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  • Writer's picturebucky

"Leaf" (2023)


Jennifer had taken her blue roller skates and made for the arcade alone.

Tommy was ๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ to pick her up in his dad's Cadillac but, once again, he hadn't shown. Asshole.

Upon arriving, she'd scanned the parking lot for the car. It appeared Tommy wasn't there either... Probably out wooing Susie, the new girl from their shared math class. Gross.

Disappointed, hazel eyes drifted up to the neon pink sign above the doorway; 'Frank's Arcade.' She'd been coming here since she was little, and the place hadn't changed a bit. Always the same sticky floor, always the same electric cacophony of video game jingles, always the same stale smell of old hot dogs and the broken popcorn machine. Frank's never changed, never let her down, and that was just how she liked it.

Stepping inside, eyes adjusted to the dim light almost immediately. Expecting to find throngs of people hammering buttons and cheering one another on, Jennifer was instead, faced with... ๐™ฃ๐™ค๐™ฉ๐™๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ.

Eerily quiet amidst the long stretch of patterned carpet, every arcade cabinet, ticket machine and person was... ๐™ข๐™ž๐™จ๐™จ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ. There was no warring music, no excited yelping, no nothing, save for the quiet, electric buzz of a single, orange cabinet at the back of the room.

Jennifer had never seen this one before. Frank's always kept the same games, but... this was new. ๐˜ฟ๐™ž๐™›๐™›๐™š๐™ง๐™š๐™ฃ๐™ฉ.

It was a slender machine, no bigger than a standard Pac-Man cabinet. It was dayglo orange, with no additional artwork other than a single, black maple leaf above the cabinet's screen. Stepping up to it, enticed by it's solitude, Jennifer pumped a quarter into the slot.

A low, monotonous tone signalled the machine lurching into life. The screen flashed white, black, white, black again, before a message crawled slowly across the screen; โ‚ฉษ†'Vษ† เธฟษ†ษ†โ‚ฆ โ‚ฉโ‚ณล‚โ‚ฎล‚โ‚ฆโ‚ฒ โ‚ฃร˜โฑค ษŽร˜ษ„...

Originally written and shared as part of Verbuary 2023:

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