Updated: Feb 2, 2022
I was beyond excited to finally be celebrating my 12th birthday party at FunTime Happy Pizza Arcade.
My parents and I had been planning this party for months now, and nothing was going to stop me from having the best time with my friends. I had only just turned twelve, and a part of me thought I was a bit too old for kids’ pizza restaurants. Despite this, I was still giddy knowing I’d get to spend the day celebrating with friends from school and playing arcade games.
On the day of the party, I walked into the arcade entrance with my mom and dad. My parents carried various wrapped gift boxes and balloons in their hands. I had a big smile on my face, because I was expecting a party I would never forget. Little did I know how right I was.
“Happy birthday Stick Rick!” came a familiar voice from across the arcade lobby.
It was my best friend, Janique. She gave me the nickname Stick Rick because we bonded in middle school after she caught me outside playing with a pile of sticks. As it tends to happen, the nickname stuck.
My real name is Ricky Jakes, but since I was older now I preferred to be called Rick.
“Hey Janique! Are you ready to get your butt kicked in Ninja Turtles?” I teased her. She playfully punched me on the shoulder.
“If I’m not mistaken, I believe I was the one to kick your butt last time. And probably a dozen times before that.”
“Touche,” I said with a sheepish grin.
“Little Ricky! How’s it going nerd?” came another familiar voice.
Harrison, a pain in the butt, had unfortunately shown up. He was a kid from my school that I was obligated to invite to my party, because his mom and my mom are “good friends”.
“Get with the times Harrison, being a nerd is cool now,” I told him with confidence.
Harrison laughed sarcastically, then reached up and pulled my Ninja Turtles baseball cap down over my head.
Janique pulled her arm back, getting ready to slug him.
“Who’s ready for pizza?” my dad said enthusiastically, trying to break the tension.
All of us sat down at a long set of tables that were adorned with balloons, streamers, and various “happy birthday” decorations. Two of my friends, Victor and Lydia, a pair of twins, sat directly across from me. They were newer friends of mine, but we’d gotten along pretty well recently. They looked alike, almost too much alike. They were both wearing green shirts and had the same medium length black hair. Lydia wore a big white bracelet on her right wrist to help us tell them apart.
Janique sat next to me, and Harrison sat to my right, unfortunately. He kept kicking my leg on purpose.
After everyone sang happy birthday, Harrison dropped a plate with a piece of cake on it right on my lap.
“Oops! I’m so sorry Little Ricky,” he said insincerely, and grinning.
I sighed and Janique helped me clean up the mess with some napkins.
“Hey Harrison!” Lydia called from across the table. “Watch yourself now, or you’ll get eaten by the cannibal under the table.”
Harrison scoffed and turned his nose at Lydia.
“Pshhh, what are you even talking about, weirdo!”
Lydia shot him a look and cleared her throat. She shook her right hand, the big white bracelet making a clacking sound as she tucked her hair behind her right ear.
“No really, years ago there was an employee here that got really hungry one day. He went looking for some food, and ended up getting himself locked in the basement of the arcade. The building had to close for a few days for renovations, so the poor employee stayed locked down there with no food or water. He almost starved to death, until one day he found an opening in the ceiling that led to the floors beneath the restaurant.”
Everyone around us leaned in to listen to the story, minus my parents who talked with the other adults.
“So, on the day he found the opening, there was a birthday party going on, at this very same table. One of the boys, a really loud, obnoxious one-” she said this last part while looking directly at Harrison.
“-was causing trouble. The employee was crazed out of his mind with hunger by this point. Not only was he hungry before he was locked in the basement, but now he was so hungry he could eat, anything.”
Me and all my friends around the table gulped at this.
“Without any hesitation, the crazed person reached up from underneath the table and grabbed the loud, stupid boy, and ate up his entire body in a few, quick, bites.”
Lydia clicked her teeth together for dramatic effect.
“Pshh, you’re stupid! Are you kidding me? That is the dumbest story I’ve ever heard!” Harrison laughed.
“She’s not making it up!” Victor said, backing up his twin. “The boy that got eaten went to school with my older brother.”
Lydia nodded in agreement.
“Whatever!” Harrison retorted.
“Anyways,” Lydia continued. “After that, kids started disappearing randomly from all over the arcade. The crazed cannibal made his home beneath the restaurant. He made all these openings in the ceiling so he could grab kids and eat them from almost any place in the building. Some kids went into the ballpits and were never seen again. One kid went down the slides and slid directly into the giant, gaping mouth of the cannibal. But most of the kids...” Lydia paused, looking over where Harrison was seated again.
“Were snatched away and eaten. Right from underneath this table. Right where you’re seated, Harrison.”
We all started laughing as Harrison squirmed in his seat, obviously creeped out by the story. “Ugh, whatever you dorks! I’m going to go play some games.”
Harrison stood up abruptly, knocking over his chair.
The rest of us rolled our eyes and started getting up from the table as well. We made our way to the arcade midway to start checking out the games.
Victor and Lydia went to go in the playplace with some of the other kids. Janique and I went over to the Ninja Turtles arcade machine with cups full of quarters. Harrison was over at another machine trying to pull tickets out slowly, to steal more tickets.
“Okay, you’re going down this time!” I said, pressing the start button after selecting my favorite, Donatello.
“That’s what you said last time!” Janique said with the grin.
We played Ninja Turtles for a while, then we wandered around the arcade, playing some other games and winning lots of tickets.
We had just put tokens into a couple skeeball machines, when Victor came running up to us in a huff. He had a big wad of tickets in his hands, which he shoved into his back pocket.
“You guys! Lydia and I were hanging out in the ballpit, and all of a sudden she just, disappeared.”
Janique and I turned around.
“What do you mean, disappeared?” I asked curiously. Victor threw his arms up
“She’s just gone! Almost like-“
“Something pulled her down into the ballpit,” Janique finished, looking at the two of us.
“No way, that couldn’t have been what happened,” I told him. Victor had a worried look on his face.
Could it have happened? I wondered.
Janique, Victor and I made our way down the midway, passing the rows of arcade machines. Kids laughed and screamed as they played the games, the sounds of prize alarms and tickets dispensing filled the air.
We got to the playplace area with the slides and the giant ballpit. A group of kids were inside the pit, playfully chucking the colored balls at one another.
“There! That’s her bracelet!” Victor exclaimed, pointing at the center of the ballpit.
We ran over to the pit, and Victor kicked both of his shoes off, and then dove into the pit of rainbow orbs as graceful as an Olympic swimmer.
Janique stood next to me, leaning up against an machine that was shaped like a small helicopter.
Victor didn’t come back out from beneath the pit. Janique and I looked at each other with worry. Another long moment went by.
“Did you find it?” I asked, my voice cracking.
There was no movement in the pit other than the group of kids that were starting to make their way out.
Janique and I stood there for a moment, not sure what to do next.
“Got it!” Victor yelled victoriously, finally popping out of the center of the pit, holding the bracelet high in the air.
“Oh thank goodness,” I said, leaning in to grab Victor’s hand and help pull him out.
“What are you guys doing in the ballpit?! That’s for babies!”
We turned around to see a pink-cheeked Harrison, laughing and biting into a giant cotton candy cone.
“Nice to see you found a snack that can fit in that big mouth of yours,” Janique said to him, smirking and leaning up against the helicopter. Victor and I laughed hard. Harrison just scoffed and took another bite of his cotton candy.
“Whatever, you guys go have fun and get your diapers changed. I’m going to go play games with the grownups.”
I waved bye to him sarcastically, then stuck my tongue out at him. Mature, I know. But, Harrison was not a textbook representation of maturity.
“Okay, let’s go find Lydia. I’m sure she’s around here somewhere,” I said, turning back to Victor. Victor nodded his head in agreement.
“Hey Janique, do you know where-“ I started.
A piercing scream suddenly filled the air, which startled both me and Victor.
We jumped and turned to look behind us, over at the helicopter where Janique had just been standing.
“Oh no,” I said when I realized where the scream came from.
Janique was gone now too.
“How did we manage to lose two of our friends so quickly?” I said, trying not to panic. “And what made Janique scream?” Victor questioned. I didn’t want to know the answer.
Victor and I walked along the midway, looking for any sign of Lydia or Janique. We couldn’t even find anyone from our group. I guess we’d forgotten how big the arcade really was. Stopping suddenly, Victor put his arm out to stop me as well. He looked right at me.
“Do you think... Do you think that person underneath the building... Got Janique?”
I stared back at him, unsure if he was being serious.
“And Lydia?” he finished.
I scrunched my eyebrows. It couldn’t be. That was just a made up story. Wasn’t it?
“I thought you guys just made that story up to scare Harrison,” I said, starting to wonder if I was being put on.
“No! We didn’t make it up. Well, some of it might be exaggerated. But my older brother Antonio told me that story, and even my parents know about it. A kid from Antonio’s school really went missing.”
I looked off into the distance. A couple of kids were playing a whack-a-mole game with big plastic mallets.
“Yeah, but they probably weren’t eaten by a cannibal that lives underneath a kid’s pizza arcade,” I said to Victor, then waited for his reply. He didn’t answer. Instead, he had a worried look in his eyes.
“Come on, that story is too ridiculous to be true,” I said, letting out a worried sign. “Right?”
We continued searching near the kids arcade machines, followed by the adult arcade machines. This is where they kept the violent games we weren’t allowed to play, like House of the Dead. “There’s my dad! He’s playing the Terminator 2 game!” I exclaimed, pointing across the room, past a row of lightgun games. “Come on, we gotta go tell him what happened!”
We made our way across the rows of machines over to my dad.
He would understand, he would listen to us. There was something bad going on here, and I could feel it in my bones.
The loud RAT-A-TAT-TAT of the Terminator 2 arcade game filled the air, as my dad gripped the massive gun controller, shooting digital bullets at the screen.
“Dad!” I yelled, trying to get him to hear me over the loud gunfire surrounding us. He was so focused on the game, he didn’t even glance up. We walked right up behind him.
“Dad!” I yelled again, this time getting him to finally turn around and look at us. His face lit up when he realized who was yelling at him.
“Oh, hey kids!” he said with a smile, then turned to start firing at the evil robots on screen again.
I shot Victor a look that said, playtime is over.
“Dad! We need your help!”
My dad stopped firing and looked at me.
“What? What’s wrong Ricky?” He finally let go of the gun and turned toward us, a worried look on his face.
“It’s Janique and Lydia! They’re both, gone.” I said with panic in my voice.
“We think they were both taken!” Victor said, equally as panicked.
My dad blinked like he was trying to process what we just said.
“Taken? What do you mean taken?”
Victor and I glanced at each other. We knew what we were about to tell him was going to sound ridiculous. I tried to think of a way to phrase it that didn’t sound crazy.
“We think they were taken by the cannibal that lives underneath the pizza place and eats children!” Victor bellowed.
I let out an audible “oof” knowing my dad wouldn’t believe us now.
And just like I thought, my dad’s face changed from concerned to looking like he caught us redhanded.
“Oh, I get it! Good one, guys.”
“No, really dad!” I pleaded. “He’s being serious!”
My dad laughed at this, then signed and turned back to the arcade machine.
“Ugh, you guys made me miss getting the high score for this joke.”
“It’s not a joke!” I yelled at my dad.
Why do parents never want to believe their children? I thought to myself, angrily.
“Mr. Jakes! We aren’t kidding around! There’s seriously something bad going on h-“
Before Victor could even finish his sentence, a massive, threatening looking arm popped up from underneath him, and grabbed him by the legs. Victor screamed as he was pulled underneath the floor of the restaurant to be eaten. Eaten alive by the cannibal.
I yelled and my dad stared in disbelief as Victor landed hard on his elbows and knees. His prize tickets flew out of his back pocket as he rolled over and slammed into one of the lightgun cabinets. Suddenly, an evil cackle sounded through the air. A horrible, familiar cackle... “Whoops! Next time you should double tie your shoelaces so you don’t trip!”
Harrison stepped out from between two of the arcade machines, laughing hysterically. He had been crouching on the floor and had yanked Victor down by the legs when he wasn’t paying attention.
My dad and I rushed to help Victor up, and my dad angrily shooed Harrison away, who cackled like a hyena and ran off with Victor’s tickets in his arms.
“Are you alright man?” I said, helping Victor to his feet.
“I’m fine. I just really hate that guy,” Victor said, brushing himself off.
My dad didn’t say anything, but he nodded at us in agreement.
“What happened here guys?” came a familiar voice behind us.
The three of us spun around to see Janique and Lydia both walking up to us, with slushies in hand.
“Hey! Where the heck have you guys been?” I shouted in disbelief.
“Yeah!” Victor chided in. “We thought something bad happened to you!”
Janique giggled and took a sip of her blue slushie.
“Nothing bad happened to us, I went to use the bathroom and when I came back you guys were gone,” Lydia said, holding her red slushie with her bare wrist. Victor noticed this and pulled the white bracelet out of his back pocket and handed it to her.
“And what about you?” I said to Janique. “You screamed and then you disappeared!”
Janique giggled again. She was always giggling at me.
“I don’t know what scream you heard, but it wasn’t mine. I went back to our tables to get some money so I could play some more arcade games. When I got to the table, Lydia was there doing the same. So we both went and got some slushies.”
My shoulders relaxed. Okay, so maybe we overexaggerated a little bit. But still, it was a scary way to spend my birthday, and I was tired from running around. Thankfully, my mom came by to let us know that it was time for cake and ice cream.
Janique, Victor, Lydia and I all made our way back to the tables, joking and laughing along the way.
We sat at the tables as everyone watched me open my gifts. My Aunt Lynn and Uncle Carl handed me their gifts, which were beautifully wrapped.
“Thanks guys!” I said excitedly.
My family and friends all looked on as I opened my aunt and uncle’s gifts.
One of the gift boxes I opened to reveal a set of SpongeBob pajamas. My face reddened a bit, because it felt like a gift for a five year old. Then again, I was having my birthday party at a kids’ pizza place.
“Thank you Aunt Lynn and Uncle Carl,” I said, trying to put the PJs away before more people noticed. One person did notice alright.
“Hey, nice PJs!” Harrison yelled at me.
He was busy eating the leftover cake off of everyone’s plates, and had a mouthful of chewed up cake that fell down his chin.
“Hope there’s a buttflap for when your parents have to change your diaper!” Harrison cackled loudly.
A couple of the other kids in the group chuckled. My face turned even redder.
Janique stepped up beside me.
“You know, I think those PJs are pretty awesome,” she said to me, which made me turn red for different reasons.
Harrison realized nobody was listening to him as he cracked more baby jokes at my expense. He was the only person sitting on his side of the table.
“Hey everyone!” Harrison called out. Everyone, including most of the adults, rolled their eyes. “Guess what Little Ricky said earlier!”
I sighed. Why couldn’t Harrison just shut up, forever, I thought.
Harrison grabbed a bunch of used napkins and wiped frosting off his face. All it did was smear more frosting down his chin.
“Ricky thought there was actually a cannibal underneath the floor, that ate his dopey friends!” Harrison let out his horrible cackle again, then chucked his napkin down on the ground.
We all turned away from him, trying to not engage with the worst party guest in history.
The napkin fell down by Harrison’s shoe and landed next to a crack in the floor beneath him. All was still for a moment, and then the crack shifted.
The napkin slid off Harrison’s shoe and fell into the crack, which was starting to get wider. Harrison slowly stopped cackling and glanced down to notice that the floor beneath his feet was sliding open. All he could do was let out a confused “Huh?” before a pair of strong hands popped out from beneath the floor lightning fast, and grabbed him by the legs.
Harrison screamed as the arms dragged him underneath the table.
We all stared as Harrison was pulled down beneath the table, beneath the floor, and then finally disappeared, his screams fading into the distance.
The hands then pulled the boy down into a giant, gaping mouth filled with sharp, jagged teeth. The mouth chomped up and down. Harrison kept on screaming and screaming, until he could scream no longer.
Harrison had finally shut up. Forever.