The New Game
Our story begins in the living room of a midsized home in a middle class neighborhood. A man sits in his reclining chair with a beer in his hand while changing the channels on the television. He comes upon a news broadcast that catches his attention. The man then puts his feet down, and leans in forward to better hear the reporter.
“Today, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the death of its most successful CEO, Sinclair Industries has announced that it will be unveiling a monument of none other than Wilson Jacobs. Jacobs, as some of you may remember, was brutally murdered by a radical group of terrorists that believed he was responsible for the Risus City gang riots. Upon further confirmation, all of the allegations had been proven false, and Mr. Jacobs’ name was cleared. As for the terrorists, their mission accomplished, it seems as if they’d completely disappeared, back into normal society. But remember, they are still wanted men, so if you have any information in regards to their whereabouts, please inform the police.
The unveiling of the statue will take place in one week on Tuesday, June 8th. We ask that you tune in for this special event. This is Jonathan Rice, of Channel 8 News.”
The man stood from his chair, “So, now they honor him as a hero. It’s almost too much to stomach.”
The man’s wife entered the room, “The kids will be home soon. I think we should all go out to dinner tonight to celebrate their middle school graduation. What do you think, Jason?”
He turned to her, “That’s a great idea honey.”
Twenty years had passed since Jason Cody took his revenge on Wilson Jacobs. He and Claire got married and had two children, they had normal everyday jobs, and lived normal everyday lives. But even with all the time gone by, they could never forget what they’d done. Luckily, their new lives kept them rather busy. Claire finished her education, and had been a high school English teacher for nearly ten years. Jason, having been fed up with the life of a criminal, decided to honor his brother’s last wishes and gave up his old ways. Ironically, he even decided to become a police officer, and after years of climbing his way up the ladder, Jason was named Chief of the Eden City Police Department. He decided that he needed to give something back to the world that he’d made so miserable.
That night, the four of them went out to a celebration dinner. On one side of the table sat Jason and Claire, while his son and daughter sat opposite them. On the left, was Caitlin, the fifteen year old cheerleader-to-be. And next to her was her twin brother Maurice, the soon-to-be mixed martial arts fighter.
Maurice was the center of the current conversation. “…and then that jackass had the balls to tell me I couldn’t take ‘em. Can you believe that?”
Caitlin had the look of a brain dead chipmunk, “That’s so interesting.”
“Shut up! At least I do stuff with my life, instead of sitting around with my stupid friends talking about crap that has absolutely no meaning!”
Jason broke into the conversation, “Stop it you two. You’re family, it’s time you start acting like it.”
Maurice turned his attention to his father. “Like you know what being a family is like. You don’t even talk about your side of the family.”
Jason went silent, and then got up. “I need to go to the bathroom.”
He left the table and headed off around the corner. Claire and the others watched him go. Then she turned to Caitlin and Maurice, “What’s the matter with you? All your father wants is for the two of you to get along and love each other. He went through the trouble of taking us all out for dinner, for you. And you can’t stop bickering for one single night, not even on such a happy day. When your father comes back, I want both of you to apologize.”
The two of them sat in silence with their heads down.
“Did you hear me?”
They answered in unison, “Yes ma’am.”
Jason flushed the urinal, and walked over to the sink. He let the water run over his hands as he stared into the mirror. “What am I doing?”
You’re doing what HE wanted you to do. You’ve become normal, good, some might say boring.
“Boring? I’m the Chief of Police in a city full of thieves, liars, and murderers. How could that possibly be boring?”
It’s not you Jason. An authority figure? That’s not you…I know the real you. You are one of those criminals that you’ve sworn to punish. You aren’t meant to be in a place of authority. Your place is on the opposite side. You are not an agent of order; you are a bringer of chaos. That is what you were born for.
“No, I have to restore peace to the world that I helped corrupt, especially since I have a family to think about.”
Jason splashed water into his face. When his vision cleared, he looked back into the mirror. To his horror the face that stared back at him was not his own, but the smiling mask that, he believed, now personified his other half.
Remember what we are.
Jason quickly closed his eyes to avoid the sight. And when he opened them again, everything had gone back to normal. Someone began knocking on the door. “Hey buddy, are ya done in there or what?”
He dried his hands and face, and then opened the door to the bathroom. The young man that had been knocking was now standing in his way. “Can I go in now gramps?”
Jason looked into the man’s eyes. “It’s all yours.”
As he walked away, he heard the young man mumble under his breath. “What a freak.”
When Jason returned to the table, Maurice and Caitlin were quiet. “Why so quiet?”
The two of them lifted their heads. Maurice was the first to speak, “Sorry for what I said before Dad.”
Then Caitlin added, “Yeah, we’re sorry for fighting Daddy.”
He looked at each of them for a moment, and then to Claire. “Thank you. Now finish your food so we can get home. I’ve got a surprise waiting for the two of you.”
And so, the evening continued on as one of celebration and fun. When they returned home, the kids ran inside to see if their surprises were waiting for them. To their dismay, the house was just as they’d left it, empty. Jason waltzed in behind his kids with a smile on his face. The sad looks on his children’s faces only fueled his satisfactory. When he’d had enough of their suffering, he sat them down on the couch and told them. “I’ll start with Caitlin. For my little cheerleader, your mother and I have agreed to send you to a cheerleading camp for the summer.”
Caitlin’s face lit up, and her mouth opened slightly in awe. She quickly jumped from the couch and wrapped her arms around her father. “Thank you so much! I love you Daddy!”
Maurice sat quietly, rolling his eyes at how excited his sister was getting over something as trivial as a summer camp.
Jason shifted his gaze over to his son, “Hey, don’t think I forgot about you bud.” Caitlin released him from the vice grip that she’d previously held him in. “I did a little looking around, and guess what I found for you.”
Maurice became puzzled, “What?”
A sly grin crept across Jason’s face. “I happened to come across a certain youth group that holds a two month long mixed martial arts training camp.”
Maurice’s eyes opened wider.
“I pulled a few strings, and got your name put on the top of the recruitment list.”
Maurice’s eyes shot open all the way. It was as if he were in shock; he didn’t speak a single word for many moments. Then he began to move his lips, “You’re shitting me, right?”
Jason quickly lifted his index finger, “Watch that language, young man. Keep that up and your name moves to the bottom.”
“Sorry. Man this is awesome! I can’t wait! Thanks Dad, you rule!”
“You’re welcome. Both of you ship out in the morning, so get some rest.”
Again, they answered in unison, “Night Dad!” and hurried off to bed.
That night, Jason dreamt of his fight with Jacobs on the rooftop of Sinclair Tower. He dreamt of the innocent people that died that day because of him. Then he dreamt of the detectives that almost sent him to prison for the rest of his life. Suddenly, it all went dark, and all he could see was the green smiling mask that stared at him with bottomless black eyes. Then came the laughter; it was a maddening, depraved, and somewhat whimsical chuckle that forced Jason to awaken covered in sweat.
Claire lifted her head from her pillow, “The same dream again?”
His breathing was heavy, and slightly erratic, “Yeah…and I saw it again, too.” He stood up and walked to the bathroom to get a drink of water. “It was laughing harder this time.”
Claire sat up on the side of the bed as Jason walked over to the closet, and began digging through old boxes. “I wish you’d get rid of those old things. We shouldn’t have stuff like that anymore.”
He pulled out the box that sat in the very back of the closet marked Circus Days, and opened the flaps. “You know I could never throw this stuff away. It’s all I’ve got left from my old life.”
“Exactly, that was your old life, that’s not you anymore. You should just throw it all out.”
He reached in, and lifted out a green mask that bore a familiar old smile. The two of them sat there in silence for a few moments while staring at the mask. Then, Jason turned it around, and began to bring it up to his face as if he were going to put it on.
Without a word, Claire quickly hurried over to him and put her hand between the mask and his face. He turned his head and looked at her with bleak, hopeless eyes. She only shook her head.
He carefully placed the mask beside him on the floor, and continued looking through the box. He pulled out two more masks which he was also familiar with; the masks that the leaders of The Clowns used to wear, the masks of Jester and Sadsack. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen these old boys. Makes me appreciate everything I’ve got now. I just wish he could be here to see it all.”
“He can see you. They’re all watching over us, just like they have been from the very beginning. Now, please put all this stuff away and come back to bed.”
“Yeah.” He packed up the relics of the life he lived long ago, and returned to bed.
The next day, Jason drove his children to their summer camps and dropped them off. The following week, as the Chief of Police, he attended the unveiling of the Sinclair Industries’ monument, commemorating the memory of Wilson Jacobs. It was later stated on the news that, “Chief Cody was quite unenthusiastic during the ceremony.”