Jerry's fingers dance over his video game controller. Attack. Dodge. Counter. His eyes are red and tense from staring at the screen for way too long. Attack. Block. Finishing blow.

This is his afterschool life every day – in fact, this is his whole life. To Jerry, his entire life had been a game. He had never given much thought about school, about friends, or about family. His only passion had been video gaming – his escape from the real world that just might as well have been his real world.

The phone suddenly rings, shrill and strident over all the din in the game, and Jerry cusses and presses pause hastily. He nearly trips over his controller cord in the dim light as he lazily makes his way to his phone hastily.

"Hello?" He answers impatiently, holding his breath to hide his adrenaline.

"Hello honey," his mother says. "I won't be able to make it home until very late."

Great, Jerry thinks excitedly to himself. More playing time.

"There's some leftover pasta in the fridge. Remember to microwave it for two whole minutes."

"Alright," Jerry says. He glances at the TV screen irritably and tries not to laugh at the enemy he had just hit, paused in midair with an ugly grimace frozen on its face.

"What are you doing right now, sweetie? Too busy to talk to your own mother?"

Jerry sighs. "Oh, yeah, yeah, I'm doing my homework right now. I sure have a lot today."

"Well, get to work now. Love you."

"Yeah, bye."

He hangs up immediately and glances at the clock. Six o'clock. School had ended three hours ago. His stomach growls and he decides to head downstairs and check out the fridge.

Didn't mom say something about leftovers? Maybe there's some leftover pasta for me.

He microwaves and wolfs down the pasta, then stomps back upstairs.

He reaches his room and ignores the cluttered floor, the dirty clothes that never quite made the hamper, and the myriad of lost homework assignments and textbooks he had never bothered to find. Instead, he picks up the game controller, presses the pause button, and is once again completely engrossed in the virtual world of killing zombies.

Finally, when then the garage door slowly begins to roll up does Jerry become afraid. He nervously glances at his alarm clock, with the abused snooze button on his bed-side table. It's nine thirty. He swears and dumps everything in his backpack onto his cluttered desk. Then, he grabs a dull, bitten pencil and begins to scribble on a crumpled piece of paper he had shoved into his math binder during the day.

"Page forty nine numbers one to thirty five all," Jerry groans and digs out his math textbook from under his desk, and starts his homework.

###

His alarm clock's obnoxious beeps wake him up. He presses snooze and throws his covers over himself, only to be beeped at again five minutes later. Finally, his mother comes into his room decides to wake him up herself.

"Jerry," she gently shakes him. Jerry pretends to be fast asleep and doesn't reply. "Do you know what day it is today?" she asks.

"Friday?" he croaks, as if still dreaming.

"No, silly, it's Thursday, and it's your birthday!"

Jerry is surprised and he finally opens his eyes to the dim morning light. "Whoa…already?" He rolls over slowly and sits up on the bed, confused about how he could have forgotten his own birthday.

His mother laughs. "Time sure flies when you're having fun." She winks, then hugs Jerry like he is still her beloved little baby despite how lazy of a teenager he had become. "Happy birthday, Jerry."

"Thanks," he replies.

"And," she continues, "You can stay home all day to play with your birthday present, because I called the school and told them you were sick."

Jerry's sleepy eyes widen in surprise, and an excited giggle begins to build up in his stomach. A present and no school? Wow, this is too good to be true! He doesn't think twice about how unrealistic the situation really is, about why his mother would actually do such a thing in reality.

Jerry's mother hands him a small, wrapped box and kisses him on the forehead.

"Well, I have to go to work. I think you will enjoy the game by yourself though. I spent all of last night picking it out for you."

"Wow, thanks mom!"

Eager play his new game, Jerry starts to rip the carefully-wrapped present and throws the scraps in the middle his bedroom floor. He dashes into his room and quickly examines the game disc case.

The cover shows a blank, numberless white clock with a title and a rating.

The Time Game. Rated mature for intense violence, blood and gore, realistic horror.

Jerry flips the disc case around to see that there are no gameplay screenshots. The back displays a similar blank white clock, but a single line of description runs along the bottom of the border.

Complete each trial before time runs out, or you must face the consequences. Warning: Time is never on your side.

"Booooooring," Jerry sighs out loud. But then he decides to try it anyways. Like all gamers, he is way too curious for his own good and can't resist a new game. He takes the game disk out of the case holds it carefully. He turns the appropriate game console on and inserts the game disc in the drive. He selects the new game file on the menu, but instead of a showing loading screen, it suddenly turns black.

"Oh, great," he rolls his eyes. "It's broken." He gets on his knees and crawls towards the TV to eject the game disc.

At this moment of security, he unexpectedly hears a muffled voice from the TV.

"You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?" And then a scream pierces the silence – a scream of pure defeat, loss, and agony.

And a blank white clock fills up the TV screen and replaces the black. A single second hand ticks loudly around the blank, numberless face. For all Jerry knew, the second hand could have not even been ticking in seconds. It appeared to be moving way too fast.

Heart pounding, he backs away to a good distance from the TV and grabs his controller nervously. Well, it's not rated mature for nothing.

The strange clock just continues to tick away, counting unknown increments of time.

Jerry sighs, impatient, and decides to lower himself to an amateur gamer's level and read the instruction manual inside the game case.

He opens the box again, carefully, and takes out a single piece of white paper on the inside cover of the case. There is only one instruction written on it.

Unplug your controller. Time shall not be controlled.

He makes a face and furrows his brows, but unplugs his controller. Without the controller, a sense of insecurity passes through him. Now, nothing is between him and the game; now, Jerry has no control over anything.

The clock ticks a few more times, and finally, the screen fades into darkness again. This game sure is strange, he thinks, trying not to admit that he is afraid.

An animated boy starts to fade into existence in the screen, average looking, with average brown hair and average build – not bony, but not muscular either. Just like Jerry. But that's just a coincidence, right? Jerry thought nervously. The only feature that is different is the boy's eyes. They are lifeless, as if the animated boy is only an empty shell. He soon fades away to darkness again, leaving a heavy, ominous feeling in the atmosphere.

The game talks again, this time in a much deeper but monotone voice. "Welcome, Jerry,"

How does it know my name? Jerry wonders, his neck hairs straightening, sending shivers down his spine.

"I am Time. I will be your host, as well as your greatest enemy. You will suffer terrible fates if you waste me and you are left behind during the trials.

"The trials increase with difficulty, and the punishments increase with…discomfort. You cannot stop me, for Time stops for no one.

"Only by beating the game, can you escape. During the final boss battle is the only time you can use your controller, because the final boss will be the only thing you can control.

At this, a faint image of the lifeless, animated Jerry appears, flickers, and vanishes again.

"Shall we begin? Respond in the next five seconds."

The same blank white clock shows up on the screen, but Jerry is so busy taking everything in that he does not answer and time runs out.

"I have run out. You must face your punishment."

At this, Jerry feels his chair lean over and he is shoved roughly with his shoulder crashing on the floor. He groans and confusedly pushes himself up. No, that was because I was scared, and I accidentally fell.

"Time for trial one. Finish last night's English homework – the one you completely forgot about – in fifteen minutes. "

The clock begins to tick mercilessly again, each second racing the previous one. Jerry panics, not knowing what to do. He cannot let himself be tricked by this strange voice. Besides, it's just a game.

Jerry walks over to the console and presses eject, but nothing happens. He tries to turn the TV off but, the screen does not blink at all. He even tries to unplug the TV, but the plug has become so hot to touch that Jerry finally gives up and returns to his seat. The clock keeps on ticking away, and Jerry can see that it's not so blank anymore. There is a light purple bruise in one corner.

Horrified by the bruise reflecting his own sore shoulder, Jerry succumbs to the dreadful feeling that there is no way out of this uncanny game. He finds his way to his messy desk, taking out his English homework and trying to concentrate, but he had already wasted time trying to turn the game off. He only has eight more minutes left.

"Use each vocabulary word in a sentence," Jerry reads aloud to himself, voice trembling. He hastily grabs a piece of binder paper and a pencil. "Alright, didactic. Wait, what does didactic mean?"

He scribbles, I am didactic, and moves on. "Imbue, what the hell is an imbue?"

I like to eat imbue.

Five minutes left. Eight more words to go. Oh, how he wished he had studied for these words when he had had the time!

I edified myself. My mom is esoteric. I like to erudite things.

"I have run out," the monotonous voice reported. "You must face your punishment."

Jerry gasps in horror as the bookshelf, which once so obediently had stood at the side of his desk yet was never used, slowly tips over and all the books crush him.

By the time he recovers from the supernatural fall, he realizes that his forehead is hurting, and possibly bleeding, while a throbbing pain side is beginning to grow into a terrible ache. His arms and legs are decorated with a few bruises as well. Jerry tries not to scream, and instead lets out a whimper from under the weight of the books.

"Time for trial two. Wash the dishes in seven minutes." The voice is so monotonous and indifferent that it's sickening to Jerry, who feels wronged and terribly mistreated.

Bleeding, cut, and bruised, Jerry manages to crawl out of the pile, sobbing and sore but hopeless, and clumsily limps downstairs into the kitchen. He takes a dish from inside the sink and starts to soak it in water. The water slips of the oily surface and the dish does not clean. He takes the detergent and squeezes it onto the dirty dish but he realizes something and stops.

"I've never freaking washed the dishes before," Jerry wails. He throws the remaining dishes in the sink and curls up at the bottom and just awaits his fate.

Tears form in his eyes as regret bubbles up in his stomach. Regret of never fulfilling his responsibilities and never learning how to even do them. And regret of ever opening the game.

"I have run out. You must face your punishment."

At Time's command, dishes fly out of the dishwasher, and attack him, breaking into shards of porcelain and stabbing into his skin.

Jerry tries to run, but can he? He just crouches there, under the sink, and tries to cover his face as the dishes cut him and stab him. The sharp edges embed themselves into his arms and his body, and the smaller shards fly in to bite him more. After Jerry is covered with wounds on every inch of his body and surrounded by a puddle of his own blood, the dishes stop attacking and he collapses, unconscious, on the kitchen floor.

"Time for trial three. Wake up in five minutes."

Jerry's alarm clock beeps, him from nearby, but fatigue and sleepiness has overwhelmed him but the beeps sound like screams to his ears. He is glued to the ground by his lack of will power. He tries to move, but he is not strong enough to command the will that he had never had.

All he can do is endure the empty throb of fatigue as it bites through him with every passing scream of the alarm clock.

"I have run out. You must face your punishment."

He hears his mother come in from the garage door and she sees him sprawled on the ground, bloody and bruised.

"Jerry," she exclaims. "What are you doing right now, sweetie? Too busy to talk to your own mother?"

"Mom!" Jerry tries to call out. "Mom, please, help me!" But he is only speaking in thoughts.

"Jerry," her voice begins to rise. "Jerry! Answer me! Are you too busy with homework? Are you too busy to talk to me?"

She paces around frantically, grabbing her hair, knocking things over.

"Mom, I'm alive! Please, help me up!"

"No! Jerry, please, talk to me!" She screams a bloodcurdling, horrible scream, "Jerry!"

And Jerry's mom has gone mad from the sight of her son in ruins. The insanity hurts Jerry too, more than the dishes and the bookshelf combined. He had failed his mother too many times in life, and now it was too late to repent.

"Mom… No…"

An ambulance wails from the street nearby and the front door is thrust open. Jerry hears his mother's screams die away as the staff grab her and haul her onto the ambulance, which takes her to the nearest psychiatric institute.

Fueled by anger, hurt, and determination, Jerry crawls up on all fours and slowly climbs his way up the stairs. He points his finger at the diabolical video game, breathes heavily, and shouts "You're gonna pay for this!"

Ignoring his words the ticking of the clock seems to speed up as if mocking him. The face of the clock is bruised, bloody, and broken, reflecting Jerry himself.

"Time for the final trial. Make a friend in three minutes."

Exasperated, Jerry desperately staggers downstairs again and out the front door, faster than he ever thought he could run. He rings the doorbell of his neighbor. The door slowly creaks open.

"Hello –"

The cranky, cat-loving old lady screams and slams the door in his face.

He runs to the next house on his block, but he is yet again greeted with a slammed door. They're all afraid of Jerry's distorted appearance. And before he begins to panic again, the ominous voice of Time breaks through his thoughts.

"I have run out. You must face your punishment."

Slowly, Jerry begins to hear moaning all around him. The doors in his neighborhood open and zombies step out. They are the same ones he had once killed in his video game – sickly green skin, with dislocated body parts and dried blood all over. He feels his face twist itself into a frozen grimace, as if someone had paused the game on him.

Well, he muses to himself. This is the end. This is what I've been living up to.

The zombies surround him and keep moving forward. Jerry is terrified but calm, because he knows that this is his fate. Because he had let time go too easily, and he couldn't catch it anymore.

"Jerry… One of us….Jerry…." they moan, moving closer and closer to him. Jerry braces himself for his end; he braces himself for non-existence.

He doesn't even try to scream as their hands come all over him, and they slowly begin to eat him…

###

A blinding light flashes. Like an atomic bomb, it melts all the zombies to dust.

"You have failed," a voice says. "You have wasted time."

Jerry is only thoughts again. "I know."

"But you have not defeated me." It is a different voice, vaguely familiar, but as lifeless and indifferent as Time's.

"Plug in your controller, because you are the only one who can control yourself."

Jerry feels himself being thrown forward and thrust into a chair. His eyes shoot open and he is in his messy room again, the TV in front of him. The boy that closely resembles him is standing in the middle of the broken clock, smiling amusedly.

Jerry plugs in his controller, numb to the pain all over him, because he knows that he can win. Because now he knows that he is in control now.

The fight begins. Jerry pounds the attack button and attacks himself brutally. The lifeless Jerry is torn like a ragdoll. It doesn't hurt. Because Jerry knows what is best for him. To defeat the laziness, the old Jerry who had wasted too much time. So the new Jerry would have a new way of life to live in.

Jerry's fingers dance over the controller. Attack. Dodge. Counter. His eyes are red and tense from holding in all the pain and anguish from his old life. Attack. Block. Finishing blow.

The lifeless Jerry's body shatters and Jerry's vision begins to fade into black. Gathering his one last breath, Jerry points at the screen again, and shouts at it. "You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?" and the Jerry inside the game screams and disappears forever.

###

And so the old, lazy Jerry dies on the inside.

The new one is then awakened by his mother's touch.

"Jerry," she gently shakes him. Jerry doesn't reply. "Do you know what day it is today?" she asks.

If yesterday had been Thursday, bloody Thursday, then…"Friday?" he croaks.

"No, silly, it's Thursday, and it's your birthday!"

Jerry is puzzled. "Is it?"

His mother smiles. "Time sure flies when you're having fun." She winks, then hugs Jerry like he is still her beloved little baby instead of a…teenager. "Happy birthday, Jerry."

"Thanks," he replies.

"Last night, I went shopping for your present."

Jerry's eyes widen in horror. Is this happening again?

Then his mom takes out a small box – too small for a video game – and hands hit to him.

"It's a watch. I think you'll need it."

Jerry smiles, and sighs in relief. He smiles and watches his mother's face glowing, maybe to finally see her son alive and happy. Then he hugs his mother tightly.

"Thanks mom, I love you so much."

"Oh," she is a little surprised by her son's new character. "I love you too, Jerry."

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Jerry catches sight of his alarm clock. "Oh, I better hurry. If I don't get to school on time, something terrible might happen."

And the alarm clock laughed.