This piece has also been published over on Medium in The Junction.
It’s hard looking after a toddler. Anyone could tell you that. They’re so quick sometimes. And persistent too. At any given moment in time, there could be a toddler wandering into danger or mischief, unbeknownst to their parent or guardian. It’s ever so common, you know.
On a sunny Tuesday in 2017, one particular toddler was feeling particularly curious. She had just finished chewing a rather large piece of fluff she had found on the floor and was looking for a cupboard to open or a handle to grab. Her mother, exhausted, was having a quick coffee and a sit down.
The toddler looked around the room, scanning for something interesting or bright to investigate but her gaze finally rested on the crack in the slightly open door ahead. She crawled quickly under the table and towards the door with a grin and chirruped gleefully to herself.
She pushed open the adjacent door to a darkened room, lit only by three computer screens resting on top of a table. Crawling quickly forwards she soon reached the chair in front of the computer.
The toddler gazed with interest at each screen, in turn. She could see images of people on each one, going about their daily business. She had no idea where they were of course, but she was interested in watching them nonetheless.
She clapped her hands for a moment and looked around the room for any other items of interest. Nothing caught her gaze so she decided to pull herself up using the chair in front of the computer desk.
Standing at the desk, holding on to the chair she spied a keyboard with large buttons. With a gleeful squeal she began to whack the keys with the palm of her right hand. The monitors in front of her flashed red each time and she continued to bash rhythmically on the large buttons, excited at the lights and the noises.
Suddenly the door to the room burst open, startling the toddler. She turned towards the noise and fell with a bump onto her bottom and began to wail. Her mother quickly scooped her up and cuddled her to her chest.
“It’s OK, Penelope. Shhhhh.”
The little girl’s cries began to subside. Her mother’s eyes widened as she looked over her daughter’s shoulder at the computer screens.
“Shit! What have you done, baby?”
Penelope looked at her mother for a moment with a wrinkled brow and large tears still forming in her blue eyes.
Such an innocent, little face.
Her mother stared wildly at the computer screens in horror. She was powerless now to stop it. Terror attacks, the rise of a few dictators, a couple of natural disasters, wars, diseases, human rights breaches and a couple of ethnic cleansings.
Jesus. Penelope had just tapped out a decade’s worth of the bad stuff in a few minutes.
A phone in the corner of the office started to ring. The woman took a deep breath. She knew it was a call from upstairs. She’d have to explain what had happened. Hopefully they would let her keep the job. She needed the money. The people down there would just have to deal with it. The good stuff would balance it all out in the end.
They’d just have to get through a few bad years first.