Written and Illustrated by Koriander Bullard
Earlier this morning, I was nursing a migraine. Once the episode ended, I found myself wide awake at seven in the morning, the result of drinking a caffeinated beverage to nurse my aching head.
So I stumbled through the internet, still quiet in the early hours without a soul in sight texting or blogging. I read one of those "click-bating" articles that take me through 1990's nostalgia while also blowing through the minutes, when I saw an ad that led to an ad that led to a Google search on Tamagotchi. Curiously, I followed, landing on a fan Wikia page for the virtual pets.
And there before me, stood something I could never have fathomed.
My old Tamagotchi had a name I never knew, Kusatchi. But more baffling than knowing it had a name, was knowing I never really knew my pet very well at all, despite the hours I spent caring for it.
Kusatchi it seems, was something of a cross between a Venus flytrap and a duck.
But back in 1997, I didn't know this. And if you can see the diagram above, then you probably wouldn't have guessed that either. For 19 years, I've been trying to explain Kusatchi to other Tamagotchi parents, and all I've gotten back are odd stares, funny faces and laughter.But let me go back in time a bit to explain and remember Kusatchi.
It was 1997. My father was working long hours at a Service Merchandise store several hours away. This was our second Christmas in Reading, Pennsylvania, in a gated community where I was the only little girl on the block, and part of the only minority family in the whole community. We lived in a nice townhome, but our neighbors were rich, racist and snobby. They had caused us plenty of chaos that entire year, but it was Christmastime, meaning that they were temporarily out of our hair, and Santa was dominating television.
I didn't care that I had just turned eleven years old. Santa was a rock star in my eyes, and I had been extra good for most of the year, despite hitting puberty equally as hard and having gone through the hormonal angst usually reserve for teenagers much beyond my years. I had a mile-long wish list, filled with every toy and video game that would have deemed me "the cool kid" had there been any other kids my own age on the block.
Well to my wonderment and surprise and for the first time ever, every single wish was granted that Christmas morning. In fact, Christmas was so awesome, I even had wishes granted from years prior, and wishes I hadn't even wished yet! My stockings ranneth over with video games, action figures, dolls and so many amazing and awesome things from Japan that hadn't even become popular yet! I had an official set of Pokemon figures long before the craze hit the states, an N64 that still to this day plays Starfox 64, and so many wonderful items from Mattel and Hasbro.
And there, just behind the Christmas tree…. Was a Tamagotchi.
I thought I was going to faint! The little plastic egg had been sold out in every store. I couldn't believe it was right there in front of me!
Opening the package, I found a blue and white pamphlet that curiously, only had a battery warning and a partial chart of what my little LCD screen "could" produce.
Quick as I could, I ripped out the paper tag holding the battery, set the clock and watched a little pixelated egg hatch. What was it? Could it be that cute puppy I wanted? A bunny? A kitty?
…. It was a blob.
I looked at the chart to find that this was the baby stage. Okay, not a problem.
I went to Yahoo and searched for tips on how to raise my new blob, who was screaming at me the whole time I was looking for how to care for it. I had no directions, no owner's manual, not even a proper guide. Just a slip of paper, wishing me the best of luck in Japanese. So I did the best I could. I fumbled through the controls until I could figure out the "Clear Poop" button, fed it, gave it medicine and accidentally scolded it when my finger slipped on the menu.
Smacking it by accident made it spout legs. (Tongaritchi)
Finally, after hours of it beeping non stop in anger, it started to grow up. What would it become? A puppy? A bunny? A kitty? Maybe it was becoming a frog?
…. Well, if you saw the above picture, it became a Kusatchi.
Since Tamagotchi was new at the time, I had no idea this was supposed to be a Venus flytrap. Instead, my heart sunk, my eyebrows knitted together in an angry-sad combo, and my lips curled like over cooked bacon at the sight of what I assumed was a duck with a stick up it's butt, glued to a dinner plate.
But, it was MY pet. And since it was my first and only pet, it was my responsibility to take care of it. I figured if I could show my parents I could be responsible with a virtual pet, that maybe I could snag a real one next Christmas.
The following year, I got a Golden Retriever….. doll.
With a puppy….. doll.
Every day, I made feeding and taking care of Kusatchi part of my everyday routine. When my father came home from a business trip a few months later, he gave my brother (not yet six) and I each the Tamagotchi rip-off "Dinky Dino" which was a Russian keychain where you raise a dinosaur that only lives seven days. I was so responsible, I raised Kusatchi, my seven-day dino, my brother's dino, and I still had plenty of time to do my schoolwork and comfort my brother, who was two and a half years two young for the age warning on all 3 digital pets, who had nightmares every time his extra creepy dino died. I suffered migraines even as a child, and the endless beeping of Kusatchi and the dinos was annoying.
I gave up on the dinos, but found a pause function on my Tamagotchi, which let me cheat the programming and keep Kusatchi alive for an unreasonable 396 days. I would wake her, feed her, pause her, put her to bed, and all was right with the world. She would nag at me, beep obscenities and demand extra food, but only for as long as I let her. And after a few months of cheating, she actually seemed to like me, and would sometimes play a game with me.
But 396 days is well past the reasonable age for a Tamagotchi. Like it's younger sibling Digimon, one day is a whole year for a Tamagotchi, so my Kusatchi could have been named Methuselah by the time she passed away.
For as much nagging and grief as she caused me, I was heartbroken when she died. I actually mourned as though this was a flesh and blood pet. I watched her soul go into an 8-bit spaceship, and fly away to the stars above, just as the battery finally died with her.
I had a toy coffin leftover from a kids meal Dracula set. I placed my egg inside the red box, set up all of my dolls, and held a small funeral for Kusatchi, whom I nicknamed "Picasso" due to her abstract image. I played "Amazing Grace" on my Barbie faux-CD player (which played birthday card music from a chip) and then buried Kusatchi in a sweater in my chifferobe. I later lost the egg in a flood, granting her a burial at sea.
A month later, still raw, I saw a TV ad for a new Tamagotchi. "Tamagotchi Angel" where you could raise the dead Tamagotchi on a white egg, until it was time for it to be reborn. It would go through a "death" in Heaven, only to be reborn as a new Tamagotchi on your older egg. For the low price of $20 per egg, you could digitize the circle of life, and keep raising a pet several lifetimes into the future!
I declined to ask Santa for the egg housing the soul of Kusatchi. Instead, I enjoyed playing with my soft, battery-free plush dogs. They never asked me to clean digital poop off of anything.
With Tamagotchi being back in style, many have asked me if I would like to go back to owning an LCD egg. But I smile and decline. Kusatchi left me with enough plastic egg on my face to last a lifetime. Instead, I'll just wait until I can find a real pet, one made of flesh and blood that doesn't beep at me if I forget to clean up after it.
I just wonder who else had Kusatchi?
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!