Arcade After Dark
Chapter #11
by Tom Zjaba

 

Chapter Eleven
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 the sound.

    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 singing.

    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 the machine.

    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.

 

                     

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Arcade After Dark Tom Zjaba

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