Just recently I bumped into an old friend of mine from middle school; somebody I hadn’t seen in ages, somebody who always used to be my second player.  Anyways, we chatted about our current lives and how much fun we had as kids.  Eventually, the topic of the old NES came up and he asked me if I still had that copy of Contra.  I told him that I always borrowed it from my uncle who had recently moved away due to some relationship issues with my aunt and that I had never actually owned a copy of the game.  After our brief talk we went our separate ways, for some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about the old game.  I could’ve kicked myself for not asking my uncle to leave it behind for me.  Weeks went by and my urge to play Contra was   
only growing stronger until one day; a cold December day when I went and checked my mailbox to find a small sized package.  Upon opening I discovered four NES cartridges   
and a note that read:   
''“Dearest Nephew,''   
''I came across these old games while getting settled in my new home.  Seeing them reminded me of you and how much you loved to play them.  I hope you still have some use for these old things.”''   
''-Uncle Bill''   
Excited, I brought the small box containing the games and the note up to my apartment.  I quickly shuffled through the games to see which ones he had sent me.  At the top of the box was the Mario/Duck Hunt cartridge, below that was Castlevania (another Konami classic) and below that was Metroid.  Finally, at the bottom of the box was the old Contra cartridge, looking more worn out than I remembered.  Being on a Holiday break from work and having nothing better to do with my time, I decided to set up my old NES and get ready to play some Contra.   
I turned the lights out and made myself some popcorn, trying to recreate the setting from the first time I beat the game when I was a kid.  I was all ready to go, I popped the cartridge in and to my disappointment a very glitchy looking title screen appeared.  I took the game out and upon closer inspection I clearly saw that the cartridge had seen better days.  Desperately, I blew into the dirty cartridge as that was how my uncle used to fix the glitches back in the day.  After a good blowing I was left feeling very light headed, this light headedness soon developed into a headache.  I had been seeing my doctor about these headaches I would get; just a few days before he told me to pick up some prescription medicine to help solve the problem.  Unfortunately, I was busy at the time so I decided I would pick it up on a later date (I never picked it up).  Regardless of the headache I decided I would   
play through the game anyways, this was going to be my big comeback to Contra, or so I thought.   
I stuck the game in the NES and hit the power button to which I was greeted with a title screen; the screen was still glitchy but not as bad as before.  I enthusiastically hit start and began the first level.  The game was playing just like I remembered except with a few glitchy sprites here and there.  Needless to say my Contra skills were rusty; I couldn’t even pass the two exploding bridges at the beginning of the stage without losing my first life.  Frustrated I lost my other two lives before I was even half way through the stage.  Suddenly remembering the difficulty of the game, I was brought to the continue screen.  I had to face the fact that I defiantly was not as good as I once was and that I wouldn’t be able to beat the game without the help of the Contra code; the cheat code that gives the player thirty lives a.k.a. the code that my uncle and my newb friends used to use.  I reset the console and entered the code at the title screen; this is where things started to get weird.   
After entering the code I pressed start and stage 1 began however, this time the level was glitchier than before.  While the soldier sprites were okay but some of the textures seemed jumbled.  Also, whenever I shot an enemy soldier instead of jumping up and exploding they would jump and then freeze in mid air.  Though this was strange I decided to keep playing because I knew that this might’ve been the last time I played the cartridge before it bit the dust; I figured I’d enjoy what I could.  Upon beating the first level (only losing four of my lives) I was sent to stage two; one of the two base stages in the game.  The base stages were always my favorite and it appeared that I still had my magic touch when it came to this stage.  I beat the stage without dying once, taking out the boss quickly with spread shot.  Once the boss had been beaten the screen began to flash unlike anything I remembered.  This was not at all helping my now throbbing headache.  After a few more bright flashes I was sent to the continue screen instead of the next stage.  This made absolutely no sense as I knew that I still had plenty of lives left.  Confused, I hit continue and was brought to the waterfall stage (stage 3).   
Even in its glitchy form this stage brought back memories, I remembered how I would always jump up the waterfall quickly to kill my friends at the bottom of the screen.  Playing this level was now made a lot harder as it was difficult to see the platforms I could land on and falling meant the loss of a life.  After dying quite a bit on the main stretch of the level I made it to the stage boss which would usually be flailing its arms around throwing balls of fire in my direction.  However, when I arrived at the boss it appeared to have no arms and its mouth was left open and vulnerable; it was almost as if the bosses jaw was just hanging there (as odd as that sounds).  I quickly finished the pitiful boss fight and was brought to the next stage; stage four, the second of the two base stages.  I was a pro at this type of level, I powered through it only dying once due to carelessness.  Upon beating the boss there was flashing just like before and again, I was brought to the continue screen however this continue screen was different; the black screen was filled with jumbled text.  I was still able to see the cursor and I knew that the top option was continue and the bottom was end (that’s what it always is), but beneath the scrambled text where it should have said continue there appeared to be the word cheat.  I figured this was probably just another bizarre glitch and decided to try and push on.  Unfortunately for me, my head was saying otherwise; at this point my headache was turning into a full on migraine but I was determined.   
After selecting cheat (continue) the game took about a ten second load time to start up stage five which was long for an NES game.  To my surprise, once stage five loaded it appeared to be completely normal; there were no glitches.  I was starting to get back into the groove of the game too, the only reason I lost some lives was because of my headache making it harder to play.  Quickly after I beat the stage five boss stage six began with only very little glitches.  In fact the only odd thing that occurred on that level was every time the fire obstacle shot out the screen would flash white.  This made me want to quit as my head was absolutely killing me but I pushed on.  Stage seven booted up after stage six and right off the bat I found myself having some trouble on this stage.  I was hit by one of the spiky mechanical arms that go up and down from the ceiling.  Usually after deaths in this game the dead body disappears and the player is re-spawned quickly; this time I was not, even though I had plenty more lives.  The body was not disappearing either instead I just sat there stunned as the mechanical arms went up and down crushing the character's dead body.  Every time the stage hazard hit the lifeless sprite it would drain one of my lives until I had no more; this made me feel uneasy, I wanted to stop playing as I knew this was not Contra as I had remembered it.  The game then froze for a few seconds before taking me to a mess of a game over screen.  There was jumbled text over a flashing background accompanied by a loud 8-bit shrieking sound.  This was way too much for me, quickly attempting to get up while holding my head, I was thrown back down into my seat by the pain of my migraine.  While reaching for the power button on the console I noticed some text on the screen that read; “unc. bill = cheater.” Frightened and in pain I hit the power button, turning off the console.  With my head pounding and my mind racing, I walked over to my bed and tried the best I could to get some sleep.  Though it took me a while to rest comfortably I had a good, long sleep; I didn’t wake up until late the next morning.   
That morning I got up, my migraine was gone and I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened the night before.  I had just finished making some toast when I was startled by the ringing of my phone.  When I picked it up I heard the sweet, old voice of my aunt who was inviting me over to a family dinner that night.  I accepted her invitation and decided to tell her about the old NES games that my uncle had sent me.  There was a long silence on her end of the line, for a second I thought she hung up.  Then she spoke; she filled me in about how my uncle died in a car crash on his way out of town after cheating on her almost a month ago.  In a state of shock I hung up the phone and slowly made my way over to the console.  Once closer I noticed there was no cartridge in the console, the hatch was left open and the slot was empty.  Feeling very uneasy, I searched for the box of games and the note from my uncle only to find that there was nothing on the counter where I had left them.  I’m still dumbfounded by what happened that day, I’d say it was a dream but my NES was set up as if I had been playing it.  Anyways, now that I’m back at work I don’t really have much time for videogames; even though I downloaded an NES emulator so that occasionally I could play Castlevania on my lunch break.  I haven’t played Contra since that strange day though; I haven’t really had the urge to.