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Take a read. If interested, feel free to tell your friends! (Written as a LiveJournal from the early 2000s)

Synopsis: Dusty and Phil decide to give their best friend, Mason the birthday celebration of a lifetime by taking him to their old haunt when they were teenagers in the 80s. The arcade! Closed for some time now, the people are gone, but the games remain and when they accidentally discover a time-portal, their lives are never the same.


mason_the_mace_windu wrote (mason_the_mace_windu) wrote in #paradoxed

2005-14-08 8:03:00

We Should’ve Had Ground Rules

We really messed things up.

Like, beyond anything I thought we could do. When you first decide to walk through a time portal you discover in an old Discs of Tron game, you really should lay some ground rules. That shit people tell you about ripple effects and paradoxes, it’s all true. We completely paradoxed the hell out of our lives. I know that ‘paradoxed’ isn’t a word, but there’s not word that can describe what we did. So, I’ve opted for a word that was made up.

I’m jumping ahead, which is ironic because this whole thing started when we jumped back. Back in our own timeline, that is. Like everyone who gets older, you inevitably think back to your childhood. To how things “used to be.” No responsibility. No kids. No job. No bills. Just you and your friends hanging out, having a few laughs and doing it all over again the next day.

For me and my friends, our childhood nights were usually spent at the arcade. It was 1985, which means most kids, ages of 12-17, spent their nights at the local arcade. For us, it was Brookville Amusements. Cool kids, nerds, dorks, jocks…all of us. We all loved playing those arcade games. This is before Sega Genesis and PlayStation 2. Before the games at home outperformed the machines at the arcades. Nowadays, we get the power of the arcade in our own home and it’s great, but it doesn’t compare with spending your nights at an arcade, playing games and checking out the girls.

My group of friends hovered around the age of 13 back in ‘85 and all I thought about was beating those damn robots in Space Harrier. My best friend, Dusty, preferred chucking papers in Paperboy. But we all loved Discs of Tron. Even Phil and he’s the kind of nerd that complains about every little detail in the new Star Wars trilogy that contradicts the original trilogy. I’m talking about throwaway lines by characters in the background. My man, Phil, has the Phantom Menace loaded on his computer (Don’t ask me how) and he’s examined every single frame of film. He hates that movie. Hell bent on ruining it for everyone else. I made the mistake once of telling him that I didn’t think the movie was that bad. Since then, I’m reminded how wrong I am on a weekly basis.

I know I dropped the idea of time travel like a lump of coal earlier and I never went back to it. My bad. I wanted to lay out some background on my friends before I got into the headier topics of my story. As some of you know, I turned 33 years old in July. July 13th to be exact. And Dusty and Phil thought it would be a good idea to take me out for the night. Looking back, I have to admit I was in a bit of a funk. My divorce was finalized in March. A major bummer. That’s an understatement. It hurt. When I first met my soon-to-be wife, Abby, I was in such a rush to be an adult. Too many video games, too many nights with the guys. It was all adding up to something I was afraid of becoming – a man-child. So, I fast-forwarded my relationship with Abby. Dated for six months, married after a year. Divorced within three years, but to be fair it was over after two.

After that, I didn’t want to do anything. I shuttled myself between my apartment and work, occasionally stopping for food at points. Dusty and Phil would come over and play some video games. They’d try to set me up with people they knew. I kept putting them off. I was done with relationships, at least for the immediate future. And honestly, the whole dating thing, I’ve never been very good at it. Remember how I just bragged about spending my youth at the arcade, playing games and checking out girls? Well, that was only half true. Dusty was the ladies’ man in our group. I merely watched. Too afraid of rejection, too scared if the girl said yes. Back then, I had no idea what to do. The internet wasn’t around for us. We had to deal with squiggly lined Playboy channel and the occasional magazine left around by one of our dads for our sexual knowledge.

As I got older, I wouldn’t say it got better. It didn’t get worst, if that’s a thing. It was a shock to even me when I met Abby and managed to somehow ask her out. So, the idea of being single and having to enter the dating scene terrified me. Instead of powering through those fears, I chose to socially shrivel up and bury myself in work, video games and blogging.

Dusty and Phil promised my birthday celebration would be free of any opposite sex pressure, so I agreed to the night out. I figured a birthday night out would erase the taste of the office birthday cake I had to choke down in the afternoon. Store-bought cakes are not high on my list of tasty treats.

The first thing I noticed getting into Phil’s Nissan Something was that Dusty smelled like Cool Water cologne. I thought it was a phase during the 90s, but it seemed to stick with Dusty. ‘Chicks dig the smell’, he’d often say. I couldn’t argue.

As soon as I slid into the backseat, Dusty and Phil both spun in their seats and stared at me. Shit-eating grin on their faces. “Shit. What?” I asked.

“What’s with the outfit? Preppy casual?” Dusty asked. The birthday razzing had started. I knew he’d make fun of me off the bat. It’s a standard greeting for Dusty. He made fun of my blue button-down dress shirt. I wore it opened with a T-shirt for casual affairs and if we somehow found ourselves in a classier environment, I could button it up and tuck it in. A sensible decision, if you ask me.

“You said this was a surprise. So, I don’t know if that means a fancy dinner or eating at a decrepit chicken shack. I had to wear something adaptable.”

“Born and Bred - 1972.” He read the image on my shirt aloud.

“I know what it says.” I said, tired of this game.

Dusty nodded his head. “No need to get yourself worked up.” He clapped his hands together. A bit too excessively. “We’re going to fuck shit up tonight.”

“What? Why?”

Phil shook his head. “We’re not fucking shit up.”

“Dude!” Dusty shot back, “I told you. This isn’t about you and your nervous need to control the entire situation. Let go, for once.”

“I don’t need to control a situation,” Phil argued.

This went on for a bit. Real quick, Phil did try to control everything. It’s an OCD thing. Any trip we took, Phil made the plans. Any movies we wanted to see. Phil needed to buy the tickets a few days in advance. Spontaneity and uncertainty were Phil’s enemies. This also explained why he was still single.

Dusty said, “Phil. You got to lighten up. Just for tonight. Please. I mean, we are doing that favor for you.”

“What favor?” I asked.

Dusty rolled his eyes. He held out his hands, as if he needed to calm me down. But I wasn’t angry. Yet. “Look. So, this is your night. You know it. This is all about you. And I want the three of us to be together tonight. And in order for that to happen, we have to pick up Phil’s cousin.”

“Shit. Not Connor. Please. No.” I knew it was him.

“I’m sorry, dude. But he’s got to come if we want to do what I want to do.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked.

Connor Gaines was an asshole. He was Phil’s cousin. He lived in town and we would always run into him. At the diner. At the bar. Forty miles away in some Podunk town shopping for antiques, he’d appear behind the chest holding Victorian Era platter ware. True story. Sounds annoying, right? But an asshole, Mason. Really?

Yes. Really. He just couldn’t keep his opinions to himself about anything. He always had to tell you how wrong you were and how right he was. Every. Single. Time. One of the more annoying people in our small town of Brookville. And now I had to spend my birthday night with him.

Phil spoke up. “Look, I’m not a fan of him either. But tonight, can’t happen without him.”

“What the hell are we doing tonight?”

Dusty’s smile returned. He slapped the seat several times and screamed. “Your night, Mason! Your night!”

And with that, we were off. To ruin our lives forever.


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