Get Over Here
Robert James Russell
“Enter the blood code,” I said, pausing my game and turning toward them. “You remember it?”
Cole sighed, looked up from the glitchy fifteen-inch screen as he fumbled the Super Nintendo control in his hand. I just knew he was getting it all sweaty. “What is it again?”
“Last time I’m telling you,” I said.
Mike looked up from the Game Informer. “Doesn’t really matter,” he said.
“Are you kidding? Have you played Mortal Kombat without blood? It’s…” I stopped, thought of the right word. “It’s pointless.”
“I don’t understand why they didn’t put blood in it in the first place,” he said.
“Because it’s Nintendo,” I said. I looked around the room—the Craft Room, we called it—deep in the recesses of the basement, littered with our family’s golf sets and various childhood drawings and stacks of various almanacs and worn National Geographics that I had thumbed through a thousand times. I leaned back into my corner—where the twenty-inch was set up with the Sega—and I pointed dramatically at it. “That’s why this will outlast them all,” I said. “They appreciate the gore. They appreciate that we appreciate it.”
“Just,” Cole said in his sad, quiet voice, “what’s the code?”
“A, B, A, C, A, B, B.” I sat back in my chair, triumphant.
“How long that take you to memorize?” Mike asked. “Too long, probably.”
“I play it a lot,” I said. “Not that long.”
We both watched Cole enter the code—incorrectly—and sulk, trying again and failing before finally getting it the third time, and as Scorpion said “Get over here” to indicate that indeed the gore would now be rampant, he sat up in his chair. “Alright,” he said. “Let’s do this.”
“You know the finishing moves?” I asked. “Oh, and you can do the pit fatality now. Do you know that one?”
“Just let me play,” he said, seeming bolder, more confident than before.
He selected Johnny Cage and I sighed, turned back to the Sega. I unpaused the game and went back to exploring New Granseal, making my way to the Tactical Base.
“Hey,” Mike said just as I found a Cheerful Bread in a barrel off the side of a house. “Can I play a game when you die next?”
“No,” I said. “Sorry.”
“Because I have to beat this game. And anyway, you don’t just die like that in this one. Not how it works.”
“Just save it, then. Play later.”
“It’s Sega Channel,” I said, annoyed. “I only have until the end of the month to play this because I don’t know what the next month’s games will be.” I began battling a Vampire Bat, easily taking him out with Bowie’s steel sword. “So if I don’t beat this, I’ve wasted all this time.” Pause. “It’s why you guys’re playing the SNES.”
“But SNES sucks,” he said. “And there’s that comic book game on there I like.”
“Comix Zone?” I laughed. “It’s just okay. You’re not missing anything.”
“Can’t you play later when we’re gone?”
“I thought you guys wanted to come over and play games,” I said. “That’s what we’re doing. Why don’t you play him in Mortal Kombat?”
“Naw,” he said.
“Well, you can take a turn at this if you want. I’ll just have to tell you what to do.”
“What’s it called?”
“Shining Force II,” I said. “One of the best games ever made.”
Mike sat up, looked over my shoulder at the screen as I battled a trio of Green Oozes. “It’s a RPG.”
“I don’t like those.”
“Well it’s one of the best.”
“What about NBA Jam?”
“You always beat me.”
“But it’s fun. We can put in the code to be Bill Clinton.”
“It’s not fun when you beat me,” I said.
“God,” Cole said tossing the controller on the tabletop and standing. Mike and I turned, alarmed. “Liu Kang is fucking impossible.”
I leaned over. “Don’t swear, alright? My mom comes down here all the time.”
“Whatever,” Mike said standing. “Let’s go play basketball.”
I stood too, taller than them both but thinner, slighter. “Ball’s a little flat.”
Mike slapped my shoulder. “What’s the point of getting that sweet hoop if you’re not going to use it?”
“You been practicing?” Cole asked.
“A little,” I said, lying. “Trying to.”
“Then let’s play twenty-one,” Mike said.
“Wait,” I said standing and holding out the Sega controller. “You can play whatever you want. Really.”
“Naw, let’s just go outside. It’s nice out anyway,” one of them said—I wasn’t sure who—then I was being ushered upstairs and outside, being handed a basketball and told to shoot. I did—and missed—and they snickered, told me to try again, but I said my ankle hurt and instead watched as the two of them passed the ball to one another, did layups and near-dunks, complicated trick shots displaying a level of choreography I couldn’t even begin to contemplate—a paired coordination between them that I shared with no one. They continued on like that, laughing together as they played in perfect tandem and talking in codes about girls at school while I looked on from the front porch, alone, sun in my eyes, skin starting to turn pink from exposure, thinking about the best route to take to Ribble. About defeating the witches and obtaining the Power Ring. About defeating Zeon and saving the world.