Arcade After Dark
by Tom Zjaba
The Next Generation
The arcade closes after a busy day. The first day of Demon
Realm in the arcade is a distant memory. The gang comes out to visit as usual
and find that they are not as tired as usual. With so many people playing Demon
Realm, they did not have as much of a workout as usual. As they all meet in the
middle of the arcade, Toygirl suggests "Why don't we go say Hi to the new
character?" The group all nods in agreement. They strongly feel that it is the
neighborly thing to do. At one time, they were the new kid in the town. Plus,
they are curious to see what all the fuss is about. They all realized that the
new game was where all the action was. It is normal for a new game to get all
the attention, but this is the first time that people were standing around and
watching as well as waiting to play. The attention the game garnered was
unprecedented in the arcade. It has peeked all their curiosities and so they
decide to head over and welcome them to the arcade.
As the group heads over to the new game, they realize just
how much bigger it is than all the other arcade machines. "Wow, that is one big
machine." Ace says as he looks at it. The monitor is much bigger than any of
their games. And the cabinet is quite colorful. Toygirl gets scared when she
sees the scary looking demons on the side of the machine. Toyboy hears her
shriek and rushes over to hold her. "They are horrible." she says as she covers
her eyes. The demons are quite detailed and very evil looking. "It's all right,
they are only drawings." he says as he tries to comfort her. "I know they are
only drawings, but they are so ugly." she says as she speeds up her pace to get
past them. Roadkill Bill thinks about sneaking up and trying to scare her, but
as he begins to pounce, Billy the Block notices the mischievous look in his eyes
and quickly steps in and stops him. With a stern look on his face, he stares him
in the eyes and says in no uncertain terms "Don't even think about it." This is
enough to stop Roadkill Bill in his tracks and make him reconsider his actions.
When they reach the back of the machine, they all look at it
and wonder what it is like inside. Toygirl then looks at everyone and says
"Let's all say hello together on the count of three." They all nod in agreement.
She has taken over the welcoming committee since she arrived at the arcade and
no one has objected. She looks out at all the characters and says
"One...Two...Three!" With that the group all yells out "Hello, anyone there?"
They wait to hear a reply, but there is nothing. They all look at each other.
Always in the past, they would yell out and someone would pop out. After a
minute, Billy suggests "Let's try again and see." They all agree and on the
count of three, again they yell out "Hello, is anyone home?" Once again, there
is no response. They are now confused. Surely the character heard them. But why
didn't they answer? Were they being rude or maybe they are unsure what is making
While the group sits around and wonders what to do, Roadkill
Bill jumps up on the power cord and heads into the machine. He knows that no one
else will volunteer to do it as they are all scared. But he doesn't fear
anything. He is always the one that does what everyone else is afraid to do.
After spending the day dodging traffic and other obstacles, he figures that
nothing can hurt or scare him. So up the cord he scurries, toward the hole in
the back of the machine. Within a few minutes, he reaches the hole and gives a
big wave as he disappears into the machine.
Once inside the machine, he looks around at all the
machinery. He likes new machines as they are so clean. It is the older machines
that have a build up of dust. He hates that as he always gets dust in his fur
and it makes him sneeze. And cobwebs just gross him out. He is not sure what it
is, but seeing a dead insect in a spider's web just gives him the creeps. He
hates spiders more than anything else and they always seem to be in older
machines. He walks his own machine nightly and checks for spiders. He has a fear
that a spider will wrap him in a web while he is sleeping and eat him. But this
machine is brand spanking new and has that new machine look and smell. He
breathes in deeply as he loves that smell. But he knows that he was sent up here
to find the resident of the machine and he better get busy looking. He does not
want to make them wait too long. They always worry so much about him.
Toygirl is pacing as she always does when she is worried.
"What is taking so long? I'll bet he was grabbed by the demons on the side of
the machine." she says with a worried look on her face. She is still creeped out
by the artwork on the machine. "Roadkill will be fine. He always is." Toyboy
says as he tries to comfort her. Deep down, she knows he will be fine. But she
cannot help but worry. No one else seems to ever worry, so she has become the
official worry wart for the group. She then looks at Captain Moon Man and says
"Maybe you should go in there and check up on him?" He looks back at her and
says "Why me? I don't even like him." She gives him a dirty look and says "You
do too like him. And you are a soldier. It is your duty to look out for others."
He hates when people try to make him do all the dangerous jobs because he is a
soldier. "Why can't Billy the Block or your boyfriend go after him?" Now she is
really pissed off. "First off, he is not my boyfriend. We are just good friends.
Second, if you are too scared to go, then I will do it myself." With that, she
stomps her feet and heads up the cord. As she goes up, she grumbles "Some
soldier he is, letting a woman do his job." Within a minute, she also disappears
into the machine. The group then turns to Captain Moon Man and give him a dirty
look. He looks back and forth at the judging eyes as he starts to wither under
the gaze. "Don't look at me like that. Anyone of you could have gone." Toyboy
looks at Billy and says "He's right, we should go." Billy looks at Captain Moon
Man and says "Let's go then. I don't want to be a coward like some people." The
two of them then also head up the cord. Following right behind them is Ace. All
that is left is Captain Moon Man and Jumpy the Clown. He looks at the clown who
makes a face at him and then also heads up the cord. He just groans as he
watches everyone disappear. Knowing that he will never live it down, he also
heads up the cord and into the machine.
Toygirl looks around the machine and is also amazed at how
clean it is. While she keeps her machine very clean, she has seen Toyboy's
machine and it is dirty. He wonders why she will not come visit him at his
machine and figures it is that she is worried what may happen. But the truth is
she cannot stand being in such a dirty machine. As she looks around, she calls
out "Roadkill Bill, where are you?" She braces herself, expecting him to jump
out and try to scare her. He usually never misses an opportunity to scare
someone, especially her. She is jumpier than the rest of the guys and he likes
when she screams. But he does not jump out. This scares her even more as she is
fearful that the demons got him. Maybe she should leave before it's too late.
But before she can leave, Toyboy and Billy the Block enter the machine. "I am so
glad to see you." she says as she runs over and hugs Toyboy. "What's wrong? Did
you see something scary?" he asks as he is worried about her. "No, nothing like
that. I just can't find Roadkill Bill." Billy the Block climbs in and starts
looking around. "They sure put allot more in these machines than in the old
days." he says as he looks at all the stuff in the machine. Toyboy also looks
around and is impressed by the newer technology.
While they are looking around, they hear a voice shout out.
"What the heck is that?" is heard echoing through the machine. It sounds like
Roadkill Bill but they are uncertain. The echo makes it sound a little
different. "Roadkill, is that you?" Toygirl yells out. She waits for a reply and
after a few seconds, she hears "I'm over here." The group then follows the
voice. "Keep talking, so we can follow your voice." she yells out to him. With
that, they hear him singing "Squirrels just wanna have fun. Oh squirrels just
wanna have fun." Everyone cracks a smile at the silly song that Roadkill Bill is
The group comes around the corner and finds Bill looking at
something that they have never seen before. In front of them is a large laser
disc player. They are unsure what the big box is, but know that they never seen
it in any of their machines. Bill is standing on top of it and looks at a label
that is affixed to it and reads "Laserdisc player." Everyone stops for a second
when they hear this. Toyboy and Toygirl look at each other as they have no idea
what a Laserdisc player is. After an awkward silence, Ace speaks up. "I remember
hearing about laserdisc players when I was in the warehouse." Everyone gathers
around him as he continues speaking. "There was this one character named Dakota
Dan. He had been at the warehouse longer than anyone. He told me how he heard
about how Laserdisc games were the next evolution of video games. They were
going to replace us with their fancy graphics." Billy the Block then jumps in
"Dakota Dan was crazy. He had a bad case of bit rot." Ace laughs as he was the
one who told Billy about Dakota Dan and his insanity. The problem with Dan was
his game is among the oldest and was saved from the scrap heap. But no one wants
a game where two cowboys shoot at each other. So the poor machine sits in the
warehouse and just rusts. And poor Dan is suffering from lack of use. As the
arcade game slowly rots away, so does poor Dan. He was once a proud sheriff with
a gleaming badge and pistols. But now he is a shell of a character who has gone
insane. Ace then responds "Bit rot or not, Dan heard about the laserdisc games.
They are not like normal video games. There is no life chip that gives us life.
They are just glorified record players." This gets everyone's attention. An
arcade machine without a life chip is unheard of. That would make it a just a
machine, like a pinball machine or a jukebox. But arcade games are different.
They have life chips. With this news, the group slowly makes their way out of
Once the whole group is outside the machine, Billy the Block
speaks up. "Being the first machine at this arcade, I feel a need to speak about
this. We are entering a new age for video games. One where machines are no
longer alive. We are being replaced by a machine that does not have a life chip.
I do not know what the future holds for us, but I do not feel good about the
future." He then stops talking and looks down. Everyone else is silent as they
all look at each other. After a minute of silence, Roadkill Bill speaks out
"What if we broke the machine? Maybe they would get rid of it then." They all
look at each other, waiting for someone to speak up. Ace finally breaks the
silence this time "If you get rid of one, they will just send another. We cannot
fight destiny." After he finishes, the group slowly walks off, towards their
respective machines. While the night is still young, no one feels like doing
anything. They know their future is cloudy and cannot help but feel like their
days are numbered.