Chapter 2: Getting a Life
"You know, when I played this game yesterday, I don't remember it actually forcing us to live the life."
Yusuke looked up from his piles of greenbacks and stared at the other characters sitting around the table. Nate was the only other person who seemed slightly amused with his life aside from the handcuff that now connected him to the arm of his chair and he had pickpocket written across his forehead. Everyone else seemed either confused or annoyed.
Jim was glaring at the piles of papers and forms marked with the seal of the Chartered Professional Accountants in front of him and seemed to be considering suicide. Kuwabara was staring in confusion at the camera crew that had appeared out of nowhere and was now filming him and narrating his actions as if he was a poker star. Leon was coughing up dust and trying to push the old school miner hat farther up so he could actually see the board. The final player, Hansen was still trying to remove the paint splatters that had appeared on his cloths and ignore the two kids that were now holding onto his legs and demanding a horsy-ride.
Okay, Yusuke thought, maybe annoyed was an understatement. Still, at least they weren't bored anymore. With the high piles of snow all over the world due to a group of someone's getting a little too happy with their freeze rays, there wasn't much that could be done until it all melted. The whole station was getting stir-crazy and looked about ready to break into a riot that could rival Lord of the Flies when the nurses and fairies started to pass out the board games and drinking games.
At first the whole station was annoyed by the fact that the staff was pushing the games. After all, it's one thing to see them sitting in a neat pile in the common rooms. It's another to have them appear on your bed and fall onto your face every single morning. Finally, the station cracked and began playing the games. In the far corner of the common room, a group of characters were playing bridge. In the bar, noisy drinking games could be heard and Yusuke had spotted a group of animes, including Yami Yugi, playing Risk. (Why the characters would bother playing as soon as Yami joined the game was beyond Yusuke though.)
For now, the plan was working. The possibility of a riot was remote. Characters were amused and the freezing outside was slowly melting. It would be another week before it was all melted but at least they were busy now. Although in Jim's case, maybe they were too busy.
Kuwabara was just reaching for the dice when Jim threw up his hands. "That's it! I quit. There is no way all these exams are worth the raise! Those stuck-up CPAs can go—" Jim's voice trailed off as the circle in the middle of the board started to glow. Unlike the other Game of Life games, this one didn't have the spinner in the centre that informed you how many moves you could make. Instead you rolled dice to determine your path and the board had a blue stone in the centre which showed images of your "life".
Right now, it was glowing blue as black shapes appeared in the stone showing Jim writing another exam. The stone stopped glowing a second later and another exam booklet fell from the sky and onto the pile in front of Jim. The animated character could barely see the board now from behind all the tests.
"I think it's telling you to keep studying," Kuwabara said as he picked up the dice, barely hiding the annoyed twitch when the camera crew behind him started muttering about how they could hype this moment to get more ratings. He threw down the dice and watched as the first die bounced off Leon's playing piece which looked suspiciously similar to the dirt-covered formally-CIA agent. The second die rolled off the table but no one reached for it as Kuwabara's playing piece had already begun to slide forward towards the fork in the road. Without giving Kuwabara a choice, the piece slide down the right side of the fork. The piece passed under the banner which read "unexpected consequences."
"Looks like Hansen isn't going to be the only single parent," Nate joked as Kuwabara's piece halted on top of the space which a large x in red writing. It was the same space Hansen had landed on early in the game when the group was passing through their teen years. For Hansen, the unexpected consequences had been having a kid in one night stand. (Supposedly, one of the kids holding into his pant leg was his although there was no way to guess which one since they looked identical.)
The boys leaned over the board, trying to see what images or phrases would appear in the blue stone. Japanese symbols began to appear in a scrolling fashion. For the benefit of those without Japanese versions, Kuwabara read out the message.
"You are caught buying illegal drugs while filming your latest season of 'Kuwa are You?' and now are facing prison time." Two set of bars appeared from the ceiling. One quickly formed a square box around Kuwabara while the other encased his playing piece, locking both of them in their seats. "What the?"
Yusuke couldn't help but laugh. "Jeez, Kuwabara. Who knew you were so desperate for ratings?"
Kuwabara ignored Yusuke and instead focused on Nate who was also supposed to be in jail. "How come I get stuck in a box and he just gets handcuffed to the chair?"
"The game probably knew that Nate would use the bars as an instrument and drive the rest of us nuts," Leon suggested as he pushed his hat back and reached under the table for the die. He had long ago given up on removing the hat. When he reappeared, Jim passed him the second die. Leon took a second to study the board before he rolled the dice. His piece was farther behind than the others since he was the youngest. So far he had managed to avoid the unexpected consequences spaces with quite a few lucky rolls and also managed to dodge the marriage bullet. If he rolled right, he might be able to lag behind the others until everyone else reached the end.
Yusuke considered telling him to speed up since it wasn't like Leon had a choice where his piece went. However, he had a feeling the game wouldn't appreciate it and would make him have a crummy roll next. It was weird but each time one of them told the player to speed up, the game would have something horrible happen to them on their turn. When Leon had jokingly told Hansen to speed up, his next turn had him barely avoid a cave in. When Jim had told Nate to speed up, Jim had gotten one of the few professions in the game that required an extensive degree and professional exams. Everyone had caught on pretty quickly at that point not to rush each other. Still, it was pretty boring having to wait for the player.
Finally, Leon rolled his dice, managing to keep them both on the table. His piece moved forward and landed on the roll again spot. Everyone waited with bated breath as the dice rolled themselves without Leon's help. There was another "unexpected consequences" banner close to Leon's position. However, the dice would have to roll a twelve to get onto that track of life. If the dice rolled that number, Leon was guaranteed a surprise. The dice stopped rolling and the table burst into laughter. Two sixes. What embarrassing trouble could a miner possibly cause?
"The mafia consider you to be a loose end after one of your clients is arrested while filming his reality TV show. They trap you in a cave in while you are working and you have only enough air for three hours. Damn it," Leon muttered as he looked above his head. Bright red numbers appeared over his head and started to flash counting down his last three hours of life.
"This game really doesn't have a clue who is playing, does it?" Jim asked as Hansen grabbed the dice.
"Well it had Nate pinned pretty quickly," Hansen said as he threw down the dice without taking the time to shake them. "Huh. Another unexpected consequence."
"Looks like these are getting pretty expected," Yusuke joked as Hansen quickly scanned the phrase for signs of another kid appearing.
"A distressed mother found out her hidden lover had been caught in a cave in. In her hysteria, she convinces the other parents you're giving their children sugar and have started a class-lawsuit against your daycare. Finally!" Hansen shouted as the paint and one of the kids disappeared.
Nate, however, focused on Leon's apparently misfortune. "Convincing a teenager to do drugs, dealing drugs, working for the mafia, a countdown to your death, and now sleeping with another guy's wife? Jeez, Leon. Any other secrets you want to tell us?"
"I hate this game?" Leon offered with a smile as he passed Yusuke the dice. His hat fell over his eyes in the process leaving him blind for the moment.
"Well there won't be any unexpected consequences this turn," Yusuke announced as he lifted the dice. "I'm nowhere near them." The dice fell onto the board and Yusuke's piece seemed to jump to the space that said "Go to nearest unexpected consequence space."
"Damn it," Yusuke muttered as he read out the Japanese to the group. "You invested too much money in an illegal gambling ring that operated under a daycare and was discovered during a lawsuit investigation and have lost everything including a kidney. How did I lose a kidney?" Within a instance all the money that had been in front of Yusuke disappeared and he was willing to bet that if he lifted his shirt he would see the scar left by the removal of the kidney.
Luckily for Yusuke, Kuwabara wasn't going to let his buddy sit in confusion for too long. "You probably lost it in a bet."
"Ha. Sucks for them. I've been drinking since I was eleven."
"That's your liver, Yusuke," Leon replied without even lifting his hat.
"I think your kidneys get pretty destroyed too," Hansen argued.
"Whatever," Nate decided. "My turn." The table was silent for a moment as Nate's future appeared in the stone.
You were framed by a rich man who is missing a kidney and just found out he had three days to live— Looks like you needed that kidney, Yusuke— So you broke out of jail broke out of prison rather than wait for parole and now find yourself wandering around a creepy mostly-abandoned town that is filled with fog and monsters and a lot of free real estate." Nate paused to appreciate the lack of handcuffs as a slight fog began to swirl around him.
"Looks like the game is family with Silent Hill," Kuwabara noted.
"Or it has something sick planned for me," Jim replied as he looked at his piece's place on the board. It was just one spot away from being under the "unexpected consequences" banner. The other teen sighed as he picked up the dice and dropped them. Predictably they landed on snake eyes. His piece passed under the banner.
"Your hard work has paid off," Jim read. He paused to watch as the papers disappeared from in front of him to be replaced with a plaque. "You are now one of the partners at the firm just in time to lose it all due to a new client convincing your partner to buy real estate in a creepy, mostly abandoned town. Jeez, thanks Nate."
With a salute that was hard to see through the fog, Nate smiled. "No problem."
The other players were not quite amused. Kuwabara grabbed at the bars surrounding his chair.
"Who the hell made this game?!"
Hansen came to the rescue as he reached behind his chair. "Hang on. I think the fairies left us the box." He lifted it above the table and they all looked at it. It looked like a normal Game of Life box until Hansen flipped it over. In the corner just underneath the bar code were the words, "From the makers of Jumanji."
The table was silent for a moment before Nate laughed and said. "Well, it's a good thing my piece didn't take the dead end then."
Disclaimer: If you recognized it, I probably don't own it.