I am not sure I should be typing this while I am still so shaken from the very events I write of...I guess I am uncertain about too much. Typing this now is both insurance that the story will get out there, and a means for me to lay everything out and better understand it myself. I guess to properly tell this story, you will need to know about my girlfr-...my ex-girlfriend. Her name was Anastasia, and mine is Robert. I have always been a gamer, since I got a Nintendo back when Super Mario Brothers originally came packaged with the system. Ana was not a gamer at all till she met me. It is not that she did not like games, she just never tried and thought she would not like them. Can you blame her?
Television and popular culture unintentionally brainwash kids into thinking blue is for boys, pink is for girls. Dolls are for girls and games are for guys. Because I liked games so much and she liked me so much, it was inevitable that she would have to at least try them at some point. When she did, she loved them! Almost too much. We shared this apartment you see, as well as its rent, and our entire game collection was shared. It was sort of a perfect system, we both generally had two days off from work a week but which two days they were, rarely synced up. So when she had time off and I was working, she would hit the games hard and try to beat my high scores, or get her save farther than mine. Then when I got my days off, I would do the same.
I got her into gaming in general and thanks to her and the fact our collection was shared, she actually got me into games I normally wouldn't have thought I would like. Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon games for example, I would have thought would put me to sleep, but she proved me wrong! That all ended a year,three months, and eight days ago. She was making a steep uphill turn in my car, and someone coming down the same hill slid into the wrong lane, and the two vehicles collided at full speed. It looked like the entire front half of my car was missing- but it had actually just been compressed into the back half. I don't think I have to tell you what happened to Ana.
That was, as I mentioned, a while ago now. The events involved here take place much more recently, but are very much related. I think it goes without saying that I was, excuse the pun- about as depressed as the front of my car was after the wreck. I got back into the rhythm of things and continued with my normal life relatively easy- all things considered. But I was never the same as I had been before. It was almost as if I had started to live life from muscle memory- I did not even consciously realize what I was doing really, I just repeated what I had done before. If you took my thoughts and emotions into account only, it would seem like my life had gone completely to crap, but in actuality I had little to complain about. My own physical health was fine, I had a decent job, a nice apartment...there are plenty of people out there with a lot less than me. I do still game a lot, in fact I fill virtually all of my spare time with it. I no longer have someone else to compete against though, so now I face myself.
Trophies and achievement hunting, to the point where I will actually sort the order I play games in based on trophy difficulty, trying to stagger the easy with the hard. I found myself with a lack of energy, and needing more and more sleep to get through the day. Because of that, the time I have to play games shortens.
That is where the trouble with my current lifestyle started, I would get frustrated and even angry at the games and ultimately myself for the smallest errors I made, because I felt I was wasting what little time I had to play before I run out of energy for the day. If losing a loved one teaches you anything, its very good at putting the value of time into perspective.
You must forgive me if I cannot recall exactly how many days ago this started, I have been understandably shaken this last while. It was on one of my days off, when I decided to get Animal Crossing : New Leaf back into my game rotation. It is the sort of game you are meant to play for very short periods each day, and I had completely neglected it in my routine since Ana died.
When I turned it on I checked my mail, since it was right beside me and it was going to take me a few minutes to remember what all the game has to do. I remember my heart skipped a few beats when I seen the letter from Ana in the mailbox. She must have sent it before the accident.
I knew this was one of those things where the more you thought about it, the harder it was going to get- so I actually put very little thought into quickly opening it. On one hand, it is a letter from Ana, of course I want to read it. On the other hand, its technically a letter from a dead person.
This one was weird though, completely uncharacteristic of her. Normally she filled every parchment to the brim, using capital letters to divide words to avoid using any spaces. This was entirely blank except for a colon and a bracket- a smiley emote. There was nothing attached to it and nothing else written on it. My first thought was that it was a typo and she accidentally confirmed the letter prematurely, but then why did she mail it? It felt weird passing by her characters house as well, perpetually frozen in the state she left it. I guess finding that letter caused me to completely zone out, because I ended up wandering around the game for nearly two hours while essentially getting nothing at all done.
When I heard the chime and checked on the clock I was immediately furious at myself for being so inefficient with my time! There was still two trophies in another game I had planned on getting that night! I did not want to push myself because I had work the next day and that would be a hell of a way to start the week. If I want to risk staying up it is best to do it later in the week.
The way I looked at it, is that the day had just become irrelevant. I did not get any traceable progress done, so it was like all I did that day was work, eat, and sleep. I might as well have never woken up at all and just slept straight to the following day. I was so angry for that split second that I actually swore out loud, and then the 3DS immediately died.
I stared at the screen for several seconds trying to understand what just happened. It completely died the exact moment I shouted, as if I had frightened the system. The battery light goes red when its low, and then blinks when its dangerously low. I did not see the light change at all. Then again, I had just wandered around in a game aimlessly for two hours without realizing that either. I tried the power switch and got no reaction from the system at all. I plugged it in before heading to bed, and the light indicating it was recharging came on so I shrugged off the odd timing.
The next night after work I decided to try and cram a bit more into my game agenda for the night to make up for lost time the night before. I was going to attempt to get the platinum trophy in InFamous on PS3. I already had most of the trophies and just needed three more to finish it. The first I attempted that night was not hard, just a bit tedious. Ride on a train and shoot people till the trophy came up, it took about twenty minutes because I had waited to post-game to do these trophies. I muttered to myself that it wasn't that bad that it took so long, I could still get all the trophies I wanted for the night, it would just be tight.
Well the next was getting the last remaining stunts, particularly the one that requires you to head-shot in mid-air. Looking back at it now, it seems both sad and a bit crazy that I was actually swearing out loud at a game, but at the time it seemed like the thing to do. It was that or follow my initial impulse to throw the controller through my television screen and push it out the window. Finally after I don't even remember how many attempts- too many- I finally pulled it off. My controller actually made audible creaking sounds as I attempted to twist it in half when I received nothing. I pulled the stunt off, it even said I did it, and the trophy didn't come up. And now, since the game said I did them all already, I was basically locked out of ever getting that trophy, I was completely screwed over. Maybe I was seeing things, but I even seen the main characters girlfriend briefly among the citizens on the street as I was playing. If I had indeed seen that, it would be a clear indication the game was glitching up. Anyone who has already played through the game will know why that could only have been a glitch. Now that I look back on it, there is an eerie connection to my own situation in that as well.
I had no choice but to move on to another game, this time the Final Fantasy X HD remake. I had ultimate weapons to collect for trophies, and InFamous trophies were now impossible, so why not. I think if I were an older man I would have probably had a brain aneurysm. Jumping lightning bolts an insane number of times to get a weapon in the game, and I swear my controller was ignoring my button presses. Not frequently, but enough to completely screw up my chain of jumps causing me to fail to get the weapon. I press the button and the game just ignores it every now and then. I tried plugging my controller in directly but that did not seem to help.
Unbelievable, two nights in a row completely wasted. Or was it? I remember Ana doing that in her save and bragging about how it wasn't that hard. She had the ultimate weapon! We share the same profile so if I just use her save to collect the easier ones, I still get the trophy. When I checked her save file though, it was not there. I seen her doing it though, I was certain she did get it. I checked several other things though, and a lot of things did not match up. I was going for all trophies so my actual game progress was behind hers still. There was trophies missing from things that were impossible for her to have not done already. I figured it was even more bloody glitches, till the game exited itself while I was comparing the progress to the trophies.
If it had froze and I had to turn the system off, or even if the system had just shut itself off I would have been less disturbed. How in the world does the game just shut itself off. I had just about enough of that weirdness and shut off the system myself for the night, I had already wasted too much time on it anyway.
It was only there for a split second, but since my eyes had been fixed on the screen the moment it happened it was impossible for me to not see the face. A face twisted in malice glaring at me hatefully from the screen in a flash the second I turned the system off, and then it was gone. My chest tightened and I just froze there for several seconds, trying to rationalize it in my mind. All of these weird occurrences and now a face? I was tempted to turn it back on and see if the face was there waiting for me but decided against it.
That's when I realized the extent of what was wrong. It was dead silent. No night birds, no crickets, no cars outside- nothing, no sound. The entire world just went dead. The most frightening of all; the every-present electrical hum was absent. I looked around my room and glanced outside. My clocks were all blank, my light switch did not work, and the lone nearby streetlight was dark. All of the power went dead somehow at the exact moment I turned off my PS3, or immediately after. I had no choice but to curl into bed and fall into an uneasy sleep.
When I woke up the next day, it finally clicked in my head that I had no alarm. My clock was blinking 3pm when my watch over on the table said it was 10am. I was very late for work! Momentarily forgetting the haunting events of the night before I dashed around my house in a frantic hustle to get to work. Like I said before, I was never quite the same as before Ana's accident. I don't know how I could have forgot what kind of person my boss was.
Somehow in telling him why I was late we got onto a discussion on what we thought of a movie that had recently come out and trailed off on that note. This was the first time I had been late in a year and a half, he didn't care in the slightest. He was more worried about if something had happened to me then he was about the work I wasn't doing. I forgot that he wasn't just a boss, he was a person to, and a pretty cool one at that. That got me thinking, when I returned to my desk. It sounds wimpy, but when something frightening like the events from that night happen, you want someone in your corner to back you up. My boss was no gamer, but I had other friends. I had not spoken to my friend Dan since Ana's funeral, not because we were on bad terms, I just...did not have time in my schedule for hanging out really. At least that is what I told myself. Now I needed someone, a witness to the crazy events that were happening.
I did not have his new cell number so to get ahold of him I needed to temporarily revive my old email. Due to clutter this was a recently abandoned email account, and to my confusion I had a nearly exact repeat of my Animal Crossing encounter the other night. An actual email sent by Ana was sitting in my inbox unopened. Again, its only contents was a smiley face emote, nothing else. This was confusing enough on its own, but when you couple it with the glitches and that face I seen it was just starting to get downright frightening. Was Ana somehow haunting me? That face I seen most certainly was not hers though. She was never capable of that sort of hate. Not being able to make any more sense of it then than the night before, I continued my search and contacted Dan through email. I thought it would be considerably more awkward asking him to come over after so long, but he was more than eager. I obviously did not tell him of the events the night before, just that weird glitches and things kept happening. I did not want to go into specifics because even I thought I was going a bit nuts at that point.
I will not bore you with the specifics of that evening, because nothing out of ordinary happened. No glitches, no power outages, no faces. Me and Dan had a lot of fun, which was really nice...it had been so long since I had just sat down to have fun. Thanks to the previous nights I had no set agenda because I didn't know if I could do anything. In fact, opening InFamous again while Dan was over resulted in the trophy coming up that I had missed the night before, it came up as soon as I turned the game on. I slept great that night and I figured everything had returned to normal.
Over the next few nights though, glitches started to pop up again, and just...weird shit. I think the most notable one was trying to play Pokémon Red again, to transfer up some first generation monsters. The game was already glitched up, and it took dusting it off and plugging it in again for me to remember. Ana had caught several Missing No. and 'M, both of which were glitches, but one more destructive than the other. As a result of placing them in the storage boxes the game progressively became less and less playable. HP bars that reached through one side of the screen and continued onto the other, names that were just jumbled messes of boxes and numbers. What made it so notable is that just when the game finally froze from an overdose of glitching, at the very end of the string of random characters was a colon and bracket. It looked like a smile emote.
That brings me, to tonight. The occurrences kept getting worse, and tonight they hit the same level as they had been the night before Dan came over. I did not bother to invite him over a second time with this all going on. It seemed like a cheap horror movie was playing out in real life at this point. As soon as you tell anyone about it, it stops only to resume the minute the other person turns their back, leaving you to look like a nut job. I was playing games with the lights off as if to prove I wasn't scared even though I was...maybe I am a bit of a nut job.
I have been trying desperately to work around it, and get something done! I actually have been able to, but less and less. Tonight I started with trying to get the final license level in Burnout Paradise. Poor choice of game considering all that has happened, I admit. The frame rate was choppy, that was a sign things were not going to go well right off the bat. In a game based so heavily on speed and driving skills, a few dropped frames will mess you up pretty badly. My jaw is actually still sore right now, from being clenched so tightly the entire time. It was like I knew it was going to glitch up, I knew something weird was going to try and mess me up and I wasn't just racing in the game- I was racing against these occurrences.
It could have been a complete coincidence, lots of crashes and wrecks happen in this game all the time. Heck the easiest way to win a race in this game is to wipe out all the other participants. But, just the sheer twisted irony of it was like a dagger in my soul. As I turned my car up the mountain road...another came down in the wrong lane. The vehicles collided and it was like I was getting a birds-eye view of Anastasia's end. I honestly couldn't tell you if I was crying from fear or just sadness.
It did not have to do anything else, that was it for me. That was already more than I was willing to swallow and I had gotten up to turn the system off right then and there. As soon as I got up to it, the audio cut out and I seen the screen had frozen. A chill filled my entire body, like I knew something that going to happen. It wasn't just frozen, this was a prelude to something more, but I wasn't willing to sit through it and shut the system off quickly. My heart leaped into the back of my throat a moment and I actually stumbled back onto my bed when I seen the twisted face again. Again, for only a moment.
This had gone on long enough! My fear was at its limit and was now spilling over into other emotions. Whatever was doing this stuff to me was clearly messing with me. It knew enough to dodge Dan, and has been screwing me up, it has never done anything in physical reality. Everything it has done to me, has been through some sort of electronic, gaming or otherwise. I was angry because I was tired of being messed with. I was angry because I thought I could be angry, that it could not actually hurt me due to it being confined to machines.
Assumptions. I had no idea what was actually happening to me, I could only theorize that it had some conscious 'puppeteer' behind it all. I just assumed that because it never affected physical reality, that it was unable to. I was wrong.
In a foolish act of retaliation, I jumped up and punched the wall just over the television. Some meagre act of defiance as if to intimidate whatever tortured me into leaving. I got hit, hard on the top of the head as a picture fell and I caught it just before it went too far and shattered on the floor. It is supposed to sit up above the television, farther up than my hand had hit on a shelf with our favourite games lined up on it. The picture was me and Ana, fake-fighting over a controller between us. We were trying to look aggressive but you could clearly tell we were barely stopping ourselves from laughing.
It was only a few minutes ago when I seen him. The demon with the twisted face, that has been haunting me for so long, destroying my every attempt to play games. It hindered my achievements at first, and then my ability to play at all. That caused my stress levels to skyrocket and ultimately this thing was picking my entire life apart, by crumbling part of its foundation. I seen its face twice in a flash from my television screen, but I had thought that would be as close as I would get.
No, now it was in the room with me, it was right across from me, staring at me as I froze in absolute fear. It made no sound at all, it did not move, as if it were trying to read me and wait for the perfect moment to attack. I even held my breath, as if the movement from my very breathing would trigger his attack.
When I looked down at the photo in my hand, the connection finally clicked. I watched as the demons face melted away. Finally, I reached over and clicked the lights on in my apartment, to see my face in the mirror across from me. It never happened when Dan was over, because when he was over I was having fun.
It could be a coincidence, everything I experienced could have just happened randomly and my mind just made it out to be more than it was. Maybe my grief-stricken mind just made it up that way as some weird sort of self defense. Now that I have typed this all out and review it, that could very well have been the case. But, I believe Ana was here. Checking up on me one last time. For confirmation, I am messing around on my DSlite right now and nothing unusual is happening.
Heed my words, it is a simple fact that games are created to entertain, but it is also easy to forget. Achievements don't matter, progress doesn't matter, how pretty its graphics look do not matter. Nothing about a game matters, except its ability to entertain you, and you to have fun with it.
I had someone from beyond to help me back, before I had a chance to ruin my own life. Not everyone would be so fortunate. Maybe I am crazy, or maybe I was visited by a ghost- one way or the other my message still stands. Remember what is truly important, or it may come back to haunt you.