"Memory is the great deceiver. Perhaps there are some individuals whose memories act like tape recordings, daily records of their lives complete in every detail, but I am not one of them. My memory is a patchwork of occurrences, of discontinuous events roughly sewn together: The parts I remember, I remember precisely, whilst other sections seem to have vanished completely."
Neil Gaiman, Murder Mysteries
Vanellope von Schweetz screamed with glee as her kart rocketed down the steepest part of the road. The rainbow-swirled track, glinting with tiny sugar crystals, dipped almost vertically beneath her, but she kept herself both steady and speedy. Onward she zoomed, following the multicolored path as it swiftly guided her through the labyrinth of caves…
That was when, from a secret road that had been all but completely invisible in the darkness, King Candy reappeared. His kart slammed down in front of Vanellope's, startling the young girl senseless, and he further rammed into her until her front wheels were spinning uselessly in the air. "Get off of my track!" he growled.
"Hey! What are you, crazy?!" cried Vanellope, revving her engine desperately.
King Candy reached down and appeared to unscrew something from the interior of his car – it was hard to tell exactly what he was doing, but in the next moment, he had raised a long metal rod high above his head. He swung it down brutally, cracking the windshield of his opponent's kart. "I forbid you…!" he bellowed through clenched teeth, swinging and demolishing more red-tinted class with each intonation, "To cross…that finish line!"
"Knock it off!" screeched Vanellope. She struggled in vain to free herself, but it was no use, and jumping out of a moving vehicle at this speed would mean serious injury…or worse. She reached out with her chubby little hands and gripped King Candy's weapon, temporarily stopping the assault. Unfortunately, he was much stronger than one would expect from an old, sweet-looking king, and she was unable to pry it away from him.
She began to glitch fearfully, and the bursts of blue energy were seemingly conducted through the metal rod, and when they reached King Candy they changed…turned red…started to make him blocky and 8-bit in brief explosions of red and white pixels…
A pair of yellow eyes, wide and frozen, were glued to the scene.
There was nothing he could do to stop it. What he was seeing had already happened; it was a recording, a file chained up and dangling somewhere among masses of other code. Oh, he could reach out and hit the pause button, of course, but what would it get him? The damage had been done long ago. He could stop watching it, but that wouldn't erase it from history…from his history.
"I'm not letting you undo all my hard work – !"
King Candy was still fizzing on the threshold between two forms, but now the components of what lay beneath his saccharine visage were becoming clearer. A white racing jumpsuit was visible, and a white helmet emblazoned with a scarlet T. The face encased in the helmet was white, as well. Its eyes and snarling teeth were tinted a sickly yellow color. He looked down at himself with a twisted expression of feral rage, finally realizing that his disguise had been terminated.
"What the – ?!" Vanellope gaped at the flickering figure in horror, so stunned that she let go of the metal rod. It clattered away from the two rushing go-karts and was quickly lost in the darkness. "Who are you?!"
"I'm Turbo!" declared the thing that had once been King Candy, in a horribly distorted voice. "The greatest racer ever! And I did not reprogram this world to let you and that halitosis-riddled warthog take it away from me!"
Turbo's mouth was open, but only incoherent gasps were coming out. He wanted to say something, scream something, turn away and squeeze his eyes shut so that he didn't have to look anymore, but his body wasn't reacting to his commands for movement. It wasn't reacting to anything…not yet.
That monster on the screen wasn't him. It couldn't be. He'd never exactly been known for his good looks, what with his dead-white skin and yellow eyes peeking out from gray hollows, but he didn't look like that thing. His face was round and overly simplified, not contorted and wrinkled and stretched into something that put him in mind of a Halloween mask. He showed his young age whenever anyone bothered to examine him closely. But that thing was old and ravaged and grotesque.
It wasn't his voice, either. His voice had never rumbled out of his vocal cords and slashed viciously at the ears of everyone nearby. It had never sounded like the voice of a psychopath, like the voice of a monster…
With a deftly executed maneuver, King Candy flipped Vanellope's car on its side. Gripping her seat to keep from tumbling out, she turned her head – and was terrified to see that the track split in two directions ahead. The king was pushing her towards the divider, where her high-speed impact would crush her. "Turbo-Tastic!" he growled.
Turbo felt as if he had just been thumped in the stomach by a two-ton block of ice.
"End of the line, glitch!"
Realization dawned on Vanellope's face. She shut her eyes, muttered to herself inaudibly – and disappeared in a blinding blue flash. She had glitched, and now she was free from King Candy's clutches and speeding down the road once again.
"No!" hollered King Candy, jamming his foot on the gas pedal of his own kart. But before he could even exit the cave and reach the sunlit outside world again, a Cy-bug dropped down in front of him, tiny knives grinding within its open maw.
There was an incoherent scream.
The audio cut out, and a pulsing "pause" symbol appeared over the image. Someone had stopped the video. Turbo wondered if he himself had screamed aloud there. He had certainly wanted to. He realized that he was gulping and gasping, and that tremors had gripped every inch of his body. And a familiar static was building and bursting in his limbs, like bubbles in a boiling pot. Glitch glitch.
"No," he choked out.
It was over now, in more ways than one. What he had been watching was a recording , actual photographic evidence that the events in question had really occurred. So now he believed it. He had to believe it, because there was no way to deny evidence that was right in front of his face. He'd had this nightmare…how many times? Three, four? But he had been able to comfort himself with the knowledge that no matter how frightening it was, it was only a dream. It didn't mean anything.
He scrambled to his feet, and the room around him began to come into focus again. There was the couch, the floor, the TV screen with its frozen image of a menacing Cy-bug and an even more menacing King Candy, who had been caught in mid-glitch, eternally paused with pieces of his true self sticking out of him like so many broken bones. Turbo was glitching, too, but there was nothing underneath him except red static. Red static…
Glitch glitch glitch.
The other four people in the room were all looking at him sympathetically, biting their lips or clasping their hands behind their backs. Fix-It Felix Jr., Wreck-It Ralph, Sergeant Calhoun, all mimicking one another's postures so closely that it could have been planned ahead of time. And anxiety tainted the space between each of those concerned frowns. Only little Vanellope seemed actually genuine, gazing up at him with mournful hazel eyes.
"Turbo, I'm sorry," she said, and if he had been thinking more clearly, maybe he would have believed her. She placed her hand on his sleeve. "I-I know that we shouldn't have kept it a secret from you, but…"
He glitched so violently that she flinched and drew back. "You were just spending time with me because of this?!" he cried, powerless to stop the hysteria in his voice. "You were just pretending to be my friend so that I wouldn't remember?!"
"I wasn't pretending!" she gasped. "At first I wanted to hate you, but I couldn't! When I actually got to know you, the real you, there was no way I could be scared of you anymore! Turbo, please – I cared about you, and I still do!"
"No you did not!"
Glitch glitch. She winced.
"You were just trying to protect yourself! You kept me here because you didn't want other people to see me! It was all about keeping me trapped! It had nothing to do with how I felt!" Turbo kept screaming, and blackness danced in front of his eyes as more and more furious glitches tore through him. "Well, I don't need to be a racer here! I don't need this game! And I don't need YOU!"
He bolted for the door. Perhaps someone's hands reached out to try and stop him; perhaps his shaky legs spilled him on the ground before he could make it. He would never know for sure. Because with the panicked shouts of his own voice still ringing in his ears, another voice interrupted, thick and venomous and too familiar for comfort…
"That's right, we don't need them!" affirmed the voice of King Candy in his head, speaking cheerfully. "All you need is me, you glitchy little weakling. And do you know why?!"
Turbo gasped. His awareness crumbled around him like a block of disintegrating code. He was falling hard, falling fast…but his legs were still pushing him forward, because a lurking presence that he had sometimes sensed but never given any thought to was now entwining itself around his consciousness and squeezing with more strength than a boa constrictor.
"Because you may not remember who you are and what you stand for…"
Turbo tried to reach out and grasp at some aspect of reality, and missed. It was too late for him to fight. He hadn't known that there was anyone occupying his head except him, but now that he had left himself vulnerable, the old coding and bad memories and malware were taking over.
"…but I do!"
And the last thing he heard before blacking out was the horrible laugh in the horrible voice of the thing that he had been for so long…the thing that had chosen to call itself King Candy.