Arcade After Dark
As Nine o'clock strikes, the first arcade machines are turned off. First the right wall is turned off. Then the back wall goes off as the pinball machines flicker out. Slowly the last patrons are shuffled out the door as the Main Street Arcade is closed for the night. Like every night, right at nine, the signs are turned and the machines are turned off. Soon the money is counted for the day and last person leaves for the night. Mike, the owner locks the door behind him as he takes one last look around the arcade. Everything is still, just the way it is supposed to be. But little does he know that things are just getting started. Once the doors are locked and the lights are off, the arcade really comes to life. This is the world of the Arcade After Dark! The one that normal people never get to see.
Slowly, one by one the four guys get together. Each comes from a different arcade game to meet and talk. They share stories, food and fun. After a long day of fighting aliens, running from enemies and dodging traffic, a few brews and some good laughs is needed. Each night they come together to blow off some steam.
The first one to the meeting is always Toy Boy. He is the star of the video game of the same name, Toy Boy. It was the hot game last year and a big reason for the surge in arcade business. It has also ushered in a ton of clones of the maze chase game. Toy Boy was the first to feature the clear the maze gameplay that is so popular in the arcades now. The object is for Toy Boy to clear all the toys off the level while avoiding the bullies. He can grab one of four slingshots on the screen and then for a short time, run after and shoot the bullies. The game was popular with boys and girls as the main character is both cute and full of mischief. And everyone can relate to the underdog.
Next to the gathering is Captain Moon Man. His game has been popular for a few years and while not the hot game it once was, it still gets a fair amount of action. Cap as he is known to his friends has been fighting the same aliens for years with his trusty laser gun and power shield. Back and forth across the screen, he marches as wave after wave of aliens descend from space to take over his moon base. Strong and proud, he always has a story to tell, some of which are true.
Dragging himself to the meeting is Roadkill Bill. The poor squirrel spends the better part of the day being run over and always needs some time to get moving after a hard day. Day after day, he has to cross a multi-lane road to get back to his tree. Over and over he runs past cars and trucks, then runs through a yard while dodging dogs and lawn mowers. His game is new and still gets alot of play, which explains why he is always so worn out. But a few cold ones and he is ready for another day.
The last one to the meeting is always Billy the Block. As the oldest video game character, he is the most ornery. He starred in the first video game, Tabletop Tennis and for the past decade, he has been consistently been hit back and forth. He is just a block with an angry face, but his wisdom is far greater than his graphics. He has seen the rise of video games and has an opinion on everything. He is also the first game the arcade ever bought, when it was just a pool hall with some pinball machines.
Now that all the guys are here, they begin to discuss the problems of the day. "Just once I wish I could go a day without kids controlling me" says Roadkill Bill. He then adds "I have nothing against kids, it's just that they keep putting me in front of the biggest car on the road. At what age do kids finally get some reflexes?" Billy the Block smiles as he takes a drink from a glass. He nods his head in approval and adds "I like little kids. In no time at all is their game done and I can get back to relaxing. Its those dang blasted adults that keep whacking me back a forth for hours. Give me the little scrubs any day." They all take a long drink and laugh.
As they sit and relax, Captain Moon Man speaks "I heard we have a new game coming to the arcade this week. Wonder if they will get rid of an old machine or keep all the games." As he says this, he looks over at Billy the Block. Billy spits out his drink and stares at the Captain. He then says "Who ya calling old, you silly space man?" Cap gets up and stares back at Billy. Then Billy gets up slowly and stares back at him. They each take a step towards each other when Toy Boy comes between them. "Chill out guys, we all know there is plenty of empty space in this arcade. They can easily add another dozen games before they would need to make room." The two guys slowly move back to their chairs and sit down. Then Cap laughs and says "I was just teasing you Billy. They would never replace you. You are one of the only machines that is completely paid for." Suddenly they all start laughing. Now is not the time to worry about new games, now is the time to relax. For tomorrow they will have to do it all over again.
As the night comes to an end, the guys make their way back to their machines. Billy is helped by Roadkill Bill as usual. As Cap and Toyboy are walking off, they start to talk about the new machine. Toyboy responds "It will be nice to get some new blood here. It has been quite awhile since Bill joined the arcade." Cap smiles and says "I remember how jealous you were of Bill and how you thought it was funny that an arcade would have two games with the name Bill in it." Toyboy laughs and responds "I forgot all about that. Thanks for reminding me. I think it is funny how the two always leave together as well. Just a couple of Bills." They both laugh as they arrive back at their respective machines. They say goodnight and head back to get some sleep. While Cap's machine is not as popular as it once was, he still sees his share of action. As much as people like running through mazes as Toyboy or guiding a squirrel across a road like Roadkill Bill, they still just like to shoot stuff. And when they want to shoot stuff, there is only one game that offers that at the arcade and that is Captain Moon Man.
There was excitement in the air the next day at the arcade. A call on the telephone let the owner know the delivery truck was on the way. He started to clean a space along the wall for the new machine. The kids kept coming up to him and asking him what the game was. He just smiled and said they would have to wait and see. Rumors soon spread throughout the arcade. Would it be a classic game like Big Bug Hunter or Shootout. Or would it be a sports game like World Hockey. It could even be a new pinball machine. There was a buzz in the arcade. And being a Saturday, the kids were all off from school, so they would remain to bother the owner until it came in.
After a few hours, the truck drove up. It parked up front and the delivery guys came in. The owner showed them where to put the new machine and they went back to the truck. After a few minutes, they emerged with a giant box. The kids all stood around and wondered what it could be. As they lowered it to the ground, they had to make the kids move aside, so they could get into the arcade. As they moved it over to the empty spot, the set it down and pulled out some paperwork. Mike then signs the paperwork and hands it back to them. They then leave and he stares at the box. All the kids are jumping around yelling for him to open the box. He smiles and says he has to get some lunch first. They all scream and he tells them he is joking. He then grabs a box cutter and begins to open the box. As they stare in anticipation, the box is slowly opened. Inside is a machine that is wrapped up in bubble wrap. No one can make out what it is, so the excitement level rises. As this is going on, all the kids have abandoned the other machines and are waiting around. Everyone wants to be the first to play the new game. The other game characters are trying to sneak a peek as they move around their screens.
As the bubble wrap is removed, the machine is finally revealed. The kids all groan and boo as they walk away. The new machine is not an arcade game. It is not a pinball machine either. It is a jukebox. Yes, a jukebox. It is used by the appearance but it still looks pretty good. Mike smiles as he plugs it in and puts in a quarter. He then makes a selection and a classic rock song begins to play. The kids soon return to their games as Mike smiles and dances along to the song.
Arcade After Dark © Tom Zjaba
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