Monday, January 2, 2017

But… It Wasn’t Me…

          It had started off like any other ordinary Friday around the Frady House. Randy raced in from school ready to tear into some video games and get his mind off of the wearisome day at school. “School,” he thought, “that’s all behind me now; nothing but the weekend, some video games, and a whole lot of fun between now and Monday. He dropped his book bag on the bed, turned on his Nintendo and television and then went to get a glass of Sun-Drop. The film strip of the game Castlevania II- Simon’s Quest flashed into view and began to scroll across to the prologue as Randy turned to walk out the door, it was the weekend and he couldn’t wait to get it started.

          Grim Reaper descended on Randy like an overwhelming force of doom. He moved just in time for a scythe to fly right by his head, his whip working meticulously to beat back the living incarnation of death. At the last possible moment Randy dashed beneath the folds of the Reaper’s robes and spun, once more unleashing the braided and pleated fury of the Chain Whip on his otherworldly nemesis… “Randy,” his mom called from the living room, “telephone!” Immediately and rudely torn from the dark shadowy world of Castlevania II, Randy paused the game and took a moment to gather his senses before answering.

          “I’m coming,” he replied, taking a moment to study where he was in the fight so that he could finish beating the Grim Reaper and gain the coveted Golden Knife. “Just give me a minute!” He put down the controller and stretched then got up from the golden leather desk chair that served as his gaming chair and went to answer the phone.

          “Rambo,” came a familiar voice from over the phone, it was Nate, one of his best friends from school.

          “What’s up Nate,” Randy asked as he took the phone around the corner?

          “Not much, man,” Nate returned; his voice sounding like he had just stretched the school time exhaustion from his bones.

          The two talked laughed and carried on for probably around fifteen minutes, but by the time it was over, it had been determined that Nathan was going to sleep over for the night. Excited to have someone to hang out and play games with, Randy sped back to his room, leaping over the back of the chair in a single bound and somehow managed to snatch his controller in the process. Once more he was in the depths of Brahm’s Mansion facing his scythe wielding nemesis, “game on Grim Reaper, game on!”

          By the time Nathan arrived, Randy was hopping his way through a game of Wizards & Warriors. A chorus of baying dogs announced the arrival of company to anyone and everyone within an earshot, stealing his attention from the small television set which held the sprites of his virtual consciousness. Without having to look at the clock, Randy knew that his friend had arrived. He paused the game, with Kuros perched atop a lava bubble, and got up to welcome his company.

          Nathan was just pushing his way inside the door as Randy strode into the living room to greet him. The visiting teen seemed a bit conflicted as he struggled with the backpack which slumped carelessly over one shoulder, a handful of NES games including a pair of shiny gold cartridges that denoted the presence of the two Zelda games, and the spring closure of the screen door. Nathan’s eyes roved over the room to see the friendly faces of the Frady Family greeting him as he trudged in. “What’s up, everybody,” Nate greeted Randy’s Mother, and sister? “Rambo, how are ya?”

          “Good Afternoon, Nathan,” Edna replied, “How are you?”

          “Glad school’s over for the week,” Nate returned with a lighthearted grin! He glanced down the hallway to find Randy emerging from the shadowy alcove, a welcoming smile upon his face.

          “Hey, how’s it going, Nate,” Randy said enthusiastically as he entered the room and approached his guest? He met his guest about halfway across the living room, and clapped him on the shoulder. “Man, you didn’t get here a moment too soon,” he said as he ushered Nathan toward the shadowy passage that would lead him back to his room, “I was just, hopping my way through a game of Wizards & Warriors and was about to leave the Fire Caves.” The two continued to talk as they passed the antique shelves that housed several series of ancient encyclopedias and other various books of differing vintages like some forgotten library. On the other side the stairs rose deftly into the second story, leaving the last half of the dismal passageway almost completely obscured in shadow.

          As quickly as the shadows converged upon the youths, they receded as the hallway came to end in a “T” with the backdoor lying directly before them, the dining room to the left, the basement door to the immediate left, and Randy’s room, just beyond it. Light bathed the two as they entered Randy’s room. An old school leather office chair sat between the dresser and the television. At the foot of the dresser, a book bag sat limp and seemingly neglected, its once sturdy straps looking worn and haggard.

          “If you want, you can set your stuff right here,” Randy stated as he and Nathan made their way to the Nintendo.

          “Alright,” Nate nodded and began shrugging off the load that he had brought with him, handing off the handful of games to Randy as he laid the backpack at the foot of the dresser. Randy shuffled through the games in his hands excited to see Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, The Legend of Zelda (of which he had spied as Nathan was coming through the door), and Metroid. As soon as Nathan had slid out of his field jacket, and hung it on the bunk bed post, he and Randy returned to the Nintendo, and the knight who had been patiently awaiting his return atop a subterranean magma bubble.

          The time seemed to glide by as Randy and Nathan jumped, whipped and/or slashed their way through game after game. Randy had just blasted his way through Mega Man 2 when his mother called him from the dining room. “I’ll be right back,” he said as he handed the controller to Nate and bade him to play whatever he wanted while he was gone to answer the summons.

          “Coming,” Randy Called as he bounded over the chair, narrowly avoiding the stereo system in his maneuver! After about five minutes or so, Randy returned, just as Nathan was duking it out with Soda Popinski. “Mom’s ordering pizza from Pizza Express,” he related to his co-gamer, “if you want, we can ride with her and see if Park Square or Flick Video has anything worth renting.”

          Nathan dodged a hook and quickly retaliated with a flurry of punches followed by a swift uppercut that sent the towering monster staggering back into the corner. “Alright,” he responded, using the ten-count as a chance to regard Randy, “how soon do we have to go?”

          “She just now calling, so it’ll probably be about ten minutes before she’s ready to go,” Randy replied as he worked his way back to his gamer throne. Soda Popinski, huh, I’ve read about him and heard you and Ben talk about him, but I’ve never seen him. Dude; he is huge!”

          “Bigger they are,” Nate responded nonchalantly pummeling the larger competitor with practiced precision, “the harder they fall.” Just as he uttered the final words, he launched an uppercut that put the big man down for a “TKO.” “Yeah man,” Nate spoke as if answering the proposal for the first time, “if there ain’t any games, then maybe we can grab a movie or somethin’. Right now, I’m gonna plant an uppercut on Bald Bull’s chin that’ll put his ‘dick in the dirt’ before we go.”

          “Sounds like fun,” Randy chuckled as he took his seat, relaxed and watched Nathan go to work on the big boxer known as Bald Bull.

           Flick Video was busy as usual for a Friday night when the weather was still too cold to get out and do anything. People dotted the aisles, kids ran amuck as they searched for cartoons or games to rent, and the line consisted of no less than four to five people at any given time. Randy and Nathan gave the Nintendo games a good once-over but decided that they had plenty of games to last the night, especially since Nathan was eager to beat Zelda II while Randy watched, and maybe even put a KO on Mike Tyson. They decided that a movie would be the best route to find something entertaining to divert their minds from the nonstop gameplay that would be taking place throughout the course of the evening. The duo skimmed over one aisle after another, ducking, dodging, and evading anyone in their path. Action, Fantasy, Horror, and Comedy movies all found themselves subjected to the roving eyes of the pair of teens who didn’t have a clue as to what might pique their interests. Then it was almost as if the title jumped out at them, Maximum Overdrive. It was one part, Horror, one part Sci-fi, and one part Action, all rolled into one movie; throw in the soundtrack by AC/DC and it was the perfect movie, if only for the night. With the movie in hand, Randy and Nathan knew it was time to go; after all, the pizza was waiting.

          The pizza was a five topping specialty known only as the Express Pizza. At a gargantuan twenty-five inches, the slices covered a full sized dinner-plate, and then some. To Randy and his friends, the Express Pizza was like a slice of heaven, and they could eat it like a Ninja Turtle. They each had two or three pieces of the enormous pizza before retiring to Randy’s bedroom for more games and maybe even a little music. Nathan turned Punch-Out back on and began a new championship run. Randy wanted to watch him play the full game through, and so it was decided. Nathan was more than happy enough to jump back into the game he was playing before they had to leave. One by one Nathan guided Little Mac up the championship ladder, until finally, he was ready to fight “The Dream Fight.” Mike Tyson himself. The battle was intense, as Randy and Nathan were on the edge of their seats as Mike Tyson bore down on Little Mac like a harbinger of doom. Uppercut after uppercut whizzed by, with Nathan nimbly maneuvering Little Mac out of harm’s way, knowing that one wrong move and he would be kissing the canvas. After what seemed like an eternity, the uppercuts ceased and the real fight was on. Time slowed down to a crawl as the two competitors duked it out on the TV-screen. The fight was close but then it happened, Nathan moved Little Mac to the side just in time to avoid a devastating uppercut, and returned with flurry of blows that toppled the boxing heavyweight champ, as well as ending the game.

          “Oh hell yeah,” Randy stated as he clasped Nate’s hand in congratulations! That had been a close fight, and had Tyson landed even one punch on Little Mac, the fight would have been over in favor of the opposition. “Man, I’ll be right back; I’m going to grab another piece of pizza and something to drink.”

          “Alright,” Nate responded with a nod to regard Randy as he got up and moved toward the door; “I’m going to throw in Zelda II so you can see me get to the Grand Palace and beat it before we watch the movie.”

          “Sure thing,” Randy returned, “you want anything?”

          “Naw, man,” Nate replied as he shuffled through the handful of games he had brought. “I’m good.” He produced a golden cartridge which he promptly exchanged with Punch-Out and turned the NES back on. The trilling intro to the Zelda II title screen music could be heard echoing into the hallway as Randy made his way to the dining room where the remains of the giant pizza sat in its box atop of the table. Flipping the box open, he fingered a slice loose from the great pizza and put it on a paper plate before popping it into the microwave and setting the cook time. He could hear his father watching television in the living room and the background music of Zelda II coming from his room along with all of the video game sound effects that came with the Adventure of Link. The hum of the microwave ended with an abrupt ding, letting Randy know that his pizza was ready. He poured himself a cold glass of Coke, retrieved his pizza from the microwave, and munched happily on the huge chunk of mozzarella covered bliss. With his mouth full of the delightful snack, he made his way back to his room where Nathan was riding the ferry across the ocean to the land where the Grand Palace was located. Getting comfortable, he watched as Nate guided Link toward the monster guarded passage that would lead him on a long hard trek through a maze of mountains and caves that served as the path to the final citadel of the game.

          The mountainous maze proved to be quite a challenge, even for the seasoned veteran who deftly guided Link’s every move, yet through it all, he emerged victorious, though both life and magic were getting dangerously low. Nathan used the last of his magic to boost his life; then with a look of intense hope, he entered the Grand Palace. The final castle was in and of itself a deceptive maze of corridors that would easily lose anyone not familiar with its passages. Nathan fell victim to the maze a couple of times, but always managed to sort his way after a few muttered curses. Finally the battle was on with the two guardians of the dreadful palace, Link’s ensorcelled shadow, and the master of the Grand Palace, the Thunderbird.

          The first round of the bout went to Link’s Shadow, due to the wear of the Grand Palace on Link’s arsenal, but Nate guided a fresh Link in to the fight and within moments had the first boss defeated.

          Randy was thrilled to watch the defeat of the game that he had first been introduced to at Clint’s house only a couple of years before, and in so seeing it, the challenge intrigued him. Randy was just about to start climbing the ladder of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out himself when his mom came in and announced that the TV was open for them to watch their movie. So with a mutual decision, Randy and Nathan turned off the Nintendo, his television, and went into the living room to put Maximum Overdrive into the VCR.

          And so it began, the day of the green comet, when all the machines came to life and turned on humanity. AC/DC’s soundtrack added to the scene, with survivors finding their way to the “Dixie Boy” truck stop. Enraptured in the movie the two adolescents barely moved as the events of Stephen King’s 1986 masterpiece unfolded before them. Randy couldn’t help but find himself wondering how he would cope with the events of such an apocalyptic caliber. Between his own thoughts of survival, and the antics taking place in the movie, he had failed to notice that Nathan, exhausted from a long day of school, pizza and playing games, had drifted off to sleep on the living room floor.

          The movie ended, and the credits were scrolling up the screen. Having realized that Nate had been asleep for the most of the last half of the movie, Randy felt conflicted about whether or not to wake him to go to bed, but decided to let him wake on his own just in case he was one of those people who had a hard time getting back to sleep if wakened. So rising from his place on the floor, he stopped the movie, turned off the VCR and the television, and sluggishly trudged into his room turning off all but the living room light, just in case his sleeping comrade were to come to. Without much thought on the matter, Randy leapt up onto the top bunk, where he always slept, crawled under his covers, and then went to sleep, dreaming of boxing matches, devilish transfer trucks with vile jester grins, and adventures in the land of Hyrule…

          When the morning sun peered in through the window behind his bed, Randy looked over his bed to find Nathan sound asleep in the bottom bunk. Randy thought little of it, until Nathan woke up and wondered why Randy had acted so strangely before they went to bed.

          “Wha…” Randy asked puzzled? “What do you mean, strangely?” By his befuddled expression, it was clear that Randy had no idea of what Nathan was talking about. “Man, you were still asleep on the floor when I came in here.” Randy explained, “I didn’t want to bother you while you were asleep, so I just let you stay in there. I thought you woke up and came in here on your own.”

          “Naw, man,” Nathan replied trying to remind Randy of the night’s events, “I was the one who woke you up and suggested that we go to bed…” And so he related his story-

          “I woke up in the living room, and the movie had cut off but the TV was full of static,” he explained. “You were lying there on the floor where we were watching the movie, so I grabbed your shoulder and shook you to wake you up. As I did, your eyes popped open and you just looked at me. Not thinking anything of it, I spoke to you and said; ‘Don’t you think we need to be getting to bed?’ at that moment you jumped up without saying a word and moved off through the dining room toward your bedroom. I got up and cut off the VCR and TV, and then followed you to the bedroom where you just hopped up on the top bunk and rolled over without so much as a word of goodnight or helping me to clear the bottom bunk of the stuff on it. I didn’t know what was going on, but called out ‘goodnight.’ After I got no response I rolled over and went to sleep. When I awoke, well here we are, having this discussion.” Nathan finished his tale of the night’s events, a tale that left Randy dumbfounded as he looked back on the night.

          “How can that be,” Randy replied, flabbergasted by the story which directly contrasted the events he knew had taken place; for it was he who had cut off the VCR and the TV, he who had left Nathan asleep on the floor and he who had wakened to find Nathan on the bottom bunk?

          “I’m telling you what happened, man,” Nate returned, “I woke you, you just jumped up and came in here, and hopped up on the top bunk. I cut off the TV and VCR and came in here cleared off the bottom bunk, got in bed and told you ‘goodnight.’ The only part I can’t figure out is why you never said anything.”

          “I know what you’re saying, Nathan,” Randy replied, chills running up his spine from the very different relations of the previous night’s closing events, “but I’m telling you, it wasn’t me.”

            To this day Randy and Nathan still talk about that fateful night and the events thereof, and to this day both still remain convinced that their story is what really happened…

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