Please Insert $0.50 to Play
Short Story by: thepixelatedwriter
‘Please Insert $0.50 to Play.’ That’s what’s displayed on my screen, like the welcome doormat at the entrance to the arcade. In the beginning of arcades, there was a black screen, no light, nothing. What I know as our God then decided to create a square. Then two blocks on the end, insert a coin, send the square to one end, then let the blocks move to hit the square. Players would keep going until the square passed the block. Score a point, square respawns, do it again. This was known as Pong the first successful video game, back from 1972. Its success is the only reason for my, or any of my friend’s existence. I’m not that old, though, I was conceived of in the early 90s, thrown into the fast paced action of Talladega GP Championship, my game.
My name is Scott Derry, I’m a video game character—arcade, mostly. I’ve seen dozens of other machines come and go, but I’ve always been tucked near the front with an AfterBurner machine and a Crazy Taxi at my left, exposing my machine’s sideart to the right of the entrance. I remember when I used to be next to a Sega Rally Championship cabinet back when I was first plugged in, the great graphics and sounds always made me jealous with my 32 bit graphics and sound chip. I was pretty popular in multiplayer races, my game could support two players with its double seat configuration. It was pretty neat at the time. Then ‘95 rolled around with the arcade owner buying eight Daytona USA cabinets, the first eight player racer, and graphically, a huge improvement over my game, really showing off the Sega AM2 arcade board’s capabilities.
My game was pretty fun too, I had four tracks to choose from, all polygon based like Virtua Racer, a couple cabinets down from me, next to Sega Rally Championship. But after 2000, those were taken out, Virtua was sent for “repairs” after having the steering wheel ripped off. After being wheeled out the door by a hand trolley, no one saw that thing again. Sega Rally just wasn’t making enough for the arcade, and it was sold off when the arcade was renovated after a new owner.
Sorry, I tend to ramble on about almost anything. Anyways, my gameplay is very similar to that of F-Zero for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, whatever that is. Apparently a 16 bit 3D sci-fi racer on a 16 bit video game console, pretty popular at home. At least from what I’ve heard from players of the arcade. A couple years after I was plugged in, two teens starting playing my game.
“Doesn’t this look a lot like F-Zero for the SNES? Except without the rocket car things?” One of them asked, concentrating on the graphics on screen.
“What’s F-Zero again?” The other replied. The other shot a perplexed look at him.
What!? You’ve played F-Zero at my place!” They were completely ignoring my game now, the game timed out, selecting the track for them. It made it known that they hadn’t been paying attention by yelling the track.
“Expert!” That got their attention rather quick, they just went back to their conversation as I listened in.
“Is F-Zero the one on the Playstation?”The confused one asked, he was completely dumbfounded at this point.
“No! The Super Nintendo Entertainment System! Remember that thing from the 16 bit era!?” The game started, I couldn’t hear the duo anymore.
The tracks in Talladega GP were pretty simple, Beginner was just ten laps around the normal Talladega Speedway. Then there is Novice, which goes into the infield of the track but mostly stays on the normal speedway, six laps around. Advanced goes straight into the infield out of turn one, then onto Eastaboga Boulevard, onto Talladega Boulevard; then into the Talladega infield track and back onto turn 3 for a fast finish, about four laps there. The Expert track is much more complicated than anything else in the game- instead of a rolling start, the field lines up in the pits, then exit onto the track and through turn one onto Eastaboga Boulevard, then through a track gate, and onto the streets surrounding the track, only two laps. Obviously, only the best of the best go for this track, often uttering a couple curses through the track if they mess up. Getting a perfect run on Expert is insanely difficult.
When the game begins, the player controls me while I drive the car, giving me a place in the game. Everything I see, the player sees. Everything the player does: steer, press the gas or brake, or switch gears with the gearbox, I have to do. Even purposefully crash into a wall.
“Quarter inserted! awaiting track selection.” The voice alarm alerts me to the newest player of the night, she seemed younger than other players from today.
“Advanced!” I now wait for the car selection screen to pop up, and slowly, pixelated text flashes on screen. ‘awaiting other player(s) entry’. No one came to challenge the young one, and the car select screen comes up. Each and every world the announcer speaks is accompanied by text saying the same thing; all of the words in a fast looking, bolded, pixelated font at the top of the screen.
“Please select your stock car!” The game announcer says, the cursor darts to the Pontiac, the fastest car you can select, although it’s harder to control. “Pontiac Grand Prix!Please select manual or automatic transmission!” Once again, she darts the cursor over to the professional side of the car select screen, the cursor over manual.
“Manual!” The screen flashes to show the options, then a picture of my car, I rush to the Pontiac Grand Prix with manual transmission, hopping in, strapping in, and waiting to be spawned into the rolling start along turn four. My vision goes black, I hear the sound of thunder, engines roaring along the back straightaway and the rolling start has begun. I’m entering turn four as a familiar voice comes on the radio.
“This is your crew chief, we’re in a rollin’ start, good luck!” I pass pit road, the announcer then yells his usual phrase.
“Three… Two… One… GO! And we’re underway at Talladega!” My Pontiac rocketed forward as the player slams her foot down on the gas pedal, swerving to avoid my slower opponents. Going into the infield, I was already halfway through the pack, close to twenty-first. A sharp turn was coming up, I throw the car into first then third gear, sliding across the track nearly sideways. She’s good, one of the best players I’ve seen all week, taking enough care not to spin, but still being risky enough to perform as outstandingly as she was. The 32-bit music synthesizer emitted a tire screech sound bite along with the catchy and fast-paced theme.
“Stay low in the turn!” My crew chief pauses for a few moments as he observes the car’s movement through the turn, it was a tad bit faster than what was programmed.
“Watch your speed!” The car slides onto the straightaway, the left rear tire rides onto grass only to be corrected when the car straightens itself; probably a product from overspeeding in that last turn. Now it’s down the straight, weaving in and out of the pack seemingly thrown around the track, when the straight was becoming a turn, I had moved into the top ten. I slid around the next turn, checking my rear-view, the player looking like she was just having a joyride through Talladega, nothing in this race would stress her enough to mess up. She moved the stick into fourth after a four to one to three to four drift technique; nothing today would slow her.
“Your runnin’ ninth, keep up the great drivin’!” The car was quickly approaching a checkpoint, about to overtake 8th, my opponents were becoming more and more spaced out, providing more and more of a challenge to overtake each one.
“TIME EXTENSION!” The race announcer yelled; pixelated text appeared on screen in gold, the text: “TIME EXTENSION” displayed prominently.
“Right, a time bonus, keep going, you’re doin’ good!” With the checkpoint at the halfway mark on the track, I look at the timer, reading 15.45 seconds- the fastest halfway point anyone had put out the entire day. Skidding through the next and sharpest corner of the track left me at a speed at 150 mph, although I had to decelerate from 200 mph. Sliding through the corner was difficult not only from sharp angle, but the car that I had to avoid was right in the middle, prompting the player to brake and turn even sharper. She did this knowing she was on the verge of spinning out of control, but despite this, I followed her commands like I was programmed. I felt nervous and eased back a bit in the turn, enough to keep the car from spinning but keep the cars from colliding, which would also spin the car. I heard a 32 bit clunk as my car scraped the side of seventh place, eventually getting past him.
“Check behind you; keep an eye on your mirror!” My crew chief yelled into the com, I checked the time, 53, from my starting time of sixty. I exited the last turn in the infield and continued to slide into turn four, right up the banking where the car straightened itself. The tires skipped a bit during the transition from apron to banking. “Be careful, you’ll melt them tires!” I dived down into the turn, accelerating slightly, onto the front straight, then to the finish line. I was running second.
“TIME EXTENSION!” The text appeared, my crew chief came on the com.
“Great, a time bonus, great lap! Your runnin’ second!” His voice always sounded unique, always having that pure southern accent. It always gives me a small smile every time he speaks. A car in front loses a tire after contact with another car, he slams into the wall, smoke pouring out of the hood and under his car as sparks fly, he had been in second. His car had hit the driver in third, spinning both, then clipping fourth while in their spin.
“There’s a crash up ahead, watch yourself!” I had seconds. I jerked the wheel right, then left, going into third gear then hopping back to fourth, and the car starts to slide. A car nearly hits me, but somehow I am able to make it through without any contact- no wall, no car, no damage. Just like that, I am now in second, only seconds behind first, and I spend the rest of the lap making a move on first. On that sharp corner, though, first can’t handle my inside attack, he goes spinning into the wall, before he hits it, another cars hits him, quickly skidding over to the concrete barrier. Glancing into the rear view, I saw a car go airborne, his car a wreck, smoking and on fire after a hard hit with the wall.
The rest of the race was pretty straightforward; don’t mess up (which the player didn’t). I approach the final straightaway rushing towards the checkered flag at over 210 mph, my car starting to slip a bit, but the player doesn’t care or seem to notice, rather pushing as hard as possible on the gas pedal.
“You're in the final stretch!” My crew chief announced, sounding as enthusiastic as he possibly could. My car rocketed past the finish, a jingle plays to announce my finish position.
“You placed… FIRST! Congratulations, you’ve made it to victory lane!” I teleported into a checkered podium, holding up a trophy in triumph, then the screen cut to a name entry. She had the best time ever recorded for the Advanced track. She put in her initials: C-E-B, the machine announcing the letters word for word, echoing through a section of the arcade. As I look on, seeing the cursor dash around a half circle displaying the alphabet; she looks to the screen with pride before hopping out of the black plastic seat. I hear her mom yell for her, the player yells through the aisle of machines that she was coming and starts jogging towards the door to meet her mom. After she leaves, the arcade shuts down, my game goes dark, and I freeze, then wake up in the morning as usual, the power shut off again.
Each time the power shuts off, the game resets, characters don’t; but while the game resets, no characters have the ability to move.
When the power returns, it is morning, the arcade has just opened, and a settings screen appears on my screen, then disappears as the attract screen starts up. The usual animations are just gameplay and tutorials on how to play, currently, it was telling anyone who was observing how to drift ingame. After that, a screen showing the best times appears on the intro card. For an hour, not one customer comes by. The one person who did arrive was a man in his early twenties, but he only came into play the Big Buck Hunter HD. After about twenty minutes, he was gone. Three o’clock rolls around after an agonizingly boring day. No one comes by, but the arcade is relatively close to a middle school, and when school got out, it was a ten minute walk to the arcade. I heard the familiar sound of a certain arcade machine from the back of the arcade, the attract mode of Daytona USA. “Daytonaaaaa! Let’s go away! Daytonaaaaa!” I saw the group staring in my direction, one pointed towards the side art and seat.
I heard the multiplayer sounds of the Daytona USA cabinets, kids flocking over, shoving in their quarters. The rest of the day goes slowly, yes some people did some multiplayer and single player races, but not many. Around me, people climb in and out of the servomotor chair of Afterburner, laughing as they climb out of it’s ‘cockpit.’ Then other people hop out of the sit-down cabinet of Crazy Taxi. Seeing all these people get in and out remind me of when Sega Rally Championship and Virtua Racing were plugged in and stood tall and strong next to my light-blue cabinet. The neon clock strikes 9 o’clock, and the arcade closes, but this time, no machines are left powerless. They stay on, filling the otherwise dark room with the bright LED pixelated screens. Attract modes ablaze, sounds of the standby machines roar with the 8, 16, 32, and 64 bit music.
Seeing that the arcade is in fact closed, pixelated characters move out of position, the attract mode continuing regardless, with or without their choreographed characters. I soon follow suit. This time of year comes once or maybe twice in a year, the night that the owner forgets to turn off the power, allowing us to mingle with others. However, last time this happened, a character never made it back to his machine and got his game out of order. That character has long since disappeared, about a week or so after he lost his game. It was sad. in the arcade world, he was very respected; we never really knew his name, but the game was called Dig Dug, so we called him just that. His loss was a hard hit to the arcade. Sure, nowadays we have a new Dig Dug machine, but that first machine was here ever since the arcade first opened, along with PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Pong, and Out Run. So we made a warning system: a half hour before the arcade opens, we run back and get back in position, but the original Dig Dug’s memory is still vivid.
Walking out of my machine to the powerstrip through the power cord sent me to any arcade I wanted to go to in that area. I look around the giant power strip, glancing around at the game logos telling where each outlet lead to. Crazy Taxi, Afterburner, Outrun, Cruis’n World. Near the end of the corridor, Qbert was plugged in. Characters pour out of their respective games, hugging or shaking hands with those whom they have not seen in ages. I entered the powerstrip’s outlet, leading to the main area’s power supply, near the Daytona USA machines. Taking the subway-like train through the wire was amazing, the train was all glass, except for the wall outlines and the seat’s yellow cushion, the wall’s outline almost looks like a vector wire sprite, almost like the old Battlezone game from the 80s, before the arcade was even open. The vector lights on the car glow purple, emitting light into every nook and cranny of the car. Staring out the train car’s walls, I can see the electricity flowing through the cables lining the outside of the tube, allowing us to travel through while it still functioned perfectly normal. After what felt like a two minute ride, I was in the main power unit, where five powerstrips were plugged in, each with their own lineup of games that I could travel to. No one was here yet, giving the place an eerie feeling as I stepped over the reflective tiles, making a loud step every time I set my foot down. Echos rode down the hall, bouncing back, weaker as it continued through. As I strided over to the central powerstrip that ran throught the back of the arcade, characters flooded through the other inputs. Stepping to the side, I watched as a lot of characters stampeded to the classic section of the arcade, where Tappers is located, serving up drinks of root beer.
I continued to the modern racing section of the arcade, it was almost deserted, most people just walked into the Daytona USA cables, all eight of them, near each of the entrances, an LED sign read:
“Next race: Advanced
Race beginning in one minute, gates will be closed until race is over.”
I casually walked in, hopping on the tram in the cable, carrying me and about twenty others over the flow of electricity until we reach the entrance. When we did get there, automatically, I spawn on the bridge overlooking the track. A tablet appeared in my hands, eight squares popped up, each with the number and color of the different Hornet cars that I can root for. I tap the red three icon in a yellow square. The view on the tablet switches to a 3rd person view of the 3 car, what a player of the game would see. Watching it makes me feel like I’m the player, a feeling that you rarely ever feel. On the display, four buttons lay on the bottom, each changing the view: the standard 3rd person behind the car view, another view almost identical to that but zoomed out and gives a wider view of the car and its surroundings. Another view in 1st person view over the hood, and another almost identical to the 3rd view that doesn’t show the hood.
“This is your crew chief. The course is tough so good luck!” The roar of engines fill the front straight, looking into the tablet, I see a set of lights hovering above the, turning from no lights at all into red by rotating the lights, rotating over to yellow, then green, a little LCD display hovered under, turning from 3, to 2, then 1, finally to GO that took up the entire display. The lights spun off screen and the display zoomed into the background.
“And they’re underway!” The cars burn up the starting positions, their tires struggling to get any grip for a moment or two, screeching until their tires slowed down to the cars sluggish crawl. They rolled the cars forward down the front stretch. The car’s body shook as it finally started was able to grip the road, they accelerated to about 100 mph. Their tires skip once more before finally getting a solid grip, then they roll down the front stretch quickly accelerating to a speed of over 180 before hitting the first and longest turn of the track. They disappear from my sight, I raise the tablet and watch the 3 car’s rear bumper as it makes a move on the 6 car. I find a pair of earbuds dangling from the tablet’s side. Plugging them in, I hear the familiar sound of a roaring engine. Then the crew chief came on, very similar to the mine back in Talladega.
“Try to stay low in them turn!” The 3 car dived near the castle-like wall of sandstone overlooking a cliff before dashing into the tunnel after rushing past a checkpoint.
“TIME EXTENSION!” The pixelated text flashed on the screen as well as the announcement. The text in Daytona looks so similar to the text from Talladega, flashbacks of other races play through my mind, quickly I return my focus on the He was clocking in at over 200 mph. Going over the hump in the tunnel, the car accelerated to 210, eventually reaching 213, the fastest anyone’s ever seen a car go in this game, getting there wasn’t an easy feat either. Swooping into the inside of the turn at the end of the tunnel, then onto another turn, the third turn in this shallow s-turn section, he switched to third gear, sliding onto a main road uphill, still at around 200 mph. Going on a small straight, the 3 overtook the 1 and 6 car, moving into 3rd. “TIME EXTENSION!” dashing through another checkpoint. Then another drift, this time, watching the shifter, he was putting it from 4th gear, to 1st, then 3rd, then back to 4, executing a nearly perfect drift. Going downhill, he was nearly back at 200 mph, but then slammed the the shifter to 1st gear then to 3rd, another drift, once again, almost perfect. The car went downhill again, now down to the final turn before going into the front straight with pit road. The 3 slid nearly sideways, traveling at a 190 mph, almost unheard of in this turn.
His crew chief taps into the com. “Watch you speed in the turn!” The tires are almost silent under the noise of the rumbling engine and crew chief, surprising for how much rubber they must be losing, the car straightened itself out like it was nothing.
“You’re lookin’ good!” The crew chief yells encouragingly. The 3 car’s driving is phenomenal, I think that little quote from the game is helping
“TIME EXTENSION!” As usual, the text appears, the lap time underneath, reading 49.25 seconds, my crew chief came back to the com.
“Right! Your time has been extended!” The entire time, a reprise of the Daytona USA theme played, giving the race an upbeat feeling. Listening to it made me almost wish I could listen to this back at my cabinet. Daytona always had some of the best music in the arcade. Too bad the music’s hidden under all the engines, tires, and the crew chief. From here, the 3 was about to move into first, the 2 car lost his grip after spinning in the final turn, another car bumped him and he flipped after hitting the pit road barrier head on. The 4 car, who is currently in first, was only at 150 mph, the 3 at 210 by drafting npc cars. An easy overtake for the 3, now in first. He just stayed there, in the best position you can ever get in a race. The rest of the race was quite simple, just don’t spin or crash, and just like that girl that played a day or two ago, he did just that. The race was over in a matter of minutes, the 3 took first, the rest were so far behind they couldn’t even finish. You know you’re good when you can do that. For the entire race, in the reflection of the glass at the door, I could see every car that was a player car, and their headers displaying who was winning, after the first lap, the white light on the third cabinet illuminated itself brilliantly.
I stayed at the Daytona USA cabinet almost the entire night. They hosted almost fifty races, one every ten minutes starting at eleven o’clock, entertaining racing fans from all corners of the arcade. I think I even saw Jumpman from Donkey Kong in the grandstands of one race. I got to see it all, the Beginner, Advanced, Expert, sticking with my 3 car the whole way through, it was a good thing too, he won nearly every single race! Finally they announced they were taking a break, a driver approached me as he leaped from his car, the Hornet logo gleaming in the sun as well as the red 3 on the yellow body. Looking to the arcade screen and the door, the car had no reflection. I suppose being inside the cabinet makes things look more realistic.
“Hey, you’re Scott Derry, right? From Talladega GP?” He said all this while reaching out his hand, waiting for mine to meet his in a handshake.
“I am, I’m afraid we’ve never met, what’s your name?” Daytona USA has no real characters or mascots like Talladega does, so it’s quite common to have to ask a driver for their name. Usually people just claim that the Hornet is the mascot, the car, the drivers aren’t offended, they never get any screen time out of the cars during hours anyways. I glance down, see his hand was still out, awaiting a greeting. I reach out and take his, we both smiled as we shook hands, almost as a truce.
“Name’s Tom Brown. So, wanna race? Just go hop in a car and we can get you some hours in a Hornet. I think the 4 car’s empty, or at least the manual is.” I instantly agree and follow him to the manual car, while the automatic sits on a jack in heaps, smoking up the garage. Hopping in, he gave me a couple laps worth of practice time. Finally, I got used to the Hornet’s controls, a bit smoother than a Pontiac Grand Prix or Ford Thunderbird back at Talladega, other than that, they were overall the same car. After that, we spawned in a rolling start at the beginning, a black, tan, and orange of cars following a pace car appeared, white letters embroidered in a black outlined spelled out: “GENTLEMEN START YOUR ENGINES” A deep and booming voice said the words, loud and proud. Then we spawned, rolling through the turn at 180 mph.
Listening closer, over the engines, I hear the words “rolling start”, shouted in a rhythmic way. Exactly like how they were when I was watching the races before.
“This is your crew chief, we’re in a rollin’ start, good luck!”
“3… 2… 1… GO! And we’re underway!” Instantly I made a move to the outside, unknowingly blocking Tom in the process. I feel a bump from his car rear-ending me, then a burst of speed, from 200 mph to now 210 mph. I take the next turn low, checking my traffic meter, watching for a yellow square. The next turn comes up after the back straight, I’m almost to that turn, I thrown my car into first gear then to third, sliding across the racing surface.
“You’re slippin and slidin!” My crew chief is persistent here, letting me know every single little thing around my car. While getting out of the slide, I hit another car, rear bumper first, like I’ve done so many time in Talladega, but no damage was done, not even a spin. The 3’s right behind me, going to block him and matching his every move was difficult, especially in the turns. This was his territory, he has the home advantage. “Check behind you! Check behind you!” My crew chief repeated as the Tom ran into me again and again, trying to get past but to no avail.
Going into the next turn, I spin, taking the final turn too fast, too sharp, I managed to keep my Hornet on track. While still sideways, Tom, ran right into me. He flipped, his body now dented all over, the suspension on his wheels now damaged with his wheels bent in. He hit the wall, slowing to a crawl. This was my chance, overtaking him once more. He struggled to keep up afterwards. Checking my mirror, I look at Tom’s wheels, they spun on what I could only assume were bent axles. He swered a bit at a time, I guess the shaking wheels made it difficult to drive straight.
On lap 7, he finally began rear ending me again.
“Check behind you!” My crew chief yelled. I blocked again and again, his pass attempts became more and more spontaneous. Finally the final lap, we rolled through the start/finish line, over 210 mph.
“The white flag is out! This is the final lap!” The announcer shouted putting great emphasis on the last two words. Through the front straightaway, he tried desperately to make a pass, no dice. Going into the final turn, he got a run on me, and it was down to the wire from here, we changed positions until finally we crossed the finish. The position announcement came up.
“Congratulations! You placed: 2nd!” It was a great race though, I really wanted to just be in this game, change it up from the usual day at Talladega. I kept this fact to myself, at least for the time being. We always had a rule at the arcade: never leave your game during the day. We’ve had that rule in place ever since the place opened, the owner and players would think our machine was broken, then auction us off to whoever wanted a supposedly broken game. But I didn’t care, I had been in the same game for over twenty years, it was time for a change.
“Hey Derry! Great race out there. So close to gettin’ that checkered!” I looked to Tom’s beat up car as he climbed from the window. Pulling himself out, he hops to his feet and shakily walks over; occasionally having to put his hands to to balance himself.
“Thanks, that was so close. that last push of yours got me though. So I do have a couple other places I wanted to be while the arcade was closed. Never know when I’ll get the chance again.” I smile so he knew that I wasn’t sore about my recent loss, as close as it was. We shook hands, said our goodbyes and take cares, then I was off to see Tapper in his game of the same name. Squeezing through the assortment waiting to get into Daytona and some of the other machines in the area. Here, everyone was allowed, and they followed that rule effortlessly. After all, it’s been about a year since we’ve been able to mingle with each other. As I took the train, it was strangely quiet, except for the hum of electricity encompassing the train car.
When I got off the train at the central powerstrip, I headed to a classic section of the arcade, where the Tapper machine is. When I walked into the machine’s inlet, I was greeted by Tapper’s familiar voice as he washed his counter. “Hey Scott, how have ya been this year? You look well!”
“I’m doin pretty good, just got out of a race at Daytona.
“Daytona eh? Good race?”
“Oh yeah, almost had the checkered too.” Tapper shot his head up from washing the counter, curiosity filled his expression.
“Wait! You raced with them!?”
“Not really, technically yes, only the 3 car though, said his name was Tom Brown.” He shot me a glance, saying that he knew something I did not.
“Scott, they all have the same name, they’re the same character, only with different colors of cars, just some are better at driving because their cabinets are in better shape.”
“So how’d it hold up to your game?”
“That’s actually what I came here to talk to you about.”
“You’re not thinkin’ of leavin’ your game for Daytona, are you?”
“I really wanted your opinion on the idea, just for one day.” I held up one finger as I was talking, to emphasize I really meant just one day. Tapper looked at me skeptically.
“You really want my opinion,then here; any night you can, you can just jog over to Daytona, but not during the day. You know the rules Scott. Never leave your game during the day. Anyways, can get ya a drink, I assume that’s why you’re here.
“Oh right…. In actuality, I came here to talk with you, but sure, I’ll take an orange soda, please.”
“Alright, be right back.” Looking behind him as he made his drinks. A few guys from Street Fighter II were in the back drinking their root beers and ginger als, enjoying their drinks. They called Tapper over when he finished making my drink.
“Here ya go Scott, be right back.” He rushed over to the back counter and slid two drinks over to his customers. Then casually jogged back to me. “So… You gonna do it?
“Maybe, if I was, I would do it now, like tomorrow right when the place opens up. My only problem would be control, I was programmed to be a bit choppier, and I really felt that about twenty minutes ago.”
“Well, I’ve known ya since you’ve been coming in when you were plugged in. I’m not for your idea, but I’m not against it either, I think you’re just stuck in a rut right now.”
I stand up, finishing off my drink. “Tonight. Tonight I’m gonna do it.”
“Alright Scott, best of luck to ya. If anyone asks though, I’m afraid I can’t cover for you.”
“Alright that’s fine, if luck isn’t with me tonight….” I extend my hand for a handshake. “It was great knowin ya.” He meets my hand, I walk out, feeling more determined than I ever had. Tomorrow rolls around, the thirty minute warning sounds, everyone rushes back to their games. I stay put, stares are directed at me, I pay no mind to them. The arcade opens, I walk over to one of the Daytona USA game cabinets. I sigh as I’m about to walk into the entrance, I’m I really going to do this. Yes, this is my chance to change my life. I never said one thing to anyone back at my game though, how they should get by the day without me. Oh well, I’m sure they’ll understand, it’s only one day…. Right? I take a step forward, a red barrier blocks my path, I can’t enter, I push, the barrier’s too strong, pushing as hard as I can, it wouldn’t even budge. I completely overlooked the arcade barrier, it comes up whenever the arcade is officially open. Blocking anyone not in the game from getting in while the arcade’s open; it also shoves anyone in the game who is not supposed to be there out. My plan’s now ruined, I begin running back to the train line to the central powerstrip to get back to my game. But when I finally reach it, almost out of breath, a sign hangs from the closed door of the train:
Train will run when the arcade is closed.
Run times are from 10:00 pm to 8:00 am.
I’m stuck, I can’t get back to my game, they probably have no idea what I’ve done. A sickening feeling comes to my stomach, I can never go back, my game is probably already out of order. There’s an empty outlet I can look through, since all outlets are all mounted, I can see right to the door in between two cabinets. I see a technician already looking around in my machine’s innards, he can’t find the problem, shaking his head. He gives the arcade owner some money and proceeds to unplug my machine and wheel it out. I can barely hear their voices over the attract modes of other machines, but they’re still audible. “I’ll take the machine off your hands, see if I can fix back at the shop, if not, I can just use it for parts….” I stop listening there. I begin slamming the wall with my palm, so frustrated that I didn’t even feel the pain as my hands turned from red to white. After an agonizing day, I hope that the owner leaves the power on by accident.
The arcade goes dark, the power’s being shut off. Everything goes to black, darkness swallowing me in the process. This is what happened to Dig Dug, this is why no one over saw him. He died after the power was shut off. I became pixelated as if I were back in game, but now the pixels that built me separated. I loss limb after limb, moving inwards and upwards, I was being erased. I tried to scream, nothing came out of my mouth, it moved up my neck, dissipating me. It kept moving up. It horrified me to imagine what this might look like on the outside, a beloved character of the arcade vaporizing in front of their very eyes. There was no pain, but there was the sensation being powerless just to move, let alone save myself. Every limb that I lost felt numb, not like they weren’t there at all. I was becoming nothing…. Red text appeared before me, then I waited, and waited, but saw nothing but the text:
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