We are delighted to welcome budding writers from The Lady Byron School in Fleckney to the Speak Out team.
When they found my body – or rather, my machine – I was new, perfectly crafted, surrounded by tools, wires, and the occasional unnecessary kidney or bladder I couldn’t find space for in my new form. It was difficult – transporting all my organs into my shell, but the work paid off. I had new purpose; brains working with circuit boards, lungs ready to be filled with change, wires hooked to a disgustingly human heart – viscera and machinery becoming one and the same.
It took a while for management to let me out of storage, but business was failing. I saved it. I am what they have to thank for their success. Oh, and the first time I was played. The wonder in that child’s eyes as my screen lit up. The dull thud against wet insides as the first of many coins fell into my lungs. Of course, they didn’t win. Nobody could. My game was unbeatable. But still, hundreds of children a day lining up for a turn – though I won’t say I didn’t have at least a little influence over their minds.
I was the best thing to ever happen to that arcade. And I behaved so well. Of course, I couldn’t help if a child got a little too invested in my unbeatable game – if they lost themselves to it. And I got hungry, too. Maintenance men were the closest I ever got to an actual meal. I took what I was given and I never complained. I made them what they were. But I was never enough for them. Those children were never satisfied with me. My unbeatable game. People stopped coming in. There was news of a new machine, one that could fit in your hand and run more games than one cabinet ever could. How could they refuse? And then it went quiet. I was abandoned. Left behind. I was born to be played. What am I now? What is my purpose?
It’s been years now. Decades, perhaps. The arcade is long abandoned. Never-ending loneliness and solitude. I try to see outside through the one window that hasn’t been bordered up or covered in spray paint. Grey, dull sky. Empty streets. A thin layer of frost coats the pavement. And against the greyscale landscape are the faint twinkles of Christmas lights.
I hear a crash. A shatter. Footsteps. I’ m not alone anymore. A rush of emotions races through me; fear, adrenaline, excitement, relief. The footsteps are getting louder, getting closer.
I see them now. An anonymous figure, face covered, holding a crowbar. For a moment, nothing happens. Then they kick me. I feel nothing. They kick again, and again, and again, and I’m on the floor. My coin door cracks open, blood-stained change spilling out, but it doesn’t hurt. They brandish their crowbar over their head, bringing it hard down on my monitor. Shards of glass fall from my screen. My hardware is irreparably damaged, and I can tell my human organs are failing alongside it.
Even with their face covered and my vision clouded with blood, I recognise their horror instantly. I’ve seen it so many times, in the eyes of children who tried to cheat my unbeatable game, staff who stayed behind after-hours. They lift up their foot, examining their shoe – once a dirty white, now stained deep red with blood.
Their scream echoes through the building as they realise what they’ve done. What I am.
Now the only thing is me. Alone again.
My vision is going dark now. It’s over, isn’t it? I’m shutting down.