Estimated reading time — 26 minutes
This is a sequel to Skyrim’s Secret.
Sometimes in life, you have certain experiences that completely twist your perspective of reality. Things that you think could only happen in pure fantasy turn out to be the most sobering truths ever to hit you. This is what happened to me, hell, to everyone. The events recounted in these paragraphs would be among the most trying that the human race had ever experienced, and I was caught smack dab in the middle.
I guess I should start from the beginning. I was in my senior year of high school and had just finished a lengthy research paper for my AP physics class (yeah, it was about as fun as it sounds) and was mentally drained for the night, so I decided to unwind by visiting one of my regular online haunts: a YouTube channel called Egg Beaters. Egg Beaters featured an eccentric video game nerd named Jeff Crum who would look for Easter eggs in games, and also debunk popular video game myths. A lot of the things he found were actually pretty cool! Tonight’s episode looked especially interesting, it was entitled: “The Curse of Skyrim: True or False?”
Being a huge Elder Scrolls fan, the title alone captivated me. I clicked the video and the usual flash intro played with loud rock music and various action clips from a bunch of different games. You know, typical theatrics for this type of thing. Then, Crum came on, seemingly wired on caffeine as always, and wearing his rather large glasses and tacky bowtie, his horribly unkempt blonde hair almost blending in with the tie-dye background.
Jeff Crum was quite the character all right. He used to be a pretty radical environmental activist, once protesting a company in New York for not using all fluorescent light bulbs in their offices. Another time he even tried (unsuccessfully, of course) to get a petition signed banning the use of gasoline in cars, in favor of “clean” ethanol fuel. To be honest, his antics just served to hurt his cause; I think he actually just got on people’s nerves more than he made any real progress. Then, out of nowhere, he dropped his eco-craze and started taking an interest in video games, which led to his creation of Egg Beaters.
“The Curse of Skyrim: True or False?” Crum began by repeating the title. “Undoubtedly most of you have read the recent Creepypasta Skyrim’s Secret, detailing a supposedly cursed Easter egg hidden in the game’s outer reaches. This secret location, known as Husfortap Manor, is alleged to house a mysterious woman in a blue gown, who delivers a harrowing fate to the player upon visitation. According to the story, the fate she hands down in the game will occur in real life shortly after.”
“The curse seems to get progressively worse with each visit and appears to follow a pattern, each doling out a more meaningful loss: Loss of Wealth, Loss of Work, Loss of Home, Loss of Love (or a Loved One), and finally Loss of Life. Now, to this date, no one has actually proven Husfortap’s existence, though many claim that on the overhead map, you can see a rectangular white structure on the side of a mountain directly south of Markarth, which some believe to be the manor. And of course, there are rumors flying around the Internet about how the manor has actually killed people, but so far Husfortap remains just an urban legend.”
“Well I’ve decided to finally put this myth to rest.” Crum continued. “Over the next day or so, I’m going to explore the alleged site of this mysterious mansion and see if there’s any truth to the tales after all. I’ll let you all know what I find in my next video. For Egg Beaters, this is Jeff Crum signing off.”
I’d heard of this one before: in the original story, some poor guy discovered the mansion and it slowly began to eat away at his life until he ended up homeless and welcoming of the final curse. Now, I’m pretty sure that this was just a made-up tale, though I would have no way to prove it myself because apparently you need a console command to reach the mansion and I only have Skyrim for Playstation 3 (yes, I have suffered the infamous Rim Lag). Besides, most of these urban legends and Creepypastas are just fictional stories. Why would this one be any different?
In class the next day, my AP physics teacher completely busted my balls. He failed my paper for “not citing my sources properly”. I had all the information, but I didn’t indent the second line of each source, like that was a big fucking deal. Of course, being the kind soul that my teacher was, instead of just marking off a few points, he flunked me for the whole thing! Suffice to say, I hated AP physics with every fiber of my being.
After class, I knew I needed to cool down. I decided to pull out my phone and check Egg Beaters once again, and immediately saw that Crum had a new video up: “Skyrim’s Secret Found!” The new video was only posted just this morning yet had already amassed over 1,000 viewers. Intrigued, I clicked the video to see Crum a bit more ecstatic than he usually was (if that was at all possible).
“Hello everyone, Jeff Crum here for Egg Beaters with some exciting news! In my last video, I said I would debunk the urban legend of Husfortap Manor in Skyrim. Well just last night, I found out that the mysterious mansion actually exists, just like its origin story says it does!”
Crum showed footage of himself climbing over the mountain and dropping into the courtyard of Husfortap Manor, its bare, low-res facade staring down intimidatingly at the camera as its wooden sign waved gently in the breeze.
“So as you can see, here’s the mansion exactly the way it’s described in the story.” Crum carried on. “Let me just step inside here…sorry about the long load screen, my system was acting funky yesterday for some reason. Damn thing crashed twice right before I got to the mountain. Okay, here we go! Now, you can see that the mansion is completely bare on the inside except for that ominous black book. Let’s jaunt up here and read it, shall we?” He opened the book and, sure enough, there was only a small number 1 in the top left corner. However if the real Easter egg followed the story, this would soon change.
“Alright, there’s our mysterious book.” Crum continued. “Now I bet if I turn around…bam! There she is!”
There, in the center of the room, stood the infamous Woman in Blue, the deliverer of the supposed curses that plagued the mansion. Yet, I can see why the guy in the Creepypasta was smitten with her: she was quite beautiful, with her smooth pale skin and flowing black hair. Crum directed his avatar to walk past the woman, whose head turned to follow him. As he came level to her, she uttered her famous line.
“Wealth is temporary, what is here today will be gone tomorrow.” The woman stated, though I thought I saw her mutter something else inaudibly, but I couldn’t make out what it was. She looked slightly angry, though.
“Uh-oh! Hear that, everyone? Guess we all better watch our wallets!” Crum joked, clearly skeptical about Husfortap’s powers. “I’ll keep coming back to the manor to see if anything within changes, and I’ll post what I find in future videos For Egg Beaters, this is Jeff Crum signing off!”
So, this Easter egg was real after all, now this was cool! As for its mystical powers of misfortune, however, I was as skeptical as Crum; I never believed in all that “oogie boogie” stuff. But still, it was a pretty big deal that the mansion actually did exist after all the buzz passed around about it. Excited, I decided to share the video on Facebook to my friends, who were all a bunch of Elder Scrolls nuts just like me. In the near future, I would come to regret that action.
When I got home, my parents and sister were huddled around the television, all of them bearing a look of concern on their faces. Curious, I dropped my backpack and came to take a look, and what I saw shocked me.
“For those of you just tuning in, the United States Department of Defense has uncovered what they describe as one of the most devastating economic crimes in the nation’s history.” The news anchor reported. “Earlier today, hundreds of thousands of bank accounts were hacked into, their contents completely purged. Investigators are unsure of the identity of the culprits or the means they used to pull off this cyber heist, but they do know that this was done with absolute precision by a professional or team of professionals, and is not specific to any one bank chain.”
My heart nearly stopped. Was there a connection to Husfortap Manor after all? Granted, only a few thousand people watched the original Youtube video, but what about everyone who shared it on social media to their friends? I started to have second thoughts about my skeptical outlook, this was just too sudden to just be a coincidence. I thought my parents were going to have a heart attack when they checked their accounts only to find them completely empty, along with mine and my sister Emily’s. Of course, they all have me on Facebook, and I just shared that video like an idiot, so I basically fucked my family out of all our money.
Heart pounding, I darted up to my room, pulled up Facebook, and hurriedly deleted the video to stop it from spreading. Then, I went to Youtube to look up Crum’s email: he always posts his contact info in the description tab as a conceited attempt to receive personal complements. I sent Crum an email explaining the bank hack that had just occurred and that I thought it was linked to Husfortap. I also warned him not to post any more videos or visit the manor again. Okay, I thought, hopefully he’ll get the message and this is as far as it will go.
That night, I was unable to get to sleep; what if Crum didn’t heed my warning, or even if he did, what if one of my friends discovers the Manor on their own and posts the footage? I knew enough now to never watch it and surely not to repost it, but not everyone did. Not to mention, sometimes videos on Facebook auto-play, meaning they’ll play whether you click on them or not! I was afraid that, one way or another, this was going to get out. Then, as I was lying there pondering, I saw a familiar face on the other side of my bedroom window (which was on the second floor, by the way). Peering in at me with one hand placed firmly on the glass, was the Woman in Blue.
I jumped up in a fraction of a second, grabbed my flashlight and shone it at the window, but by the time I did, she was gone. I wasn’t imagining this; she was there, staring right at me! I opened the window and looked out, but still saw nothing, except one of the neighbor’s dogs giving me a weird look. Shaken, I closed the window, put the flashlight up and collapsed into bed. This experience didn’t help my insomnia much.
The next day, I just sort of vegetated through my classes, having not gotten any sleep last night. I barely remembered any of it, just sort of a blur of science, calculus, and history. Oh, and I think there was a fight in the hall, but two guys may have just tripped and fell. That’s how out of it I was. That afternoon when I got home, I found my sister in the kitchen attempting to comfort my parents, who had a look of utter despair on their faces.
“Guys, what happened?” I asked.
“We lost our jobs.” Dad stated. “My company filed bankruptcy and had to lay everyone off.”
“Same thing happened to me.” Mom said with the same disparity.
No, no, it couldn’t be, could it? I switched on the television, turned to the local news and sure enough, there it was on the bottom of the screen: “Rampant Job Layoffs Sweep the Country”. That son of a bitch, I told Crum to stop posting those videos, but he didn’t listen! Now someone close to my parents’ bosses must’ve shared the video to them, causing the company to go bankrupt and everyone who worked there to lose their jobs. These videos are beginning to affect people who didn’t even WATCH them!
I stayed downstairs to support my folks, though I was just as worried as they were now about our well-being. We now had NO money coming in: first all of our bank accounts get hacked, then mom and dad lose their jobs, we were screwed! Later that night, I dialed up Crum to give him a piece of my mind. I was seething with anger, this guy fucked up our lives due to his sheer negligence. I punched his number so hard into my phone I half expected the screen to crack. The phone rang once, then twice, three times….then voicemail, as expected.
“Crum!” I shouted into the phone. “You HAVE to stop posting those videos of Husfortap Manor, do you hear me? The curse is real, I swear to God I’m not making this up! All of my family’s bank accounts got hacked and my parents lost their jobs because of the videos. I sent you an email yesterday, which you obviously didn’t read, so now I’m telling you where you can’t ignore me: stop posting those videos!!!!” Then, I hung up, slammed my phone on my desk and collapsed in my chair.
I didn’t know what to do now. I could tell my family about the curse, but honestly, would they believe me? Even if so, what good would it do? If other people watching the videos now affected what happened to us, and Crum was ignoring my pleas, there wasn’t much I could do. I had to think of something though, I couldn’t just let my family’s lives fall apart right before my eyes! Emotionally exhausted from yet another devastating day, I drifted into an uncomfortable sleep right there in my computer chair.
When I opened my eyes, something was immediately different. I couldn’t see the light on my computer desk, or any light for that matter, except for the gleam from the moons outside the window. Wait, moons? As in plural? That couldn’t be right, yet there was no mistaking the white and red orbs staring back at me through the large window. But how could this be? The only place I knew of that had two moons was Tamriel, more specifically, Skyrim. I held my breath and prayed I wasn’t where I thought I was. Let me be in Jorrvaskr with the Companions, I thought, or the College of Winterhold. Please, just let me be anywhere except…where I realized I was when I turned around: Husfortap Manor.
Even in the dim lighting, there was no mistaking Husfortap’s interior. Its bare wood frame, its wide featureless single room, and its plain black book in the back of the room that recorded what ill fates befell those who visit this place. Yet as I looked around the room, I saw no sign of her. Good, as long as I didn’t speak to her, I wouldn’t be cursed. I hurried towards the large wooden door at the front of the manor and attempted to pull it open, but to no avail. I twisted the doorknob frantically, trying to get the door to open, but it was unfortunately locked. Then, a flash of lightning lit up the door’s window, and I saw a reflection behind me that made me freeze solid.
It was her, the Woman in Blue in her young form. I turned around to see her in her position in the center of the room. She stared through me with a look of horror and appeared visibly shaken. Her mouth trembled as if she was trying to say something, but no words came out. She stood there muttering for about five seconds and then reached a hand towards me.
“JOSEPHINE!!!!!!!” The Woman screamed in a shrill tone that sounded like death itself, aging each second of the cry until finally she decayed into a rotted corpse, not unlike the one described at the end of Skyrim’s Secret. As her body fell to the ground, her skull snapped off and rolled towards me, her empty eyesockets looking up at me and staring through my soul. The mansion then shook and fell down all around me, and a large beam of wood fell right on top of me.
I shot awake, almost out of breath, and looked around to see only my bedroom, warmly illuminated by my desk lamp. Of course it was all a dream, but it felt so real. For some reason, I couldn’t help thinking: what was the significance of that name the woman shouted, “Josephine”? Curious, I booted up my computer and ran a search for the name, along with various other paranormal keywords. I scrolled for a while through various irrelevant links until I came across an article that caught my eye.
The article included a photograph of a woman who looked exactly like the Woman in Blue. Pulling it up, I found that the woman’s name was Josephine Palmer. According to the article, Josephine was born in 1896 and was a third generation citizen of the United States, her family having immigrated from Norway. She was known by the townspeople as “the Blue Lady” for her tendency to always wear a deep royal blue gown. It was believed by her house servants that Josephine was a member of a small cult that worshipped a deity named Uheldig, patron of misfortune and strife. Uheldig was infamous for cursing nonbelievers, for no other reason than his personal amusement.
In 1921, on the night of her 25th birthday, Josephine committed suicide in her bedroom by drinking poison. Clutched in her hand was a note to her family detailing her motives. She had killed herself in order to appeal to Uheldig, who she claimed had promised to cure her infant daughter’s tuberculosis if Josephine took her own life and pledged her servitude to him in the hereafter. Mysteriously, the servant who tended to the baby noticed that her symptoms had vanished later that day. This was all starting to make sense now.
Suddenly, the signature ping of my email interrupted my train of thought. Odd, who was emailing me so late into the night? Pulling up my account, I was surprised to see that the message came from Jeff Crum’s address. Hmm, I guess my heated voicemail got through to him! I opened the email and immediately my screen was engulfed in a video player. The video that popped up scared me out of my skin.
It showed footage of Crum’s avatar entering Husfortap Manor and speaking to Josephine, who was late middle aged by this point. This was the sign of the third curse: Loss of Home. The scary part was, before the video opened, I got a glimpse of the message’s details: it was allegedly sent to “multiple recipients”. I desperately attempted to close the video, but to no avail. The email must’ve contained a virus preventing me from controlling the computer, or shutting it off for that matter.
“Your home is your sanctuary,” Josephine spoke at full-volume as I had a near panic-attack. “And you do all you can to preserve it, but what happens when others aren’t as responsible?” After the message was delivered, my computer completely shut off.
“What the hell are you doing in here?” Emily opened my door, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“We have to get out of here now!” I told her in a panic.
“What are you talking about?” She responded.
“I don’t have time to explain, just go wake Mom and Dad up and tell them we have to get out!”
Emily sauntered downstairs to mom and dad’s bedroom while I waited anxiously; I wasn’t leaving without my family. What was going to happen to us though? According to the curse, we will lose our home due to someone’s irresponsibility, but none of us did anything to endanger our homes, did we? Unlike the kid in the Creepypasta, there’s no one else living here, so what could it be? As I ran through the scenarios in my head, Mom and Dad came around the corner, looking irritated and groggy.
“You want to explain to me why you’re having your sister wake us up at six o’ clock in the morning on a Saturday?” Dad demanded.
“I can’t right now, we just have to get out of the house before-” My sentence was interrupted by a loud boom from outside, followed by a low, intense rumbling. I ran to the window and looked outside just in time to see a mass of water slam into our house, which crashed through the windows and knocked me backwards. Disoriented, I attempted to regain my bearings, but could barely see in front of my face in the murky brown depths. Following my instinct, I swam upward, pushing past debris and furniture, until I surfaced at about the level my room would be.
Grabbing hold of a large piece of drywall, I called for my family. I found them holding onto various chunks of the house further down and regrouped with them. As we floated, we noticed other survivors had managed to escape the wreckage; from them we learned that the nearby dam had burst, causing the entire river to flood our neighborhood. One of the maintenance crew must have neglected to notice a crack in the dam, and that’s what caused it to burst.
Eventually, the National Guard flew in and airlifted us to a sanctuary, where we learned that several disasters like this had happened around the entire world, each a different case of catastrophe due to human negligence: house fires started by lit cigarettes, bombs accidentally detonated by one country or another’s military, faulty construction sites toppling and taking out nearby homes, you name it. Basically anywhere in the world you looked, it was one thing or another.
I couldn’t believe Crum, how could he do this to innocent people? Of course, as I thought about it, the possibility crossed my mind that he wasn’t even responsible at all. For all I knew, he received the final curse a long time ago and now Uheldig was using his account to spread the recorded videos. Whoever was responsible for this, I knew I had to put a stop to it, though I didn’t know how. Crum’s address was the one piece of personal information that he didn’t irresponsibly disclose to billions of people on the Internet, so I had no idea how to find him. I had to do something though, and I was running out of time.
“One thing I don’t understand,” Dad suddenly spoke up, breaking my train of thought. “How did you know that this was going to happen?”
“That’s what I’ve been wondering.” Concurred Emily.
“Alright you know what? Fuck it, you all deserve the truth.” I didn’t have the energy to think up a lie, I didn’t even care if they believed me or not. I told my family everything about Husfortap Manor, from the curses to Crum to Josephine Palmer, I laid it all out for them, and how if someone didn’t stop this soon, people were going to start dying, fast. To my surprise, none of them rolled their eyes or looked at me like I was nuts, they just…listened.
“You all probably think I’m crazy.” I stated at the end of my story.
“Sweetie, after all the weird things that’ve happened the past couple days,” My mom answered. “I’d believe just about anything.” Dad and Emily nodded in agreement.
Despite the urgency to stop the curses, I knew that none of us could do it in our current state of exhaustion, so we each grabbed a cot and settled in for a much-needed (if uncomfortable) sleep. As I drifted off, I suddenly felt a cold breeze lash my body. Opening my eyes, I saw I was now on a tall mountain, overlooking a vast winterland, with snow blowing past me in a sharp wind. Turning around, I was met by a great ancient structure built into the peak of the mountain, staring down at me. I recognized where I was immediately: I was on High Hrothgar, Skyrim’s highest peak. As I stared up in awe at the structure, I heard a familiar female voice off to my right.
“Even though it’s been my prison for so long,” Josephine said, trudging through the snow towards me, smiling. “I must admit this game is quite impressive.”
“Is this real?” I asked.
“It depends on what your definition of ‘real’ is.” She replied. The Woman in Blue always did speak in riddles.
“How are you able to talk to me here?” I asked. “Aren’t you bound to Husfortap Manor?”
“The passage of time has allowed me to build up my strength.” Josephine replied. “I’ve managed to escape Uheldig’s custody, and now I realize I made a horrible mistake by selling my soul to him. I want to try to make things right, if I can.”
She extended her arms, and words appeared in the snow, much like the glyphs do when the Greybeards teach you a Shout, only this time they spelled out an address: 1743 Oak Drive, Topeka, Kansas. This could only be Jeff Crum’s address.
“I’m choosing to help you because I believe you can do what must be done.” Josephine spoke. “Don’t prove me wrong.”
“But what do I do when I-” I started, though my sentence was interrupted by the most horrible noise I’d ever heard echoing across the winds. It sounded almost like a human shout combined with the roar of a lion.
“Uheldig!” Josephine exclaimed. “He’s noticed I’ve escaped and he’s coming! You have to go now, don’t waste a single second. Go!”
I sat up in my cot, heart pounding. Looking out of the shelter’s many windows, I noticed the sun was already up. Immediately waking my parents and Emily, I told them of the dream I had, and of the address revealed within it. The four of us left the sanctuary, lying that we had relatives we could stay with, and wandered into the nearby town. My God, the place literally looked as though a twister hit it. Buildings were ripped to shreds, debris and abandoned vehicles littered the streets, and stray dogs were seen scouring the wreckage, looking for any scraps of food they could find. It was like something out of an disaster movie.
Before long, we came across an abandoned SUV with the keys still in the ignition. The engine worked and it had half a tank of gas, so we took it. My father entered 1743 Oak Drive into the vehicle’s GPS and we were off. We drove for quite a long time through the great plains of the Midwest. Every once in a while, I would catch glimpses of distant towns devastated by various disasters, and on occasion an army transport carrying survivors would pass us.
“So this Crum guy,” my Dad said after a while. “You think he’s doing this, you know, on purpose?”
“I don’t know.” I answered. “I’m not even sure if he’s still alive.”
“Well if he is, he won’t be once I’m through with him.” My Dad half-joked, making the rest of us chuckle.
We drove in silence for a little while, before the skyline of Topeka revealed itself to us in the distance. Of course there was some obvious damage, but the city still looked reasonably intact.
“About time.” My Mom breathed in relief. Right as we started to celebrate, however, the GPS began to sputter and lose its image.
“What the hell’s wrong with this thing?” Dad asked, tapping the screen. The image continued to flicker and distort, until it displayed a new image. Immediately recognizing Husfortap Manor, I sprang out of my seat and tried to turn the GPS off, to no avail.
“Cover your ears, now!” I shouted. My dad slammed on the brakes and we all shielded our ears. Through my hands, I heard Josephine’s fourth message, Loss of Love, very muffled. However I could still make out the words: “Love is a powerful feeling, but it is so fragile in this chaotic world, which shows no mercy to even the closest of lovers”. I attempted to hum a song to drown it out, maybe that would negate the effect.
Finally, there was silence. We all removed our hands from our ears, and noticed that the GPS was back to normal. Dad immediately put the car back in drive and continued down the road; we started off at a normal speed, but I began to notice that we were gradually speeding up.
“Uh, Lewis, slow down a bit honey.” Mom said. Dad didn’t respond, the car continued to accelerate.
“Dad, slow down, we don’t need to get there that fast!” Emily said, a little scared. Again, Dad said nothing.
“Lewis, stop the damn car!” Mom shouted, the vehicle now going so fast that the outside world now simply looked like unrecognizable blurs of color.
“Dad, stop!” I yelled, though looking in the rearview mirror, I saw the lifeless, empty expression on my father’s face and knew he wasn’t at fault: it got us. Knowing better than to remove my seatbelt, I attempted to pull Dad’s leg off the gas pedal from the back seat, while Mom tried to wrestle the steering wheel from him. Dad pushed us off and then floored it, jerking the rest of us back in our seats.
“Look out!” Mom shrieked. I only caught a glimpse of the tree before our car slammed into it full-force, and I blacked out.
After some time, I opened my eyes and raised my head up. My forehead was wet with what I knew to be blood. Looking into the front of the car, I did not need to guess the fate of my parents: the front end of the car was completely crushed in and blood was seeping through the seats. I gasped in shock and devastation, barely able to breathe, and began shouting through tears. Then, I heard a low moaning in the seat next to me, and Emily began to move.
“Emily!” I gasped. Using a chunk of broken glass to cut off her seatbelt and mine, I dragged my sister from the wreckage of the car and onto the grass. She slowly came to and sat up, then noticed the car.
“Mom? Dad?” she muttered. Standing up, Emily darted towards the car, though I caught her before she could get close.
“MOMMY! DADDY!” Emily cried, bawling uncontrollably.
“Emily…they…they’re gone.” I said, holding onto her as tightly as I could. We both stood there in an embrace for several minutes. We couldn’t believe it, we couldn’t believe something like this just happened. Standing there, I wished more than anything that this whole experience was just a horrible nightmare that I would wake up from, but I knew better. After a few minutes, I said the most difficult sentence of my life.
“We have to go.” I said through sobs, to which my sister shook her head in defiance. “Emily, we can’t stay, we have to keep moving!”
“I can’t.” she responded.
“Emily, listen to me: if we don’t get to that address, everyone is going to die. Do you understand me?” I affirmed. Emily finally relented and agreed to keep pressing on with me, and the two of us made the long hike to Topeka.
After what seemed like hours, we made it, but the sight of the city was truly nothing to celebrate. Topeka had clearly been hit hard by the fourth curse. Left and right, bodies dangled from streetlights, burn victims littered the streets, as did those who’d obviously died from falling. Meanwhile surrounding them, loved ones mourned those they had lost. National guardsmen could be seen cutting people down off streetlights and clearing the bodies out of the streets. Emily and I were almost afraid to walk through the city, but somehow found the strength to push through.
“Excuse me,” I stopped a soldier passing through. “We’re looking for 1743 Oak Drive. Our, uh, cousin lives there and we want to make sure he’s alright.”
“Oak Drive? That’s all the way on the other side of the city, on the very outskirts.” The soldier said. “I can give you a lift there if you’d like.” We obliged, and the soldier took us to his jeep, which we rode through the nightmare. It seemed like half the city was dead by one means or another, and their relatives’ expressions of grief were unbearable to see. After a while I just tried to avoid looking at the streets, I’d seen enough death and sadness for one day.
“Never seen anything like this before,” the soldier remarked. “Mass suicides springing up all over the damn world in literally a few hours. Don’t know what’d cause something like that. At first we thought it was some kind of behavior-altering virus, but this has just spread too quickly, it almost seemed like it hit everywhere in the world at the same time. This is definitely a weird one.”
That’s an understatement. Eventually, we exited Topeka and drove until the jeep came to a stop in front of a small dirt road with a rusty street sign in front of it that read “Oak Drive”.
“Well, here we are.” The soldier said. “I hope you guys find this cousin of yours!”
We thanked the soldier and got out, then started walking down the long dirt road. Oak Drive didn’t have much to it, just a few rusted trailers that looked like they hadn’t been inhabited for years. The only life we saw on that road was a sluggish looking Rottweiler laying on the porch of a small shack while an equally sluggish looking old man dozed in a rocking chair.
The two of us walked for some time until finally we saw a mailbox with “1743” on it. The adjacent house was a white mobile home with a silver Prius parked outside of it. There was a large satellite dish around back, which appeared to have been recently installed.
“Wait here, I shouldn’t be long.” I ordered Emily as I made my way up the stairs. I knocked on the door, no answer; then I rang the doorbell, again to no response. Finally, I tried to turn the doorknob, but the door was locked. Coming back down off the steps, I grabbed the garden gnome at the foot of the stairs and approached the left-hand window. Using the gnome, I busted the glass, reached my hand through to undo the latch, and opened the window.
Climbing into the dark interior, I pulled out my cell phone and shone its flashlight around the living room, which looked abandoned. Every piece of furniture was covered in a fine layer of dust, and the carpet was decorated with empty beer cans, the remnants of food, and the occasional dead mouse. Spider webs were strewn along the walls, some still supporting their eight-legged craftsmen. This place looked like it hadn’t seen life for quite a while. It didn’t take me long, though, to find where I needed to go. Above the main hallway was Skyrim’s signature dragon symbol, drawn in something red I was hoping was permanent marker.
Going down the hallway, I saw on either side of the walls all the symbols the protagonist in the story saw in the black book, each signifying his fate: the Thieves’ Guild emblem, the beggar, the burning house, and the broken heart. Finally, I came to a closed door at the end of the hallway, which bore another symbol, but this one very large: a cloaked figure holding a scythe. It was a symbol of Death.
I reached down and slowly turned the knob, then very cautiously pushed the door open. It revealed a large room with several television monitors on the walls. In the center was a desk with a laptop and two computer monitors resting upon it. All of them were linked to a large, blinking server in the back of the room. This was clearly where the videos were coming from, and how they were being spread through the Internet and satellites. As I stepped inside, the laptop and all of the monitors suddenly clicked on, and an image appeared upon them.
I instinctively looked, and what I saw filled me with horror; it was the note that delivered the fifth curse: Loss of Life. I attempted to look away, but the image was everywhere. I closed my eyes but it was too late, I had already seen it. The words upon the note burned in my mind like a hot coal: Life is fleeting, and before we know it, it will be plucked suddenly from us. Truly the one thing no man can escape is the cold touch of Death. Filled with terror, I fell to my knees and shook my head in denial. How could I have come so far and let myself fail so easily? Then, I heard a voice to my left.
“It’s about time.” The voice uttered in a solemn tone. “I knew someone would come sooner or later.” Out of the shadows stepped Jeff Crum, looking worse for the ware. His clothes were torn to shreds, his glasses were missing a lens, he had a crazed look in his eyes and his face was caked in dirt, as if he hadn’t bathed for some time. He was definitely a sight for sore eyes. Though the one thing that worried me the most was the pistol tucked into his jeans.
“Who are you?” Crum demanded.
I told him my name and asked, “What is all this?”
“This is the end.” Crum responded. “Of you, of me, of everyone.”
“What are you talking about?”
“This planet is sick.” Crum said. “And mankind is the disease that’s killing it, with our pollution, our littering, and our squandering of natural resources. But this Manor, oh yes, this Manor is the cure. Finally Earth will be rightfully returned to the hands of Mother Nature where it belongs.”
“So you knew all along that the Husfortap curse was real!?” I accused, outraged. “You knew what you were doing to all those people?”
“Of course I knew! I’ve known for some time about things like this.” Crum said. “See, spirits and deities have been hiding cursed messages in art since the beginning of time, starting with cave drawings, then moving to stone tablets, then books, then movies. I knew it was only a matter of time before one made the jump to video games, that’s why I started that stupid Egg Beaters show, so I could try to weed out one of those messages and use it to finally cleanse the Earth of our parasitic species! At first all I found were dumb inside-jokes and weird random shit left by developers, but then I started hearing about this ‘Husfortap Manor’, and knew I had found my pot of gold.”
“You son of a bitch.” I said, my rage overflowing. “My parents are dead because of you!”
“Don’t worry.” Crum replied. “You’ll see them again soon. But now the both of us will bear witness to the greatest mass extinction since that of the dinosaurs: the extinction of man!” He turned to the laptop and began clacking at the keys. The monitors around the room showed that he was attaching the cursed note to a file, and uploading it to what looked like every web page on the Internet! He pressed enter, and the file began to upload.
“No!” I shouted, rushing forward, though Crum stopped me in my tracks by drawing his pistol and aiming it at my face.
“Stay back!” he ordered. “After all the trouble I’ve gone through, I’m not gonna let it fall to shit now!”
Suddenly, the monitors on either side of the laptop began to flicker and hiss static, startling Crum. Then, Josephine’s face appeared on the screens and she let out an ear-splitting scream. The glass on the monitors shattered and blew outward, sending shards flying into Crum’s body and knocking him off his feet.
“Hurry, the laptop!” I heard Josephine’s voice say in my head. I ran for the computer, but not before I was almost knocked over myself by a violent trembling. The entire house shook back and forth, and it sounded like a train was rumbling by outside. Finally the roof of the mobile home tore off and flew into the air, the rest of the house slowly following suit. We were in the middle of a cyclone!
“You’re too late!” Crum shouted, lifting his head up. “Our fates are sealed, along with the rest of humanity!”
I pushed forward, inching towards the laptop against the violent winds, and shielding my head from flying debris with my arms. Momentarily peeking out, I saw that the email upload was now at 35%. Then, before I had time to react, I was knocked to the ground by a wooden nightstand that flew right at my body. The wood shattered as it hit my arm, sending splinters deep into it; the sting of the impact blurred my vision and almost caused me to lose consciousness.
As my vision returned and I sat up, I was just in time to catch Crum crawling towards me. He grabbed me by the throat and forced me back to the ground; even through his bloodied face I could see a look of pure insanity in his eyes. Clutched in Crum’s fist was a shard of broken glass, which was clearly cutting into his hand. He raised the shard into the air and went to bring it down on me, gritting his teeth as he did so. Acting fast, I grabbed hold of a piece sticking out of his shoulder and twisted it as hard as I could. Crum yelled in agony and fell backwards, giving me time to scramble to my feet and head for the computer, which was now 85% finished. I had to hurry.
Finally reaching the laptop, I hammered the “Cancel Send” button, which prompted for a username and password. I tried shutting off the computer next, but got the same prompt. This computer was locked down tight with security. I finally decided that the only thing to do was destroy the laptop. Picking it up, I raised the computer above my head and prepared to slam it down on the desk, but something caught my eye. Through the winds, I could make out a large, shadowy profile looking in my direction, its glowing yellow eyes piercing the gusts like brights on a car. It was Uheldig, and he was angry.
The entity opened its mouth, revealing rows of razor-sharp teeth, and then lunged at me faster than any natural thing could. Instinctively, I shielded my face with the laptop just as Uheldig struck; the force of the attack tore the computer in half and knocked me hard onto my back. Looking up, I saw Uheldig flying away, carrying a struggling Josephine over his shoulder. As the tornado continued to rip the house apart, I crawled towards a piece of intact wall and leaned against it. Looking to my left, I saw Crum glaring up at me with a look of rage and contempt, before the floor below him was ripped away, and he was gone.
I sat back and let out a heavy exhale, knowing full and well my time was also upon me. Yet my thoughts were not about me in that moment, but about Emily. She’d lost the house, Mom and Dad, and now me. What would happen to her in the future? Where would she go? Just as I was thinking this, I noticed my sister through the cyclone, crouching in a nearby ditch. Her eyes and mine met for a brief second, before a chunk of roof flew towards me, and I saw no more.
I gave my life so that humankind could live. During the years that followed, I silently observed their progress: humanity would recover and thrive again, but it would never be the same as it was before. I’ve made sure to keep a close eye on Emily through all this. She’s come a long way, by helping others recover from the disasters, starting a charity organization for those who’d lost everything, and even finding love in the process. She’s grown into a woman I’m proud to call my sister.
As for Josephine, I can’t say what’s become of her. I’d like to think that if she escaped Uheldig’s clutches once, she can do it again, though realistically I don’t think he’s stupid enough to let that happen. Now every once in a while, I can almost swear I see her out of the corner of my eye, but every time I turn to look, she’s gone.
Humanity dodged a bullet this time, but we all must be more careful in the future. That is why I’m here now, guiding Emily’s hands as she types this. My message must be heard. Uheldig is still out there, and it is unknown what he has in store for the human race; he may return to Husfortap Manor, or he may plant a completely new curse entirely. This is why if you happen upon anything strange or out of the ordinary while playing the newest video games, approach it with caution. It may just be a harmless Easter egg and if so, enjoy it. However, if you notice anything peculiar in your real life shortly after its discovery, leave the thing alone. This message must be adhered to so that Uheldig will never again pose as great of a threat to mankind. The world need never again see anything like Skyrim’s Secret.
Credit To – Sean Blevins
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