Charlie's FunTime Arcade
By Lea Anne Stoughton
Rain had settled in. These were the nights she liked best and feared most, the dark and cold and wet. Nights like these, most kids stayed home.
She moved among the machines. Light from the flashing displays made a ghostly twin of Charlie’s FunTime Arcade on the plate glass windows.
Charlie himself sat behind the prize counter. (Or maybe his name was Joe? She knew once. Her memory was becoming . . . eccentric.) He flipped through a wrinkled girlie magazine and occasionally scratched his beard. The beard sickened her, thin and patchy, like a disease crawling up his face.
She circled back through the aisles, past Dirt Bike 5000 and Galaxia and Kombat King—but turning before she got as far as Buttercup Garden. That had been Amy’s favorite. (Amy or Abby? Names were so slippery.)
She passed the prize counter again. Charlie (Joe?) was obscured from the waist down by key rings, plastic whistles, decks of cards, jumping frogs, paper yo-yos, and stale off-brand chocolate bars. She knew there was a stack of fresh, full-size Hershey bars under the counter as well, hidden behind the display of inflatable swords. She didn’t like to think about that stack but she did anyway. There were worse things she could think about.
Dirt Bike 5000, Galaxia, Kombat King.
A shadow hesitated outside. A girl, maybe 12 or 13, pressed her face to the window. Charlie-or-Joe put down his magazine, ran a dry tongue over his lips, and reached down to touch the stack of Hersheys. She became aware of the chafing on her throat. The knot pressed into the side of her neck, under her ear.
A woman touched the girl’s shoulder and the face disappeared. The chafing subsided.
Dirt Bike 5000, Galaxia, Kombat King.
She wondered if it was almost time for him to close. (She had lost the ability to keep track of time, another of those worrying eccentricities.)
Dirt Bike 5000, Galaxia--
Charlie? folded the magazine and slid it into his back pocket. She hovered by the counter as he stood up and stretched, scratched his sickening beard, and shuffled to the door, keys jangling. He flipped a row of switches and the overhead lights went dark. She followed him through the “Employees Only” door, right next to Buttercup Garden. The chafing returned, sharp and hot, and she fingered the knot under her ear as the door swung shut.
The short corridor ended with another door, this one marked “Office.” Whoever he is locked it behind him and jiggled the knob before slumping into the chair. Her breath choked when she saw him unbutton his pants and reach for the drawer. He pulled out the shoebox and raw, burning heat squeezed her neck.
Inside the box was the detritus of girls: hair clips, earrings, a rubber bracelet. And Hershey wrappers. One still had some candy inside, with small, even teeth marks along one edge.
He sifted through the box with one hand while she clawed at her throat, grabbing the knot, trying to loosen the rope that only grew tighter. When he pulled out the purple headband, Amy’s or Abby’s headband, HER DAUGHTER’S HEADBAND, something shifted. Her eyes bulged and a scream broke through her crushed windpipe. She flew at him in a fury of teeth and nails and fists. She gouged his eyes with her thumbs, raked at his throat with her teeth, peeled the beard from his face, buried her hands in his steaming guts, driven by all the hurt and guilt and anger and sorrow and VENGEANCE, oh VENGEANCE!
Joe Turner, owner of Charlie’s FunTime Arcade, mumbled to himself about all the goddamn drafts in this shithole, and continued masturbating.
Leave a Reply.
This is our new Wicked Short Stories page with submissions from various Authors. Please look for bio-snippets about the Author at the bottom of the various pieces. Enjoy!