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The Arcade

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When I was in high school, my girlfriend and I would go to the mall a lot. It wasn't something I enjoyed very much, but it made her happy, so I didn't complain. Every time we went, she would make us get our pictures taken in those photo booth things. You know, the ones where you put in two quarters or whatever and get a strip of pictures taken and printed off? It was kind of a ritual. She kept the best one from each visit in her locker.

One time, we went and the booth was taped off. I guess someone thought it would be funny to use it to take pictures of his dick, and then leave the strip (covered in his semen, no less) in the booth. The parents of the little girl who went in next were not amused, and the mall was going to be taking it out. I think that's an overreaction, but expected nowadays.

Well, my girlfriend was pretty sad about not being able to get our pictures taken like usual, so we ended up just wandering aimlessly. She didn't really want to leave, but she didn't feel like shopping either. I bought us some ice cream, hoping it would cheer her up. but she still was pretty depressed.

Eventually we ended up at the far end of the second floor. We almost never got over there, as there weren't many stores either of us were interested in. but today we did. I noticed that there was an arcade there, and that got me thinking. They tend to have a photo booth in them. I didn't want to say anything about that, to avoid getting my girlfriend's hopes up, but I managed to convince her to go in.

It was noisy inside, but mostly just from the games. There were only a few other kids inside, and the owner sitting at a small desk watching some sports game on TV. We walked around the place, and didn't see a booth. Saddened a bit, I suggested that we go, and she started to say that she agreed when her sentence drifted off. I looked where she was looking, and tucked back in a corner there was a machine that said "Instantly Developed Photos" peaking over one of the games. We nearly ran over to it, but were disheartened to find that it too was taped off.

My girlfriend was really sad now, and suggested that we leave the mall now. I hated seeing her like this, and I thought to myself, "You know what? Almost no one is in here, and none of them are paying attention to us." So I went over, plugged in the booth, and pulled the tape down. At first she was shocked that I would do that, but then the joy at being able to carry on our tradition overtook her.

One thing that was incredibly obvious about this booth was that it was much older than the one that we usually went to. It was beaten up, didn't have a touch screen menu, and only cost ten cents a strip.

We decided to do a double strip, since it would still be cheaper than one of our normal ones. We put in two dimes, and then it took our pictures. When the last one was done, we looked and saw that there wasn't a slot for them to be printed on the inside. It was odd, but I guess back when this thing was made they didn't think to have them print on the inside.

So we got out and looked at the sides of the booth, and found the pictures. There wasn't much light inside the arcade, so my girlfriend picked them up and we were walking outside to see them better when we realized something. There was no sound anymore.

All the games were running, but it was like someone hit the mute button on all of them. It creeped my girlfriend out, and I'll admit I was unnerved as well. So we walked towards the exit a little faster. But we couldn't find it. Every corner we took just led us to another row of arcade games, with flashing lights and no sound. Now we were both panicking, but I managed to be rational enough to figure out that, if I climbed on top of one of the machines, I would be able to get a view of the room.

I went over to one and asked my girlfriend to give me a little support as I climbed it. I got on top, and saw that somehow we had gone further into the arcade. The exit was on the other side. I told her, and she calmed down a bit. I was trying to get down from the game when I thought something brushed my hand. I screamed and fell.

My girlfriend tried to catch me, but I just knocked her into the machine and fell onto the floor. I wasn't hurt badly, and I got up to tell her I was sorry. When I turned to look at her, I saw she was starring at the screen, and shaking. I walked over beside her, and saw that it no longer was showing the menu. No, flashing in old fashioned arcade game letters, was the message "Player 2 has no more lives."

I told her that I must have started a game when I climbed up, but she shook her head no and whispered "Look around." Every game was flashing the same words. That really freaked us out, so we started running in the direction of the exit.

We went around turns and turns of games, and it seemed we had been running far too long to have covered less distance than is contained in a shop in a mall. But now we could see it. Seven rows of games ahead, rising above them all, was the exit sign. We stopped for a moment when we saw it, relieved and catching our breath. Then my girlfriend screamed.

She spun around to look behind her, and screamed that something had just touched her hair. We looked around but saw nothing. No one was near us. But there was something worse than the presence of someone else. The screens now all showed the words "Player 1 has no more lives."

That was it. We were sprinting faster than we ever had before, running towards the exit sign. We just had to get around three more rows and we would be out of the arcade. And then we saw something that brought us to a halt. There was someone standing at one of the games.

He was one of the kids we had seen earlier, when we came in. I recognized the clothes, even though I hadn't payed much attention to him before. He was just standing there, playing a game. After the shock of seeing someone else had passed, I thought I should call out to him.

"Hey, dude!"

My girlfriend grabbed my arm and shushed me.

"Don't," she whispered harshly in my ear.

"Why not, what's the matter?"

"Something doesn't feel right. Let's just keep going, we're almost out."

So we walked past him, hugging the other side of the row of games. Something seemed wrong with him, in the glow of the lights. I stopped walking and just looked at him. My girlfriend begged me to keep going, but I had to figure out what was wrong. I took a few steps closer, and it hit me. His hands were on the controls, the game was playing, but he wasn't moving at all.

I walked closer and closer, all the while my girlfriend was crying and begging for me to go back to her. I got to him, touched him on the shoulder, and shivered from how freezing cold he was. I asked if he was ok, and walked beside him to get a look at his face.

His throat was slit, and his skin was paper white.

I screamed so loud and so intensely that I hurt my voice. I turned back to my girlfriend and started to run to her, when I saw that someone holding a hand over her mouth and a knife to her throat. I couldn't see the face, but the figure's hands looked like a man's.

I shouted at him, "let her go!" The response was a laugh, deep and gurgling. I tried to lunge at him, to get the knife away from her throat, but I wasn't fast enough. He slit her open in one fluid motion. Blood sprayed out all over me, and I was frozen in shock.

He dropped her body, and brought the knife to his face. It was still shrouded in darkness, but I saw a tongue come out, and lick the knife. That tongue… it wasn't human. It looked more like a giraffe's, long and thin. I was crying now, and couldn't think. Then he pointed at me, and said "you wait there. You next." That voice, it was horrible. It was like two rough stones being dragged across each other. But what came next was worse. He bent down to my girlfriend's body, and started sucking and the fatal wound.

His mouth covered her entire neck, and it made a horrifying squelching sound as he sucked the blood from her. I couldn't think, couldn't react with anything but more tears and a sighing cry. And then the noises started to stop. He pulled back, and his mouth was extended like a trunk, and it began to pull back into his face. When it was back to normal, that tongue came out again and licked the traces of blood off his lips.

He pulled the knife out again and started advancing towards me. Part of me wanted to let him kill me. I didn't want to live with these memories. But that part of my mind was overridden by a more primitive section. The adrenaline poured out into my body, and I ran. I didn't even know what was happening any more, I just ran.

Somehow I managed to make it to the exit. As I ran I saw the owner still sitting at his TV, now blank, and some still active part of my mind realized that his skin was far too pale, and that there was a black line running along his neck. But I caught all of that in the few seconds before bursting out of the door, and running in to a woman outside of the arcade.

I frantically screamed, begging her to call the police, the paramedics, anyone. She screamed too, at first I thought because I seemed crazy. Then I realized that I had blood all over me. My girlfriend's blood.

Eventually security came, and the woman told them I had come from inside the arcade. One of them stayed with me, and the other two went inside. They came back out, and told the man with me to handcuff me while they contacted the police.

What they had found was my girlfriend's body, throat slit, drained of blood. This was expected. I had seen her die. What I didn't expect was that her's was the only one. Nor did I expect it to be found in the photo booth. But the worst part, the piece of evidence that I can never comprehend, the reason that my mind was broken to the point I was considered incompetent for trial, was that two strips of pictures found in the booth with her.

They showed me slitting her throat.

Now I spend my days out of my mind on medication in a psych ward. But sometimes, I trick them into thinking I took my medication so that I can think for a while. And I always think back to that day. And I have an idea about it. I think that, sometime, someone else will go into that arcade. They'll find it empty except for the owner sitting there watching a sports game, a couple kids playing games, and a beautiful girl sitting alone in a photo booth. And I wonder, will this person ever leave the arcade?

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