The Arcade

Rachel’s stomach churned as the acrid stench filled her lungs. She tossed what remained of her chocolate bar aside and steeled herself through the broken glass door.

It was well past midnight and well past her bedtime too. She could hear her big brother, Vinnie, laughing uproariously. Somehow, he had coerced her to tag along with temptations of wholesome fun. So far his version of excitement was breaking curfew, trespassing, and vandalism.

“This used to be the place to be,” Vinnie said. His voice rebounded off the grey walls.

“What happened?” Rachel asked nervously. Shards of glass cracked beneath her feet.

Ash and dust settled into her throat, and she tried to expel it with a cough.

“A fire. Bad wiring or something,” Vinnie said.

Rachel shuddered. 

“Doesn’t look like anyone has had our idea,” Vinnie snickered. “Throw me the bag.”

“There won’t be any money left in them,” Rachel said with a grunt.

“Don’t be such a girl!” Vinnie said as he grabbed the bag mid-air.

The temperature was dropping inside, but Rachel tried to ignore it. Her nerves were already frayed. This was not her idea of fun.

The video arcade was a shell of its former self. The pinball machines and games still stood, but not much was left of them. The marquees, sides and bezels were either blackened or destroyed.

Rachel shuffled around the arcade and rubbed her arms. She was at the next aisle of machines when movement caught her eye. With a jump, she turned to see if it had been Vinnie.

Vinnie was still pulling out screwdrivers from the bag.

She walked down the aisle, heart in throat, and attempted to investigate.

A streak ran past her and knocked the wind out of her. 

A light breath touched her ear, “You should not be here!”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. With a scream, Rachel ran, and the arcade sprang to life. 8-bit sounds echoed, and the machines flashed shades of green, blue, red, and yellow.

“Vinnie!” she called as she rounded the corner. His hands were on a pinball machine, and his eyes fixed on the flashing lights. He didn’t even acknowledge her.

She pinched herself and blinked to make sure it was real. All around her the arcade games were playing themselves. The buttons were moving up and down, and the sticks moved left and right, forward and back.

Panicked, she sprinted back to Vinnie. The pinball machine buzzed with messages of “High-score! Double!” Vinnie high-fived the air as cheers and laughter rose in the room.

Rachel shook her head and rubbed her eyes. When she reopened them, she saw group of kids standing around her brother. Their heads turned toward her with toothy grins and villainous eyes.

With a shriek, she stepped back; her hand landed squarely on the closest machine, sending a jolt through her body.

“Play,” she heard.

She pulled away and called out to Vinnie. He turned to look at her.

“Play,” he said. His soulless gaze peered right through her.

She coughed and held her hand over her mouth as a haziness settled on the room.

Her mind cloudy and her chest tight, she spun towards the door. Smoke filled the room and blanketed it in a fog, but still she tried to push forward. She stumbled and struggled to regain her balance. Somehow she knew if she touched the machines, she’d be lost.

The sound of the games echoed in every chamber of her mind, and she longed to play. One game. That’s all. Just one round.

Her fingers grazed the machine. She pushed away but returned a second later, unable to resist the chilly invitation.

“Your turn,” the voices echoed.

Mesmerized, her hands clutched the joysticks, and she started the game. 

“You’re mine,” a single voice said.

Her reflection shone through from the monitor. Her own sinister eyes and venomous smile stared back, but she just smiled deeper and laughed.

Rachel ignored the cold embrace, ignored the pulling on her soul, even ignored the fire surrounding her. Her eyes stayed fixed on the little 8-bit hero on her screen, on her opponent, and on her score. She was one with the machine, and she was never leaving this arcade.

 

 

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8-Bit Folly

Round 2 – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge
As before, I had 48 hours to write a maximum of 1,000 words in the given prompts below. 🙂

Group: 11

Genre: Ghost Story

Location: Video Arcade

Object: Chocolate Bar

Summary: Three minors enter the charred remains of a video arcade in hopes of relieving it of a large quantity of small change, but what they find instead is a malevolent force. Can they make it out alive or will the ghosts have the last say?

8-Bit Folly

Rachel’s stomach churned as the acrid stench filled her lungs. Tossing what remained of her chocolate bar aside, she steeled herself forward through the recently opened door, blinking regularly to reduce the stinging in her eyes. Coughing, she tried to expel the ash and dust from her throat as the air cleared inside. Faintly, she thought she could hear hissing resounding through the room, but she immediately dismissed it.

It was well past midnight and well past her bedtime too. Her big brother, Vinnie, had coerced her to tag along with temptations of wholesome fun. So far she had learned his version of excitement was breaking curfew, trespassing, and smoking.

For the first time in her life, she was intruding on private property, with her brother and his best friend, Prince. Tonight’s adventure was going to the abandoned video arcade that had been condemned no more than 2 weeks ago and now was set for demolition.

Vinnie had regaled her with a story of woe within the walls of the arcade. There had been a time when it was the place to be for local kids and adults alike. Poor safety standards plagued the building, and it had twice succumbed to fire. The first fire broke out during the busiest night of the week, and many people met their untimely demise in it. Fortunately with the second fire, only the owner and his daughter were there and managed to escape.

The owner decided to not open it again, stating only that he was too old to start over, but his daughter wove tales of whispers and laughter the night it burned. Her words echoed throughout the town and soon no one entered the property, not even to remove what lies within its walls.

“This is amazing!” Prince said as he pushed his way through.

“Doesn’t look like anyone has had our idea,” Vinnie snickered. “Rach, throw me the bag.”

Across her back was a backpack with a bag of tools that she had somehow been roped into carrying. One of the boys would have to carry it home, though. There was no way she could carry all those coins. Rachel tossed him the backpack.

The temperature was dropping inside, but Rachel tried to ignore it. Her nerves were already frayed. This was not her idea of fun.

The video arcade was a shell of its former self. The pinball machines and arcade games still stood, but there was not much left to them. The marquees, sides and bezels were either blackened or destroyed.

The perimeter of the room was lined with varying pinball machines while the middle had three rows of arcade machines backs facing each other – six deep. There were more than 30 arcade games here.

Rachel started her walk around the arcade to try and settle down. She had barely made it past the second row of machines, when she thought she saw movement around the furthest end of the row. With a start, she glanced around to see if anyone else had seen it.

Prince and Vinnie were pulling out screwdrivers from the bag. She sighed anxiously and walked down the row, heart in her throat, but nothing was there. Just as she was getting ready to walk back, she saw it again heading towards Vinnie and Prince.

Rachel attempted to cry out, but suddenly she felt as if the wind had been knocked out of her. Her vision blurred, and she felt instantly cold.

A light breath touched her ear, with words whispered, “You should not be here!”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, and her terror intensified. With an internal cry, Rachel ran over to warn the others. Just as she did, the arcade sprung to life. 8-bit sounds echoed throughout, and the machines flashed shades of green, blue, red, and yellow.

Vinnie stood over the first pinball machine in the arcade, playing instead of thieving.

“Vinnie!” she yelled at him, but he just ignored her.

Rachel caught just a glimpse of Prince walking mechanically into the second row of machines. She rushed over to him to try and bring him back.

“We have to leave!” she screamed, but his hands dropped to the joystick of the Centipede arcade game.

She pulled at him, but he didn’t budge. His skin was ice cold. Rachel screamed, shaking her head in disbelief. She pinched herself and rubbed her eyes to make sure it was real. All around her the arcade games were playing themselves. The sounds of the buttons being pressed and sticks being moved up, down, left and right overwhelmed her senses.

Panicked, she quickly ran back to Vinnie. His game of pinball had racked up quite the score, and he was high fiving the air. She rushed forward to pull at him, but before she could even reach him, she was pushed backwards. She blinks; a group of kids are surrounding her brother. Their heads turned toward her with toothy grins and villainous eyes.

Startled, she stepped back, her hand inadvertently touching the closest machine. She felt a sudden, unnatural jolt resonate through her body.

“Play,” she heard.

Pulling away, she called out to Vinnie. His eyes caught hers, but she was met with a soulless gaze.

“Play,” he said.

Her mind felt foggy and her chest tight. Her fingers touched the machine, and all she could feel was a cold invitation.

“Join us,” the voices echoed.

Mesmerised, she turned her gaze toward the game of Karate Champ. She faltered for only a second as her hands unconsciously moved onto the joysticks.

“You’re mine,” a single voice whispered.

She felt it as it happened – something pulled on her soul. The embrace was cold at first, but whatever resistance she had in her was gone. She let go, and death enveloped her as flames erupted all around.

The door slammed shut, but no one seemed to care. She didn’t care. She belonged here. She had a game to play.