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Back in the before time, there were few options for home computing or game systems. Atari 800's, Trash 80's and Commodores were about it. After playing far too long on my neighbor's Atari, I decided that I needed a smarter game system, so I went off and bought a Commodore 64. For those too young to remember – this was essentially a keyboard with 64K of memory built in, which used your TV as a monitor. There were some classic simplistic games, simple because 64K of memory does not cover a lot of ground. Then the technological revolution dropped the first “exterior memory” on us – a cassette player. Seriously. Google it.

All of a sudden we could actually play more involved games. Frogger, for example. Of course, we had to wait for the tape to run and reverse in order for that froggie to advance, but it was liberating. Finally someone actually created an external drive that ate 5 ¼ floppy disks – those black envelopes that still show up as icons now and again. This was a breakthrough of epic proportions, and all kinds of computing became possible. The games became more involved, and far more intense. There were still those minimal sprite graphics, but hey. It was exciting.

Text adventures were being released rapidly. Not everyone took to this format, but I found them enthralling. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was my favorite, although I occasionally got so frustrated I would holler at the screen to just do what I wanted it to. “Put the damn fish in my ear and let me get out of here!” Apparently I had made enough noise enough times to disturb my neighbor, since he came up one day and handed me a box. “Here. If you ever get tired of that fish game, try this one. I got it from work. One of the guys just up and quit a couple of weeks ago, and left everything at his desk. The boss had me clean his shit out, and I thought of you when I saw this was for the Commode.” (His name for my beloved C64).

I thanked him and turned the box over in my hands. It was plainer than most that I had seen, just the words “Abandon Hope” in red drippy font on a black background. No studio or developer information, no graphics, just the words. “Looks creepy,” I remarked, and he nodded. “About par for the Commode.” I chucked a sofa pillow at him, he ducked, we laughed and he went back downstairs. I let the game sit for a few days, being busy with other projects, but picked it up again late on a Friday night. “Ah, how clearly I remember...” quoth the raven. I am not likely to forget how it all started.

I settled in for a long term gaming session. I made a pot of coffee, grabbed a bag of chips and collected lots of candles to surround the keyboard with enough light to type by. Then I turned off the lights, and slid open the box, which contained only the floppy disk. No manual, no instructions, nothing. The diskette looked a bit battered about the edges, not unusual for a used program. I inserted the diskette, waited till it whined and growled its way to being loaded, and damn near jumped out of my socks when a discordant blare erupted from the TV. The Commodore was noted for its sound chip, and this game seemed to be taking full advantage. Not that I would call it music...rasps, bleats and something that sounded like a tuba with a head cold...but not music. This played for a while, as I stumbled across the room to lower the volume, then the first screen opened.

Same red dripping words. I hit the enter key, and the screen went blank. Then the intro blinked into life.

Why have you come here? Are you not aware of the horrors that lurk just beyond? Or are you just stupid?

I blinked – this was a bit arrogant – then the second text block appeared.

If you insist on proceeding, you do so at your own risk. This is your only warning. Do you want to take the risk?

And finally, the blinking underscore that meant it was my turn.

'YES' I typed and the screen went blank while the C64 thought about things. As usual. A new text block appeared.

You are standing at the gates of an old cemetery. These are tall and made of black iron. There is a latch on the left hand gate.

OPEN LATCH I typed.

The latch creaks and lifts.

OPEN GATE

The left hand gate slowly swings inward. You can see a dim path leading north.

GO NORTH

As you move to the north, the gate slams shut. You can see a few grey mounds to the left and a large grey building to the right.

GO LEFT

You are facing a group of headstones. They are of varying heights, but all are topped with the same engraved name – HERRISTON. The tallest appears to be cracked at the base, and seems to have something thrown over the top.

TAKE SOMETHING

I do not understand something.

TAKE THING ON HEADSTONE

There is nothing here to take.

“Well”, I thought, “then why make a big deal about it?” I mulled this over, rereading the prompt, then realized that there was a clue in there.

PUSH HEADSTONE

The headstone falls backward. On the ground is a black robe. You hear a noise from the right.

TAKE ROBE

You have a black robe. It is hooded and would fit someone quite tall. You hear a noise from the right.

GO RIGHT

A massive figure appears before you and slices you open from neck to navel. Your guts fall out and you die.

The screen went blank. “Shit!” I muttered, and went back to the beginning. This time, I went right, toward the large grey building.

You are standing before a mausoleum. Above the door is the name Johnston. The door is made of wood and looks very heavy.

OPEN DOOR

It is locked.

INVENTORY

You have nothing.

GO LEFT

You are on the path. Ahead of you are some grey mounds.

GO STRAIGHT

You are facing a group of headstones. They are of varying heights, but all are topped with the same engraved name – HERRISTON. The tallest appears to be cracked at the base, and seems to have something thrown over the top.

PUSH HEADSTONE

The headstone falls backward. On the ground is a black robe. You hear a noise from the right.

TAKE ROBE

You have a black robe. It is hooded and would fit someone quite tall. You hear a noise from the right.

PUT ON ROBE

The robe is too long for you. It has two pockets. You hear a noise from the right.

LOOK AT POCKETS

In the left hand pocket, you find a large key. In the right pocket you find sand. You hear a noise from the right.

GO RIGHT

A massive figure appears before you and slices you open from neck to navel. Your guts fall out and you die.

“Dammit!” I go through everything up to the pockets, but this time I HOLD KEY, then GO RIGHT, then die.

Again. This time I HOLD SAND and GO RIGHT.

A massive figure appears before you.

Blinking cursor. My turn.

THROW SAND.

The massive figure raises his arms and disappears in a cloud of foul smelling smoke.

GO RIGHT

You are standing before a mausoleum. Above the door is the name Johnston. The door is made of wood and looks very heavy.

HOLD KEY

You are holding a large key.

OPEN DOOR

Inserting the key in the keyhole is difficult, but you finally force it to turn. The door opens into a dank, clammy vault, with coffins lining the walls. There is a brass plaque on the wall in front of you.

READ PLAQUE

The plaque reads “Abandon Hope.” The door slams shut.

OPEN DOOR

The key is on the other side. The room is pitch black. There is no fresh air. You aren't very good at this, are you? You fall to the cold stone floor and die.

I went back through it all, taking the key before reading the plaque.

The plaque reads “Abandon Hope.” The coffin to your left looks newer than the others.

OPEN COFFIN

A dead young man is lying in the coffin. His face is contorted in a scream of terror, and his eyes are open and staring at you.

SEARCH COFFIN

You find a wallet, a baseball cap and a key ring.

TAKE WALLET

You have a man's leather wallet.

TAKE BASEBALL CAP

You have a dingy Phillies baseball cap.

TAKE KEY RING

You have a ring with 5 keys and a fob which reads “Gas, grass or ass, no one rides for free.”

I paused to think. 'What the hell? That's pretty specific for a game like this, but the Phillies cap is a nice touch.' Just then my door opened, and my neighbor walked in with a couple of beers. “Late night for you too?” he asked, handing me a beer.

“Just started playing this weird game you gave me. Look at this,” I said as I pointed at the TV, scrolling up to the description of the dead man. His face went quite strange as he read, and he turned back to me. “How'd you do that?”

“I just kept trying different commands until I got the pattern...”

“No, I mean, how did you program the game to include Ronnie?”

“Ronnie?” I asked.

"The guy at work – the one who had this game. When did you meet him?”

I frowned at him. “I don't have any idea what the hell you are talking about. I am playing the game, not programming it, and I never met any Ronnie.”

“Ronnie always wore an old Phillies cap, and he was always showing off that key ring at lunch, bragging about how it always got him something when he picked up hitchhikers.” I shook my head.

“Maybe Ronnie was programming this game himself, and just built in what he was familiar with?”

He gave me that scornful lip-curl. “Ronnie couldn't find the on switch of a computer, let alone program one. No way he did this.”

“Then someone wrote it for him – a birthday gift or something.”

“That would be some gift for a guy who had exactly zero friends as far as I know. Ronnie was an asshole. A real jerk. Always bragging about his car, or his latest piece of hitchhiker ass, or the great weed he scored. One of those kind.”

“Then how...” I stopped as the text scrolled up and a new block appeared.

Are you going to sit there all day, or do you want to play on?

I quickly typed SAVE

Game saved. For now.

I turned back to my neighbor, just a little freaked out. “Ever see a game do that before?”

He shrugged. “Not on my Atari, but then again, that is a real game machine.” Same sofa pillow as before, but this time, no one laughed. “Well, that's my cue. See you later.” and he left.

I stared at the blinking cursor for a while. This was making no sense whatsoever. The only thing that I could do was play on and see where this went.

I finally typed LOOK LEFT

There are three coffins to your left. They are very old, and appear as though they would crumble to dust if you touched them.

LOOK RIGHT

There are two coffins to your right. One is a shiny black, the other a pale white.

OPEN WHITE COFFIN

A young woman is lying in the coffin. She appears to be screaming in terror and her brown eyes are open. She is wearing a long black robe and a pair of earrings shaped like dragons.

My hands flew first to MY dragon shaped earrings, then to the keyboard

QUIT

There is no quitting. There is a noise to your right.

SAVE

Nothing can save you now. There is a noise to your right.

I yanked the power cord out of the wall so hard that it jerked back, smashing everything on my coffee table, including my favorite jarred sand candle. I snatched up a handful of sand and flung it to my right. Holy shit...the stink lasted for DAYS!

Morbidmama

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