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"I Assure You, This Game is Not Rigged"

by dribb1et


There I stood in the Deserted Fairground, gazing at the dilapidated fence that made up the perimeter of the grotesque carnival. Thorny vines engulfed the decaying trees as if nature had been taken over by a wicked force. Robotic Chias walked past me and I could hear the grinding of their gears. Their wicked smiles sent shivers down my spine. I still picture their outrageously forced smiles in my nightmares years later. Pumpkins with the same grin littered the atmosphere of the fairground, providing a minuscule amount of light for patrons to see the attractions.

     I looked up and saw Castle Nox was in the distance, illuminated only by the occasional flash of lightning. Even though he was cursed by Xandra years ago, I swear I saw Hubrid's figure in the windows that day.

     A few Neopians scattered the fairgrounds that day. It was called deserted for a reason; people had come to the conclusion that all the games were rigged. And for good reason! I walked past the Wheel of Misfortune without giving it a second glance. I knew better. Last time I played, my Ten Dubloon Coin was turned into a pile of sludge! Nothing good could come out of that wheel.

     But falling for a fa├žade, my eyes were drawn to red flashing lights. I stood motionless, watching the Test Your Strength game blink and light up. A decal of a Ghostkerchief was peeling off of the board, as if it was miserable to be there. A chalkboard beside it read "Jackpot: 100,000,000 NP". Of course that number caught my attention. I gazed longingly at the full moon on the top of the board. In green letters, it read JACKPOT. How hard could it be to reach that height? The board wasn't that tall. I know my own strength!

     Lost in thought, I was startled when a small neopet jumped in front of me, waving a large object.

     "TEST YOUR STRENGTH," the Mynci yelled. He stood at touching distance from me, and yet he yelled every word as if I were a mile away. "SEE IF YOU COULD WIN A HALLOWEEN PAINT BRUSH!"

      His eyebrows were in, what looked like, a permanent state of anger but his smile said otherwise. He was missing all but one yellowed tooth. His green vest was like much of the rest of the fairground; faded and worn down. He wore a maroon bow tie around his neck that was half the size of his face. Just looking at him, I knew I couldn't trust him. But my thoughts of the fortunes I could win blinded me.

     He now noticed he has caught my attention, and lowered his voice into a more appropriate tone, "The name is Arnold. And I know what you're thinking. I assure you, this game is not rigged!"

     I glanced at my Kacheek, who was nearly trembling in fear behind me. I forced a grin upon my face to give some confidence to her, "But don't you want a Halloween paintbrush? Just look at all the names on the high score list" I hid my own disbelieve with a pat on her head "How could this be rigged with all those names?"

     The Mynci beamed to himself and got a glimmer of greed in his yellow eye as I shook my pocket for change. The coins jingled in my hand and twinkled in the light from the jack-o-lanterns. Arnold virtually helped himself to my 100 neopoints and shoved the mallet into my hands. Captivated by the sudden treasure he had received, he counted every neopoint twice and never bothered to watch me play his game.

     The mallet had obviously been overused. It had no shine to it, and the grain had been split in multiple places. The handle was abrasive to my hands, and splinters bit at me every time I readjusted my grip. It was not a pleasant experience, but I concealed my discomfort from my Kacheek.

     I was thankful at that moment that I had ate a full breakfast of Chia Cereal and a Tyrannian Pepper Omelette. I felt stronger every time I thought about the jackpot.

     I looked down at my target: An enormous red button. It was big enough for the mallet, and I certainly would not miss it. I noticed how damaged the button was. The paint had begun to chip away at the center caused by many Neopians before me attempting to put their strength into the mallet.

     The lights surrounding the game board were aglow with the warm color red. They seemed almost ablaze. My veins pulsed with every blink of the lights, and I felt myself getting angry. That button was mocking me with its silence. It wanted me to fail, and wanted to deny anyone the fortune of winning the jackpot. I squeezed the mallet tighter, and gave myself a few splinters in the process. I knew many people came here before me, paying the same 100 neopoints and feeling the same anger at that button.

     It seemed so simple; Hit the button. In that moment all I could hear was the light wind of the fairground, rustling the crisp leaves on the ground. The breeze sent a shiver down my spine and goose bumps appeared on my arms.

     I raised the mallet high above my head. I put all my strength into that mallet at that very moment. As I swung it down, it made a WHOOSH, cutting the air. I quickly grinned with delight now that I noticed I had hit my target with such ease. There was no way I could miss. The mallet smashed down on the button so hard I thought for a moment I had broken the machine. Then I heard that noise.

     It was as if someone had a thousand nails on a chalkboard. The screeching went on and on and I thought my eardrums were going to burst. I dropped that worn, wooden mallet as grasped my ears. The game board screeched and screeched as the meter started to fill up.

      Up and up it went, filling with red caused by my strength. How far could it go?

     And then it stops. And so did my grin.

     "Congratulations! You won three Neopoints! You scored 5 out of 100." The Mynci smirked.

     Right in big blue letters: USELESS. The meter stopped right next to it. The sad Ghostkerchief decal mocked me.

     Arnold shuffled his small hands in a box of squirming spooky food. He tosses me a Slimesicle and the three neopoints. The slime drips from the spooky food as I just stand there in disbelief. I thought I was much stronger, how did this game get the best of me?

     "I'll catch you next time, lady!" the Mynci says with a smirk on his face. "Maybe you should hit Cap'n Threelegs' Swashbuckling Academy over on Krawk Island before coming back though!"

     Picking the mallet off of the ground, he walks away from me and shouts at the Neopians walking by.

     "STEP RIGHT UP! TEST YOUR STRENGTH! I assure you, this game is not rigged!"

     With my heart melting like the spooky food in my hands, I walk over to attempt the next game. My Kacheek strolls along with me, "We should try Coconut shy! I hear you can win five hundred neopoints!"

     But I won't try Test Your Strength again! Nothing good could come out of that game.

The End

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