22 Dec Has Anyone Been to Chester’s Kidzone?- CreepyPasta
When I was a kid, my Dad would leave me alone in various places while he went off to drink. The most frequent of these was a laundromat that happened to be across the street from his favorite local bar. Sometimes he would take me to do the laundry with him before telling me he had to step out for a few minutes. Dad would give me some quarters for the arcade machine in the back of the laundromat—one of those racing games with an attached steering wheel.
To be honest, I kind of liked being left at the laundromat. I didn’t have video games at home, and the arcade machine was a nice escape. Anyway, this story isn’t about the laundromat. But the fact that I liked that damn game so much might explain why Dad thought Chester’s Kidzone looked like a perfect place to leave me while he drowned his sorrows.
I believe I was eight at the time. I was stuck running errands with my father on a hot summer day, and he drove out to a hardware store located in a strip mall off the highway. The strip mall consisted of two long rundown buildings which faced each other at a right angle. Among the various businesses these buildings contained—all which had seen better days—was a dive bar at the end of the strip. After we left the store, Dad looked longingly at the bar. He wanted to go in, but he didn’t know what to do with me. I watched him reluctantly fight off temptation as we walked to the car.
Dad was putting the keys in the ignition when he paused, looking at something in the distance. At the end of one of the buildings, tucked into an easy to miss corner of the strip mall, was a set of double doors underneath cartoon–font signage.
Dad pulled the keys out of the ignition and retrieved his wallet.
“Here,” he said, handing me three dollar bills, “go play some games in that arcade place. I’ll come get you in an hour.”
I’d been to Chuck E. Cheese a few times, and I was sure three bucks wouldn’t buy enough tokens to play for an hour. I also knew better than to challenge Dad. I walked sheepishly through the double doors as he headed to the far end of the strip mall.
I don’t remember everything about Chester’s Kidzone, so I won’t try to fill in the blanks. But I do remember a few things vividly.
The first thing I noticed was that there were no adults in sight. Just a handful of other kids. There was a snack counter, but no employees behind it. Kids would wander up to the glass case and retrieve prepackaged snacks and candy before running back out to the arcade floor. I took a pretzel myself, but it was stale.
Tokens were dispensed by a machine that took dollar bills. To my surprise, the three dollars I brought were more than enough. After I fed it the first dollar, tokens began pouring out. The receptacle where the tokens landed overflowed with gold coins. I stuffed my pockets until they couldn’t hold any more. As I walked away to check out the arcade floor, I heard the clinking of tokens still dropping out.
To my eight year old eyes, the arcade floor seemed huge. Much larger than the building looked from the outside. Unoccupied game machines crisscrossed the floor in a maze-like fashion, kids occasionally scampering between them before disappearing again. The interior of Chester’s Kidzone was bathed in a dark shade of purple. I recall the soles of my sneakers sticking to the carpets as I walked across the arcade. They hadn’t been cleaned recently, if ever. In fact, the whole place was dingy. Once or twice, I saw a mouse skitter across the floor. Long cracks ran up the walls, which were bare except for a few haphazardly hung photos of Chester—the establishment’s mascot.
I didn’t recognize most of the arcade games. Those I was familiar with had handwritten out of order signs taped to their screens. I tried my hand at some of the others but found most of them strange and difficult to play. In one game I have a fuzzy memory of, I used a joystick to guide a player-character through a never-ending array of hallways. Wolflike creatures lurked the hallways, chasing the player-character. There was no way to fight them off. The machine didn’t even have any buttons aside from the joystick. The player-character just ran through the virtual hallways until the wolf-things caught up and tore him limb from limb, computer-generated blood eventually splattering the screen so I couldn’t see anything anymore. I’ve since scoured websites that catalog old arcade games from the era, but I can’t seem to find anything about this one.
The other children struck me as a bit off. They mostly kept to themselves, playing alone. Then there was the way they dressed. I was raised without much money, and I was painfully aware of what other kids were wearing. From oversized, stained T-shirts to torn jeans, the kids at Chester’s wore clothing even more ragged than the hand-me-downs I got teased for at school.
I bumped into one of the other kids as he darted out from behind a row of gaming machines. A boy about my age, sporting a bowl cut which had grown slightly too long. He seemed nervous. I could tell that behind the mop of hair obscuring his eyes, he was looking at his feet.
“I’m Ricky,” he said shyly. “Wanna play?”
I was just glad to have made a friend in the odd place. Ricky and I spent more time playing arcade games than talking. When I asked how long he’d been there, he just shrugged.
We’d been playing games for a while when a sound like a tornado siren emanated from the far wall, where an elevated stage sat behind a set of purple curtains.
“That means it’s show time,” Ricky said, “we have to go watch.”
Ricky and I, along with every other kid at Chester’s, took seats at a set of tables in front of the stage. The curtains opened to reveal a tall animatronic figure I recognized as Chester. Chester was an anthropomorphic mammal, like a badger or weasel. At least I think that’s what it was supposed to be. It had various points of articulation, able to rotate its head and body, raise its arms up and down, and move its eyes in various directions. It wore a mechanic’s jumpsuit complete with a name tag. Dark smears that looked like oil stains covered the outfit.
The Chester animatronic went on to perform a show, most of which was unremarkable. I only distinctly recall two things. One is a song and dance in which the animatronic shimmied unnaturally, its mouth flapping open and shut as a speaker somewhere inside played an off-key jingle:
Fun, fun, fun at Chester’s Kidzone, here is your place to escape
Laugh and play at Chester’s Kidzone, you can stay here every day
The second thing is the end of the performance. After completing its routine, the animatronic clumsily clapped its hands together.
“It’s time to pick the SPECIAL GUEST!”
The animatronic’s head swiveled slowly, as if scanning the crowd. Some of the other kids squirmed.
Chester’s head stopped mid-swivel before the animatronic raised its left arm. It was pointing to a boy who sat alone at a table a few dozen feet from Ricky and I.
“You’re today’s SPECIAL GUEST!” Chester exclaimed. “Come on up!”
“Me?” the boy whimpered.
“COME ON UP!” the animatronic repeated, its voice suddenly almost deafening.
The boy stood up and walked on to the stage. The animatronic raised its heavy arm awkwardly. The boy winced, and I saw that the animatronic was gripping him by the back of the neck, the way you’d grab a dog by its scruff.
“That’s all for today! See you tomorrow!” Chester said pleasantly.
The curtains began to draw. The boy on stage was trembling. Just before the drapes closed fully, a dark stain spread across his pant leg.
“What’s going on?” I asked Ricky. I felt uneasy.
“Just part of the show,” he replied. “Wanna go play in the tubes?”
Ricky gestured towards a structure across the building. A massive elevated jungle gym, an interconnected set of plastic tubes that snaked across the ceiling. Kids could enter and exit the tubes via networks of tall towers with walls made of netting intended to be climbed, enclosed slides, and even a fire pole.
“Sure,” I said.
As I followed Ricky towards the tubes, he turned. “Just watch out,” he said, “there’s a weird girl in there sometimes.”
Ricky and I climbed up and began to crawl through the purple plastic tubes together. Through porthole-like windows, we could see the arcade floor below. The tubes had an unpleasant smell. As I followed Ricky throughout its twists and turns, it got stronger. By the time we approached a sharp curve, the stench was overpowering.
Ricky crawled far enough to peek around the curve and started to backpedal. He made a full turn so he was now facing me.
“She’s here,” he whispered. “I’m going back. Use the fire pole. She can’t slide down.”
Ricky squeezed past me, crawling in the direction we came from. I wondered what so bothered Ricky about this girl. I needed to see for myself.
I continued crawling, making sure not to breathe through my nose as I got closer. Finally, I reached the other side of the curve.
The plastic tube reached its end in a circular chamber several yards ahead. In the chamber was a girl several years older than me.
She was filthy. Her matted hair pooled on the floor of the tube around a dress so tattered it barely clung to her body. More disturbing, she lacked a single limb. What should have been each arm or leg ended in a rough stump. The fact that she was even able to remain upright was a feat. She hunched low to the ground, chewing frantically on something small and furry trapped between her arm-stumps. Beside her was a putrid pile of what looked like guts and fur. The stack of neatly separated pink tails confirmed that the girl been eating rats.
She didn’t know I was there. I began to crawl in reverse slowly, trying to make each knee fall as soft as possible. I’d almost gotten back around the curve when the squeak of my sneaker against plastic echoed throughout the tubes.
The girl snapped her head upwards, fixing her wild-eyed gaze on me. Red liquid dribbled down her chin. She snarled.
I frantically turned my body to crawl the other direction. Sensing that I was leaving, she dropped the rat and began to scramble towards me.
I crawled madly back through the tubes. I looked back and saw her advancing in a prone position much faster than anyone without a single limb should ever be able to crawl. I kept going, navigating bends and forks in the tubes, not knowing if they’d trap me in another dead end chamber. The whole time, I heard thumping behind me as the girl propelled herself through the tubes.
Finally, I came across a tube with a hole in the floor and a metal bar extending through it. I gripped the fire pole and wrapped my legs around it. Angry, high-pitched shrieking sounded from above as I slid down to ground level. Back on the arcade floor, I looked up at the tubes. The limbless girl glared at me from one of the porthole windows, her eyes burning with rage.
I fled, making my way to the front of the establishment and pushing through the double doors. I ran all the way down to the other end of the strip mall and right into the bar my father was in. I knew I’d get a beating for that later, but that was better than spending another second in Chester’s Kidzone.
I never heard a thing about Chester’s Kidzone from anyone again. I passed by the strip mall a few years later, and all that remained was an empty retail space. Until now, I’ve only thought of Chester’s in brief flashes. I guess I don’t like to think about it. The memory makes me feel dirty, like Chester’s was, and trapped, like I’m still in the tubes, scrambling to find the exit, the limbless girl thumping just around the bend.
But recently, I decided I want to know more about Chester’s. If nothing else, I wanted to confirm that it was real and not just a childhood fever dream I convinced myself was true. I asked my father about the day he dropped me off at Chester’s Kidzone, but he didn’t know what I was talking about. Not surprising. Dad’s lost his memory the same place he lost everything else, at the bottom of a bottle. I searched online trying to find any information I could about Chester’s, but had no luck with either current or historical business listings.
I eventually came across a thread in an obscure forum where a couple of posters referred vaguely to Chester’s. The locations they mentioned—several of them—were nowhere near me, but the general descriptions were accurate. When I pulled the website up again this morning, the thread was gone. The link I’d saved redirected to a 404 page.
And that’s how I ended up here. At this point, I just want to know that I’m not crazy. To anyone reading this: have you ever been to Chester’s Kidzone?