We went to Chuck E. Cheese’s for my sister's birthday. I smelled the familiar scent of overpriced pizzas disregarded upon the same crowded tables, and saw young and innocent faces beaming with joy from cherubic cheeks. Many of them bounded towards the ski-ball lanes, eager to earn the paper currency that was needed to claim their winnings. It was the sight of these children that told me that throughout all of these years and the many times I'd visited, a certain purple clad mouse was still steadily maintaining his original course.
The dozens of brands of candy were the same as they had been years ago, being stuffed greedily into the mouths of kindergartners and elementary schoolers as they walked out the same glass doors, and the animatronics were the same animatronics, the same glassy eyes and the same slightly worn clothes seeming to complement their restricted movement, and splayed in front of them were the same dozens of half-eaten pizza crusts and candy wrappers. Beyond the abandoned food, there were the same sneakers shoved hurriedly into cubby holes, the same dried boogers, the torn tickets, and forgotten possessions of previous visitors to this nostalgic establishment. I looked on to the intertwining crawl space to the left of the entrance. Many younger visitors often spent their last ten or twenty minutes within the tunnels, almost in a ritualistic manner. Beneath the crawl space, I jumped out and startled my sister and her friends at the bottom of the exit slide, and they then cried out, rushed back to the entrance, and scrambled back into the maze of multicolored tubes. There was no difference in the reaction that these girls had to the girls from my past visits that were a part of the crystal waters of memory.
I then recalled a party herein four years ago, when I too was engulfed by the bright flashing lights, golden tokens, and prizes of sizes both large and small. Once I’d placed my present on the table, I rushed off to cater to my immediate desires. I rode across the snow bound perils of Arctic Thunder, did battle against the Insectoid army in Galaga, fought back against the forces of Skynet in Terminator Salvation, and smacked a bright green air hockey puck with dozens of scratches and dents serving as a testament to its years of service. Our party was then summoned to feast on a myriad of pizzas, all of which we thoroughly enjoyed even though cheese was the general favorite, which was of course appropriate for our age. Chuck E. Cheese and his merry band themselves even played a tune for us, a lighthearted prelude for the troubling event to come.
After we’d finished eating, we all ventured forth to the Active Zone. At the time it had far fewer scratches, dried mucus, and signs of disrepair. As I crawled inside I felt the firmness of the plastic and metal nuts and bolts that held it together, smelled the sweat and farts of children who were either still inside or had already left, and heard the sounds of youthful laughter and the padding of hands and knees. However, another sound suddenly pierced the usual tumult, the sound of a child in distress as it reverberated throughout the tunnels. Our group headed towards the source of the sound and found a bawling boy about our age who happened to be a bit on the heavy side, to say the least, and had gotten stuck in the exit slide, blocking the main exit. All of us then backtracked and exited through the entrance to the Active Zone and were then hurriedly rushed out. The last I ever saw of that boy was when two men were removing the plastic tubing to get him out as he continued to cry at the top of his lungs while his mother tried desperately to calm him down. I was then pulled back to the present day as I heard my mother call to me that we were leaving and to round up the remaining children.
As we left, I saw the look of sorrow on my sister's face, for she knew that she was returning to the confinement of rules. In that moment I realized that I would not allow myself to become a complacent animatronic, worn and disregarded. I would choose to live my life as a challenge to overcome, and once I had bested it, I would know true victory.