by James Van Pelt
***Editor's Note: Adult story. Mature themes. Not for the wee ones***
The Japanese do the cool stuff and worst stuff first. They're the fad makers: video games, reality TV, bizarre game shows, weirdness in fashion, hentai, must-own electronics--they do it first. So, Experience Arcades came from them.
People walk like the undead along the boulevard of experience booths, like cows bumping into each other. I'll bet some of them just cycle from one end of the block to the other, never going in. Many suck up novelty drinks from plastic containers shaped like skulls or coffins or inverted crucifixes. There's a booth that sells you the container and fills it with frozen margarita: Grave Grape, Killer Cactus, Lurid Lime, that sort of thing. It's a walking party. The crowd's dead inside but moving. A guy in a silk vest over a Milwaukee Brewers t-shirt coming toward me waves his hand in my face. "They're here already! You're next! You're next." So, I guess he's been to the Invasion of the Body Snatchers Experience. Give them your twenty bucks, and you get to be body snatched. A bit of drug. A lot of virtual reality, and you're a pod person for a while.
Very convincing I'm told.
A huge LED display reaches above the booth to my right over the crowd. A black-bladed pendulum swings slowly back and forth on a red background. Go in. They strap you to a table. The straps are real. Drugs again. Virtual reality goggles. The blade comes down in long, slow arcs. You get to see it. Hear the lazy swish. Feel the tug on your shirt when the razor edge first brushes against you. Oh, the agony as it cuts deeper and deeper. It's the drugs, and the virtual goggles, and willing participation.
They'll sell you a video later. Part genuine. Part special effects. You show it to your friends. "This is how I died," you can say to them. "Does anyone need me to freshen up their drink?"
How real. How real.