Smoking was not allowed in the dimly lit arcade but the scent of marijuana was strong, carried in by its users, the odor clinging to the clothes, mixing with body sweat, cheap perfume, after shave, and competitive fear emanating from the players’ pores. Curse words, groans, grunts, and the constant electronic sounds spewed forth from the machines…the roaring motors of race cars, bomb bursts, gun battles, beeps, and harsh monotonic whirs of games gone tilt from constant pounding and use. The big warehouse-like building held them all – the common and now highly sophisticated pinball machines, war battle machines for single or double play with hand-held remotes, car racing machines, more complicated and different versions of Pac-Man… All were there.
The big room was crowded with teenagers and adults, male and female. For me it was rather fascinating to see this different culture, this rapt attention to machines. My bored editor felt a good public interest piece could be garnered from my visit to ‘Tilt’, a relatively new enterprise begun just a month prior by two Chinese investors… The only reason for my editor’s interest, he had passed the ‘Tilt’ on the way to his bank and saw so many people and their cars filling up the parking lot – he had not known that arcades still possessed such drawing power.
Walking among the crowd I got jostled several times by the over-exuberant players, not even mindful that they had touched me…so rapt was their self-involvement. The noise was not so shatteringly loud. It was just pesky, like the steady hum of a bunch of houseflies. I found it fascinating, the taut serious faces of the crowd lost in the moments of conquest, fighting these mechanical bulks of electronic imagery.
Paused behind a large teenager, his face covered with acne and perspiration, his arms and hands frantically moving the hand-held objects to stay some ultimate course and reach a high-scoring goal, a flying elbow came at me, caught me flush on the temple, and I went down, confused and stunned by the sudden swirling of the room. I tried to get up, but my body swayed and the entire area around me began to sway and rattle madly. Bolts and metals parts came flying dangerously close by me. I closed my eyes, shook my head, sure that I must be hallucinating. When I opened again my eyes, the scene was worse.
The machines became shadowy floating objects of different colors, blue, green, red, yellow, and I was ducking out of their way as they went by me. Then I saw the floor ahead of me coming apart, ripping, becoming a gaping one-foot aperture, getting wider as it came toward me. The crowd began screaming. The machines became a cacophonous roar, their bright colors disappearing in dissonant swoons all around me.
I reached for a shiny metal wall rail which seemed unaltered by the clamor. There I clung, both hands grasping tightly the round metal, while bodies and the machines were sucked downward into the jagged fissure. I screamed but could not hear my voice. A blond lady who resembled my wife came flailing toward me, her face fixed in disbelief and horror, her hands reaching out to me for help. But I could not let go of the rail.
Then came the turbulent wind! Now I could see grotesque images of men and women, their hair seemingly drawn straight out from their scalps to become part of the landscape of terror. My body was rigid there on the rail and unaccountably not in discomfort. As my mind registered that thought the world went black and deathly silent…
The grayness slowly spread itself into light, hazy at first but growing into a purity of brightness. The brightness came with forms and sounds…beeping sounds and voices with echoic effects. My mind was initially reluctant to accept possibilities of this current reality, but slowly it made its way to a conclusion, just as the purity of brightness gained contour and completeness.
It was a hospital room, my mind suggested, not a heaven nor a hell nor an alien planet. Now from the echoic voices came the solid enunciations of some recognition. Was my wife in the room, noticing my stirring, speaking to a doctor, a nurse, to whom? I found no language clarity in the seemingly faraway words. Then, a spasm within my head made void all sound and I was being absorbed by some pleasant paralysis.
Then, the moment passed, and, again, came the clamor and din, the colors, the machines, the vortex from hell, and my body would not move to avoid once more the blackness that came to engulf me. Just before the blackness a thought came, prosaic in its numbness… Was this the end of days of which I had heard so much?
Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood
NOTE: My 12th book was just published. It was inspired by some personal experiences and some actual events in Mexico. It is set along the Sea of Cortez in a small fishing village and has kidnapping, murder, mystery, suspense, and intrigue. It has 5-Star Reviews, and I hope you enjoy the read.
A COMMON EVIL - A BAILEY CRANE MYSTERY (6)
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