Aug 14

The Untrue Origin of Pac-Man

Most of us know of Pac-Man as the arcade game released in 1980, starring an iconic character of the same name. The thirty-year old video game stars a protagonist consuming pellets in a maze, while being chased by ghosts. Aside from his desire for pellets, Pac-Man also eats fruit to gain points and seeks larger pellets to establish an advantage over the ghosts. The character, created by Toru Iwatani, was named after the Japanese folklore character, Paku.

However, the inspiration for the character design has not been entirely clear. Iwatani first stated that the yellow shape came from a pizza with a slice missing, only to later clarify that it derived from simplifying the Japanese character for a mouth, called kuchi. Though Pac-Man has taken on different appearances in his thirty years of age, he is still best-known as the original yellow circle with a missing slice for a mouth.

The origin of Pac-Man has gone without any question, until a book was recently discovered in the sewers of Italy. The following is an excerpt from this long-lost tome entitled, “Fortunas In Uada Callistus” or, “The Fortunes In The Haunted Catacombs”.

25/6/1947, Paris

My name is Tobias Pauk. I am a miner from a small town in Germany by the name of Quedlinburg. I happened upon a document when Hitler’s Army had hidden stolen art in our town, which was later seized by the United States Army. I begin this record in the very place where that document has led me to begin my journey two years ago. These Catacombes de Paris are where I found the first of the four treasures. These valuables, that have spanned centuries, that I have been enamored of for far too long, have all been safely returned from whence they have been found. My time is does not continue, however, as this shall be my final resting place. The spirit, who I have named The Insane, has shown me the way.

To mark the end of my time with the living, I leave this codex. I hope that this book finds someone true of intention, who shares the desire to explore that I had in my heart. I very much would like my discoveries to stay hidden, but do not want my experiences to be for naught. I transcribe this journal with the purpose of both direction and caution: heed my warning that those who have died to protect their immense worth are indeed dead – and still aim to protect what I have returned to them.

I write this first journal entry while hidden in the back of a truck. I am enjoying a pretzel, which starts my story. I was not allowed to enlist in the German Army because of my medical condition. According to the military doctors, I have hyperinsulinism, which puts me in the ‘at risk’ category. If I go too long without eating, I feel light-headed and shaky. I have always dealt with this by simply eating or drinking something with sugar. Working as a miner for prolonged periods of time underground, I have learned to carry a satchel with something small to eat. This morning, I stopped by the bakery for some goods to take with me to work the next day. The bakery is where I encountered the soldiers.

03/05/45, Quedlinburg

The two uniformed men were harassing the elder baker. They were poking him in the chest, and yelling at him for a book. They were startled when I entered the store, but did not stop questioning the man. When I looked at him, he looked relieved, and blurted out that Commander Guderian had already visited that morning. The men knew this name, and ceased their aggressive approach. It was then when the soldiers asked me my business, and I replied that I was just there for some pretzels. The baker told me that he had them for me in the room, and that he also had my loaf of marble rye bread. I knew not what he meant, but within moments I was given the baked goods and told to leave. Outside, I set my satchel on a bench and proceeded to stow my food. The pretzels are always delicious, however the rye bread felt dense and stale. The old man must have been shook up, but I did not want to cause him more grief. I tore the loaf to store half in my satchel and eat the remainder on my walk home, and realized the reason for the weight. Inside the loaf, wrapped in paper, was an old book.

I knew then that I was unwittingly involved with the situation in the bakery, and decided to leave that part of town. I unwrapped the book as I ate the bread, and noticed that the book was much older than I originally thought. The contents were written in Latin! I knew Hitler was acquiring artwork and artifacts. This was a poorly-kept secret spoken about in the church. Maybe this book was part of the collection kept in the church basement? I never did learn how the book arrived in our small town, and in the possession of the baker. I decided to visit my good friend Ernst, who is employed at the pharmacy. He knew some Latin from his medical studies.

My friend Ernst deciphered the book for me, but told me to not open it again. The book being very old, was already torn at the spine. I was told the book is called a codex, and was given a transcription of the contents. Ernst warned me about pursuing the directions provided in the book. He told me that it reads as if more awaits at the first location. The first page was about a catacomb in France. The German Army was losing the Liberation of Paris, and Ernst reminded me of this. He also reminded me that I need to be aware of my dietary needs, and of my rare spells he has witnessed. I do not know what compelled me to follow the path laid out by the codex. Maybe it was the missing pages from the middle. The book itself felt like it was urging me on. I told no one else of my trip to Paris.

06/05/45, Belgium

The trip from Germany to Paris had to be kept a secret. I paid the driver in Reichsmark, making sure to not give him any coins still bearing the Nazi swastika. I decided to bring plenty of lower denomination Reichsphennig. Not knowing where my adventure will take me, I want to make sure I have enough money to pay my way wherever my travels may lead while not appearing so. Though made out of aluminum and not heavy as a single piece, the mass of these coins do bring some weight to my satchel. Maybe I will find a tailor to improve the strap both for security and comfort.

The codex, written entirely in Latin, is stowed. I am using this time to look over the deciphered pages, transcribed to my journal for me thanks to my good friend, Ernst. Unfortunately, the codex is missing several pages from the middle. They each appear to have been cut out with a blade, as the spine is still intact with the pages having been scored with precision. My guess is this was done to preserve the papyrus. While paper might have held up better over time, the plant material likely would have frayed. The first pages mention the name Lutetia Parisiorum – modern day Paris. What’s more, is the page following contains a map. From my best guess and recollection of childhood studies, I can surmise that this is an overhead drawing of the original city in ancient Gual. The streets, almost maze-like in appearance, sprawl out from a city center. I pull out the codex from my bag, take some twine from the floor of the truck, and bind the codex with my journal. These two are of no use to me if separated.

Our drive from Quedlinburg to Paris has approximately three days. I sleep in the back on one of the benches, fading in and out of sleep due to boredom, until the unforgiving country road periodically jolts me awake. The sun peeks through holes in the canvas during the day, and the bright moon shines through at night. I write when I am tired of rest. Luckily for me, the driver was a man already on appointment with someone in our town to smuggle other stolen artwork. He knew that I just had the one book, and understood my need to be discreet. While his business is for profit, he respects my desire to pursue my studies and even offered to introduce me to a French professor he knows. I took him up on this, knowing that his acquaintance would be a kindred spirit. As we near the city, I decide to give myself an assurance that this professor would not betray my confidence. Using the paraffin paper containing the other half of my bread, I trace a copy of the Lutetia city center map. Before I bind the codex and journal again, I carefully tear out the traced map to keep in my coat shirt pocket. I realize now why the middle pages of the codex were removed. Something of value will come from Paris, I just know it.

06/06/45, Paris

We met Professor Brasseur today, and he helped me with the map. Though the map was in good condition despite the years it had endured, the passing of time had caused it to lose relevance. The professor, being a teacher of history, knows of Paris since before the land was Paris. The map depicts a series of passages in catacombs, which have been used since the Roman times. Brasseur told me that these are open to the public and that he has ventured through the tunnels. He warned me, however, that he is not familiar with the section detailed in the map. He thinks that over the years, sections have been walled off due to vandalism or dilapidation. As a history major, he would not appreciate that I purchased a sledge hammer with intention to investigate. But, I am sure he is as curious as I am. Brasseur gave me some money – not much – and told me to let him know about my findings before anyone else.

I paid the driver with the money from the professor, and told him that the map led me to a commercial district. It is best that few people know my purpose. When I asked him the location of the nearest construction supply store, he advised that I first visit a musical instrument sale and repair shop. Whatever I plan to purchase to aid me in my search should be disguised, he said, and he suggested a case. I was recommended a local bed and breakfast, said to mention his name, and he was on his way. I stood outside the music store with the page torn from my journal, addresses to the construction supply store and bed and breakfast in hand.

I picked up a straw panama fedora hat at a haberdashery while I was out, in order to fit in with the locals. It is slightly yellow in hue – not typical when compared to my normal drab attire, but it is fun. With my mandolin case and sledgehammer, books and money in my satchel, I am ready to begin tomorrow. The room I am in for the night is cozy. The bed is comfortable, and I like the desk by the window. There are plenty of lights out tonight. I am glad I purchased a flashlight, since the catacombs will likely also be dark. I do not know what to expect tomorrow, but with several pages missing from the middle of the codex, I suspect the Catacombes de Paris will not be the last stop on my adventure.

Supplies in satchel:

– codex

– journal

– coins

– flashlight (2 spare batteries)

– baked goods

– dried fruit

Clothes in bundle:

– shirt (1)

– pants (1 pair)

– underwear (2 pair)

– socks (2 pair)

Other:

– straw hat

– canteen

08/06/45, Paris

This should have been written last night, but I fell fast asleep after I returned. I believe it is early morning, before dawn, as the sun appears to be rising from the other side of the building. The strangest of dreams have been racing through my mind.

The catacombs proved so informative! The guardian in the catacombs revealed to me the reason the pages of my codex have been removed. The map led me to him. I had to search – an arduous search – but I discovered what has been hidden for over a thousand years. The catacombs are dark, once one goes beyond the often-trodden section reserved for tourists. I had to maneuver my way through a narrow gap in a wall, made accessible once I found the space between the wall and the ceiling where a wall had been added. Lucky for me, they used the same, old stones found throughout to preserve the look when they blocked off the remaining passages. I am glad that I took my flashlight with extra battery, because the light proved useful. I lost my way, for what felt like an hour! I devised a way to return to my path, however. With the extra coins in my pocket, I placed shiny gold markers at every other pace. This showed me where I had been, and kept me moving forward (I also returned this way, taking back my coins). It was when I was in the middle of the maze of tunnels that I met him.

The guardian, as I surmise, was a strong man when among the living. Years spent in the dark have eroded his mind, but he still felt stoic. The specter, who I learned was a Roman general, taught me a lot about how his troops overran the Gallic tribe in this area. He told me his name was Sermo, though I still do not know how I understood him. This name was not his real name, but one he gave himself after death. His living name was Tacitus Severus, after the famous orator. Sermo told me that as the name implies, had been forever silenced. He was a dux, or a general, known for his resonating voice and respect among those in his legions. Well on their way to victory over the troops of what was known as Gaul, he told me that he commanded his troops to march their way forth to dispatch the remaining pockets of Gallic soldiers. It was then that a hidden soldier surprised him, mid-command. Sermo’s sword raised while he ordered his troops, his throat was slashed by the blade of the enemy. He bled out on the ground, where his soul remained – rendered mute and unable to carry out his final command. I encountered him in the passageways. He emitted a presence that was both dimmer than my flashlight yet bright enough to render it ineffective. Hearing this final war story gave his soul the chance to empty his final breath. I woke up, my flashlight battery discharged. His faint visage in the light dispelled, he left one of the missing pages from my book. I woke up light-headed, ate some dried fruit, and made my way out.

I am unsure why this page was torn from the book, and how it had been separated long ago. Did Sermo have the book at one time? Or was he just in possession of this page? I will get some breakfast, and visit with Professor Brasseur for help with translation. One word I can make out from my childhood studies, however, is Hispania.

Completed works are planned to be a book with illustrations by Byron Rempel!

Written by Travis Blair. Illustrated by Nicole Dorman.

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