilliant rays became blinding and distracting. Instead of seeing rotting shacks and zombies, he found himself staring at a reflection of his face. He wrinkled his noise in annoyance and hit the pause key. Tripping over empty cans of Monster and a plate of stale pizza rolls, he ambled over to his window to shut those troublesome blinds.

            The world really was different out there. The birds were awake and chirping merrily and the dew shimmered in the glow of the morning light. It was a place full of green and yellow and a kind of warmth that a computer would never emulate. It was... far too happy-looking out there. All of it was soon shut out by blinds being angled closed.

            That wasn't his world anymore.

            It was Tuesday, one of two designated days of Watering the Plants. She left her son's room for last. His room was different from the rest of the brightly decorated house. It was dark in there, silent, closed off in a way that made it unwelcoming to other people. Her son wasn't one who liked to interact with the rest of the world unless they were on the other end of a headset.

            She pursed her lips, opened the door, and immediately walked over to the blinds that were angled shut. Hadn't she told him that the blinds needed to be kept open during the day? That was the major reason she had put a plant in his room to begin with. Plants needed sunlight to live, just as her son did. If all the sunlight he would receive was through a window, then so be it. At least it was better than nothing. But of course, she knew the light interfered with his game because of the reflection on the computer screen. She knew her rules would only be followed for so long when zombies or “shoot 'em up” games were involved.

            Water made contact with dry, crumbly soil as she angled the watering can towards the thirsty pot of ivy. Poor thing. It wasn't the only thing that her son neglected. At least it was still living, a claim  she couldn't make about Speedy the goldfish. The rest of his neglected items could all be found in the vast black hole that lived beneath his bed. It contained a baseball bat, a tarnishing trumpet, and an unopened box of Prismacolors, to name a few. Obviously, these items had not been cheap. His mother was rather displeased that they ended up tossed aside. But she was even more unhappy that the attempted hobby interventions had amounted to nothing more than a pile of dust bunny covered junk.

            Shaking her head slightly, she turned back towards the door. The Life-Drainer itself, the Hp desktop, stared silently back at her. It looked considerably less threatening with a blank screen rather than one filled with dying zombies. She glanced at the lime green box thrown casually on the floor. Yes, that must be the game he was still playing: Left 4 Dead. She scoffed silently. The brilliant people who thought of the name could have at least spelled out “for.” She could just hear Webster spinning in his grave. And what was that? A yellow post-it was stuck to the side of the monitor, declaring “|3\/3| $!><.” Was that supposed to be English as well? Surely not. He son did attend school, didn't he? Children had been taught grammar and spelling in school, hadn't they? Not only were video games teaching them that violence was okay, but now they were interfering with proper spelling. She was tempted to pick up the case and fling it right in the trash. But she knew it wouldn't do any good, it would just make her son mad at her. So she sighed again, picked up “Left 4 Dead” and placed it on the desk. At least her son wasn't into drugs or other illegal activities. But still. She wished he would do something besides sit bug-eyed in front of that machine for hours on end. What happened to the days when he used to go outside and play with his friends?  His own mother barely even saw him and they lived in the same household. It just wasn't natural. The boy needed to be unplugged.

            She set her watering can down with determination, not even caring about the water sloshing over the brim which was sure to leave a ring on the desk. Her hand hovered above the plug that connected the monitor to its other electric counterparts. Just one tug and those flashing lights would finally go out.

            And yet... she couldn't bring herself to do it. Detaching one's identity isn't something that is easily done. She knew what all those dumb games and logic strategies had come to mean to her son. So she grabbed her watering can off the desk. Just before she left the room, she picked up the green CD-ROM case and placed it back where it had been discarded on the floor.

            The blinds she left open.

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