A Day With Knuckles: or, How To Superimpose the Virtual Hero on Reality

We all know the difference between inside the computer and out in the real world, don’t we?

Of course we do.

Yet the lines between the two are not clear cut. Angelina Jolie is Lara Croft of Tomb Raider. Yet we watch her work the red carpet and be an ambassador for the United Nations. The Wii fit series and many others allow us to create our own avatar and become something in cyberspace.

And the merchandisers recreate cuddly 3D representations for which children are primed to yearn.I had little time for them until Felix came home one day with Knuckles.

Knuckles first made an appearance in Sonic The Hedgehog 3: a well- entrenched game with a huge following. Sonic is a bright blue dervish who tackles acrobatic challenges through ever more taxing assault courses called levels.

However Knuckles is not blue, but red. And while novices to the game might assume he is also a hedgehog, they would be woefully wrong. He is in fact a spiny anteater or echidnas. He was tricked by the game’s baddie into fighting Sonic. Knuckles defected to become Sonic’s best friend.

He is bright red with snub nose, huge eyes and crazy coiffure, and with cartoon-large boots on the end of his stubby little legs.

Felix was besotted with Knuckles, and he still is.

Today my extended family trooped in to top up on early breakfast and, for one day only, play as a group on our Wii.

As the children tackled the Olympics with Sonic and Knuckles, Al trailed in and his eyes grew large. ForΒ wasn’t one of the stars of the show sitting on the sofa, large as life?

He ran to Knuckles as if to an old friend and embraced him. Ah, he announced, there you are: I have been looking for you everywhere.

A nursery morning later, as I prepared the pasta at lunchtime, Al rediscovered Knuckles and got to work busily introducing him to all the other inhabitants of the toybox. This accomplished, he secured a decent pair of wheels and parked Knuckles in the driver’s seat.It did not take long before Knuckles was airborne.

“Look Auntie Kate! Knuckles can fly up high! He can hover like a helicopter! He can zoom around!”

The evidence was before my eyes. This was one talented anteater.

Mealtime arrived quickly. “Auntie Kate,” Al said, his eyes engagingly wide and blue, “can Knuckles have a plate? And….” coming in with that final killer demand,”can Yoshi have a plate too?”

I sighed. Dinner parties with cuddly stuffed guests are notoriously hazardous. A fast-forward of the next few minutes played at the back of my mind, with highlights including a red pasta saucy nose as possible attempts were made to spoon feed Felix’s beloved toy.

But what the heck.

“Ok, Al, I said. I got two extra plates.

“Get a big one for Knuckles please, Auntie Kate, and a little one for Yoshi.”

We managed to avoid pasta disaster and before anyone could request chocolate mousse, I reached for those little iced gems – do you know them? A tiny doll-sized biscuit with a whorl of hard crunchy icing on top.

Al was in seventh heaven.

He arranged gems carefully on each plate and fed his two new friends with the air of an accomplished host.

In a heretical moment I suggested eating the gems.

A look of outraged distaste crossed the little boy’s face. “No! They will be sad! We’ll leave them over here for later.”

I think, on reflection, the dog helped himself to them shortly afterwards.

As a finale, Al and Knuckles were strapped into the car and driven to Starbucks. Al had been a very good boy at nursery: time for a hot chocolate as a reward.

Yet when we arrived, inexplicably, the order was deftly renegotiated so that Al, Knuckles and I sat down with three chocolate-covered marshmallows on a stick, sprinkled with white chocolate stars.

You all know how it goes: a bite for Al, a bite for Knuckles. A bite for Al, a bite for Knuckles.

Hypnotic.

It seemed the entire cafe had paused with their cups half way to their mouths, drop-jawed in incredulity at this ponderous marshmallow-sharing ritual.

So it’s official: Big Al has a connection with Knuckles. Sniffy about all cyberheroes, I had inadvertently introduced my tiny nephew to one of the uber-anteaters of the computer gaming world.

I am not proud of myself. Today I got off my high horse and let something step out of a computer and hook my nephew to the point of infatuation.

But he spent none of this day on a computer,and all of it creating verdant make-believe.

I am left, trying to work out whether or not I have won this level.

Written in response to Side View’s theme, ‘An Alternate Reality’, which you can find here

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50 thoughts on “A Day With Knuckles: or, How To Superimpose the Virtual Hero on Reality

    1. I know: full of fabulous useful information one will most certainly need almost once every day.

      Time to potter off and introduce Knuckles’ true identity into some conversations.

      1. same cupboards, same colour work surface, same scrubbed pine table top – I can’t believe my eyes! (Need to change my door knobs to match yours …..)

  1. Best part of being a kid is the imagination required to play games with cartoon characters. In a very few short years, that will be “kid stuff” and he’ll be one step closer to everyday reality.

    Wish I was about 4 years old again sometimes.

    1. Yes, it’s strange: it might be a computer character, but it has Al absorbed because it is a cuddly toy. Kids just love to play with anything: I hear of the strangest things being tacked together to play with on African streets. There is such wonder watching a child play.

  2. That must have been a riveting sight at Starbucks!
    It seems to me you have the best of both worlds. Computer Wii stuff (though I’m a bit hazy on what that is) and the ‘reality’ of actual make-believe with an inanimate object.

  3. There are wormholes from where the virtual reality flows into our material reality, and I think it was amazing that your little nephew forgot about the computer for the whole day.

    By the way, if you are interested, then Aram Bartholl, a German artist has made an art project out of Google Maps tiny red market – he has brought it from the virtual to the physical world by creating a huge 6m high Google Map marker. Just another example of the “workholes”.

    1. I love your idea of wormholes, Ragnenukk. It is a time honoured plotline, the path from the real to the virtual. I never quite nailed Knuckles down that far. But you’re right: that is precisely how he got here.

      Thanks for coming over to have a read!

  4. I love Big Al. His imagination is priceless. He will certainly be someone ‘we knew when’ someday. I hope he’s feeling back to normal by now.

    Very creative response to Sidey’s theme, Kate. Your writing is luminous and captivating.

    1. Thank so much, Andra. Between you and I, Andra, Sidey and I are getting like an old couple who finish each others’ sentences. Not for the first time, I published this not as a response but just as a regular post: and then she alerted me to her Friday theme. Which fit like a glove.

      I love the way her mind works. Here themes never fail to lead me somewhere new.

  5. I’ve learned something new today, Kate. I never knew there was a Knuckles… I knew there was a Sonic (and, to see me play, he was enough!), but I was never aware there was a baddie in the game. No wonder I didn’t play it very well…

  6. My boys and my grandson are so long grown, and my great-grandson geographically too far away for me to enjoy little boy antics and imagination with any regularity. Hence, it’s always a treat to read about Big Al’s visits with you! He is truly a large personality tucked into that diminutive body. Thanks for sharing him with us. πŸ™‚

  7. How wonderful! It’s always a win when children bring to bear thier formidable powers of make-believe, especially in favor of sitting passively in front of a computer screen or TV. What fun!

  8. I am never so delighted as by the Magical Thinking of preschoolers. My Felix would have been right there with Big Al. As I type, Thomas the Tank Engine has been kidnapped by the crew of a pirate ship; a crew peopled with plastic aliens and vintage Storm Troopers. I am informed that Lightning McQueen will rescue the cheeky, blue detainee.

    The only ones tied to our screens? Mark and I.

    Now to remedy that.

  9. Ah, yes, the wonderful world of those magical whirling dervishes…
    Bless You…
    By the way, while you were commenting on my last post…I was posting the next one just now, which is the one that contains your “Reader Appreciation Award Mission” should you choose to accept it of course.

  10. How is it possible that I can be so very far removed yet love this little boy! I chuckle so hard at the Big Al stories, Kate. I taught four year olds for years, and the parents were often so relieved to discover that I had a big soft spot for imaginative little guys! I can just picture the scene in Starbucks…you really painted a picture here! Debra

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