When I was a child, one of the things I enjoyed doing was hitting other children with a stick. Many of my classmates also enjoyed doing this. We would walk through the forest in back of our school, trying to find the biggest stick we could feasibly wield as a weapon. When we found the right stick, we would lure an unsuspecting child out of the teacher's sight during recess and attack them. We called this game Stick War and it was the best game ever as long as you weren't the one being beaten mercilessly.
We were able to secretly play Stick War for almost three whole days before one of our asshole classmates ruined it by calling for help when we wouldn't stop hitting him. Our teacher was furious. She sat us down and told us that from then on, if any one of us felt like we were being treated unfairly, we could yell "PLEASE STOP!" and the offending party must stop or face dire consequences.
Life after Please Stop was very different for us. We could no longer overpower our weaker classmates with brutality.
No matter what was happening to you, you could always count on Please Stop to prevent it from continuing. It was a magic bullet of pure power. We respected it. We feared it.
It didn't take us long to learn how to abuse it.
We began using Please Stop for everything. We used it to settle ownership disputes and to bend the rules of freeze tag. If we didn't want to learn about numbers, we would shout "PLEASE STOP!" at our teacher. It became a single word - "PLEESTOP" - uttered triumphantly in a loud burst.
Please Stop quickly made its way into our home lives, too. I clearly remember sitting at the dinner table, yelling "PLEASE STOP!" at my mom because she was trying to make me finish my meatloaf. My sister and I became Please Stop ninjas, constantly finding creative new ways to wield the ultimate source of power more effectively.
But one fateful day, we flew too close to the sun and ruined Please Stop forever. I remember that it was summer. I had just come inside from catching grasshoppers and I was sorting them on my sister's bed because I didn't want to get grasshopper guts on mine. I tried to sort them based on how many legs they still had - the intact grasshoppers would be dried out for display purposes and the mangled ones would be used in dissection experiments which were not done for scientific reasons, but more as an excuse to chop up grasshoppers with my mom's butcher knife.
My sister was horrified to find me trespassing on her side of the bedroom.
My sister: "Don't sit on my bed!"
Me: "It's a free country! I can sit on your bed if I want!"
My sister: "PLEASE STOP!"
Me: "PLEASE STOP SAYING PLEASE STOP!"
My sister: "PLEASE STOP TELLING ME TO PLEASE STOP SAYING PLEASE STOP!"
Me: "PLEASE STOP TELLING ME TO PLEASE STOP TELLING YOU TO PLEASE STOP SAYING PLEASE STOP!"
We had discovered a glitch in the system -- Please Stop was flawed. It could be used against itself infinitely, thereby becoming useless. We were in a goddamn Mexican standoff.
It felt like we had forcibly ripped apart the universe and were now staring at a gaping black hole where our powerful weapon used to exist. What had we done?
Over the course of the summer, the other children in my class also began to discover the flaws of Please Stop. Parents could not be controlled by it. It was hard to yell it effectively when your mouth was crammed full of your own socks. It was even harder to yell when your head was underwater.
By the time we returned to school in the fall, we had resigned ourselves to settling things the old-fashioned way, with sticks and rocks. But we were bitter and jaded, having placed our faith in something so obviously corruptible, so even Stick War lost its former appeal.
There was a brief ray of hope when someone invented "Please Stop to Infinity" to solve the escalation problem, but shortly afterward someone else invented "Please Stop to Infinity to Infinity" and we were right back where we started.
As we grew up, we learned to solve our problems through "talking" and "compromise," but I think secretly we all still yearned for the days where we only had to yell "PLEASE STOP" and anything we wanted was ours.
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