Entry 0094: In the Maze, the Heart Beats

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LP: La Dusseldorf by La Dusseldorf

1976 Nova6.22 550

Favorite Track: Silver Cloud

 

Recently, I have talked to my friends about their top ten favorite video games. Using that as a prompt, I will use the games as a writing prompt to write something wild, extraordinary–something Skip Rogers would approve of. Of course, if anyone of you out there beyond the Void of the Internet actually knows me, then this little series must begin with a simple game called Ms. Pac-man. Why is Ms. Pac-man my favorite game? A combination of things: I loved going to arcades as a child; I like simple one joystick games; I like how it is an improvement on Pac-man with moving fruit, changing stages, and a less rigid need to stick with pattern play. Or maybe I’m just in love with her. Shut up.

What I can take out of the game to make a story: the anxiety of being stuck in a maze, never finding your way out, being chased by ghosts of the past who seem to be around every corner, and maybe after just enough pills you can get out…

 

Made a left at the intersection…

There was a time she was worried about losing her car in a parking garage. Or misplacing her keys. Now all that felt rather foolish, petty even. Endless this place seemed. The walls all looked the same creepy peeling beige like a disused hospital wing. The light was a noncommittal gray and being filtered through some kind of gauzy ceiling. She came to another intersection. Two choices: left or right. Why did she feel like everything hinged on this decision?

Turned right for two steps, then backtracked to the left…

She began to hear other sounds than the soft falls of her foot. One was the sound of a bus or fire truck gunning its engine to clear a hill. The other was gibbering laughter. A third was like a spastic suction pump. The fourth was just more footsteps. She knew something would be in here. She imagined it large, hairy, and with sharp claws and slobbering jaw. Heat bore down on the back of her neck as she picked up her pace. Each decision at intersections were arbitrary: where was somewhere to hide? Panic had set in. Flashes of childhood friends, family, and, for reasons not entirely clear to her, video game characters passed like a college through her mind. What would Mega Man do? She laughed at that thought, then heard the footsteps right behind her.

The secret passage…

Again, the loud engine filled her ears with metal and compressed air. Hearing things was scary enough, but visioning the monster of her nightmares reaching for her was terrible. She knew in one second, a claw would pierce her flesh right at the base of her skull, paralyze her. Her legs didn’t work. It had already happened. She screaming nothing because her vocal cords had become cold, like the rest of her body as a shadow surrounded her. A stray thought: parking garages have doors leading to stairwells. She ran to the wall, her hands reaching for a doorknob that was not there. The shadow covered everything now. Her teeth chattered. That horrible laughter like a symphony of clacking skeletons and desiccated human skin suits. Her hand went through the wall. A screeching noise as if the brake pads were missing. She was in the wall.

The Dancing Fruit…

Her dreams had always been fantastic, but the dream logic behind them held a consistent strain of realism. Never did humans have wings and fly. Never did water become wine. Once, the trees were inverted but it was because she was in a hollow cave underneath the earth and the roots mirrored the limbs above. But as she passed through the wall into what she called a secret passage, she found herself surrounded by dancing fruit. Not regular sized fruit. Not larger fruit although they often looked like they were twice the size she had seen at the supermarket. But the fruit definitely lived within more than three dimensions so that aspects of them shimmered out for a second and came back when she looked at them from a different angle. Cherries, strawberries, oranges, pretzels (that’s not fruit her brain screamed but, on a hunch, she imagined them tasting like kiwis), apples, pears, and bananas. Each fruit sang a different pitch. The whole chorus made one sustained C chord. Only faintly could she hear an automobile accident. The fire truck was coming. Or was it already there? She touched a fruit and all went silver.

High score…

It took every effort for her to open her eyes. It felt like she was fighting somebody’s fingers holding down her eyelids. Then, when they were open, she wasn’t even sure she could see. Everything was a fiery brightness. Closing her eyes would be a smart idea, but she resisted. She wanted to know where she was. Crunching metal was but a dying echo in her ear. She sniffed spilt oil on pavement. A parking garage came to mind. Something fuzzy entered her field of vision. The monster! Once again, she failed to scream. A lone, long claw pierced the crook of her arm. Her vision cleared. A needle. A hospital. But no doctor. The needle was an automated machine. It looked like it fed on quarters. Heat returned to her body. Her limbs felt extra fresh as if they had woken up stronger and more vital than before. As if she gained an extra life. She stood up, donning some neatly folded clothes on a drab chair. The room contained a single bed and a boarded up window. The light bulb flickered then went out. As she opened the door, she swallowed nervously. The hospital was empty; the only sound her footsteps. Down the long stretch of hallway was an intersection with two choices: right or left…

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