Pete was as fat as a small hippo.
Pardon me. There is no exaggeration here. Neither is body-shaming intended. Due to bad habits, some humans begin to look like animals quite early in their lives.
Pete weighed over three hundred pounds and had a bite-size large enough to swallow a quarter-pound burger whole. His skin was pale enough to be mistaken as wallpaper, and his hair looked like noxious weeds. The sixteen-year-old's body wobbled as he walked as if he were filled with water.
At the moment, Pete was first in a queue on the retail floor of CHIVALRY GAMES. The gaming studio had produced worldwide MMORPG bestsellers in the industry. THE AGE OF EXCALIBUR, inspired by King Arthur's adventures, had reigned the charts the previous year. CLEOPATRA'S DIARIES, which brought the Egyptian queen's sensual exploits to life, was an all-time classic.
It was almost 4 a.m. but the crowd gathered in the hall was as alert as owls on Adderall.
The untimely gathering during the witching hours was a rush to purchase the new release, THE PRINCE OF THIEVES, a game based on the legend of the infamous and notorious hero, Robin Hood. CHIVALRY GAMES had carried out aggressive promotions but had allowed no pre-orders. At the last moment, they doubled the price of the game. Classic marketing tactics.
Pete stood in front of a retail window with a CLOSED sign leaning against it. He checked the time on a giant digital clock mounted above.
'Five minutes to go,' he thought merrily. 'A pretty sales clerk will arrive shortly and help me purchase the game.' His heart almost exploded with excitement. THE PRINCE OF THIEVES would be a thrilling experience with realistic graphics and a well-researched storyline of Robin Hood and his adventures.
Pete turned his double-chinned head to the sides and searched for familiar faces. He had no friends or loved ones to boast of. However, occasionally he could recognize some veteran gamers and nod at them.
A crowd of over a thousand teenagers swarmed the hall. Now and then, an almighty push came from the back or the sides. The desperate gamers had been waiting for hours in line without pee breaks. Hopped up on caffeine and sugar, they hustled and bustled noisily.
The gathering was like a zombie apocalypse, and it would not be surprising if they started taking bites off each other.
Pete smirked at the stupidity of those who had come hours earlier. He had rested in his car while his driver stood in line. With fifteen minutes to go before the release, the boy had pushed through the rabble and taken first place. Other gamers had booed and thrown napkin balls at him. But there was no rule against a stand-in. Since he had arrived, the crowd behind him had thickened to the point of suffocation.
Pete had a king-size soda in one hand and a credit card in the other. He was not very tall but his circumference and weight ensured he was never squished.
"Go back home, fatso!" a mean-looking kid growled from behind him. With a mocking smirk, Pete shook off the insult and took a large sip of his sugary soda. 'Losers and peasants will always complain.'
Pete was a spoiled child. He was given a generous allowance. He had servants clean his messy room and bring fried snacks all day. Mr. Harrison, his father, was filthy rich and got him the most luxurious gaming devices. He also gave his son perennial gaming freedom. Yet, the teenager had failed to get on the CHIVALRY GAMES leaderboard.
Pete's life was like a baby swaddled in linen but he was an average gamer at best. The only thing he had going for himself was his love for legendary heroes from myth and lore. Robin Hood. King Arthur. Achilles. Guan Yu. And many others. He revered them and indulged in copious literature and movies on the subject.
"Die, fatso! You cut in line!" a little boy groaned from beside him. He was short, thin, and significantly shorter. Pete felt a flash of anger and felt like bullying the kid. He took a large sip of soda and spouted the mouthful in the boy's face. The poor kid's eyes were stung, and he fell backward into the crowd.
'The little munchkin is definitely going to be trampled,' Pete thought, sneering. He could hear muffled cries of help, which only made him laugh harder. 'Somebody will pick the kid up, eventually,' he figured.
SALES ARE OPEN!
The counter in front of him lit up, much to the relief of the waiting gamers. As expected, a pretty, petite girl in uniform had arrived behind the glass to kick off the sales. "Welcome to Chivalry Games," she said, taking a seat and smiling ear-to-ear. "Gamer ID and credit card, please?" A nametag, MOMO, was pinned on her t-shirt.
'I wish she could be my girlfriend,' Pete thought, sliding his credit card and mumbling a sequence of digits to her. The boy never socialized, and seeing girls smiling at him made him fall in hopeless love. He was not a lolicon per se and criticized the kind in anime forums. However, inside the closet, there was room for experimentation.
'THE PRINCE OF THIEVES will have plenty of voluptuous women,' he reassured himself. 'The pre-release art makes that pretty clear. It's an 18+ game with harem elements, after all. The freedom of what you can do with an NPC is the question-'
"Here's your game package, sir," Momo said, the smile still persistent across her face. Pete wondered if the company trained the retail girls to smile like that.
Momo pushed out a small green box through the window.
"Oooooo…" The crowd moaned in jealousy.
"Later!" Pete said disrespectfully to the counter girl before turning around.
"Let me pass, losers!" he mouthed at the sea of fellow gamers in front of him. He pushed them out of the way and inched towards the exit, which was at least fifty feet away. The crowd was so thick and stifling that it appeared like everyone was knotted in a mattress of limbs.
Five minutes passed, and Pete had moved only a few feet towards the exit. The mob of gamers had only become denser as he moved towards the center. Taller and older people bustled around him, throwing murderous glances as he tried to push past.
Pete was out of breath and hungry once again. Before leaving the car, he had a heavy meal of chicken wings and fries. However, the light exercise had made him digest the food rapidly, making space for more.
Pete tried to lift his right foot but found it was stuck somewhere.
He jerked his leg in a desperate attempt to shake free. It did not work. Instead, his body pivoted, and he fell face first.
Pete felt something break. What was it? The gaming box?
A terrible pain shot up his hip and traveled up the spine.
'Did I break my hip?'
A recent visit to the doctor revealed that his bones had become brittle from a consistently lousy diet. The boy's joints barely kept the enormous weight of his body off the ground.
The doctor had advised him to lose weight urgently, but Pete had ignored the warning. His dad did not care and believed that a parent's responsibility began and ended with a fat allowance. His mother was always overseas, perhaps to escape her miserable family. There was nobody around to discipline the boy.
"Help…" Pete begged from the ground. It was dark at the ankle level, and everything smelled of pungent socks. The noisy crowd muffled the boy's call for help.
Stomp! Pete felt a boot step over him. Stomp! It happened again.
"Help me… someone…."
The frequency of the shoe stamps increased. The desperate gamers were eager to get ahead in the crowd.
Thud! A kick to his head. A blow on his arm. He was being trampled!
Huff! Huff! Huff! Huff! Pete began to have trouble breathing. He turned his head to the side while suffocating under the swarm of desperate gamers.
The boy saw something on the ground, not very far away from him. 'What is it?' he wondered, squinting.
There was someone else sprawled on the floor.
It was the same boy on whose face Pete had spat the soda. The munchkin kid! The little boy's eyes were open but did not seem to move.
'Is he… dead?'
Pete felt he was having a nightmare. There was no other way to explain it. 'Obviously, I will wake up in my comfy bed soon. I will get up and get a snack.'
The boy tried to move his body, but it wouldn't budge. 'Is my spine fractured?'
Pete realized he could not breathe anymore. All the regrets of his brief life seemed to flash before his eyes.
He was morbidly obese at a young age. The boy led a pathetic lifestyle, eating junk food and barely ever taking a shower. He treated others like shit not because he was a terrible guy but because he was lonely. Even his mom avoided him.
As Pete's vision faltered, he looked at THE PRINCE OF THIEVES package. The cracked box lay ahead of him, out of reach. People stepped over it as if it had no value. Just like Pete. The boy smiled bitterly at his shallow and pointless life. Perhaps he deserved a miserable death like that.
Huff! Huff! Huff! Ff! Ff! ffff…
A sharp pain stabbed inside his chest. It seemed to go on forever.
Finally, when it ended, Pete's body convulsed, his vision darkened, and shadows seemed to engulf him.
Lupp dub! Luppp dubbb…
His heart gave a long sigh and stopped.