Arcade After Dark
Issue #12
by Tom Zjaba

Chapter Twelve
End of the Innocence

    The game of choice at the arcade continues to be Demon Realm. After a week, someone has finally beaten the game. It did not take long for the kids to realize that it is just a memorization game. They all soon learn the moves for the early levels and quickly the three and four minute games turn into ten and fifteen minute games. And while Demon Realm continues to pull in close to $50.00 a day, Mike has found that more people are watching the game than playing it. Before, there were many people playing different games. But now, they find that half the arcade is watching or waiting to play Demon Realm. While the game has brought in more people, the arcade is actually doing less money.

The phone rings as Mike is going over the numbers.

Mike - "Hello, Main Street Arcade, Mike speaking."

Frank - "Mike, this is Frank. How is Demon Realm doing for you?"

Mike - "Well, it is doing well, but I find that more kids are standing around watching it, instead of playing other games."

Frank - "But it is bringing in more people, so you should be doing more money, right?"

Mike - To be honest, I am doing less money."

Frank - "I see. Then maybe you will be interested in my proposal. The factory is out of Demon Realms and I have people begging me for the game. If you want to trade it in, I can make you a good deal."

Mike - "I'm not sure. I know the kids would be disappointed if I took it out."

Frank - "Don't you want to hear my offer."

Mike - "Go ahead, let's hear it."

Frank - "I will give you one new video game, not including any of the laser disc games, plus two of my used games."

Mike - "I don't know. Last time I was there, most of your used games were pretty old."

Frank - "You didn't hear? I just purchased Upper Level's whole video game inventory."

Mike - "Really? Did they go out of business or something?"

Frank - "Yeah. It turns out they were skimming some of the money and the IRS found out and shut them down. I then made a deal with the IRS and bought all the games."

Mike - "I bet you got a great deal on those."

Frank - "Let's just say that for once I wasn't getting screwed by the IRS."

Mike - "So have the games been picked over yet?"

Frank - No, they are all there. Tell you what. If you don't want to go with a new game, I will give you first choice of any four games from Upper Level's collection, barring their laser disc and pinball machines."

Mike - "You either got a really good deal or someone really wants this game bad."

Frank - "A little of both."

Mike - "Well, you helped me out in the past. Tell you what, I will come over as soon as my help gets here. Can you send someone over to get Demon Realm?"

Frank - "Yeah, I will have someone over tomorrow. Just make sure nothing happens to it. I need it in like new shape."

Mike - I will unplug it tonight."

Frank - Great! See you in a few hours."

    As Mike hangs up the phone, he thinks about what games to get. Upper Level was the biggest arcade in the state. They are the only one that multiple versions of every game. He remembers how smug they were when he saw them at the warehouse. The owner would come in with a wad of money and flash it. He always had a couple of guys with him, wearing shades and Upper Level t-shirts. He still remembers their cocky slogan "Upper Level Arcade - Elite Games For Elite Gamers." He is so happy to see them go under. He was always glad that they were a good distance from his arcade as they put quite a few smaller arcades out of business. Hard to compete with a small arcade of games when you have a place that is the size of a grocery store, full of games.

    When Danny comes in, Mike rushes to tell him the news. "Guess what? I am getting rid of Demon Realm." Danny has a stunned look on his face. "Really? So you finally listened to me that the game is hurting business." Mike smiles as he is in too good a mood to let Danny get to him. "Frank called and we made a deal. I am giving him back Demon Realm and he is letting me pick four of his used games." Danny grabs his head and shakes it. "Just what we need, more dusty old games." Mike quickly jumps in "No, he has some newer games." Danny turns around and looks him right in the eyes "Dude, I have been to his warehouse. The latest game he has is Toyboy and we don't need another Toyboy." Mike glares back and decides to give him the big news "For your information, Frank just bought out all of Upper Level's games and I get first pick of them." Danny's eyes grow real big as he hears this. "What? Are you joking? I heard their store was closed up. What happened?" Mike gives him a dirty look "You knew they were closed up and you didn't tell me? Why not?" Danny laughs "I wasn't sure if it was permanent or not. Just went there and the doors were locked and the windows covered up. No notice or nothing. I had heard they had a fire or someone broke in and vandalized the place." Mike laughs as he replies "The truth is better than either one. Turns out that Upper Level was not reporting all their revenue and the IRS found out and closed them down. Frank made a deal with the IRS and bought up all their games." A shocked look comes over Danny's face. "Damn, that hurts. Why do people not realize that the IRS took down Al Capone and they should not be messed with." Mike just laughs as he says "I need you to go with me tonight to pick out the games." Danny nods in agreement. "No problem. Someone has to make sure you don't back with another Bi-Plane game. Talk about a real dog." Mike gives his a dirty look as he says "Hey! That game has paid for itself." Danny laughs as he replies "Yeah and the space it is wasting could have made four times as much money. By the way, why are they giving you such a sweet deal on the Demon Realm?" Mike shrugs his shoulders as he says "He is sold out of Demon Realm and has a client who really wants it. That and he got a steal of a deal from the IRS." Danny laughs as he says "You should have told him you wanted an Upper Level t-shirt thrown in." A curious look comes over Mike's face as he asks "Why do want one of those?" Danny laughs as he says "So I can burn it in effigy." They both break out laughing.

    That evening, Mike and Danny wait until the store closes and they unplug Demon Realm. Mike then takes out a sheet from the back and covers the machine. Danny grabs an out of order sign and sticks it on the machine, so that kids don't try to just take off the sheet and play it. "That should keep the kids off it." Danny says as he looks at the machine. The two then shut off the lights and head out for the night.

    Once the coast is clear, the game characters slowly come out of their machines. They walk around the arcade and notice that Demon Realm is gone. In its place is a big sheet. They all stop and look at this strange sight. Toygirl is the first to speak up. "Wonder what happened?" she asks as she touches the sheet. Billy the Block walks up to it and lifts up the sheet a little. He looks inside and says "The machine is still here. It is just covered up." They all walk under the sheet and look. Sure enough, they see some of the artwork and know that it is Demon Realm.

    Ace looks at the machine and says "When they cover you up like that, it means the end of the line." They all turn around and look at him. Toygirl gets a sad look on her face as she asks "What do you mean, end of the line?" Ace then makes a motion like his throat is being cut. "That game is headed to the great arcade in the sky." Roadkill Bill laughs as he says "Whoever heard of an arcade in the sky." Ace gives him a dirty look as he says "Not a real arcade in the sky, but Electronic Heaven." This really makes Roadkill Bill laugh. "Electronic Heaven? Did you just make that up?" Billy the Block interrupts. "He speaks the truth. There is a place where all electronic devices go after they die. It is called Electronic Heaven." Toyboy and Toygirl show the most interest in this place. Toyboy speaks up first and asks "What is it like, Electronic Heaven that is." Billy looks at the two of them and says "In Electronic Heaven, we are freed of our shackles to our device and can go wherever we want. Electricity flows everywhere and is always the right voltage. Blackouts and broken parts are a thing of the past." They look on with amazement. Toygirl then asks "How do you know about this place if you cannot go there until you are gone?" Billy smiles and says "I read it in the Electronic Bible, the user manual for all electronic devices." Toyboy and Toygirl look at each other. They are not sure if they believe this or not. It seems pretty far fetched. They also wonder why this is the first they heard of Electronic Heaven. Roadkill Bill is not buying any of this. "Let us see this Electronic Bible of yours." Billy the Block is a bit irritated that they do not believe him. He answers "I don't have it. It is at the warehouse. One night, a few of us left our machines and went and found it and read it. We were amazed that such a place exists and vowed to spread the word about it." Toyboy gives him an odd look. "If this is true, then why have you not said anything about it before?" He just looks at him and says "There has been so much going on here, that I forgot about it." Toyboy and Toygirl both nod in agreement. Things have been a little crazy at the arcade. While still a bit skeptical, they decide to believe Billy. Up until now, they had no reason for existence, other than for humans enjoyment. But with the belief that there is something more after they are gone, makes things a little bit better.

    Toygirl then speaks up "I think we need to have a service for the game." They all look at her with odd looks. Billy the Block is the first to speak up "What kind of service are you talking about? Repair service?" She shakes her head no and says "I think we need to say something nice about the machine and wish it well." Roadkill Bill jumps in "But what do we say about it?" The all nod their head in agreement. There was no character to get to know. What can they say about it? Ace decides that since he is one of the older games, he would take over the service. "I have some experience in matters like this, let me do it." Toygirl nods in agreement. The rest go along with the Ace being in charge as they have no idea what to do and are glad that someone is stepping up. While they are not sure about it, they understand that it is important to Toygirl and that is enough for them. So they all leave to get ready for the service.

    An hour later, they all meet in front of the Demon Realm game. All the games are represented, even the characters from Jungle Drums. The turnout is very large as word spread through the arcade about the service. Most came out of curiosity. None of them have ever been to anything like this. They always figured when a game is gone, forget about it. But since Toygirl wanted a service and everyone in the arcade likes her, they all decided to attend.

    Ace walks up to the large crowd and motions for them to sit down. "Please be seated." he says as he watches all the characters take a seat on the floor of the arcade. He looks around and is impressed by the large turn-out. He knew the group would all be here, but he never expected the supporting characters and the game enemies. He can tell that Captain Moon Man is especially nervous as all the aliens are there and sitting next to him. He cannot help but look over, expecting them to attack. He has been fighting them for so long that he just cannot feel comfortable around them. But he just sits and stays quiet. Even Jumpy the Clown and Roadkill Bill are quiet, which is a big shock. With everyone seated and quiet, Ace begins speaking. "The life of a video game is filled with excitement and danger. But it is also very short. Some of us are able to stay around for years, entertaining the people, while others like Demon Realm, have a short time on this Earth." He stops for a second and looks over the crowd. Most of them are either looking right at him or nodding in agreement. Toygirl is already getting a little teary eyed. "We come into this world full of promise. We are the new game on the block. There is much excitement when we arrive. But after a few months, other new games come and we are slowly moved to the back of the arcade. Soon, we are either pushed into a corner or sent back to the warehouse. That is the fate of all games." He looks down at Billy the Block, who is nodding in agreement. They both know too well how short their time in the limelight is. "But for a game to be struck down in its prime is upsetting. Demon Realm was still the new kid on the block. He still pulled in the quarters by the bucketload. But now he is gone and on his way to Electronic Heaven." Roadkill Bill rolls his eyes as he still does not believe this Electronic Heaven nonsense. Ace ignores that and continues on. "Let us remember Demon Realm as the great and popular game that he was. We never got to know you, but we do admire you. Go forth to Electronic Heaven and live again!" He then nods his head, which everyone else does as well.

    After a few moments of silence, Toygirl speaks up. "I would like to say something." They all look at her as she gets up and stands next to Ace. "I will admit that I was scared of Demon Realm. The picture on the side of the machine is very scary. But that does not mean that I did not want to make friends with him. I believe that everyone one of us is special in our own way and deserve to be remembered. While I never knew you, Demon Realm, I will remember you. And I wish you luck in Electronic Heaven. We will miss you." She then breaks down crying as Toyboy rushes up and hugs her, trying to comfort her. After that, the group disperses and heads back to their machines. As they all go to sleep that night, they cannot help but wonder what Electronic Heaven is like and if they will go. They also wonder how long they have on this Earth. It is a long and restless night for the arcade.

 

                     

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Arcade After Dark Tom Zjaba

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