Unholy Trinity: Dark Arcade by Kevin M. Folliard
Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.
I left Nicky at the mall’s video arcade, pockets packed with quarters. After the court hearing, I needed me time.
Nicky loved those games. He escaped into them. Obsessed over them.
With him distracted, I enjoyed a latte. Bought new outfits. I hit on guys half my age and scored numbers.
I tried to forget Nicky’s abusive father. His threats.
But Dad remembered Nicky.
I returned to find an abandoned arcade cabinet and a pile of change.
A sticky note read: You’ll never find us.
The air reeked of that bastard’s cheap cologne.
Ghosts closed in on a directionless Pac-Man.
Jace’s character was eviscerated. He grimaced at the spectacle of digital blood and gore.
He dropped the golden gamepad.
His stomach turned.
As top E-sports champion three years running, he had never been so completely destroyed.
His only chance. His one allotted challenge.
“This isn’t possible.”
“Technically it is.” The Grim Reaper replayed their match and tapped the screen with a bony finger. “Your character’s hitbox extends a few pixels further on the sweep kick. That allowed me an entry point to chain five combos. You’re finished.”
No wonder Jace’s rival pushed him in front of that bus.
I dusted the old console and hooked it up.
The generator would last all day. More time than we had.
“You played this when you were a kid?” They laughed. “The graphics are terrible.”
Those crude pixelated aliens made my skin crawl.
Rows of blinking monsters advanced.
Their DUHrT DUHrT sound effects grated my nerves.
The old game served its purpose.
The boys, at least, had a few more precious hours of innocence.
I glimpsed out the window. Blazing discs descended from the sky.
Bright red flashes lit the distant cityscape.
The visitors drew closer.
Kevin M. Folliard
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose fiction has been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, The Dread Machine, and more. His recent publications include his novella “Tower of Raven” from Demain Publishing, his 2020 horror anthology The Misery King’s Closet, and his YA fantasy adventure novel Grayson North: Frost-Keeper of the Windy City coming from Dark Owl Publishing December 2021. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor and active membership in the La Grange and Brookfield Writers Groups. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Tetris, or traveling the U.S.A.
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel and Reborn, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused. Her novel, The Woodcutter, is due for release via Brigids Gate Press in 2023. Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org, on Twitter at @el_stevie, Instagram stephanieellis7963 and also somewhere on Facebook.