Shoot 'Em Up
"We're surrounded!" the young woman cried out, her eyes beseeching Sam for help.
"You have to save us, the zombies are everywhere!"
"Okay, what do I need to do?" he asked, raising the gun in his hand, testing the balance.
"Well the first thing you have to do is relax and stop taking it so seriously," Jessica told him with a smile, raising her own plastic gun.
"It's just a computer game, Sam. It's hardly life or death."
Glancing over at his girl, Sam grinned back, realising he'd automatically dropped into hunting mode. It had been her idea to top off an evening at the bowling alley by playing arcade computer games; in truth, he'd been a little surprised at her choice of 'Furious Dead 2: This Time It's Personal!"
But then Jess was full of surprises, as he'd been discovering all the time in the weeks they'd been dating.
"Ok, here we go!" Jess' eyes were sparkling.
The screen flashed up a countdown, and then they were in an abandoned warehouse, half falling down, crawling with rotting, reanimated corpses.
"That's not what zombies look like," Sam thought, and then pushed that thought away. That wasn't his life anymore. He was a regular guy now, on a date with a beautiful, normal woman who knew nothing about zombies, demons, vampires or any of the other crap he'd been dealing with since he was in diapers.
The plastic gun seemed to weigh nothing at all as he swung it around, taking down cartoon zombies as they shambled towards him.
He snuck a sideways look at Jess, who was laughing as she did the same. It was wonderful to be with someone who thought of this as fun, instead of being surrounded by people who knew the realities of such a situation, and the more time he spent with Jess, the more Sam felt like his past was evaporating.
The zombies were coming thick and fast now and Sam found his reflexes were responding automatically, keeping his shots quick and accurate, his movements tight and economical. He took a sideways step closer to Jess, instinctively wanting to protect her; even though he knew this wasn't real, he couldn't help himself.
So intent was he on taking out the fictional threat, he didn't notice that Jess had stopped playing, lowering her gun to watch him, wide-eyed.
It was only when all the zombies were lying in twitching heaps on the ground and the gun had no more ammo that he realised what had happened. Despite all his efforts to enjoy playing a game with his girlfriend, the hunter in him had taken over.
"Wow, you're really good at this!" Jess exclaimed,
"Yeah, I, uh, guess I spent a little more time on this stuff than I thought," Sam confessed this half-truth somewhat sheepishly.
"Don't tell me, you and your brother were really competitive as kids?"
"Something like that. You could say he taught me."
"And you wanted to show him you could do better. Sounds like a family to me."
Jess put the plastic gun back into its holster.
"Still don't know why you won't talk to me about them."
"We don't get on," was Sam's terse response
Jess let it drop, tucking her hand inside Sam's elbow as they wandered out of the arcade.
"You want to get a soda, or something?" Sam asked, hoping to bring the situation back towards a date, rather than another tense semi-argument that always occurred whenever Jess asked about his past, his family.
"Sure. My roommate's out for the night, if you wanna stay over," Jess suggested, snuggling closer to Sam, who put his arm around her.
The pair walked away, wrapped up in each other and their happiness in being together. Sam pushed away the nagging feeling that something wasn't right.
OK, so forgetting that video games weren't real and slipping into full-on hunter mode had been dumb, but it was sort of reassuring to discover he hadn't lost all his skills, could defend Jess if the situation ever called for it. And she didn't seem too freaked, so maybe no harm had been done. After all, lots of guys didn't get on with their family; it didn't need to be a problem.
He had Jess now, a life, a future to look forward too.
Everything was going to be okay.