“Son… your friend Miguel passed away last night.” The news hit me like a brick to the head. My parents had approached me earlier in the day with the revelation; the looks on their faces spelled doom, and I knew someone had died, or something else equally horrible had occurred. I had seen those faces before, when my grandfather and great grandmother died a few years ago. They never were good at hiding their feelings, and they never were good at pulling their punches. I was partly grateful that they hadn’t beat around the bush and instead told it like it was, but it still hurt a lot. Miguel and I had spent our childhoods together and we were practically brothers. Whether it be days at one of the many parks dotting our old neighborhood or a sleepover that involved video games and late night TV instead of sleeping, we were almost always together. Since we were together so much, though, I was able to see things other people didn’t. I could see that his health had always been poor. He had bad genes to begin with, and never took care of himself. He rarely ate a healthy meal, drank as much discount corner stop pop as most people drink water, and played way too much video games. I mean, I was no better; I gamed my childhood away, too. But I still got outside and went places and did things. He didn’t. Partly because his parents couldn’t afford a car and mine could, but there was plenty to do within walking distance. It was just that walking wasn’t something he and his family enjoyed very much. Not as much as ours, but then again, opposites attract, right? But I’m rambling. Perhaps I should get to the point and recount my experience with a side of my old friend I never knew.
He had passed away at the ripe young age of 25, which in itself made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I liked and still like to think that death is something that only happens to wrinkled old geezers whose vital organs have rotted to mush after a hundred years of life. The reality is much darker. I remember going to the funeral and seeing his friends and family. As you’d expect, most were grieving either openly or within themselves. I didn’t show up not expecting woe and sorrow, but it was still a lot to bear. Emotions aren’t something I deal particularly well with, and I quickly found myself overwhelmed as well. Tears streamed openly down my face the entire time, and I wasn’t alone. Many had come to me, expressing their condolences and such. I expressed mine in return. Painful as it was, something haunted me. Something I needed to know. It was scratching at the walls of my mind, begging and pleading to be released like a spoiled child on time-out. What was it that killed my best friend? I wanted answers. For some reason, I didn’t believe that it was his poor health. Lots of people live shitty lives and don’t take care of themselves, but they usually at least reach true adulthood – that is, mid 30’s or early 40’s before they drop dead. But first and foremost, I’d allow myself to grieve. I needed to. A service was held where Miguel’s friends and family stepped up to the podium and gave a short eulogy, recounting their experiences with Miguel and how he had been a friend to them. I had my own, short and sweet. I knew I couldn’t say everything I wanted to say about him without breaking down and making myself seem weak and broken, which, in all honesty, I was; I kept it a paragraph long. It took me minutes to recite the entire thing. It successfully summarized the portion of a lifetime we spent together. There was no clapping or cheering at this ceremony. There were only bowed heads, the sounds of nostrils sniffling, and occasionally a quiet sob, once or twice from myself. I would allow myself that much. Following this, a small, slightly hunchbacked priest with a face that looked as old as time itself stepped up and announced where and when the burial would be taking place. With all due respect to my best friend, I wouldn’t be showing up. I wouldn’t be able to take seeing a wooden box containing the lifeless shell of my almost-brother being lowered into a six foot hole in the dirt.
Once the service had come to a close and the priest of the church Miguel and I attended as children said his closing prayers, Miguel’s parents approached me. Each hugged me tightly, and I hugged them as well. They were like a second family to me, and their home was like my home away from home. We knew we could be candid and open about our pain. Without lingering on this painful memory, Miguel’s parents told me they wanted me to have his prized computer; it was some sort of fancy gaming gizmo. It had been his pride and joy, his life, really. I was both dumbfounded and honored, and accepted the gift without so much as a “are you sure?” I would treasure it and keep it safe. The rest of Miguel’s things, his parents said they were giving to charity. A worthy enough of a cause, I supposed. I told them I would be by to pick up the computer the next day. That was apparently acceptable, and we said our goodbyes.
The next day, I had gone to Miguel’s house. It looked as it always did; it’s cracked, white stone walls somehow seemed somber and quiet, as if they knew something was wrong. The wooden stairs that lead up to the front door were wet from the rain that had soaked our part of the city last night. How appropriate for such a dark occasion. I knocked on the door softly as I could. Within a few seconds, I was greeted by Miguel’s father. “Joey, come in.” He said, placing a hand on my shoulder. His face was red, his eyes bloodshot. How could I possibly blame him? It had been hard enough for me, losing my best friend. For Miguel’s father, the pain he felt was unknown to me. The bond between father and son isn’t something I’ve experienced yet. I’ve experienced a father’s love, but not what it means to love one’s own offspring. I looked about. The house was unkempt and everything was astray. I couldn’t blame them for not wanting to dedicate to cleaning today. For me as well, today would be a day of grieving and attempting to heal. I walked into Miguel’s old room. The place where we had both laughed ourselves to tears time and time again, and screamed in frustration as we lost to Sephiroth in Final Fantasy 7, the place where we first beat the dreaded king Bowser in Super Mario 64, the place where we had become close as brothers. Everything was as it always was. I suddenly felt a lump in my throat, and my chin had buckled. “You’re stronger than this,” I told myself. I looked down to my hands and they were shaking. I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Shaking my head to clear it, I looked about. There it was; his “baby”, his gaming PC. I was never big on this sort of thing, as I’ve always been a console pleb. It sure was beautiful. He never stopped bragging about the fucking thing. I shuddered. A part of me wanted to keep it safe and possibly use it as my own; I’m sure he wouldn’t haunt me for it. The other part wanted to just stuff it in a closet and forget this painful experience. “Hello, Joey.” Miguel’s mother’s voice came from behind me. I wasn’t particularly startled; her voice was calm and collected. “Hello, Mrs. Nett,” I said. “I’m so sorry.” She shook her head. “Don’t be; you were nothing but a good friend to Miguel. We loved you, and so do we.” I broke down. I couldn’t help it. So did Mrs. Nett. I struggled to get a grip on myself, and shook my head once again to clear it. I would be doing that a lot for the coming days, weeks, months… however long it took to get over this. “Miguel’s computer is here. It’s yours now. You should use it… Miguel got so much enjoyment out of it. That shouldn’t stop just because… just because he’s no longer with us.” She said, taking a deep breath and attempting to do get a grip on her emotions. I didn’t understand why I felt I should control myself, but apparently it was something we were both striving to do. I nodded to her and placed friendly arms around her. “If you need anything, you know my number.” I sent my gaze to Mr. Nett, so they would both know I was available.
Without dawdling, I loaded the black and green tower, that fucking 1080p monitor he always yelled about as if it were some godsend, the mechanical keyboard and that weird, fancy mouse into the trunk of my car. I figured I’d set it up later that night and check out what he had been doing on it. The last time we had talked, Miguel told me about some project he was working on. He had been rambling about it since early 2011, but the last time I heard about it, it was apparently near completion. “His “magnum opus” as he called it. At first I was stunned; I was usually the one using big words from dead languages. He was incredibly excited and almost ecstatic about whatever he was working on, and he told me it was almost done. “I’ll let you play it, Joe! But only you and you can’t share it or tell anyone about it, okay?” I had found that last part odd, but Miguel had always been odd; it’s what I loved about him. Since it would never be finished, for obvious reasons, I decided to do him and his project justice and at least check it out. I reasoned with myself that I wouldn’t make a single change to it or try and finish it. I would continue to use the computer with love and dedication, but I would not change or delete anything Miguel had done on it.
I arrived home about a half hour later; Miguel’s parents and I didn’t live too far apart, only about a half hour by car or an hour by bike during decent weather. I loaded his prized possession into the embrace of my home piece by piece, setting it up on the kitchen table. My laptop would have to miss me for a while; I needed to feel like I was doing Miguel justice and play whatever it was he intended to show me.
After plugging the mammoth of a tower in, its long, snake-like cords ending up strewn across the kitchen, plugged into various power outlets, I pressed the power button on the tower, and the boot menu came up. It was your typical crap; black screen with intimidating white text and a weird blinking white line that would occasionally appear and disappear within seconds, as if it missed it stepped out onto the stage too early and quickly retreated, hoping the play wasn’t ruined. The computer booted successfully. I expected the desktop background to be something that had to do with Star Wars; he loved that shit. Instead, the desktop background was an extremely beautiful young woman with neck-length brown hair, large brown eyes, and pink, kissable lips. Only her head, neck and shoulders were visible. I believe it was what the kids nowadays call a “selfie”? Generally, as I heard it, people didn’t send “selfies” to others, but instead uploaded them to social media sites to fish for comments. And, besides, unless Miguel had a secret girlfriend, I knew for a hundred percent that he didn’t talk to girls. He didn’t have the balls to. Neither do I. It was something we discussed quite frequently. The first thing to pop up in my mind was “who was this girl?” Miguel had been single all his life, and he and I alike enjoyed our share of the female anatomy. I was left wondering why he wouldn’t just have some nasty porn as his background. THAT sounded more like the Miguel I knew.
I looked through his desktop icons, trying to keep my eyes from shifting to the alluring desktop background he had set up; a part of me felt impure from looking at her, for some reason. Since the PC was running Windows 7, all that was present was the recycle bin and a folder called “cailleygame”. I double clicked the folder, and it opened in response. Within was a bunch of .bat files, a few .dlls, various sub-folders with titles such as “graphics”, “audio” and “interface” and a single .exe file called “cailleygame”. The icon of the .exe was a tree, its trunk light brown and its puffy leaves that resembled more of an afro and less leaves sprouting from the branches of a tree. I double clicked the icon, and my mouse pointed turned into a spinning azure wheel. The file was about a gigabyte large, which surprised me. Unless this was some RPG maker or Game Maker game, the small file size surprised me. While games like Five Nights at Freddy’s aren’t above a gig, that game had little graphics and no levels to move around in. Before I could ponder any more, the game booted; the screen went black. White text popped up in the center of the screen. “Cailleygame”, it read. He hadn’t even programmed a title screen? The game must’ve still been in early beta, then, if he was even programming the game in stages. Perhaps this was just what the title screen was supposed to be and this was the final version, albeit unfinished? My fingers pressed against numerous keys, ranging from z to x to backspace to space. It ended up being then f11 key that started the game. “A prompt would’ve helped,” I muttered to myself. Seconds after, however, the realization I was critiquing a dead man’s “magnum opus” set in and I quickly wished I would’ve bitten my tongue. It was going to be a long night. I sighed deeply and pressed my chin into the palm of my hand, using my elbow to prop my head up.
The first thing that surprised me was how low-res the game was. He had been working on it for a while, sure, but “development” started in 2011, or so he told me when he first started his work. This game resembled a particular first person shooter that came out in 1993; you might know it, the one where you shoot demons and shit, good stuff. Everything looked like a polygon, and it reeked of early 3D graphics. The game, or so I assumed, brought me into a small grassy lawn with a medium-sized house standing tall before me. It was brown and was made of bricks, with a triangular charcoal grey roof and numerous pure white windows. An electric lantern sat above the door, illuminating the way in. I was in first person view. Learning on my own that it was the WSAD keys that moved my character, or whatever it was supposed to be around and the mouse that allowed me to look around the virtual environment, I studied my surroundings. A small brown fence surrounded the plot of land that held my character and acted as a prison. I walked all around the yard, but found no way out. The area around outside the confines of the fence was black as the void, as was the sky. Well, there was no sky, just infinite blackness. My first thought was that it was supposed to be night time, perhaps? But there were no stars in the sky. I left the conflict to fade into my subconscious and approached the front door. “It’s locked. I’ll need to find another way in.” The text box jumped out like a screamer and made me recoil, nearly falling off my chair. I still had my cool; it was just… so sudden. Normally it wouldn’t have bothered me, but being on edge already, everything and anything could set off an emotional reaction. In response to the game forbidding me from entering this strange house in the middle of fucking purgatory, I decided to look around back.
There was another fence within the fence. Within this sub-fence, which I assumed was a backyard, there was a large tree, similar looking to the tree that served as the game’s icon. It had a tire swing attached to it, the rope hanging from one of the polygon branches. The tire swing lolled back and forth in a hypnotizing fashion. There was a small play set, consisting of a climbable fortress-like structure and a small slide with a soft pad at the bottom for whatever little one was supposed to be playing on it to fall to safety. I approached the back doors, which were made of glass, like the doors that lead from an apartment to the balcony. A textbox appeared as I attempted to interact with the doors, the enter key apparently serving as way to interact with the environment; “Breaking the glass will cause Roy to wake up. I need to break in silently.” I was taken aback for a second. What was this game supposed to be? Breaking into someone’s house? Why would Miguel make something so… weird? With games like Postal 2 and Grand Theft Auto being readily available to the masses, I wouldn’t call something like this “horrifying”, but I would call it weird. Regardless, I wouldn’t let this stop me; I would see Miguel’s game through from beginning to end, even if it did end up being some twisted miscreation. Funnily enough, looking back, I had no idea how twisted this game was going to be. I didn’t even have the vaguest of ideas. Anyways, I paced around the sides of the house, looking for an opening. Neither of the doors front or back, were apparently an option. As I took a second round around the sides of the house, I noticed a whole in the house. It was the size of the other windows on this house, but was black instead of white. Was it supposed to be “open”? I walked up to it and pressed enter to interact with it.
“This is perfect. Roy won’t hear me coming in, and I can get straight to my prize, and take what is rightfully mine.” I shuttered; what was this nameless avatar’s “prize” and why was it so hell-bent on obtaining it? Knowing full well I wouldn’t like what I was going to encounter, I pressed enter to dismiss the textbox. The screen cut to black, with a small blue loading bar at the center bottom of the screen. Once it filled up to the other side, I found myself in a small hallway. There were two doors, one on either side of the eerily sterile white walls, and another white square at the end of the hallway. At the end, but before the “window”, there was a railing, or what I assumed to be a railing. I assumed it must’ve leaded somewhere. The floor was red. Was it supposed to be a carpet? I hoped so. I held down the W key and turned the mouse towards either of the doors.
At the first I stopped and pressed enter. A textbox popped up. “I don’t need them.” Apparently there was no going in there. I turned to the other door, and got much of the same reaction from my unnamed avatar. I approached the window and tried to interact, but nothing happened. I hit the enter key a few more times just to make sure, and still, no reaction. I turned to the railing and took a step forward and the screen went black; another loading screen. This one took a while, the sea blue loading bar slowly but surely filling up the empty black bar. It took a few minutes, but it eventually filled all the way up; I was now in a living room area. There was a purple sofa with a large TV adjacent to it; it gave off a glowing grey hue, which I assumed was supposed to simulate the TV being on. There was a piano off to the side, by a large white rectangle. There was a blue rectangle on the floor, with a low-res pattern on it, likely supposed to be a carpet. The floors were a putrid shade of brown, possibly trying to show that they were hardwood? There were a few shelves placed against the wall, and there was a “computer” in the corner; by computer, I mean some low-res boxed placed on a low-res brown thing that was supposed to resemble a computer desk. In front of it was a black computer chair that couldn’t be interacted with. In fact, nothing in this living room setting could be interacted with. I was a tad disappointed, until I remembered the front door. I walked to it and interacted.
A textbox greeted me. “Can’t leave yet, I am not yet satisfied.” I shrugged a bit and turned away. This avatar or whoever you were supposed to be playing as said some weird shit. I assumed it would all add up. It did, oh how it did add up. Oh how I wish it didn’t. Regardless, I carried on and went the other way, avoiding the railing that now lead upwards in case I triggered a teleport by stepping close to the warp tile. I entered the kitchen and was greeted to an entirely sterile white area that clashed with the brown area just outside of it. The floors were loosely tiled, and there was a stove, a stand with what I assumed to be a microwave, and a double sink. A fridge wasn’t far away, being tucked in the corner of the kitchen. It registered to me before that this was supposed to be a house, with a family inside. I was well aware of that. What the player’s character intended to do was a mystery to me was, but I knew it wouldn’t be to perform a random act of kindness. Bracing for the worst, I left the kitchen as it was a dead end and approached the small doorway that lead back into the living room.
A textbox stopped me from doing so. “I can’t leave yet, I need something from the drawer.” I had neglected to see a drawer, and I gulped. If this player character, who was so freely willing to break into someone’s house was looking for something in a kitchen drawer, I knew it had to be something to cause some sort of harm.” Oh God, was the goal of this game to slaughter the family, or whoever it was that lived here?” I mused. “No,” I thought aloud in response to myself. “Miguel wouldn’t do that. Miguel wasn’t like that.”Even though I KNEW nothing good would come from this, I was still in denial. I still refused to think that Miguel would program something like this. He was weird, sure, but harmless weird. Sorry for interrupting my narration all the time, but… I keep finding myself drifting back. Moving on, since I couldn’t leave until I went on a collect-a-thon apparently, I looked through the kitchen for drawers. I found them, although they were more like long, skinny rectangles stuck next to the fridge.
I interacted with the drawer, and what popped up didn’t really surprise me. But I still felt dread build up in my gut. “Obtained a knife, don’t worry Cailley, I’m coming soon.” I took a long, deep breath. This was what I thought it was going to be. I was going to have to kill someone; that was the point of this game. Or, at least, this player character would. That’s all it was. It wasn’t a representation of anyone real. I hoped. I left the kitchen and saw another entrance; this was becoming less like a house and more like a maze. It was black, but had a small white square in the center. As I approached it, another fucking textbox popped up. I was really getting sick of these things. “She’s there. It is time.” A loading screen greeted me, taking me out of that strange polygon nightmare, at least for a short time. The bar at the bottom seemed to take an eternity to load, which I actually grateful for. I didn’t want to face this, whatever it was. Slowly, as the seconds passed, I waited patiently. Each inch the blue gained on the black, eating it, devouring it, I felt my heart beat a little bit faster. Finally, with an onslaught of blue and only a sliver of black, the loading screen finished, and I was brought into a small area. It looked like a bedroom, perhaps. The floor was blue, and the walls were brown with black vertical lines running up and down. This room actually had a ceiling, unlike the others, in which looking up let you stare into the maw of the abyss itself. It was a lighter shade of grey. A small computer sat in the corner of the room, with a black office chair. On the other side of the room was what appeared to be a walk-in closet, and a bed was in the center. It had a purple sheet on top of it, and a round, brown circle popped out of the top of the sheet.
The feeling of dread was growing like a fetus about to be forced from the womb and into the world. I approached as my now-sweaty hands were struggling to keep their hold on the keyboard, my index finger glued to the W key. As I neared the bedside, I suddenly lost control of my character. A low-quality sound clip played. It sounded like Miguel’s voice. “At last!” He whispered in a shrill, hushed voice. I shivered. I was hearing the voice of a dead man. But I still found myself chuckling. He was voice acting his own game? There was no voice acting before, why now? Before I could finish my thought process, I was cut off. My eyes sank into the screen before me. A cutscene was playing. A low-res polygon arm with a hand and five spindly fingers reached out and ripped the purple sheet from the bed. A loud, shrill shriek was heard; it almost sounded like the Rochelle scream from Left 4 Dead 2, and for all I know, it could’ve been. Still in first person, the camera giving me a view into this nightmare shuffled and moved about. I… no, the player character was clambering on top of a low-res polygon model of a woman; A woman with neck-length brown hair and two large brown spheres, and pink lips. I shrieked as I pushed myself back.
The only reason I could tell it was a woman was because of two mountain-like anomalies that sprouted from the model’s chest, clearly supposed to be breasts. Another arm popped into existence and the two arms spread the low res model’s legs apart. I stared in disbelief as what appeared to be a… a fucking penis forced itself into the woman’s vagina like a snake might slither through particularly wet and muddy foliage. “No, Miguel! Please stop!” It was Miguel; he was voice acting the woman as well, using a high-pitched female voice. That got me. The woman referred to the player character as “Miguel”. This wasn’t some video game he made for a joke to freak people out. This was some sort of twisted fantasy simulator; some sort of cathartic release for him. The model in the game loosely resembled the woman that served as this computer’s desktop wallpaper.
The “penis” that appeared to be attached to nothing warped in and out of existence as it plunged itself into the woman, over and over. After some time I ended up vomiting into the kitchen sink behind me. I missed some of the action, but by the grunts I heard coming from the tower’s internal speakers, it certainly wasn’t anything I cared to see. It sounded like, when he was recording this, he might’ve actually been masturbating. His voice was full of lust and desire that no normal human could produce unless attempting to reach orgasm. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, a “spoolsh” sound affect played, and the “penis” did not go back in. The player’s character, or so I assumed, made an “aaaah” sound affect, as if he were relieved before clambering off of the woman. The model convulsed, shaking about in an almost unnatural way. Still in this strange cutscene mode, the player character moved to the side of the bed, and his hand popped into existence. He was wielding the knife. Without hesitation, the knife was slid across the woman’s throat. The model did not bleed; however, a red line appeared on the neck.
A “choking” sound affect played for a few seconds before the model fell still. The player character leaned in, showcasing just how low-res the model of the woman was before the words “thank you, Cailley.” Was heard. The game crashed to the desktop. For a second, I just sat there, dumbfounded, tears streaming down my cheeks. Turns out I knew less about someone I called my best friend than I thought. I shut down the computer swiftly and dismantled it, storing it in my bedroom for the time being. I would still keep my vow of not changing anything, and I played the game through, so now I had nothing on my conscience.
To this day, however, I wonder why Miguel would willingly show me such a thing. Did he expect me to be impressed? Or did he plan to actually enact the disturbing fantasy showcased in this game? Who was Roy, and just who was this Cailley, the girl who was fortunate enough that Miguel was apparently sane enough to keep his fantasy a fantasy? I’ll never know, because he’s gone; any answers to this mystery are buried six feet under, in the brain of a dead man.
Miguel, why didn’t you just tell me, man? We could’ve talked things through before you died, and perhaps I wouldn’t be sitting here feeling so uncomfortable and cold.