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Short Story PRESS START

Press Start by Yza-Dora Horror short story

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They say video games can be addictive, but little did Justin realize; that in this case it’s a literal statement. For he became addicted to one game in particular.

Justin’s your average twenty-something gamer, that once had a stable life, job and relationship; but all that changed when his gaming started getting out of control; ruining his life. He got fired from his job as he slacked off, playing games during business hours. He lost his apartment due to the loss of his job, having him move in with his brother Joe and his girlfriend, Susan. And his relationship blew up in his face, when he called to cancel a date with his girlfriend, all because he wanted to play the new download content of his favorite games.

Gaming became his entire life; as he hardly left his brother’s basement, barely ate and slept, as gaming became consuming his thoughts.

Unable to stop, he traveled into town making a single trip to his local GAMESTREET, to purchase more games or trade the ones he had, for newer ones. As he searched through the bins and racks of thousands of newer, older and outdated games, it was then his eyes became fixed on one in particular.

The casing was black, with no name, label or info about the game; except for a strange symbol of what looked to be a skull engulfed in flames faded in the background. Thinking maybe it was a spin-off from the Elder Scrolls, he eagerly purchased it among many others.

After returning from his trip, Joe asked as he watched Justin head for the basement,

“You get everything for dinner, Justin?” but he didn’t answer, “Justin!?”

He ignored his brother as he made his way down to the basement, locking himself away, not being seen for the rest of the day.

Susan came home from a long day at work hoping to find dinner ready or at least takeout but instead, found Joe sitting at the kitchen table.

“Hi, honey.” she said as she walked over, giving him a quick kiss, “Where’s Justin?”

“Basement.” he bluntly replied as he held his face in his hands, “Again.”

“Wow. What’s his deal?”

“I don’t know. But I’m getting worried about him. All he does, is spend his time locked away gaming. I can’t even talk to him anymore, because I don’t think he even hears me. I don’t know what’s gotten into him. Ever since he lost his job, apartment and relationship, he’s been in some sort of this....depression or funk. It’s not good. One day, I swear, he’s so addicted that he’ll end up being sucked into one of them.”

“No. No, it’s not.” Susan softly added, “And it’s not good for either of you. Your relationship seems to be...distant, ever since he’s moved in here. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, sweetheart. Nothing you, or anyone, can do about it. Hopefully he’ll get out his funk on his own.” he replied, “Listen, he didn’t pick up dinner like I asked so why don’t we just go out for dinner? How does that sound?”

“Sounds great. Let me just take a quick shower, O.K?”

“O.K. Want some company?”

“Mmm....” and they leaned in, sharing a quick kiss.

Justin could hear their voices and their footsteps walking up the stairs but his thoughts were solely focused on gaming.

Days passed and Justin had finished every new game he had purchased; with only a few hours sleep in between. He lost weight as he hardly ate, grew shadows under his eyes from lack of sleep and his clothing became wrinkled, as he barely left the couch, creating an unpleasant scent of faint body odor.

“Finally.” he mumbled as he opened the strange black game casing, finding a black disk inside with no name, logo or anything, “Let’s see what you’re about, shall we?” and before he slid the disk into his gaming console, he thought about taking a quick shower to refresh himself but then thoughts consumed his every being, “Maybe later, after I get in a little game time. Got to see what this is!” he continued.

He watched as the disk disappeared into the slot then waited for the main menu to appear and as it did, once again, there was no logo or name, except for the same flaming skull symbol faintly flashing in the background with the words PRESS START beneath the mark. As he stared at the image, he thought to himself as he scratched his scruffy chin, “HMM. WHAT KIND OF GAMING EXPERIENCE WILL YOU GIVE ME? PRESS START? O.K.” and he pressed start on his controller.

The image remained faintly as the PRESS START lettering disappeared, only to be replaced with writing or etchings, or some type of calligraphy being strangely typed across his T.V screen. The letters continued when suddenly, he had to blink his wide and tired eyes, because there, toward the last line of this unreadable prologue, were the words, “ARE YOU READY, JUSTIN? ONCE YOU ENTER, THERE’S NO TURNING BACK. NOD IF YOU UNDERSTAND.” and he nodded as he watched the words continue, “EXCELLENT. LET US BEGIN.”

He wondered for a moment how the game knew his name, but then sat forward on the edge of the couch, waiting for the game to actually begin. Once it did, Justin wasn’t the same. Both physically and emotionally.

The next evening, Justin hadn’t moved from his spot on the couch as he grew fixated on this game, never stopping for anything.

Joe and Susan sat watching T.V as one of their DATE nights, when suddenly their lights, all over their house, began mysteriously flickering off and on, then stopped.

“What the hell was that?” Joe asked as he looked around with a deep frown.

“Is that the fuse box? I mean....it can’t be. It’s brand new.” Susan replied.

“I don’t know, honey. But I think all of Justin’s playing away on his damn video games, is putting wear and tear on the electricity. And it’s going to stop! Right now!”

“Joe!” Susan hollered after him, as she followed him down the hall toward the basement.

**********

The levels of this game were swift and difficult at times, each one growing more intense than the last, and was extremely addictive. Justin could hear Joe’s voice shouting out his name followed by loud knocks on the door, but nothing could break him away from this game. He was coming to the end, involving finding secret keys or talismans in order to open a portal to another world.

Justin never missed a level or a course, finding every key or talisman, killing every enemy of the most horrific design ever to be created for a game and seemed to be real, in his path until....he came to the VERY end.

You know how most gaming experiences, you see the character of the game that you’re portraying and etc? Well, this game didn’t involve story telling of any main characters or multi-player options, because it was as if Justin was literally in the game but controlling his every move with the controller.

Suddenly, his T.V screen turned black with nothing but that skull mark flashing in the center with eight key holes placed in a circular pattern and one in the center. All the keys or talismans that he had found in the game were in place, but there was one missing. Justin watched as once again, lettering typed itself across the screen saying, “THANK YOU, JUSTIN. YOU HAVE FOUND ALL THE KEYS, EXCEPT ONE AND HAVE WON THE GAME. ARE YOU READY TO UNLOCK THE NEXT LEVEL? ARE YOU READY JUSTIN, TO EXPLORE OUR WORLD FULLY? PRESS START IF YOU WISH TO CONTINUE AND ENTER THE LAST KEY.”

He grew a large crazy smile as he held his thumb over the START button, when he suddenly heard Joe’s voice once more, call out his name. He stared at his screen and mumbled under his breath,

“Just one more level, Joe. Just....one more.” so, he pressed start.

Immediately after pressing just one little button, he began feeling a rush of energy flow through his hands then his entire body, when suddenly....he was gone and all the lights in the house seemed to blow their fuse.

Joe and Susan jumped as all the lights around them appeared to burn out.

“Oh, my God...what the hell is going on!?” Susan shouted out fearfully.

Joe didn’t reply as he attempted breaking down the basement door. After four hard rams, the door swung open inward having Joe almost fall down the flight of stairs. He grabbed hold of the door frame gaining his balance and could feel Susan’s firm grip by the back of his shirt. He turned to look at her then they stared down the stairs, to see the faint glow from Justin’s T.V.

They wondered how that was the only light on in the house, when all the others were burnt out. They cautiously walked down the wooden creaking stairs glancing around to see that Justin was nowhere to be seen.

“Justin....Justin, where are you!?” Joe softly called out, “Come on, man! This isn’t funny!”

“Where is he?” Susan replied in the same soft tone as she too, glanced around, “He couldn’t have just disappeared. There’s no way out, except for the way we just came in.” and she quickly glanced over at the tiny basement window that no one could squeeze through.

They stood there looking around once more, trying to understand Justin’s habits seeing empty bags of chips, pizza boxes, sandwich wrappers and juice or soda cans thrown everywhere. Joe looked at the T.V, again wondering how it could still be on when some of the lights turned back on.

Little did they know that within the T.V screen, was Justin....banging away on the glass with his hands on the other side, seeing his brother and Susan standing inches away.

“Joe! Joe!” he shouted out having his voice echo, “Joe, I’m here! I’m here!” and he lowered his hands as he turned around, staring at the blackness that surrounded him, “Wherever here is.”

“Hello, Justin.” a deep, muffled male’s voice said from the blackness, “I see you’ve made it into our world and to the end of the game. The very end of the game.”

Justin squinted, hoping to see something or someone but could see nothing.

“Where the hell am I!?” he shouted out then turned back to the screen seeing Susan and Joe standing there talking, “This is a dream. This is all just dream that I’m going to wake up from any moment now. I know I must’ve fallen asleep. So, Justin...wake up.” and he attempted to pinch his arm, only to find that it hurt more than it should have, “No way...” and he turned, facing the blackness once more.

The voice laughed and continued as it seemed to grow closer,

“No, Justin. This isn’t a dream and you’re not asleep. By pressing START, that was the last key opening our portal into our world. Now, you’ve read the contract and gave your soul. Pressing start, signed your every being over to us.”

Justin’s eyes grew wide as he felt tears sting them, then faced the screen seeing Joe and Susan leaving. He suddenly felt a presence behind him and as he turned, he could see many large clawed hands coming toward him from the surrounding blackness.

“Welcome to Hell, Justin.” many voices said.

“No! No! Noooo!” he screamed out, as he frantically flung his arms around trying to break free of the large hands pulling him into the darkness.

Joe turned, staring at Justin’s T.V seeing the game’s menu appear, waiting for another player and soul. He walked over, turning off the screen and game console then with Susan, they went back upstairs hoping that maybe Justin was out somewhere.

Weeks later, flyers were posted all over town, displaying a missing Justin Jones.

But he was never to be see again.

Unfortunately, the game fell into another poor soul’s hands and Justin was there to greet the stupid fool who became addicted with this unknown game.

Its origin was unknown.
Its manufacturer was unknown.
Hell, everything about it was unknown.

So gamers, next time you think about becoming addicted to games, remember this warning:

BE CAUTIOUS.
BE WEARY.
AND NEVER, EVER FORGET TO READ THE FINE PRINT...
FOR YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT IT IS YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY BE PLAYING ;)

To see more of Yza-Dora's work, click the link to her website or scroll down to the bottom of the page to view her member details Visit Yza-Dora Website.

Images used for the story are from Yza-Dora

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They say video games can be addictive, but little did Justin realize; that in this case it’s a literal statement. For he became addicted to one game in particular. Justin’s your average twenty-something gamer, that...

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