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Michael Scores Perfect
He topped his class in exams year after year. He was in the school’s swimming team, the orchestra, the Judo team, the soccer team and the Math Olympics team.
Michael had been the envy of his parents’ friends for years. He topped his class in exams year after year. He was in the school’s swimming team, the orchestra, the Judo team, the soccer team and the Math Olympics team. His eyes were always smiling. His lips never talked too much. Every time he spoke, he would speak appropriately, as if he was scoring in a football match. He was always polite. He was passionate to succeed. He had done everything right in life, so far. He sat for ten subjects at this open exam and was expected to get at least eight “A”s. On the day the results came out, all his classmates wanted to read his results immediately after reading their own. They wanted to know whether the top student in their school had made history for the school for having a straight “A” student eighteen years in a row. He always knew he would do well but couldn’t help to breathe heavily when he started reading his official result slip.
“D - D – D – D – D –D – D – D – D – D.” Before he could come up with the emotion to react to this nightmarish result, Peter had managed to take a peep at his slip and shouted, “No, this can’t be right. Michael, you have to appeal and have your papers reviewed.” His classmates had all forgotten about their own results and started gathering around him, talking and sighing in disbelief. You could also easily tell that quite a few of them were pleasantly surprised. Michael kept quiet while all these went on for a good fifteen minutes. He then calmly excused himself and left the classroom. The bright and fierce summer sun was piercing his eyelids. Sweat kept running down his eye-brows and found its way to his chin. He had decided to walk, rather than take the public transport, so that he could have more time to think. He had also switched off his mobile phone. It would be really messy for him to try to explain what had happened to his parents over the phone. He had come up with just the right way to talk to his parents before he reached home, yet he knew he had no idea why he got these ghastly results after swiftly sailing through all his papers like a breeze.
He opened the door and said with his best normal voice, “Mom, I’m home.” He saw his mother sitting in her favorite sofa. His father was also home, unexpectedly. They had a guest with them, a handsome gentleman in his forties, in a dark suit. He looked familiar. Michael was certain that he had met his guest at least a couple of times before, but he could not say when or where. His parents nodded at him but stayed quiet. They were leaving the talking to their guest who appeared easy with taking the center stage.
“Hello, Michael.” the guest walked to him and offered to shake his hand. “Hello, Sir.” Michael shook his hand which was warm, dry, slender and strong. His guest had the hands of a master pianist.
“Sorry about your results, Michael.” Michael was a little startled by his comment. He was too refined to ask any questions. He kept quiet and listened. “Are you surprised that I already know about your results?”
“Yes, Sir. How did you find out?”
“I did not find out, Michael. I actually made that happen.”
Michael did not understand this. He thought hard about what was going on but managed to refrain himself from asking questions. He knew the man would tell him more if he needed to know.
His guest continued calmly. “Michael, my name is Dr Emerson. I write computer programs. You might find it difficult to comprehend this, but I created you. You use yahoo mail and would be familiar with Avatars. You are one of my Avatars. No, I should say you are my best Avatar. I have channeled most of the spare virtues of this program to you and that’s why you are so close to perfection. The world you live in and all your experiences happen in one of the virtual worlds I created. I had been experimenting with these over the past seventeen years and had sorted out a lot of the bugs. However, I am running out of cash. I have to somehow bail myself out of the deep hole I dug for myself.”
By now Michael could not control himself further and burst into hot temper, the first time in his life, “Stop, that’s all non-sense. I have thoughts and feelings. How can this world be unreal?”
Dr Emerson replied softly and with apology in his tone, “I’m sorry, Michael. I don’t have to prove anything to you. I have written the next step of our dialogue and which means in one minute, you would realize what I said was true.”
“No, I won’t believe any of this. I could feel everything around me. I even have my dreams, my plans and ambitions….” Michael went on, blushing and breathing heavily. It was all in vain, one moment later, a thought suddenly hit him and he lowered his head in despair.
“You are right. I should have discovered. How can I be so perfect? I haven’t even done one single thing wrong. Until just now, I have never lost my temper. I have never failed any tasks. I do everything so rationally and in such discipline. Yes, I am unreal.” Michael stopped and tried to figure out what to do next.
“Michael, this is not the end. It doesn’t have to be, unless you choose to. I have already sold your exam results for cash. That helps but is not enough to save me. I need to sell more valuables. Right now, you are my most valuable avatar. I like you too much to let you drift away like that. I want you in this discussion about your future. I am selling this whole program for cash. That means, I cannot control what you do and think any more. That’s why I’m here, to learn about your preferences. To put it in the simplest terms: Do you want to live an ordinary man’s life? Or, do you want me to delete your character? It could be unbearably painful for you to be ordinary now that you’ve been shining like a star for seventeen years. Without my help, you might still find joy and success, with your own effort, needless to say, the hardest way. You would experience scorn and insult, just like your ordinary fellow Avatars. You might fall in love with some of them, who might have bad manners, no loyalty and are only inconsistently affectionate. They might even be plain looking, and have bits of green vegetables showing between their teeth when they talk. So, to have your Avatar deleted is not so bad. This is not death. There is no pain, nor sorrow. You just go from an intelligent existence to nothing. Michael, this is the last thing I can do for you before I get locked out of the system later tonight. You think about this and let me know.” Dr Emerson rose and petted Michael of his shoulder. He left the family with the dead silence in the sitting room.
Michael’s parents started to talk as if they had not heard anything, “Michael, how did your exams go? Did you get what you expected?”
“Mom, Dad. Sorry. I didn’t do too well. Can we talk later? I was up early this morning and I need a rest now.” Michael was hit by a sudden drain of energy and wanted badly to take a nap. He lied down in the sofa in the sitting room and slowly fell asleep. He woke up after sunset and found that he was all alone in the sitting room. He did not move. He tightened his hamstrings and felt his knees lock. He ran his tongue over the back of his teeth. He was certain that he could taste coffee, what he had earlier in the morning. He remembered the conversation he had with Dr Emerson but did not understand it fully. He laughed at himself, “I must be imagining things, poor results must have done it.” He suddenly realized that his mobile phone is still off. His parents might want to reach him. He turned it back on and found that he had a text message. He opened the message and read it.
“Michael. For living life the hard way, with your own effort and sweat, for success or failure unpredicted, for happiness or failure, unguaranteed, press 1. To opt out, do nothing and be nothing from this minute on, press 2. You have five more minutes before the program chooses whatever I set by default. Best regards, Emerson.”
A countdown was showing on the LCD of his mobile phone. For the first time in his life, Michael had this lump in the throat feeling. He questioned himself hard. He then challenged the situation again, insisting that it was nothing but a bad dream. It was the longest five minutes he ever had but not enough for him to know what to do. He thought about the many more things that could go wrong for him from then on. The LCD was showing the last three seconds to go. He took a deep breath and pressed the number.