Gary craves YouTube stardom. Will his great idea get him there?
| Gary had always dreamed of being a YouTube star. He did pranks, politics, comedy sketches, gaming, art, anything you could think of. Nothing worked. This time he had it, the idea that would make him a star. He shifted, a box of frozen chicken patties was poking him in the kidney.
He brought up his phone. One thirty-five A.M..
"Hey guys, what's up, it's Gary here. Been in the freezer for almost five hours now," he said to the phone. "Should've brought some damn gloves, my fingers are numb." He wiggled his fingers in front of the phone. "Janitors should be gone by two. I'll talk to you when I'm out.". He put the phone back and rubbed his hands together. It was almost over. Then he'd have the entire mall all to himself. So much content.
He was absently kicking at an untied shoelace when the alarm on his phone came. Two A.M..
He worked up courage and opened the freezer. The kitchen was pitch black. He shuffled through the darkness carefully and turned on the light. It was eerie to see it so empty. His stomach growled. He'd skipped dinner because he was so nervous about tonight. He thought about it. Making dinner would be pretty good content. He grabbed the phone.
"I'm out of the freezer. Gonna make some supper." He spun the phone around and put it down on a table, propping it up with a toaster. He ducked into the freezer and got a beef patty and a bucket of fries.
The patty sizzled and spat when he put it on the flattop. He waved a hand over the fryer. Almost ready.
"Been thinking about where I want to go first." he said to the phone, pressing down on the patty. "Think we'll head over to the arcade. Got a plan on how to get in." He picked up the phone to record the fries being lowered into the hot grease.
"These are going to be so good." The grease bubbled violently when he lowered them in.
The burger was dressed and the fries piled beside it. The two items sat on a paper plate and Gary was getting beauty shots.
He leaned back to put his hand on the counter. Only it wasn't the counter, it was the still-hot flattop.
"Son of a-" Gary screamed. He hopped around the kitchen, cursing and groaning. "Ooooofff..." he breathed and showed his seared palm to the camera. "Drop a like for my burnt hand?".
He grit his teeth, the hand pulsing with pain. He'd burned it bad. This was his big break, he had to go on.
He ate his meal and cleaned up, chatting to his phone all the while.
He now stood near the cash register and was recording the half-lit mall corridor. The empty food court tables and chairs filled the area and long shadows crept over every surface.
He hopped over the counter, leaving the restaurant. "Arcade's down a floor."
He walked down the gloomy corridor, talking to his viewers.
"I tried that place last week," he said, passing a sit-in Mexican restaurant. "Not bad."
The silent escalators stood before him.
"Going down?" he said with corny enthusiasm.
Halfway down his untied lace got caught in a tooth of the escalator. He lost his balance and tumbled down the metal stairs. His phone flew away and he spilled to floor harshly. Groggy, he got to his feet and frantically searched for his phone.
He found it in a large potted plant near the base of the escalator. Still recording.
"Little accident there." he said, letting out a forced laugh. His elbow was screaming in pain. He brought the phone around with him to look. A large flap of skin was hanging free, exposing the bone. He'd cut himself on the escalator. The wound spilled blood all down his arm and stained his shirt and pants.
"Damn." he said, wiggling the hanging skin for the camera. "Can I get a thousand subscribers for my shredded elbow?". At least the elbow distracted from the hand.
His blood left a thin trail from the escalator to the arcade.
"Here it is." he said.
The arcade hadn't been shut down, only locked. The lights from the machines shone at him from beyond the large glass pane. He tried the door. Locked.
"I expected this." he said, confidently. "Follow me."
He lead them into hallway next to the arcade.
"There's a door back here. It's been broken for years."
His burnt hand and elbow seared with pain. He pushed the pain back with the thought of stardom.
The broken door swung open. Only staff were allowed back here. Gary had been here a couple times with Mr. Farkas to help unload food deliveries for the restaurant. He'd also been here two days ago when he planned the video.
"That way leads to a loading bay." he said, pointing the phone down a dark hallway. "We're going up there." He panned up to a catwalk.
It was hard climbing with a burnt hand and a lacerated elbow but the show had to go on.
"Let's see..." he said when he reached the top. He scanned the vents, looking for the one that lead to the arcade. "Ah. There it is."
It was hard to breathe in the vent, dusty and close. He shuffled on anyway. The flow from his elbow had slowed, that was good. His hand still blazed away though and was only getting worse. He wondered what the consequences of getting dust into his elbow might be.
He stopped over a grate that overlooked the arcade.
"Here were are." he said, showing the audience the arcade behind the grate. "I just have t-"
The vent broke off the ceiling and Gary crashed to the floor. Machines fell over like dominoes, one of them falling through the large glass pane at the front. His eyes stung from the dusty air. The phone was in front of him on the carpet and his wiggled on all fours to get it. It was still recording.
"We're in." he said, coughing from inhaled dust.
He stood and felt a jolt of pain in his ankle. He panned down. It had been twisted almost ninety degrees. Surely broken. His elbow wound was flowing strong again too.
"Remember to hit that notification bell." he reminded his audience.
Gary limped over to a pinball machine that hadn't fallen over. "Give this video a like if pinball is your favorite arcade game.".
He played, wearing that YouTuber affectation loudly. When his ball was lost he groaned and cursed. When he got a free ball he clapped and hooted loudly. It was all part of the show.
He was nearing the end when his ball got stuck.
"What? No fair!" he moaned, smacking the machine. He grabbed the sides and started shaking, trying to get his ball back. A front leg on the machine snapped and it landed on his broken ankle.
Gary howled in agony but held onto his phone. He adjusted the shot, making sure he was still in frame. His mangled foot was pinned under there, no way he'd get it out.
"If I rip my foot off, can I get ten thousand likes?" Gary pulled his leg from under the fallen machine. Tendons and muscles severed as his leg came free. Blood pooled under it, soaking into the carpet. A ragged stump now lived at the end of his leg.
"Y'know what? Strangest thing, this reminds me of camping. Don't know why."
Gary hobbled to the front of the arcade. The machine had spilled out into the mall corridor leaving a blanket of shattered glass on the floor.
"The camping store is just down the hall." he said, stepping out into the glass. Shards crunched under his shoe while others slid up into his stump. He walked on, ignoring all the pain.
"My favorite thing about camping is the campfire songs." and he began to sing happily.
The camping store was locked too.
"Don't know how we're getting in there."
Gary looked back down to the arcade machine laying in the mall corridor. He panned around, looking for something. He landed on a potted plant.
"May I have this dance?" he asked the plant. He put the phone down on a bench, making sure the camping store was properly in frame. The plant was heavy and his glass-filled stump screamed when he walked on it. He hefted the plant up to his chest and floated through the hallway, dancing. He hummed some vague melody.
The plant crashed through the window easily. Snatching up the phone, he surveyed the damage.
"We'd better go see if she's alright."
Stepping through the broken window, Gary accidentally cut his wrist. He was leaking blood at an alarming rate.
"Leave a like for my severed artery!" he said with that corny YouTube enthusiasm. "I think we should start a fire." he said, light-headed.
Gary was in the display section of the store. An already assembled tent and camping chair were ready for him. All he needed were boxes, a lighter and some lighter fluid. He opened the can of lighter fluid and limped over to the pile of boxes, filming all the while. His glassy stump left little rings of blood on the floor as he went. He held the phone in his strong hand, the burnt one. The can was in the hand whose wrist had been slashed. His grip strength had been compromised and the can slipped. He tried to pick it up but his stump slipped in the liquid. He rolled around, slipping and stumbling as he tried to stand. His clothes were soaked with lighter fluid.
He finally got to his feet and gathered the can. He drowned the boxes and readied the lighter.
"A camp out in the mall. Is this the best video ever, or what?" He clicked the lighter on. A wall of flame engulfed him. He could feel his hair withering away. Fully ablaze, Gary hobbled back to his camping chair and sat. He brought the phone up.
"Can I get a million likes for self-immolation?" He laughed. He felt the skin on his face slough off. His phone was withering in the heat, starting to melt into his hand. He had to upload soon or he'd lose it.
"That's gonna do it for this video." It was hard to talk with no lips. "Remember to like and subscribe." He hit a sequence of buttons and uploaded his video.
Gary sat there in silence, fire eating his body. He didn't care. That video was going to make him a star.