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It was 1998 I believe. I was five years old and very much into my theatrical and overdramatic phase as a result of watching far too many Disney movies. B*Witched were in the charts and life as a senior infant was good. For some reason, the sheer memory of that time smells of overly-buttered ham sandwiches and Play-Doh. Anyone else agree?
Anyway, Christmas was approaching so naturally I browsed Smyth’s toy store to make sure I didn’t forget to put anything on my Santa list. One of my requests was the most gay, over-the-top princess castle that ever existed. It played music as you opened it and I’m pretty sure it sprayed bubbles. Along with my obsession with Supermarket Sweep at the time, I’m certain owning that toy was an enormous step in my flaming homosexuality. However, one toy took the entire world by storm and, of course, I had to have it. It was… the Furby.
Almost twenty years later, I still can’t find a photo online that quite resembles what I got that year. My guess is that it was a bootleg Furby bought out of a boot of a car because my Dad couldn’t justify parting with £50 at the time. To be fair, I don’t blame him. Alas, with that childish, blithesome joy that the world quite literally stripped me of later in life, I unwrapped my Christmas presents on that chilly December morning to find him: Furbo.
His name was not Furbo then, but looking back on the event, I call him Furbo as an ode to his bootleg origins. I instantly knew there was something a bit… off.. .about Furbo. As diverse as the Furby range was at the time, none of the other kids seemed to have a Furby that resembled mine. I just thought that made mine special, and some of the other kids were even jealous. I was initially chuffed, but having such a ‘special’ Furby came at a horrifying price…
Over the course of a few weeks, Furbo’s attitude started to change. His voice got a bit deeper and manly, which I later attributed to his batteries wearing out, but even replacing said batteries did not fix the problem. Sometimes I swore I caught it staring at me when it should have been in sleep mode, and as soon as I would look directly at it, Furbo would close his soulless, black eyes. If this doesn’t already remind you of a trailer for a Chucky movie or something, then what happened next certainly will.
One night, as I was doing my homework, Furbo awakened and demanded I feed him. His voice this time, almost demonic, was louder than usual and started to don a strange accent. This accent slowly descended into Asian diction, as though English was not its first language. I brought it downstairs to my mother as, by this point, I had grown weary of the thing and thought it saddled me with too many responsibilities. The way you fed them at the time was to simply place the tip of your finger in its mouth so it could suckle. I’m 99% sure I once tried to breastfeed it this way before it became demonic, but by now I was afraid to go anywhere near it in case it genuinely hurt me. I could tell it wanted to ruin my life. Furbo developed a menacing, insidious personality that made it clear that he was the boss now, and that terrified me.
Feeding it didn’t work. It still demanded constant love and attention. For hours, it rattled on and on, demanding to be fed, rocked, burped, etc. Normally, once these demands were met, it would go asleep and I would carefully place it somewhere quiet and dark so it wouldn’t wake up. However, the feeding, rocking and burping was now an endless cycle without any reprieve. I vividly remember my mother crying out of frustration with Furbo as she tried her best to send the relentless monster to sleep.
Eventually we took out the batteries to put an end to the madness and, to our absolute bewilderment, Furbo continued his demands. You’re probably thinking I am lying by now, but I ensure you I speak the truth. A simple google search and a scroll through Yahoo! answers will confirm the sordid early history of Furbies, how they would retain enough power after battery removal to live a little while longer, and how they were even used as secret software to eavesdrop on conversations according to the National Security Agency.
I begged my mother to call the police, convinced Furbo was something supernatural at this point. I’ll never forget his arrogance whenever he was simply ignored. He would say, in his Asian twang: ‘You don’t love me anymore. Do you? Do you? DO YOU?’ Thankfully, he relented and went into hypersleep with one long groan. At last, peace prevailed… but not for long.
Later that week, I was sleeping soundly in my room when Furbo, still batteryless, woke with a horrifying shriek. If five-year-olds could could go prematurely gray, I surely would have. There he stood at the end of my bed, and with glowing green eyes, he started speaking in tongues. Did I mention a Furby’s eyes are not supposed to glow? I, of course, screamed in terror to alert my parents and as soon as they entered, Furbo went back into hypersleep. They dismissed my story and I lived in fear for the rest of the week, wondering what Furbo was going to do next. Rob my wallet? Break my nose? Kill my family?
It became clear I had to get rid of him, but how? I couldn’t just throw him out. He was still a costly Christmas present and that brought with it some inherent guilt. I thought about ‘accidentally’ destroying him, perhaps by fire, but how could a five-year-old get his hands on matches? In the end, I decided to bury him in the back garden one dreary, moonlit night. I put him in a shoebox like you would a small family pet, and I’m certain I said the words ‘see you in hell’ as I closed the lid. Again, I watched a lot of movies.
For some time, I feared he would return from the grave to exact his revenge, muddy and crawling with worms, standing at the end of my bed and screaming Japanese at me. By some stroke of luck, he remained buried in the back garden and life returned to normal, however it wasn’t until I was 15 years old that I could sleep with the light off.
Furbo briefly returned once many years later. I was 18 and we were expecting a baby in the house, so the solution was to build a granny flat in the back garden that I could reside in while the tot took my room. I was helping the builders dig the foundations to the new little house on a scorching summer’s day when my shovel hit something odd. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a shoebox. Having blocked Furbo from my mind, I assumed it was the remains of one of the countless pet rabbits I had tearfully buried over the years. Out of morbid curiosity, I opened the shoebox and there he was. His beady eyes stared at me, glistening with the fires of hell, taunting me as memories of the late 90s flooded back…