Shelf Life: episode 3. “Optimus Prime”

“Failure to comply,” Ned said. “Means that I will self destruct and explode in your head.”

What I wanted to do was to scream and to run away from this madness as fast as my feet could carry me. What I actually did was to just sit there with a stupid expression on my face, wholly unqualified to respond.

“Recruit?” Ned said. “I am detecting an acceleration in your heart rate. Do we have a problem?”

I took a breath and composed myself as well as I could.

“No.” I said “Just absorbing the rules of this game is all…”

“This is not a game, recruit.” Ned said. “You work for Santa now.”

“I got it.” I said. “I’m good.”

“Great.” Ned said. “Then let’s play.”

A digital time display appeared suddenly in front of me, like a hologram. I could feel Ned’s neurolink in my brain like a dull itch. The time display was counting backwards from 10. I felt it in my guts when the clock struck zero.

Once more my outsides felt as though they were sucked under my insides and I was thrown across the universe. I was suspended for a moment like a smear across the windshield of existence until with a teeth shattering jolt I was back to my position on the shelf in the house with mom, dad Jake, Haley and Buddy.

I was just beginning to salvage a grip on reality when I heard a commotion through the darkness.

“Baby, what’s wrong?” Came mom’s voice.

“Go to sleep honey.” Dad said. “I forgot to move the stupid elf is all.”

“Stupid elf?” I thought to myself but it was a half hearted offense. Mostly, I was still thinking about the ticking time bomb in my brain.

I heard a crash, followed by a guttural howl.

“Shit fuck!” Hollered dad. “Fucking legos!”

There was more stomping and then suddenly I felt his hand grip my waist and carry me away. He muttered some barely discernable expletives and before I knew it I was hastily attached to the back of a transformer toy.

“Stupid elf…” Dad said, again.

I didnt much care for dad but my annoyance briefly replaced my anxiety. The lights switched off, leaving me alone once more in the darkness and I listened to Dad’s heavy foot steps clamber away again.

Silence and darkness became my friend. I was just beginning to relax when I felt some subtle movement below me. The movement turned swiftly less subtle and the transformer toy reached out its plastic arm and grabbed me unsuspecting by the throat. I was suddenly face to face with this toy whose eyes were now alive and vibrant, and killing me…

“I…” the toy said. “am Optimus Prime!”