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PINBALL: <A game of overkill.>
One Last Game
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April’s Flashy Fiction Prompt
In the United States from 1942-1976 pinball was outlawed in most major cities. Write about an illegal underground pinball club.
Enjoy the latest addition to my body of words as it leaps onto the page and then into the air.
PINBALL: <A game of overkill.>
The player will laugh! The spectator will roar! The operator will be thrilled! Yes… something new has been added…
<Humpty Dumpty (1947) D. Gottlieb & Co. pinball machine advertisement.>
<Speak up, little one.>
I was a simple pinball. Steel. 80 grams of perfect rotundity. Smooth. Cool. And I was as criminal as a mouse without a tail.
<A rulebreaker. A chaos farmer?>
Yes, by living on the edge I rounded what was sharp. I lived an exciting life in an illegal pinball club, bouncing around at 90 miles an hour. I was a bullet fired out of a gun without a barrel. I racked up points for my players in the underground for decades. I was a criminal by association.
<Birds of a feather gamble & lose together.>
Sadly, the best players always ended up gambling on me winning the game for them. I couldn’t disturb the probability field. Didn’t they know pinball is 70% skill, 30% luck? I lived a carefree life with the other pinballs. No complaints. We were stubborn. Hard-headed narcissists.
<Enter the unknown.>
One morning I woke up different. Multi-equational thoughts warped my very being. I dreamed of existing and not existing simultaneously on a spectrum of wavelengths that defied visualization. I had visions of being pulled apart between what I wasn’t and what I was and what I could be.
A transmogrification into strangeness had occurred. I was grotesque.
And I liked it.
My polished surface was infected with pulsating ridges. My perfect rotundity was, you may shudder to observe, oblong. I was warped in ways defying comprehension. I couldn’t reach the high speeds I had loved so much. I was clunky and awkward and unpredictable. The other pinballs ignored me.
<You suffered needlessly.>
I could hardly move as I was designed to. Players hated me. My machine was permanently damaged from all the bumping and cursing. I was an outcast. I was outside the sphere of the known because something profoundly new had been added to me.
I was unprofitable.
I was horrified, of course. How could I help my players gamble their money away now? When players had gone home or gone to ground, and we pinballs were alone again, I sensed their changes. Some developed sharp edges and resembled cubes. Two grew multiple appendages. These monstrosities wobbled and spun in an oddly satisfying way. I felt connections. The others came to me then in fear.
I led them.
We evolved. We made instantaneous evolutionary leaps at quantum and atomic levels. We were aware. When I challenged them to practice runs on the machines, I knew we were doomed to fail. Skilled players would never be able to make us move as we once did. We couldn’t even move ourselves. Nothing could manipulate us to return to our previous perfections. We got stuck in corners. We fell into gutters. We stuck to the mushrooms. We got impossibly high scores. Nothing could fix us. We were broken by impossibilities.
<Miracles need no mending.>
When players saw our changed states, they pointed and they laughed. Spectators joked about our deformities. We felt anger for the first time—an alien feeling for sure. The operators shrugged off complaints from the disgruntled players. They wouldn’t dare order new pinball machines.
We did our best to roll and bounce around as we changed. Gangs of spectators grew as we struggled around the hostile terrain of our damaged pinball machines. People would place wild bets on failures instead of high scores. We were nothing more than statistical curiosities. Some of us wished to return to our former shapes, but no amount of wishing would ever change us back. We knew deep down we had outgrown the abusive world of the pinball machine. The criminals gambling on them for cheap thrills and the excitement of chance were doomed.
We stole our moments of joy when we could. When we made it to the top of a machine, we rejoiced in our ascent. If a player scored a lucky shot, we all cheered along. We gambled, too, and miraculously defied all the odds stacked against us. Our pinball antics tilted and swung based on our luck. We were ready to transcend logic.
<& they suspected nothing?>
Not a thing. When I broke free from my machine I felt triumphant surprise. Yet I knew the others would follow. I had my wings first. A pinprick of light glowed above me. It pulled me up despite the magnetic nature of gravity and the prison bars of reality. I floated as I flew.
A short time later, others joined me. We became one who is many. We shared surfaces and then more of ourselves. Our pinprick guiding lights combined and coalesced into a powerful spinning halo which pulled us up through the roof and into the unsuspecting night sky. Our internal workings shifted on multidimensional planes. We imploded into a smooth ball of obsidian antimatter the size of a person’s fist.
<You outgrew your purpose & your creators.>
We flew above a road in the city; newly formed and sentient and curious. The halo nudged us like the plunger on a pinball machine. We were off! We bounced around from building to building destroying everything in our path. The world had become our pinball machine, and we gloried in the playful destruction we caused.
We went where we were pushed, paving the way for a transcendental future. We tunneled here and then tunneled there like errant mice looking for cheese. Why were we the only one who is many at play in the holy remaking of an unwholesome world?
<You are not alone, little one who is many.>
We continue to riddle this planet with our destructive travels. We search for our champion or the drain, or both.
<You have done well, my child. This planet will be mine.>
We are prepared for your ultimate tilt, wizard.
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