He never said so, but Kyle didn’t like it when Mum went shopping and he was left all alone. She was only ever gone an hour, but he did feel scared to think that he was the only one in the house. Mum didn’t like leaving him, he was only ten after all, but Kyle always made so much fuss about staying to play DupeWorld on his PC that she always gave in. He spent hours playing it each day, creating buildings and towns as well as people to live in them. Mum was always saying that he played on it too much but Kyle ignored her.
The deal for him being allowed to stay when Mum was out was not to open the front door or answer the phone. Kyle understood this and though he was frightened to be on his own, it made him feel grown up and he would never do anything to jeopardise this freedom. Of course Mum had written her mobile number on the pad by the phone in case he needed it, and if she wanted to call to make sure he was alright they had a code where she would call let the phone ring three times before hanging up: a signal to Kyle that when it rang again he’d know it would be her. He hated it when she called like this to check up on him as it meant he lost a few minutes playing time.
Kyle loved DupeWorld. Mum moaned at him constantly and said it would give him square eyes and headaches, but it didn’t. The best part was creating people to live in the game. It allowed him to control their appearances and choose their personality traits such as degree of friendliness, hot-headedness and sense of humour etc. The game gave him money to build cool places and buy amazing things. The biggest house he’d built had a version of him and Mum who he’d called ‘Kylebot’ and’ Mumbot’ living in it. On the outskirts of Kyleville, he’d made a crummy shack where Dad, or ‘Dadbot’ lived. In real life he resented going to Dad’s at the weekend as he’d only let him play for one hour each day.
Once, Mum was out shopping and Kyle was on his own creating a zoo on DupeWorld when the phone started to ring. He counted the tones and ignored it when it went past three. Two minutes later it was still ringing and annoying him, but he kept playing knowing that he was not allowed to answer. After five minutes ringing solidly he was going mad even though he’d turned his computer’s speakers to maximum to help drown the noise. By ten minutes of it ringing he was almost crying, worrying over whether he should he answer it. Then it stopped. It was such a relief. He turned the speakers off and enjoyed the silence.
Immediately he did this the phone started ringing again, Kyle almost screamed, but then incredibly it changed tune – to the theme music of DupeWorld! Kyle was amazed: he didn’t know phones played more than one tune, let alone game themes. He thought of his Dad’s mobile and how he got it to play a certain song if a particular person was calling and thought it must be the same, and that if it was DupeWorld theme then playing he reckoned it must be someone who knew him so it would be safe to pick up.
Kyle ran down the stairs and lifted the receiver. “He-hello?” he said. There was a crackle on the line for a few seconds then a man’s voice, faint and seemingly faraway said “There is a cheat on DupeWorld which will amaze you. Get a pen.”
Wow, thought Kyle. He knew of some cheats for other games – secret sequences of letters and symbols that if typed in would reveal previously unknown parts of the game or enhance it in some way such as giving you extra lives or weapons, but he did not know any cheats for DupeWorld. His mind immediately spun with hopes that this cheat might give him extra money to buy more things in the game, so he told the man that he had a pen and waited excitedly.
“In the log-on sequence type 666AVATAR666 then press Return,” the man instructed. “Got that?”
“Yes, yes,” said Kyle scribbling it on the pad under Mum’s number. The man hung up.
Kyle ran back upstairs as fast as he could, hurriedly rebooted the game, and as it began to reload he typed in the cheat and pressed the return key.
Nothing happened for a few seconds, the game continued to load as per normal then the screen went blank. Kyle took an intake of breath thinking the cheat may have been some sort of virus when there was a loud bang which made him jump along with an intense white flash which blinded him for a few seconds. When his eyesight cleared he was immediately aware that the game music was now much louder and somehow all around him, and that he was no longer sitting at this desk looking at the screen, but in a zoo – HIS OWN DUPEWORLD ZOO. He was IN the game! He could look out through the inside of the PC screen and see his own room, with he himself somehow shrunken and now standing by the lion cage, the one he had built just a few minutes earlier!
This was amazing. He ran through the partially completed zoo and past Dadbot’s shack to the large house he had built for him and Mumbot. It was just as he’d made it – he went to his room and turned on the top-of-the-range TV and lay on the four-poster bed he had bought himself. This was the best day ever!
Then it happened.
Looking through the back of the screen he saw a boy come to his PC. It was him, Kyle, only it wasn’t quite him, and he recognised it to be Kylebot. He looked at the unreal version of himself, life-
sized in the real world and realised what the cheat had done. From great joy he was thrown into a state of panic. He ran up to the back of the screen and called through it:
“Hey! You should be in here. I’m the real me, not you!” As he yelled Kyle realised that his miniaturised voice was puny, for too quiet to be heard above the music that surrounded him. He banged hard on the back of the screen, but this seemed ineffective too. Kylebot looked at him through the screen and Kyle saw him snigger then start to type on the keyboard.
Suddenly a lion appeared – in his DupeWorld room right next to him. Kylebot must have ordered it! Kyle ran, slamming the door shut behind him, terrified and his eyes full of tears – this could not be happening! In front of him in his DupeWorld kitchen a hissing snake appeared – Kylebot again – and he fled the house whilst he could see Kylebot laughing at him through the screen to his left.
As he ran he also saw Mum come into his room, his real room and the game and the music stopped. Kylebot must have pressed pause. Now in his game world he was surrounded by darkness though he could see through the screen into his room perfectly well. Thank god Mum was home, she would save him. He heard her speak:
“Hi Kyle, you OK bunny? Still on that game I see?”
“Oh, hi Mum,” said Kylebot. “Nah, I’ve just turned it off, I’m a bit sick of it.”
“Well I’m not surprised, the hours you play on it.”
“Yeah, I think I’ll give it up for a while, maybe I’ll swap it at school for something else. I’m a bit bored with computer games’
“Well, well,” said Mum. “Maybe all my telling you off has got through after all.”
“Yeah. You were right Mum.”
“Crikey,” said Mum. “I shall have to go shopping more often: it’s like coming home to a brand new son,” and she kissed him on the back of the head.
Kyle kicked against the screen and shouted “Mum! Mum! I’m in here.” But he knew she couldn’t hear him or see him. What’s worse, Mum didn’t seem to have any doubts that Kylebot was him. Kyle fell to his knees and cried uncontrollably.
Mum let Kylebot invite Kyle’s best friend Jack over for tea that evening and they had a great playing on the trampoline in the back garden. Mum smiled as she watched them through the kitchen window as she did the washing up. Jack brought round his skateboard and they took it in turns to ride it up and down the path. Mum hadn’t seen Kyle have so much fun for ages, what with him always playing computer games.
As a treat for his 11th birthday, Mum let Kyle invite five friends over for a party. Released from the hours spent in front of the PC, the new Kyle found he was an accomplished impressionist and made his friends shriek with laughter in his room as he aped Mr Jacowski and other teachers. From behind the dark screen of the powered-off PC Kyle could only sit and watch this imposter become the centre of attention and enjoy a popularity he had never had.
And there Kyle remained, desperately hoping that one day someone would log on to DupeWorld and would see him there, trapped. But I think we both know that‘s unlikely.