Joy

For over three months, four days, and six hours, Joy had fought tooth and nail for this exact moment.

She stood at the counter of GamePlaza, a local video game store she’d been visiting since she was old enough to leave home on her own. Rob, the owner and her boss, smiled a little sheepishly as she inputted the pin for her debit card.

Rob had given her a pretty good discount, and she had earned it. Joy was one of his best employees after all.

“Don’t have too much fun with that tonight,” Rob said. “I still need you to come in bright and early tomorrow morning to help me do inventory.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Joy said smiling. “Thanks, Rob.”

The transaction complete and the new, but still used, Nintendo 3DS in her backpack, Joy left the store with a wave and headed home. On transit, a little twitch in her eye poked at her.

She had planned to wait on playing the new console until she gotten through the door, up the stairs, and into her bedroom at home, but her willpower couldn’t hold her back.

Looking over her shoulder on the bus and then down the aisle, she opened her bag and pulled the 3DS out.

The surface of the device gleamed as it reflected the faint lights above. It was a thing of beauty save a few scratches here or there. She flipped it open and turned it on.

Flaring into life, the 3DS menu opened.

Fucking Rob, Joy swore under her breath as she swiped through the menu.

“It doesn’t feel like a new console if you don’t do a factory reset,” she said with a groan.

Usually they tried to wipe the memory from the consoles at the store giving their new owners a chance to configure it for themselves for the first time. Rob had screwed up.

The previous owner had obviously done a lot of walking as they had hundreds of Play Coins, but it looked like they hadn’t downloaded any games.

That didn’t stop her from snooping a little.

Going into System Settings, Joy checked the user’s profile.

“Rob” was the last owners name.

“Fucking Rob!” she wailed on the bus making the other two people on the bus looked over. He had set the device up to test it and looked like he’d taken it for a joy ride. It was her stop. She gripped the device, closed the lid, and went to leave the bus.

As Joy left the bus, her backpack strap got stuck in the door. She yanked at it, but it wouldn’t let go. The driver was on the case, but it was too late. She pulled on the strap one last time and ripped it opening the zipper spilling out the bag’s content.

Joy watched in horror as the 3DS tumbled from the bag and fell to the ground. It landed with a sickening smack.

“Sorry kid,” the driver said as the door finally swung open.

“Yeah, yeah,” she said frowning at the device. Her frown evolved into something much worse as she opened it.

Both screens on the inside were cracked and even though it turned on like normal the device felt like it was chugging. It wasn’t broken, but it wasn’t working right, basically.

Rob wouldn’t take it back.

“Fuuuuuuuuuck!” she yelled into the sky.

***

Joy burst through her door at home, kicked off her shoes, and plopped down onto the sofa.

Her dog, King Charles III, looked over concern slowly filling his little doggy eyes. Joy gave the little schnauzer a pat as her mother walked into the room.

“Tough day,” she asked putting a hand on her daughter’s head.

Joy nuzzled her hand doing her best impression of a cat, but she frowned.

“Not a tough day,” Joy said. “Tough luck with this thing.” She handed the 3DS to her mom who gave it a look over. “Everything still works, but there’s something wrong with the screen. I may have dropped it…”

“That so,” her mother said looking at the device. “Any chance of fixing it?”

“No…” Joy groaned laying down onto Charles who struggled to get away. “It’d be too expensive without a warranty and I spent most of what I made this month on it.” She fake cried for a few moments before looking up to see if her ploy for sympathy had worked.

“Crocodile tears aren’t going to get this fixed,” her mother said wryly. “Dinner’s in the fridge by the way, sorry about your game thing.” She handed it back to Joy and left the room.

Resigned to her fate, Joy gave Charles another pat and went upstairs.

***

After a quick shower, she put away her clothes in the closet next to her door and whipped on some some pajamas, Joy sat down on her bed and fired up the 3DS again.

The cracked screens displayed the menu, but it was glitching out pretty bad. She reached over the side of her bed and into a small drawer. She took out a little screwdriver set and started unscrewing the back.

Maybe whoever it was who owned the device before had left a microSD card in the back.

“One hundred and twenty eight gigabytes!” Joy said with a gasp opening it up. “Wow, what a baller.”

She took out the card and slotted it into the card reader attached to her laptop.

While she let the SD card set up on her computer, she took a closer look at the 3DS.

Maybe whoever had owned it had left a little imprint of them self in the Mii Maker. This was the kind of the puzzle she loved and why she owned a tonne of Professor Layton games.

When she fired up the application, she saw only one Mii.

It had long, dark hair, a pointed nose, and thick-rimmed glasses. It looked just like her, but its name was “Juliet”. The Mii has a striking resemblance to her even if the glasses were just pixellated circles.

It was enough to have made a feeling creep into the room that made Joy check over her shoulder.

Just at that moment, a green light flared on the right side of the console. Someone was at the Mii Plaza Gate. The SD card had opened on her laptop, but Joy wanted to check who it was first. Maybe the neighbour had a 3DS too

It was a Mii named Rob who was: from Ontario, likes dogs, and whose catchphrase was ” Wubalubadubdub!”.

“Fucking Rob!” Joy said putting her face down into her pillow.

Rob must have tested out everything on the device and it had only caught up to his Mii now, but another thought entered into her mind too. She carefully leaned over to her bedroom window and checked outside.

Rob was a good guy, a little shy at times, but a good guy, and you had to be pretty close to transmit data to a 3DS. There was nothing outside save the cars passing by and the shadows that played on the ground from their headlights. She also checked under her bed, down the hall, and in her closet.

Nothing there.

Joy sat back down on her bed and checked back on her computer. Inside the SD card was your standard 3DS folder, with nothing in it, but there was another folder too.

Joy opened it. She closed it.

It wasn’t something she wanted to look at. Whoever it was, the girl who had owned the device had taken pictures of herself. Not all of them were not-safe-for-work, but most of them were not-safe-for-life with things sticking out of orifices and a mystery man doing things that Joy wished she hadn’t seen.

There would be hell to pay when she got into GamePlaza tomorrow morning.

Resetting the console back to factory setting was one thing, but not deleting what was on it was crazy.

One look had been enough for Joy to start formatting the SD card. She’d need to wash her eyes out with bleach to get the images out of her mind.

With the card formatted, Joy replaced it into the cracked 3DS and booted up the device. Aside from the cracked screens, it was working all right now, but she went to delete the “Juliet” Mii from it.

When she went back to the Mii Maker, she could only see Rob’s. The Juliet Mii was nowhere to be seen.

Spooky, Joy thought.

It was, quite understandably, a sleepless night.

***

Four months later, Joy had started university and had long since quit her job at GamePlaza.

Rob hadn’t reacted well when Joy had complained about the 3DS and the content of its SD card.

She had gone into the store early the next day to talk about it, but he started acting weird. He’d went white as a sheet and tried to give her the money back, but she had grown attached to it.

Although the screen was cracked, it didn’t run quite right, and the Wi-Fi connectivity was sporadic, it was hers.

Soon enough her hours were cut down so much that it wasn’t even economical to travel downtown to do the job, so she quit.

Now was the eve of the Pokemon Symphony that was in town and her friends were decked out in their nerdiest attire to impress the best. As she walked around the reception area floor, she held out her 3DS trying to get as many Street Passes as she could.

So far, she had found ten, but she wanted more.

It was quarter to 8 p.m. and about time the audience had to make their way into theatre, but she had gotten two more people.

Her Mii greeted them at the gate, but the second made her stop in her tracks.

It was Juliet.

With her dark hair, pointed nose, and thick-rimmed glasses… it was uncanny, but the message displayed sent a shiver up Joy’s spine.

“Give it back”, Juliet said as she smiled and went through the Mii Plaza’s gate.

Joy looked around the room. There were hundreds of people inside all dressed in cosplay, costumes, and semi-formal wear. There were a tonne of people who looked like Juliet. She regrouped with her friends and tried to ignore the Mii stalker.

Halfway through the concert was the intermission.

She leaned on her friend Jacob’s shoulder and pulled out her 3DS having forgotten about the Mii from before, but now there were eight more now waiting at the gate.

Joy’s eyes widened as her Mii went to greet them. They were all Juliet.

“Give it back,” one said.

“Filthy whore,” another said.

“It is mine,” another said as if screaming.

Joy curled into Jacob’s shoulder.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“I’ve been getting some weird messages from the Miis,” she said. “Have you seen one named Juliet?”

Jacob searched through his Mii Plaza, but there were no players who had left Miis like that on his console. He shrugged as the second set began. “We’ll check it out after this,” he said.

Joy sat in silence glancing over her shoulder once in a while at the crowd. Someone out there wanted her 3DS back. She clutched it in her hand for a moment before putting it into her purse.

***

At the end of the concert, Jacob took her to the subway before saying goodbye with a hug and an unexpected kiss.

It was enough to alleviate her anxiety for at least a moment, but soon enough she’d checked her 3DS. Twenty more Miis were waiting for her and who they were wasn’t unexpected.

By the time she had reached home, over 20 more Juliets waited for her by the Mii Plaza Gates. She walked into the dark house, ran up to her room, and got underneath the covers of her bed.

Joy had put the 3DS on her night table trying to forget about it.

A knock at her bedroom door made her to jump.

“Come in!” Joy said nervously bringing her bed sheets up to her face.

No one answered. Joy didn’t know what to do. “Come in!” she yelled this time. “COME IN!”

Silence answered her. She grabbed up a screw driver from her drawer and held it close to her chest.

“Mom!” she called out. “MOM!”

No one answered. She pulled down her bed sheets. The door to her bedroom stood only a few feet away.

Something rapped on the door. Joy screamed and threw the 3DS at it.

“Take it!” she screamed. “Take the stupid thing, I don’t want it!”

Joy jumped out of bed and ran to the window. She wrenched tried to wrench it open, but couldn’t. The door was rattling.

Screwdriver in hand, she steeled herself and walked to the door. Whatever it was on the other side would have to fight to get her.

It rapped again making her jump back. She whipped the door open and stabbed.

Nothing was there.

Joy’s heart pounded.

“Joy?” he mom called up. “You ok?”

“No!” Joy said unsteadily. “Not really.”

An hour later and with a cup of hot milk in hand, Joy returned to her room. Her mom said she could have just drifted off and had a waking nightmare. Apparently she had them quite often when she was younger.

She had gone up with Joy and checked the room before she let her daughter in. With a hug, she left but not before closing the window as it was a slightly cold September night.

Joy settled into the bed sheets.

The 3DS was still by the door, and it was still on. She crept out of bed and checked it. The camera app had been left on and the back plate of the 3DS was loose.

The MicroSD card had been removed, but an image had been left on the device’s internal memory.

It was a photo of her taken from the closet.

It was Joy.

She looked over to the closet,heart beating in her throat.

She walked to the white, wooden door and wrenched it open.

“Hi! Who are you?” a high-pitched voice called out suddenly in the darkness.

“I’m… Joy,” Joy stammered taken aback. “What are you—” she said as she was forced through the door by an invisible force.

Before her stood a yellow gate beyond which stood a a crowd of girls who looked just like her.

“I’m Rob,” the Mii standing at the gate said as it floated toward her. “I like Joy.”

“I like cats,” Joy said before happily walking through into the plaza and joining the ranks beyond.

A smile was on her face, but inside she screamed in horror as she tried to get her legs to move before the gate closed.

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