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Authors: Robert Barnard

Tags: #Fiction, #Horror, #Mystery, #Nightmares, #Paranormal, #Supernatural, #Suspense, #Thriller, #Virtual Reality


BOOK: Phantasos
9.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub










PHANTASOS: A PARANORMAL THRILLER. Copyright © 2015 by Robert Barnard. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Portions of the cover art were provided by Gerd Altmann.


Mount Marshall Publishing, 2015.


Summary: A terrifying series of events are set in motion after a mysterious arcade cabinet is delivered to the Planet X Arcade in Grand Ridge, Oregon.


ISBN: 978-1517716486


For you-know-who.


















THE BRAKES ON THE BOX TRUCK hissed and whined as it carefully backed into the unloading zone behind the Planet X Arcade. Two dopey looking men in overalls and white hats hopped out, shuffled to the back of the truck, and dropped the loading ramp. The men vanished into the cargo hold, then shortly after reappeared with a massive wooden crate on a dolly. The crate stood nine feet tall and four feet wide, and looked impossibly heavy. The deliverymen struggled to maneuver the top-heavy beast from the cargo hold of the truck to the rear exit of the arcade.

Todd stood behind his arcade, hands on his hips, watching the deliverymen struggle but not offering to lend a hand.
You’re twenty minutes late. Idiots.

“Hey, guy. Where do you want this heavy mother?” Dope number one asked with a grunt.

Todd held the door open, waved his hand. “Right back here is fine.”

Dope number two nodded, spit to the side, wiped his face on his shoulder, then jammed the handles of the dolly forward, aiming for the open door.

Inside, the arcade was brightly lit, not at all how it looked during business hours. In the afternoon, after school let out, it would turn into a dimly lit labyrinth of pulsing neon, with carpets illuminated by black lights. Rows of arcade cabinets crowded the room from wall-to-wall, their glowing monitors guiding customers from one game to the next.

But now, in the early morning, humming fluorescent lights revealed the Planet X arcade for what it really was. The once magnificent emporium of joy and beeps and blips had turned into a bit of a dive. Dust and cobwebs flourished in the nooks and crannies beneath and behind the machines. In the rear corner of the room, a nasty clump of mold was beginning to grow. The carpets were stained, bubble gum permanently stamped into the fibers, cigarette burns dotting the paths between machines like a trail of breadcrumbs.

Danny was wiping down the glass top of a prize cabinet when the deliverymen came in. He watched as his boss led the men and their colossal crate towards a spot in the middle of the room.

“A little further, a little further,” Todd said. “Okay. There. Perfect, stop.”

Dope one and dope two sat the crate down in the middle of the arcade and pulled the dolly back. Dope one grumbled something indiscernible under his breath; to Danny, it sounded like cursing. Dope two pulled his cap back, wiped the sweat from his brow, then cracked his knuckles and waited.

Todd nodded, reached into his back pocket, and pulled out his wallet. He plucked a couple of dollar bills from the bi-fold, then returned the wallet to his pocket.

“Thanks fellas,” Todd said, handing a single dollar to dope one and dope two.

Dope two said, “Gee, a whole buck. Thanks, guy. You sure are swell.”

“Come on,” Dope one said, leading his partner to the rear exit. “Let’s get outta’ here.” Dope two turned to Todd before exiting and said, “Hey, good luck with it pal.” The two left the arcade, slamming the door behind them.

By now, Danny had dropped what he was doing at the prize counter and strolled over to where the towering behemoth stood. He crossed his arms, his elbows covering the Def Leppard logo on his faded white t-shirt.

“What the hell is this?” Danny said.

Todd, who had grabbed a crowbar from the back, was already prying the crate apart with excitement. “This, Danny, is the future.”

Like a kid tearing open a present on Christmas morning, Todd pulled the wooden crate apart. The sides of it collapsed to the floor under a heaping mess of straw and packing peanuts. In a few short moments, the prize inside was revealed.

The arcade cabinet stood there, a giant black monolith gleaming beneath the fluorescent lights.

“I thought…” Danny paused, collected his thoughts, tried not to get angry. “I thought new machines weren’t in the budget, Todd.”

“They’re not.”

“So explain this to me, please.”

“We didn’t buy it, buddy,” Todd said, and he slapped Danny on the shoulder. “The manufacturer is trying out some new, radical technology. So, before they invest piles of money into producing a million of these things, they want to test it out in a few arcades. Just to make sure they function correctly, and the kids like it. They called me last week to ask if they could test it here, can you believe that? Danny, they’re paying us
to put their machine in our arcade!”

Danny looked the cabinet up and down at length. “Something doesn’t feel right. I don’t like this. I wish you would have ran it by me first.”

“This is a surefire bet, Dan.”

Danny walked a slow circle around the cabinet, stuffed his hands in his jean pockets, lurched forward, and groaned. “Where’s the monitor?”

Todd’s eyes lit up. “There isn’t one.”

Danny gave Todd a puzzled look, thought:
What the hell do you mean there isn’t one?
Then he waited for his friend to explain, because clearly he was eager to.

Todd tapped the top of the arcade cabinet. “There’s a pair of goggles in here that drop down after the player pays. Two words, bud: Virtual. Reality.”

Danny examined the coin-slot on the machine. “Holy cow—it costs a dollar per play! No one is going to pay to play this thing, Todd. This is a mistake.”

“Not a mistake, Dan. No, not a mistake at all when the manufacturer has already mailed over a check for five hundred smackers.”

Danny shook his head, then glanced around at the arcade cabinets that filled the room. There was Pac-Man, coated in a thick yellow lacquer, brightly colored pastel ghosts decorating the machine. Beside that was the other crowd favorite, Donkey Kong, painted top-to-bottom in eye-popping fire engine red, a cartoon ape grinning from the side.

This new machine, whatever it was, stood in stark contrast to the games around it, and Danny didn’t like it. It was a dark tower. It looked menacing and stuck out like a sore thumb.

“Who paints an arcade cabinet all black?” Danny asked. “A bit grim. And where will we even put it? We don’t exactly have the floor space.”

“I sold the Centaur to an arcade over in Portland. They should be here in an hour or two to pick it up, then we’ll move some things around. We’ll make it fit.”

“The Centaur, really? You didn’t tell me you were going to sell that!” Danny clasped his hands together. “That was my favorite pinball table. I would have put money into the shop and taken it home had I known we were getting rid of it.”

Todd said, “Please, I’m the one who pays you. I know what you make. You wouldn’t have been able to afford it.”

Danny glared at his boss.

Todd was getting tired of having to cheer up Danny; the guy was ruining his moment. “I thought you’d be excited about this, like I am. This is good news, Dan. Don’t be such a grump. The kids will be lining out the front door to play this beast. It’s the dawn of the nineties, man. Kids can play Nintendo at home now. But this machine? No. You can’t replicate this on the living room television.”

Todd wiped his hand across the top of the machine, brushing away some loose pieces of straw.

“God, even the name is rad,” Todd said, and he turned to Danny, still sulking. “It’s Greek, I think. I have no idea what it means. It probably translates to ‘money-maker.’”

Todd stood, fists on hips, super-hero pose. He was proud.

“Phantasos,” he said, reading the word slowly as he stared at the backlit marquee on the top of the machine. The word was stenciled in a white, futuristic font—the only pop of color on the entire cabinet. He added, “What a trip,” and then he marched away towards the arcade’s office and told Danny to get back to work.


























BOOK: Phantasos
9.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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