The Bin of Nintendo Power

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My father's moving. He's lived in the same apartment for a decade. Sometimes, I drive four hours to help him pack, but most of the time, he's packing alone. The four-hour drive kills my back.

After I park the car in the midnight dark and head up the elevator to his apartment, he hands me a bin full of magazines. "Nintendo Power," he says, "from when you were a kid."

I'm genuinely excited. I worry people can't tell when I'm excited, because I'm autistic—which makes me nervous, because I'm anxious—but my father is this way, so when he sees me squirm over the bin of magazines, he understands.

♦️

I'm flipping through the three-ring binder that holds the Super Mario Bros. 3 strategy guide my dad once dismembered with a box cutter. I was using the Nintendo Power guide so much, it was falling apart, so he preserved it with sheet protectors.

I've gone through it several times, as I did in childhood, even though I'm thirty now.

Every time I flip through the explanation of the mini card game—a memory game, where the deck is flipped face down, and the player has three chances to match pairs—I swear the images have changed.

The cards change order, frequency, meaning.

Did the images of the cards change in the magazine when I was a child, too? Was I less anxious—more apt to believe—when I was an elementary school kid?

♦️

Lately I've been playing memory games with a Las Vegas deck of cards, at least when my husband's at work; when he can't see me losing parts of myself.

I'm worried, when I leave the room, the cards reset, just as they shift about in the Super Mario Bros. 3 strategy guide.

I fear, if I leave and come back to any room—anywhere—the landscape suddenly changed.

Is it true our world is just a virtual reality, glitching between our observations, as waves of light turn to particles in slit experiments?

Perhaps this Error 404 change the landscape of other digital worlds, too. It could be it isn't the strategy guide changing, but the game...

♦️

So I dust off the Super Nintendo in the guest room and pop in Super Mario All-Stars, then slide to Super Mario Bros. 3 on the selection menu.

At first, the game plays fine. The playing map dances to the music. The levels are ripe with secret level-ups and coins that come to me through the muscle memory in my hands.

Then the mini card game appears on the playing map.

When I choose to play the card game, the screen turns to snow, like a badly tuned television. I walk closer to the screen, confused.

Then Blinky, the Pac-Man ghost, leaps out into the world, beeping.

I scream. Fall back on my ass. As I scramble to my feet running out of the room, I think, Blinky isn't even a Nintendo character.

♦️♦️♦️

First draft: October 18
Word count: 497 (not including A/N)
Inspired from: Halloween Vault contest, "Unleash the Souls," located here:
https://my.w.tt/pJLVezmJ0Q

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