MARIO MUST DIE

(11/5/93)

 

Pac-Man took a long drag off his cigarette and threw his feet up on the ottoman. He let the smoke hiss slowly out of his lungs and circle his head. Donkey Kong cracked his knuckles and looked at the group.

 

“You’re probably wondering why I called this meeting,” Kong said as he gazed into the half-shaded faces of his contemporaries.

 

“Cut the dung, Kong! What do you want,” Q-Bert shot back, rolling his eyes and taking a large swig of his bourbon.

 

Kong’s expression grew distant as he stood and started to pace. It was a story he’d told himself many times over the years. “He hounded me everywhere. We played our parts every waking moment. It was a scream – a great life. People loved us. We had cereals, underwear, TV development deals. We were like brothers and we were second only to you, Pac.” Pac-Man nodded in silent acknowledgement of the comment.  “When Junior was old enough, we brought him into the act a little. I thought nothing could stop our little family. Then... the fighting started.” Kong stopped and finished off his scotch.

 

Dig-Dug leapt from his seat. “What the hell are you going on about, Kong?”

 

Kong turned and bared his fangs. “I’M TALKING ABOUT MARIO!”

 

At the sound of the name, an uneasiness moved through the group.

 

Centipede reared back and hissed at the name. The Pole Position driver shook with rage. Frogger was too dazed to say anything.

 

“Now that I have your full attention,” Kong said. “Mario threw me to the side like I was a broken copy of Yar’s Revenge and took off with his brother. He left our little family for his new gig. No one wanted me without Mario. Work dried up. Then... Junior got sick.” Kong put his face in his hands and sobbed. Defender put a hand on the gorilla’s back to steady him and help quiet the pain.

 

The Asteroid triangle spun to the middle of the room. “When Mario sold out with his brother, the union lost all its negotiating leverage. That’s when we lost ground and it took money out of our pockets.”

 

“And food off our tables,” The Burger-Time Chef chimed in.

 

“Did you hear,” said Pengo. “They’re giving the game away free with the system. Kids are leaving the arcades in droves.” The group erupted into angry shouts. Berserker leapt up and down and tried to pick a fight with Paperboy.

 

Q-Bert climbed to the top of all the furniture and screamed over all of it. “They’re all right! Mario’s too powerful in the business. None of us can resurrect our careers while he’s around!!!”

 

The rage in the group reached its boiling point. Bottles were smashed. Fists were being driven through the wall. Donkey Kong let the ape inside him go and he howled at the top of his lungs.

 

“Dad?”  The voice was tiny and frail. The crazed games stopped and turned to the stairs leading up out of the basement. Donkey Kong Jr. was standing there, his leg braces straining to support his weight. He leaned on his crutches and looked at his father. “Dad? Whatever you’re going to do, please don’t. Not for me.”

 

Kong couldn’t look at him. “Go back to bed, Junior. You don’t understand.”

 

The young ape started to cry. “It’s about Mario again, isn’t it?! Dad, just let it go! Please!”

 

Kong raced to him as all eyes turned. “I’m doing this for you son. I’m doing it for all of us.”

 

“Please, dad,” he pleaded with his father.

 

Kong looked into his boy’s eyes for a long time. Then he shook his head. “I’m sorry son.”

 

A tear sprinted down Donkey Kong Junior’s cheek as his father turned back to the circle of angry friends chanting and pumping their fists in solidarity. He turned and hobbled back up the stairs.

 

The anger in the room came to a fever pitch. They were united in a cause. They knew what needed to be done. The cheering stopped as Pac-Man stood up. The others fell silent. Pac hadn’t spoken for years. The downward spiral of his life and losing it all to Mario had cost him his ranking as number 1, his international merchandising deals and eventually his wife. He stood in the semi-shade of the room, his face half obscured by a haze of smoke. He flicked the ash from his cigarette to the floor, the tiny fleckles drifting like lazy snow. He raised the smoke to his mouth and took in another lungful.

 

“He’s too powerful,” his dulled yellow face said, exhaling smoke. “We can’t have that.”

 

The group erupted again.

 

Out on the street it began as an almost imperceptible pulsing from the house of  D. Kong and his handicapped son. Then it began to grow in intensity until it became the unmistakable sound of two dozen furious, computer generated voices chanting.

 

They were chanting; “Mario must die!”