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Horror games are interesting. All games these days are so well detailed, feeling so realistic, that it’s like you’re inside the game yourself. Still, I find the older horror games scarier. Back then the games were harder to play and not so smoothly controlled, sometimes you just were not even able to run away from a monster or fight it. Because of these elements, I’m truly interested in all kinds of retro horror games. Banned games I find the most intriguing, I mean, like, they must be pretty bad stuff if they’re banned everywhere. Come to think of it, all kinds of rare games do enthrall me.

Anyway, I’m going to tell you about a game which I was recently given and about which I’m really excited. I got hold of it from one of my friend’s brother, who had brought it home from his national service military training somewhere in the 90’s. He had never touched it, I heard, because he wasn’t any kind of a gamer. While rummaging through his old stuff a while ago he happened to find it and, knowing about my interest for rare games, he gave it to his brother to give it to me, instead of throwing it straight to rubbish.

So, now I had in my hands a game which was most likely developed by the military. I wasn’t expecting anything mindblowing, but I was still thrilled.

The game didn’t have a name, just a serial number: #023. It was an NES game, and it had some sticker on it. The sticker was pretty hard to make anything out off, but it kinda resembled a rusty blade or something close to that.

After examining the cartridge for five minutes or so, and realizing I couldn’t get any more info out of it, I put the game into my NES, excited from the upcoming. But for my disappointment, the game didn’t start. So I got up, opened the flap, took the damned thing out, blew in it and put it back. Still nothing. I repeated the procedure once again, and then again. I was getting worried and was just about to do my fourth restart attempt, when some text popped up on the screen. There was a title “#023”, but nothing else. Title was surprisingly clear font though, nothing like any basic NES pixel shit, more like Impact which is mostly used on text programs and stuff.

After the serial number faded out, a menu came up. It didn’t have anything else than "start" and "options". I checked the options. In the options were three fields to choose from: “Training #1”, “Training #2” and “Training #3”. Huh, so this really was a military training game? Probably pretty shitty one, though, like how could they ever do anything really lucrative for the NES? Anyway, I selected “Training #1”. Game threw me back to menu, and I selected "start".

Screen changed and there was more text on. It said “Training #1: Complete the mission, or you will be punished!”. Under it was some pixel figure (which was probably my playing character) and it had x100 next to it. 100 lives? Wow, they sure are generous.
-023gp

Text dissapeared and the game began. The game was… pretty shitty looking. It was a 2D platform game, kinda like Super Mario Bros, except there was lack of colors: basically black and white and different shades of grey. Controls were simple: right went right (shocker), left went left (also a shocker), A was jump and B was this kinda weird looking punch. Other buttons didn’t do anything, or they were possibly some interact buttons meant for later use. The game felt pretty empty. Besides my character, there was nothing else sticking out from the enviroment on the screen: no timer, no lives, no point-counter, nothing.

So, I started heading to the right. Nothing happened for a bit, but then a pit appeared in front of me. I stopped running, but the character had some sort of slide or aftermath run, so the figure didn’t stop right away. Well, without knowing this, my character ran into the pit and dropped. Then came a death screen, which gave me nearly a heart attack. It was surreally well detailed image of a mutilated corpse of a man. You could easily spot every piece of tendon and part of flesh of his body. Not only was there this disgusting image of this poor man's corpse, but there was also this scream which made ears ring. It was really distorted and extremely loud, and the fact that I had forgot the volume on TV loud made it even worse. This horror scene of the mangled body and screaming lasted few seconds, then the game cut to black and text appeared: “You’ve failed the mission! Complete the mission, or you will be punished again!”. Number next to the pixel figure was now 99. Then the game went back to the start of the level.

I was shocked and my head was buzzing. What, the fuck, was that? Okay, I need to have a break now and clear my head out of what just happened, I thought to myself. I went to the bathroom to rinse my face with cold water, yes it’s a cliche thing to do but I didn't know what else to do. After that I made some coffee and sat down on next to my kitchen table to drink it. I just couldn’t stop thinking about that corpse and that awful cry. Why would anybody create something like this? What the fuck does this have anything to do with military training? Did my friend’s brother somehow make this shit himself just to pull a prank on me? What a sick joke. After I came to think about this, I took out my phone and called to my friend.

"Hey, what’s up Joel?" my friend said. (By the way, my name is Joel in case you were wondering.)

"N-not much man, but hey is your brother around?"

"Nah man, he went to some bar few hours ago, why do you ask?"

"Well I just had some questions to him about the game you gave me, you know the one he had given to you. Do you happen to know anything about it?"

"Oh. okay. No, I don’t know much about it. I only remember seeing it in his shelf some years ago, covered with dust. My bro brought it from his na…"

"Yeah yeah, I know where he got it. But are you sure that this is really the same game?"

"Umm, yes? Why do you ask? …Hello? Yo dude, are you-"

I hung up the phone. So this game was an actual military game, a very fucking sickening one - or my friend and his brother were just fucking with me. I though about this long and hard while sipping my coffee. Finally I came up with conclusion, that even though it was the most disturbing game I had ever played, I would give it another shot. Maybe I could make it through without dying and wouldn’t have to see that awful image again. I had it risks, but I wanted to know more about what the fuck was going on. So I got up and went back to living room to play it. Game was still at the beginning, nothing had happened while I was gone. I picked up the controller and started to play.

The pit came again. This time I managed to stop running early enough, just inches before the pit. I went back to get some speed and jumped. I made it across to the other side and felt relieved, but I should have paid more attention -- after I hit the ground my character just kept sliding ahead and I could see something in front of my character. When I realized they were spikes, it was already too late. I died and the death screen popped up again with that dreadful scream. I tried to shut my eyes before it happened, but I couldn’t help but see a glimpse of the image. For my horror, this time it was different: it was a body of a woman, hanging down from the ceiling on some kind of hook, her arms ripped off and her face slashed into shreds. I also realized the scream was different, it was even more terrifying than before. It was as distorted as before, but this time it sounded more of a screaming of a woman being sadistically tortured. Again the death screen stayed for few seconds before it went all quiet, and I opened my eyes. Same game over screen came, and lives were now 98.

What the fuck? What the fucking fuck? The image of corpses are changing? These just can’t be real images… Or can they? They can’t be, that would be too morbid to be true, and could that be even technically possible? But how can they look so precise and realistic? I mean fuck, it’s an NES game, but the images look like Full HD, but they can't be! 

Fuck, I know I shouldn’t kept play this anymore, I shouldn’t. But… But I need to, don’t I? I just have to try to find out if those images are of real or not. I also need to know if there's something which would tell me if this is just one fucking disgusting prank. But if it wasn't a prank, could the military actually make something so sick as this? If those images were real, would they seriously use real people? I… I think I need to inspect the images more. I don't want to, but I had to know. I don’t know why, but I just had to.

So I started playing again. Even though I told myself I only wanted to see if the bodies were real or not, I kinda got sucked into the game immediately and wanted to start making progress. So I jumped again over the pit and even made it over the spikes. Nothing happened for quite while, but then another figure showed up. It stood still, without making any sort of movement. I stopped running but my character slid again, so much that I almost bumped into the other figure. The other figure swung his hand and hit me, and my character fell down dead. Up came another corpse, another scream. This time it was a man tied into a chair and his stomach was ripped up. All his intestines and guts were on the ground and a stray dog was devouring them, looking extremely crazed. This time the bawling sounded like if a middle-aged man was being tortured and there was also some gross, soggy sounds, like if someone was ripping out flesh or organs or something. Once more, it lasted few seconds and then the game over screen appeared.

Man… that looked pretty realistic. But, there was something weird about that dog, could it possibly look like that in reality? I started to wonder if maybe all the images I were just made with Photoshop or something. Like, after all they’re just dead bodies, that's probably easy to make and well now that I think of it, they're not even that horrifying looking. They’re probably just some actors with very good make up and stuff, and then just the images are edited vey well. Yeah, that must be it. But I, I wanted to take a closer look at them, I mean how well were they masked and stuff? Like, fuck I totally went for it first couple time.

Again, beginning, the pit and spikes, then came the dude and I remembered that B was some sort of punch. I went near the guy and pressed B, guy fell like my character earlier, making a hectic scream while falling. I don’t know why, but I let out a little giggle. Anyway, I kept going. A pit came out of nowhere and I fell, another disturbing image of a corpse appeared with a scream.

This time it was a teenage boy. He had all of his limbs cut off and a fire axe stuck out of his head. The shouting this time was like somebody was burning alive, and it sounded twice as awful when distorted. Again, few seconds and start from the beginning.

I kept playing the game, not knowing exactly why. Eventually I just started to get used to all the images and screams, maybe because the game was pretty hard to play so deaths happened all the time. When I made it through the first level, I had about 65 lives left. The level ended kinda unexpectedly: after running in nowhere for about a half a minute, a building appeared, and my character went in. Text popped: “Level one: Completed. Level two: - Level three: - Level four: - Level five: -“. So, there were five levels, huh? Well, I’m sure I can make those through. I mean, like, the corpses aren’t that bad after all, and the screams are okay, they’re even a bit enjoyable, they gave nice adrenaline bumps every time I heard them, just like some screamer clips.

Unfortunately, I had to finish that day’s session. It was 2 AM and I had to get up for work at seven. So I turned off the TV but didn’t shut down the NES, because I didn’t want to risk at losing my progress. When I went to bed and closed my eyes, all I saw was this grotesque non-stop slideshow of the mutilated bodies from the game and the screams were echoing in my head. But instead of feeling anxious over this, I felt astonishingly somewhat relaxed. 

When I woke up, I still had the images hovering inside my head, but it didn’t bother me anymore that much. When I went to work, some of my colleagues said I looked a bit pale and asked if I was alright. I didn’t tell them about the game, naturally, like who the hell would be so stupid? “- Yeah hey listen I have this awes… weird game in which detailed photographs of mutilated bodies pop up whenever my character dies!” Sure, that's a topic talk about. If I had walked around telling people how I spend my time after work, they would have called me insane. Immature and insane. Yeah… Insane… I, I wasn’t insane, was I? No, why the hell would I even think that. I was just a person interested in many kinds of things like horror an stuff, there’s nothing wrong with that, right? Anyway, I finished working around 6 PM and headed straight back home to play #023.

On level two, some colors started to appear. Not many though, mostly orange, yellow and red, and those too pretty rarely. It was still mainly grayish. Images in this level were kinda rougher to look at, though, they were like the next level of brutality: more organs were ripped of, faces were even more mutilated and so on. The images felt like they were also more detailed than before. Also the screams had gotten more beau-I mean crude. They weren’t so badly distorted this time, instead more clearer and purer, and well, more pleasant for the ears.

I had 33 deaths before making it through the level two. While being on level two though, I started to find the images… engrossing. It was interesting to see what all sorts of techniques were used to kill the victims, how badly he or she had to suffer before being put down and of course, how much blood was splattered. Anyway, on level three even more colors started to emerge. Now there was also blue, purple and green among the reddish tones. The screams had become even clearer and smoother than before, and something had happened to the images too: they were some sort of .gifs now. In the .gifs’ there were mostly people in terrible pain, while some of his or her body-parts were missing or some of its organs were ripped out, eye-balls were hanging out etc. I’m not going to recite all of the Gifs, but this one I want to tell: there was a boy, about 6 years old, and he was in a bathtub filled with acid. He was in unbearable agony, crying and screaming and gasping while he slowly started to melt, down to point where you could see his skull.

Level three wasn’t very hard. I only died 22 times, which made me a bit sad, because I would have wanted to see some more suffering. Never mind, I thought, I’m sure level four has lots of lovely cruelty to offer for me! But when I got there, I wasn’t rewarded but seriously shocked instead. It was unbelievable. Level four was full of color, especially green. There were lots of plants and trees and all kinds of disgusting wildlife. It hurt my eyes. What the fuck happened? I started running fast to the right, nothing happened for eternity, and I was getting really anxious. Where the fuck was the fuel for my passion? This is freaking idiocy! You just can’t put me into level with nothing in it! SERIOUSLY WHERE THE FUCK IS EVERYTHING?? I WANT TO DIE FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!! I WANT TO SEE BODIES!!! I WANT TO SEE THE BLOOD!! I CAN’T BEAR THIS!! I WANT TO… My rage started to fade from the fact that the level had ended.

…so, level five, eh? This better has to be a good one, I mean seriously. A really fucking good one.

Level five started, and I immediately dropped to my death. The first death screen was a about a 10 second video shot of a woman being brutally stabbed to death with shears. Ohhohohoo yes, finally! Also the screaming was now in sync with video, without any distortion in it. I mean, fuck, actual real live videos! I had an awesome movie night: 10 extremely brutal executions, just what I love! The final video was the best: There was a baby tied up in a high chair, scared and crying. Then a man appeared and started to shred the baby’s head with a grater, slowly and calmly like grating parmesan on top of a bowl of spaghetti. It’s amazing how long a small person can take torture until finally dying, who knew!

After that, the real game over screen appeared. It said “Training #1 completed”. This was when I realized what had happened to me: I had turned into a bloodthirsty maniac. But, it wasn’t that bad, actually. On the contrary, I felt good. Very good. I felt that I finally was the man I truly were. The real me. A killer.

I went to the kitchen and grabbed a cleaver. Then I went to my closet and picked up a baseball bat. Then I went to the bedroom and put my ski-mask on. I look up to mirror and saw myself, as pure and true I hadd never been before.

I was ready. I opened the front door and stepped outside. Playtime.


By the way, there’re few things you might wanna know.

Everything you read above was bullshit, or at least, almost everything. You see, there’s no game named #023, I don’t have any friends and my name isn’t Joel. But one thing is true, I am a killer. And while you were reading this, which was probably from 15 to 20 minutes, I had enough time to track down your IP-address. Now I know where you live and who you are, and you can probably guess what I need this information for.

If you’re asking why… Well, let’s just say that I have a passion, which is killing, and I have to fill it somehow. Don’t believe me? Then tell me, what are you doing here? Reading creepy stories? You were filling your passion, the need to feel being creeped out and scared, right? Well, I promise you that you’ll get some of those feelings while waiting for me.

Oh by the way, I’m sorry if I’m not behind your door in the next couple of days yet. You’re not the only one who decided to come here to fill their passion, you see. But don’t you worry, you’re on my list.

See you soon!

-Ethan


Note: I wrote this before I read about 'Jeff Is Back'.

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