It is said that creation is a two-way street. As an artist creates the artwork, the artwork creates the artist. I think that is why many of us love stories. Hidden in the conflict of every fairytale is the story of a writer wrestling with real life. Sometimes, it is easier to find an answer in a make believe world. Sometimes, it is the story that saves you.

And so, I’ve created the tale of “The Game Maker.” I hope you enjoy it.

“How can I get her to find the Golden Castle if she’s stuck in the Temple of Gloom!” The Game Maker shakes his head and takes a deep breath.

“There has to be a way! Something I haven’t tried yet,” he rubs his face and bald head with his hands, a nervous tick. The doorbell rings and breaks him away from his thoughts. Oh, it must be the pizza guy.

He gets up from his computer chair. His legs are stiff from sitting so long. Slowly, he makes his way to the door and opens it.

“How’s it going, Mr. Comp-Man?” It’s Barry, the pizza guy. The twenty-something old pizza deliveryman that visits his house too often. How many times has he ordered pizza this week? So many times that Barry has given him a nickname, “The Comp-Man.”

“Are you working on a new game?” Barry asks as he hands him his pizza.

“Yeah, this one has me stumped,” he answers as he hands Barry twenty bucks for the pizza and an extra ten for the tip. It’s a bit much, but looking at Barry’s raggedy red flannel shirt and worn blue jeans, he figures the kid needs it.

“Thanks, Mr. Comp-Man,” Barry answers as he pockets the ten and puts the twenty in the money bag.

“I have a big favor to ask, Mr. Comp-Man. I met this beautiful girl. I mean, she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. Anyways, she’s a gamer and a big fan of yours. She’s even read your book about how to create games. Could I bring her by tonight to get your autograph?” Barry asks as he shifts his weight from foot to foot.

“Sure, bring her by,” he tells Barry. The kid looks happy.

“Thanks, Mr. Comp-Man,” Barry says as he heads back to his car.

Young love. Must be nice. He thinks to himself as he goes back to his computer to work on the game.

His heroine is in trouble. The game works flawlessly in every scenario, except this one. From the beginning, the game is rigged in her favor. She starts out smart, sweet, and confident. The only child of loving parents. In all other versions of the game, she finds her way to the Golden Castle where she overthrows the Foolish Monkeys and brings happiness to the land. No matter what choices the gamer makes, he can always find enough clues to get her to the happy ending.

The only glitch happens if the gamer stumbles upon this storyline. The one where her father wanders into the Forest of Error and abandons her at the tender age of fourteen. From there, the heroine gets off track searching for love instead of looking for clues to her destiny. She falls in love with men who treat her badly. She suffers heartbreak after heartbreak, until she ends up dancing in the Temple of Gloom. Trapped in her own dance of sorrow, the gamer has no way of getting her out.

The Game Maker has tried everything. For longer than he can remember, he’s been stuck in his house working non-stop trying to fix this problem. He refuses to let this ending exist. His head hurts from trying to create clues that will entice her out of the Temple of Gloom. She ignores them all. It’s as if she has a mind of her own. He can’t stand to see her suffer when he’s created her to be heroic. He sinks his face into his hands and weeps.

When he finally lifts his head, he looks at the dancing girl on the screen. He feels her sorrow and loss. As she spins and twirls, he remembers all the hours of hard work it took to make her look so beautiful. She moves like a cat, smooth and graceful. Will she ever see her own beauty as she dances before the mirrors of the Temple of Gloom?

Exhausted, the Game Maker finally talks to the dancing girl.

“I’ve watched you for so long, so much so, that your disappointments have become my disappointments, and your heartaches my own. I’ve created a better life for you, but you won’t leave this place. Even so, I just want to tell you that despite all the wrong turns that have landed you in this screwed up scenario, I love you more today than when I first created you.”

He looks at the girl remembering how he agonized over choosing every detail from her eye color, hairstyle, angle of her smile, quick wit, and kind personality. In his eyes, she remains a most beautiful creation.

It is in that moment the girl stops dancing. She stares back into his eyes and smiles. Tears streaming down her face, not tears of sorrow, but of joy. He watches as her energy level rises and her power increases.

Without touching his keyboard, he tells her, “Go right now. Leave this place!”

She exits without hesitation.

The Game Maker laughs. Leaning back in his chair, he feels waves of relief wash over him. Now that the dancing girl has left the Temple of Gloom, she will bump into a kind, handsome young man who will walk with her to the Golden Castle.

The doorbell rings. The Game Maker gets up to answer it. He feels so much lighter, that he’s tempted to skip to the door.

When he opens it, he see Barry and a beautiful young woman. Both kids are wearing flannel shirts and well-worn jeans, a charming couple. The girl has a big grin and her eyes are bright.

“Suzy, this is Mr. Comp-Man, ” Barry starts to say, but Suzy can’t hold back her excitement.

“Oh my goodness, I can’t believe it,” Suzy grabs his hand and starts to shake it. “It’s you, it’s really you. I love your games! I love your book!” She takes a deep breath and then nervously confesses, “I dream of creating my own games one day. It would mean a lot to me if you would sign my book.”

“Of course,” Mr. Comp-Man smiles as he takes her copy of his book.

She reminds me of the girl in the game, he thinks to himself. He knows his dancing girl will find her way to a future as bright as Suzy’s eyes.

Dear Suzy,

The future is yours. Go after your dream, and let nothing hold you back.

Best wishes,

Mike Compassion

A.K.A. “The Comp-Man”

Are you asking yourself, “What was that all about?” Well, it is the clue I have created for you.

Have you ever felt trapped and unable to move forward in life? Before there is change, forgiveness or courage; there must be compassion. If you can’t find compassion for yourself, then imagine it for another, another woman, sister or friend. See your life through someone else’s eyes. Let Compassion move you forward.

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