Universal Remote

This one's a bit silly, but I've put it up because it served as a writing exercise. This isn't a finished story, isn't something that I will edit, but it's an idea nonetheless.

Mum came in and snatched the remote.

“Hey!” I shouted, making a grab for it.

She kept it out of arm’s reach. “You shouldn’t watch so much, you know,” she fussed. “Rots the mind. There’s a world out there. You should get some fresh air.”

I turned and stared out of the window. It had been howling a gale all day and raindrops splattered onto the glass, giving everything a melted look. As I watched, one lonely passerby was battling to reach the bus shelter, clutching an inside-out umbrella.

“Have you seen the weather-“ I began, but she was already gone, taking the remote with her. I flumped back down into the armchair and stared at the screen. “So unfair,” I muttered.

On the screen, flashing colours were advertising some kind of new toy. Characters jumped and wobbled over the screen, music blasted, and then it was gone. Another advert, this time for a doll. Then it was a music concert. I rolled my eyes and picked up my phone to check my emails when I heard the next advert start.

“Is your life lacking control? Why not send off for the NEW and IMPROVED UNIVERSAL REMOTE!” I looked up, curious. On the screen some kid had a small remote, almost like a phone itself, that he pointed at a TV. The channel on it changed, then it turned off. “Wow,” he said, fake enthusiasm all the way, and ran over to a tablet lying on the table. With a press of a button he made it turn on, pulled up the latest apps and then turn off again. Then he did it to a phone. All the while, information was scrolling across the bottom of the screen, all the things it could do, but it was far more interesting to watch this kid turning all the electrical things in the house on and off. To finish, he made everything in the kitchen start at the same time, leaving his parents panicking in the middle of the room.

“Buy one TODAY!” the announcer shouted, and then a list of shops flashed up on the screen, along with the price.

Then the TV flicked off. Mum was back. “That’s quite enough of that,” she said, and tucked the remote back in her pocket.

“But Mum!” I squealed, and then she was gone back into the next room. I scowled at her back. “What’m I supposed to do now?”

“If you want to do something useful, go and get some butter and a light bulb from the Co-op,” she called back. I looked out doubtfully at the weather again, but it was actually clearing up. “Oh, and some toilet roll. And bin bags! We need bin bags!”

I took as long as possible putting my trainers on, and by the time I had them laced the rain had stopped altogether. With my headphones plugged firmly into my ears I couldn’t even hear the traffic, drums and heavy guitar drowning out everything else. The Co-op wasn’t far, and I grabbed a basket to put stuff in.

They had a TV set up at the end of one of the aisles, put there to advertise the product of the week. I blinked at it and slowly took my headphones out. Sure enough, it was the remote control advert again. There was the same kid with the same fake enthusiasm, happily turning things on and off. I looked at the shelf; there was one left, hanging in its plastic packaging. “Batteries included!” it said. “Works on anything!” It wasn’t too expensive, either, and I knew I had enough on me for it.

A smile spread over my face; let’s see her try to turn the TV off now, I thought, and grabbed the remote.

The flat was quiet when I got back in, and I quickly dumped the shopping in the kitchen and ran to my room. Getting the packaging open turned out to be the hardest part, but the batteries went in easily. I heard Mum’s phone ring and a conversation start up from the next room, her bedroom. Good.

The remote was disappointingly light, but I took it into the living room anyway and examined it more closely. It had an ‘On’ button which also doubled as an ‘Off’, the usual nine numbers, volume, channels, one or two other buttons. There was one that had a picture that looked like a fan inside a box, and another that looked like a jug. Or was it two faces looking at each other? I slumped back into the seat and pressed the ‘On’ button. 

The TV flashed into life; sound blaring, too loud. I panicked and mashed at the volume button, but it was too late. I heard the door come open and Mum strode back into the room.

“I thought I said enough TV!” she shouted, still holding her phone, and she fumbled in her pocket for the remote. As silence returned, she looked at me, that stern look that told me I was in trouble. “Now, I’m not going to tell you again… what have you got there?”

I followed her gaze down to the remote in my hand. “Nothing,” I said lamely.

“Give it here,” she said. I could hear someone squawking on the other end of her phone call.

Feeling childish and hating it, I went to hand the remote over. “I wish I could switch YOU off,” I said, and petulantly pressed the “On/Off” button.

There was a sudden inrush of air and a thump as Mum’s phone landed on the carpet. The space where she had been stood until a moment ago was suddenly, impossibly, empty. She was gone. Through where Mum should have been I could see into my bedroom and to the packaging, still on the floor, proudly screaming “WORKS ON ANYTHING”…