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Tom Ballard is just an average businessman who lives in a pleasant suburban neighborhood. He has a beautiful wife, Martha, and two young children. It seems like the perfect life, except there is one big problem. Tom is six months overdue on his mortgage payments, and his house will be foreclosed upon if he doesn’t make the payments within the next few weeks.
Tom decides that he really has no hope of paying off his debt, so he goes to ALCO to see what he can buy with the money that he does have left. As he walks through the door, a flashy item catches his eye from the clearance rack. It reads, “Universal Remote Control, $5.99.”
“Wow, that’s not a bad deal!” Tom yells out.
He decides to buy it, and as the cashier is checking out the remote, Tom sees a dark figure standing behind one of the other checkout counters. Then, almost immediately, the figure disappears.
“What the heck was that?” he questions.
The teen behind the counter shrugs and hands him the remote with its receipt. When Tom gets home, he immediately wants to try out his new toy. His wife doesn’t know about the overdue mortgage payments, so she doesn’t question why he bought a new T.V. remote.
Tom eagerly opens the package and pops some AA batteries into the controller. He wonders why the remote has play, pause, rewind, fast forward, and skip functions. He assumes that it must be because it’s universal, just like the sign at ALCO said.
Curiously, Tom pushes the pause button to see if anything will happen. Suddenly, the sound of his wife cooking dinner in the kitchen stops, and he can no longer hear his kids playing upstairs.
“Martha, are you alright?” he yells.
There is no response.
“Kids, are you there?” he shouts, even louder this time.
Again, there is no response. Tom runs into the kitchen to see if Martha is okay. She is standing still with a pan in her hand, suspended over the stove.
“Could it be the remote?” Tom yells, out of sheer amazement.
He quickly presses the play button and Martha comes back to life. She resumes cooking and putting pans full of food on top of the stove. He also hears his children start to giggle again one story above him. Martha jumps because of Tom’s sudden appearance, dropping two pans on the floor.
“Jeez Tom! Don’t sneak up on me like that!” she bellows.
“Sorry Honey.” replies Tom.
Tom bumps the pause button again, thrilled with his amazing new power that he holds in his right hand. Again the noises stop, and Martha is frozen in time.
After standing there in the kitchen for a minute, Tom decides that he probably shouldn’t mess around with this strange remote control anymore tonight. He presses “play”, and puts it away in a kitchen drawer. As he eats dinner, all he can think about is what happened earlier.
Later that night, as he’s lying in bed, Tom ponders all of the endless possibilities that the remote is capable of. Finally, he figures something out. He now knows how to pay off his debt.
“I’m going to rob a bank, it’ll be pretty easy with the remote control,” he whispers under his breath.
“What was that?” mumbles Martha, half asleep.
“Nothing, I was just… thinking.” replies Tom.
Tom wakes up the next morning, gets dressed, and starts his car.
“Where are you going Tom? It’s a Saturday.” Martha asks.
“Nowhere,” he says bluntly, as he pushes the pause button.
He doesn’t know how long the pause function will last, but he figures it should be enough time for him to get some quick cash.
As he backs out of the driveway, he sees the same shady figure he saw back at ALCO yesterday. Except this time it’s behind the big pine tree in his yard. Tom gets frightened, so he hits the gas and gets out of there as fast as he can.
Tom pulls up to the bank a few minutes later, and he sees that everyone there is frozen in place, just like his family was the previous night. He makes up his mind to go on with his plan. Tom slowly walks into the bank, but stops when he sees all of the security cameras.
“I wonder if those things are paused too. Better to be safe than sorry I guess.” he says as he pulls out their videotapes.
When he’s walking further into the bank, he realizes that he still won’t be able to get inside of the bank’s safe, even with everyone paused.
“I can still get all of the money in the cash registers,” he says excitedly.
There are over twenty cashier booths at the bank, so Tom should still be able to get plenty of money. He walks along the booths, dumping the contents of the boxes into his huge duffel bag. Some of the cashier’s hands are still outstretched, about to hand bills to customers. He takes those and puts them into his bag as well. He empties all of the registers, then gets into his car and makes a quick getaway. Tom decides that he should be back at home before he presses play on the controller. He counts his stolen money as he’s sitting in the driveway of his residence.
“It’s still not enough!” Tom shouts angrily.
He only has enough in his bag to pay off about half of his mortgage payments.
“I’m going to have to do it again…” he groans.
Tom quickly drives to the bank at the other end of town, and hits the pause button once more. Like before, everyone freezes in mid-motion. As Tom walks forward to one of the cash boxes, the dark figure he has been seeing before mysteriously appears behind the counter.
“Why do you keep following me?” yells Tom.
“You must stop using that controller for your own personal benefit, Mr. Ballard. If you do not, you will pay dearly for your mistakes. The choice is yours.” states the figure.
“I’ll take my chances!” Tom screeches.
Tom hastily starts filling another big bag full of cash wads. Then, he hears a strange humming noise coming from the dark figure, but just as Tom turns his head to look, the figure is gone. Tom runs out to his car and leaves as quickly as possible.
When Tom gets home, he counts his new bag of cash.
“I’ve got more than enough now!” he yells excitedly.
Tom then decides that it’s probably safe now to touch “play” on the remote control. As he reaches for the triangular shaped button with his thumb, he accidentally touches the power button, and the whole world around him goes pitch black. There is a small flashing light on the tiny LED screen of the remote. Tom squints to read it in the darkness. It says, “Battery replacement needed. Please standby.”
Tom then knows what the dark figure was talking about when he said that he would pay dearly for his mistakes… He had made the wrong choice.