I am writing this post in hopes that someone can tell me they have experienced something similar. I don’t know why I care about that; no matter what anyone says the situation will be the same and I will still think that I am losing my shit. Anyways, I hope everyone will take what I am saying seriously. I know how it sounds; if I were reading this on some random thread on Reddit, I would be skeptical as well. But take everything I say seriously, for everything I am about to say is 100% true.
I go to college at the University of Maine. I am currently going to grad school here, trying to get my PhD in surface sciences. I am very passionate about science and mainly computers. My first computer was an IBM, an old thing that was revolutionary for the time that left my 11 year old mind amazed. In ‘95, I was really into playing Doom and Wolfenstein 3D when I got home from school. My mom and dad never really got mad at me because they were always at work, so no one really told me to stop playing these violent games.
My love for these games continued through the 90’s but really peaked at the beginning of 1996. I was a typical 90’s kid; obsessed with Fresh Prince of Bel Air, fanny packs, mullets, classic horror movies, and even for a stint of time I had a Tamagotchi. With the coming of school in the fall of ‘96 came the sadness of not being able to play video games everyday as I did in the summer. However, school did bring the joy of friends. At lunch and sometimes in class we would talk about games and new releases that would be coming out soon. Back then, we didn’t have websites dedicated to video games news. Instead, my friend group relied on Jeff, one of the more wealthy kids in our friend group who was subscribed to a video game magazine company that sent out an issue once a month. On the last day of August, Jeff brought the latest issue to school. All of us crowded around the lunch table to catch a glimpse and the new system that was coming out next month: the Nintendo 64. We all were begging our parents that night to help us with money to get the system. The N64 was an amazing system as it had 4 MB of RAM and could handle 3D graphics like none other before.
I had saved a little money from mowing lawns in the summer, but it was not quite enough to buy the console come September 29th of that year. I was disappointed and cried to my parents to help me out, just this once, to buy this great piece of technology. But my family was struggling at the time, and me being the understanding and caring child just piped down.
A couple of “hard” months pass, and with them came many complaints and jeering from my friend group because I have still not received the console. It had been a difficult time for me; my parents were fighting and I just wanted an escape. I would have given anything for that damn console. I hated going to school and hearing all of my friends show off their high scores in the newest games and hearing about them finding secret glitches in the newest installment of our favorite games.
Months after the initial release in September, November rolled around. Not exactly my favorite time of the year; I don’t like the transition from the pretty orange and yellow fall leaves into roads covered with slick ice and disgusting dark large piles of snow in parking lots with dirt in them. However, there was one thing that is worth my time during that dreaded month: my birthday. 12 years old. Birthdays never really made much sense to me. It is just a celebration of the day someone was born that is based on the manmade unit of time that is elongated into years. Anyways, I hadn’t been really looking forward to this birthday because I knew that it wasn’t going to bring around much. As I said before, my parents had been fighting and I really didn’t expect to get anything from either of them because they had been so busy with work and putting up with each other. That is why I was very, very excited to learn on the 19th of that month in 1996 that I was getting $250 for my birthday. I came home that night after school to find a letter from my mom, who had always been the more caring of the two.
“Hi Honey, I hope that you enjoyed your birthday today! The big 1-2, congrats! Anywho, your father and I, as you know, have been having disagreements lately. We were alerted today that there is a program for couples that have been having similar disagreements. We both agreed that we should look into this, and we both fell in love with the idea! Isn’t that great, baby? Anywho, the only problem with this is that we were made aware of this a little short notice, so we had to drive South today so we could make it there by tomorrow, Wednesday. The program is going to last a week. I knew that you were our understanding and kind little boy, so I thought it would be okay to leave you alone until next Tuesday. That would give you the rest of the week and the weekend to yourself. To make up for this, me and your father have decided to give you a little spending money so you can get yourself whatever little toy you want! We do have food in the pantry, but I do want some of that money to go towards food for yourself. Enjoy your weekend, and see you Tuesday! Love you!”
I didn’t know whether to be excited about this freedom or disappointed in my parents for leaving me on my 12th birthday. Either way, I had more than $200 to spend on whatever I wanted. To my puny 12 year old brain, this was a god-like amount of money, and I knew exactly what it was going towards right away. I’m sure by now you can assume exactly what I wanted. I took the money out of the envelope, threw on my windbreaker and my old Pro-Wings, and hopped on my old red bike I named silver. I started to head East, past my dad’s pharmacy, past the school, and past Jeff’s house. I didn’t really look over towards his house; he hadn’t been in school that week. I skidded to a stop in front of the “Finger Gym,” our local game store. I parked my bike right next to the big window in front of the store and started to waltz in. I really like the store, and it felt good going in knowing that I was finally able to actually get something instead of just glancing around while my friends debated on what new game they should get or what Magic: The Gathering card they should sell. I did a quick look around of the store, eyeing the older NES and Super NES, making my way toward my prize jewel: the N64. I finally put my hands on the box that I had been waiting to touch for a quarter of the year. I held it up to the light so I could read the line under the name: “THE FUN MACHINE.” Damn straight it is. I ran my fingers over the the smooth cardboard cover as I started to walk towards the counter. The kid working at the counter laid down his cigarette in the ashtray that was next to his Rubik’s cube. Now that I think about it, that probably wasn’t a cigarette, I just assumed it was because I was still a small Middle Schooler that had a lot to learn. When I got up to the counter, he asked, “Is that all?” Crap. I had forgotten to get a game. I responded with a quick no and started to look behind him at the selection of games. Most of the ones that were back there were meant for the Super NES.
Makes sense; the N64 had been very popular in America, so of course all its games would be sold out. I spoke after glancing around a bit more, desperately trying to find a game. “Do you have any N64 games in the back?” The boy took another drag and blew smoke in my face. “I dunno.”
“Well, could you go back and check for me, uh, please?”
“Jesus, kid, fine.” He got off of his stool and started towards the back. He pushed a curtain out of the way and started to search. I looked around the store at the plentiful gaming posters and walls lined with board games and models of popular TV show action heroes. The boy returned after less than a minute with a cartridge in his hand.
“We only have one left, it looks like.”
He started to hand it over, but then pulled it back towards him. “Ah, wait here a second, what do we have here?” He turned the cartridge over to reveal its face, only to be covered by a sticky note with the words “DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, SELL.”
“Now, see here kid. I have never been much of a rule follower, and this thing had been buried under some shit in the back so I don’t think that anyone will be missing this anytime soon. So,” he gave a wide grin to reveal his crooked teeth, layered with yellow grime, “I am willing to strike a deal with you. I will sell you this game for a couple extra bucks. My boss probably didn’t want to sell it because it must be limited edition or somethin’. So, I will get you this game, just don’t tell nobody, alright kid?”
Of course my eager little mind didn’t care about what was right and wrong at the moment; there was an N64 in front of my face, for God’s sakes, even with a possible limited edition game! So of course I took the grimy kid up on his deal, even though I knew he was going to pocket those few extra bucks. I waltz out of the store the same way I came in: excited for what was about to come about, but only this time I was carrying an N64 and a game instead of $250.
I put the plastic bag into the wire basket that was on front of my bike. I don’t know if I raced home faster then or when I went to the store initially. The ride home took five minutes. I just let my bike drop to the ground after I came to a hard stop in front of my garage. I pounced up the concrete steps leading up to my house. I swung open the door and started to my room.
That night I knew I had a lot of homework, and me being the responsible little boy I was didn’t start playing right away. But that didn’t stop me from eyeing over the box and opening it to save the beautiful system from its cardboard prison. I ran my fingers over the wondrously smooth black console like it was the skin of a newborn baby. I carefully set the console on my dresser and plugged it into my box TV. I lead the wire from the infamous “M” shaped controller to the port on the front of it.
I was smiling through all of this, but stopped suddenly when I realized I had forgotten something: I didn’t even know what game I had bought! I quickly but carefully set the controller down on my bed and removed the cartridge from the bag. I ripped off the sticky note to reveal the true face of the game. In multi-colored letters read the words “SUPER MARIO 64”. I felt like I had won the lottery. It didn’t look any different than my friends cartridges, so I was a little upset that it wasn’t actually special edition, but nonetheless I was still pumped. I finally got what I had been waiting for so long for. I could not wait for the weekend. Could it come any sooner?
The next day, in typical middle school boy fashion, I showed off my new game to my friends and rubbed it into the faces of others who were not fortunate enough to have the system or game. I was on top of the world for that day, just because of that stupid video game. My friends were happy for me, of course, and we talked about the game and how long it took to beat. I played with my friends at their house after school and watched them play the game for hours and hours. I didn’t want to start to play my own copy yet because it acted as an incentive to me to get through the week. But boy, coming home and seeing it sitting on my dresser and glaring at it in the wee hours of the night was mighty tempting. But nevertheless, I persisted. I made it through the whole week.
That Friday, the 22nd of November, I raced home after school to finally play my new game all night. I dropped my bike off in front of my house, opened the door and closed it again to lock, threw off my jacket and hat, and finally made my way to my sanctuary. I turned on the TV and slipped the grey cartridge into the slot on top of the machine. Damn, what a feeling. I turned on the system. I saw the N64 3D logo arise from a ripple of some liquid and start to turn, with a little 3D Mario running around it. The game started, and I finally started to play. I was already familiar with the castle and the start, so thought I knew what was waiting for me. I made a new save file started the game and the camera started to move toward Princess Peach’s face.
But something was already off. At first I thought I had just bought a knock off, a fake game. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t meant to be sold. At the beginning, there was supposed to be a letter from princess Peach that read, “Dear Mario: Please come to the castle. I’ve baked a cake for you. Yours truly, Princess Toadstool,” with her signature “Peach” under it. But what appeared to me that Friday, next to Peach’s face was a letter that read:
“Dear Player: You don’t know what you are getting into. Turn off your system now and get help. Yours truly, the previous owner.”
Okay, that was odd. How had the previous person changed the text in the game? Either way, at the time I was too excited to play the game that the mysterious text didn’t phase me at all. I just kept going. I ran up to the castle, walked in, and jumped into the first portrait. I watched Mario fall from the sky and land perfectly on the ground. Toad was waiting there for me to relay information about the level. His speech said, “You will die if you continue. Turn off the game or I will kill you.” Creepy as all hell, but I just thought that some hacker had the game before me and had just changed the text because they wanted to scare the kid who had it next. I just kept pressing the main button until the text disappeared and continued.
I was reassured when I found that the gameplay had been the same as all of my other friends. I jumped around the level and evaded the mushroom enemies the same as I had done before. I made my way around the level, collecting spinning red coins and hopping off trees. I shot myself out of a cannon and flew up to the top of the mountain to fight the final boss of that level.
After that, I was warped back to the starting area in the castle. I made my way through the next few levels. The water levels, the levels on the mountain, the snow. I kept going until I collected 18 stars. I knew where to go for my first fight with Bowser. I took Mario to the correct hallway, and of course I wasn’t surprised when Mario dropped through the floor because I had seen it done a thousand times before. He landed on the rock and a text bubble appeared. “Welcome to Hell.” Huh. That was… something new. Must have just been something the hacker had put in to scare me again. I jumped around the level and evaded the flames until I reached the end of my first encounter with Mario’s infamous enemy. But when Bowser turned around, something else was different. The large turtle-dragon hybrid had eyes that looked like black holes. The entirety of them were black, not a single pixel of white being shown. But I just passed it off again and continued. I beat the boss easily, and was warped back up to the castle. But in the corner of the screen, right before the scene transitioned to the castle intro, I saw Bowser get up. He moved away towards the edge of the map and shapeshifted into a tall, black humanoid figure. The only thing that the new entity had that resembled the original Bowser were the long, pointed teeth protruding from his mouth.
I was very freaked out at this point and I was reluctant to get out of the map. At first I thought the game had glitched, but for some reason I was in a part of the castle that I shouldn’t have been in until later in the game. Looking up, for as far as Mario could see, was the endless hallway. Now, I am sure some of you know what I am referring to. You couldn’t even access the area without having the right number of stars. Also, those who have played the game know that when you start to walk up the stairs, it seems like they go on forever, unless you know the backwards jump glitch or have the right number of stars, of course. I was excited at this point; I had forgotten about the strangeness of the game for a brief few minutes. I made it this far in one day! I would have to show my friends so they would know how good I was and how dedicated I am to this game. The only thing that could make this situation better was if I could actually make it to the top of the staircase. I placed Mario’s little foot on the first step and started to ascend. After a minute of still climbing the stairs, I was about ready to give up. But then I remembered something: there should be pictures of Bowser on the side of the walls leading to the top, but I haven’t seen anything. Immediately after I had that thought, I saw the edge of a frame. I jumped up the steps to get there quicker and landed in front of the picture. To my horror, I saw a very familiar image. Sitting on a rock was 6 year old me, with my old dog who had died, Lassie. I was very shaken up by this. All of my other excuses for the strange events held no weight now. This just couldn’t be explained away. Of course my curiosity told me to continue. I started ascending again, only to find more familiar pictures. I walked past a plethora of photos, all of which were of me and my family. Not only were the photos themselves familiar, but the order they were in were hauntingly similar to the ones leading up the staircase to our 2nd level.
Remember, this was very early Saturday morning, around 2 or 3 am, so my parents weren’t supposed to be home yet. But I swear I heard something on the steps outside of my door. This couldn’t be possible. I turned around to look, but was only greeted by the darkness outside of my room. I looked back towards the screen to continue to play my game. I started to slowly creep back up the stairs, and while I did that, I heard more noise outside the room. Now I was scared shitless. I dropped the controller and bolted to the door. I grabbed the handle and swung it shut, causing the frame and most of my room to vibrate. I fumbled in the dark with the lock until I heard it click. I pressed my back against the door and let out a deep breath. Mario was still there waiting for me.
I went back to the game, hoping that it was just the restlessness getting to my mind. I just wanted to keep playing my game, I just wanted my game and my childhood to be normal like everyone else’s. I turned Mario around and started to creep down the stairs in the game. Luckily, I didn’t hear anything on the stairs again. I continued down the stairs, listening to the stairs moan in the game but not outside my bedroom, thank God.
I was wiping the sleep away from my eyes when I put my controller down for a second or two. I removed my hands and stretched a bit, letting out a long yawn. I opened my eyes to be greeted with Mario staring back at me, but only now his eyes were as black as Bowser’s were. I couldn’t take anymore of this. I brought the stick on the joypad down so that Mario could get away from that damn staircase. He started walking, slower than before, with his eyes still dark as night, staring into me. He gradually started to slow down and I began mashing buttons, trying to get Mario to move just one more inch. But he just stood there. Finally, the character brought up his index finger on his right hand and shook it, back and forth, along with his head. He then brought the corners of his mouth back towards his ears in a grotesque smile. He opened his mouth to reveal teeth that resembled Bowser’s. I was beyond trying to convince myself this wasn’t real at this point. Mario turned around and started sprinting up the steps. Along with his steps in the game, I heard a pouncing sound outside my room again. I jumped up and went to my bedside. Whatever was outside of my room had finally reached the top of the stairs and stopped. I stood in awe for a few seconds, trying to think of what to do. It started to bang on my door, shaking the frame and sent splinters on my side. I crouched and crawled under my bed. I looked up to watch the door. I was shaking. Whatever was out there kept pounding on the door and wall. After about 5 more seconds, it stopped. I removed my hands from in front of my face to see what was going on. I looked left and right and saw nothing. I let out a relieved breath. I crawled out a bit more to peek around the corner.
I looked at my TV screen to see that Mario was looking in the opposite direction in the game, standing still in front of the final door. Mario put his hand on the door, and at the same time I heard my door creak a little bit. I was so glad I had locked it. Mario removed his hand and turned to his left to look at one final portrait. This was one that I was not familiar with. I have not seen it in the game nor in my real life. It was a picture of a television set. Mario put his hand onto the portrait and it began to ripple like the other portraits previously when going into a new level. When he touched it, my TV began to crinkle with static. I could barely make out Mario through the white noise as he removed his hand. Everything went back to normal. He took a final look to his left, stared straight into my soul, and opened his mouth for another one of those smiles. He shoved himself into the portrait. My TV emitted the loudest static noise I had heard. It then began to ripple and shake. The screen shattered and sparks flew from the back of the set. I didn’t have time to see what was crawling out of its remains. I rolled out from under my bed and started towards the window. I ducked down and hit my shoulder against the window. The glass shattered and I flung my body out of my room as the set continued to spark and set my drapes ablaze. I hit my roof and tumbled down. The last thing I thought about before rolling off and smashing my head against the concrete sidewalk was the snow. It was the first snowfall of the winter and I had missed watching it because I was too distracted by the game.
I woke up that Wednesday in the hospital and saw my parents and a nurse next to me. They caught me up on everything that had went down. The house had caught on fire for some unknown reason and was done for; we would be living in a hotel for the next few weeks until we found a place to rent.
I had a nice long break. I didn’t have to go to school for awhile because of Thanksgiving break and because of my nasty head injury. I did, of course, have to return to my educational hell about three weeks later right before Christmas break, which I had been looking forward to as well. I returned and continued throughout my classes with little to no struggle; teachers were going easy on me. Who would give a kid whose house burned down, sustained a head injury, and whose parents were going through a divorce stressful hours of homework? Returning to school did bring about the joy of my friends company, however.
My friends jumped on me with a ton of questions about my house. I remembered nothing. I got questions about my game after that, of course, too. I didn’t tell them exactly what happened because I knew they wouldn’t believe me. I just gave short and quick answers so they would stop pestering me.
Then they brought up Jeff. He had been playing the game down in his basement while his parents were away during the week. Now I don’t know if this is true, but the gang told me that Jeff’s parents had returned home to find Jeff under the steps leading to the basement, hanging by the cord of his N64 controller. They told me that the police told his folks it wasn’t suicide, due to head wounds and gouged out eyes. But it hadn’t been ruled as murder, either, because there were no signs of struggle. Jeff’s dad, they told me, had sold his N64 and copy of Super Mario 64 to the Finger Gym to get the reminder out of their house.
CREDIT : insomniaccccc
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