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Assault

as told by ghoullunar

There's an infamous urban legend in our town, more of a long-lasting rumor really. It happened back in the heyday of arcades, before I was born, but I know it just as well as anyone who's lived here their whole life. It happened at the Card Shark Arcade, an old place made for gamers of all ages. There were games made for younger kids in front, the one where you can win tickets by playing, and some claw machines. Then, there was a little restaurant against the side wall. The further back you went, the more mature the games got. You'd find the shooting games and video poker in the far back areas. The Card Shark was a big hangout for teenagers back then, who called it "the Shark." One day, a group of teens went to hang out there, like always, but these teens went for a different reason. They wanted to see what the mature games had to offer. They made their way back slowly, feigning interest in the other games. It was crowded that day, so no one noticed them as they reached the far wall, each paying for a different game. The two girls of the group decided to play a game called Assault. It was a shooter for either one or two players. The controls were on a low panel, so the players had to bend down to reach them on the motorcycle-like seat. From what I've heard, the enemies were gross monsters or demons, and many of the graphics were shades of red.

The game, like all of the games in the back, showed an 18+ warning before the starting screen. They all laughed it off, smiling the way a small child sneaking a cookie before dinner would. The girls played a few rounds before deciding to use a common cheat code they had heard about in a gaming magazine. "You try it the right way," one said to the other, "I'll try it backwards."

They first girl started a new, single player game and moved the joystick up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, then pressed start. Nothing happened immediately, so she played a few more rounds before dying. By now, the boys of the group had finished their games and clustered around the Assault machine and the girls.

It was the second girl's turn to try the cheat. She put her quarters in and did the opposite motion of her friend. Right, left, right, left, down, down, up--

The game began before she made the last movement. A one-eyed skull silhouette moved across the red "Start" screen, and the girl's character began at the first boss. The sound seemed louder, and the "rocky cave" environment pulsed with golden light once, twice, three times.

The first boss crawled onscreen, a one-eyed skull with legs. The health bar at the top of the screen identified him as Jim. A white speech bubble appeared on-screen, near Jim's mouth. "Mama?"

The group gasped excitedly, ready for the girl to do battle with it. She shot it once, making a loud pew. Jim reeled back, red pixels spraying out of his eye to represent blood. Suddenly, the speakers blared with a screech, and a computerized male voice shouted, "MAMA!" It was loud enough to attract the attention of nearby customers. The fight continued like this, louder each time. Soon, the deafening effects filled the whole arcade.

Pew, screech, MAMA!

Pew, screech, MAMA!

Parents began leading children out. Some children were crying, others covering their ears, others still curiously watching behind them. Older teens and adults could only watch. Some swear they saw the size of the screen increase.

Pew, screech, MAMA!

Pew, screech, MAMA!

A worker fought her way through the crowd, shouting that the girl shouldn't be playing Assault, that she wasn't old enough.

Pew, screech, MAMA!

MAMAAAAAAAA!

The girl had won the fight and moved on to the next area. She was playing expertly, dodging enemies with ease. The shots of the gun lowered in volume. The girl looked over her shoulder at the worker, still playing flawlessly. She spoke one sentence, slowly, drawn out as though she was speaking to a small child.

"Assault is my favorite game to play."

The girl's friends screamed and ran out. The consequences were now so much more than a scolding or a temporary ban. A few more spectators joined them. The girl slowly turned back to the screen, not blinking once as she entered the next boss chamber. It was black with a pink floor. A massive black and white striped worm with orange legs scurried across the wall. Then, it opened a red eye, with an orange pincer on either side. The worker once again shouted for the girl to get off.

KREEEEEEEEEEEEE!

The sound came back, even louder than before. The girl cackled as she shot at the worm. She still had not blinked. When the second boss fell, the overhead lights went out. Other machines started flashing, then deactivated one by one. More and more people began fleeing the arcade, leaving only the girl and the terrified worker, still trying to pry her off the machine. The whole arcade went dark, and the only sign of life from inside was the workers screams and the deafening sound effects of the machine. The game's screeching quickly drowned out the worker's. Finally, the arcade fell silent. The police responded to a disturbance at the Card Shark Arcade. They searched for three hours and couldn't find anyone inside. Assault was unplugged, and the power restarted. Rumors began spreading through the town that Assault was demonic or possesed.

The next day, the owner unlocked the doors to start the cleanup from the insanity. He spotted a figure in the back, by the Assault machine. It was the worker.

"What are you doing here?" the owner asked.

"I am charging my favorite game," she replied, slowly, blankly. "Assault."

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