by J. Platz-Halter
“This will help you stay warm,” Michael said as he handed Kate a cup of coffee.
She was staring at the log in the fireplace, watching the embers recede into the wood, the light becoming fainter and fainter. “Sorry,” she took a sip, “a lot has happened today, and I, I don’t know how to process it.”
Michael gathered what paper he could find inside the cabin and threw it into the fire. Safety pamphlets, maps of the park, anything that could burn. “It’s rough,” he said. “You try not to think about everything you’ve lost, but…”
“My sister and my mother, I’ll never see them again. And my coworkers, the good ones at least. I don’t even know if my dog is still alive.”
“I didn’t want to believe it,” Michael sat down next to Kate, “but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll most likely never play the Philips CD-i ever again.”
“And everyone I graduated with last year, did any of them make it out of the city? I wish there was some way to contact- wait, you’re worried about some video game thing?”
“Oh sure, it seems like no big deal at first. What reason would the creatures have to destroy my CD-i? But then I realized that if those last emergency broadcasts were true, and the armed forces have disbanded, leaving the major cities unprotected, it’s more than likely that the people who manage the power stations have all been killed or assimilated.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Whether we live or die here, there’s not going to be any electricity back home! I would need to rig up some sort of battery system to power the console, and god dammit! I don’t have the knowledge or skills to do that.” Michael started to cry. “I’m just a regular guy, I wasn’t made for such trying times. I wish I was playing Mutant Rampage: Bodyslam right now.”
Kate walked to the other side of the cabin. “My best friend was ripped in half and then eaten alive in front of me. I watched my little brother shoot himself in the head. I begged him to just get in the car. Get in the car and we’d go somewhere far away, but he couldn’t cope with what he’d seen. So many people died today, but you lived? A loser obsessed with a stupid video game system no one cares about. What a fucking joke.”
“Hey! I get that you’re emotional, and you can take it out on me all you want, but I won’t sit here and listen to you bad-mouth the Philips CD-i! It was an industry innovator when it was released in 1991, pioneering the compact disc format. And I had its entire software collection. Everything from 1995: All the News and Views to Zombie Dinos From Planet Zeltoid. So don’t tell me I didn’t lose anything or that I don’t know your pain! If anything, it’s you who doesn’t understand what it means to lose something you care about.”
The ensuing argument was preempted by the loud thud of bodies mindlessly throwing themselves against the cabin door. The creatures had followed the two of them into the woods, driven by their insatiable lust for human cytoplasm.
Kate was already moving one of the tables. “Help me make a barricade!”
“This is just like the CD-i version of Tetris,” Michael said as he slid the bookshelf across the room, “except we don’t have the soothing, smooth jazz soundtrack by composer Jim Andron to listen to.” He had positioned it in front of the window but inadvertently left a small gap through which one of the creatures forced its slimy, green tentacle into the room. It struck Michael in his left arm and injected him with goo.
When she saw what was happening, Kate immediately stopped piling things against the door and got the cabin’s emergency fire ax. With one good swing, she severed the tentacle, but it was too late. The transformation had begun.
Michael fell to the floor in pain. All along his arm, his skin turned bright yellow and then curled up, tearing itself and exposing the blackening muscles underneath. “I’m fine, really! I don’t need this arm. With the CD-i’s paddle controller, I can play most of the games one-handed. It really was ahead of its time in terms of accessibility!” The goo hijacked his nervous system and mutated his brain to connect him to the creature hive mind.
“I can see what they see.” Michael stood up with the help of the pair of insectile legs that sprouted from his chest. “My mind, our mind is one. They have my CD-i, Kate. Join us. Join the collective, and we’ll play Hotel Mario…”
She slowly backed away, staying out of his reach until she was up against the wall.
“It has a bad reputation because of its low budget animated sequences,” acid poured out of Michael’s mouth and chewed through the floor, “but at its core it’s a fun action puzzle platformer with simple yet addictive gameplay. Join us! Become one with the overmind!”
Kate swung the ax into what was left of Michael’s head. Aside from the hiss of his body rapidly melting, it was quiet. The creatures outside must have moved on. For the moment. Kate removed the ax and took what supplies she could find. She would head north. There were rumors of a remnant human settlement up north. Half a mile up the mountain trail, and she looked back. The fires in the city were still burning, hazy clouds of alien smoke obscuring all but the largest of buildings. It was a scene familiar to her. It looked just like Cyberia for the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer.
J. Platz-Halter is an aspiring author who has done nothing of note. Someday soon, though. Probably. Maybe. We’ll see how it goes. And here, have a twitter account to pad out this bio: @JPlatzHalter.
Submit your bizarro flash fiction stories to FlashFictionFridaySubmissions@gmail.com.