Yesterday morning/early afternoon, I had a weird dream about a kid getting trapped in an arcade full of strange characters. I thought I could make a story out of it, so I started to write it. Here is the first chapter. I may post more if the response is good.
Matt’s Magic Arcade
Matt had never seen anything like it in all his 17+ years. An arcade of such massive proportions it took up two of the biggest of many vacant lots in the half-empty mall of his once thriving hometown. There used to be a decent-sized arcade here when he was very small, but nothing like this. He’d been told there were many games in this new one so obscure that information couldn’t even found on the Internet for them.
For all it’s epic proportions, though, nobody really knew where it came from, it just kinda showed up one day to no fanfare, other than maybe a brief mention in the local newspaper. Fewer still cared enough to venture inside since in week or so it’d been in business. After all, arcades had long since lost their importance in the west, and with the factories in town closing, not many people had much disposable income to waste on silly games anyway. Still though, a fortunate few had give it the time of day, and a couple of Matt’s friends told him he should give it a shot. So here he stood, on a balmy summer evening, digging a hard-earned and much-haggled over crisp new $20 bill out of his shorts’ pocket.
With a deep breath he stepped inside, met with a blast of cool air as he crossed the threshold. The arcade was in pristine condition still, having only been open for about a week, and not exactly seeing a ton of business in that time. Arcade cabinets of every shape and size filled the space, arranged in such a way that they seemed to all fit perfectly without seeming crowded. The sight of favorites he had only experienced through emulation, and games he’d never even heard of, beckoned him inward, the intoxicating sounds welcoming him like an old friend.
Matt just stared in awe for a moment, then slowly walked around, taking it all in, remembering both his guidance counselor and his former mentor from the local university fondly reminiscing about the arcades of their younger days. Peeking through one of the openings in the wall between the two rooms, he could see many ticket-dispensing carnival-type games, though not all of them appeared to be working, and there were no prizes to trade in the tickets for behind the unmanned counter. It mattered little though, he wasn’t here for those. He was here for the arcade games.
Eagerly, Matt went returned to the machine near the front and exchanged his $20 for an equal amount of tokens. First he hit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then Art of Fighting 2. X-Men, House of the Dead, Super Off-Road, Time Crisis, and WWF Wrestlefest followed in short order. On and on it went, a little of this, a little of that, a brief bathroom and Chicago Dog & soda from Orange Julius break and then back for more. He didn’t get too far into any games, only a couple levels in most, for today was just about sampling as many games as he could.
It was nearing closing time and the few people who had been there during Matt’s gaming binge had long since cleared out. The time and tokens were rapidly dwindling when he finally made it to a game he never knew to exist. The cabinet was generic, but the art on it, depicting typical fantasy fare, was strangely attracting. “How could I have missed this?” Matt thought aloud, stepping in front of the machine as the title screen flashed the game’s identity, Sabra Highland.
It looked to just be your standard side-scrolling beat-’em-up with more current graphics. Matt knew there really wasn’t time to play, that he should come back tomorrow, but he just couldn’t pull himself away until he gave it a try. And try it he did, giving all of his remaining $4 worth of tokens to the game, totally unaware of the time passing by.
It controlled like a dream, and had an interesting story, more involved than any arcade game had a right to be. That and the customization options made him want to keep playing. The last token gave him a glimpse of what seemed to be the final boss, but Matt was defeated before he could get anywhere. Only when he turned around to leave did Matt realize the gate had gone down and he was locked in.
He turned to see the lights go out and the games turn off. A sense of dread immediately set in as he turned to the gate, shaking it. “Hey, someone let me outta here!” he shouted at the empty mall. “Help!” He persisted for an agonizing few minutes until a voice coming from the darkness behind him softly whispered “Hey…”, stopping him cold.
His face went ghostly pale, and he started shaking the gate again, this time with as much force as he could muster, and he shouted louder and more frantically than before.
“I doubt anybody is going to hear you,” the mildly bemused voice muttered.
Matt was afraid of that. His gate-shaking grew gradually weaker, and his screaming grew to a pathetic whimper as the realization of his fate set in. Finally he gave up, collapsing onto the gate. His imagination ran through all the horrible things that waited in the inky black void that it could think up as the young gamer slowly turned back towards the darkness to face the music, his entire body as tense as humanly possible.
“W-wh-who’s th-th-there?” Matt squeaked, fighting back tears.
“Just lil’ ol’ me,” the soft voice said from behind a cabinet.
Matt could tell the voice was that of a woman, and that there was a certain weariness in it. It was disarming, though he remained tense. “A-and you are?” he asked with just slightly less fear in his voice.
She walked out from behind the game and turned to him. With a half-hearted wave she said, “I’m… Trina. Hi.”
Inspite of himself, he returned the gesture as he struggled against the darkness to make out the figure before him. She looked young, just barely older than him, if at all, with her hair tied up. As his eyes began to adjust and she slowly inched towards him, he could see her manner of dress was that of an adventurer, a brownish leather jacket, khaki pants, and hiking boots.
As she continued to close the gap between them, his relaxing body recoiled again.
“Don’t worry, I don’t bite,” the girl calling herself Trina said with as much playfulness as she could muster, which wasn’t much. She stopped at the edge of the blue carpet several feet from the gate, just shy of where the dim light from the mall reached. “It’s okay, I… won’t come any closer.”
After a tense, awkward silence, she finally spoke. “So… um, what’s your name?” she asked.
Still tense and backed against the rail, he responded, “I… I’m M-Matt. W-what the hell is going on here?!”