The 'Shroom:Issue 103/Live Skree or Die Hard
Hello 'Shroom readers, 'Shroom haters, and junkies who misunderstood what kind of product they were purchasing. I have come to issue a retraction. In the previous issue I had stated that Fake News director MCD is filthy imperialist scum who is trying to conquer the Earth, and that as part of his conquest he forced someone to use the spelling “colour” in place of “color”. That was untrue. In reality, Microsoft Word's spell check feature covertly changed the spelling as part of Bill Gates's secret plot to ignite global war by raising tensions in the powder keg that is the world of orthographic convention. God damn you, Bill Gates.
Unfortunately, none of that actually has anything to do with what the 'Shroom kyriarchs asked me to write. Actually, I'm supposed to be talking about the time I won a tournament I never entered. I guess they just don't care about my quest to bring the truth about MCD's non-reign of terror to the public. Then again, I never actually asked whether they cared.
So anyway, I was laying around wondering where food goes when I eat it and whether the processes involved might qualify me for the status of a nuclear reactor, when I heard a knock at the door. I didn't bother to answer it, because I recognized the distinctive thudding timbre of the knocks and knew that eventually the person doing the knocking would feel perfectly entitled to come into my house uninvited. I laid back down and tried to find words for the upcoming conversation. Shortly, a large man clad in a small pair of underwear arrived in my room.
“Mr Politoed will see you now,” he said.
I didn't reply. I had long since giving up trying to fathom why my friend couldn't just use a telephone when he wanted to talk to someone. The large, largely nude man was equally inured to the process, and without further commentary he hoisted me into the air, laid me across his shoulders and carried me out of the room. There was a time when I might have attempted to protest this, but that time had passed.
The trip was equally uneventful. I was carried out to a stretch limousine that had been stopped right in the middle of the street. One of the perks of living in the middle of nowhere, I guess. Inside were the usual amenities: a jacuzzi filled with swamp water, a television tuned to Logo, and bowls of Chex Mix in every flavor. I considered partaking of the latter, but I wasn't sure of the legal situation with regard to mobile nuclear reactors. So instead I laid down on the provided bed of down plucked from the bodies of day old pidgey and waited to arrive.
By the time we arrived, I had fallen asleep. When I woke, I observed that I was already on the shoulders of the clothing-deprived man. We appeared to be traveling down a hallway lit by crystal chandeliers at about the height of my head. From the dull ache and the swinging of the chandeliers behind us, I surmised that it was these that had awoken me. We entered a room that I had never seen before, a sitting room with several overstuffed looking couches. I was deposited unceremoniously on one of these couches and left to myself. I observed the afternoon sun streaming in through the windows and waited for my host.
He came, of course, as he always did, within minutes. I couldn't identify what he was wearing, not being privy to the world of haute couture. I could identify the wine glass he was holding as being filled with milk from the line of cows he had had bred specifically to suit his palate. I waited.
“So I brought you here to discuss the Awesomenauts tournament I'm planning for this year's festivities” He got right to the point, as I knew he would in any story being retold by me. I hate small talk.
“Yes,” I said. I had guessed what this would be about.
“Last time, we agreed that you would participate.”
“Yeah...” The way I remembered it, he had simply informed me that I was going to participate.
“But you haven't signed up yet!” he already looked hurt, and I wasn't looking forward to what was coming. I didn't say anything. “Well don't just stare, say something!” I sighed.
“Anton, I just don't really think this tournament is for me.” I hoped that would be enough, but I knew that it wouldn't. He stared expectantly. “It's just... competitions... they make me uncomfortable, you know?”
“We play this game all the time and you never complain.”
“Well, that's just for fun. It's different when you bring pretend money into it. Then it feels like people are judging me for every failure.”
“Ugh, I knew you'd do this. You never put any effort into this friendship, or anything else for that matter. Have you even moved under your own power today, or have you just laid around the whole time?”
I thought back through the course of the day's events and self-consciously pushed myself into a sitting position. I tried to look incensed, but it's hard to look like anything when your face is made entirely of rigid bone. “I made those scrolling dossier boxes for you, didn't I?”
“I'm beginning to think that you only went into programming because it's something you can do without leaving bed or moving anything but your fingers.”
“Come on Anton, tournaments just don't appeal to me.”
“Every word you say to me right now is like a shard of glass driven directly into my heart.” He pulled a remote from somewhere on his person and pressed a button. A television descended from the ceiling into the space between us. It was displaying a looping animation of a woman I didn't recognise, captioned with the phrase “If there's nothing missing in my life, then why do these tears come at night?”. I took this to mean that the conversation had ended.
The return trip was as uneventful as the non-return trip had been. When I got home I did several minutes of housework, proving that implications that I am slothful are untrue. Then I fell asleep. The next day I noticed that a billboard had been erected in my front yard. The phrase “TERRIBLE FRIEND” and an arrow pointing towards my house covered its visible side.
After that I didn't think much about the tournament. I heard occasional status updates from its increasingly frantic participants, mostly about the impossibility of scheduling matches between six people who each had conflicting schedules. I didn't think much about these. Then, one day around noon, the phone rang.
“Hello?” I picked it up and prepared for whatever kind of sales pitch this was.
“Hi,” Anton's voice echoed down the line. At the time I was shocked that he had finally decided to use the telephone. In retrospect, I suppose that all of his nearly naked men were busy coordinating aspects of the awards.
“Listen, I want to talk to you about this tournament.” He spoke rapidly. “We've been planning some free-for-all matches, anyone can play, and – hold on, another call –” the chorus of Lady Gaga's Telephone began to play, but after about 30 seconds it was interrupted. “– sorry, that was just Smasher, calling to tell me that he broke his nose in a shuffleboard accident and is now too incapacitated to help out with the awards any more this year, but that's OK, I can do his share of the work, hahaha!”
It seemed like the stress of running the biggest event in our community was starting to get to him, so I thought I would offer some words of encouragement. “Well, I–”
“Anyway, we've been planning free-for-all matches and you should come play too, it won't be competitive at all and we could use the extra players, except the thing is it's scheduled for like 2 AM our time, because somehow that was the only time we could compromise on, but I'm sure that'll be OK for you because you spend like 22 hours per day sleeping anyway so you never have any reason to be tired.”
“GR8, see you then!!” He hung up.
I went back to sleep.
I waited for the appointed day as I usually wait for things: bouts of impatience occasionally punctuating long periods of forgetting that I was waiting for anything. Eventually, the day arrived. When I got to the tournament lobby, I noted that there were like a dozen people ready to play. This in spite of the fact that the formal tournament had more-or-less collapsed under the stress of trying to get everyone around to play at one time. I have no explanation for this.
You'd think at this point I would have some description of the matches I played, since they would appear to be the entire reason for this section. Luckily, they're actually totally irrelevant to explaining how I won the tournament. That's lucky because I have no idea what to say about them. “I sawed a lot of people”? If you're really curious about my performance I uploaded one of the matches to YouTube. This was my best performance of the night, so hopefully it gives you an overinflated sense of how good I am at video games.
During the awards ceremony, I was not present. My sister wanted me to watch her son, so I did that instead. That's fine, because I'm not big on parties, and I'm especially not big on big parties. I like babysitting antisocial children like him, though, because you can just lay on the couch the entire time while they play Halo.
That's ok though, because Smasher's shuffleboard injury meant that the awards were shorthanded, and so the winners of the tournaments weren't actually known at that point. Several weeks later, I got a package from Anton. Inside there was a note and a bronze medal engraved with the legend
The note ran as follows:
“Hi, this is Anton. If you're reading this message, it means that I am dead. The stress of the awards has killed me. Luckily, I am a famous and attractive robot superstar, so I can't stay dead forever. It just wouldn't be fair to all my fans.
“It turns out that there were almost no successful matches during the Awesomenauts tournament, except for the free-for-alls. By virtue of the fact that you were in all of those, you played more matches than anyone else in the tournament, and the points you got from playing all those matches put you ahead of almost everyone who was actually participating in the tournament. Congratulations. It seems that even a terrible friend can be a winner, if nobody else is present to win.”
I put the medal around my neck. Of course, the ribbon immediately slid through the space between my head and shoulders because I have no neck. The medal hit the floor and its surface chipped. I decided to see how much I could get for it on eBay.