I’ve written this story in response to Diana’s photo prompt.
“How long do you think they’ve been stuck inside there?” Jenny asked.
“An hour, maybe two. Couldn’t be longer, or the mice would be dead by this.” Her brother Gregg gave his best guess.
“Do you think there’s anyone inside the house? Are the mice real?”
“How am I supposed to know? The important thing is to end this thing ASAP.”
“Well then hurry up and do something, I don’t think that poor elephant can keep this up for much longer.”
She was right. The elephant in the gobi looked as if he might collapse from exhaustion. He was bracing an incongruously small blue house against a deformed tree that in turn, looked incongruously large beside the house. On the roof of the house six over-sized mice huddled together. If the house tilted over any further they were bound to fall off. Gregg thought that whoever designed this set either had a quirky imagination or was spatially challenged.
“There is no way I can unlock this.” Gregg was tracing his finger all around the gobi, which was the size of a soccer ball. He was looking for the catch. He groaned in frustration. “If we don’t end the story soon, they’ll all die. If the storm doesn’t get them, something else will.”
“Let’s take it home. Dad will know what to do.” Their dad was a software engineer with the tech giant, Annex.
“No, we can’t do that. What if the owner comes back?”
“What if the animals die before the owner comes back? What if someone in that house needs help? Besides, the owner will track it down when he’s ready anyway.” As usual, Gregg could not beat her airtight logic.
They lived just across the street from the park, but it still took them a few minutes to walk out of the park, wait at the crosswalk and then walk two houses down to their house. Mr. Lott’s face looked pained and frightened when he saw it. Almost mirroring the expressions of the mice on the roof.
“This is one of the applications of Merged Reality that makes no sense to me. Where did you find the gobi?”
“On a park bench. The owner must have money laying around. I mean, who forgets their gobi on a park bench?”
The elephant had changed position, bracing even harder against the house. He was looking more determined than ever to hold the house in place. Only three of the mice remained. Mr. Lott ran his finger over the gobi, in the same way that Gregg had done earlier, looking for the catch.
“The story is locked. There is no way to get in.” Mr. Lott said, still searching with his hands. Even though the device was voice activated, there was still a way access it manually.
“Well can’t you power it off, or reset it or something?” Jenny was getting more and more upset.
Mr. Lott opened the top drawer in his desk and rummaged a bit. He took out a small mallin and pressed a switch. A blue beam came on. He made Gregg hold the gobi and carefully he traced the beam along some line he seemed to be able to feel with his finger.
“There, we’re in. Hopefully, the mallin overrides the voice recognition.
Daniel, the game assistant appeared, suspended in the air, but looking as if he stood on something solid. He looked quite splendid in a tailored silk robe that flowed to his ankle. It was open at the front, revealing a matching grey suit. This feature was a fairly new one. Since their own gaming system was three generations behind, Gregg and Jenny were only familiar with Daniel’s voice, not the doll-sized hologram that stood in front of them.
“If you end this story,” Daniel said, “You will lose all the uploaded elements. Are you sure you want to end?”
“Yes,” said Mr. Lott.
They heard a single beep and the elephant, the mice, house, the tree and the snowstorm all disappeared.
“Do you want to create another story?”
“No Daniel, but I do have a couple of questions.”
“Certainly, what do you want to know?”
“Were there people in the house?” Asked Jenny.
“No,” replied Daniel. “It was a model, and I’ve returned it.”
“Where did the elephant come from?” Gregg wanted to know.
There was a slight pause as Danny searched for the answer. “Player one uploaded him from Cameroon.”
“And where did you send him just now?”
“I downloaded him near to his upload location.”
“How near is near Daniel?” Mr. Lott asked.
“My program allows a 100 meter radius.”
“What about the mice?” Jenny used to have a pair of white mice. She wasn’t going to let this go without finding out what happened to the mice on the roof.
“Oh those weren’t real, they are part of the files in the program.”
“One other thing Daniel,” Mr. Lott pulled pensively at his beard. “Can you disable upload, permanently?”
“Allow me to verify this please.” Daniel closed his eyes to show he was thinking. “Yes, I can disable upload permanently. Would you like me to do that?”
“As you wish. Upload is permanently disabled. No further uploads will be allowed from this device.”
“Thank you Daniel, no further assistance for now”.
“You’re very welcome,” and Daniel was gone in a pixilated flourish.
Mr. Lott walked with the children back to the park to put the gobi back where they had found it.
“Do you remember the story about Horton and the egg? An elephant is faithful…”
“One hundred percent!” Mr. Lott finished the line. “Ah, Dr. Seuss! The ancient classics!
“Can we create the world of that story and put it in the gobi? You know, so that the owner would find it. I feel bad that we took his story. I mean, I’m glad the elephant is ok, but still.” Jenny continued.
“We’d have to build the characters from scratch. It could take hours, and the set is a whole other project.” Mr. Lott answered. “Plus, I’m not going to tamper with this device any more. I’ve already broken the law once today.”
“I have an idea!” Gregg held up the gobi, which just looked like a soccer ball now. “What if we developed a whole bunch of those classic worlds and characters? Kids every where could have access to them! How awesome would that be?”
‘That would be way cool!” Put in Jenny. “Sometimes I feel I could use a little help when I’m building my worlds.”
“A little help from a Lewis or a Milne would not be such a bad thing.” Mr Lott chuckled. “Imagine children’s books making a come back. Not literal books with pages of course, that would be preposterous.”