Nine Lives Electronics

Submitted into Contest #190 in response to: Write a story about a fandom... view prompt

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American Friendship Sad

This story contains sensitive content

TW: the occasional no-no word

To all our loyal customers…

After four decades of serving Third Street, we’ve lost the good fight. To all the D&Ders, the Smashaholics, the Arcadians, the Mangaphiles, the Funkolites that kept us alive during our times of service, thank you. Meeting you is truly what’s made our time worthwhile. We’ve been everything from a safe space for geek culture to a tourist spot featured on AV4N News to finally a time capsule for memories nobody can uproot. If we know you all like we think we do, you’ll find your feet somewhere else, but for all the days we stood next to each other, we’ll be thankful. We close our doors for the last time on April 8, 2023. 

Live long and prosper,

Nine Lives Electronics Management

It was strange. I recognized that the letters on the paper formed words which communicated thoughts, but for some reason none of it made any sense to me. Or Thor. Or Wiley. Three friends who’d been coming here for twenty years, one of them read fluent Klingon, and it took multiple attempts to read a letter in perfect English. Once, twice, thrice. All the way up to twelve times rereading the letter, and all I could muster was an incredulous ‘what the fuck?!’

I was the first of my three friends to open the doors. I used the left one so my friends could keep reading, Unlike them, I had somehow mustered up the courage to enter the store, to put my heartbreak to the side and take a trip down memory lane. Though I’ll admit, I was like a zombie while opening those doors. There was nary a thought in my head. Instead, my mind was filled with the sights and memories of better days when I thought that this would stand until the end of time. 

It was a going away party for one, and all my friends were there. New faces like Funko Pops and Nendoroids and the old-guard arcade cabinets for fighters like Ninja Turtles and Street Fighter. Ahh, to be young and in love again.

As I wandered these old, consecrated halls, I had almost forgotten my sadness until I remembered there was a cashier that had been going here for as long as we had. He took the visage of the stereotypical nerd from the Simpsons, with the goatee and Cherry Pepsi gut. He was someone I was thankful for, a long-standing friend whose humor brightened up the store a bad day. Right now, he was exactly what I needed.

“Ayo, Bob! Good to see you!”

“Falcon! What’s good, man?!”

“I was about to ask you the exact same thing. What’s the deal with that sign outside?!”

“Oh God, don’t even get me started. Let’s keep today positive, yeah? We’ve got a good deal on some Cap(tain Falcon) and Samus figures. I highly recommend checking those out!” Bob said with that signature smile. 

Dang, I guess Bob needed a Bob today, too.

Defeated, I canvassed the corners of my old memories.Funko pops and mangas and retro games silently wept for a new home before they get sent to a New Mexico landfill. I just soaked in the sights and tried to come to terms with the fact that it was really coming to an end. I looked where I pulled an Ultra Rare Nightmare Wheel from Pharonic Guardian, where I won my first Smash Tournament and won bragging rights against my friends for the next week, where my friends and I decided that a D&D campaign ends when we decide it does. Of course, that was awkward to explain to the security guard and our month-long ban from the store, but sometimes, you have to make sacrifices for the things you love.

After about ten minutes, Wylie and Thor ended up making their way in, and I felt like I touched one of those bulb things in Dragon Quest XI that let me look into the past. Both of them ended up looking around the room like disembodied heads, both ended up complaining to poor Bob who was just doing his job, and both partook in retail therapy to forget their home away from home was being closed down in six hours. 

Can we really be blamed, though? It was like being told the exact date we were going to die. I had once read somewhere that time stitches meaning into the mundane, and if we’re not the living embodiment of that, I don’t know who is.Even looking at the Smash setups, we weren’t able to process what was happening. That corner to the left was where Thor came back down 2-0 against Mamoru Suzuki, the Terror of Third Street who embarassed the store’s best players with a fucking Pichu

Smash Bros… that’s right! Me and the boys used that as a bit of a measuring stick for ourselves against each other. We didn’t really like many online games since we thought they left too much to chance, but with Smash, there was nothing we could blame but our own skill. Like Dark Souls, there was a great reward that laid beyond the difficulty curve. Learning was a test of resolve, and while we weren’t on ZeRo’s level or anything, all we had to be was better than the person next to us. And, based on the scoreboard, we’d been nipping at each other’s heels for a long time. In fact, I think the three of us were dead even with each other, which gave this last hurrah an extra level of significance. The only question was which of my friends I would place on the sacrificial altar.

“Hey Thor! Get your fat ass over here!” I ordered. Like a five-year-old looking for a distraction, he hobbled over 

“Yo, Mr. Roids! You looking to get your ass kicked?!”

“Depends, you feeling bold?”

“Well, you’re the one who called me over here.”

“So… I’ll take that as a yes.” 

The moment our eyes met, we knew it was too late to back down. We both knew the process, the rules, the game, the cost for failure. Neither one of us wanted to be the first to lose, but we were afraid if this ended up going wrong, we’d never be able to look at each other the same.

Dramatics to the side, we picked our Mains, which were reflective of our personalities. Thor was chunky but sturdy, so he went Bowser. Meanwhile, I was clearly built like a brick wall with smoldering abs, so I was obviously going to ride as a Captain Falcon main. My physique probably couldn’t save me from getting wiped by Bowser and his damn invincibility frames like I had in years’ past, but that didn’t stop me from hoping.

3…2…1…GO. The iconic stadium announcer famously declared. For how different our Mains were, Thor and I had a pretty similar playstyle, fast and punishing. Of course, it made sense for me because Captain Falcon was all about quick strikes, but Bowser? He was about as agile as a fat kid stumbling down the stairs for some fresh-made Tostito Pizza Rolls. That didn’t stop him from grabbing me and throwing me off the stage, though. I tried to recover (naturally) but he was being stingy with corner grabbing. Thor used his fire breath to control the area, and just when I thought it was safe, he hit me with a devastating dropkick. In a matter of seconds, I was down 33% of my life. 

A weaker soul would have packed it up and called it quits, but I had a childish sort of pride about me. I was arrogant, able to adapt on the fly, and stubborn as a mule. So, what did I do after being 0% off the ledge? I dropped back in, controlled the platforms of Battlefield, and clipped Bowser with a Double Drop Kick. It was enough to get him up in the air, and after that, I started wailing on poor Bowser. My jump A was the punish, my down B attached me to him and launched him further. Once he started to sweat a bit, I had him where I wanted him. He started to lose his cool, and with the snap of my fingers, the coherence in his attacks went with it. 

Bowser flipped directions seemingly without purpose, which opened himself up to attacks from behind. I tried to Falcon Kick him, but he used Bowser Breath to counter. Fortunately, I had a Double Drop Kick in my back pocket thanks to the distance I closed. I could viably land a hit on him at that range, which made him guess what I was going to do next. Surprisingly, he jumped, but I had a plan. I used Aerial Falcon Kick to get to the ground, but Bowser quickly ran away using his Bowser Bomb to get to the top of the stadium. I used my Up B to latch onto Bowser and project him helplessly skyward. He disappeared from the stadium, but came back down a couple seconds later in the background only to go *poof* once and for all. 2-2 stock.

The anger was collecting on Thor’s face, just as a crowd was gathering around us. I wasn’t sure if it was the lights or the weight of our names attracting people, but I was certainly noticing more people than there were a couple of minutes ago. What can I say? It seemed I had my own gravity about me. 

Onto stock two, I spent a couple seconds taunting, getting in his head to make him mess up, pressing 1 so Falcon would braggadociously proclaim ‘show me your moves.’ Thor wasn’t undone mentally yet, but he was on his way. Once I repeated my Falcon Kick, Saibaman combo, he started trying to get cute with his mobility, going away from what made Bowser potent. He slung himself across the map with his shell attack and tried to zone with his fire, but he must have known that wasn’t going to be enough. Sure, it made his attacks a bit hard to predict, but he wasn’t going to stop me. Or at least it wouldn’t be, if I didn’t carelessly get caught by him while I was trying to punish. Grabbing me tight, he spun me in the air and suicided both of us. 1 stock left. 

Twitching our thumbs, we both ran right and left to determine our fates. In the last stock we might ever do at Nine Lives. I don’t know about him, but as the lives counter struck 1, I transferred into the mind of the character. I became as though I was embodiment of Captain falcon, fighting Bowser like I was a hero of legend. 

With a power up taunt burned, I dashed towards Mario’s iconic foil. Jumping, Bowser crashed heavy into the ground, tossing me up into the air. Getting greedy, he chased and tried to punish with a flying shell. Naturally, I jump canceled and got the f out of there, punishing him twice before retreating to the other end of the stage. I took my own turn jumping around the stage. I wasn’t trying to send Captain Falcon to meet God today, no matter how much him and I traded blows. I hit him with an A attack and a Diving Falcon Kick (again), but I ended up . Looking back, I wouldn’t blame someone for thinking we were faking it, playing each stock on loop like some gamercentric episode of the Twilight Zone. Not so, however, though we did seem to have a knack for the dramatic. 

Grabbing Bowser and giving him a taste of his own medicine, I kicked him up onto the top platform. Once he was on top and I was on bottom, we just kinda stood there for a second. It wasn’t just because the crowd was hyped up and we wanted to be cinematic, either. We were both between 70 and 100, so it wouldn’t take much for us to go flying. 

Here it went, the last play of our legendary rivalry. I faked him out with a quick kick on the second platform. To avoid getting grabbed, I jump canceled. Then, when I hit the second platform on the other side, I fake kicked again only to Saibaman Thor’s Bowser. He was now hanging uncomfortably in the air, and it was up to me to bring him to his knees. Leaping, I dared a second Saibaman grab, but he had clearly been studying my secrets. Pressing Z, he dodged my second grab attempt, and as I had done before, he took advantage of me while I was in a vulnerable state, hovering helplessly while I was in the air. With a simple tap of up+A, he lept into the air and came crashing down on me, sending me spiraling into the Subspace Emissary. 

The battle was glorious, the crowd was uproarious. Nobody even wanted to touch the Smash setups after that. They thought the ending was perfect, storybook. It was bittersweet since nobody wants their final memory to be failure, but sometimes there’s glory even in defeat. 

Our battle is a true metaphor for geek culture in general. Our numbers started as few, we were even mocked for our passions by our own people for trying to recapture the past. As they watched us enjoy ourselves, though, the pool grew bigger. The crowd became absorbed in a certain nostalgia. Even if it wasn’t their own, their curiosity made them a part of the experience.

March 25, 2023 01:49

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2 comments

Kathryn Kahn
19:53 Mar 30, 2023

Interesting depiction of a world that I didn't know at all. But when I read a paragraph of this out loud to my son, he knew exactly which video game the narrator was playing. So good job!

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Dylan Patrick
20:10 Mar 30, 2023

Thank you for taking the time to read my work. Good to hear I did the game justice!

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