I decided to take a three-day hiatus from my social circle for reasons I am too tired to explain here. I deactivated my Facebook, abandoned my Twitter, closed my Thunderbird, told three or four of my friends to take care of my affairs, and left my phone on the bedroom table. Aside from this blog of which only a handful of my friends know of, I am completely cut off from my friends. I do not care much about Facebook, Twitter and e-mail, but the decision to shelf my phone is what made this hiatus quite challenging. I am never without my phone. Well, until now.
I woke up with no plan in my head. The hiatus began exactly the midnight before, and with nothing to do and lots of hours to spare, I decided to groom up and visit the mall. My initial plan was to look for a new book, but as I passed the arcades and saw no one was playing House of the Dead 4, I cannot resist to play one short round. Although I have probably completed the game about a dozen times and played it for twice that number, this shoot-it-up game has never lost its appeal on me. I am not really much of a Tekken guy.
I triggered the secret code to show my score (it is turned off by default for reasons I cannot fathom), swiped my arcade card, and started to shoot my way through the horde of zombies as Player One.
I am no expert of the game, but I am no amateur either. I delivered head shot after head shot. My points racked up. My accuracy score never lost its momentum. The bosses fell on their knees while inflicting the least damage possible. It was, in summary, a massacre.
I was watching the short cutscene after finishing Chapter 3 of the game when a kid, probably 7 or 8, stood beside me to watch. I looked at him and saw that he was simply itching to play the game. You can see it in his brown eyes. Well, to give him credit, it is a zombie game. Everybody loves (killing) zombies.
“Hey,” I called out, “do you want to play?”
The boy shook his head, smiling.
“Where are your parents?” I asked.
It took him a few seconds to reply. “Only my sister, sir. She’s in the grocery.”
“Well,” I said, swiping my card and giving him the gun for Player Two, “you can have this then. I need help.”
The title card for the next chapter appeared on the screen. The scary opening music blasted from the surround speakers. The boy immediately took the gun from my hands, nodded his head, looked at the big screen before us, and lost his smile. There was a look of concentration on his face. I smiled at this, positioned my middle finger on the trigger and waited.
I need not wait longer. The zombies attacked and we shoot – the game begins!
As we fought our way from the subway to the surface, looking for a way to find and destroy the source of the zombie apocalypse, I realized that my young partner is a complete amateur. He was shooting in the wrong places. He forgot to reload at the most crucial moments. He kept shaking the gun when the moment did not call for shaking. I kept saving his ass, killing the zombies who went after him, that I forgot to save my own damn ass. At the end of the day, after we fell the big fat Temperance, I only had 2 lives left, my partner 4 lives, and one credit left in my arcade card.
I sighed and docketed the gun for a while as the cutscene for the next chapter began. I looked at the kid. He was staring intently at the screen, his finger still on the trigger of the gun. I smiled, despite the hardship of trying to actually finish the game and saving his life. At least the boy is having fun.
“Hey,” I called out. “Relax. The game is yet to start.”
He grinned at me. He relaxed his grip of the gun but kept his finger on the trigger.
The title card for Chapter 5 lit on the screen. My heart stopped and I immediately felt pity for the boy. I forgot that I hate this Chapter. I really hate this Chapter. The boss for this stage, Star, is a complete jerk and a cheat. I will get to that later.
The boy and I started good. Three minutes into the game, the boy was finally comfortable with the gun and was going Rambo with the zombies. His shots were far from perfect, but they did nicely. They do, indeed. There was a slight trouble when the zombie horde went after him, but with my assistance and my partner’s don’t-mess-with-my-unlimited-ammo-gun attitude, we eliminated the entire horde. The boy lost one life during the crazy shooting, but that was only because the hit came from fucking nowhere. I added one to mine, thanks to a bonus, so as we stood on the lobby of Goldman Headquarters, the source of all evil, my partner and I were at three lives each.
It was then Star came swooping with anger on his heart and vengeance on his soul.
Let me describe this scum Star. Although a monster, Star appears as a humanoid with pale white skin and an almost featureless face. He wears a red long coat and have knives as his primary weapons. His weakness is the rather obvious large scar on his chest. It would have been easy for anyone to shoot the scar if not for Star’s ability to hover around the screen like a maniac under the influence of meth. This makes shooting him incredibly difficult as he sometimes levitate off-screen. During my entire lifetime of playing the game, I never escaped Star without losing a life.
Anyway, so there we are, Star hovering before us – taunting and knives glimmering.
We began to shoot.
“The chest,” I said to the boy. “Hit him on the chest.”
Although the boy tried his best to hit the increasingly infuriating boss, his trigger finger was no match against Star’s speed. I tried to compensate, but all it took was a short delay on reloading my light gun and Star was able to slash his way through our defenses and decrease our lives to two each.
“Okay,” I said to the boy, anticipating Star’s next move, “keep hitting the guy, okay? Keep hitting the guy.”
As I predicted, Star stopped to hover like a crazy maniac and began to shoot pink projectiles from his knives. As the boy kept hitting the now rather stable Star, I shot the projectiles away. We successfully deflected the deluge of pink projectiles and the boy managed to pound Star’s chest with a hundred lead bullets. I felt proud of ourselves. The boy and I make a pretty good team, I thought.
Bloodied, Star thrust his arm sideways and began to rotate in an amazing speed. This is his last attack; the last show of the town. Star slowly hovered toward us, picking up speed, his knives slashing through air and the wind beating on our faces. The boy and I raised our guns together, hoping for the best.
We shoot and Star danced along with the bullets.
It was going well until there was a swift flash of stainless steel across our faces and everything went pitch-black.