I quite literally woke up from a nap, turned my laptop on, and this was born in five minutes. Darkest thing I ever wrote.


Popular

Popularity came at a price. Turbo knew that more than anyone.

When you're popular, everyone expects the best out of you. Every second, every minute, every day, people keep their eye on you; half because they look up to you, half because they're secretly waiting for you to fall. They watch you like a hawk to see if you will make one wrong move, something that will prove to them that you aren't perfect and are really just like the rest of them. Anything to make them feel better about their own inferiority.

Sure, he had the perks and benefits of being Litwak's moneymaker. People were always doting him with gifts, whether it be pies from Fix-It Felix's fellow penthouse dwellers, mushroom casseroles from Mario, or front row seats to Street Fighter matches. When he strolled through Game Central Station after hours, everyone stopped to say, "How do you do!", "How's it going, Mr. Man!", and "Keep up the good work!". Sometimes, he would get asked for autographs, photo opportunities, or a kiss for the ladies.

He got invited to so many functions, it was hard to keep track of them. Heaven forbid he decline an offer; that would make people think he was a jerk or snob. To be honest, he wasn't sure when the last time he had a moment alone was. Not that he dared complain about it in public. Didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings after all, or they might think he was unappreciative and then Rumor Mill would get busy cranking out the "Extra! Extra! Turbo Ungrateful for Fans!" special morning edition.

Would you like cream and sugar with your coffee while you read?

The twins benefited from these perks as well, lavishing under his spotlight and jumping at scraps like dogs. They would be disappointed if he didn't receive all this attention because that would mean that they got none. More than once, he suspected the only reason they hung out with him was because he was popular. He was the reason they had it made in the shade, an easy-peasy life, never having to worry about getting unplugged.

Then it happened...RoadBlasters happened. One by one, the gamers eventually gravitated to the newer, flashier game and TurboTime was left with very few loyal customers. Litwak was overheard discussing pulling the plug due to lack of gamers...due to lack of popularity.

News traveled fast. Everyone was gabbing like mad when it was eventually verified that TurboTime was indeed going to get the boot.

Some people would say, "If a popular game such as that isn't safe, then what chance do we have?"

By the end of the day, they were saying, "That's life. New games are made all the time, it's part of the cycle. Out with the old, in with the new."

It soon dwindled down to, "It wasn't like it was that great a game anyway. Going around in a circle all day? Bor~ing!"

People gradually stopped talking to him when he passed by in the Station; no more asking for autographs, photos, etc. No more gifts, no more special treatments. The twins stopped hanging out with him, as if it was his fault that this was happening. It wasn't his idea that people stop playing his game.

At first, he relished in the peace and quiet he now had; then he felt bitter resentment. The gamers had been the ones to make him popular, to make him deal with his lavish lifestyle in the first place. It wasn't his fault that everyone had been drawn to his game, that his was more popular than everyone else's. He had no say in the matter. He hadn't asked for this. It was just something that happened.

So there he sat, alone and friendless, in his car as it sat parked on his yellow track while he looked outside the screen at the game that made it possible for this sudden lifestyle change to occur. RoadBlasters. He had briefly visited a few nights ago and congratulated them on their newly found popularity. Hopefully, when the time came for them to be unplugged, the time for them to stop being popular themselves, they would handle it better than he would.

Tomorrow was the day of reckoning, the day that his world would be gone forever. Turbo sat silently, his yellow eyes staring lifelessly in front of him. It was so quiet here without fans cheering for him, no roar of engines, no electronic voice announcing his wins, no little child in front of the screen verbally congratulating himself on winning the game.

What was the point? What was the point of being popular if it all came to an end? Was this one of life's cruel jokes? Why did it have to happen to him? What did he do to deserve having to suffer through this? Those other games were lucky. They were never as popular as he, never known the joys of perks and benefits. They would never know the responsibilities and stress that went along with it. When the time came for them to be unplugged, it would not have as great an effect on them.

He hated them for that.

Sunlight spilled through the glass door of the arcade, morning arriving at last. Soon, very soon a man would come to pick up TurboTime and carry it off to its new destination. Another arcade? A junkyard? He did not know, nor did he care. Why should he? He wasn't going to be around to witness it.

Turbo didn't shed any tears for there was no reason to cry; it would do no good. The most popular character in the entire arcade and this is how it ends. Alone with no friends or family. No good-byes, no pats on the back, no "job well done", nothing. Just him and his car.

Again, what was the point in being popular? He was nothing but a broken, fallen avatar who once had been riding on top of the world now at the bottom of the heap.

He saw Litwak walking slowly towards his cabinet, hesitating a moment as if he did not really want to say goodbye to his former moneymaker. That's all he ever was, right? Just something to make money with. What kind of life is that anyway?

He wasn't sure what was going to happen if he was unplugged while still in the game. Would he die or he would float around in black inky nothingness? Would he simply go to sleep until the game was plugged back in? Would he still have his memories or would he be a clean slate? He did not know, but if there was a chance that he would wake up and have to go through another lifetime of suffering with popularity, he wanted nothing to do with it.

He drove his car away from the track and on through the train-less tunnel until he reached the Station, the one other place he didn't want to be at right now. Luckily for him, it was mostly empty because everyone was preparing for Quarter Alerts inside their own game...something he didn't have to worry about anymore. He saw the twins out of the corner of his eye, coming out of Tapper's both drunk as a skunk. A flicker of regret washed over him that he had let them down, that he had failed to remain popular for them. That's when he realized he couldn't live out here as a homeless avatar...not with people either looking at him with pity or worse: disinterest.

He opened his mouth and raised the gun he had stolen from a party the other night in A.P.B., biting down on the cold hard muzzle. No one had even noticed he'd been there. Go figure. So much for being turbo-tas-

click

BANG!

-tic.