Reload? Restart? Quit?

My fingers fidgeted restlessly around the red velvet box nestled next to my keys, two dimes, a nickle, and assorted lint. Jenn’s fingers curled around mine as she grabbed my other hand and we made our way down the white sands of the gulf beach. We walked with the surf lapping at our feet and I kept glancing out over the horizon.  I wanted the backdrop for the proposal to be spectacular and I knew that the bright reds and oranges of the sunset over the ocean would be just the thing. I unwound my fingers from hers and lifted my arm around her shoulder, shortening my gait to keep us away from the lingering throng of tourists that loomed up ahead. I wanted this to be a moment just for the two of us.

A small wave broke against our feet again and I stopped and turned out toward the blue-green waters capped with flecks of foam. My hand in my pocket grasped around the box and I turned back to Jenn. Or at least, where Jenn had been not a moment ago. Now, replacing where my girlfriend stood, and, in fact, replacing the dunes and assorted greenage and walkways that led back to the parking lots was a black expanse with glowing green letters beginning to appear in a very slow, yet deliberate, manner.

Would you like to save your progress so far? (Y/N)

I stood there slack-jawed. Memories of playing old text based games on an Apple II flooded my mind. The cursor at the end of the line blinked like a metronome to the time of my thoughts. Every other word that went through my head either causing it to appear or disappear. I looked down the beach to where the gaggle of beachgoers were only to see that they were standing as still as statues, some of them in mid air as they bounded this direction or that.

I looked out to the ocean and saw that even the waves had ceased their relentless battering of the coast. Even the sun had stopped its inexorable dip below the horizon. I turned back to the waiting prompt.  After finally gathering my wits about me it only took me a minute to decide what I would select.  Save early and save often had become a sort of mantra over the years, and to be honest, I was a little disappointed that up to this point, life had not given me the option to save.

I reached out and touched the flourescent Y, which seemed to do the trick. The sound of the waves pushing forward and receding resumed, a gull screeched overhead. I looked into Jenn’s eyes and saw that she was bewildered by what was clearly erratic behaviour on my part at this point. I did the only thing that seemed natural at this point which was to drop to one knee and pull the ring box out of my pocket. Her eyes got wide and she covered her mouth in surprise. Actually, as I thought about it, that didn’t look like surprise. It looked more like horror.

I felt something warm and wet dripping down the side of my face. I reached up to touch the top of my head and my fingers came away tipped with blood. Glancing down I noticed a little crater surrounding a small rock as well as a growing pool of what was obviously my blood. Growing more and more distant was the sound of Jenn’s voice. Everything in front of me started to fade to black. Green block text once again appeared in before me.

Reload? Restart? Quit?

I stood there dumbfounded for the second time that day. My life was literally saved. I started laughing at my good fortune and reached out to punch the word Reload. I blinked and Jenn was standing looking bewildered in front of me. Knowing that staying still was not an option I went to step forward and immediately fell into Jenn instead. She started screaming as my blood leaked out onto her tanktop. Once again everything in front of my view faded to black.

Reload? Restart? Quit?

I punched Reload again. This time after the blink I tried to jump immediately to the side only to careen down into the sand face first.

Reload? Restart? Quit?

Reload. A step back. Screams. Black.

Reload? Restart? Quit?

At this point I stop to think. Obviously I saved after the rock has made a hole in my head. I’d had games screw me over in this style before. You save at the exact wrong time and you’d get stuck in a recursive death loop. You’d either have to restart your game or go back to your last save point, losing hours of work. Except in my case restarting would be 25 years of work to redo. There was no helping it though. Learning how to not shit my own pants again would be far preferable to not being able to shit my own pants even if I wanted to. I reached out and hit Restart.

There was a brief pause and then…

Error loading life.exe

Life.exe has been corrupted. Please Reload or Quit.

Reload? Restart? Quit?

I beat my hands against the ground. I pounded against Restart, each time hoping for a different result than always popped up. Corrupted.  So my only real options were to reload and hope that somehow I managed to survive a meteorite crashing into me at lethal velocity or to give up and see what’s on the other side of life. And I’ve been trying to decide which one would be more of torture ever since.


Apropos of: This Prompt

Thanks for reading.

-Crouse

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