A Gamer's Carol (Part Two)
Eddie screamed at about the same pitch as the shrill whistle that woke him from his slumbering state. He barely had a moment to acknowledge the drool down his chin and the image of Leon Kennedy on the screen, standing at the ready for input. Instead, his attention was brought to the ghastly apparition before him. A military man of sorts, older than Eddie himself was, with shades over his eyes, a helmet upon his head, and a whistle between his lips.
A sudden silence swarmed the room as the whistle dropped from the soldier's mouth. Pale teeth gritted.
"Atteeeeeeen-SHUN!" he shouted, and Eddie obeyed with sudden compulsion to straighten his posture. He looked forward, hands firmly at his sides, a bead of sweat slipping along his forehead.
"Listen up, maggot!" the military man shouted. "I am Gunnery Seargant Ghost of Gaming Present!" Spectral spittle spattered against his cheek, and Eddie flinched. "I am here because you've decided your cute little fanny is too fancy for the rest of humanity. Well, it's my job to kick you off that high horse and back down with the rest of us! Is that clear?"
"Uhh ..." Eddie stuttered, brow furrowing in confusion. A sudden strike to his forehead had him flinching once more, the riding crop in the Sergeant's hand suddenly visible.
"I said is that clear?"
"What do you have a riding crop for?" Eddie objected, rubbing at his head. "Do Gunnery Sergeants even get–OW!"
"That is not the answer I was looking for!" the Gunny yelled, tapping the riding crop to his shoulder. "Or maybe you just haven't been listening. I don't like having to repeat myself." Eddie straightened up once more, rubbing at his hand this time, the one that had been rubbing at his head.
"You're here to show me," he began, pausing as he tried to collect his words.
"Show you what?" the Gunny asked, smacking at Eddie's arm with the riding crop. "A movie? A play? A pretty little picture my daughter drew in school today?" The crop continued to smack against each of Eddie's arms, the young man flinching and stepping away from each strike.
"What the Hell is your problem?" Eddie suddenly cried out, leaping backwards onto the couch in an effort to get some distance between himself and the awfully violent sergeant.
"My problem," the Gunny yelled into Eddie's ear, suddenly standing right beside him on the couch, "is that I've been tasked with taking care of a little cry baby boy that doesn't know how to answer a simple question!"
"Fine!" Eddie yelled back. "You're here to show me the error of my ways or some sh*t!" The crop suddenly struck across his face.
"Watch that language, boy!" the Gunny yelled, lifting the whistle from the chain about his neck. "Not very gentlemanly!" Before Eddie could object, the Gunny blew into the whistle, the shrill cry sending Eddie back a step. Once again, he found himself tumbling backward, landing on a hardwood floor. He coughed, trying to catch the wind that had been knocked out of him from the fall, sitting back up.
When Eddie opened his eyes, he found himself in a much larger, much better lit apartment. A familiar apartment that he hadn't been in since the summer.
"This is Tommy's place," he remarked, watching as the familiar fat tabby cat strolled through the hallway. The sound of gunfire reverberated and bounced among the walls, coming from a doorway down the hall. Tommy's room.
"On your feet, maggot!" the Gunny cried, striking the crop back down onto Eddie's head. The young man flinched once more, but he got to his feet in no time. Eddie began to step forward towards the sounds of gunfire, creeping into Tommy's room. He knew the drill at this point. The ghost was here to show him several scenes that would convince Eddie of … something. He wasn't exactly sure what video games had to do with him being an alleged "douche."
"Oh man," Eddie sighed. "I can't believe he's playing this bug-infested cash-grab of a game." Eddie stepped behind his pal Tommy and looked over his shoulder, watching as the man played Battlefield 4. He was speaking into a headset, issuing commands and information to his comrades online. Eddie shook his head. This game was broken! It was a classic display of how horrible and corrupt EA had become! How could his friend, one who allegedly cared about games, waste his time with such a title?
"Looks like he's having fun to me," the Gunny observed, suddenly appearing beside Eddie, who flinched once again, but then shook his head.
"Some fun," Eddie grunted. He imagined Tommy would fall victim to the snarling beast of the net code and find himself booted from the server.
"The glazed look to his eyes," the Gunny noted, "slack jaw, emotionless expression ... that's the stone-cold chiseled jaw of pleasure right there." Eddie couldn't help but chuckle at the observation, but he was right. Tommy was totally lost within the game.
That is, until Tommy suddenly burst out with commands, fingers working frantically at the keyboard as he swiveled the mouse side to side. Eddie wasn't sure what was happening on screen, but it was important. He felt himself suddenly swept up in the tide as he watched Tommy chasing an objective. The screen dimmed in crimson as he fell upon death's doorstep, time and time again. Yet as the game continued and the clock ticked onward, Eddie found himself leaning onto the back of Tommy's chair, fingers gripping the plush cushion.
"Yes!" Tommy exclaimed, fists pumping into the air. "Oh man!" he laughed, resetting the headset mic by his mouth. Eddie couldn't help but laugh.
"Well slap my dog and drown my cat," the Gunny drawled, "is that a smile on your face? I thought this game was the greatest sin since the snake coaxed Eve into chewin' on an apple!" Eddie's expression grew defensive once more, the familiar scowl he wore, well, most of the time.
"I never said it was a sin," he countered. "Just that it isn't as good as it could be."
"What in the sam hill is that even supposed to mean?" the Gunny exclaimed incredulously. "Not every cow becomes a steak, son! Doesn't make the hamburger any less delicious!"
"What?" Eddie asked, perplexed. "What the Hell does that mean?" he tossed back. The Gunny responded with a swift strike of the riding crop to the back of Eddie's head, and Eddie yelped, rubbing at the back of his head and cursing as his eyes clenched shut. When he opened them, the room had changed again. This time it was ...
Oh. It was a house he hadn't been to in well over a year. The living room was dimly lit by the lights of a Christmas tree, but Eddie could recognize a single form creeping along the shadows, stepping towards the kitchen.
Then a sudden burst of light filled the room, and Eddie saw his older brother holding a plate with cookie crumbs and an empty glass of milk. Standing on her tiptoes, using a plastic fairy wand to extend her reach, was his niece, Brooke. She had turned the light to the kitchen on.
"Hey honey," said his brother softly. "What's, um ... what's got you awake?"
"I thought I heard Santa," she whispered, looking around. She then spotted the plate in her father's hand and gasped. "Daddy! Those were for Santa!"
Eddie chuckled as his brother had been caught in the act, and then frowned as Brooke's face began to crinkle and wrinkle into the familiar face of an upset child. Oh man, his brother was in trouble now.
"No, honey," his brother exclaimed, quickly placing the empty plate and glass into the sink. He knelt before his daughter, who stood draped in pink pajamas, her head now bowed and shoulders trembling as tears began to slip from her eyes. "No, I didn't eat Santa's cookies."
"Then," she choked, "where'd they gooooooooo?" Her tiny little hands reached for her cheeks, rubbing at whatever tears they could, the fairy wand still in her grip and bumping against the wall. Brother Scrudge slid his hands through Brooke's hair and straightened her pajamas.
"Why, in Santa's big jelly-belly of course," he said, then pointed to the presents beneath the tree. "See? You did hear him stumping around." Brooke's head turned towards the tree, and for a moment she simply looked upon all the presents that had gathered, new and old, shifting from one foot to the next. She sniffled, wiped a tear from her eye, and nodded.
"Did Santa leave?" she asked. Brother Scrudge nodded.
"Yes," he said with a smile. "But not before discussing how good a girl you've been over cookies and milk." He gave his daughter a kiss on the forehead, eliciting a giggle and a blush from the little girl. Soon, as she looked at the presents, her shifting became a jittering.
"Can we open them?" she asked.
Brother Scrudge shook his head. "Goodness, no!" he exclaimed, chuckling. "It's still bedtime. You need to go back to sleep." Brooke bounced on her feet, though, gripping the fairy wand between her clenched hands.
"Please, please, please!" she begged with each bounce. "Can we open one?" Eddie couldn't help but laugh at the little girl's energy, similar to his own just moments ago. Or rather, years ago. Man, when did Christmas lose that wonder?
Brother Scrudge, meanwhile, sucked in air through clenched teeth. He wanted to say no, to tell his daughter that she had to go to bed, but he merely smiled and nodded.
"Alright," he said. "Just one!" Before he'd finished, Brooke had already spun around, a big grin on her face. Despite all her excitement, however, she slowly tip-toed around the presents, humming a tune as she examined each wrapped gift. Her little finger pressed to her lower lip in thought, weighing the possibilities of each gift, big and small. Finally she stopped on one, a smaller gift, and brought it to her father. Brother Scrudge looked down in confusion.
"That one's not from Santa," he remarked, taking it as Brooke handed it to him.
"I know!" Brooke said in gleeful response. "It's from me and mommy!" Eddie chuckled, as did his brother, who looked down at the little girl in surprise.
"You're choosing a present for me?" he asked. Brooke nodded as he flipped the package over in his hands. "Why?" Brooke merely giggled and ran in place. Brother Scrudge chuckled, shaking his head, and immediately began to tear through the wrapping paper. Brooke continued to dance, laughing, smiling up as her father revealed a copy of Super Mario 3D World. Brother Scrudge suddenly laughed, looking down at his daughter knowingly.
"Okay," he said. "I think I get it." Brooke merely giggled, crouching down as if preparing to use all of her energy to launch through the ceiling. "You want to play this, don't you?" he asked, and Brooke nodded.
Eddie leaned back against the wall, grinning as he watched his brother and niece play the latest Mario game. He chuckled when he heard Brooke's commands that her father must play Toad, because she was Peach and Toad had to listen to Peach. He grinned as he watched her explore the different levels, trying to lead the way while being guided by her father's more skilled servant to the Mushroom Kingdom. He then burst into laughter as the two were caught by Eddie's sister-in-law, his brother trying to hide behind Brooke's puppy dog eyes.
Yet it all came together with the three of them on the couch, with Brooke demanding that her mother play Mario. After all, Peach may be the boss of Toad, but Mario is the boss, just like mommy.
"Well look at that," grunted the Gunny. "I do believe I see another smile. It's a Christmas miracle!"
Eddie groaned and shook his head. "What?" he defended. "It's cute." He looked back on his brother's family warmly, watching them all gathered around the game.
"There hasn't been a good Mario game in years!" the Gunny suddenly exclaimed. "Nintendo just keeps phoning it in! The WiiU is a doomed waste of a system!" The crop suddenly struck Eddie in the shoulder, causing him to hiss and flinch. "These are your words! Shouldn't this sight disgust you? I thought you were gonna puke!" Eddie cursed, rubbing at his shoulder. He watched the game, the clever puzzles and platforms, and the sheer amount of fun that the family was having.
He shook his head. "I was wrong," he sighed.
"I'm sorry, I think my ears are clogged!" the Gunny shouted, his finger trying to prod gunk from his ear. "Say that again?"
"I was wrong!" Eddie exclaimed. But before he could continue, a sudden black mass dropped down from the ceiling and grabbed the Gunny. Eddie dropped back onto the floor, head smacking against the armrest of his brother's couch.
Eddie trembled as he gazed upward into what was certainly a mass of nightmares. A black beast with several maws, all gripping the Gunny, as claws fed the remainder of the sergeant's body into its stack of mouths, one teeth-lined jaw within another. Tentacles latched onto the ceiling as the horrifying beast continued to swallow the Ghost of Gaming Present.
"You son of a bitch!" he could hear the Gunny cry, voice muffled within the beast. "Just you wait! I'll come back!" His legs kicked back and forth, the only visible part of him remaining. "Just gimme thirty seconds to respawn and I'll … ."
The boots were slurped up into the monster's smallest mouth, which was then wrapped within its second mouth, and then within its many larger rows of teeth. The creature dropped from the ceiling, looking intently at Eddie.
Then it retched. Eddie tried to scramble backward, but was met with the resistance of the couch. The thing continued to make horrible, guttural noises, drool and spittle splattering the otherwise clean floor. With one more mighty cough, a burst of green goo spread across the floor. At Eddie's trembling feet was the riding crop.
"Dude," Eddie said, dumbfounded. The beast pounded the ground and let out an ear-splitting cry, its mouths all opening and closing in unison.
"Geez, man!" he cried again, holding his hands over his ears. It pounded the ground again, its tentacles spreading and trembling in the air. It suddenly stood upright, puffing its chest out. Its stomach began to rumble, its teeth clattering together. The floor quaked for a moment before a sudden splorch! echoed from behind the beast. It lowered once more, stepping to the side to reveal a greasy and goo-covered egg laying on the floor behind it.
Eddie simply stared. The only noise in the room came from the laughter of his brother's family, still playing their game. The beast sat and stared expectantly in return.
"Oh," he coughed, then nodded in understanding. "Oh! Not a dude." The beast seemed to nod at him before moving forward. Eddie's eyes then squinted, studying the creature. Its body moved quite smoothly, but in a peculiar fashion. It didn't quite look real. The behavior of the tentacles was also curious, as they seemed to wave through the air in a repetitive fashion. Eddie nodded in understanding once again.
"You're the Ghost of Gaming Future," he said, and the beast grunted. The smooth movement was a result of a constant sixty-frames per second, and the tentacles were simply programmed with a repetitive animation. Now that he saw it, he was beginning to see all the other small hints. Incredible lighting, incredible textures and poly-count, but all with enough small tells to keep her from being completely believable.
Well, now that she wasn't trying to eat someone alive, "Okay," he said, nodding. "But what am I supposed to … ."
He paused as he heard a sudden snap. He looked beyond the beast, to her egg, seeing it beginning to wobble. A crack had appeared in its shell, and with another shudder the crack grew longer. He slowly began to stand, feeling his heart pounding against his chest, the sweat upon his brow cold and clammy. His fingers were trembling.
"What's it doing?" he asked. The beast seemed to chortle, even though it sounded a bit more like water boiling.
The egg burst open, and from within an inky shadow burst forward. Eddie lifted his arms before his face, but the many tentacles of the smaller beast wrapped about his head. He began to feel suffocated by it, his face heated by his breath, and his arms, hands pressing his glasses into his face. The knicks and stings of what felt like a hundred tacks began to pierce his skin. He thrashed, he cried, and he ran. With a grunt, he found himself slamming head-first into a wall, causing the tentacles to loosen. The beast around his head made a shrill cry, and so he ran towards the wall again.
The beast dropped to the ground, its form indeterminable. Eddie didn't care. He punted the thing, watching it fly down the hallway of a retirement home.
Wait, a retirement home?
That's what it looked like, at least. Nurses and the elderly walking through the hallways, some doors open, some closed.
"Uncle Eddie?" sang an angel's voice. Eddie spun, looking for the source. "Uncle Eddie?" it sang again. He jogged down the hallway, finding an open door.
"Yes, Brooke," a worn-out voice wheezed. Eddie stepped into the room and almost gagged. The scent of flatulence and cheap air fresheners assaulted his senses, making him dizzy. His knees wobbled, and he leaned forward, hand sinking into a worn-out mattress before him. Further into the room was an old man in a wheelchair, eyes half-closed and gazing at a wall-mounted television, some reality talk show featured a middle-aged white man and a very angry group of youths.
"I just came by to wish you a Merry Christmas, Uncle Eddie," a young woman said, kneeling before the elderly man. Shimmering auburn hair cascaded down her shoulders and the scarf wrapped about her neck. There were still a few flakes of melting snow upon her coat. When he looked into her eyes, there was something strangely familiar.
"Christmas," the elderly man groaned, "is a crock." He shook his head, eyes fixed on the television. "I tell you, somehow this trash got worse since I was your age." The young woman looked over her shoulder, glancing up to the television. Her shoulders slumped as she let out a sigh, watching the horrific circus of interpersonal drama dance upon the flat screen.
It was a beautiful, crisp picture, at least.
The young woman pulled open a bag at her side, smiling. Hers was a smile Eddie had just seen not too long before, but on a much younger face.
"Dad told me you used to love video games," she said, flipping through some pages. "I thought you'd appreciate this." Eyes and smile beaming with pride, she slipped a single sheet of paper free. Eddie stepped closer, looking over her shoulder as she handed the picture to the elderly fellow. He only got a glimpse of colors. The elderly man huffed.
"You have better talent than to be working on video games," he grumbled, tossing the paper aside. It spread across the mattress, a colorful drawing of Samus from Metroid. She was fighting some beast, a frightening Metroid — but a new variation that Eddie had never seen before. Eddie's jaw dropped.
"Well," the young woman said, taken aback. "I figured you might enjoy having some of the concept art I made for the game." She stood up slowly. "Dad said you used to love the Metroid games."
"Yes," the elderly man nodded, face contorted into a snarl. "Before Nintendo screwed it up."
Silence filled the room like an unwanted guest, the only sound came from the shouts and jeers within the television set. The young woman bit her lower lip, foot tapping, wanting to speak. Yet she held her tongue, leaning forward and giving the older man a kiss on the cheek.
"Merry Christmas, uncle," she said softly. She then turned on her heel and stepped out, glancing once more at the piece of art laid upon the mattress. Eddie watched as the elderly man continued to sit in the wheelchair, looking up at the television, cursing the young every so often.
Eddie reached over the bed, fingers ready to grasp at the drawing when a drop of water splattered against his hand. A peculiar drop, rather warm. And thick. Another drop landed upon his hand, and then on the bed, and then the drawing.
He looked up and gasped, having forgotten the mysterious, hideous beast. It crawled along the ceiling now, hovering over the bed and snarling. Eddie felt the slimy tendril of the hatchling against his leg, crawling along the floor. It seemed to ignore him now, instead wrapping its tentacles around the leg of the elderly man.
"No," Eddie said softly, watching as the mother beast reached down with her own, grasping tentacles and hoisting the elderly man from his chair. "No, you can't do this," he said. He lunged forward and tried to grab the elderly man, his elderly self, and pull him free of the beast's grasp.
His fingers merely slipped through the old Eddie's body.
"Hey!" he cried. Behind him, he could hear the sound of soft, wet flesh slapping against the floor. When he turned he saw a whole group of the smaller hatchlings, at least a dozen and more behind, entering the room, crawling along the walls. "Hey!" he exclaimed once more, looking up towards the beast on the ceiling. She ignored him, her maws opening up and releasing the thick ooze of her saliva. The tentacles and claws gently flipped the elderly Eddie upside down. His face was a mask of complete apathy.
The goo was warm, almost comforting — the most comfortable blanket he had felt in years, in fact. He closed his eyes and smiled, feeling the warm fluid swallow his body. He could already hear it creak and crack at his feet, solidifying as the smaller shadows began to reach up from the floor and the walls, latching onto him to be coated in the drool as well. He opened his eyes, a young man with glasses shouting before him. He couldn't hear what the young man was shouting about, perhaps because the goo was starting to coat over his head — but he didn't care. He had become so disappointed in his old age, looking for something, anything, that could satiate his desires. Movies, television, video games, all of it was insulting. All of it was the product of corporate businesses and trite ideas. Nothing surprised him any more.
Nothing made him happy anymore.
He smiled as the warm goo hardened into a cocoon, the many shadows gripping his now-tingling body. Perhaps they were cutting off his circulation, or perhaps they were biting him. Maybe it was both, dulling and numbing his body so he wouldn't realize he was being eaten alive.
Ah well. It didn't matter. He could finally sleep.
"No!" Eddie screamed, grasping at the air.
He grunted and shielded his eyes from the light beaming brightly through the window of his apartment. His entire body ached from sleeping on the floor. It hurt to move, and it hurt to remain still.
Wait, morning? Sleeping? Oh, it had been a dream after all! Eddie could not help but smile, laughing, leaping to his feet and dancing in place. A dream! A nightmare! A vision of a demise quite terrible, but a dream nonetheless.
"What the Hell, man!" he exclaimed, slumping right back onto the couch. The television was still on, Leon Kennedy still standing there, awaiting further commands. Eddie laughed loudly. "What a Ghost of Gaming Future!" He shook his head, recalling the frightening apparition.
No, he was done with that. Finished with all of it. He understood the dream. Even if it truly was brought on by his cheap, greasy dinner, or a bit of alcohol. Whether or not they had been actual apparitions, he understood.
He leapt across the room to his computer, logging into Steam and browsing the titles. Ah ha! A sale! Of course a sale! It was Steam at Christmastime, and there were plenty of games he'd been missing out on! He browsed the list of sales and the list of games Tommy had, comparing and purchasing whatever game he could enjoy with his friend. And when he finished with Tommy's list of games, he moved on to his next friend, and the friend after that! He must have spent over a hundred dollars that morning, but it was going to be worth it. Just like when they played Left 4 Dead for the first time.
Mark and Katrin were next, his fingers tapping upon his desk. Making it up to them would be easy. Katrin had invited him to their New Years Eve celebration, one that would undoubtedly feature the different dance games. He smiled to himself. He'd stop by GameStop before then, snagging a Microsoft Points card to give them. Surely there was a treasure trove of downloadable songs for those games, and Katrin would undoubtedly be eyeing some to add to her collection. He stood up with satisfaction, eager to bond with his friends once again.
More importantly were his brother and Brooke. He looked to the corner, a cheap bottle of brandy wrapped up haphazardly in the corner beside some Sesame Street book about Elmo. Gifts with little thought or heart to them. He shook his head. No, it was no good. He would need to do something else, but what?
He pondered in the shower, he pondered in the living room, and he pondered in his kitchenette. There had to have been something he could get them! Something worthwhile!
It wasn't until he was looking atop his book shelf, the collection of games, books, and action figures stacked side by side, that it struck him. With a grin he searched his apartment, tossing clothing and trash and whatever else he could find until he had a box most suitable. He sang as he placed a treasure most dear into it, grinning and dancing and filled with an excitement he hadn't experienced in years. He snatched whatever wrapping paper he had remaining and hurriedly wrapped it about the box, taping it haphazardly before scrawling "Brooke" upon the paper with a marker.
The drive to his brother's was the longest he could recall, clocking in at an hour in real time but fifty hours in his mind. He nearly slipped stepping out of his car, he was in such a hurry, but the threat of injury did not deter him. He skipped and hopped and hummed along the driveway to the porch, clearing his throat and straightening himself before gently knocking on the door.
"Eddie!" exclaimed his brother upon opening the door, a shocked yet pleased look on his face. "You weren't supposed to get here until dinner time." Eddie shrugged, unable to remove the smile from his face. "What's that you got there?" his brother asked, and at that moment little Brooke ran up beside her father.
"Hi Uncle Eddie," she beamed. "Mommy and me got daddy Super Mario 3D World and The Wonderful 101 and LEGO Marvel!" She bounced up and down in excitement, reaching out for Eddie's hand. "Come on, I'll show you!" Eddie laughed as her father tried to object. Eddie kicked the snow off on the welcome mat, coating it in the pure white powder before stepping inside.
"So who's the present for, Eddie??" his brother asked. Brooke stopped, looking up at the parcel her uncle held, noticing it for the first time. Eddie grinned.
"It's a little gift I got for Brooke," he said, kicking his shoes off. He then stepped forward towards the living room, nodding a greeting to his sister-in-law. She looked up from her book for only a moment, smiling and waving politely before diving her nose back into the tome she had received for Christmas. Eddie smiled, recalling that it was at a book club that she and his brother first met.
Brooke skipped and hopped into the living room behind her uncle, her eyes still on the haphazardly wrapped parcel within his hands.
"What is it?" she asked, examining the shape of the gift in his hands. Eddie handed the present down to her, and her smile burst into an excited grin. She snatched it right out of his grasp and leapt onto the couch, sitting at her mother's feet. The paper crinkled as her little fingers sought a weak spot, a fold she could tear with ease. As soon as she could see it she exclaimed "It's a box!"
"A box?" asked her father, leaning against the archway to the living room. He looked at Eddie curiously.
"Yeah," Brooke commented. She picked it up and shook it, the object inside bouncing and rattling within. Eddie flinched at the sight but said nothing. Brooke merely lowered the box, some paper still clinging to it, down on the couch and pried the lid open. She smiled as she reached in, pulling out a familiar sight indeed. "It's a space man!"
"A space woman," Eddie said, smiling as Brooke held it in her hands. "Her name is Samus Aran. You can remove the helmet and replace it with the other little head in the box there." Brooke looked into the box, nodding as she spotted the head. She made a face as she tried to remove the current helmet, but before she could do too much damage her father had stepped forward. He took it gently, removing the helmet with ease and placing Samus's head upon it, the plastic blonde hair flowing past the armored shoulder pads.
"Are you sure, Eddie?" his brother asked. "You got that what, ten years ago?" Eddie shook his head.
"It's just been collecting dust on my shelf," he sighed. "I figured Brooke could make better use of it." Brooke turned the action figure over in her hands, examining every inch of the model within her hands. She finally flipped it back over again, her fingers working the arm cannon.
"Does she fight monsters?" she asked, looking at no one in particular.
"Yes she does," Eddie nodded.
"Great," Brooke smiled. "Then she can stay in my bed and fight any monsters that try to come in." She pulled the figure to her chest, embracing it tightly. She then stepped from the couch and approached Eddie, wrapping her arms about his leg. "Thanks, Uncle Eddie." The smile was infectious, and soon Eddie found himself grinning like an idiot.
"Come on!" Brooke said suddenly, grabbing at Eddie's hand. "Come play with us!" She led Eddie to the couch, where the young girl proceeded to instruct her mother to put the book away and her father to sit down.
"What are we doing?" Eddie asked, watching as Brooke walked across the room. One at a time, she picked up a Wii remote, handing one to her mother, then to Eddie, then held one herself as she brought the Wii U gamepad to her father.
"We're going to play Super Mario," she said with a smile. "Daddy is going to be Mario because he's the big brother, and you're going to be Luigi because you're the little brother."
"I'm Mario?" her father laughed. "I thought mom was Mario because she's the boss?" Brooke shook her head.
"Now you're Mario because your brother is here," she argued. "Mommy gets to be Toad."
Eddie could not suppress his chuckle as her mother objected at first, listening to Brooke's insistence that she's the princess of the family and has to be Princess Peach. In time they had all found their character of choice, and were marching across the Mushroom Kingdom together.
For a brief moment Eddie felt a tear at his eye, one he hurried to brush away before anyone else could see. He had complained about Nintendo and Mario games ever since he played Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube. It seemed Nintendo could do nothing to make him happy. Yet sitting there, beside his brother, niece, and sister-in-law, finding hidden secrets, collecting coins and inevitably plummeting down chromatic chasms, he was happy. He remembered Mickey's Dangerous Chase and Resident Evil 2 before it, and so many other games he had gotten for Christmas that he had played and loved.
At the completion of a level, he looked down at Brooke, who turned back up to him with a giant smile on her face.
"Merry Christmas, Brooke," he said softly.
She nodded. "Merry Christmas," she shouted. "Ho ho ho!"
[size=10]Video game controller ornaments originally available at ThinkGeek[/size]
[size=10]Samus Aran action figure available (maybe) to people with money.[/size]