Rite of passage
The latest prompt from Black Ship Books resulted in this. It kind of meets the brief... Don't forget to leave a comment and let me know what you think!
Take three teenagers, a long summer evening and a broken games console and what do you have?
That's right; boredom. And boredom leads to trouble every time.
Tommy's brand new PS Centurion had kept him and his friends, Jessie and Ben, entertained for most of the summer. Tommy always had the latest thing as soon as it became available, so he also had to deal with the bugs. A week ago, the console had started playing up and tonight it had given up entirely. His dad promised to get it fixed 'ASAP!' but that did not help them right now.
Jessie's brother had a new game for the Infinity Box and they sort of agreed to go over to her house to play it. As they crossed the park, they saw a couple of their friends from school sitting under one of the spreading trees.
“Hey, there's Shelly! And Mick... Let's see what they're up to!” suggested Jessie.
The two boys nodded in agreement and the three hurried across the grass. When they reached the tree, they greeted their friends and sat down.
“Where are you three heading?” asked Shelly.
“Back to my house to play that new shoot-em-up. My brother bought it the other day.”
“My brother said it was crap,” the other girl stated decidedly, before bursting into giggles for no apparent reason.
Mick shook his head. “You are not that drunk, Shelly, stop putting it on!”
She stuck out her tongue. “Am too!”
“You have booze?!” said Tommy, eyes wide.
“Had,” Mick replied, upending the bottle he was holding to display its emptiness. “S'all gone. Sorr... sorry...”
Ben frowned. “How did you get it? Are your chips on the blink or something?”
Shelly giggled again. “Or something. Definitely that option!”
“But how? They're supposed to be tamper-proof.”
“My cousin Vinnie knows a guy... who knows a guy... who knows...” Mick trailed off and tapped the side of his nose in a meaningful way.
Tommy turned to the other two. “What do you say to getting smashed instead of playing stupid video games?”
“It wasn't a stupid game half-an-hour ago,” Jessie pointed out, frowning a little at the implied insult to her family honour.
Ben put a hand on her shoulder. “Oh, come on, Jess! It got bombed by all the reviews, you can't deny that.”
She opened her mouth to speak then closed it again. After a second or two, she stood and said, “Look, you two do what you want. I'm going home.”
Ben started making clucking noises and flapping his arms like wings but she remained unmoved. “I am not tampering with my chip. Quite apart from the being illegal to pass yourself off as eighteen when you're only fifteen, I have all my medical history on there. What if something happened?”
Tommy looked up at her. “What's going to happen? We're going to see the guy who knows, scramble our chips, get pissed, go home and sleep it off. Everyone has to screw with their chip at least once in their lives; it's the law.”
“The law?” she asked, laughing in spite of herself.
“Yeah, the law,” chimed in Shelly.
Jessie stopped laughing and looked at the other girl. “You nearly had me, there,” she said, “but I can't. You have fun – or whatever – but I can't risk it.”
“Look, you don't have to scramble your chip. Just me and Ben will do it, OK? You can just enjoy the spoils.”
She sighed and nodded. “OK, OK, we'll do it.”
After getting the directions from Mick, the three headed out to find 'the guy who knows'. They had to travel through unfamiliar streets and they could feel the locals staring at them as they passed.
Just before they reached their destination, they came to a club that was pumping out dance music.
“Now that looks more like it!” said Ben but Tommy shook his head.
“Jessie couldn't get in without scrambling her chip,” he pointed out.
“She can just drink orange juice when we get in. Nobody ever came to harm drinking orange juice, right?”
Jessie bit her lip, weighing up her chances of persuading the boys to walk her home before going to the club and coming up with 'slim to non-existant'. “Just orange juice, then.”
A few minutes later they arrived at a house that looked like all the other houses on the street, tired and run down. When they knocked, they were shown into the front room. After a brief conversation with 'the guy who knows', they agreed a price and Tommy paid from his savings account, swiping his chip over the 'reader to confirm the transaction.
“OK, this is the last time your chip will work properly for the next twelve hours,” the man told him, “so I hope you kids have some cash for whatever you have planned for tonight. Now, put your arm in here...”
One after the other, they placed their arms into a metal tube with wires coming out of it and dials on the outside. Their dates of birth showed up on a screen next to the tube and the man adjusted the dials to change them. In a matter of moments, they went from fifteen to eighteen, at least as far as any chip-readers were concerned.
They negotiated the club entrance with no difficulty, which pleased the boys but Jessie secretly suspected they would have been allowed in anyway. At the bar, Ben ordered beers all round, ignoring Jessie's protests.
“Just one, OK? Relax and enjoy yourself!”
After a few minutes, the boys disappeared into the crowd in pursuit of a couple of girls. She called after them but they could not – or would not – hear. Giving up, she decided to find a seat where she could finish her damned drink and then get the hell out of there. As she turned, an older woman, clearly the worse for wear walked into her, knocking her off balance. She fell, hit her head and knew no more.
“She's opening her eyes! Oh, thank God! Jessie! Jessie, can you hear me?”
“Yes, it's me! Thank God you're all right. Whatever were you thinking? Anything could have happened. When you got to the hospital, they had no idea who you were, or how to treat you because your medical records were all...”
Then came her father's voice. “Lorraine... not now...”
“Sorry, of course not. But you can consider yourself grounded for the next ten years! ”
“That's great, Mum, great.”
With a sigh, she rolled over and drifted back off to sleep.