Episode 018

The Devourer

March 1984

Adam had a pocket full of quarters and a plan. He would finally get his initials in the number one spot on an arcade game at The Machine Shop- the local video game arcade. It stood next to the Olde English Tavern on Westfield, across from the Five and Dime. 

He stepped into the dimly lit arcade with its sticky floors and aroma of stale popcorn and B.O. The manager, Mike, grunted a half-hearted greeting at him from behind the counter before sticking his face back into a magazine. 

Adam had his heart set on achieving the high score on Joust. So far he had made it to the list of “Daily Buzzards” - a leaderboard of the highest scores for a particular day. But his dream remained to place his initials at the top of the permanent list of “Champions”. 

Walking to the back of the Machine Shop, Adam almost dropped to the floor in shock when he saw the Joust game had been moved. Nearly running around the place twice to find where his favorite game had gotten to, Adam could not believe that it was nowhere to be seen.

“Mike! MIKE!” he said to the manager, who barely lifted his gaze from the periodical, “What happened to Joust?”

“What?” said Mike, his mouth half full of a chocolate bar.

“Joust! The game. It’s missing!”

“Oh. Yeah. The owner took it out. He put a new game in.”

“I don’t want to play a new game. I want to play JOUST.” said Adam.

“Well, sucks to be you then.” replied Mike before going back to his magazine, marking the conversation finished.

Frustrated, Adam walked around the arcade in search of another game on which to mark his legacy. Mario Bros was too popular. He knew that he’d never get to the top of the board on a game that all the bigger kids played. Joust was the only game he was really good at. He briefly considered Burger Time, but remembered he always got stuck between the hotdog and the pickle. 

After making three trips around the shop, he finally decided to investigate the new game the owner used to replace Joust. 

It sat in a matte black cabinet with very little artwork other than sharp teeth painted across the top of the frame beneath bold crimson letters that read “The Devourer”. 

Unlike the other games, no colorful graphics danced upon the screen. Just the words “Insert Payment” in blocky, white, pixelated letters that flickered ever so slightly. Placing his hand on the control panel of the cabinet, Adam found it to be strangely warm. Not the warmth of an electronic device, but more like...body heat. 

The buttons glistened with an eerie sheen, and the joystick, encased in a dark, polished material, felt as if it were made from something other than plastic or metal.

The instant Adam inserted a quarter, the screen sprang to life with an ominous glow. The stark graphics depicted a cavernous abyss of reddish rocky terrain adorned with jagged, teeth-like formations lining the walls. A discordant chiptune soundtrack permeated the air through unseen speakers in the machine. The synthesized music felt more like  guttural growls and agonizing groans than the typical arcade game melodies.

As he grasped the joystick, Adam felt it vibrate a little in his hand. Pressing the fire button caused a pair of fists to appear in first-person perspective. Adam had never played a game like this before, but he’d seen things like it in video game and computer magazines. When he pushed the joystick forward, the scenery moved toward him, but the hands stayed in place. This gave the illusion of moving forward through the rocky landscape. 

Pressing onward, Adam noticed that the tooth-like shapes circling the rim of the tunnel remained in place, hovering above and below his digital avatar. As he continued, they seemed to move inward, as if slowly biting down on him.

“Hey Mike!” Adam called out, “What’s the point of this game?”

Without looking up Mike replied, “I don’t play ‘em. I just pluck the quarters out at the end of the night.”

Is it just a maze? thought Adam, plunging forward through the strangely pulsating tunnels of The Devourer. This is pretty easy so far, but kind of stupid too. Then he saw ...it.

A squat pixelated beast lurked behind a stalagmite in the tunnel. It resembled a massive pink brain on legs with two meaty arms sticking out of its side and a gaping toothy maw. The matter of the brain quivered and pulsated as the digital creature lunged toward Adam.

The boy yelped and ducked out of the way before remembering it was just a video game and could not actually hurt him. Still, the thing made a terrible noise as it leapt repeatedly at his avatar, each time causing the screen to flicker and the cabinet itself to shake and rumble. With each attack from the creature the monitor became tinted with a darker and darker shade of red and the teeth surrounding the avatar moved closer and closer inward. 

Adam used the joystick to maneuver his character past the attacker and continued through the tunnels, turning left and right periodically as if navigating a labyrinth. Before long he encountered another of the pink creatures. This time Adam tried slapping the buttons on the control panel to find that they caused his avatar to strike out with its fists against the enemies. A few of the creature’s attacks landed, but eventually Adam managed to defeat it.

Usually in games the enemy creatures disappear upon death, but this one lingered in front of Adam’s avatar. What do I do? He thought. The creature’s corpse blocked his path and he found himself unable to move forward. 

Bold black letters appeared across the screen, “CONSUME or be CONSUMED!” they said before fading away..

“What?” Adam gasped out loud.

“CONSUME!” flashed on the screen once more. 

Adam pressed down on the fire button atop the joystick and the perspective of his character lowered over the dead creature. The game let out a series of digital grunts and various other noises as the creature’s body disappeared, piece by piece.

“Oh my god! I’m...eating it!” he cried, almost sickened as if he truly were gobbling up the squishy pink remains of his vanquished foe.

When the thing was fully ingested, the red tint to the screen subsided and the encroaching teeth settled back into their original position. 

Adam stopped to catch his breath. Looking around the arcade he thought it odd that no other kids had entered since he’d been there. The only other occupant was Mike, who seemed to have dozed off beneath his magazine. 

Where is everyone?  He thought. By this time of day the place is usually packed.

Before Adam could ponder any further the game roared with sound. A new creature had started attacking him while he looked away from the screen. This one was much larger than the previous two, with a heavily muscled body and no head. Its green torso contained a massive mouth filled with sharp, pixelated teeth. 

Adam tried mashing the attack buttons repeatedly, but to no avail, the thing assailed him over and over. With each devastating blow the screen grew a darker shade of red as the pointed teeth closed in on his avatar.

After several agonizing seconds of trying to defeat the beast, the teeth closed on Adam’s avatar and the screen went black. 

GAME OVER appeared in scarlet text that dripped like blood.

“Is that it?” said Adam. “What a rip off!”

After a moment the screen faded to black and the words “Continue?” and “Insert Payment” appeared.

Eager to keep playing this strange new game, Adam tossed another quarter into the machine, but the phrase remained on the display. He smashed the buttons and clicked the joystick, but to no reward. He pushed coin after coin into the machine, depleting his entire reserve but it still said “Continue?” and “Insert Payment”.

“Hey!” he called out to Mike, “This thing is broken! It took my money!”

“No refunds.” responded a groggy Mike, without removing the periodical from his face. 

Embittered, Adam slammed his hand against the coin slot.

“C’mon! Let me play! I paid you!”

Beneath the text on the monitor a countdown appeared.


“Come on!” he said, smacking the coin return button.


He hit it harder.


“What the heck?” Adam spat at the machine.


“I just want to play the stupid game!”


Adam wailed and punched the machine with his fist then howled in pain as his hand quivered. It was stupid to punch the metal plating of the arcade cabinet and he knew it. His agonized knuckles started to drip blood.


Adam spit on the machine, tears welling up in his eyes.


“I lost all of my quarters.” he cried. “All my money.”


He tried one more time to press the coin return button with his trembling, damaged finger. 


A bit of blood dripped into the coin slot.


“I give up.” said Adam, spent.

The machine whirred to life. The music began and Adam’s avatar hands were once more in the center of the display, with the strange labyrinth before it.  The green creature that had killed him was nowhere to be seen.

“I did it!” shouted Adam. “I did it! I got a second life!”

This time around he exercised caution, refusing to glance away from the screen for even a second. He began to notice that the electronic grunts and groans of the machine were not arbitrary, but rather indicators of the proximity of the monsters. He used that to his advantage, avoiding the strong creatures and seeking out the weaker ones to defeat and devour. With time he knew he was getting stronger in the game. In real life, the pain in his hand subsided until he no longer noticed it. 

After a while  navigating the tunnels Adam came across the muscular green torso beast again. Fighting it with his newfound strength proved helpful. He still took a lot of damage from the creature, but managed to defeat it. After the battle, his head ringing from the rhythmic pulsing of the dark red screen, Adam ate the corpse of his enemy. Each bite caused the pounding of his heart to quell along with the imminent doom of the gnashing teeth around him. Buried within the guts of the monster, Adam found a solid object- the hilt of a weapon. Pulling it out, revealed it to be a gleaming longsword.

Armed with the radiant blade Adam pushed his avatar onward through the strange corridors. The sword shed a sphere of light, which showed him more of his surroundings. The walls of the cavern were made of reddish stone marbled with white veins and covered here and there with rust-colored vines. As he walked, his unseen feet made squelching noises as if stepping through thick mud. 

The enemies came more frequently now, but Adam had grown equipped to deal with them. Little by little he made his way through the game until coming to a set of massive double doors. Scrawled across them was the phrase “Insert Payment”.

Adam attempted to open the doors, but they did not budge. He battered them with his digital fists and slashed at them with his sword, but no marks were left upon their surface. 

“Insert payment?” he pondered out loud, “But I already gave you all my money. I didn’t die. You can’t charge me to finish the game.”

Adam glanced around the arcade to find it pitch black and silent. All of the other machines had been turned off. Only The Devourer remained operating. 

“Mike?” he called out into the darkness. After a moment without response he called the name again. 

“Mike? Anybody?” his voice echoed in the empty arcade. 

The Devourer cabinet lit the room with a dull reddish tint. Adam managed to circle the arcade using the light it provided. The large exterior window looked out onto Westfield, revealing the desolation of a street in the late evening. Dim streetlamps barely managed to illuminate the empty avenue.

“How late is it?” Adam spoke out loud to himself, “It’s super dark outside. Mom’s gonna be mad.”

The emptiness of the arcade made his voice feel louder than normal. Adam went to open the front door, but it was locked from the outside. He shook the latch, but the door failed to budge.

Adam spun around and dashed to the back door that led to the alley behind the Machine Shop. The doorknob refused to turn in his hand. Instead of a lock switch the knob contained a keyhole. Like the front door, it seemed locked from the outside.

“I’m trapped in here!” Adam continued to speak to himself. “How do I get out?” 

From behind Mike’s counter, Adam heard a rustling noise.

“Who’s there?” he called out, cautiously moving toward the counter to investigate. The rustling noise paused for a moment, then continued.

“I hear you back there! You aren’t supposed to be here after closing!” said Adam, noting the irony silently to himself. 

A small shadow emerged from the darkness, a fat little rat, its sleek fur illuminated by the glow of the machine. Adam's stomach churned as he watched the rodent saunter out from its hiding place. Its beady eyes glinted as it dragged a half-wrapped chocolate bar across the sticky carpet of the arcade. 

“Oh gross!” he spat, sickened at the sight of the rat. Determined to not spend another minute in the arcade, Adam whirled around toward the exit and nearly smashed directly into an arcade cabinet. 

The Devourer stood in front of him with its painted-on teeth bared.

“What!?” he cried. The machine had been back against the rear wall of the arcade. Why was it suddenly nearer to the counter than it had been? The screen remained as he’d left it, with the double-doors and the words “Insert Payment” now flashing intensely.

Adam stumbled backward. The machine stood before him, croaking digital squelching noises and low growling sounds. His body pressed against the counter, Adam looked back and saw something on the floor behind him. A pair of legs sticking out from behind the counter.

Mike’s legs. 

“Mike!” shouted Adam, but the man didn’t stir. “MIKE!” he cried, to no answer.  

Adam climbed on top of the counter to peer over it. Mike’s body lay slumped on the floor beside his chair. His glassy eyes peered up at the ceiling. He didn’t move. Didn’t breathe. 

“Mike?” said Adam, tears streaming down his face. He’d never seen a dead body before, but was pretty sure this was what one looked like.

Adam crouched down on the counter to get a closer look, thinking maybe Mike was just messing with him. As he leaned in closer, Adam felt a presence behind him. Slowly, Adam turned, the pulsing lights of the arcade machine dancing in his vision.

Pressed up against the counter stood The Devourer. Adam gazed wide-eyed at its mouth-like screen. The phrase “Insert Payment” flashed bright red as the game roared digitally. 

(insert roaring noise)

Adam fell back behind the counter onto Mike.

Mike’s body was stiff and cold to the touch. Adam quickly clambered off it, feeling something hard on the floor as he climbed to his feet. 

A keychain. Mike’s keys.

Maybe I can open the door with these. Thought Adam. But as he stood, the arcade cabinet was somehow behind the counter, blocking his passage.

“INSERT PAYMENT” blazed across the screen.

Adam yelped and ran back, nearly tripping over Mike’s corpse.

He hopped up onto the counter.

The machine stood above the remains of the arcade manager.

“CONSUME!” flashed the screen. “CONSUME!”

What?  Thought Adam once more. What am I supposed to do? The arcade game’s come to life. I just wanted to get the high score on Joust. That’s all I wanted!

The display on the screen had changed. Instead of the strange reddish cave it now showed a pixelated rendition of the interior of the Machine Shop. On the floor an 8-bit image of a corpse that vaguely resembled Mike. 

“CONSUME” said the screen, “CONSUME or be CONSUMED!”

Adam scooted backwards on the counter, edging away from the machine.

It slid toward him, continuing its refrain, “CONSUME! CONSUME!”

Tears and snot gushing out of his face, Adam cried. “No! I can’t! I won’t!”


The room went dark until all Adam could see was the screen of The Devourer.

“You can’t make me do it!” said Adam, but his body moved toward the arcade cabinet, compelled.

“CONSUME!” came a crackling bellow from the machine’s speakers.

“No.” cried Adam as his hand gripped the joystick, “No, no no.” as his thumb pressed down on the fire button. 

“Mike-” he started to say, but he retched as the name came out of his mouth. 

I’m sorry Adam thought as the digital corpse disappeared, one bite at a time.

The room lit up once more, the reddish glow of the game reflecting off Adam's tear-streaked face. The ominous music continued to play, echoing through the empty arcade. Adam collapsed to the floor, his chest heaving in hyperventilation. 

When he arose, Adam found himself standing at the back of the arcade, in front of the familiar Joust cabinet. He stumbled quickly around the place. Finding no sign of The Devourer nor of Mike. On the floor, behind the counter sat a crumpled up chocolate bar wrapper and a set of keys.

Please rate and review this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts.

You can also support it at http://www.patreon.com/michaeljpatrick

Intro and outro theme 

Music Provided By Mediacharger



Artist: Darren Curtis

Track: Demented Nightmare

Credit https://bit.ly/3lvCtVS

Background Music Provided By Mediacharger



Music Created By : Myuu

Song Title: Growing Shadows

Download: https://goo.gl/dSGD4F

Nothing Is Wrong is written and recorded in New Jersey on Lenapehoking territory.