As far as Ollie knew, the old Bucky’s Starcade arcade had been abandoned for decades. At least as far back as his dad’s childhood, the empty space on Coral Street had stood stark, and abandoned – slowly decaying away as the town around it moved on, bright and growing.
Maybe it was the faded announcements of 70s retro-games and the promise of unexplored urban space that drew the dog in – or maybe, just maybe, Ollie wanted to be the first to step inside for who knew how long. Maybe they’d always been curious what lay behind the boarded up windows and fogged over front door, permanently affixed with a “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign that stood in stark contrast to the building with its bright reds and whites.
So, it was with a frankly brave amount of courage that the dog pushed open the front door one sunny afternoon, tugging their phone free of their pocket and clicking on the flashlight. The lock had rusted through, revealing a room full of dusty arcade games in various states of disrepair… but, oddly, nowhere near as bad as nearly fifty years of neglect would have suggested. It looked almost… new?
Bewilderingly so, as Ollie realized the place was less of an arcade and more of a play… center? Nothing outside had suggested this – maybe an owner or the company that’d run the place had kept it clean, inside?
As the dog’s eyes adjusted to the dark, they realized a few things. First, the place apparently still had power – red exit signs glowing in the dark, a little faded but definitely intact.
Second, the arcade had a few oddly out-of-place items scattered around, like an old ball pit and a plastic play place. Still, as Ollie wandered around, snapping a few photos to show his friends later, the place felt… homey. Nostalgic, in a way the dog couldn’t really quite place. It must’ve been quite the hangout spot in its heyday, all wood grain and old posters. Oddly enough, most of the posters included a yellow bunny – clearly the place’s mascot – drifting around cartoon stars, or dressed in almost Flash Gordon-esque spacesuits. There’d even been a statue of it near the entrance, tall and oddly… shiny.
The dog was in the middle of photographing an old Space Ace machine when, to his incredible surprise (and slight horror) the lights turned on. First a bright white, then… yellowing?
Bright, clearly relatively new – and a sign that this place wasn’t quite abandoned, yet. Ollie’s thoughts shot to it having a security guard, the dog spinning around to explain how he’d definitely just gotten lost and wanted to go home…
…and coming face to face with one of the strangest sights he’d ever seen. A big, slightly see-through tummy, multicolored shapes scattered around inside. Ollie’s gaze drifted up, across squeaky paws and arms, to the huge, grinning face of a bunny.
An enormous, ten foot tall inflatable bunny, yellowing the fluorescent lights shining down through it. The mascot statue hadn’t been a statue at all?!
“A new hire?! And I wasn’t TOLD?”
Ollie was so taken aback, in fact, that he froze in place – just in time for the huge bunny to heft him up under the arms, lifting the bewildered dog to eye-level.
“Where’s your outfit? You’re not in uniform!”
“I don’t work here-!” He protested, confused.
The bunny clearly wasn’t listening – as, with a wink, it opened wide, stuffing the puppy in with all the care of someone taking a bite out of their lunch.
The slick plastic was about impossible for Ollie to find a grip on, pushing against the stretchy vinyl and only managing to deform it slightly. It also didn’t help, unfortunately, that the phone slipped out of his pocket, sliding away onto the carpeted floor of the arcade as its owner was swallowed with a loud, greedy squirk.
Ollie didn’t fall far, landing with a thud in the huge toy’s tummy amidst a veritable sea of plastic balls.
“LET ME OUT,” he shouted, pressing his paws into the interior of its tummy, but… to no avail. In fact, the act of doing so made his paws feel odd.
With a huff, Ollie plopped down on the “floor”, kicking a few balls away. Surely somebody would see him in here?
He thought about calling for help, but… the phone laying in view outside of the toy rabbit crossed that off the list. Maybe he could…
Ollie frowned. His thoughts, for some reason, kept returning to toys. Toy rabbits. Toy dogs?
It confused him, enough that he rubbed his chin-
Ollie blinked, glancing down – and blanched, as much as a white-furred dog could. His tummy, before his very eyes, had begun to swell. A new bump had appeared in the middle, tenting his shirt outwards, and with shaky hands he tugged the fabric back to reveal a very soft and slightly pink inflatable valve, quietly hissing as air began to fill the dog’s midsection.
T-The toy had to be doing this, right? He had to… to…!
Squeaking, Ollie stood up – legs almost giving out as he realized they, too, had begun to become simple plastic and air, filling out his shorts as the waistband began to force pressure into his tail.
Climbing was out of the question, it was far too steep and slick – and the bunny toy hadn’t moved in a little while.
It seemed content to watch.
“Let me out!”
No reply came, aside from a big, bucktoothed grin.
The changes climbed downwards, Ollie’s toes sticking together as his footpaws inflated into big, toyish paws with painted-on pawpads, tummy riding his shirt up as a brand new barcode faded in on their see-through side.
Higher it climbed, spreading down his arms in a cascade of squeaks and hissing as it met the already-changed paws from the dog’s earlier contact with the tummy, rendering their paws largely entertainment use only.
Their clothes, too, seemed to have begun to succumb – shorts tearing down the sides as his air-filled thighs simply proved too full to hold, shirt flattening out as it slowly shifted from real, red fabric to a new printed-on red-and-white striped pattern on the inflatable toy dog Ollie was becoming!
Ollie’s neck was next, gaining a printed-on big blue collar as his mouth began to taste ever so faintly of vinyl – and, as the changes reached his head, the puppy was stricken with the worst case of lightheadedness he’d ever felt.
In… fact, all he seemed to be able to think of was how nice it was to be a toy. Right?
He’d been hired today as one, after all. Can’t reopen an entertainment business without entertainers…?
Ollie’s paws slowly raised to his face, cupping his snout as it swelled and stretched and reshaped into a cartoonish vinyl recreation of itself, glasses molding themselves perfectly into place with only the faintest of painted-on reflections, and, after a few moments, it was finished.
The dazed toy plopped down on the ruins of his shorts, swaying slightly.
“Well, someone’s ready for their first shift,” The big toybunny giggled, giving its tummy a pat.