The arcade burned down three years ago, along with the rest of the mall. Without cabinets and circuitry to support them, all that remained of the games within were their electric ghosts. They stood shoulder to shoulder, quivering beings of naked neon, waiting for the chance to be experienced once more.
The Ouijatari apparatus was manufactured to allow them a second chance. From outside, it was a smooth, ebony cabinet, centered by a screen of softly-curving opal. This simple exterior concealed webworks of carefully-braided hair, obsidian orbs resting upon polished marble, and strange circuits written in quartzite dust. A warning label advised players never to open the cabinet while it was in use.
Like all arcade machines that came before it, it still required coins, as this was necessary to initiate the ritual. The exterior controls were tailored to be generic enough to handle just about any game; there were two sets of six sandalwood buttons, each paired with a joystick wrought from a jackalope’s antler. There was only one button marked with an preestablished purpose: “BANISH,” which caused play to end abruptly, and was marked with Solomon’s seal.
Once the Ouijatari was properly positioned around the glowing phantom’s body, the device could then safely establish an interface between the virtual and spiritual realms. Games played within lost all color and sound; pixels gave way to blotchy darkness, something like digital shadow puppetry. There were no high scores, no extra lives, and no bonus levels; the games laid bare all their most intimate mysteries, crying out from the dark for their secrets to be known. Then, at last, they could be free.
Most chose to banish these spirits before their stories could be finished, however. After all, it was only sporting to allow other players a chance.