I'm sure you've all heard of Rayman. You know, the cartoony video game character with no arms and legs? If you haven't heard of him yet, he's pretty famous. There's plenty of information on the Internet if you just google "Rayman."
Well, recently, a new Rayman game was released for the Wii -- Rayman Origins. The game made long-time fans of Rayman pretty happy, especially since the last three "Rayman" games weren't really Rayman games at all -- just stupid mini game collections about ugly, screaming bunnies. The release of a real Rayman game sure must have made a lot of people happy.
I know I was pretty excited when I first saw Rayman 4's box sitting on the shelf.
Yup, you read that right. Rayman 4. I'm not talking about Origins, or the cancelled one with all all the leaked concept art. This Rayman 4 appeared in about 2005. It wasn't licensed, but it certainly was canon.
A little too canon.
I grew up pretty poor. A lot of my clothes and toys were secondhand. The only computer my parents had was an old white-box from 1995 that they'd found at a garage sale. I didn't think much of it. It was what I did my homework on. We never had any games for it, and Internet access was too expensive for us.
I did somehow manage to have a working Playstation, though, (probably another garage sale find) and that thing was my life. But, since I didn't have any Internet, anything I learned about new games came to me the old-fashioned way: friends, magazines, and Mac, the owner of the video game store down Koehler road.
The first few years with my Playstation were actually kinda exciting -- I'd get my allowance, then run down to The Media Giant (that was the store's name) and dive into the discount game bin, which had the only games I could afford. Then, the Playstation 2 came out and... well, eventually there were no games left for me to buy.
I still liked going into Media Giant, though, to find out what other people were playing and to try out the free demos. And that's how I saw the box on the shelf in the first place.
"Rayman 4," read the blocky, comic-booky letters on the front. "Lum-o-lution." My 16-year-old eyes grew wide. I had two Rayman games for my Playstation at home. Of all the games I owned, they were by far my favorites. I'd stared at the box for Rayman 3 for a long time, studying the graphics, wondering what the game was like, and wishing for a Playstation 2 so I could actually play it.
What stood out mostly about Lum-o-lution was its box -- instead of being in a long, black DVD-type case, it was in a short, square jewel case, like an old Playstation game. I remember my fingers trembling. It couldn't be a game that would work on my system... could it? I picked up the box and turned it over. There was no sign of a PS2 logo on the box. Still...
"Hey, Mac, what do you know about this Rayman game?" I called. Mac was usually in the back playing video games if he thought the store was empty.
"Just a second!" replied his scratchy voice. The familiar pinging of a saved Pokemon game rang faintly through the air, and moments later. a fat, sweaty redhead came rushing through the door.
"Which one?" asked Mac as he approached me. I cringed a little. Mac was a good guy, but his body odor... Ugh! I'll never forget it.
"This 'un," I replied, holding up the box. He adjusted his tiny, round glasses and scratched his scraggly beard.
"Looma-lotion, eh?" he slowly read. "Weird name." I cringed again.
"It's 'lumm,' not 'loom,'" I corrected. "Lum-o-lution."
"Ohhh, haha," Mac shrugged. "Whoops! Wellp," he studied the box again, "I dunno that much about Rayman games. I didn't hear anything about a new Rayman comin' out on the Web, either, but it came in with my shipment about a week ago, so I put it on the shelf." Mac squinted. "Kinda suspicious that it's in a different box. I'm wonderin' maybe if it's a bootleg."
"D'you think maybe you can play it on the original Playstation?" Mac took the Rayman box out of my hands and turned it over a few times.
"Hah. It does look like a PS1 game box," Mac nodded. "I've got a PS1 in the back, actually. May's well try one o' these out and see what it is."
And so I followed Mac into his little man-cave. In one corner of the dark, smelly room was a TV and several gaming consoles. In another corner was a computer much newer than mine -- black, not white, and with an Internet window open, glowing cheerfully. A worn couch sat across from the TV screen, its cushions sagging downward where Mac usually sat. Several empty bags of cheese puffs lay scattered across the floor.
Mac pulled a Playstation off of the shelf and blew the dust off of it. "Haven't played with this baby in a couple o' months," he explained, "but I don't wanna risk wrecking my new PS2." He fiddled with the wires in the back of the TV for a few minutes. "All righty, it's in."
Mac tore the plastic wrapping off of the game cover and popped open the case. The title seemed to be glowing in the dark -- very cool!
"I hope this doesn't catch my store on fire," Mac half-joked as he placed the disc inside of the Playstation and pressed the on button. The TV screen glowed yellow for a few seconds -- then a series of game developer logos began to flash across the screen.
"Oh, good, it's working," Mac sighed with relief.
"You've got mail!" a cheerful voice called from the computer.
"Hey, you can try it out first if you want," Mac told me. "I gotta take this e-mail. Might be important." Mac slowly rose off of the couch and waddled over to his computer. I gripped the PlayStation controller in my hands. A new Rayman game! One I could play! I knew my allowance would end up towards something special.
Rayman's familiar face filled the screen, contorted in cartoony panic. He looked frantically from left to right, then started running away from the screen, revealing a dark, spooky landscape. He ran around in a circle, crashed into a tree, and fell flat on his back. The words "Rayman 4 -- Lum-o-lution" faded in slowly on the top of the screen while Halloweeny organ music played.
My heart began to race excitedly. The graphics were already really good -- much better than what I was used to seeing in the first two Rayman games. Actually, despite looking a bit blocky, they seemed better than a lot of the newer games I'd sampled at Media Giant. There was no way this could be a bootleg... could it?
"Oh, there we go." Mac's voice made me jump. I'd already forgotten I was sitting in the back of the Media Giant. "I just got an e-mail about Rayman 4. Looks like there's supposed to be a Rayman 4... Lum-collecting tournament, or somethin', coming up in town. And, uh..." Mac scratched the back of his head. "See, I just... I've never heard of a video game doing something like this before."
"Like what?" I asked, turning around to look at the big, friendly guy.
"Well... apparently, when you collect enough Lums in the game, you get a code..." he paused and sniffed, "and, uh, and you take it to the store that you bought the game from, and we give you a form. Then ya send it in and you get a figurine." He scratched the back of his head again. "It says the game has a limited release right now so they can give out the figurines. Then, if you collect..." Another pause. "...er, four figurines 's what it says... you can enter the tournament. You just have to bring your figurines or your 'proof slips' to the venue, which it says here is the Sterling Convention Center."
"I'm buying this," I said, immediately pulling my allowance out of my pocket. "I have to play this game!"
Moments later I was back at home, staring happily at the new Playstation game in my hands. I couldn't believe my luck. Rayman 4! For the system I had! I nearly broke my controller as I enthusiastically selected "New Game."
The screen went dark. A whiny, dopey-sounding voice came out of my speakers.
"He's gone crazy!"
Frantic music began to play and a familiar-looking blue frog jogged through a lush forest -- Globox!
"He's gone crazy, crazy, CRAZY!" Globox yelled as he passed various strange-looking beings. "Absolutely crazy!" He seemed to have gone a little crazy himself.
"Globox, hold up!" a teenager's voice called. Globox turned around to face -- RAYMAN!
"Who's gone crazy?" asked the titular hero, scratching his fluffy hair in a confused way. Globox's eyes grew oversized. His pupils darted from left to right.
"POLOKUS!" Globox hissed. My jaw dropped in real life at the same time Rayman's did on-screen, though decidedly less far. Polokus was the creator of the world inside the Rayman games. He was the God, if you will, of Rayman. I squeezed my controller. Polokus gone mad? But how?
"But how!?" Rayman gasped, echoing my thoughts.
"He was sleeping, as usual," Globox began. "and a Lum flew inside his mouth!" I snorted a little. The Lums were sort of like insects -- giant, ball-of-energy insects.
"So that made him wake up -- and then he ate it!" Globox finished, throwing his hands in the air, as if that explained everything.
"That made him crazy?" Rayman seemed as confused as I was.
"No!" wailed Globox. "Polokus decided that he liked the taste, and now he wants more! He's been changing his appearance from one minute to the next, destroying his own creation to get the Lum energy out of it! He'll stop at nothing to get Lums! Rayman, you gotta help--" Globox's words were cut off by a loud crashing noise, followed by a chorus of high-pitched screams.
The camera quickly switched to a small patch of bushes near Rayman and Globox. The screaming became louder as a group of Lums shot out of the bushes. I gasped -- these Lums looked a lot different than the ones in the last game I'd played. They had eyes, and arms, and legs, and mouths, and they all looked horribly terrified at whatever was chasing them. An enormous webbed foot stomped the bushes flat. The camera angle panned upwards to reveal Polokus, now an enormous golem version of himself with glowing, golden eyes, a long, wooden pipe, and a hungry expression on his face.
"IIIII AAAAAAM... HUNGRYYYYYY..." Polokus' deep voice echoed. "IIIIII WAAAAAANT LUUUUUUUMS!"
"I'll getcha yer Lums!" called Rayman's voice from off screen. Polokus looked downward to see the tiny hero staring up at him. Globox stared at his best friend in horror.
"Rayman! What are you doing?" Globox hissed.
"RAAAAAAYMAAAAAAAAAAN. YOOOOOOOU WOULD HELP MEEEEEEEEE?" Polokus' voice boomed.
"Yeah! Just... just go wait for a little while! An' I'll get you all the Lums you can eat!" Rayman declared. Now it was Globox's turn to drop his jaw to the ground at the same time I did.
"AHHHHH," the giant god's voice sighed contentedly. "THAAAAAT WOULD BE FANTAAAAASTIIIIIIIC." Temporarily appeased, Polokus stomped away. Globox, jaw still on the floor, turned to look at Rayman.
"WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!?" Globox yelled. "You can't feed him Lums! He... he's MADE of Lums! His appetite will only get worse!"
"Don't worry, friend," Rayman beamed, putting a floating hand on Globox's shoulder. "I'm just stalling him. If we can keep him happy for a while, maybe we can find a way to get rid of his Lum addiction without him suspecting a thing!"
"Eh, 's better than nothing!" shrugged Globox. "I'm all for it!"
And so I was plunged into the first level. "Collect 20 Lums, then return to this spot," a wooden-looking box on the screen read. It wasn't a difficult task -- it was the first level, the Lums were plentiful, and the course was simple. I'd found thirty Lums by the time I reached the beginning again. Polokus' giant foot appeared on screen as Rayman held up a brown sack, which was quivering nervously as the captured Lums tried to escape.
"Level complete!" read another wooden box. Then, a different screen appeared -- with a password on it! I scrambled for a piece of paper and quickly wrote down the code: Y3LL0LUMZ.
As I continued, I found that the game was surprisingly dark and complex for a Rayman game. Collect more Lums in a Lum-collecting level, and you would get more time to complete the information-gathering levels. Fail to complete the information-gathering levels in the select time, you would lose a life and have to replay the Lum-collecting level to appease Polokus.
I was also somewhat pleased to discover that after the first level, the code-words weren't nearly as easy to find, meaning that it would be harder for others to enter the tournament. The next day I headed back to The Media Giant and handed in my first code the moment the store opened its doors. Mac gave me a proof-of-completion slip (so that's what a "proof-slip" was!) and told me that he would send in my form right away.
Of course, I didn't think that meant that I would be getting my figurine the next day, so I was a little surprised that there was a package for me in the mailbox. I was even more surprised at what was in the package -- the figurine was a perfect replica of a Rayman 4 Lum, looking positively giddy, despite its role as bait in-game. The figurine came with a tiny card, describing how Lums were generally happy, simple creatures, unless being chased by a power-hungry Polokus.
Over the next few weeks, every moment of my spare time was dedicated to Rayman 4. I knew that with my lack of access to modern consoles, this would be my one chance to win a video game tournament in my hometown, so I was determined to get all four figurines.
A few weeks later, I had three more smiling, happy Lums. This seemed a bit weird to me. Not that Lums were a bad thing, of course, but, why where the figurines so happy when the Lums were always terrified in-game? And, why were there no figurines of the other characters in-game? I expected to get maybe Rayman, Globox, Golem Polokus... anything but what I was getting in the mail. But it was a Lum-Collecting Tournament, so I decided that literally collecting Lums was a quite-clever gimmick to get more people to enter the contest.
I was surprised at how many people were at the Sterling Convention Center that cold, wet morning. It seemed like all of the boys from my high-school were there. Not so many of the girls -- I guess most girls just don't like playing video games as much as boys do. There were clusters of younger kids here and there, all determined to beat us teenagers, and even a couple of little kids, standing there proudly and admiring their four Lums.
I should have known something was wrong when I saw the expression on the ticket-taker type guy behind the podium at the door. His round, dark-colored eyes grew wide as he saw the crowd of young people at the doorway, waiting to get in and collect the most Lums. He twiddled his pudgy, white-gloved fingers nervously.
"W-w-welcome to the L-lum-Collection," he stammered, in a nasally, slightly-slurred voice. "The...the tournament. I'm Glenn Baxter, n' I'll be registering you..." He picked up a glass bottle and took a long drink from it. "I-if everyone could just form an orderly line and p-present your L-l-lums..."
My mind boggled. Glenn Baxter was even rounder than Mac was -- and, as I discovered when I displayed my Lum collection to him, smellier, too! I hoped that Glenn Baxter wasn't involved too heavily in the tournament, or else I'd faint before I collected a single Lum. His stench was like a mixture of foot funk and murky swamp water. His face, which had a red, ruddy complexion, looked slightly green and pale -- probably from either the cold weather or his own body odor. The glass bottle on the podium, which he drank deeply from every so often, was labeled "Sugar Plum Soda."
Fortunately for us Rayman-players, Glenn Baxter stayed outside in the fresh air for quite some time as he verified the authenticity of the slips that players without figurines were holding. Those of us who made it past Glenn's inspection (which was most of us) were herded into a large central area by four men, dressed identically in long, dark green coats and name tags that read "Official Judge. "
"Follow us, please! No straying off unless you want to be disqualified! Keep up, please! The tournament is this way!" I couldn't tell which judge was saying what as they lead us to the tournament room. All four of the men were remarkably short for their age, and they looked and sounded so much like each other that they could have been brothers.
By this point I should have known something was wrong, but the tournament area was so impressive that any suspicions I had were completely wiped from my mind. There were several dozen TV sets scattered about the room, each with a Playstation and a comfortable-looking couch in front of them. Next to each couch was a large side-table piled high with bags of chips and juice boxes. A huge banner hung on the ceiling read "LUM-O-LUTION". Cardboard standees of Rayman, Globox, the Teensies, and other game characters stood in random arrangement around the room. At the end of the hall was a giant inflatable of Golem Polokus -- and, more intriguingly, a small temporary room, placed right between Polokus' short legs. The tournament judges appeared to be doing all they could to keep the nosier contestants away from the room.
"Welcome, welcome to the Lum-Collecting Tournament!" a chipper, young-sounding voice called over the Convention Center's PA. "I'm Reynard Manning, and I'll be your host this morning! If everyone could just gather in front of Polokus for a few minutes, we can get started earlier!"
Reynard Manning was a scrawny-looking, pale young man with long, neatly-combed, light brown hair. As he raised his arms to get the contestants to quiet down, his puffy, dark purple overcoat looked much too big for him.
"Gooooood morning all!" Reynard chirped into his microphone. "I think everyone's been accounted for at this point here, so in just a few minutes, you'll all be collecting Lums a-and competing for the championship title!" A cheer rose up from the crowd of gamers. I punched my fist in the air and screamed with the others, completely unaware of what I was really getting into.
"As you can see," continued Reynard, "there are fifty-five gaming stations set up around this room. Each Playstation is equipped with a special version of Rayman 4 created just for this tournament! You all get one hour's time to practice and prepare yourselves. When you hear this sound --" A loud buzzing noise suddenly played over the PA, causing everyone in the room except for Reynard to cover their ears, "--the tournament will officially begin. There are about 300 of you here today, so you'll all be grouped six or seven to a station. I don't want any arguments, and absolutely no fighting. You'll want to save your energy for collecting Lums!" Reynard winked. "The judges will keep an eye on things and make sure they're fair." He motioned to the four short men standing next to him, all of which nodded slowly and stoically.
"Now, get out there and start collecting!" Reynard Manning blew an air horn and the room seemed to explode as everyone in it dashed to a gaming console. I found myself on an old green-and-yellow couch with two guys I knew from school, a college-aged girl who was taking a semester off at her Uncle's place, and two twin boys who couldn't have been older than ten years old. After a bit of arguing (basically, the twins thought that it wasn't fair to play against adults, and that they should get to practice for the whole hour) we all began taking turns on the tournament version of Lum-o-Lution.
The first thing that I noticed was that the graphics in the tournament version were much better than the ones in the home version. They looked like they belonged in a CGI movie, not a 2005 video game. Everyone marveled at the visually-improved Rayman bouncing across the screen -- and cringed at the horrified faces of the Lums, which were now painfully detailed, their eyes misty with fearful tears.
"This game's kind of stupid," Derek, one of the guys from school, commented. "The Lums are s'posed turn evil if you scare 'em. I don't get why they don't just turn evil and fight back."
"That's only the Red Lums, stupid!" one of the twins yelled. "These ones are yellow!"
"I don't think so."
"He's right," cut in the college girl. "It was the Red Lums, not the yellow ones." I had no idea what they were talking about.
"Whatever," Derek sighed. "Just pass me the controller."
The hour seemed to be over much too soon, and the tournament began. The four Judges walked to each individual group (they all moved as if they were a single four-headed being) to explain the rules.
"It's an elimination round," one Judge began.
"Only one of you will be the victor," another explained.
"Whoever wins is to wait at the bottom of Polokus for the second round to begin," a third went on.
"And no cheating!" the fourth added.
With that, they left us to explain the rules to the next couch over, and our group began to play. Two player mode put both players in the same level at the same time as Rayman and Globox. Players collected as many Lums as possible, the person with the most Lums winning the round. I was secretly pleased to find that the others in my group didn't know nearly as much about playing Rayman games as I did. Derek was out first, followed by one of the twins, then the other guy from my high school (can't remember his name any more), then the other twin. Finally it was down to the college girl and me.
"You're not gonna cry if you lose, are you?" she smirked.
"Nope. I'm not gonna lose," I replied, giving her an equally cocky smile. We both entered two player mode and went for every Lum within our reach. At first she had no trouble keeping up with me -- which surprised me, since she seemed to win every other round by the skin of her teeth. I decided it was time to turn my game up a notch and began purposefully scouting out the Lums that were more well-hidden. Soon, she began to make frustrated grunts and groans as I added the Lums she had missed to my collection. Finally, after I was 25 Lums ahead of her, she threw her controller down and yelled, "FINE! OKAY! YOU WIN! Geez!"
As if a magic word had been uttered, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I jumped and turned around to see one of the Judges.
"Well! It looks like you will be competing in the next part of the tournament, won't you?" He smiled gently at me. I couldn't help but hear a note of sadness in his soft words. But I was caught in the excitement of the moment and didn't care what was going on in the Judge's weird mind. I'd won the first round! I was going to have a chance at winning the whole thing!
After a brief chip n' soda break, the 54 other winners walked to the giant Polokus inflatable for leg two of the Lum Collecting Tournament. The losers were told that they could leave whenever they wanted to, but they were free to stick around to watch the rest of the competition.
While we had been playing Rayman 4, fifty-five plastic folding chairs had been set up in front of the small, boxy room -- one for each of the Round One winners.
"Take a seat!" Reynard Manning smiled, gesturing towards the chairs. "Round two is going to be quite a bit different than round one!"
"You see," Reynard grinned, pulling out a flashlight from his coat pocket and shining it on his face as if he were about to tell a ghost story, "Only the best Lum-collectors will make it to the third and final round! The others will have to be..." He raised a hand and wiggled his fingers, "eliminated!" Manning's words were met with equal parts gasps and groans from the remaining gamers. I wriggled impatiently in my seat.
"However," Reynard raised one of his chubby fingers, "in this round, it will be just you against the game." He stepped to one side and motioned to the temporary room behind him. "These rounds will be held in private in "Polokus' Judging Room." If you don't pass the test..." The smile on his face suddenly seemed to waver for just a moment, "then you will not make it to the next round."
"Would the winner of group number one step up to Polokus' Judging Room, please?" one of the Judges (standing by himself this time!) called. A timid looking girl, this one even younger than the twins, stood up from her chair and walked over to the boxy room, where the door was opened by yet another of the lookalike judges.
"Right this way, please," the fifth judge half-muttered.
"I'm scared," the girl squeaked. The fifth judge took her hand, patted her on the back warmly, and led her into the room. A stiff silence filled the air. Would she make it?
Several minutes later, a piecing scream rang through the air, followed by a rather glum-looking little girl leaving Polokus' Judging Room.
"I'm sorry, I-I'm so sorry. Th-that you lost, I mean. I'm so sorry," the fifth judge stammered. "H-have a nice day. I'm so sorry." The little girl was silent as she walked slowly back to her seat and folded her arms angrily.
"Would the winner of group number two step up to Polokus' Judging Room, please?"
Most of the contestants afterward followed the same routine as the first -- total silence from the room, then, a scream (of frustration? I assumed that was what it was) and, finally, the contestant leaving the room looking completely upset after apparently losing. Every so often, though, someone would defeat the challenge -- whatever it was -- and leave the room looking utterly ecstatic that they were advancing to the next round.
"Would the winner of group number twenty-eight step up to Polokus' Judging Room, please?"
28. That was my group number. It was my turn, my turn to see exactly what was so frustrating behind that closed door.
I stood up from my plastic chair and began nervously walking towards the Judging Room. The giant inflatable Polokus was quite scary up close. His head was tilted slightly downward, as if he were watching the contestants enter the room.
"Step in, step in, quickly now, there are many others," muttered the Judge outside the boxy room.
"Yes, yes, no time to waste, step in quickly now, please," the Judge inside the door continued in the same strange tone. I entered the room and the door was shut behind me.
Inside the room was a single TV system, a Playstation, and one of those rocking "gaming chairs" that you see around Christmas time.
"You may start collecting L-Lums whenever you are ready," the Judge told me. "All you have to do is complete one level." Just one? I sat down in the chair, picked up controller (which was slippery with sweat from the other contestants) and looked at the screen.
"Wow," I breathed as the game began. Just as in my copy of the game at home, Rayman's face filled the screen, his fearful eyes darting from left to right. But the graphics on this version of Rayman 4 were even better than the Tournament version I had just been playing moments before. Rayman's model was so detailed that he looked positively realistic now. Tiny beads of sweat dripped down his snout. As he backed away, his chest heaved in and out, as if he had been running for a very long time.
"Lum-O-Lution Tournament Round Two" read the title on-screen. "Press any button to play." My fingers gripped the controller handles as my thumb mashed the X button.
"Collect 500 Lums in four minutes, then return to this spot" read the mission screen. I whistled audibly. 500 Lums! I didn't think there was a single level in the regular version of the game with 500 Lums. But this was a special version of the game for the tournament, so I assumed that whatever level I was playing would be ripe with Lums.
Rayman appeared on screen, and immediately I sensed something was wrong. No matter which button I pressed, Rayman didn't seem to want to move. Actually, he did start to move -- he began to quake, muttering "Please don't make me do this. Please don't make me do this." I frowned. What kind of game was this? Was there a bug in the system? I turned around to look at the Judge.
"Um...?" I raised my eyebrows.
"Keep playing," the Judge ordered, as if nothing was wrong. I shrugged and tried pressing O, which usually made Rayman jump. This time, Rayman sat on the ground and curled up in a fetal position.
"Polokus, I don't wanna do this!" he sobbed. "I can't do this any more! There's not enough Lums left!" A wave of nausea swept over my stomach. Maybe it was the ultra-realistic graphics, but I suddenly felt like Rayman's time had run out for real, and no extra lives could save him this time.
"BUT I NEEEEEEEEEED LUUUUUUUUUMS" the voice of Polokus boomed as his giant, froglike foot appeared on the screen once again. I choked -- the rocky texture of the gigantic, golem Polokus looked almost too real to be a Playstation graphic.
"IF YOOOOOOOOU DO NOT BRING ME MY LUUUUUUUUUMS," Polokus continued, "THEEEEN I WILL EXTRAAAAAACT THEM FROM YOOOOOOOOOU!" Polokus cackled with glee and grabbed Rayman with a giant, webbed hand.
"No! Please!" gasped Rayman, struggling to break free from the mighty god's grip. "I... I can find you more Lums! I can appease your hunger! Just... just give me more time! I just need a little more time!"
"AHHHHHH." Polokus sighed contently again, then gently placed Rayman on the ground. "THAAAAAAANK YOOOOOOU."
"Rayman!" Globox's whiny voice hissed as his head appeared in the bushes, "What are you doing!? You can't keep stalling! He'll eat everything!" A sad, serious look crossed Rayman's face. My heart began to pound. I'd never seen Rayman make such a somber face.
"Lums are energy, right?" Rayman asked Globox. The big, blue frog nodded.
"Well, we're not the only world with energy," Rayman explained. Then, he turned to face me. "Every world has energy." Rayman's tone grew dark. "And with energy... there are Lums."
"I'm so sorry..." a voice whispered from behind me. I turned to discover the Judge, dabbing at his eyes with a handkerchief.
"What?" I was certain I heard him wrong.
"I'm sorry... I'm so sorry..." he repeated quietly.
"For what?" I asked, though it didn't take me long to find out. The Judge pushed my rocking chair from behind, launching me towards the TV. I screamed as I crashed against the screen -- no, it was too squishy to be the screen, and it smelled like a mixture of foot funk and murky swamp water...
I looked up to see, to my horror, that my face was pressed against Globox's chest.
"I'm really sorry we have to do this," he squeaked as he grabbed my arms and held them behind my back. "I'm really, really sorry. Honest!" I could feel ropes being tied around my wrists. "But Ray still needs time!" Globox nervously took a swig of Plum Juice from a large beer mug. "And here I was hoping ya'd -hic- lose," the froglike fellow drunkenly continued as he tied my feet together. "Ya seemed so unenergetic in line... rrgh..." He made the knot tighter, cutting off the circulation to my feet. "...but Lums're energy, and Polokus wants the best of 'em, so we have to do what we have to do."
At first his words seemed jumbled and confused to me. Then, the meaning hit me.
"You're the ticket taker!" I breathed. Globox nodded sadly as three Teensies emerged from the bushes carrying a gigantic glass jug of steaming, golden liquid.
"We're sorry we have to do this," one of them began.
"It's really not our fault," the second explained.
"Rayman's ideas are a bit poorly-planned, you see," the third one finished.
"Wait, you're the Ju--!?" My words were drowned as all three Teensies heaved the jug forward, dousing me in the yellow liquid it carried. I sneezed and sputtered as the hot golden stuff covered me.
I wanted to yell. Oh, how I wanted to scream and holler and tell those Teensies to untie me this instant. But I couldn't. As the liquid dried, it had become sticky, so sticky that my mouth was quite literally glued shut. So I could only watch in horror at what happened to me next.
My arms and legs began to move uncontrollably -- first a slight tremor, then suddenly in enormous wobbles, until they finally deflated like toy balloons, leaving me with long, stringy, noodley limbs. Then, a violent compressing sensation on my head, as if some giant monster was forcing me to crouch down, down, downward as far as I could go. I scrunched my eyes shut -- I didn't want to see any more of this -- but I could still feel the unpleasant swelling of my stomach; it was the kind of feeling you get after you've had too much soda, only much, much more intense.
The next part is a little hard to describe, but I'm going to try it anyway -- it was at once the painful feeling of the flesh on my back being quickly torn open and the relieved feeling of something that was trapped underneath cloth finally breaking free. I nearly wet myself as I heard a loud fluttering noise come from behind me. I knew of only one thing that could make that noise -- wings.
The sensations finally stopped, so I opened my eyes (they seemed a lot larger now) and looked at my surroundings. Everything seemed normal -- except it was enormous! I easily slipped through the ropes that once held my limbs together and immediately floated upward, courtesy of my new wings that would not stop flapping.
"What just happened!?" I yelled after one of the Teensies wiped the remainder of the sticky goop off of my now-tiny face. Well, actually, it was what I wanted to yell. It came out more like "Blurble ba bidaree!" The Teensie looked at his companions, who all shrugged and shook their heads. Globox looked at me with tearful eyes once again.
"I'm so sorry, buddy," he whispered. "Go on off and play. Maybe you'll get lucky and we won't find you for a while." He pointed off into the forest. I stared for a few moments, looking back and forth from the woods to Globox, until a sudden exuberance took over my entire body and I shot off into the woods, laughing cheerfully. Yes. YES! I understood everything now! I was a Lum! I had become a Lum! And you know what? I didn't care anymore. I was a little yellow ball of energy, and boy, did I feel like a ball of energy! I whizzed through the branches, giggling to myself about nothing, singing nonsense songs, and chasing my fellow yellow Lums around tree trunks and under rocks.
And I was so happy, so delighted to be full of energy, that I hardly noticed that our numbers were growing fewer and fewer, until the day that I happened upon Globox carrying some rope through the woods. I watched him curiously from behind a rock for a while, because I had the strangest feeling that he was going to do something interesting. His shoulders were slumped over and the sound of a sob quavered in his large throat. From out of nowhere, a strange-looking being appeared and smashed into Globox's chest. Without even looking, Globox began to mechanically tie up this new being, as if he were performing a task he had completed thousands of times before.
That's when I remembered the tournament, and Rayman 4, and what the fate of all the Lums would be if Polokus continued to have his way.
I'm not going to tell you how I got out of the Rayman World. As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure what I did myself. How did I get back to normal, you may ask? Well, I didn't. I have been floating around for a while, looking for some way to communicate with the humans, the kind of being that I once was. Eventually, I discovered the Internet, and the perfect way of being able to reach thousands of humans at once.
I know it's been years since I became a Lum, and that there are plenty of new game systems out there, and even a new Rayman game for the Wii (whatever that is). Polokus grew tired of his golem form. He now prefers the body of a massive sea-serpent. But Polokus' hunger still continues to rage in the same way, and Rayman is still searching for a way to return the ravenous god to his former, peaceful state. So I knew I had to warn everyone. If you ever find a new Rayman game on the shelf... be careful! Know what you're getting into before you play! Alas, my words must end here. You see, Lums are energy, and computers run on energy, and my story was so long that I've nearly used all of mine up writing it.
Before I die: always keep us Lums in mind. Have you ever seen a bright yellow light, but you didn't know what it was? Now you know. It's one of us. Be kind to it. Protect it. Polokus must not know!
Now the world around me is growing dim, so I must bid you farew...