Karol D. Horváth

The Game
© Dimitris Tsoumplekas
Translated from the Slovak by Heather Trebatická

It's almost evening. A nine-year-old boy is walking along the street. So far he has taken six steps and he has six more to go. His name is Dominik. He enters a shop specialising in computer games. There's a taxi behind him. Dominik weighs sixty-five kilograms. He is spoiled and no one likes him. They have no reason to.
A moment ago, he handed the taxi driver a thousand-crown note and said, "Wait here for me. Then I'll give you another." His parents have taught him that everything can be bought. Dominik's parents have bought everything in the world. Dominik included.
In his pocket, he has a further hundred euros. It's what his father's "sorry" is worth. That's because yesterday he'd promised to take him on a trip to London, but something came up to prevent him from doing so.
The boy takes six more steps. He is now standing in front of a stained, oak door he knows only too well. The door is set in a black, granite portal bearing the inscription: "Destroy and Kill!" Dominik waves a fat hand. The door opens. He goes inside.
At the other end of the room, directly opposite the entrance, there is a counter with a cash register. The walls are completely hidden behind heavy, dark, wooden furniture. A man is standing behind the counter, browsing through a magazine printed on black paper. He is short and thin, with a conspicuously pale face and penetrating, black eyes.
"We haven't seen you here for some time, Dominik," he says.
"I don't know you. Are you new?" Dominik asks.
"I'm the owner," the man replies, staring into Dominik's eyes.
Dominik walks up to the counter.
"And so?" he says.
The man gives Dominik an amused look.
"I want to give you a present. You're my best customer."
Dominik is still making his way towards the counter. His legs ache. He's never taken so many steps at one time. At last!
The man's offer hasn't surprised him. He is used to getting presents.
"Show me!" he says.
A jet-black disc appears in the man's hand. He holds it out to Dominik. The boy takes it in his plump, sweaty hand. He examines it.
"Where's the title?"
"It doesn't need a title," the man replies, watching Dominik.
"And the case? Where's the case?" Dominik then asks, beginning to stick out his lower lip. This is a sign he's not happy about something.
"It doesn't need a case either. It's the best game in the world."
"That's a lie. It's shit," says Dominik.
"I don't need to lie," says the man. "I've given you a gift. Take it."
The man looks into Dominik's eyes. The boy suddenly bursts into tears, turns abruptly and hurries out of the shop. The disc in his hand.

Dominik is at home. He enters his room and goes straight to the computer. He touches the keyboard. Immediately a monitor the size of a dining table lights up. The lamps in the room go out.
Dominik goes to put the disc into the mechanism, but he can't make out which is the right side. The disc is equally black on either side. He decides it's all the same and slips it in.
The mechanism slides shut. The screen instantly darkens and the only light in the room is that from the full moon. A deep voice comes from the seven-channel loudspeaker system: "Yes?"
"Uh-huh," Dominik says after a moment's silence.
A red notice appears on the screen:
"Ecce, in culpa natus sum, et in peccato concepit me mater mea."
"For behold, I was born in iniquity and my mother conceived me in sin," says the voice.
Dominik sticks out his lower lip.
The screen lights up. It looks strange. It's never been like that before. Dominik thinks it looks as if he could thrust his hand into it. But he's afraid to try. Dominik has learned from horror films that sticking your hand into mirrors or monitors is not a good idea.
Thousands of glittering dots appear before his eyes. Shivers run down his spine. Deep under the layers of fat, anxiety begins marching towards his brain. He shifts the mouse. The dots shoot off wildly in all directions. Dominik reacts with a cry of fear, but anxiety grips his throat and no sound escapes.
Constantly changing coloured balls are now rushing at him from the computer screen. Dominik forgets his fear and stares at them in amazement. A penetrating glow radiates from behind the balls, outside the monitor. Even Dominik's generally insensitive, self-centred ego has to admit that what he sees is beautiful. He moves the cursor indistinguishable from his forefinger to one of the balls. The sound system emits cheerful rhythmical music. The ball spins around madly. Dominik clicks twice with his finger. The ball disappears from the screen. For a moment, Dominik is blinded by dazzling colour effects. He shuts his eyes and blindly clicks again.
When he looks once more at the monitor, he can see a menu. Heading a long list of other items, he can clearly see the word:
That's something Dominik understands. He opens it and, showing signs of boredom, runs down the long list of choices until he discovers a colour chart. Dominik selects a bright green and clicks on it.
The voice speaks up: "Yes?"
After a moment's silence, Dominik answers, "Uh-huh."
Something has changed. The boy scrutinises the screen, but the menu is still the same. Then he realises that the light shining into the room from outside is green. He tips his chair and looks out of the window. A large, round, green moon is shining in the sky. Dominik laughs. He clicks on the red square in the chart.
Again the voice is heard: "Yes?"
The moon turns red. In quick succession, Dominik tries out dark blue, orange, white and light purple. Then he loses interest. He tries to get out of the menu. He keeps clicking randomly until he hears the familiar "Yes?"
"Uh-huh," says Dominik and for a moment the room is plunged in darkness.
The only light is from the monitor and it is blinding Dominik. The boy gets a little scared and looks in the direction he guesses the window must be. But he cannot see any moon.
For a while, he tries searching for the BACK button, but can find nothing of the sort. He shrugs and goes on clicking. The music is still a cheerful march.
For a moment it seems to him that the ground is moving under his chair. He keeps glancing towards the window. Most of the stars have disappeared from the sky and a yellowish-green glow is spreading over the horizon.
Dominik is beginning to get hungry. He feels like something sweet. He considers whether to go into the kitchen for some ice-cream, or whether the bar of chocolate in his jacket pocket will do. The chocolate wins. Dominik takes six steps over to the jacket he has thrown on his waterbed and takes out the bar of chocolate. He tears it open and gobbles it up.
Still chewing, he walks another six steps into the passage, six more to the kitchen door and another six to the ice-cream maker. He got this when he couldn't go with his father to Ulaanbaatar to ride on the camels.
Dominik takes a glass heaped up with chocolate ice-cream, which he eats with a large spoon, while considering what game to play next, because he has long lost interest in the one he has been given.
Back in his room, he stumbles over a model of a Porsche Carrera. He loses his balance, staggers and falls onto the desk. The glass of ice-cream flies out of his hand and breaks as it hits the keyboard. A fraction of a second later, Dominik's face falls on the same spot. Scattered over the desk are the mingled remains of the keyboard, the glass, ice-cream, a little snot from his nose and several millilitres of blood.
Anxiety at last reaches his brain. Dominik begins to snivel and lifts his head from the wreckage. The music plays a rousing finale.
Two words shine down on Dominik:
Dominik quickly moves the pointer to TURN OFF and clicks.
The voice is heard to say: "Yes?"
With no hesitation, Dominik happily mutters: "Uh-huh."
He has finally managed to finish the game.

The Game is from the collection of short stories Karol D2 Horváth
(Levice: Koloman Kertész Bagala, a member of L.C.A. Publisher's Group 2005).

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