High school, it is a time of rough transition. It is a time when a generation of children take their first steps into adulthood. This means new emotions and new responsibilities. It is now that girls and boys begin to notice each other in new, fascinating ways. It is now that new responsibilities begin to be foisted upon them both, as they start thinking about their futures.
Dan was just a normal teenage boy, at least, he liked to think he was. As he roamed through the halls of the school with a notebook under his arm, he noticed how nobody ever paid attention to him. All the other teens and young adults were busy talking in their respective cliques. Everyone had friends, except for Dan. Did they even know that he existed?
The boy found a corner to sit in, watching as everybody else passed him by. Nobody seemed to notice that he was there. If they did, they probably would have given him an odd look for choosing to sit in such a place. Regardless, Dan took a handheld gaming system out of his pocket. He turned it on and began playing a video game. His gloomy expression turned bright, as he smiled at the moving pixels on the screen, accompanied by their music and sound effects.
"Video games, how I love you.", Dan said quietly to his game system, "You make these gloomy, lonely days fun. I don't know what I would do without you.".
However, his play session was quickly interrupted when an overweight young man in a t-shirt came close to him. He was just a generic school bully. "What's this you're playing, NERD!?", the fat guy tormented. He picked up Dan's game out of the boy's hands and held it up high. Dan gasped. He stood up from the corner and jumped to try to get the video game back. However, he was too short to reach it from the bully's hand. "Give that back! What did I ever do to you?", Dan demanded.
The fat bully laughed at Dan. "You need to man up and get a girlfriend! Stop playing stupid games like this, or you'll never amount to anything!"
"But I don't want a girlfriend!", Dan responded, "I'm not interested in dating anybody! I just want to play video games!".
"You want this game that bad!?", sneered the fat bully, "In that case, go get it!". He threw the handheld across the hall. It landed on the floor with a loud crack and thud. Dan rushed over to the gaming system. He knelt down to it, making sure that it was still intact. "He broke it!", Dan shouted with despair. The boy didn't know what to do without his video game. He picked up the broken handheld and rubbed it against his cheek like he was comforting an infant.
As the fat guy went off, Dan was just left there with his game, trying to hold back the tears. Nobody was there to comfort Dan. He was alone.
After school, Dan decided to go to the flea market. He walked through the muddy plane, watching as the wholesome country folk advertised and sold their merchandise. "There's got to be a replacement game system for me at the flea market.", Dan said to himself, "It was a cheap handheld, so I should be able to get it for a lower price here.".
Walking towards the table with a bunch of vintage game systems, Dan recognized the old woman attending it. The old woman recognized him too. "Ah, Danny my boy, I see you're back. And you've grown some since last we've met.", she smiled at him.
Dan nodded. He said, "A game system of mine got broken. I'm wondering if I could buy a replacement here. Do you have any handhelds?".
The old woman furled her brow. "I don't suppose I do. Sorry, Danny boy.", she said sadly, "However, I have some other games if you'd be interested in looking around.".
Dan accepted her offer and looked around the table for any other video games or gaming systems he could purchase with his cash. "Many of these games I already own or aren't interested in.", he mumbled. But then one caught his eye. It was a large cartridge for a retro home console. There was no sticker on the cartridge indicating what the game was. Instead, it was painted on with a skull shape in red. "What's this red skull game?", Dan asked the old woman.
"Ah, this. It's an unlicensed game.", she answered, "It was never approved for sale by the manufacturers of its console. Technically, selling this game is illegal. But if you look the other way, I can give it to you for only six dollars.".
Dan paused, squinting at the game. He was unsure whether to buy it or not. Typically, games of this illegal nature were low-quality ripoffs of a licensed property. He would be better off paying the extra money for the legal original. However, he had never seen a unlicensed game before in person. It seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"I'll take it!", he verbally decided. He took the money from his wallet and placed it on the table for the old woman to take. Then he took the game cartridge with him. As he walked away, he said quietly to himself, "A real bootleg game. This will make a good collector's item if nothing else.".
After his trip to the flea market, Dan was in his bedroom at home. He plugged in his retro console to the television and put the bootleg game cartridge in. He turned on the power and sat on the bed with a wired controller in hands. "I wonder what kind of game this will be.", he said curiously.
The game's title screen was mostly black, with a giant red skull hovering above the logo. "RED NEBULA FIGHTERS", the logo read. Below it were the flashing words, "PRESS START".
Upon pressing start, Dan was taken to a character roster. Above was the message, "CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTER". "Oh, this is a fighting game.", Dan remarked, "I guess I'll choose someone to play as.".
The video game's roster had 7 player options to choose from. There was "Dylan the Dinosaur (Sloth)", "Berry the Fairy (Gluttony)", "Salty the Crab Prince (Greed)", "Junko the Trash Robot (Wrath), Archer the Cat (Envy)", "Monkey the Monkey (Lust)", and "Bobo the Clown (Pride)".
Dan chose Salty as his player character. "This crab looks interesting.", he said to himself. Then he was prompted to select an opponent to fight. He chose Berry to be his opponent. "This fairy looks like an easy opponent for my first match."
The match began. Dan played around with the button combos as he tried to get the hang of his character. Fortunately, as he predicted, Berry was an easy opponent and he was beating her in no time flat. "Gee. This is a rather mediocre fighting game.", the boy complained, "No wonder it never got licensed.".
After the AI opponent was defeated, Dan expected to be taken back to the character select screen. However, the game cut to static instead. At first, the boy thought something was broken. But then the static went away and a black screen was left. In this screen, there was the giant red skull, the same one from the title screen, staring right at him. Its jawbone moved as the skull spoke the words, "Congratulations! You win!".
It was then that Dan felt a sharp pain in his chest. He loudly groaned as he gripped his chest with his hand. "Gahh! What's going on?", he struggled to get out of his mouth. Soon, he found it hard to breathe. His face was turning blue. "Hear... heart... attack...", he mustered. He got on the floor on his hands and knees, looking up at the skull on the screen as he tried to gasp for air.
In a few moments, he went limp, his body sprawled out on the ground with its eyes shut. Dan had died.
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