Sinnesval – Timothy E. Blake

As Nat Feldman pulled up in front of the Shorebrooke local Arcade, he could see people cleaning up the mess inside from when some kid smashed a gaming unit, the previous day.

"Hey," he nodded to the owner, after entering.

The elderly man lifted his hand with a shake of the head. "No. No press today. Very busy."

"No, I'm with the police." Nat flashed his police badge. "Mind if I take a look around?"

The owner shrugged, which Nat took as a yes. He carefully stepped over broken glass and places where blood stained the carpet. He looked over, expecting an empty spot where the totaled Sinnesval unit was, but was shocked to see a brand new one standing in its place.

"You got it replaced?" Nat looked over his shoulder at the old man, who was bent over, sweeping up slivers and shards of debris.

"Eh? Oh, that. It just came in this morning. It's really popular with the kids, you know?" The owner then rubbed his head. " I don't get it though. Usually every week I send a percentage to the companies, but these two men, representing the company that made Sinnesval, came in a couple times. Not asking for their payment, they went right for the unit, and instead of money, they collected these weird results that were inside."

After leaving the arcade, Nat went to question Henry Jarvis, the boy who destroyed the first Sinnesval unit.

"I want to know everything you know about the game," Nat said. "You've obviously played it, right? What's it like?"

"I … I don't want to answer that question." Henry got up off the jail cell's bed and crossed to the small barred window to peer out into the street.

"Henry, you're in no position to refuse," Nat warned. "I need to know everything you know."

No response.

"Listen, Henry, the game was replaced this morning. If you don't help me, more kids could get messed up like you did."

Finally, after long consideration, the boy turned his head to the side. "… Sinnesval is nothing anyone's ever seen before. It's highly addictive and is unique to the industry."

Nat jotted this all down on his notepad. "How?"

"I – I don't know. You have to think a lot, and solve a bunch of problems … It's really hard to explain."

"Well then, it seems I'm just going to have to see this game for myself."

"No!" Henry screamed suddenly. "You can't play it! You mustn't!"

Nat got up and went to the door to call for the guard, when Henry fell to the floor and grabbed hold of hiss ankle. "Officer Feldman, don't play the game! It's evil!"

A guard came in and wrestled Henry over to the bed, despite the boy's violent thrashing and shouting.

"Don't worry, Henry, nothing's going to happen to me," Nat assured. He tipped his hat and left the jail cell. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."

Nat pulled up to the arcade that evening. The building looked so different in the moonlight; it almost had a sinister sort of glow to it. Nat shook his head at the thought, and ducked under police tape to unlock the front entrance.

The screens of the gaming units gave off an ominous glow as the police officer walked past them to the far corner, where Sinnesval was – sitting between Pacman and Tempest.

Nat eyed the screen, which only displayed the game's name – there was no actual demo playing, oddly enough. He inserted some coins into the unit and immediately, the screen started flashing blues and blacks. The game seemed to be set up much like Missile Command and Space Invaders. Nat found that not only did he have to blast away enemies on a blinking, blue-black screen, but there were also subtle mathematical equations, which had to be solved.

When he finished the four-level game, the screen went blank. A few minutes later, a woman's face appeared, saying, "Game Over. You are High Score Player."

Maybe Henry Jarvis was just a nutball, like everyone thought. There was nothing strange about Sinnesval at all.

However, Nat had strange dreams that night – dreams about horrifying, unimaginable images of death and destruction, and when he woke up that morning, Nat could have sworn he was being watched.

Nat's disposition grew worse as the day progressed. His paranoia was nearly over the edge, and he saw figures staring at him out the corners of his eyes. Then as Nat was driving home that night, a voice started screaming at him in a foreign tongue. Nat, caught by surprise, served off the road and drove headlong into a fire hydrant. When he looked up from the steering wheel, he found himself in front of the arcade.

Nat clambered out into the street and tore through the establishment. He had to find Sinnesval – he had to destroy it. He found the machine sitting in the back corner of the arcade. Nat withdrew his revolver and aimed the barrel at the unit's screen.

"No! What are you doing!?" cried out the elderly owner. Without thinking, Nat spun around and fired three shots into him. Nat looked over at Sinnesval and again, lifted his gun at in, and while taking a deep breath, he pulled the trigger.

Click.

"No!" Nat screamed. He threw the revolver at Sinnesval and cracked the screen slightly, but that wasn't good enough. He ran to the unit and began kicking it relentlessly, before taking it by the sides and pushing until Sinnesval fell and crushed the Pacman machine. Sparks flew from Sinnesval, but Nat went in and started kicking the screen violently until his shoe broke through the plastic and glass.

The police officer stood back, breathing hard as he gazed down upon the demolished machine. As Nat wiped his brow, he soon came to realize that maybe the new fad of "video games" wasn't such a promising idea for the '70s.