I did not write this. Instead, it is one of three (3) creepy tales I am uploading that I feel are original enough for you to consider covering. All credit goes to the excellently spooky Vestibule Pariah, at vestibulepariah.blogspot.com.
I was a late bloomer, but a few months ago I finally moved out of my parents’ house and started my adult existence proper. Microwaving Bob Evans macaroni and cheese bowls at any hour of the night without the beeps waking anyone up, bringing myself to unabashed climax on the couch while watching “How It’s Made” (the mass production of jelly donuts is erotic and you goddamn well know it), building my Lego forts in peace and quiet, the benefits are nigh indescribable. The only drawback has been losing touch with Allan.
Allan invited himself into my life in late 1997, during my first year of high school. Having moved to a new neighborhood, he had no friends, and apparently the quiet, bespectacled teenager sitting by himself in the cafeteria was an attractive target. I was regaled, from day one, with story after story about videogames. Now, I love games as much as anybody can, but his were the kind of “my uncle works at Nintendo” nonsense I’d assumed most of us had grown out of by that point.
Over the next few weeks we spoke constantly, whether I liked it or not. The confluence of our schedules was such that we had at least forty-two uninterrupted minutes together every day. It was a bit much, at first, but I couldn’t bear to break off the friendship, and what we ended up going through is a story worth retelling.
He’d recently been introduced to pot, you see, and naturally started combing his house for a good place to stash his newfound accessories. It so happens he stumbled upon an existing hideaway in the corner of his room, under the floorboards, and the curious floppy disks concealed within are the subject of this particular post.
As I recall, Allan couldn’t get the disks, labeled “MICWY”, to read properly in his parents’ Windows system. Only after an overbooked computer lab had him sitting at the one Mac in our school did it occur to him why. He tried the disks in that and, lo and behold, was introduced to one of the most unorthodox games I’ve ever heard of.
If you’ve ever played “May I Come With You?”, that makes two of you. I never had any computer classes with Allan, and they never let us out of lunch to use the lab, so his wide eyed, breathless tales are the only exposure I’ve had to the game. As it stands I can find no information about it anywhere; Google, message boards, friends, nothing. I still kick myself for not asking him to make me a copy. But enough of that, let’s get to the good stuff.
As the story was related to me, the game was fairly run of the mill at first glance. Top-down, Zelda style adventure, set in a two story suburban home. Crude graphics, but they got the idea across. You controlled a girl in a yellow dress, and could explore the house to your heart’s content, receiving occasional bits of descriptive text upon interacting with certain objects.
This exploration revealed a few things that left the game feeling unfinished, two of them the attic and garage, neither being accessible. The attic hatch, in the second floor linen closet, was apparently blocked by some heavy boxes, and the main character couldn’t move them; I don’t believe Allan ever made his way up there. The garage was a bit more dramatic, sending the game into a fit when you tried to use the door leading off of the kitchen. This had a tendency to freeze up the entire computer, which the teachers weren’t terribly fond of, so experiments in that direction were nipped in the bud.
Audio was apparently the game’s strong point. There was a rather imposing hulk of a furnace in the basement, and upon examining it a deep rumble started up that lasted for most of your play time. Combined with the music, which I recognized as Ravel’s “Bolero” when Allan whistled a selection, the experience was a delight for at least one sense.
At that point in the game, the exploration was little more than something to kill time. The real fun, if you can call it that, didn’t start until you approached the front door. You couldn’t go outside, instead receiving the memorable dialog box: “Appease them, please them, or they’ll knock you on your knees, then!” Allan relayed the message, and of course the two of us giggled like idiots, but we were never able to figure out just what it meant.
It was the trigger, however, for the game’s central conceit. Every few minutes, as if on autopilot, you’d be brought to a random part of the house. Try to leave and you’d be forced right back into position, until you realized you had to hit the action key to interact with something. Complete a given mind numbing chore (opening and closing drawers, turning lights or faucets on and off) and a new dialog pops up: “An offer for the coffers?” The blinking cursor underneath would sit there until you’d typed the right response.
That response proved elusive, and it took a couple of days for us to work out the “offering” gimmick. Allan first tried searching the house for some sort of item he could serve up, but nothing presented itself; as far as he could tell, the game didn’t even have an inventory system. It seemed to come down to just guessing what to type, and we ultimately resorted to writing up a list of everything the girl could conceivably have on her person: “earring” and “necklace” were duds, but “eyelash”, of all things, bore fruit.
Standing at a counter in the kitchen, a dialog explained that the game’s protagonist plucked out an eyelash and laid it inside the drawer she’d just been messing with. Further offers went along those lines, correct answers (e.g., “strand of hair”) causing the girl to remove something from herself and place it somewhere in the house (behind the strikeplate of the upstairs bathroom door).
For some reason the notion of literally making yourself at home fascinated Allan, and the damned game started to fill up all of his free time as he desperately pushed to see what would be sacrificed next. It threatened to barge into mine, as well. It wasn’t too bad for me, but we still spent so much time on most days trying to come up with the appropriate offer for each situation that I’d barely started eating before the bell rang and lunch was over.
Allan caught the brunt of it, though. The number of times you had to carry out the task at hand saw a dramatic increase. More and more of his time in the computer lab was being eaten up by this game, to the point that he missed a few major assignments, and irritated the hell out of students who needed to work on documents from their Macs at home. Luckily, by the Christmas break his sister had gotten her own Apple setup, and was eventually persuaded to let him use it.
Here’s where things skewed a bit further off the beaten path. As said mind numbing chores became even more so, the aforementioned “gifts” became what I’ll delicately describe as increasingly unconventional. The call for certain bodily fluids made us uncomfortable, yes, but when it came time to pull out one of the girl’s fingernails with a pair of pliers, we weren’t so bothered by the previous demands.
As soon as the unsavory act was done with, there was a marked shift in tone. Allan likened the process to the death of a boss in Final Fantasy VI, but in lieu of a victory fanfare was what I’d later come to call a Silent Hill style transformation. He described the look as “oily”, with scattered clumps of white pixels, highlights, suggesting a layer of slime built up on the environment, and everything taking on a generally grimy color palette. The air vents seen throughout the house glowed disconcertingly, and if you made your way to the basement you’d see a red hot, overworked furnace, whose more profound vocalizations set the screen shaking.
The final three offers didn’t take quite so much effort to discern as the earlier, oddball ones did, but were notably more extreme. The first was bad enough, and had the girl heading for a toolbox in the basement; her pinkies didn’t survive, and found a new home wedged inside a nearby electrical outlet box.
The second I later recalled on watching “Saw” for the first time. There was mention of a tourniquet, and your character, limping about in a now crimson-speckled dress, left a short trail of splotchy red ovals behind her as she headed to the dining room, cut a hole in the wall, and tossed in the ex-appendage.
The third, and final, was a significant step up from the others.
As I mentioned earlier, the number of times you had to run through a given task had gone up, but apparently I’d underestimated the severity of it. The later offerings frequently took Allan hours to run through, but for this last one I didn’t hear from him for over three days. Our vacation had ended on the second day, and he wasn’t in school on the third. When he finally came back, looking sleep deprived and dejected, he filled me in.
It had taken the entirety of the three days for him to travel up and down the main staircase what must have been thousands of times, with only a few bathroom breaks and catnaps here and there. When it was all over, it was time for the last offering. Allan couldn’t get in touch with me at the time, so he decided to tackle it himself. There were only so many body parts remaining on this poor woman, anyway, so it was a simple matter to figure things out. Once he’d done it, the right half of the screen stayed black until he’d finished playing.
What was left of the image showed him that everything snapped back to normal once the offending orb had been set in its final resting place. The original environment returned, with normal colors and no more oily sheen. The music also stopped, along with the furnace. Still in control of the girl, Allan steered her back downstairs to find the front door wide open, a pale orange trapezoid of light cutting sharply into the foyer.
The entire experience wrapped up with one giant, iron gloved punch in the stomach. As soon as he tried to walk outside, the thing froze. There was a new piece of music, one I couldn’t recognize no matter how many times Allan whistled it, and it had seemed to signify a new area, but whatever the developers’ intent, it was all for naught. The screen stayed black, nothing happened, the end. He seemed sickened by the whole experience, frankly, and with the flak he was catching for falling behind in school he didn’t really want to talk about it anymore.
We stayed in touch through high school, things tapered off in the years following, and once I moved that was basically the end of it. Now I’m the one in a new neighborhood, and I have yet to make any friends quite as unique as Allan was. Certainly none with stories like his.
Should I learn anything more about the game, I’ll be sure to post the info here. Until then, everybody check your floorboards.
Vestibule Pariah 13:02, May 22, 2014 (UTC)