Sarah's mom challenges her to raise a virtual pet. Inspired by Louder's New Outlook Inc.
Sarah Butler was sulking in her bedroom, watching the clock tick. She couldn’t believe her mom. Summer had just started, and she was grounded for two weeks! No going out, no phone, no TV and no computer.
Sarah couldn’t believe her mom was so uncool! It was just a cigarette - she was 16 years old, surely she was mature enough to decide whether to take up smoking or not. She was so jealous of Jessica’s mom - she didn’t care about how Jessica dressed, where she was, or what she did with her friends. Why did her mom have to be so strict?
There was a knock on the door.
"Come in," Sarah said, and then under her breath, "like I have a choice."
Elizabeth Butler opened the door and walked in. She was 34 years old, and looked good for her age.
"Sarah, I’ve gotten a present for you." She held a box out to her daughter.
Sarah half wanted to refuse this gift just to spite her mom, but she had just enough self control not to do that. She grabbed the box and looked inside. There was an egg-shaped electronic keychain of some kind inside.
"What is this?" Sarah said.
"This is my old tamagotchi - it’s a sort of virtual pet. They were a bit of a fad back in the 90’s."
"Okay... thanks for the history lesson. Why are you giving this to me?" Sarah asked.
"Well, I figured you might get bored cooped up in your room for two weeks with nothing to do. I thought I’d give you a bit of a challenge to earn back my trust."
"What sort of challenge?"
Elizabeth looked at her daughter with a serious expression. "Well, tamagotchis turn out differently depending on how well you take care of them. If you can take perfect care of your tamagotchi this week, I’ll let your punishment end one week earlier."
Sarah thought that this whole thing was kind of dumb, but if it got her out one week earlier who was she to complain?
"Alright, mom. Thanks for the gift, I guess."
Elizabeth nodded, and began walking towards the door. Before completely leaving, she turned around.
"I almost forgot! Dinner should be ready soon. You can come down when you’re ready."
Sarah mumbled her acknowledgment as her mom left, and began looking at the device in her hands. As she held it, she felt something like a tingling starting in her fingers. It was so subtle, that she wasn’t sure if it was just her imagination.
On the little LCD screen there was an egg. She began fiddling with the buttons, and started to figure out the device’s control scheme. By the time she was done figuring it out, she heard a little beep from the device, and saw the egg hatching. A cute little blob of pixels appeared on the screen, moving back and forth. Sarah navigated to the status screen and saw:
Weight: 21 lbs [9.8 kg]
She tried to click on the food icon, but nothing seemed to happen. She tried to feed her little pet a few other ways, but nothing she did seemed to move the meters one way or another. Oh great! Her mom gives her a get out of jail free card, and the thing was busted.
She decided to take a break from the broken machine, and grab her dinner. She put the device down, and went down to the kitchen.
"Mom, that thing you gave me is total garbage!" Sarah said, expecting to find her mom already at the table.
Instead, she was surprised to find her mom was nowhere to be seen, despite food being set out on the table for both of them to eat. She realized that the clothes her mom had been wearing earlier were in a pile on the floor. What’s more, there seemed to be something squirming inside the clothes.
Sarah was a little nervous looking at the squirming mass. Had a raccoon or squirrel gotten inside the house?
Then the thing inside the clothes let out a noise that was unmistakably the sound of a baby crying.
"What the hell?" Sarah said.
She pulled her mom’s blouse off of the moving thing, and saw that it was indeed a baby. The baby was crying, so Sarah picked it up and began trying to rock it back and forth.
Using as sweet of a voice as she could muster, she said "Shhhh, shhhh it’s okay, baby. I’m sure your mommy is around here somewhere."
Sarah was confused. Her mom hadn’t mentioned having any company, and she didn’t remember any of her mom’s friends having kids younger than 5. The baby would not stop crying, so she scooped the baby up in her arms and began searching the house for her mom or the baby’s mother.
"Mom! Your friend’s kid needs attention. This baby doesn’t even have a diaper," Sarah half yelled. She didn’t want to be too loud for fear of scaring the baby.
Sarah checked the garage and saw that both cars were still there. She searched every room in the house, and couldn’t find her mom or their guest anywhere. Crap. The baby just would not stop crying.
Then Sarah remembered that her aunt and baby cousin had stayed with them just last month. Maybe there were some supplies left over from then?
She went to the upstairs closet, and was relieved to find a few diapers, a bottle and some baby formula that wouldn’t expire for another month. She diapered the baby on the floor, and then walked downstairs to prepare the baby formula.
When the infant finally had the bottle in its mouth, it calmed down and began to contentedly drink. Sarah laid some pillows on the floor, and left the baby on them to drink while she went upstairs to do one more search for her mom or their guest. She didn’t find anyone, but she did notice something odd when she glanced over at the little tamagotchi on her bed. The status screen was still up, and it said:
Weight: 21 lbs [9.8 kg]
Wow, the thing had to be really broken, she hadn’t even done anything. Sarah pocketed the device so she could show her mom later, and went back down to the baby. It still seemed fine.
She realized that in all the confusion she hadn’t even eaten dinner, so she went to the table and looked at the spaghetti plates her mom had laid out for both of them. They were both completely untouched. Odd.
Sarah sat down, and ate her spaghetti in silence. What had happened to her mom? Why was there suddenly a baby here? Sarah did have a theory forming in her mind, but it seemed too absurd to truly consider. She decided it was best to just take care of the baby, and wait for someone to show up and clear everything up.
After she was finished eating, she decided to try playing with the baby to pass the time. She played peek-a-boo, and thought the baby was kind of cute when it laughed.
She kept the baby entertained for a few more minutes, before she heard a bunch of beeping sounds coming from her pocket. She pulled out the tamagotchi, and saw that the screen was flashing in synch with the beeps. She searched in vain for a mute option. After about a minute, the beeping stopped on its own.
"Thank goodness!" Sarah said.
When she looked up from the screen she screamed and jumped a few feet back in surprise. There, where the baby had been, was a five-year-old girl wearing nothing but the tattered remains of a diaper.
"I’m sowwy for scaring you," the young girl said.
Sarah tried to process what had just happened. This girl was a spitting image of old pictures her grandma had shown her of her mom when she was young.
"What’s your name little girl?" Sarah finally managed to get out.
"I’m Lizzy," the young girl said proudly.
Sarah felt a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. It couldn’t be.
"What’s your last name?" Sarah asked weakly.
"Pence," the young girl said.
That was her mom’s maiden name! This had to be a trick of some kind - she was probably being recorded for a prank video or something. Sarah began looking around the room for a hidden camera. When she didn’t find anything she began going around the room and opening anything big enough to hold a camera.
"Watcha doin’?" Lizzy asked curiously.
Sarah continued to search as she replied, "Trying to find the cameras."
"What cameras?" Lizzy said.
"The cameras that the people who sent you set up," Sarah said. Then shouting to no one in particular, "Okay guys, you’ve had your fun! You can come out now."
"You’re silly," Lizzy giggled and said.
Sarah had torn the entire living room apart, and had been unsuccesful in finding anything resembling a camera. She tried to calm herself down. As impossible as it seemed, maybe there was no prank - maybe her mom really had become a five year old.
Sarah decided that she could test that theory by calling her friend Jennifer. If this was just a prank, her mom would probably come out from hiding and chastise her for circumventing her no phone punishment. If it wasn’t a prank, then Jennifer might be able to help.
Sarah didn’t know where her phone was hidden, so she went to the garage and got her mom’s purse from the front seat of her car. She pulled out her mom’s phone and called Jennifer.
"Hello? What’s up Mrs. Butler?" Jennifer asked curiously.
"Jenny, it’s me, Sarah. I’m using my mom’s phone." Sarah said.
"Oh, I thought you were, like, super grounded?" Jenny said.
"I was, but something super weird is happening. Can you please come over?" Sarah said.
"Okay, I’ll be right over," Jennifer said. "Bye."
Sarah put the phone back in the purse, and returned the purse to the car. When she walked inside, she was horrified to see that Lizzy was drawing on the wall with a marker that Sarah had uncovered when she was searching for cameras.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU LITTLE BRAT!?" Sarah yelled.
Lizzy jumped back from the wall, and dropped the marker. She saw the anger in Sarah’s face, and began to cry.
"I- I’m sorry! I just wanted to make the wall pretty," Lizzy said.
"You’ve been a bad girl, Lizzy! Go stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done!" Sarah said.
Lizzy, still crying, walked over and sat herself down in the corner. Sarah looked at the ruined wall and threw her hands up in exasperation. Great! Not only was her mom a little kid, but she was destroying the house. She didn’t know how, but she was sure if her mom ever became an adult again, she’d probably blame her for all of this somehow.
As she was stewing with these thoughts, Sarah heard the doorbell ring. Sarah looked through the peephole, and was happy to see Jenny. Sarah swung the door open.
"Thank goodness you’re here!" Sarah said with relief.