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May 2016 Discussion Post: Your Creepypasta/Paranormal Projects

May 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM

I get a lot of messages from people who are interested in starting their own Creepypasta-related YouTube channel, website, insta, whatever – they usually want to ask for advice about how to select stories, how to get started and find viewers, etc etc and so forth. Given that I don’t operate anything beyond my little two-site blog network, I often am left feeling somewhat useless when replying to some of these people. I’ve tried to go over how I select pastas in the FAQ, but I have absolutely no idea how YouTube monetization and popularity works, or how (beyond simply posting quality content and tagging things properly) certain tumblrs become so popular while others languish – those particular social networks simply aren’t my area of expertise.

Luckily for me, what I do have is free posting reign at a certain Creepypasta website with an auidence full of people who already have their own video channels and tumblrs and whatnot – so in an effort to help those community members who are looking to break into the world of Creepypasta/Paranormal videos (both story narrators and more advanced short productions), people who are looking to network their already established tumblrs/twitters/instagrams/blogs/facebook pages/etc, I thought I’d make May’s discussion post all about the extended Creepypasta family and give the community at large a chance to share their various creepypasta-related endeavours.

In this post, feel free to:

  • Promote your own creepypasta or paranormal-related project. Link your tumblr, your YT channel, your podcast, your Facebook page, your webcomic, your indie game, your blog – as long as it’s actually related to something that could be deemed creepy (and doesn’t qualify as shock/gore content), let’s see it – and tell us why/how you got started!
  • Discuss and share tips for newbies trying to break into your specific social network. How do you gain followers on Tumblr? How do you accumulate subscribers on YouTube? Any words of encouragement or warning are welcome!
  • Kickstarters/GoFundMe/IndieGoGo projects are also welcome, of course, as long as they’re relevant.
  • For anyone posting their links, please make sure to explain your project thoroughly, though, and tell us why you think this community should be interested. If you just drop a link with no other comment, it will likely get eaten by the spam filter or manually spammed by a moderator. You need to actually participate in the discussion in order to promote yourself, I don’t want this discussion post to be just a link farm.

As always, be respectful of each other. If you dislike someone’s website or project, don’t be needlessly rude. Remember that behind each comment and link is an actual person – if you can’t reign in nastiness, you just shouldn’t be here.

Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what everyone shares!

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First Night in the New House

May 25, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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First Night in the New House

This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Credit: Written and directed by Marc Fratto. Produced by Insane-o-rama Productions

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Claustrophobia

May 24, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Things have simply not been the same for Dalton Whitworth since the carriage accident. Colors are not as vivid – music not nearly as pleasurable. Every meal he consumes is bland and leaves an unsavory aftertaste. Days filled with sunlight are no longer warm, enjoyable experiences. On the contrary – he finds the light to be oppressive, causing his eyes, head and neck to be in a constant state of discomfort and torment.

Dalton had previously enjoyed these simple pleasures in his life – even as recently as last month – until the accident that took away his beloved Rachel. Now he feels as if he spends all his effort avoiding everything. He dreads having to eat yet another tasteless dinner. He stays indoors as much as possible, only daring to venture out long enough to acquire the necessities for survival. He goes out of his way to avoid human contact. Even though his circle of acquaintances showed great care and sympathy for him upon the loss of his wife, he would much prefer to be left alone now.

If, by chance, he did encounter a familiar face in public he knew the conversation would invariably turn toward his tragic experience, forcing him to relive the nightmare. He would again see in his mind the spooked horse on its hind legs – the carriage, jolting harshly – Rachel letting out the briefest of screams as she is thrown from her seated position atop the open-air coach – the cobblestone pavement – the blood pooling under her lifeless form – his helpless inability to alter the outcome. Dalton cannot bear these images any longer, and he is frightened of closing his eyes for fear of being accosted once again by these horrific visions.

He passes the days in his apartment reading by dim gaslight anything he can get his hands on – novels, textbooks, newspapers and other periodicals, packaging for common household products – anything that will help him to escape. When he is not reading, he extinguishes the gaslight and sits in his armchair near the only window in his tiny quarters. He pulls back the heavy, dense curtain just enough for one eye to ingest the world outside. He is careful not to allow an overabundance of sunlight into the dark room. People outside go about their happy lives, content and oblivious to the dark matters that one who has suffered a loss must endure.

On one particular morning when Dalton awoke, he was immediately confronted with an odd sensation. Something wasn’t quite right. He was in the habit of standing at the foot of his bed every morning and facing the mirror as he dressed. He did so this day as well, but with the exception that the image being reflected did not appear as it had on other days. He wasn’t able to pinpoint its inaccuracy until he attempted to button his jacket – the same jacket he wore most days. This day, the button second from the top was no longer visible in his reflection. This had never been the case before, and Dalton was uncertain of how such a discrepancy might have occurred.

Have I grown shorter overnight? Has the mirror been raised on the wall? Nonsense! These options were impossible!

All throughout the day as Dalton made his way around the apartment his rhythm seemed to be off. After years of living in the same rooms, amongst the same unmoved furnishings, one develops a sense of rhythm to their comings and goings – eight steps to the armchair – five more to the front door – a slight inward turn of the left foot while entering the bedroom, lest one’s toe be stubbed on the protruding dresser again. These are all subconscious, of course. There is no actual counting or calculation involved, but the human mind takes note of these nuances internally and builds its own map of the landscape. Movements are subliminally adjusted to achieve the utmost efficiency, to the point where it is possible to flawlessly navigate the surroundings even in complete darkness.

Dalton was not in complete darkness, and yet he continued to stumble throughout the day. The sides of his shoes bumped corners of walls. He approached the bookshelf from his armchair in seven steps instead of eight. His top hat grazed the overhead gas lamp in the main hallway. At dinner he slid his chair out from under the table, to the point that it was touching the wall, and yet he was still barely able to squeeze himself between the table and chair in order to sit for his meal. Later that night after he finished his reading in the dim light, he reached up to extinguish the lamp and clumsily jammed his finger against the brass fixture. It hadn’t been so close last night, he thought while rubbing the pain away.

Sleep did not come easily that night. Dalton tossed and turned in a feverish heat of sounds and images in his mind – the horse neighing loudly as it bolted away – Rachel helplessly tumbling from the side of the accelerating carriage – Dalton lying next to her on the ground, calling her name, trying to rouse her, fighting his tears.

The following morning Dalton noted his red eyes and the dark circles underneath them as he dressed in the mirror. However, this was not the only startling revelation. As he buttoned his coat, he also noticed that the top button was no longer visible in the viewing pane. A rush of adrenaline flowed through his body, leaving him with a brief pain in his chest and a sweat beginning to emerge on his brow. He took a step backward, but it was not enough to bring the button into view. One more step backward and he stumbled against the foot rail of his bed. This can’t be! Am I going mad? he pondered. He became lightheaded and was overwhelmed with the urge to sit. He made his way down the hall to the armchair and fell into its velvety comfort. After a time of rest and catching his bearings, Dalton proceeded to the bookshelf (he could have sworn it only took six steps this time!) to peruse for an item to read. Once he selected his book, he settled into the chair once more to immerse himself in a world far from his own.

Dalton awoke abruptly. He had no idea how long he had slumbered in his reading chair. The remaining light in the apartment was dim, and one quick glance behind the thick curtain revealed a deep indigo dusk sky. To his astonishment, Dalton realized that he’d passed the bulk of the daylight hours unconscious. He had even forgotten that he had been reading until he found the book face-down on the floor next to the armchair. He arose from the chair and stumbled a bit, still unstable from his lengthy nap. Upon making his way to the bedroom, he nearly ran full-steam into the wall at the end of the hallway. He had reached the end a full three paces sooner than before.

Suddenly, he felt fully awake. His annoyance at this scenario having grown to its peak, he decided to investigate further – to prove once and for all that he wasn’t going completely stark raving mad. He retrieved a broomstick and laid it on the hallway floor with its end touching the wall. He marked the other end with his finger pressed tightly against the floor and then slid the stick forward until it aligned with his marking finger. Repeating this process all down the corridor, he determined that it took six full lengths of the broomstick with a remaining space of about ten inches (that last portion he estimated in his mind) to reach the front door. He noted this dimension on the inside cover of the book he’d picked up off the floor, and vowed to measure again soon.

Before going to bed that evening, Dalton paused to have a look at his reflection in the mirror once more. He stood with the back of his calves touching the footboard of the bed. He almost broke down into tears when he saw the sickly man in the reflection – a shadow of the man he was before losing Rachel. Aside from his startling visage he also took note of the truncated image. Now, his face was only visible down to the chin – no neckline, no buttons on his coat. He reached his arms out before him and was able to touch the wall with his fingertips – something never before possible as the wall had always been a good seven feet away from the foot of the bed. Defeated, he hung his head, removed his outer clothing and crawled into bed, hoping to sleep indefinitely – not minding if he never awoke again.

But awaken he did. He had slept soundly all night long, only stirring momentarily when thoughts of the accident attempted to encroach on his dreams. It was morning light now, and the first thing that Dalton noticed was something pressing against his bare foot. Still in a fog, he bent his already-stiff neck downward to catch a glimpse of what it was that had come into contact with him. A swell of panic and fear overtook him when he determined that it was the wall with the mirror on it – pressed all the way up against the foot rail of his bed. Dalton jolted his neck the opposite way to see the space behind the headboard. It was still snugly against the opposing wall. His heart raced with dread at this unexplainable event. His mind did not know how to process this information. He exited the bed on the left side and squeezed past the pressing walls and through the doorway into the hall. After retrieving the measuring broomstick, he employed it to measure the hallway a second time. His hands shook, but he was careful to line up the stick accurately at each interval. Upon reaching the front door, he nearly fainted to find that he’d only counted four and a half lengths of the stick.

“What is happening to me?” he cried out, to no one as he collapsed onto the floor. He sobbed openly. Not only because of the strange predicament, but also for his current condition, and for Rachel, who had brought such peace and contentment to his life just a month prior. Oh, how things could change so quickly. After regaining his composure, Dalton was overwhelmed with the desire to flee – to get out of that oppressive apartment, even if only temporarily. As much as the idea frightened him, he decided to pass the daylight hours outdoors. Where exactly he would go, he did not yet know. He picked himself up off the floor, found his hat and overcoat, and made his way to the front door, noting how it took fewer steps to approach it.

Dalton walked along the cobblestone path through town. He stared at the ground as he walked, hoping that no one would try to speak to him or even make eye contact. No one did. Turning the corner near a leather tanning shop, he had to divert his path as the store owner came bursting from the front door of the shop and threw a bucket of wastewater into the street, nearly wetting Dalton’s shoes. How completely rude and insensitive, Dalton thought, though he did not speak to the man. He continued on toward an area free of businesses, buildings, and the commotion of life – a park-like area with benches, a pond, and trees displaying their colorful autumn foliage. Dalton sat on the nearest park bench upon entering the clearing. It was relatively calm and peaceful since it was mid-morning on a weekday. The only other patrons were a mother feeding ducks in the pond with her toddler son, an elderly gentleman sitting on a bench opposite Dalton reading a newspaper, and the occasional passerby, on their way to more important things.

Dalton sat and observed until he felt his eyelids getting heavy. The breeze and the silence lulled him. The cloud cover was a thick grey blanket preventing any harsh sunlight, much to Dalton’s delight. Even so, it was unseasonably warm which only furthered his sleepiness. As he was on the verge of crossing the threshold into dream territory, he saw a woman in a pink dress pass by in front of him. He was startled and followed her with his eyes as she approached the pond. Jolting to full alertness, Dalton’s heart began to pound as his mind guided him toward this inevitable thought: My God, she looks just like Rachel! He could feel his pulse throbbing in his neck. He stood, and slowly approached the woman from behind. When he was standing just adjacent to her, he mustered the courage to speak.

“Rachel?” he asked in almost a whisper, his voice weak and quivering.

The woman turned and looked him directly in the eye.

It’s her! By God, it’s her! he thought.

“Dalton!” Her voice was filled with relief and longing, as if the wife of a military man being reunited with her husband after long months apart.

They immediately embraced. Rachel’s head pressed tightly into Dalton’s shoulder. They both wept. Dalton repressed the confusion in his mind of how this could be possible. It didn’t matter to him. His precious wife had returned to him and he wanted to revel in that fact, plausibility be damned!

The longer the embrace lingered, the more Dalton noticed the heaviness of Rachel leaning on him – the slackness of her body. Soon it felt to Dalton as if he were supporting her entire weight. She had gone completely limp in his arms. Still holding the embrace, they collapsed to the ground together, Dalton attempting to ease his wife’s descent. It wasn’t until they reached the ground that her head fell away from his shoulder revealing the truth. Dalton recoiled in horror upon seeing the decaying face of his once-lovely bride. Her eye sockets were sunken and deep, her jaw slacked open to an impossibly wide angle. Her complexion was grey and flecked with dry, cracked areas. Her hair, previously beautiful and one of Dalton’s favorite features about her, was now thin and stringy, matted to the shape of her head.

Rachel’s lifeless body fell away onto the stone walkway as Dalton pulled his arms away in disgust. He felt the pain of losing her all over again – fresh as the day it first happened.

Dalton jolted awake to find himself still sitting on the park bench. He nervously looked around to see if anyone had noticed his startled awakening. He hoped he had not screamed out in his sleep. He was relieved to find that there was no one around. The woman with her young boy – gone. The old man reading the paper – gone. The sky was now a much darker shade of grey. The clouds had thickened to the point that it appeared it may rain at any moment. How long had he been sitting there? What felt like minutes could possibly have been hours. As Dalton stood to make his way back to his apartment, the first raindrops began to fall.

He was thoroughly soaked as he stood in front of his apartment door and fumbled with the key. In his haste, he dropped it into a puddle then bent over to retrieve it. Once he finally managed the lock, he pushed the door open, but was dumbfounded when it hit a hard object after having only opened up a third of the way. He backed the door up a few inches and pushed again with the same result. Dalton turned sideways and stuck his head and right shoulder into the dark foyer in an attempt to observe the obstruction. Pressed up firmly against the door was his favorite velvety armchair.

“This is madness!” he said aloud, still standing in the soaking deluge. He took several steps back out into the street. The building appeared no different on the outside. He returned to the doorway and pushed hard enough to slide the chair a small amount – just enough to squeeze through and into his apartment. What he found was completely astonishing. The size of the space inside had diminished to the point that the furniture was gathered in the center of the room – walls pressing in on all sides. He’d had to remove his hat and crouch down, lest his head hit the ceiling. There was no need for Dalton to measure in order to confirm his suspicions. The room was so small now that he could not even walk through it without stepping over furnishings that had once been placed feet apart from one another. The hallway was practically nonexistent and he reached his bedroom in only three steps, turning sideways to squeeze between its walls. He had to step up onto his bed as he crossed the threshold into the room. The walls touched the bed on all sides, and the mirror had fallen onto the foot of his bed, face-down.

Dalton sat on his bed and turned the mirror over. He did not recognized the man staring back at him. Pale. Gaunt. Sickly. Haunted. Not knowing what else to do, he lay on his bed and waited. Waited for what? He didn’t know exactly. For the walls to consume him, he supposed. For the ceiling to drop down and crush the last breath from his lungs. He was ready. He was resigned.

There was rumbling when the walls and ceiling shifted again. This was the first time Dalton had witnessed the movement himself. It was alarming at first, but he knew it was inevitable. He accepted the dust that flaked onto his face as the ceiling dropped inches more. He welcomed it, even. The head and foot boards of his bed cracked and splintered as they buckled under the pressure from the wall on either side. The gaslight fixture mounted on the ceiling touched the mattress next to him. He held the mirror flat against his chest. There was no longer room enough to stand it upright.

More rumbling. The mattress bent and formed a tomb around Dalton. He closed his eyes and waited. He waited until he lost consciousness and all was black.

– – – – –

Dalton’s eyes slowly opened. He was enveloped in complete darkness. He felt groggy and his head was pounding. It took several minutes for him to come out of the fog, but once he did, it was as if he hadn’t felt this clear-minded in quite some time. He was alive. Not only that, but he wanted to live. He felt the energy of revitalized life flowing through him. Memories came rushing back. In his mind’s eye he saw a lovely day with Rachel. He saw them mounting the carriage together after their evening meal at Dupont’s Bistro. He saw the spooked horse rear up. He remembered the severe jolting of the carriage. He saw his wife plummeting to the ground. He saw himself also falling harshly onto the pavement stones, his head slamming against them violently. Everything after that was blackness.

Dalton was barely able to move. When he finally regained a small amount of control over his limbs, he felt around for his surroundings. He was lying on his back – on something plush and soft. His hands found the edges of his confines quickly. There were soft, satin-like walls up against his shoulders and inches from his face. The ceiling directly in front of him felt as if it had an arch shape to it. Awakening further, he determined that he could not move his body beyond this position, as he was lying in a depression that fit snugly against him. The air was thick and musty – barely breathable. It hurt his lungs to inhale it too deeply. Sweat formed on his brow as he realized the full extent of his environment.

Panic set in.

“No!” he yelled, using up some of the remaining stale air inside. “I’m not dead!”

He banged his fists against the lid as best he could within the limited space, but it only created a muffled thud on the soft interior. Dalton screamed and began sobbing. When he tried to take more air into his lungs it felt like someone had placed a pillow over his face. He labored to inhale again.

Approximately six feet above him was a marker which bore two names: Rachel A. Whitworth on the left side; and Dalton G. Whitworth on the right side. Below each was inscribed a date of birth and a date of death – the dates of death being identical. In between the names was chiseled into the stone, “Together in life – Together in death”.

– – – – –

Two days after the burial, two lone mourners – coworkers of Dalton’s – visited the grave site to place flowers. They stood in their top hats and overcoats, staring solemnly at the headstone.

“It’s a shame he didn’t recover from his coma,” one grieving man said to the other.

“Indeed,” the second man responded.

“I do wonder though…” said the first coworker, “Do you suppose someone in that state knows? I mean, are they capable of thinking? Or dreaming?”

After some thought, the second man dismissed the idea. “Nah. I doubt it.”

But Dalton Whitworth, if he were here today, would beg to differ. “Yes,” he would say, “We are capable of thinking and dreaming. And it is as vivid as life itself.”

Credit: moonlit_cove

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Between the Walls

May 23, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I had never been frightened by anything. Sure, I’ve always been fearful of things like terrorism, bankruptcy, drunk drivers… but nothing paranormal. Ghosts, goblins, ghouls, and the like. Not out of any misdirected bravery, but simply because of the fact that I didn’t believe they existed. How can one be afraid of something imaginary? Then I found out how wrong I had been. How very, very wrong.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Allow me to set the scene.

My family and I had recently moved to Indianapolis. We left our home of six years in Texas – the home where we had raised our two children – because of a new job opportunity. It was my job that had been the reason for moving from Ohio to Texas in the first place, but after six years we came to the conclusion that were Yankees through and through. We just weren’t suited to live in the desert of southwestern Texas.

Arriving in Indiana, we opted to rent a house temporarily. That would give us the time to complete the sale of our house in Texas and look around for a new home that our family would like – a forever home. My office was located in downtown Indianapolis, and there was a newly gentrified section of the city located within five miles. We found an old house – very old – that the owner had restored with the help of subsidies from the city council. That’s what he told us over the phone, anyway.

The first time that we arrived to meet the owner and look around, we were impressed. We had beat him to the house so my wife and I parked in the long gravel drive and exited our vehicle, our two young children in tow. We walked around the house in awe. It, like the neighboring homes, was practically a mansion. The entire avenue consisted of large, brick homes with slate roofs and scores of chimneys. Lots of limestone lintels and decorative filigrees, even a gargoyle here and there – none on the home we were looking at, unfortunately. As promised, the house was pristine. From the outside.

The landlord’s name was Lenny. He was a pretty cool guy. A bit cynical, but given the people he probably had to deal with on a daily basis, not too bad. He seemed to take to our children pretty well and didn’t mind that we had a large dog. He pointed out some of the outdoor renovations – repointing of the brick, new slate roof, and newly glazed windows. Then we went around back to enter through one of the rear doors.

When he swung open the door, it quickly became obvious that the exterior of the house was not indicative of the interior. Its beauty was indeed only skin deep. A musty odor wafted through the entryway and the interior hall was dimly lit. All of the sheer curtains had been drawn and only slivers of sunlight filtered through, motes of dust floating about. By the end of our tour, we had determined that the house was definitely in need of a lot of work, but it had a certain charm about it.

The rear entry hall was surfaced with a vintage hex pattern porcelain tile which extended into a small – very small – half bath immediately inside the entryway. At six foot four inches, I couldn’t stand fully upright in the washroom. The hallway extended forward toward the front doors, and at some point about halfway the flooring transitioned to hardwood. As the foyer opened up to the full three story height of the house, we noticed a huge stained glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It was impressive.

Just to the left, a small – and when I say small, I mean normal-sized as the rest of the doorways in the house were almost nine feet in height – swinging door led into a tiny kitchen. The kitchen had absolutely no conveniences save for a sink. It was almost a surprise that there was running water. When we pointed out that our refrigerator would obviously not fit, Lenny offered to bring in a smaller one from another of his rentals. The kitchen had three more doors: one leading into a dining room, one leading out into the backyard, and one leading down into the cellar.

The cellar was a sight! The stairwell was steep. Just one flight leading down about twenty feet to the cellar floor. Bare bulbs lit each of the eight rooms it had been divided into. This basement was one of the creepiest places in the house complete with dripping pipes, chains hanging from the block walls for no apparent reason, and a huge gravity furnace in the farthest room from the stairs. It lurked there like a colossal monster with a multitude of steel arms reaching up into the house above. The floor back there was littered with papers and boxes, and the walls were lined with cabinets that we never did dare to open.

Aside from the kitchen and half bath, the first floor of the home contained a dining room and large living area, both separated from the main hall by pairs of huge arched doorways, and both with large limestone hearths set into the far walls. I supposed that the gravity furnace was either a newer addition or that – like most that I have had experience with – did not do an adequate job of heating a large house. The bedrooms occupied the second and third floors. A niche in the wall housed an old-fashioned servant bell system. Bells on springs attached to chains leading to each of the upstairs rooms. Lenny claimed that they still worked, and we were sure that the kids would test them out.

The upstairs bedrooms were unremarkable, save for the supersized doorways and fireplaces in all of them. The two bathrooms on each floor were also tiled in the hex pattern porcelain we had seen in the entryway and had genuine, honest-to-God claw footed bathtubs.

Lenny made sure to point out another unique feature of the house. At the back of each bedroom closet lay a narrow, almost undetectable doorway. He opened one of them to show us a system of slim passages that ran behind the lathe and plaster walls and connected most of the bedrooms to each other. Why were they there? Probably for no other reason than one would expect to find something like them in a house like that.

So, as I mentioned earlier, the house was perfectly creepy in every way.

“We’ll take it!”

I figured that if I would ever experience anything spine-chilling or uncanny in any way in my lifetime, it would happen in that house. I wasn’t disappointed.

It was late fall and the apple tree in the back yard had started shedding its fruit. There were half rotting apples all over the lawn, so I was raking them up and scooping them into bags for the trash. I stopped to rest for a moment and my eyes fell to rest on the garage. Like the house, it was brick with a slate roof. It had two large carriage-house type doors. Since the drive was large enough and there was a turnaround at the rear of the house, we generally left our vehicles outside. The only time that we had even been inside the garage was when we had moved in. We had instructed the movers to store some things out there – things that we would not be needing for a while until we found our forever home. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to give the garage a closer inspection.

About forty feet to a side, it – like everything else about the property – was a rather large structure. There were no doors other than the carriage doors, so I eased open one leaf just wide enough to step inside. I felt around and my fingers eventually brushed up against a chain hanging from the ceiling rafters. I yanked and a single bare bulb cast a small pool of light around me. I made my way through the garage pulling more chains and managed to illuminate most of the garage floor. All of our belongings – garden tools, lawnmower, my large shop tools, and boxes of things that we hadn’t planned to use for a while – lay against a wall along one edge of the floor. The only other thing in the garage was a four foot high pile of slate shingles in a back corner. I walked over and took one of the tiles in my hands. Heavy. The garage roof alone probably held tons of weight. I couldn’t imagine roofing the entire house in slate.

I heard a ticking, scratching sound from overhead. The ceiling of the garage was mostly open, with bare rafters through which you could see the underside of the roof sheathing. About one quarter of the rafters had been covered over with wooden planks forming a sort of floor. Probably for extra storage space. I imagined that a house and garage as old as this had been must have mice, at the very least. From the intensity of the sound, though, I could tell that it was something much bigger than a mouse – even bigger than a rat. I groaned at the prospect of having to evict a raccoon or some larger animal from the attic. I considered leaving it alone. We were just temporary visitors anyway. It was probably a more permanent resident than us. My conscience ruled against that thought. With two children who were bound to end up playing out in the garage someday, I couldn’t chance them encountering a wild, possibly rabid, animal.

I peered up into the darkness, allowing my eyes to adjust, looking for some sign of movement. There! I saw it. Quick. Fleeting. It startled me so that I dropped the slate tile I had been holding and it shattered at my feet. I had only caught a short glimpse in my peripheral vision, but it didn’t look like any animal I had ever seen before. An icy chill ran down my spine but I chalked it up to the darkness, an unfamiliar place, and a general feeling of anxiety. We had recently completed our move and moving had always stressed me out. I used a shovel to scoop up the tile shards and took them around the back of the garage, throwing them into a pile of stones and bricks that a previous tenant had heaped back there. Then I went back into the garage, turned out the lights, and closed up the door.

Later that evening, after dinner, after the kids were asleep, my wife and I sat in the living room huddled close to a fire that I had built in the hearth. We had learned that the old house got extremely cold at night, despite running the furnace at full-tilt.

“Hey, Hun. I think we might have an animal problem out in the garage.”

My wife looked up in surprise. “Rats?”

“No, no. Probably a raccoon or something. I really only got a glimpse of it, but it seemed pretty big.”

“What are we going to do? The boys… What if it’s rabid?” She looked alarmed.

“I’ll call an exterminator tomorrow. I’m not going to mess with it. Who knows what might be out there? I’m a lover, not a fighter.”

My wife smiled, and I felt more at ease. I had decided to put the problem in someone else’s capable hands. Whatever it was out there, it would soon be gone. We began to talk about how relieved we were that the move was over. The conversation turned to our next step – finding a forever home – and then led to talk of making the creepy house more livable until such time as we could move out. Painting, maybe? Replacing the carpet runner on the staircase, definitely. Just then, one of the bells in the niche jingled.

“Huh?” I got up and walked over to the front hall. The bell jingled again, and I could see that it was the one labeled “Master bedroom.” I yelled up the staircase. “Boys! Get back to bed, and stay out of Mommy and Daddy’s room!” No answer, but the bell was silent. I assumed that they got the message. When we climbed the staircase a half hour later, we looked in and saw that both boys were tucked in and sawing logs. I imagine that they were excited, but I didn’t want them exploring the house until I could check it out thoroughly. If there was a raccoon (or something) in the garage, there just may have been mice, rats, or worse in the house.

I started a fire in the smaller fireplace in the master bedroom, and we fell asleep as it waned. I was in a sort of twilight when I heard the bell jingle again. “What the..?” I crossed our bedroom and tiptoed down the stairs to the second floor. Looking in their rooms, I discovered that both boys were still tucked in. Jingling again. Now I ran down to the first floor hall just in time to see the “Master Bedroom” bell shake again. Bewildered, I headed back upstairs.

“You rang?” I asked my wife as I walked back into our room.

“What?”

“Why did you pull the bell chain? Are you trying to freak me out? Or did you just miss me?”

She looked puzzled. “Um, I didn’t pull the chain.”

I could tell that she was telling the truth. I had gotten good at reading her over the ten years of our marriage. With irritation and perhaps a bit of denial, I resolved that we did, in fact, have a rodent problem in the house. That was the only explanation, right? I pictured a mouse (or worse) scampering across the bell chain as it ran behind the walls through one of the house’s heating ducts or pipe chases. Lenny would certainly be getting an angry call in the morning. We eventually managed to fall asleep, even though we could hear one or another of the bells ring a few more times during the night.

Lenny grumbled a bit about “No damn mice… ” but he did agree to have someone come out and check. He knew a guy. Lenny knew a guy for just about everything: plumbing, yardwork, and now pest control. The exterminator set and baited a cage trap for the raccoon out in the garage. After checking out the basement and closets, he said that although he didn’t find any signs of mice or rats – scat, nests, etc. – he would set some glue traps under our furniture and near the baseboards. He said that they would be safer than snap traps, which we probably didn’t want around the kids. Both my wife and I thought of the suffering that a mouse would endure if it were caught in the glue to eventually starve to death or die of thirst, so we asked for an alternative.

The “terminator,” as my boys called him, agreed to set some bait stations instead. He said that Lenny wouldn’t be happy about the extra cost but I could see that he was pleased to be upping his sale. He said that the bait stations just held poison – out of reach of children and pets – which the pests would eat and then leave. They would bleed out somewhere within a couple of days. He promised that we would never have to see or smell the dead mice (or whatever they were). Still sounded pretty nasty, but at least we could just leave them and forget about it. Out of sight, out of mind.

We gave it about a week or so, but nothing ever showed up in the cage trap outside, and the bells still jingled all night. Sometimes in our room, other times in the boys’, yet other times in the unoccupied rooms. I called the terminator again, and he said that Lenny had instructed him to “Just put out the damn glue traps,” which he did. He also rearmed the trap in the garage with what he called “special bait,” and warned us to stay away from it.

Another few days passed with no changes. I checked hourly at first, then daily, but nothing appeared in the traps. I was determined to get rid of the varmints myself. So I got on the internet and began looking up homemade solutions. I found a really simple one that involved rubber-banding some paper over a five gallon bucket and cutting a cross in the top. I set the bait, a peanut butter and cheese cracker, carefully near the center of the cross and pushed it to the back of our master bedroom closet. The concept was that when the rodent went for the bait, he would fall through the paper and get stuck in the bucket. Sounded slow – catching them one at a time like that – but at least it would be making some progress.

Nothing happened the first night. The bells still jingled. Midway through the following evening though, I was startled awake by the sound of something falling into the bucket. Something big! Oh God, it must have been a rat! I jumped out of bed, still in my boxers and bare feet, and whipped open the closet door.

“Now I’ve got you, you little fu…”

I’ll never forget what I saw. Thinking back, I still get a chill running down my spine. Tiny hands gripped the lip of the bucket and it pulled itself up over the rim. It was not a mouse. It was not a rat. It was not a raccoon. When it had fully extracted itself from the pail, I could see that it stood about a foot high when erect. It was humanoid in form. Humanoid, but definitely not human. Pale skin hanging over a bony frame. Although it was naked, I could see no genetalia to speak of, yet I got the feeling that it was a “he.” Huge eyes that were black through and through – no irises. Its ears and nose were simply holes in its head. It had no hair, and when it turned toward me it flashed a big toothy smile. Crazy – they looked like human teeth, not enlarged canines or front teeth as one would expect a rodent or small animal to have. For some reason that made it seem even more disturbing. It waved the peanut butter cracker in one tiny hand and ran off. Ran off into the passageway between the walls, the panel snapping shut after it went through.

In a cold sweat, I ran to the bedroom door and switched on the lights.

“Holy mother of God! Shit! Fuck me!”

My wife sat up, scared by my reaction. If only she had seen it… I immediately ran to the kids’ rooms and switched their lights on. In fact, within the next five minutes the entire house was alight. Except the cellar, though. That place gave me the creeps on a good day.

The four of us had gathered in the living room. Still shirtless and shaking from the cold or the shock, I said, “That’s it. We’re not spending the night in this house. Get dressed. We’ll find a hotel.”

“Nonsense,” said my wife. “We’re not going anywhere. What the hell happened?”

I pulled her aside, out of earshot of the boys, and told her what I had seen. “Come on,” she pleaded, “think about this rationally. Nothing like that exists. It had to be a rat or something. It was dark. You were half asleep. I mean seriously, honey…”

Once again, I wanted it to be true. Even a rat seemed like a better alternative than what I had seen. What I thought I had seen. I calmed down a bit. My wife got the boys back to sleep while a made a cup of tea and settled into one of the tubs for a hot bath. After a bit, I was calmed down enough to go back to bed. As I fell into sleep, a bell jingled.

Every night after got progressively worse. The bells continued ringing throughout the days and night. I kept hearing bumps in the dark. Panels slamming shut. At times, I heard the closet door creak open – the proverbial “monster-in-the-closet.” I could even swear that a few times I saw it watching me from the darkness beyond the cracked door. The final straw was when I awoke one night, roused by a sound near my bed, and came face to face with it as it stared at me over the edge of the mattress. Once again, I jumped out of bed and flipped the lights on.

“That’s it you little bastard!” I couldn’t see it, but I heard it scampering toward the closet. I gave chase and saw it just as it slipped through the panel at the back of the closet and into the hidden passage. Determined to put an end to the insanity, I grabbed a flashlight from my nightstand drawer. By that time, my wife was looking at me as if I was crazy – and I considered that she may have been right. I threw on a T-shirt and ducked through the panel at the back of the closet. It was the first time I had been back in those passages. Maybe, as a younger man, my curiosity would have made me check them out the first day we had moved in; but over time, the thirst for adventures like that had been quenched by a “too-much-effort” attitude.

The passages had hardwood floors, unfinished planks widely set – not carefully like in the livable areas of the house. I saw only the backs of the walls. Lathes with plaster that had oozed between the seams before hardening. To my surprise, there were no cobwebs, as if someone had been using the passageways; but the floor had a layer of dust and little crumbs of plaster coating it. There were footprints in the dust. Not just one set running away. Not even a set coming toward the bedroom and then away. There were hundreds of footprints running this way and that. Either my little friend had buddies or he had been a busy guy.

I was so fascinated that I had about forgotten why I entered the passage when I heard another bump down the hall. My flashlight only cast its beam a short distance, but I shone it ahead and slowly walked down the hall. I had to hunch over at times, as it seemed to have been built for a man smaller than myself. I supposed that people were shorter back when the house had been built. Of course, I don’t imagine that the passages were built for comfort. I could see that they were built out of some necessity. I was a bit surprised to find that a set of narrow stairs led down to the second floor, another down to the first, and another that must have gone all of the way to the cellar.

I was constantly propelled ahead by a series of bumping noises. Whatever he was, he clearly was not afraid of me. The noises weren’t moving away from me very quickly. It was almost as if he were waiting for me to follow. As much as I wanted to avoid the cellar, I was a man on a mission. I plunged ahead until the passage at last came to an end. It wasn’t closed off at the end, but apparently opened into one of the cellar’s rooms. I noticed an iron flap-type door set high into the wall and realized that I must have ended up in one of the coal bins, built before the gravity furnace had been converted to burn heating oil instead of coal. Lenny had assured us that the door had been permanently sealed, but now I doubted it.

A dim light filled the room – moonlight filtering through the smudged and dirty glass of a high set window – but not enough to see by. I spun slowly around, shining my flashlight ahead as I turned. I was surrounded by dozens of the little creatures. They did not appear to be afraid of me, nor did they appear to be aggressive. I felt safe, even somewhat calm. Relieved to know what it was that I had been pursuing for the past weeks. Calm, that is, until one of them – the bold one that had been in my closet, I believe – “spoke.” In a gravelly, high-pitched voice it raised the peanut butter cracker and questioned, “More?”

That was all it took to send me bolting out of the room and up the cellar stairs. I slammed the door shut behind me and threw the bolt. Pouring myself a glass of water from the kitchen tap, I walked to the living room and sat down on the couch. I was breathing heavy, almost hyperventilating. Even though I knew in the back of my mind that nothing had really changed, and they apparently had the run of the house, I calmed down after a while. I never did fall back asleep that night. Not entirely. I must had nodded off occasionally, but I woke every time I heard something stir. After a fitful night, I returned to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee once the dawn sunlight began sifting through the house’s windows.

I called the exterminator at precisely 8:05am. I wanted to be the first to get a hold of him, but I didn’t want to leave a message. I needed to talk to him immediately. I was in luck, and he promised to make our house the first stop of the day. While I waited for him to arrive, I drank some coffee. As the caffeine started to kick in, I began to understand the ridiculousness of what I thought that I had experienced during the night. I convinced myself that I had merely dozed off on the couch and had a horrible dream. Yes, that’s what it had been: a dream. Nevertheless, I would have the exterminator check out the basement, as well as the rest of the traps.

I met him out back as he was getting out of his truck. I tried to speak lightheartedly as I related my nightmare. It all sounded so silly when I told the story out loud. He smiled a little, but didn’t seem as amused as I thought he would be. Perhaps the normally jovial man was having a rough start to the day.

He headed for the garage first. He opened the door just a crack and, turning on his flashlight, poked his head inside. Then he turned back to face me – a serious look on his face.

“You had better wait here. Looks like the little buggers are back.”

“What is it?” I asked with excitement. “Raccoons? Rats? Oh, please tell me it’s not rats.”

“No, not that bad.” He shook his head. “You may want to stock up on peanut butter and cheese crackers, though.”

Credit: Kenneth Kohl

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Ohran’s Eye

May 22, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Legends. Such strange yet fascinating things they are. These intricate weavings of fantasy and imagination have always existed among us, usually bringing hope, caution or fear in one form or another. Some tell the tale of a brave adventurer forging his way to glory and fame through some metaphorical method or another while others recount an individual’s encounter with some awful being or monster. These legends, these stories we pass from father to son, mother to daughter, town to town, they vary quite wildly in all sorts of ways. The emotions they stir within us vary just as wildly, too. There is one thing, however, that all legends have in common: a message.

Sometimes the message is a warning; stay away from a specific place lest you be devoured by some foul beast. Simple. Other times the message comes as a lesson; adopt these morals, practice these methods and you will surely find success. Simple. A legend does not exist purely as a work of fiction. The necessity of the message, the value of the message, this is what defines a legend. Even today, in a world overflowing with tradition, culture, technology and all sorts of things that are rich with knowledge and understanding, we still cling to our legends. We must, after all, for they are the purest and most genuine form of a true message.

It is only now, after so much torment and madness, that I have come to understand the real weight behind legends. In particular, the fabled place of Ohran’s Eye.

It would not surprise me to learn that you have not heard of it, whoever you may be. It is a legend that is widely known to very specific circles. Circles in which I counted myself amongst, once upon a time. The story itself has changed much over the years, so much so that its exact origins have been lost to time. If you were to ask thirty people who knew of the place known as Ohran’s Eye, you would heard a minimum of twenty different tales. Some would only be slightly different while others would seem almost to be completely opposite. Throughout all recounting, however, a similar thread has persisted; that which truly made the legend a legend.

There is a place, one which has existed since the beginning of mankind, which contains a secret capable of changing the world. It lies within a stone tower in the shape of a diamond, which stands erect in a perfectly circular lake. No one knows quite where it is or what exactly lies within it, thus it has laid untouched for years untold, waiting for someone to find it. This place is known as Ohran’s Eye. The details revolving it are variable, as I said before, but this is the core, the backbone. Among many others, I was once obsessed with this legend. I still am to some extent, I suppose. And once I have finished saying what I need to say, recounting the events which occurred mere years ago, you too will understand the message of Ohran’s Eye.

It began late into the evening only a couple years ago. It must have been around 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning when I was suddenly disturbed by a light knocking at my door. So light and easy was it that I could barely hear those quick, hollow booms. Yet, despite this, they roused me from my sleep quite effectively. In retrospect, I find it peculiar that such a soft noise could wake me from such a deep slumber. Cursing and stumbling the whole way for being woken so late into night, I made my way to my front door. I readied a baseball bat by my side, just in case.

I opened the door in a cautious yet angry fashion, prepared for whatever awaited me. What stood before me was not something I could ever have anticipated. It was a man, taller than most, dressed in a deep gray suit with a white undershirt and a black tie. He wore a fedora, which matched his attire, and a pair of archaic-looking, articulate black sunglasses sat upon the ridge of his nose, completely concealing his eyes. He almost seemed to have stepped directly out of the 1950’s. His lips were spread wide in a smile which can, in the clarity of retrospect, only be compared to that of a wolf. His face was smooth, lacking any hair while also appearing grizzled.

“Greetings! A fine a night to you!” He said after a moment of examination, his accent was clearly German and he bowed slightly upon finishing his sentence. I stammered for a second, taken off guard by his cheerful demeanor. “I know, I know,” he said, “it is oh so very late in the night. I am so sorry to trouble you, Sir. What I have to-” I found my voice then, my frustration boiling to ther surface. “Do I know you?” I asked crisply. He chuckled a bit at that. “Of course you don’t! How could you?” He broke off into his crackling laugh once again. I was beginning to reach new heights of irritation.

“What do you want?!” I demanded, cutting his humor short. He looked at me straight then, still wearing his wolf-like grin. He spoke again then, his voice completely serious now. “I have something you would like to possess,” he motioned toward a briefcase sitting against his leg. “I have come to give it to you.” I had no time to react for he turned away and proceeded to walk back towards the sidewalk bordering my own house with a sudden burst of haste. “You will appreciate its contents, I feel certain.” Was all he said as he disappeared into the darkness of that cold, winter night.

At first, I was apprehensive about even touching the case. I brought it inside my home none the less, however, for I was genuinely curious. Curiosity, in general, is something I have always felt quite strongly since I was a child. I tried to resist temptation, I really did. I have always proven myself to be a victim of my own desires, however, and so it did not take long for me to finally open the case. I will forever consider that moment to be the most regrettable one in my life. Yet I know, deep down, that it was an unavoidable one.

What I found within took my breath away. To anyone else, it would have been nothing more than a pile of papers with pure nonsense written across them. I knew right then and there that this was not the case though. It was a map, instructions and evidence all pointing to the location, the true location, of Ohran’s Eye. A place of legend that was not meant to be anything more than just that: a legend. I spent the rest of that night poring over those documents, absorbing every detail like it was holy communion. Sleep was no longer a need during those hours but rather an irritable pulling that I ignored with utter commitment.

By the time morning rolled around, I knew it all. Where to find Ohran’s Eye, how to get there, what I would need for the journey, everything. It was not an adventure I could undertake alone and I would not have, even if I had a choice. My dear colleague and friend, Edward Wright, was who I turned to then. He was just as fascinated with the legend as I was. We had, in fact, spent many sleepless nights discussing the it’s potential existence. And now the time had come, we would be the first to find Ohran’s Eye in untold years.

He was, of course, more than willing. Ecstatic, even. We set to work immediately, purchasing the supplies we would need for the long hike to Ohran’s Eye. It took us a couple weeks, but we did eventually reach the point of being ready to undertake the journey. And so, during the early hours, we departed to find a place shrouded in mystery and wonder. I know now that it should have remained that way, untouched by the hands of mankind.

I will not disclose the location of Ohran’s Eye. My reasons for doing so will be revealed once you have finished reading what I have to say. I will, however, say that it was located among the great forests of North America. The trip involved a lot of driving at first. That was the easier part. We spent much of that time theorizing and chatting with one another. We were both so full of excitement then, so eager to discover the object of our obsession for so many years. After a couple days, I parked my car and we started a long hike. We were both fairly tired at the end of those days, but we still possessed an unburdened cheerfulness.

I often think back to those few days of travel, that time of eagerness. Everything was so simple, we never considered that anything could go wrong. I only wish it hadn’t gone by so fast.

Eventually we did reach that fated place, no matter how badly I wish we hadn’t. We had been following a nearly non-existent trail for a day or so when it finally led out into a large clearing. At the center sat a small lake, perfectly circular in proportion, and from its center stood a diamond shaped tower of strange, dark stone at about fifteen feet tall. It was a scene which, despite not being particularly marvelous, inspired pure awe in Edward and I. We shouted and screamed in joy, in satisfaction, for we had made it; we had made it to Ohran’s Eye. This overwhelming joy was short lived, however, for it was then that we noticed the silence.

Ironic, isn’t it? That silence would be so obviously noticeable, that silence would cut through our cheers of triumph. The complete lack of noise and life, beside our own, silenced us. We grew quiet very quickly as we began to understand. There were no birds, no wind, nothing; not even a whisper from the forest. We might as well have been on the moon. Even there we would see the stars shining though, offering some degree of hope. As we stared at that lonesome tower of faded, deep, stone, however, we felt no hope. The world was still there. Frozen in time. It was something only a curious human would dare intrude upon.

For a while we did nothing but just stand there, taking in every sight. The lake was still, much like everything else in the clearing; it was a pure blue color. Even from the edge of the clearing we could tell that it was very deep. Grass faded to dirt the closer it got to the lake and the dirt to that strange, deep, dark, stone. The stone appeared to be… Warped. Much like the texture of obsidian but with a dull brown-gray tint to it. Where we stood, vegetation stood erect and proud, living. Near the shore, however, no life could be seen. Only that stone and still water.

We managed to push ourselves into motion eventually, though it did take considerable effort. We walked across the grass, then the dirt, and finally the stone to the water’s surface. We had brought an inflatable raft just so we could cross this lake to the diamond shaped tower which brooded quietly at the center of the lake. We crossed the water rather slowly to the tower only to find that there was no way in. No door, window or orifice of any kind that would permit us entry. The surface was smooth and unclimbable. We found ourselves at an impasse.

Fortunately this obstacle proved to be short lived for as we continued to circle the diamond tower we soon found an odd looking iron chain dangling from the top of the structure on one of the faces of the tower. From where we were standing, it appeared to be tied to a D-shaped loop of some kind of metal attached to the top of the structure. We were hesitant at first, the chain appeared to be quite old and the metal seemed equally worn. After a few tests, however, we found it safe. So, our steps full of caution, we climbed the rope to the top.

I was up first. I found myself standing on a flat surface composed of the odd-colored stone. To my right, however, it became a set of stairs which went down into the dark depths of the tower, following the diamond shape of the structure. The stairs were made out of what appeared to be iron while the inner walls of the structure were composed of the same strange stone that the outside was. When Edward made it to the top beside me he gasped for he too was in awe at the oppressive looking hole which lay before us. Judging by how deep it was, we could only assume that a significant part of the tower on which we stood lay beneath the ever-still waters of that lake.

Glow sticks were not on the list of items we thought we would need; else we would have dropped one down to gauge the depth of the descent. We searched our bags and soon found an empty tin can which only served to take up space since its contents had been used up that morning. We dropped it and watched as it quickly disappeared into the bowels of the tower. It must have been a minute or two before we finally heard the echo of it crashing at the bottom. We looked at each other, a mix of fear and wonderment in our eyes.

We talked for a bit after that, figuring out what to do. We considered going back to shore and making the long trip home to tell our colleagues and friends that we had actually found Ohran’s Eye. We would come back and properly explore what lay at the bottom of the tower in the safety and efficiency of a real expedition. We could have turned our backs then, at that crucial moment, we could have left and returned in what could very well have been months upon months. Or we could press on. We could continue by ourselves into that gaping pit of darkness and discover what lay at the bottom right then and there.

I don’t think I need to tell you what we chose to do. We thought we knew the risks, we thought we could handle it by ourselves. I know now that no one, no matter how many people they brought along, could have managed it. No one would really know the risk of that place until it was too late to turn back. And so we descended into what I am now convinced must have been hell itself.

The flashlights we brought with us had little trouble piercing the choking dark of that silent stairwell. Edward and I barely spoke to each other as we climbed further and further into the tower. Our moods were almost directly contradictory to the way we had been over the course of the entire journey. There was no excitement, no joy, just anticipation as to what we would find when we reached the bottom. Anticipation and an ever growing fear, the source of which we could not identify. We continued our descent for a good forty-five minutes or so with a couple breaks here and there before finally reaching the bottom.

The stairs evened out into flat ground. We stood in a diamond shaped room which extended all the way to the top of the tower where we entered with the stairs obstructing any light that may have entered. We seemed to be underground. The only way forward was a tall, perfectly rectangular tunnel which spanned onwards for a bit before taking a sharp right. From around the corner emanated a very soft, yet noticeable, orange light. Edward and I exchanged nervous looks for neither of us knew what to expect or where we currently found ourselves. We were afraid. Very afraid. Fear would not stop us, however, and so we pushed on.

Cautiously, we began to move our way towards the strange tunnel and the even stranger orange glow coming from it. No words were spoken; no sounds broke the silence save our soft footsteps, as we grew nearer and nearer the bend. I cannot speak on Edwards’s behalf, but my heart was beating hard enough that I thought it audible to the darkness around me, though I am certain that this was merely a deception of the mind.

Finally, we both rounded the bend, slowly and with hesitation, but we did it. Ahead of us the tunnel continued on for a bit before widening out into a large cavern with a ceiling so far up we could not see. Strange strands of what appeared to be chains dangled from the dark above, silhouetted by the orange glow. At the far back wall of the cavern were two enormous, diamond shaped, window-like surfaces which were the source of the odd, orange glow, though we could not tell how or why. And standing tall on the flat stone ground between us and the windows was what appeared to be the silhouetted shape of a giant throne with its back facing us.

We froze at the sight before us. How could we not? Awe and fear coursed through our blood like some kind of paralyzing venom. We looked at each other in that orange glow, analyzing each other’s faces, trying to judge whether or not we truly had the courage to push forward and discover what lay in this giant cavern. To discover the source of the legend of Ohran’s Eye. We had come too far to turn back now, we knew that, yet still did we stare and wonder if we should return to the surface, even though we knew we would not. And so, with a confident first step, I moved forward, prompting Edward to follow.

We emerged from the tunnel and into the cavern only to be greeted by the sound of silence, once again. But this… This silence was unlike any I had ever experienced. It weighed on us, choking the air from our lungs and tightening our lips so that we could not speak. To disturb that silence was to wake hell itself, in our minds. Yet we pressed on, drawing closer and closer to the shaded throne that lie ahead of us.

We were about fifteen feet away when we felt it; the air became electric and the silence gave way to madness. We could hear chains rattling above us and the several thuds as things began to land behind us. We turned to see several shadowy shapes moving towards us, the sound of chains rattling all the while. In those brief moments we saw the things for what they were. They were human, or used to be, for their skin was charred black and they all appeared to be extremely emaciated. Their eyes were a milky white and their lower jaws seemed to be completely missing. From their exposed throats came chains which extended all the way up into the darkness.

At first there were only a few of them but they soon became a swarm of darkness as a symphony of chains began to emanate throughout the cavern. Edward and I were grabbed within seconds of their descent, our arms held behind our backs and our heads twisted so that they had to look at the throne. The strange… Creatures circled us, their milky white eyes burning into my friend and I. They would softly touch our skin and bring their own faces mere centimeters from ours, as if this was the first time they had ever seen a human. It may sound strange but I swear that I could almost see envy and lust in the way they examined us.

But the worst was still to come. It was then that we saw something rise from the throne. It was tall at about fifteen feet in height, also appearing to be some sort of humanoid being. And as it drew closer we began to see it more and more clearly for our flashlights, which had fallen to the ground, illuminated it in its entirety.

It dragged a cape of chains behind it, which were connected to a thick collar around its neck. Its actual body was grotesque; the skin was loose and saggy and several strange growths such as extra fingers and feet protruded from its disgusting form. All of which cringed and grasped at something only that awful… Thing could understand. Upon its head sat a large iron mask, which resembled a face stuck in a completely indifferent expression. Several large spikes stood erect from the mask, forming a sort of arc which started where its ears should have been and connecting at the top, central area on its head.

It grew closer and closer with each gigantic step of its misshapen feet, the creatures all parting way like the sea so that their master could get through to us. When he finally did reach us the rattling chains fell completely silent and every single one of those awful, tortured things stared at him as a priest would his god. The enormous being stood before us for a long while, its head tilted downward toward Edward and I. We were frozen in place by the beings awful presence. So much so that I doubt those things would have even needed to restrain us. After what must have been a short eternity, however, the silence was shattered into an infinite amount of pieces.

The giant reached one massive hand outwards so quickly that I hardly saw it. It grabbed Edward by the neck, lifting him up at arm’s length. The frozen terror was gone then, having given way to frantic screaming and struggling. I watched him writhe and twist in an attempt to free himself while that grotesque giants mutant limbs wriggled and twitched in what I can only assume to have been anticipation. The creatures began to shake their heads wildly at the roof of darkness that loomed above us, rattling their chains in a second awful symphony of torment.

The giant then took his free hand and stabbed two of its fingers into Edwards’s mouth, yanking them down and completely severing his lower jaw. My friend… My poor friend… He cried and shouted so loudly and savagely that I could almost feel the pain radiating from him. The giant grabbed one of the many chains in his cloak of iron and brought it to Edwards’s mouth. I watched as it slithered its way into him like a snake, as if it had a mind of it’s own. Edward continued to struggle and resist for a few minutes more before finally going still.

He was not dead though, much as he would have wished it. I could see life in his eyes; however corrupted it may have been, just as I could see it in all the strange creatures that surrounded me. I do not know how much time passed before the giant stopped the chain, yanking it free of his collar and tossing its exposed end directly up into the shadows. With a disgusting, bone breaking crack, Edward was jerked and dragged up into that dark abyss. The other creatures followed him almost immediately after in a similar way, though I cannot say why. And so I was left alone with that demonic giant, that King of Chains.

He turned his massive, helmed head towards me then, but did not otherwise move. I had been released by the creature which had restrained me, yet I did not move. What madman would dare to flee in the presence of such unstoppable and abhorrent evil? I had no option other than to stay and wait for whatever fate this… Monster had in store for me.

More time passed as we simply stared at one another. It kneeled sometime between the silence, making his head level with mine. The being leaned it’s iron mask in close to my face, bringing itself mere inches from mine. “Know me”, a deep, ethereal, genderless voice boomed through the cavern, “Know what I am.” I could do nothing but be motionless. The last thing I remember is that orange glow and that awful iron face staring through me. I can’t say what exactly happened, but merciful unconsciousness found me then.

I awoke sometime near midnight lying in the middle of a road, the same in which Edward and I had parked my car before embarking on the trails and mountains that concealed Ohran’s Eye. I did not try to find my way back to that pit of fear and misery, no. I got in my car and drove home.

This is the truth of Ohran’s Eye, regardless of what you may or may not have heard. It’s message has been corrupted, you see. Made to appear as if treasure or scientific significance lies in wait, as if what sleeps there will benefit mankind. The message, I believe, has always been the opposite of an invitation; it is a warning.

For years I have carried the weight of what I experienced in that place. Nightmares plague me like death when I sleep while my memories torment me constantly during my waking hours. I told Edward’s family and the police that he perished while climbing a mountain and that we never found Ohran’s Eye. To this day I tell people that it does not exist, that it’s not worth the trouble or thought. I tell them of my quest to find it and how my friend fell to his death. I tell them how I found nothing in the end. I lie.

I am dishonest, yes. Of course I am. Sometimes a merciful lie is better than a mortal truth. They would understand if they knew, just as you would.

To this day, I do not know who exactly the man with the wolf like grin and german accent was. He disappeard as quickly as he arrived and left no trace in his wake. Similarily, I have found no answers as to what it is that lies within the depths of Ohran’s Eye. It is a mystery which should remain unsolved, I believe. Which is why I will not disclose the location of that awful place. It is for your own benefit, trust me.

I do not care if you believe me or not, I really don’t. You can keep your opinions and judgements to yourselves. I know what happened, I know my mind. And I know that Edward’s fate was much worse than anyone will ever know. I accept full responsibility for what happened to him. Sometimes when I close my eyes I swear I can almost see him, suspended in the darkness, existing as another one of those awful creatures, doomed to an eternity of torment. I do not like to dwell on this.

So listen to me when I say that Ohran’s Eye is a place to be avoided, heed the message of the legend.

Credit: Zyon J.

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Razor Games

May 21, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This pasta was the third place winner of our Gaming Creepypasta Challenge. Congratulations!

The first place winner can be viewed here, and second place is here. Thanks to everyone who participated!

My name is Tom. I am a sound designer for video games. I love my work and I have been doing it for quite some time. I used to work for a small indie game developer called Razor Games LLC.

My friend Jason, who hired me after I quit my last job for personal reasons, owned Razor Games. The company did very well and we had our share of small game development success but mostly did outsourced work for larger clients.

Jason’s brother Max was a producer at one of the largest game developers in the world. He often would outsource smaller projects to our company as a favor to his brother. That is where the bulk of our work came from.

We only had a dozen or so staff members at the company. I was close with several people at the company and considered them my second family. Jason was my friend of several years and was a rugged middle-aged man who had been playing games since he was five. Melissa was this quiet little blonde girl who loved fantasy books, game level design, and had been my best friend of several years. Tanner was this bearded teddy bear of a guy who worked as a game tester and had won my best friend’s heart. Melissa and Tanner had recently gotten engaged and I was elated for the both of them. The last person I was really close to at work was a guy named Nick. He was a character designer and A.I. programmer. He was a dark haired young guy and a prankster. The rest of the team was made up of various programmers, designers, and business-oriented people of whom I knew, but didn’t have as close of a relationship as I did with these four.

These people made my job the best job anyone could ask for. Things were great until two years ago when Max’s company laid off a bunch of employees due to a corporate restructure. Almost all of their development was kept internal, meaning we wouldn’t get any outsourced projects anymore.

I watched Jason stress out about possibly cutting into the company’s emergency fund to keep it afloat while he tried to find more work. Razor Games had received so much work from Max’s company that we were too busy to pick up but a few other clients. In the end, that hurt the company more than it helped.

For almost a year Razor Games survived on the emergency fund that it had built up. We had work here and there but no big projects. Out of the blue late last spring, Jason landed a massive job for us.

I remember being in the conference room when he announced the job. Melissa, Tanner, Nick and I were seated together around the small conference table at our office along with the rest of the employees, eagerly waiting to hear what Jason had to say about this new job.

Jason had hooked up his laptop to the projector on the table and was about to take us through a slide presentation.

“Over this past weekend I accepted a large job from a game developer in Korea,” Jason started. His body energy was higher than it had been in months and the excitement in his voice could not be hidden. “The developer’s name is Violet Edge Digital. The president of development for that company is a woman named Mia Nasta.”

Jason flipped to a slide that showed a screen capture of their website. It looked very professional and sleek. I had never heard of this developer before but with so many different companies around the world, I didn’t give it a second thought.

“She emailed me last week with a proposition and the possibility of a massive payout,” Jason continued as he paced excitedly back and forth at the front of the conference room. “Her company has in the past made VR simulators for military and aviation training purposes and is now developing a VR headset system for commercial use to compete with Oculus, Sony, Samsung, and others. We all know there are rumors of a Star Wars VR game and others floating around the community.”

A series of several slides showed pictures of what was supposed to be their past work. They included everything from pictures of a flight simulator and a VR set hooked up to a military training simulator.

Jason stopped his pacing and put his palms flat on the conference table and leaned in as if he was going to tell us the world’s biggest secret.

“They want us to do something for them before anyone else has the chance to.” Jason paused looking at each of us in the eyes.

“Which is?” Melissa said in a drawn out tone as she leaned into the table mimicking Jason.

Jason slowly stood straight up. “I know we haven’t worked in a VR platform before but they want us to create the world’s first VR horror game. The developer is swamped with finishing their VR headset so they have outsourced the creation of this game to us.”

I wasn’t excited. I personally didn’t like horror games or movies but work was work. Others seemed thrilled to take on the genre or be the first to do so in an emerging technology field.

“The bad news is we only have a few months to make it happen because they want a Halloween release…”

“No way! That’s insane,” Nick said cutting Jason off abruptly. “I’d have to pull insane hours to get that coding done in time as would everyone else.”

Jason raised his hand to silence Nick. “I understand,” he said calmly. “The bad news is we are on a tight schedule and we’ll all have to pull some stupid crazy hours. The good news is that they have concepts and basic designs for us already drafted and have paid us the first 20% of the contract.”

“Which is?” Melissa said mimicking her tone from earlier.

“$9 million,” Jason said with a smirk.

The room started to buzz with chatter with a few of the classic “holy shit” exclamations floating into the air.

“We’re going to have a good year,” Jason stated proudly. “But, we need to start immediately. Let me go over the design concepts with you all.”

Jason took us through the rest of the slide show. The storyboard was already flushed out. The premise was that the main character (or characters since it was to be multiplayer) had woken up in an abandon building that represented something like a psych ward with no memory of getting there. The character(s) would have to fight his or her way through monsters and solve basic puzzles, like finding keys to open doors to escape. There were to be nine levels of increasing difficulty in the game.

The developer even had some pictures of character models they wanted included in the game. There were several monster models they had suggested but two that they absolutely wanted designed and included. They had included well-sketched pictures of the monsters the team was to create.

The first of the two that they absolutely wanted in the game looked like an emaciated man with pale shiny skin. His head was bald and contained no eyes or nose. The only facial feature was an overly wide mouth with thin lips and needle like teeth. The fingers on his hands were replaced by long bone like claws. The creature’s knees bent opposite of ours with the bottom half of the leg being a long bone like spike that it walked on.

The second creature to be included looked like a fat baby with an overly large peanut shaped head and collapsed face. Its eyes sat back in the skull close together. Its mouth was small and puckered with sharp teeth. The hands and feet were replaced by single bone spike like protrusions.

The creatures were very grotesque but I could already hear the sounds I wanted to create for them in my head.

At the end of the meeting each department received a folder with very specific and detailed instructions on what the client wanted. I even received a flash drive of sample sounds the client wanted me to use that Jason had received in an email. Most of the sounds were labeled as monster movement or monster growl. The sounds themselves were very well done and very complex. Sounds like these would have taken me a long time to get something so crisp and unique sounding.

The flash drive had over a hundred different sounds almost all exclusively to be used for the monsters in the game. It seemed strange that they would send already finished sounds to an undeveloped videogame to the developer. At that point, I decided to ask Jason what he wanted me to do.

Nick was standing in Jason’s office when I arrived.

“Am I interrupting something?” I asked as I squeezed around Nick to the side of Jason’s desk.

“Nah,” Nick said. “Violet Edge Digital is asking me to include some weird script in my A.I. code that isn’t needed regardless of whether they have a different operating system for their head set or not.”

“Just include it, Nick,” Jason said with a sigh. “I noticed it too. It’s in the instructions for anyone who is writing code. They stated it was unique to their VR system and insisted it be included. If it doesn’t work or screws up we’ll go with what we know but for now include the script as instructed.”

“Fine,” Nick said sighing and walking slowly out of Jason’s office.

“What can I do for you, Tom?”

“I just wanted to make sure they want to use all these sounds. It makes my job easier but I figured they’d want us to design unique sounds from scratch.”

Jason rubbed his forehead with his thumb and pointer finger. “Yes. I know they’ve given us very specific instructions but at the end of the day they are the client and to make the deadline realistic, they sent us over what they had already started.”

“Alright,” I said as I started to leave. “I’ll group and organize what they sent me and create the rest of what they need according to their instructions.”

The next two weeks were insanely busy. Ms. Nasta sent Jason an email stating she was going to send two prototype VR headsets to us to test the game on. Jason spent some of the initial deposit on a few brand new computers with the fastest processors, largest video cards, and most RAM he could cram into them. Nate, our IT guy, spent the better part of those two weeks setting up the new computers in the testing room, or dungeon as we called it since it had no windows.

I spent those two weeks recording various sounds in my make shift foley stage in my office. I followed the list of sounds that the client required of me, creating various initial sounds that I could later mix into something amazingly creepy and new.

A few days after Nate had installed all the new computers and the entire team was deep into their own portion of the project, the VR headsets arrived. It would be a month or two before we would have anything close to a playable alpha version ready but Jason wanted the headsets up and running in the testing room ASAP.

Jason pulled the packages into the conference room so we could all get a good look at this new VR headset we were designing this game for. Jason opened the first package.

“Well, shit. That’s not what I had imagined,” Jason said sarcastically, spilling foam peanuts everywhere as he lifted this old jet pilot like helmet from the box.

“They want us to fly a plane with that thing or design a game?” Nick said jokingly.

“I don’t see that as a platform for a multi million dollar developed game,” Melissa chimed in.

Jason sat the helmet down on the table and pulled an installation software DVD from the box. “Well,” Jason sighed, “let’s keep in mind that these are prototypes. Either way, I want them installed and ready by the end of the day so we can begin testing as soon as we have something ready. Nate and Tom. Take these down to the dungeon and get the software installed on the PC’s. The rest of you, get back to work so we can get something to test on these bad boys.”

I helped Nate carry the headsets to the dungeon and set them up. Both came with two controllers to manage the movements and actions of the player’s in game character.

Nate ran the installation software on the computers as I connected the controllers to the headsets and the headsets to the computer.

“What the fuck is that?” Nate said suddenly.

“What’s what?” I asked looking up at the screen he was staring at.

“This screen.” Nate pointed to a pop up window that was full of what looked like wingding text scrolling on its own but it clearly wasn’t wingding text. The window suddenly disappeared and was replaced by another that read “Installation Complete!”

“I’ve never seen that before. I’m gonna run a virus scan just in case.” Nate started the virus scan quickly.

“The computer isn’t connected to the internet so we should be ok and I don’t understand why our client would send us a virus if they wanted us to get their work done,” I explained.

The virus scan came back empty. Nate ran the installation software on a second computer and the same window with the same scrolling text appeared before being replaced with an “Installation Complete!” window.

We didn’t think anything of it after that. The rest of the day continued on as normal. For the next month and a half we worked 12-16 hour days constantly with only Sunday off. At the end of that stretch, we had a working alpha of the game.

Melissa and her team had pulled off some amazing level design and were about 5 levels into the game. I had the majority of the important sounds crafted and mixed by that point. The crew working on character models had the essential monsters done including the two that were specifically requested by the client and were now working on the extras.

Tanner could now test the game for bugs and issues that needed fixing. Tanner wanted me to play the game with him on the first test run. He wasn’t fond of anything horror and scared easily. Nick would often play jokes on him at the office and he hated it.

“I’m not looking forward to this so let’s get it over with,” Tanner said nervously as he slipped the large VR helmet over his head.

“Awwww. Don’t cry. I’ll be right here if you get scared,” I said jokingly with a chuckle as I slipped on my VR head set.

We started the game and the first thing I noticed was that the graphics were amazing. The 360-degree view immersed you in a way I had never experienced before.

“Damn the guys killed it on the textures,” Tanner said in awe. “The sound is pretty fucking awesome too.”

“Thanks!” I said dryly. I was so focused on the game before my eyes I wasn’t really paying attention to anything else. Tanner was right. The sounds in the game were almost too good. I guessed I had created better sound bytes than I thought I had. I was pretty damn proud in that moment.

We spent a few minutes in the game’s starting area trying out the basic mechanics and looking for bugs. Tanner noticed some texture tearing that needed to be fixed and I took note that the character run command was spotty. After messing around with the character mechanics we made our way through the first level.

The level was simple. We needed to locate a key to unlock the door to the next area. We spent a few minutes running around the labyrinth of corridors in the abandon psych ward looking for a key. There were several jump scares that involved the little fat baby like monsters dropping in front of you or jumping out from behind something. I screamed a few times and so did Tanner, which helped me loosen up and laugh at the situation.

As we rounded a corner in the game a vent above us dropped down slamming to the ground with a metallic echo.

“Shit!” screamed Tanner.

“Ha ha ha,” I cackled. “It’s just a vent cover.” I paused as the echoing of the vent hitting the floor dissipated. “Wow, I don’t remember programing that sound. Sounds really good though. Perfect reverb and everything.”

I watched as Tanner’s character walked over the exposed vent and looked up into the dark shaft.

“Holy fuck!” Tanner screamed as one of the larger monsters swung down out of the vent rapidly and jumped on his character.

A large thud hit the ground behind me. I couldn’t hear it but I felt the ground shake.

“Tanner?” I asked hoping he was all right. I tried to pause the game but the feature didn’t work. I took quick note of it and slipped my VR headset off.

Tanner was sitting up on the floor with his headset lying next to him rubbing his eyes.

“You ok?” I asked as I set down my own headset.

“Yea, dude,” Tanner replied somberly. “It just seemed so real like I thought I could actually feel the monster’s weight on my body.”

“It’s virtual reality. It messes with your senses.” I extended my hand to my friend to help him up. “You want to take a break?”

“No. We need to get this testing done so we can get the big issues fixed ASAP. I’ll be fine.”

“Ok. I’m going to take what I have to the programmers and make sure they get the ‘pause’ function working then get on creating the rest of the sounds since the ones in the game sound pretty damn good if you ask me.”

“Ok. Just leave the door open for me.”

Tanner genuinely looked frightened and I felt sorry he was the lead tester on this game. I took my notes to the correct departments and brought up the ‘pause’ function of the game not working properly.

It was another month before the game was in a very rough finished shape. The game was far from fully functional but the first several levels were nearly complete.

One afternoon I was sitting in my office mixing some of the sound effects I had created when I heard Tanner in the dungeon scream loudly.

“Who the fuck!” Tanner yelled in an angry tone. He wasn’t an angry type of guy so I knew something had caused him to blow a gasket.

I turned around to see Nick and a red faced Tanner standing in the hall.

“Dude it’s not fucking cool,” Tanner yelled.

“What isn’t?” Nick said with palms raised up and a confused look on his face.

“Dicking with me while I’m testing that game!”

“What are you talking about?”

“I know it was you. You’re the only prankster in this office. You came in and blew on the back of my neck while I had the headset on. I could smell your breath.” Tanner had gotten up into Nick’s face.

Nick backed up to create some space between the two.

“First, I just came from my office and am headed to ask Jason a question. Second, I know I joke around but you know that I know you hate horror anything so I would never mess with you while you were testing the game.”

“It’s true,” I said in Nick’s defense as I got up out of my chair. “My office door has been open the entire time and I didn’t hear anyone go into the testing room. I think the VR is really screwing with your senses.”

By this time Jason had entered the hallway to see what was going on. Tanner’s face was calmer but still red.

“Tanner,” Jason called. “Take the rest of the day off and relax before you have a heart attack.

“Sorry, Nick. I’m just on edge because of the game. I’m sorry, man.” Tanner hung his head down and sighed.

“Forget it,” Nick said calmly with a smile reaching out to grab Tanner’s shoulder. “Go take a break. I’ll do the rest of the testing today since I’m ahead on my work.”

Tanner looked exhausted as he walked off.

“Well, I guess there goes the idea of having a scare video compilation for promo purposes,” Jason said with a defeated tone as Tanner left.

“Promo video?” I asked inquisitively.

“Yea I was trying to convince Ms. Nasta that we should shoot a promo video of our testers getting scared shitless playing the game. I can’t get her to answer her phone during the middle of their day and the only email reply I got back was that they liked the initial alpha version I sent them and that she disapproves of the promo video idea.”

“You should do it anyway so we can watch it as a group for our launch party when this thing is finished,” Nick said smiling.

“I probably will,” Jason said. “What were you going to ask me Nick?”

“I still haven’t solved our A.I. issue,” stated Nick.

“You have an A.I. issue?” I asked him.

“Yea, it’s weird. Most people testing it and myself have noticed that sometimes the monsters won’t attack you and will run away like they want you to progress in the game or something. They should be programmed to run away when they are under 30% health but not while at full health. I just haven’t solved the issue yet.”

“Go hop on the game and see if you can figure it out. As far as I know the other programmers haven’t figured out how to get the game to pause either so you’re not the only one with some issues,” Jason finished.

Nick nodded and headed into the testing room. I went back to working on the last few sounds I needed to create. Before I left that night I asked Melissa to check in on her fiancé and let me know if he was ok. I had never seen Tanner like that before and it worried me. She eventually sent me a text saying he was fine and had calmed down. It was a big relief for me.

A week or two went by and I listened to several other people scream and fall out of their chairs in the dungeon from my office. Everyone seemed to be very pleased with the job we were doing with the game. Most people commented on the excellent sound and graphics. Plenty of people who tested the game also felt as if they could feel the monsters grab them or push them even though we all chalked it up to being immersed in a visually encompassing game.

I was finalizing the last sound in my office and Melissa was testing one of the game’s levels to check for any tears in the texture or glitchy spots in the dungeon next door when I heard her shout.

“Shit!” Melissa screamed.

I whipped around in my chair so fast I nearly flung myself out of it. As I stood up Melissa exited the testing room holding her left arm. A crimson streak of blood was dripping down on the floor.

“You ok? What happened?” I asked as I rushed to her.

Jason had entered the hallway at that point as well as Tanner. Both were speaking over each other asking her if she was ok.

“Yea I’m fine,” Melissa replied looking at her arm.

“You’re bleeding,” Jason mentioned as he pointed to her arm.

“I know. I’m ok.” Melissa was definitely calmer than the others around her.

“It looks bad. I’ll get the first aid kit,” Tanner said as he rushed off.

“What happened?” I asked again.

“Something scratched me. I was playing the game and I was on the 7th level when I was attacked by one of those bigger monsters with the bone like fingers. It swiped at my left side and I swear I could feel it cut me so I grabbed my arm and that’s when I felt the blood and the pain.” Her right hand was covered in blood. Tanner had returned with some paper towels and the first aid kit.

“It’s just a game,” Jason said. “Everyone is falling off chairs and sensing things that aren’t real because it’s a VR game. It’s supposed to immerse you. It’ll mess with your senses. You probably had a knee jerk reaction to what your brain sensed as an attack and when you grabbed your arm you scratched yourself.”

“I guess it’s possible,” Melissa said with a sigh as Tanner began dabbing the blood off her arm.

“You know what?” Jason stated with an exhausted tone. “We all need to take a long weekend off. We’ve all been pulling 12-16 hour shifts and I think we’re all burnt out.”

Jason wasn’t wrong. I was tired. My friends were tired. Jason himself was tired. He had been trying to get a hold of Ms. Nasta for several days voicing concerns over the pause function still not working properly and other business related issues. The only thing he was able to get back from her were a few short emails that said they approved of what we were doing and we should push forward.

We all took a long weekend. When we came back we pushed right back into the thick of things. Around the end of August we had a nearly finished beta. All of the sounds required of me were mixed and incorporated into the game. Since I was available, I ended up helping Tanner with a lot of the testing. Since the VR headset was not commercially available we couldn’t have an open beta so Tanner and I were going to put in some long nights.

The game itself looked amazing and sounded just as good as it looked. Tanner and I had begun to laugh when we were attacked by one of the emaciated man monsters or fat baby things. We knew where all the jump scares were on each level so we could anticipate them and make fun of each other if we jumped. Because the immersion of the headset was so good, we still felt like the creatures were breathing on us or could feel the impact of one of them hitting us. We knew it wasn’t real but our brain didn’t. Testing for several hours became the norm for us. Every now and then we would have to stop, especially after a long session because we would feel queasy. We figured it was because we weren’t used to playing in a 3D immersive game.

One day Tanner was out for a doctor’s appointment so Nick tested the game with me.

“Have you had a consistent experience with the monster A.I. when you’ve tested the game?” Nick asked me before we began.

“The monster’s always seem to be where they should be,” I replied.

“No. Let me show you what I’m talking about.”

We both slipped on our headsets and started to play on level seven. We pushed through the mini puzzles and hordes of monsters until we reached where you were to retrieve a key to open a door to level eight. The key was on a string dangling in the middle of a massive open room full of the baby like monsters and the emaciated man creatures. The creatures patrolled around in groups. We had designed this room to be a wave like boss encounter.

“So every level I’ve completed there is this issue where the first time through the monsters around the key should aggro at 20 yards but they don’t. In fact they’ll actually watch you instead of attacking.” Nick maneuvered his character to the middle of the room and stood by the key.

I watched with my character from the edge of the room.

“Come here,” Nick said.

I walked my character passed several of the monsters to Nick’s character. “What the hell?” I questioned in awe. The monsters let me walk past them. Instead of attacking they faced our characters. We stood in the center of the room with a dozen or so of the grossly disfigured creatures just watching us. They either swayed side-to-side or paced slowly back and forth in a small pattern. Their blank stares and creepy sounds, some of which I couldn’t remember if I had created or not, sent an ice like chill up my spine.

“Dude, this is really creepy,” I told Nick as I shuddered.

“I can’t tell if they’re bugged or what is going on but I didn’t program this. This isn’t anything compared to what I’m about to show you.”

Nick grabbed the key with his character and placed it into his inventory.

“Watch what they do now,” said Nick.

We began to make our way back through the level towards the locked door, which would take us to level eight. As we walked back through, the monsters from the key area followed us through every corridor. They stayed their distance but they were definitely following us.

“They’re just following us,” I gasped in disbelief. “I know these things are just digital images but right now they’re giving me the creeps.”

“They’ll follow us right to the door.” Nick unlocked the door and our screens went black to indicate we were loading into the next level.

“The issue is that I don’t know how to solve this.” Nick slipped off his VR helmet. “The first time through each level the creatures won’t attack you unless you attack them. I’ve tried programming different ways and I just can’t fix it. The second time through a level they’ll act properly with regard to game play.”

Nick restarted level seven to show me. Sure enough, when we reached the area where the key was, the monsters attacked us when we were within their 20 yard range.

After we finished the second session Nick and I got ready to call it a day. We both felt a little motion sick from playing the game.

“You ok?” Nick asked as I leaned forward in my chair after removing the VR headset.

“Yea. I just need to rest for a second. The 360 view makes me feel queasy after I play the game for a while. It’s weird I haven’t gotten used to it yet after doing more testing this past month.” I concentrated hard to get my world to stop spinning.

“Yea, makes me wonder how this whole VR thing will go once it becomes commercially available,” stated Nick as he put away his equipment.

The next two weeks for me were intense. Tanner and I did a lot of testing on the last two levels. Ms. Nasta had emailed Jason asking for push on the delivery so Violet Edge Digital could release some game footage as promotional material. However, they wanted to record the footage and forbid us from doing it. We were almost finished with the game and as strange as that seemed, Jason wanted to push forward to our big payout.

I had started to develop more and more motion sickness as I played the game. It would often be a combination of head spinning followed by a stomachache. The sickness intensified after each session in the final week.

That Friday was the last test session. I stumbled into my office wondering how I was going to make it through the day. To make matters worse it was a cold day. Everyone at the office arrived bundled up in warm jackets and scarves.

“Jesus,” exclaimed Tanner as he stood in my office door way. “You look like shit.”

“Feel like it too,” I said with my head lying on my desk. “We need to complete the last level so Jason can send a final copy Monday morning.”

“My head is spinning and my stomach feels bad too but at least I can still stand. Go home, dude. I can grab one of the other guys to help me with this. Jake in programming is free I think.”

I peeled myself off my desk, drug my half limp body down to Jason’s office to let him know I was going home, and then slept the next few days away in my own bed. I didn’t sleep well Friday or Saturday Night. It felt like my eyes and my stomach were going to explode as if something was ripping at me from the inside. I somehow made it to Sunday where the pain subsided and I could finally rest. Monday morning arrived with no pain or dizziness.

I arrived at the office early at the same time as Jason and Melissa.

“Feeling better?” asked Melissa with smile.

“Way better,” I answered enthusiastically.

Jason turned the door handle to the building and it gave. “Damn it,” he stated in an annoyed tone. “Tanner and Jake left the door open when they left on Friday.”

We entered the building and made our way to our offices.

“Tom, can you look around the offices to make sure everything looks like it’s here and Melissa can you check the dungeon to make sure all the equipment is accounted for?”

“Yea just let me get my stuff put up and my computer turned on,” I shouted back. I hit the power button on my PC tower but no lights or spinning disk confirmation noise happened. I tried again. Still nothing.

I stuck my head out of my office as Melissa walked into the dungeon. “Jason, my computer isn’t turning on, is yours?” I called out.

“Damn it. No!” Jason called out in reply.

I heard the click of the light switch in the testing room.

Melissa’s scream was deafening. Her body tumbled backwards out of the testing room as she backpedaled feverishly nearly crashing into me. She didn’t stop scrambling backwards even as she fell to the floor and hit the wall opposite the door with force.

I stood there stunned as her screams mixed with cries and the sound of her trying to choke back vomit. It felt like an hour had passed before I ran into the testing room without any thought to confront what had frightened my friend.

I covered my mouth as my eyes grew ten times their normal size. I couldn’t comprehend the grotesque bodies before me. Two piles of muscle attached to bone with their entrails pulled from what would have been their stomachs as if they had been gutted lay on the floor. They lay there motionless in pools of what was probably their own blood surrounded by busted equipment. I couldn’t make out if it was Tanner and Jake or these two bodies were completely alien.

Reality hit me like an angry fist. I stumbled back the same as Melissa. I caught myself on the doorframe as Jason came running down the hall. Melissa was still on the floor sobbing her hands covered in vomit.

“What the hell happened?” Jason said as he gasped for breath.

“Tanner… Jake… I think their dead.” I stumbled through my words fighting back my own gagging at what I just saw.

Jason quickly turned from us and looked in the room.

“Oh my God,” Jason said in a sedated voice. “Call 911. I need to lock the door and keep the others out before they arrive. I don’t want them to see this.” Jason moved in a panic. I gathered myself and frantically called 911 before returning to Melissa to get her calmed down and cleaned up.

Jason kept the other employees out of the office until emergency services arrived. Within minutes our office front had become crowded with cops and paramedics. Out side was a sea of blue, red, and white lights. The cops immediately sealed off everything and asked us some questions. Jason offered to pull security footage from the weekend to see if it was possible to catch whoever had done this to Tanner and Jake, if that’s whose bodies were in the testing room.

Our office computers didn’t work but Jason kept the security cameras running on a computer in a supply closet that was hooked up to a separate power supply than the rest of the office.

The footage he pulled from the security hard drive was weirdly disturbing. Even the police were perplexed. Jason pulled footage from Friday night first. Everyone except for Tanner and Jake, the guy who took my spot for the evening, was gone by 5:30pm. There were only two cameras installed in our office. One covered the front door from the outside and the other looked over the main hallway. Jason bought good cameras though. They could zoom in to show explicit detail of anything in their view.

Jake and Tanner could be seen entering the dungeon to finish testing the game with their coats at 6pm. It had been a cold day and the testing room was often kept at a cool temperature because of the amount of consoles and computers inside of it. Two hours passed before any movement was caught on camera.

Almost two hours after the two had entered the testing room, both exited the room. They were both wearing their coats and moving in a strange manner. Tanner was walking as if he couldn’t balance on his own feet. His face looked as if it had been squished from the sides and his right foot was being pulled behind him as if it were completely dislocated from his leg. His knees appeared to be bent slightly backwards but it couldn’t clearly be seen at the angles the camera was filming from. Both his hands were tucked away in the sleeves of his coat. Behind him in his right hand he could clearly be seen dragging one of the prototype VR headsets from Violet Edge Digital carelessly along the ground.

Jake was following behind Tanner half hunched over. He too was walking as if he couldn’t control his own movements. His hands were folded under his arms as he swerved side to side down the hallway as if two different people where driving his legs. In his arms he cradled the second prototype headset.

Jason switched to the outside camera as the two exited the building. As Tanner put his hand up to push the door open gasps of confusion and shock filled the room. The hand that Tanner used to push the door open didn’t have fingers. In their place were long boney looking spikes just like the emaciated man creature in the game had. As the two exited the building the grotesque hand was pulled back into Tanner’s coat sleeve. As they turned to walk away down the street several humps appeared on each of their backs under their coats. The protrusions moved up to the coat necks as if something had scrambled from their butt to their neck.

There was no other person in any footage the rest of the weekend till we arrived that morning. There were several “What the fucks?” floating around the room at this point. The police demanded a copy of the video, to which Jason quickly obliged.

The office remained closed for the next few days as the police continued their investigation. I sat at home in the dark waiting to hear if it was ok to return to work or if I needed to give another statement to the police. I felt numb. I wasn’t sure how to feel. Jason called after the police investigation at the office was over. I could hear the sadness in his voice as he informed me that the office was closing. He had paid everyone his or her portion of the initial deposit from out client and shut down the office. He explained that too many people didn’t feel comfortable working at the office where their coworkers had just been murdered.

The next phone call was from Melissa. She was in tears as she told me that the investigators confirmed the dead bodies to be Tanner and Jake by DNA and dental records. I knew she wasn’t taking it well and I tried to hide the fact that I didn’t take that news well either.

I was numb for a few weeks. Halloween came and went. That was when we were supposed to be celebrating a big payday and having a release party. I took a job at postproduction company creating sound. Melissa and I stayed in touch. I wasn’t going to let my best friend go through something horrible alone. Nick took a teaching job at a tech college and left town. We stay in touch through social media although it’s not the same as hanging out. I didn’t hear from Jason after his phone call to tell me he was shutting the company down until a few weeks before Christmas.

He called me and asked me to meet him for coffee one afternoon. It was a cold day much like the last one I spent at the office before my friends and colleagues were skinned, disemboweled, and murdered.

I found Jason sitting at the designated coffee shop alone. He still had his coat on. There was a laptop sitting on his table and he sipped from a shaky cup. Bangs had formed under his eyes and his hair was disheveled.

“You look like shit,” I said sarcastically as I sat before him.

“Good to see you too,” He replied with a half smile. “I don’t sleep much anymore.”

“Why? What’s going on? I haven’t heard from you since you decided to close down Razor Games.”

Jason shifted around in his seat. He twitched his head side to side as if he was looking for someone.

“I’ve been working for my brother. Long days and nights.” Jason paused and gazed out the window.

I knew he had something else to tell me.

“Remember when Nick said I should tape people testing the game to get some reaction shots for promo or our release party?” Jason quietly stated.

“Yes,” I replied tilting my head down.

“Well, I did. I setup the camera in the room and connected it to the computer in the closet that was recording surveillance footage. I wanted it to be a surprise for our release party. I figured we’d have a drink and share some laughs at everyone getting freaked out and fall off chairs while testing the game. With all that went on and because I had set it up months ago, I forgot it was there until a day or two after the incident. I pulled the footage from the hard drive. You need to watch some of the footage.”

Jason opened up the laptop still twitching around like a paranoid crack addict.

“Remember people saying they felt like the monsters were actually hitting them? Watch this video.”

The first video was of Tanner and me testing the game a few months ago in the beta. We were laughing in the video after just being scared by one of the monsters in the game. Our heads were turning as we were looking around with the headsets on. Suddenly Tanner screamed and an indentation on his shirt by his stomach appeared as if someone had pushed hard on him. Seconds later he could be heard saying he was jumped on by one of the creatures in the game. Jason showed me several more videos of various testers being pushed and pulled by some invisible force. We had always chalked the feeling of something physically touching us to being immersed in a VR experience.

“Do you remember the day that Melissa cut her arm?”

My eyes were wide and my heart was pounding at this point. I shook my head in confirmation.

Jason pulled up a video from that day. Melissa was sitting in the chair. The VR head set covered her face and her hands were moving with the controllers as she tested the game. A small indentation appeared on her arm and quickly moved down her skin followed by a trail of blood as if someone had scraped her hard. Melissa grabbed her arm in pain as she had done that day.

“Something was in the room with everyone,” said Jason. His bloodshot eyes did not blink. “You need to see the video from that last Friday night.”

I was afraid of what I would see but I wanted to know what happened to my friend.

“Play it.” I knew I would regret my decision.

The video started as Tanner and Jake sat down to begin testing after everyone else had left. Jason fast-forwarded 20 minutes into the video. Jake could be heard saying he didn’t understand why the monsters were following them instead of attacking. He made reference to the glitch Nick had showed me where you would have to complete the level before the monsters would act normal on the second play through. Tanner exclaimed that he was going to unlock the last door of the game and then they could run through the level again. Tanner started to say he was finished and that he was going to reset the level before his words were cut short.

Tanner dropped his controllers and grunted in pain gripping at his stomach as he did so. His body slouched back into his chair. His stomach began to bulge. It began to ripple and swell as if something was struggling to get out. His grunts became mixed with wails of pain. His body violently contorted. Jake’s body soon followed in the same contorted motions accompanied by his own screams.

I clasped my mouth in horror and disgust.

“I don’t want to see the rest of this.” I could feel a tear form in my eye as fear began to grip me.

“You need to see it!” Jason said in a stern whisper.

Both bodies writhed violently, their stomachs swelling and collapsing as if something was pushing from within. Finally the bodies came to rest in their chairs, their VR helmets still on, and stomachs swollen to unrealistic proportions. I watched in horror as my friends’ stomachs burst open. I could feel the vomit in my throat as I watched and heard that horrific sound which I’ll never get out of my head. Two large thin membrane sacs emerged from their bodies pulling entrails with them as they fell to the floor. A clawed hand punched through the thin veiny membrane as the screen cut to static.

“That’s it,” Jason said as he closed the laptop.

“What the fuck is this? Why did you make me watch this?” Tears were trickling down my face. I was disgusted and angry at what I had just seen. “Please tell me this shit is fake and that you’re just being a shithead so I can move on.”

“It’s not fake. I didn’t tamper with any of the footage. I saw the same shit you did.”

“No… we saw them walk out of that room.”

“The hell we did. Think about it. They were skinned alive. The coroner confirmed it was their bodies. You know damn well that whatever looked like Tanner and Jake leaving that office wasn’t them. The distorted face… The clawed hand on the glass door… The dislocated feet… the strange movement under their coats!”

I threw myself back in my seat and stared at the ceiling for a few seconds as I sighed.

“What are you suggesting?”

“This is going to sound crazy. I have been doing some thinking. What if we did exactly what the client wanted us to do?”

“What do you mean?” I asked in confusion.

“Violet Edge Digital doesn’t exist. Their equipment got ‘stolen’ so I tried to do a follow up with them from my home computer to let them know what happened. All of Mia Nasta’s emails to me are gone. If I send an email to what I remember was her email, it gets kicked back as not being able to be delivered. The police were also trying to do a follow up with them to find out exactly what the VR headsets were labeled or a serial number or something so they could report the equipment as stolen and they couldn’t locate any company anywhere named Violet Edge Digital that was based in Korea. They couldn’t find anyone named Mia Nasta either. They checked my emails and my phone calls to her office. There is no record of any of it regardless of how sure I am that I had those conversations with her. Their website is none existent. There is absolutely no trace of our client except our word.”

Jason took another nervous sip from his drink.

“All of our equipment that was in the testing room that was hooked up to the headsets was burnt from the inside out. All the game data and software was lost. All of our computers were wiped clean except for the one in the closet with the surveillance footage. It was the only one not connected to the internet. All of those folders containing instructions are gone as is the flash drive that had the sounds on it I gave you.”

“So? What does all this mean? We worked for a nonexistent company?” I was getting impatient at this point.

“Before I closed the company’s bank account the rest of the money promised to us was deposited. I had someone trace the money to see where it came from. It had passed through so many bank accounts both here in the US and off shore that it was impossible to tell. That money probably passed through 1000s of accounts.”

“What did you do with it?”

“I gave it to charity. I want nothing to do with it. I was already freaked out by that point. The morning I called you to meet me I got this in the mail. It’s a letter with no return address.”

Jason slid an envelope with his home address on the front across the table. Inside was a letter. It was on a plain piece of paper. The letter read:

Thank you. This is everything we needed.
See you soon.

– Mia Nasta

“What if…” Jason started before pausing. “What if we weren’t actually programing a VR video game? What if those creatures weren’t made up?”

“You can’t be serious,” I stated sternly.

“Think about it. The weird script they wanted us to include in the code that no one recognized. The feeling of people being physically touched while playing. You saw the video! What if we weren’t programming a game where a player escapes but in reality programing a way for those creatures to escape? Remember the pause feature not working? You can’t pause what’s real. People always said the visuals and the sounds were too good and contained things they didn’t remember programing. What if we weren’t looking at a game but a real world with our game overlaid on it?”

I sat in silence.

“Nick said the creatures wouldn’t attack you until you had opened the door to the next level right? You ever read Dante’s Inferno? There are nine levels of hell. The client wanted nine levels that looked like an abandon psych ward. Mia Nasta… Think about it. That name is an anagram.”

Jason’s ideas up this point seemed possibly valid but he was reaching for straws to me with his last statement. He was mocking our friends’ death at this point.

“Jason, enough!” I shouted as I pounded my fist into the table in anger. I stood up quickly. “I don’t want to hear this mockery of our friends’ death. Yea some strange shit happened. Yea maybe you have some good points but you can’t seriously believe that we programed a way for imaginary monsters to enter our reality. If that is the way you want to cope with their death fine but I won’t entertain that idea because it’s insane.”

I stormed out of the coffee shop.

“We made a way for them to come into our world!” Jason shouted as I walked away.

I walked the whole way home without stopping, furious at the thought of what Jason was suggesting. It was a complete fairy tale and probably his stupid way of coping with things. I wanted none of it.

His idea seemed stupid at the time but the reason I’m writing this now is because I believe him. Everything he said. It makes sense to me now. I’m writing this and posting it anywhere I can to warn people.

That night I was on Facebook looking at old photos of my friends reflecting on good times at Razor Games. Then I noticed it. In the suggested ad column on the right side was an advertisement for Razor Edge Incorporated’s new VR headset system. It looked strangely like the prototypes we had from our client.

I clicked on the ad. The VR system came complete with the world’s first horror VR game guaranteed to be the most realistic horror simulator ever. The game was titled ‘Ascent from the Abyss.’ There were screenshots of the game. The monsters, the graphics, and the premise were exactly the same. There was a demo video available. The game play was exactly the same and so was the level that was demonstrated. It was an exact carbon copy of our game.

We never titled the game. We never gave our client a final copy either. I don’t know what is going on but if Jason is even close to being right, we need to warn as many people as possible.

It’s the holiday season and if this VR set and game catches any traction, God only knows what will happen.

Credit: Tom

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The Shame

May 20, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This pasta was the second place winner of our Gaming Creepypasta Challenge. Congratulations!

The first place winner can be viewed here, and the third place story will go up tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who participated!

This is the bit where I tell you I’ve always loved games right? That I’ve been a gamer my whole life? Sorry, that’s not how it goes this time.

In all honesty I’ve always preferred book. So many games only give you this snapshot of a world, but a book could take you through so much more. My favourites had always been stories like Alice’s Adventures in wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, where the character would be thrown into a world far stranger, and often more frightening, than our own.

But, like a lot people, my friends went more and more down the path of the gamer and I found myself playing more video games since I had only a handful of friends and wanted to hold onto what I had. I began with a few of the easy titles like Halo, and just messing around with my friends in Minecraft. Nothing here really seemed to stick however. Not like books did.

I talked to my best friend about it, a guy named Mark, and he said he knew what to do. They next day he came by my house with a game called Planescape Torment on CD. He told me it was an old title he’d played like crazy as a kid, based on some strange, Dungeons and Dragons world. I thanked him and took the game.

I have to admit I had very little drive to play the game. The whole gaming experience seemed a little dry on its own to me and, without the benefit of talking to my friends online, I had very little interest in the idea.

Still I told Mark I’d play it, so I put it into my computer and installed it.

The experience was incomprehensible. The game had you playing as what could be best be described as a zombie with a floating skull for a side-kick. You would run around a city called Sigil and interact with the strangest characters that could be imagined. More than anything it felt full. Sure, there was no voice acting, but I’ve told you how much I love to read.

I loved every moment and played for hours every day. I put down my books, called in sick to work a few times, and went offline to my friends so they couldn’t distract me.

No longer was I sitting on the outside and watching one of these worlds, I was living it, interacting with it. The whole thing felt alive.

And then it ended.

It was about 2:00 am and my new, exciting world of Sigil ended. Leaving me with nothing but the cold empty apartment and the whirring of my computer fan.

I needed more. I looked for my friends online but it appeared they had all gone to sleep or where elsewise busy. This was unacceptable.

Instead I went wider places of the internet. To forums. Looking for something else to satisfy my hunger. But as far as I could see, Planescape is the only game to have been set in Sigil.

There was one comment that caught my eye on a feed though. The commenter was called Redrum Gamer. And all he said was, ‘The_Shame: Play it and learn your heart’s desire.’

The message was weird, but that only got me more curious. What is The Shame? I wondered.
I looked further. It was tricky to find The Shame. None of the mainstream sight like Steam or Uplay seem to have it available. But soon enough I found it, available for thirteen dollars. I held my breath. I had a tight budget and thirteen dollars was a steep price to pay for a game that I had only the one limited opinion of.

I scrolled down to the comments section of the webpage. The only comment was Redrum Gamer, once again, and all he said was, ‘Your heart’s desire.’

The smart thing would be to let it go. The smart thing would have been to ask my friends in the morning. I didn’t do the smart thing. As I hit ‘Add to Cart’ and entered my credit card information I felt a tingle of excitement run up my spine. My friends had a kind of competition. There was this plastic trophy cup we would pass around called the Finders Cup. Once a month whoever had found the best obscure title would claim ownership of the Cup. Needless to say I’d never had it before. But maybe this time? I thought to myself as The Shame downloaded and installed.

Opening up the file named the_shame.exe, the screen went black for a fraction of a second. Well almost black… I think anyway. I swear I could have seen a face in that instant of a moment, one shade of grey above the total darkness that surrounded it. But then again, it was late and I may have been having a hard time focusing.

The title screed of the game featured a dark landscape of black, red and grey with wreaked buildings and strewn bodies everywhere all in 16 bit graphics. Hovering over the landscape was the words, The Shame in letters the colour of crusted blood, like a scar that had never been cleaned. Bellow this was two words, the first in white saying ‘PACISCI’ and another, below the first, this one greyed out: ‘EDURO’.

A tune played in the background of the scene of woe. It wasn’t distorted or eerie as you may be expecting. The tune rose and fell in a manner that, although seemed natural, also felt wrong… Like that sensation of nerves that shoot up whenever something touches your neck. It could be anything from a knife blade to a lovers kiss. Regardless, however, it still feels strange.

I tried to push down the felling the peculiar music gave me. I even considered turning the speakers off, but knew I had to give the game at least one try with the proper immersion. So, having only one clear option to me, I clicked enter on PACISCI.

The whole screen went black again. Grey writing came up which read: ‘What does your heart most desire?’ I hesitated at this. Is this what Redrum Gamer was talking about? I knew what I wanted to write, but also didn’t know whether it was crossing a line. Then I remembered that this was a video game and no one would have any idea what I typed Taking a deep breath, I typed in ‘Penny’.

The background was the same grizzled scene as the menu. The music became the same cringing notes that haunted me before. But the character, the character was almost featureless. Wrapped from head-to-toe in dark robes. The only part of him that wasn’t black was his face, but once again you couldn’t see it since over his face he wore a white mask I recognised as one that Italian doctors would wear during the years of The Black Plague. On his head he wore a triangular hat, which once again was black.
Glancing at the clock I saw that it was getting onto 4:00 am I realised I should have long since quit and gone to bed since I had work in the morning. But yet I still found my hands never going near the escape key. Instead they found their way to the W-A-S-D buttons. The default movement keys in modern games. Nothing happened.

Frowning, I then tried the arrow keys, to better success. I moved my character to the right, since this is how to progress in most side scrolling games. All of a sudden the scene started shaking, bouncing up and down. The chilling music was met with a low rumbling sound. Out of instinct I hit the left arrow and my character, my little plague doctor as it were, started running to the left.

The screen started moving left and the character kept running. I began to wonder if running form the presences to the right of me had been the right call after all. The rumbling never stopped however. And so I kept moving. This must have gone on for a good two or three minutes. I have to say that though the gameplay was beginning to become rather dull, I was impressed with the background. Where most games like this use the same small scene on a loop, the environment here always appeared to be changing, always something new, and considering the work was all in 16 bit it was visually stunning in its own twisted way.

I was so lost in the atmosphere of the whole scene, that when I finally had to respond it took me by shock for a moment. A vertical edge shot out from the scene leading upwards, a ladder just out of reach of my Doctor. The rumbling grew wilder, and more sporadic as my Doctor collided with the wall in front of him. Panicking I slammed my hand down on the spacebar hoping my character would jump like I intended. The Doctor shot up and grabbed onto the ladder dangling above him. With a heavy breath I climbed up and away from the rumbling.

As I rose up and away I became aware of my clammy hands and speeding heart. This startled me. I’d been frightened by games before, but they were games like Amnesia or Outlast. They were first person games that brought you right into the horror. I chalked it up to the music and my own exhaustion eating away at my sanity and with a heavy sigh to calm my nerves I climbed the top off the ladder.

Atop the ledge was what I assumed must have been some kind of checkpoint area. The rumbling had stopped, and there were even a few other living souls scattered about the broken environment.

I approached the closet of the other characters, a man wearing bright blue and gold clothes and a top hat on his head. For a time I pressed the buttons at random till shift brought up a text box.
“A wife I once had.
The light of my days and night.
But now she is gone.”
After a glance I dismissed it as meaningless dialogue and hit shit once more. But instead of closing it the conversation, it took me to yet another, although much shorter, text box.
“Such is shame.”

Hitting shift once again took me out of the screen, and gave me control over my Doctor. I kept moving forward to the second survivor, a women in a pink and red dress. Speaking to it again it said:
“I lied to escape
It. Tried to hold my head high.
Now it finds my dreams.”
Hitting shift once more I received the same second text box:
“Such is shame.”

There was one more character in the safe zone. A man wearing little more than what looked like a hessian sack, and was slumped on his knees. Curiosity getting the better of me once more, I spoke to him as well.
“I use to sing well,
Playing for all who listened.
Now they’ve gone away.”
Once again:
“Such is shame.”

I wondered what the messages meant exactly. It was clear these were all characters carrying shame, the game literally told me that so no secrets there, but is that all they were? In a game already so devoid of life, not just in gameplay but in people, colour and enemies as well, I’d hope for something more. Some reason as to why the four of us were here to begin with, and what had kept on my heels the whole run here.

After bouncing around for a while, and finding little else of interest, I decided to call it a night. I closed the game, hoping it had some form of auto-save function, and went to bed.

The next day, at my cubical desk job I E-mailed my friends about The Shame, asking if they knew about it, and telling them what I had done. None of them really should much interest, apart from Mark that is. Mark, the friend who had shown me Planescape Torment in the beginning, and I had always been close. We had met in high-school and stayed friends to this day even after I started dating and inevitably broke-up with his sister.

Mark was also an armature musician. And though he always said it was only a hobby even I could tell he harboured dreams of being professional. He was curious about what I had said about the music, having already started inserting some digital edits to his tracks, and asked if he could come around later that day and hear it for himself. I accepted, kind of relieved by not having to confront the game, and the music on my own again.

After getting home at 7:00 pm I grabbed something to eat, but while I was finishing I found myself torn between the desires to play more of The Shame before Mark arrived, and confronting the disturbing game world on my own. After all, at this stage it was still my discovery, but if Mark was around when I entered the meat of the game that I assumed was still to come, did it then become ours? Soon enough I settle for a third option, researching the game online.

I suppose it comes as no surprise: Googling ‘The Shame’ is a bad idea if you’re looking for specifics. You get this weird blend of Christians filled with it, and pornstars who are apparently without it.

So I tried again this time, adding ‘game’ to the end of the search. Once again, ‘The Shame Game’ harboured useful information.

Just as I sat scratching my head there came a sudden knock at my apartment door. It startled me, but I shock it off and opened up to let Mark in.

As Mark pulled up a second chair to the computer desk, I booted up the game. But as it started the piercing music never came. In fact what played instead was rather startling. It wasn’t 16-bit music or computerised in anyway. It was like a deep storm rising from a guttural rich vein. Like Mongolian throat singing. The kind that vibrates deep into your very core. This deep stir was then met by a striking higher note, the voice of a child, piercing into your mind.

I gave Mark a glance, his eyes fixed on the screen.
“Sorry.” I said. “It seems to have changed.”
“Not at all,” he replied, “this is outstanding…’

Looking back over to the game it was the same title sequence over the dead landscape. The two words, now both white, floating on the screen, ‘PASICI’ and ‘EDURO’. I looked at the screen for a moment. Mark tapped me on the shoulder.
“Are you going to do something man?”
“Yeah, yeah. Just last time I had only the once choice, I’m not sure what to select.”
“Try EDURO.”
“Why?”
“I just – I’ve just got a feeling alright…”
Shrugging it off, and trying to ignore Marks almost reverent stare at the computer, I selected the second option. The screen went black and Mark jumped back in his chair.
“Holy Shit!” he shouted.
“What?”
“Didn’t you see it?”
“No… See what?”
Mark blinked a few times and shook his head before saying:
“I just… It doesn’t matter, keep going.”

The scene was the wrecked landscape with the survivors I had left it in. My Doctor sat idle, waiting for instruction. Doing a quick check of the other characters to see they all said the same thing, I decided to see how far left my character would go in this safe-zone.

Eventually an animation played where the screen wiped across and I was in a new location. The sky was now a dying gold, mountains protruded from the background, and the music had gone back to the sharp electronic notes it had been before when I first played. I smiled, even as my heart plummeted, pretending it didn’t bother me.

I looked over to Mark, he shot me a smile as well. But I could tell even his nerves were digging in. Then he looked back at the screen, and frowned.
“Were they there before?”
I looked over, my Doctor was running into the centre of the screen, but joining him were the three others I had met earlier in the broken village.
“No.” I replied, puzzled myself.

Then the rumbling returned. I slammed down on the left arrow key, my Doctor ran, and the others followed.
“So is this all it is?”
“So far, I guess I’m only in the first – level? I guess that’s what you would call it.”
My mind began to wander as Mark kept talking, I assume commenting on the music. The music which seemed to enter my mind, the music that brought me to thoughts of my parents. We hadn’t been on the best terms when I’d last left. After Penny – Marks sister and my girlfriend of a few years, – walked out on me, I kind of fell off the planet and into my books. I had been studying to get a medical degree, but after she was gone… it just took a lot out of me.

“… I mean you did say there wasn’t much to the game – Shit! Watch out!”
My mind shot back into the real world! I looked at the screen and ahead of my Doctor and his three companions was a whirling blade. I didn’t think I’d be able to stop myself before running into it, and I guess, in a way, I was right. When I was just by the razors edge my Doctor simply stopped moving. I couldn’t walk into the circular blade if I had wanted to. I hit space bar and jumped over, the spinning lumber saw.

I kept running, and my companions followed me. Bouncing over the rotating saw as they went. All but one that is… The man in the sack attempted to leap over, but, and I’ll admit it was hard to tell with the pixel graphics, it appeared his foot was caught in the saw and he fell on his face on the other side of the blade.

I panicked.
“What do I do?”
“Go get him for Christ sake!” shouted Mark, he wasn’t concerned, he was ecstatic.
I ran my character back to the injured man. I mashed shift, hoping it would do something to help.
“Help him!” Mark shouted, his voice growing more and more frantic.
Shift did nothing however. All that appeared was a text box with that message again:
“Such is shame.”
Hitting shift again presented me with a final comment from my beggar friend:
“This is the price of Satan’s game.”
The thing, the rumbling. It was too close now, I couldn’t try anything else. So I ran. Leaving the beggar to be taken in by the rumbling blackness that hounded our path.

The rest of the road was uneventful for my Doctor and his now only two companions, the Gentleman and the Lady. I played in silence, Mark seemed to be lost in his own thoughts too as he sat beside me, wide-eyed. Soon enough the trio arrived at another ladder, and we climbed it without incident.

Feeling bummed about the whole events I closed the game as soon as I reached the safe zoned and turned the computer off.

Looking at Mark, I saw he was biting his nails.
“Hey man, I know it’s late and all, but if you need a drink or something before you head out it’s cool.”
Mark blinked twice and looked at me before saying,
“Ah, yeah man. Thanks.”

I got up from the office chair and pulled out a couple of beers from the fridge before meeting Mark on the cramped area I had designated as the lounge in my two room apartment. All there really was to make it more liveable than the rest of the place was a couch and a TV.

The silence that sat between the two of us was irking at best. Though nothing was said, Mark’s tension grated away at my own nerves.
“So how’s Penny?” I asked, trying to make small talk. It’s sad to get hung up on your ex like this, I know, but this time I really wanted to just break the silence.
“She’s good,” was all the response I got.
The silence returned.
“Well what did you think of the music?”
Mark was silent for a time before saying,
“What?”
“The music. It’s why you came remember?”
“Oh, yeah, yeah… Look man I’ve just gotta go. I’ll see you round.”
Then Mark got up, putting his bottle on the floor, and made his way over to the door. I got up to see him out, but by the time I picked up the half-drunk beer Mark had already left.

I shrugged, thinking little of it, and called it a night.

The next day I sat at my desk, staring away at my computer. The phone at my desk rang. I tensed. I normally only got calls on the work phone when a higher up needed to yell at me. Thanks to The Shame I hadn’t slept much lately and I worried the exhaustion may have been showing up in my job performance.

I picked up the phone.
“Joseph?”
It was Penny’s voice? It sounded stuffy though, as if she had been crying. I had given her my work number in some show of drunken affection, a ‘Sorry I ignored you for a year and a half as I spiralled into depression! But if you ever need me, don’t be afraid to call!’ sap move.
“Hey, what’s up?” I said quiet as I could. Hoping no one realised I was taking a personal call on work hours.
“It’s – It’s… Mark. He had an accident last night.”
“What?” I all but exclaimed before reminding myself to keep my voice down. I looked around the office, but no one seemed to be paying much attention, lost in there on clicking and typing no doubt.
“Is he alright?” I asked once I thought it was safe.
“Well he’s not hurt… Or at least doesn’t appear to be anyway… Just–” The line went silent.
“He’s what?”
“He’s in a coma. They don’t know when – I mean if – he’s going to wake up.”
Now it was my turn to fall silent. My body turned cold as ice.
“What caused it?” I asked. Mark had always been a safe driver, stuck to all those ‘wipe off five’ rules and everything.
“Well they’re not totally sure. Apparently there was alcohol in his system, a lot apparently.” Penny said through chocked breaths.
“What? Look the guy had one beer – which he didn’t finish by the way. If there was anything still in his blood it would be well below the legal limit.”
“Hold on Joseph, what are you saying? Did you see him last night?”
I froze, I mean I had, but I knew how Penny worked. If I told her then she would insist on drilling me for information and I was still at work.
“Joseph, you still there?”
“Yeah, yeah. Look I’ve gotta roll a hard six here, but I’ll call you later, you’ve still got the same number right?”
“Yeah, yeah. Okay. I’ll talk to you later.”

I hung up and fell back into my crappy chair that company claimed was ergonomic, and maybe at some point it was, but with all the springs and adjustments broken it was a rattling mess these days. ‘Rolling the hard six’ was a reference to the show Battlestar Galactica. Penny and I had watched and loved the series together and it had become our code for doing something harsh but necessary. Still I didn’t have time to think on that now. I had to get through the day, and figure out what I was going to tell Penny.

By the time I got home it was dark. I was putting off the conversation and had found any excuse to stay at the office, but there were no excuses now. I picked up my mobile and dialled Penny’s number.
“Hey Penny, just calling you ba –”
“Hi!” Penny’s chipper voice cut in.
“I’m not at the phone right now, but if you leave a mess –”
I hang up, I’m still not all that sure what I want to say, and I certainly don’t want to say it in a message.

Collapsing on the couch I turn the TV on, hoping to detoxify my addled brain from the stress of the day. It takes me into the early morning and through a lot of weird channels and programs, but soon enough, I crash.

I find myself in a forest. The trees are distorted and my breathing is heavy. Looking up the branches seem to stretch far out of sight. Then I hear a voice call my name. Looking about with a slow calm that feels wrong in this place I see Jayson and Kat, my other two friends. Jay is shouting at me, his face red with fury, while Kat seems to have broken down into tears. I attempt to ask then what is wrong but no words come out.

A beep from behind me rips my attention away and I spin around to see myself in a hospital. The beep is a heart monitor and Mark is laying in a bed, his face almost peaceful. I step closer and closer to his unconscious frame. Then his eyes shoot open and he turns his head to look at me.
“Why Joseph?” he asks.
“Why have you done this?”

When I awaken I find myself still half seated, half sprawled on my couch, perspiration built up on my face. I go to the kitchen and wash myself off. Looking at my phone I see I’ve get a missed call from Penny, and that it’s well past midday. I curse under my breath, but also feel a sense of relief that it’s my day off.

I was just about to call Penny again, but then I stop. I put down the phone and head over to my computer. I was acting out of some kind of instinct, an instinct that didn’t feel like my own. I switch on my computer, and open up Google Chrome, then my hands type the word ‘Pacisci’, the word from The Shame’s menu. The word was Latin, as I’d expected. However where I expected it to say ‘start’, or ‘begin’, it came up with, ‘to make a bargain or agreement’. My heartbeat rose as I typed in the next word. Whether it were by my own incentive or that of the outside force I wasn’t sure. I looked up ‘Eduro’ this was closer to what I’d been expecting. Yes it meant to continue in a sense, but with a little extra digging, I found it specifically applied went it meant to ‘persist or endure’. An odd choice for a game, something meant to be enjoyed.

I shook my head, attempting to clear my thoughts. I had to know what was going on here. I opened up The_Shame.exe and the background came up once more. I hesitated between the two options.
“But it can’t be?” I whispered to myself.
“This… This whole thing is insane…”
Eventually I selected ‘ENDUO’ and in that fraction of a second, where the screen went black, I saw in clear white letters: ‘No it’s not.’

I blinked in surprise, but that was all the time it took for me to return to the hillside. To my Doctor and his two remaining friends. I walk my Doctor about the scene for a while, even talked to the two other characters.

The gentleman says:
“So sad, that back there.
But we should move along now.
Move before He comes.”
And as always, clicking again he says:
“Such is shame.”
‘Jay is divorced…’ the stray though slipped through my mind as I remember the Gentleman’s first comment, ‘A wife I once had.’

I then found myself to speaking to the women, though dreading every moment of the approach. She said:
“It was his work not
Mine. Why should I pay the price?
I couldn’t do time.”
What did that mean?
“Such is shame.”

I picked up my phone and dialled Kat.
“Hey.” She said, her voice full of nerves.
“Hey Kat. I take it you heard about Mark?”
“Yeah.” I heard a chocking sound, as though she were fighting herself from breaking into tears.
“You doing okay?” I ask, despite already knowing the answer.
“Fuck no! I mean – You know Jays party two weeks ago?”
“Yeah?” this wasn’t where I expected this to go…
“Well remember how Mark said he’d give me a lift home?”
I stayed silent, knowing that she didn’t need an answer.
“I didn’t go home Joseph… I went to Mark’s, and we…”
“Jesus Kat!”
“It gets worse,” she said with a painful chuckle.
“I was late this month so I took a test and… I guess I’m pregnant.” Her words cut off and this time the tears really did come, I could only hear it through the phone but I felt my heart tense up all the same.
“Shit…” I had no idea what else to say. Eventually I found the right question:
“Did Mark know?”
“No,” Kat breathed in a high pitched whine.

Then the thought crossed my mind, why I had called in the first place. But I couldn’t ask now, could I? As I sat on the line to my sobbing friend, I felt compelled to run my Doctor to the left. And upon entering the next zone I felt my grip loosen on the phone and I felt it clatter to the floor. My Doctor, the Gentleman, and the Lady ran into the middle of the screen with a backdrop of a mighty forest, but not just any forest, the forest. The one that I had been lost in with Kat and Jay in my dream. The one with the stretching trees taller than the eye could see.

With a shaking hand and a brow all but dripping with sweat I reached down to pick up the phone once more.
“Joseph? Joseph? Are you there Joseph?”
“Yeah,” I croaked back in a broken voice.
“Is everything alright? I heard a crash a –”
“Kat I’ve got a question and it may sound dumb but I really, really need to know, okay?”
The line went silent, my screen started to rumble and I ran my Doctor onwards. I eventually hear Kat wipe back her tears and say:
“Ummm… Okay. What is it?”
“Have you ever been charged, or investigated for a crime?”
“What?” She snapped back.
“I told you it would sound dumb but I’m serious!” My eyes darted between the two figures running alongside my doctor, wondering who could be next. I knew someone would be next.
“I’m not talking anything major, just enough that you might get jail time.”
Kat said nothing for a long while. I was worried about how far I’d passed through the level, and how little I had left to go. But if I stopped the rumble would get us and somewhere in my bones I knew that would be far worse.

The music seemed to be getting louder and louder through the speakers, once again it had turn to the Mongolian throat singing. My hands were tight, every muscle contort despite only using the one finger to keep running onwards.
“Yeah, yeah I did,” Kat eventually spat at me. Then she continued.
“I dated a dealer after my parents kicked me out of home. I helped him out for a while but when he got busted I cut and ran. Now how the hell is that your goddamn business?”
I had no idea what to say? The truth would sound stupid and only make everything worse. But in what real-world scenario does any of this make sense?

I had to tell her the truth. It’s the only way I can live with myself, even if Kat never speaks to me again. I open my mouth to speak, and in that split moment it happens. My Doctor and the Gentleman pass over some form of rope-bridge, and just as the Lady goes across the panel breaks beneath her. My heart jumps and I run over to where she is still dangling.
“Joseph?” I hear Kat say on the other end of the phone.
Hitting shift I whisper an apology.
“Sorry, I’m so damn sorry.” I wasn’t sure if this was to the lady in the computer, Kat on the phone, or to both really.
The Lady said:
“Such a shame.”
“What the hell is with you today? I swear the next time I see you Joseph I’ll punch you right in the face!”
I hit shift again and I get one final message from the Lady:
“One last piece to be played.”
I hit shift and the Lady tumbles down in to the pit with no end. As the rumbling shakes the screen wildly I run my doctor away as fast as I could.
“Tell you what Kat,” I say to the phone as a tear rolls down my cheek.
“If I ever see you again, go right ahead.”
“What the fu–” Kat begins but I hang up before she finishes. Jumping onto the ladder I climb my Doctor and the Gentleman to the next safe zone, before shutting off the computer, climbing into bed, and crying myself to sleep.

I wake up to a banging on my door. Like a slug I ooze out of the cocoon I have made for myself and check my phone. More missed calls from Penny. The time reads 10:30 am, Sunday. So who the hell is at my door?

I slouch out of bed and drift my way over to the door. When I open the door one of the cops had his hand raised, clearly he was ready for round three.
“What is it?” I ask, looking them square in the eye.
“Joseph Ark I assume?” asked the cop who had been knocking. I nodded and he continued:
I’m detective Gabriel, this is my partner Fin.” The other cop gave a sarcastic wave.
“We’d like to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind?”
“Of course he doesn’t!” the cop called Fin says as he brushes past me and into my apartment. His matter-of-fact tone irked me.
Detective Gabriel shot me a glance, as though asking if this was alright. With a groan, I gestured him in.

“Joseph, mind if I call you Joseph?” Gabriel asked.
“As long as you tell me why you’re here?”
“Are you in anyway associated with a Miss Katrina Evans?”
It took me a second to recognise Katrina’s full name. A pang of gilt stabbed into my chest, I just prayed the cops didn’t notice.
“Yeah, I am.”
“How long you been sleeping with her?” Detective Fin, who had been idly drifting about my apartment, jumped in.
“What?” I scoff back. Seeing the script starting to play out before me. They must know about the pregnancy. But why assume it was mine, or that I was even involved.
“Hey!” Cut in Gabriel, holding up a finger to his partner.
“Were just asking a few questions. Now Joseph, are you aware that Miss Evans threw herself out a window last night?”
“Christ, really? Is she…”
“Dead? No.” Gabriel pulled out a pen and pad before he continued.
“It was a damn miracle to be honest. Five floors. Left her in a coma though, that’s why we’re getting involved.”
“Alright, but how does this all get back to me?” I knew the answer, well at least the answer that made sense in the way that nothing makes sense anymore but I continue to accept it.
“Because you made her do it!” burst Fin and he stepped towards me. Gabriel grabbed his partners arm and pulled him back.
“Wait outside.” Hissed Gabriel.
“But–” began Fin.
Gabriel cut him off:
“Save it rookie, I don’t want to hear it. Now get out.” Gabriel pushed his partner towards the door and Fin reluctant as a cat to water shuffled out, giving me one last glare.

“I apologise for my partner. Something like this happened to his sister.”
“Something like what?” I asked.
Detective Gabriel held his breath for a moment before going on:
“Miss Evans’ phone records show you two were chatting pretty late last night.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Neighbours say it got pretty heated?”
“Umm, yeah,” I mumbled back.
The detective narrowed his eyes, looking me over.
“How would you describe your relationship with Miss Evans?”
“She’s a friend I guess, we’ve known each other for a fair few years.”
“Ever look like it was anything more?”
“No. Definitely not.” That much I could say with confidence. She’d always told me how pathetic I was, still being hung up on Penny.
“And were you aware that Miss Evans was pregnant?”
“Yeah, that’s what we were talking about, mostly…”
The detective’s eyebrows shot up.
“Really, what else did you talk about?”
I thought about trying to explain for a brief moment, then realised it was futile.
“It – it doesn’t matter. Just a stupid video game.”
Detective Gabriel nodded. It was clear he was in deep thought.
“Okay Joseph, let me tell you what’s going on here. You seem like a good guy to me, honest. You could have lied about knowing she was pregnant, hell you could have even lied about ever meeting her before! But you didn’t. I like that. Shows you’re trying to get this sorted just as much as I am. But at the same time, a girl is in hospital on an IV drip and I have a duty to find out why.”
I go to speak, but Gabriel shushes me.
“So let’s run through the facts here Joseph. Miss Evans comes home after finding out she’s pregnant. She call you, has a heated argument about that pregnancy. Then throws herself out the damn window? What kind of light do you think that shines on you Joseph?”
Gabriel stood there, waiting for an answer. I felt my fists clench and my body go tight.

“Okay how about you listen to me, and I mean actually godamn listen, none of this good-cop-bad-cop mind game crap!” I had no idea where this anger was coming from. Whether stress from all that had happened, or my own rage towards myself, but for now it will be set doing something useful.
“If what you are insinuating is even true – and believe me it isn’t. The Dad’s name is Mark Grey, you’ll find him next door to Kat in his own hospital bed – being an asshole isn’t a crime. So if you ever, and I mean ever, need to speak to me again, it will be with a lawyer present. Now get out!”
Detective Gabriel gave me a weak look. He moved towards the door, and just before stepping through it he looked back at me.
“You seem like bright kid. Make sure you keep it that way,” then he stepped through the door and was gone.

Now I want to make a few things clear. Yes my friends were in trouble. And yes it was likely my fault, even if I didn’t understand how. But at the same time, they weren’t dead yet, and somehow, I knew I was the only one to change that. The question was how?

The obvious answer was to beat the game, at least that’s what a lifetime of Hollywood movies had taught me. But that left two glaring issues. First off: Life isn’t Hollywood and I can’t know for sure that will even work. Second: I’d be playing with Jay’s life, as well as my own… Now Jay was a good guy, but even if I could explain the whole thing to him, this was a big ask for only a chance of fixing my screw up.

I take a heavy breath and dial Jay’s number. It rings three times before he picks up.
“Hey man, you heard?” he says, voice distorted and crackling through the phone.
“Yeah. I just had a pair of cops give me an interrogation on the whole thing.”
“Shit man, what did you do?”
“Nothing. They just though I was the father.” The line goes dead for second.
“Kat’s father?” Jay said confused.
“No of course not, the kids.”
“What kid?”
“Kat’s!”
“Kat had a kid!”
“Jesus Christ! She was pregnant man! She and Mark hooked up.”
“Oh… Oh shit…”
Nothing but the buzz of the phone could be heard as the slow light of realization flooded over Jay.
“Now it’s making some sense…”

Jay and I talked for a while. Awkwardness colliding between us. I had no idea if I should tell him or not, and if I did, how could I say it in a way he would believe?

“Jay what are you doing tonight?”
“Nothing much, why?”
“Come round and have a drink. I’ve got something to show you.”
“Ummm, alright. See you then man.”
Alright now I just have to wait…

The knock on my door came by at about 8:00 pm that night. I’d been sitting upright in my bed the whole day trying to think about anything but that damn game. However, no matter how hard I tried, I always found my eyes wandering back to the computer, speculating. It’s just a game, right? I’ve worked myself up over nothing! Endlessly these thoughts passed through my mind and time after time I had to push them back down. It wasn’t that simple. No matter what my brain may say, my heart or soul or whatever you want to call it, knew otherwise.

My bones cracked as I moved to the door, stiff from little movement. Opening up, Jay eyed me over.
“You look like shit man,” he said.
“Yeah, it’s been a rough couple of days…” I said, gesturing him inside.
After Jay passed through the door I did a quick glance, up and down the hallway. Jay payed this no mind and fell into the couch before saying:
“So what did you need to show me?”
“Huh?”
“You said you wanted to show me something? And let me tell you, I’m praying its good news. In the light of recent events we could sure use some.”
“Yeah… I’m afraid I’m fresh out of that…”
“Should have known,” Jay said in response, letting out a heavy sigh.
“Well hit me with it, whatever it is?”

I’d rehearsed this part in my head, I’d told myself what to say, and convinced myself Jay would play his part to a T. It took all of three seconds after Jay walked in the door for that plan to go out the window. Still, Jay was the son of a Minister, and had always been a bit driven towards the supernatural and whatever was going on here clearly wasn’t possible in the natural world.

“Jay what I’m going to say is weird, in fact it will probably sound impossible, but I need you to hear me through. Can’t you promise me that?”

Jay sat back on the couch awkward in his own weight. After his divorce Jay filled the whole in his life with fitness. And though the countless martial arts lessons had paid off and he looked fantastic, he still seemed kind of uncomfortable in his larger frame.

Jay was giving me a look that simply stated: are you serious? Without a single word. But when he saw that I was keeping a straight face he sucked in a sharp breath through his teeth and said:
“Alright, shoot.”

I told Jay what had happened. Everything form finishing Planescape to the discovery of The Shame. I went into every detail about the characters and the conclusions I was drawing. I talked about the cops, both Gabriel and Fin. All the while Jay’s face turned darker and darker. When I was done the last of my words hung in the air:
“… so what are we going to do?”
Jay had been staring down into his palms for the past while, slowly rubbing his hands together. Then the silence was broken as Jay spoke.
“There are three possible answers to what you just told me,” Jay began, rising to his feet and floating towards me.
“First, you’re legit crazy. If that’s true I’m going to pick up my phone and call you some help.”
I took a thick swallow, glancing down at Jay’s hands to see if he was already reaching for his phone. One of his large hands were in his pocket, but they didn’t seem to be moving.
“Two, this is a sick fucking joke, and I’m about to beat you bloodied.”
Needless to say, Jay was doing nothing for my already racing nerves.
“And finally,” he said, standing less than an arm’s reach away,
“It’s all true.” Jay’s arms shoot up and around my neck, forming a tight grip. “It’s all true and I’m going to do what I have to!”
I panicked and tried to push him back but it was hopeless. Trying to fight against Jay was like playing The Shame, my fate was sealed from the beginning.

One, two, three seconds. Then the world disappeared around me into darkness.

The world around me was a lie, or something close to a lie anyway. I was in the forest once again, its tall trees shooting far out of sight. There was Jay, dressed up in the blue and gold of the Gentleman, his face a blank slate.

Beyond my control I found myself drawn towards him. Moving closer to him he said:
“The deal is all but
Set. Have you worked it out yet?
Enter in the sleep.”
I tried to call out to Jay, ask him what was going on, but try as I might, my lips didn’t move.

I then felt my body moving once more without my permission. An outside force pulling me to the left. A large black wall appeared before me and, despite trying to stop, I drove onwards to it.

Soo enough I collided with it and was consumed by blackness. A blackness that cut away in less than a moment. I was surrounded by white. A white hall. A white, blinding, florescent light, and white tiled floor. Blinking my eyes adjusted to the light. I heard footsteps clattering on the tiles, not just my own though. Jay?
I tried to turn my head but it wouldn’t move. We just kept running onwards through the hall. There were no doorways or windows along the corridor. In fact the scene showed no form of life or decoration at all.

Then the rumbling came.

A tremor at first. Barely recognisable from my own body, shake with exhaustion from the run. But as it grew heavier, and the deep, throaty music began to play, I realised the reality I was living in. Jay has open the game. I am lying on my on floor, a helpless vegetable, as he checks the credibility of my story.

There are no other words for it. My heart plummeted. I knew Jay wouldn’t screw the level up, I mean all it really needed was for the player to hold one button down. But in a way that only made it worse. Because If Jay didn’t get my Doctor killed, then he was the one in danger. But even if he did lose at this stage would that help? If it would save the others I’d gladly throw myself away. But from all appearances Jay was behind me and that means that this thing behind us was only going to get him first if we slowed down.

Then the scene was changing. The lights flickered and soon died all together. The tiles on the walls grew larger and heavier. Till soon enough it was thick stone walls that had us boxed in. The rumbling had gone far beyond what it had ever been before. I lost my footing for a brief moment and found my head slamming into the stone wall.

Opening my eyes as fast as I could. Then I heard a bleeding ring pierce through my ears. As the world became clear once more I realised the original menu music had begun to play once more. The tunnel was tighter than it had been before. I tried to take a step but felt a stabbing pain in my leg from a twisted ankle.

I almost collapsed, ready for the growing rumble to take me. In less than a moment something snatched me up by my waist, I panicked at first but then realised it felt familiar, definitely human at least. I looked to the side, once again having control of my body, to see Jay. His expression was of a determination as hard as steel.
“Jay?” I gurgled as he dragged me onwards.
“How did we get away?”
“We didn’t,” he replied, not losing focus.
“It caught me and brought me here. It told me everything.”
“But then… What?”
“I got away from it for a moment, but I can only run, never escape. That means I still have time to get you out.” Jay paused and glanced at me for a moment.
“I’m sorry, for what I did, in the real world I mean. I took you out because I had to see this for myself. I knew you’d never let me touch it. I was wrong and I was stupid. I should have listened. Sorry.”
Feeling my senses return to me I could make out a door up ahead.
“I forgive you Jay but your wrong, okay? There’s got to be a way for us both to make it out of here.”
“If only…” he said. Grabbing the door handle, pulling it open, and throwing me into the bright, glowing light that radiated through.

When I opened my eyes my head pounded in my skull. Looking around I found myself lying on my own floor. I cracked my neck and got to my feet. Looking around the room I saw Jay was on my couch, a collection on my anti-depressants and anxiety medication scattered about him. His body devoid on motion apart from his slow breathing. I glanced over to my computer and see a green DoS override box was displayed over The Shames main menu. I walked over and took look at the message.

“Congratulations!” it said.
“You have officially completed The Shame and shall receive your award momentarily.”
Bellow this was a flashing green tab, as though I could write something in response. Taking a breath, my hands trembling, I typed:
“Who are you?”
The computer seemed to process this for a second before replying.
“Peter 5:8.”
Clearly a biblical reference, I wish Jay was still awake to tell me what it meant. Having no bible handy I asked:
“What did you do?”
“Upon completion of the first level of The Shame you agree to the deal struck between us. I find the three you hold most dear, and exchange it for what your heart most desires.”
What my heart most desires? Does it mean Penny? I wonder.

A sudden knock at the door brought me away from my computer and back into my apartment. Taking one last glance at the screen it read:
“Enjoy!”
Step by step I approached the door. There was another knock.
“Joseph? Joseph? Open up Joseph I’m getting cold out here!” As I suspected, it was Penny’s voice. I opened the door and there she was. Dressed up in black lingerie and stockings. She leans in to kiss me and I wish I could say I was man enough to try and stop her.
“Hey Sweetheart,” she said. Leaning so close that her sweet lips brushed mine with every word.
“Can I come in?”

I stepped out of her way to let her in, my body feeling stiff as a tin-man. I watch her and her long and ever so elegant legs drift through my apartment to my bed.
“Come and join me?” she asks, fluttering her eyes.
“What about Jay?” I reply. My voice broken and cracked.
“Who?” she asks, looking puzzled.
I deliberate the idea of trying to talk to her. Trying to tell her what has happened and why this isn’t really her. But somehow I already know it would be futile.

Walking over to Penny I find myself kissing her once more.
“I’ll be over in a minute,” I say, returning to the computer.
“Oh,” she says, still seeming confused.
“What are you doing?”
I type in my final question to whoever it is on the other side of the screen before replying:
“Sometimes you’ve just gotta roll the hard six.”

POLICE AUDIO LOG TRANSCRIPT
DATE: 03/11/2016
OFFICER REPORTING: DETECTIVE GABRIEAL

The scene was a mess really. There was a guy [Jason Rowland] who had taken enough drugs to sink an elephant sitting around, confused but beyond that the picture of health. Then there was the girl [Penny Singer] all dressed up nice for her boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend… No one seemed sure of that one. Regardless it was for the victim by all appearances. Anyway she was claiming she had no clue how she got there.

Finally there was Joseph Ark, a suspect in the then ongoing case of Katrina Evans’ attempted suicide. [Miss Evens case has now been closed due to her and what is apparently now her fiancé making a full recovery.] Our old friend Joseph seemed to be just slouched at his keyboard, hacking some strange video game. I say hacking because when our specialist took a look at the computer they saw he had some override up that interacted with the programs base code.

The program in question appeared to be some kind of non- sensical communication between Mr Ark and the computer. The last part of this dialog, which my specialist assured me all happened offline, caught my eye particularly since it looked like an early-era chat room. It said:

Joseph Ark (JA): What if I didn’t complete level one?

Other (O): You would still get your wish. But I’d take your life instead of the others.

JA: I want to play again.

O: … What?

JA: You heard me. Start it up again.

O: Very well. But what does your heart desire now?

JA: I want my friends back.

Peculiar at best. I think I may attempt this game myself. See if I can find any answers there.

This is detective Gabriel signing off.

[This transcript has been withdrawn as evidence in the case against Detective Gabriel relating the hospitalization of Detective Jack Fin, Elizabeth Gabriel and Kyle Gabriel (Detective Gabriel’s with and son.)]

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