Arcade After Dark
Chapter #4
by Tom Zjaba


Chapter Four
Switching Places

    It was just another night with the gang all together.  And like most nights, they were arguing.  Roadkill Bill and Captain Moon Man were arguing about which one had a tougher life.  Cap explained that he had a harder time because he had to battle aliens that kept coming down on him.  Bill argued that he kept getting run over and didn't have a gun and shield to help him like the Cap had.  The argument went on for a good hour when Toygirl finally yelled "Why don't you guys switch places and see who would last longer?"  They looked at her and then they looked at each other and Cap began to laugh.  "What's so funny" Toygirl snarled at Cap as she gave him a dirty look.  If it was a cartoon, daggers would have flown out of her eyes.  Cap then said in his most macho voice "We cannot just change games, you silly girl."  She looked at him and said "Have you ever tried it?"  He said back in an even deeper and more stern voice "It cannot be done."  "But have you tried it?" she said back as her voice also had a more serious tone to it.

    Before things got uglier, Toyboy stepped in.  As expected, he sided with Toygirl.  "I have to agree with TG (as he called her in the grand sense of shortening people's name), how do you know you can do it if you never tried it?"  He then turned his gaze to Toyboy and scowled "Because they are two different games and a character from one game cannot enter another game.  End of discussion."  He then crossed his arms and a smug smile crossed his face.  Toygirl laughed and said "How do you explain that we can leave your games and meet here?  If we can do that, why can't we enter each others games?"  That wiped the smug look off Captain Moon Man's face.  He went to answer but he could not think of one.  He stood there with his jaw wide open as if he was hoping that would lure out a response.  After a few seconds of looking foolish, he said "Fine, let's try it."

The next morning, the two characters switched places.  Captain Moon Man heading into Roadkill Bill's game to face the oncoming traffic and Roadkill Bill headed over to battle the alien swarm.  Both characters were quite nervous as they have never been in any game other than their own.  What would happen to them?  Would they be able to get out when they wanted to.  How would the gamers respond to this strange occurrence.  They did know one thing, that as soon as the games were turned off, they would switch back to their respective places.  Whether this happened right away or at the end of the night, they would use this time to correct the situation before anyone got too suspicious.

After the arcade opened up, a few kids found their way in.  Being a Saturday, there was no school and the arcade was a favorite hangout for kids.  What better way to forget about school then to spend a few hours in the noisy arcade, the complete opposite of a quiet classroom.  As usual, Toygirl was the first game played for the day.  Being the newest game, it garnered the most attention and was reason enough to get to the arcade when they first opened.  Once that game was occupied, one of the boys made his way over to Roadkill Bill.  While not as popular as it once was, it still was a fun diversion while they waited for Toygirl to open up.  As a boy put in his quarter, he saw the original title screen.  This part of a video game is never affected by the character as it is something that will play over and over despite what is going on inside the game.  Once he started the game, he screamed out "Wow, check this out!"  With the loud yell, his friends quickly headed over and started laughing.  Instead of Roadkill Bill, the poor squirrel trying to cross the street, it was Captain Moon Man.  But he did not have his gun or shield as he quickly found out.  "Captain Moon Man is in Roadkill Bill!" he screamed out.  As the kids all started laughing, even the boy who was playing Toygirl abandoned his game to come over and see the commotion.  "Watch this!" he said as he walked Cap out into traffic and let him get run over by a car.  Instead of the usual animation of the squirrel whose eyes bugged out and he screamed "Owww!", it showed Cap get run over and flattened.  He then stood up and was flat with tire tracks over him.  He would shake and fill out on the side of the road.  This made all of them laugh out loud.  Soon they were all putting money on the machine to get a try at torturing Cap. 

While they all waited for a turn, one of the smarter kids decided that if Captain Moon Man was in Roadkill Bill, maybe Roadkill Bill was in Captain Moon Man.  So he headed over and began playing.  As the game started, his hunch was correct.  Instead of the usual stoic hero, there was instead a squirrel with a gun and a shield.  One distinct difference he noticed was that the character moved much faster.  He could easily go back and forth and dodge the oncoming aliens.  He was soon clearing wave after wave of aliens.  But unlike his friend, he decided to keep quiet so that he could enjoy the game in peace.  After a few minutes, one of his friends did wander over to see how he was doing.  To his amazement, this game also was altered.  "Hey guys, check this out!" he yelled to his friends.  They all ran over, including the person who was playing Roadkill Bill.  That left poor Captain Moon Man stuck in the path of an oncoming truck.  It was at this moment when he knew this was a really bad idea.  But before he could curse Roadkill Bill, he was hit by the truck and flattened.  But he was given some reprieve as he just stood on the side of the road with the last life.  Without anyone to control him, he just stood there and watched the traffic go by as his timer slowly ran out.

With all the commotion, it was only a matter of time before Mike, the arcade owner came over to see what was going on.  To his amazement, there was Roadkill Bill in Captain Moon Man's game and it made absolutely no sense to him.  "What the heck is going on?" he said, not expected to really get an answer.  One of the boys said "I don't know but it is really cool!"  The others shook their heads in agreement.  Fearing that his games were someone messing up, he decided that he needed to pull the plug on the games.  So he went and turned off the main switch to the arcade games.  Within seconds, they all went black. 

As soon as the games turned off, Roadkill Bill and Captain Moon Man knew they had to switch places.  It took a second for the Captain to get his wits back.  Being run over repeatedly was something he was not used to and since he was not as nimble as Bill, he was run over more often than usual.  But he also knew that he did not want to be stuck in this awful game.  So he ran as fast as he could down the power wire and towards his own machine.  As he ran into his own game, he saw that Bill had not left.  "What are you still doing here?" he yelled at Bill.  "The gun, the shield, I like your game better.  I'm staying." Bill said with a smile.  Suddenly, Cap felt the surge of power as the games were turned on.  He now knew they only had a minute while the machines warmed up before they were stuck in whatever game they were in.  Bill said "I will leave if you admit my game is harder."  Cap was getting worried.  What would happen when the game turned on if Bill was still here.  Would they both be in the game?  Would he get sent back to the other game?  He did not know and was too scared to find out so he swallowed his pride and said "Your game is harder, I admit to it, now hurry and get back."  Bill smiled at him and said "See you tonight!"  He then ran back as fast as he could.  He made it to his game with seconds to spare as the opening screen popped up as soon as he reached his game.  While he knew that he liked the other game better, he had the satisfaction of knowing his game was harder and making Cap admit that was sweeter than anything he ever tasted.

As the games turned back on, the kids crowded around the machines to see if the same glitch happened again.  As the title screen turned on, the quarters began to stack on the machine.  Within seconds, the first quarter was dropped in and the game started.  But instead of Roadkill Bill blasting aliens, it was Captain Moon Man once again.  A groan was let out and soon the quarters were pulled off the machine.  The boys then headed over to Roadkill Bill to find out that it too was back to normal. 

As the kids went back to playing the games, Mike got on the phone with the company that serviced his machines.  He tried to explain to them the glitch in the games but they just laughed it off.  After much convincing they did offer to send a service person to take a quick look at the games.

That night after the arcades were closed, the gang got together and talked about it.  There was much laughter and some friendly teasing but at the end of it, they agreed not to try that again.  The last thing they wanted to do was let the humans know about how they could leave their machines.  Some things were meant to be kept secret.



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Arcade After Dark Tom Zjaba

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