In the winter of one year, I was unemployed and needed a way to kill time. My sleep schedule was on a graveyard routine so sleeping at night was nearly impossible while I searched for jobs. I had a Playstation2 that, unfortunately, was no longer working. I had sold all my games but no one would buy the broken console. It sat collecting dust in my tiny studio apartment. I knew I should throw it away but sentimentality kept me from disposing of the system which brought me so much joy.
Looking at it, I remember playing many games I loved on it, but one game was above all others. Final Fantasy X was probably the most nostalgic game of all the games I had at that time. I had no money and a broken console but I really wanted to play it again, if nothing, for the story.
I knew about emulation on computers and decided it was my best bet if I wanted to play the game again. After some searching I found a working emulator. Now, I just needed to find the game online and I would be well on my way through Spira. Hours passed with nothing to show but hair-pulling frustration. I tried dozens of sites searching for the game. The few times I found it for download it was either a foreign version or the download speed was so slow the estimated time of arrival was weeks later. When I was just about to give up searching and perhaps find a different game to play; a pop-up ad, which somehow got through the several ad blockers I had, flashed on my screen.
I was about to close the ad and complain to myself that my ad blocker was failing me, when I noticed it had only one line of text that read, “Final Fantasy X – Download,” I thought for sure that it would just link me to a site that probably had nothing to do with the game but because of all the frustration I decided to click it anyway. If it did just redirect me, I’d close it and think nothing of it.
Instead of redirecting me, however, it brought up the familiar ‘Save-As’ window. The name in the title box was “FFX.iso”. I was skeptical, yet hopeful. I saved it to the directory where I was keeping the emulator for easy finding and a progress bar for the download came on-screen. The ISO file for Final Fantasy X is around 4.5gb, normally. My connection, at best, was able to download around 1mb per second. At the very least, I should have downloaded the file in an hour and 15 minutes. Instead, It downloaded in about three seconds.
I thought that either the file must be corrupt, it was a virus labeled as something else, or any other myriad of possibilities other than the fact that I had just downloaded 4.5gb in 3 seconds. My virus scanners didn’t go off so I went to the directory to find the file and to my surprise, it displayed it being 4.5gb in size. I right clicked on the file and had my virus scanners thoroughly scan the file and all of them came back saying that it was clean. I got extremely curious wanting to see if it was the real deal and my connection speed was some kind of weird, one-time fluke. I set a system restore point and after I was satisfied I could revert any potential damage this file may cause, I booted up the emulator and ran the game.
However, all I saw for about 30 seconds was a blank screen. At this point, I assumed the file was corrupted, and was about to exit, when the Playstation2 logo appeared. I sat, waiting as it started normally from there. Then, I heard the familiar song just before the title screen. I joyously shouted, “Yes!” All those hours of searching had finally paid off and my hatred of pop-up ads may have been swayed a bit. I still didn’t know how I had managed to download the game so fast but I was so excited to play that I didn’t really care.
The game ran everything correctly, for the most part. The game seemed just slightly slower than normal and the screen had the tiniest hint of a yellow tinge. I attributed these issues to the fact that I was playing on an emulator rather than an actual console. Cinematics played perfectly and the fights were just as I remembered them. Everything was great until I got to the part where you go to the Farplane and speak to the memories of the dead.
In Final Fantasy X, you control a group of seven characters. While not in battle, you primarily control the main character, Titus. While in battle and during story progressive moments the entire group is present, otherwise you mainly just control Titus.
As I stepped through the portal, the normal cinematic that plays at this point, didn’t. All sound seemed to have been muted. Instead, the group went up the stairs and, without a word, walked to the edges of the platform, facing outwards. I remember most of the game and I didn’t remember things happening like this. As it had been a few years since I played I figured my memory had just failed me, even still, this was a bit weird. The camera stayed in it’s original fixed position behind everyone. I had no control over Titus either as he stood staring out into the fog beyond the edge.
They all stood there, unmoving for several minutes. I figured the game was bugged. I half expected something to go wrong with the strange way I had obtained the game anyway. I decided to see if I could get the game passed that point by resetting. I reached over my keyboard to hit the “Esc” key and just before the games window closed all of the characters immediately spun around to face the camera. I only saw them for a split second but despite this I still jumped.
I thought it was just my imagination as it happened so fast. I shut down the emulator and by this point the sun was coming up. I called a few potential employers and after that I went to bed.
We have many different dreams per night. Most of them we don’t remember. One dream however I did remember. I didn’t remember with the cliché of extreme vividness but like most dreams, I remembered it in fragments with the main subject of the dream intact. I was playing the game, but instead of sitting in my chair playing on the controller, I was actually in the game. Furthermore, I remember being in the Bikanel desert running forward in almost slow motion. I felt very sad and alone and at the same time, like something was after me.
The feeling of dread was only intensified by how difficult it was to move forward. There were no enemies to fight and no NPCs anywhere. I just ran and ran, unable to do or find anything and every second I felt more like I was going to die.
I woke up covered in sweat. I sat up and looked out the window to find that I had slept the entire day. I looked at my phone and saw I had severed missed calls along with voicemails from a few people about a job. As it was almost midnight I decided to call them back in the morning. Wide awake with time to kill once again, I found myself at the computer, starting up the game. When I loaded my save file I was once again before the part with the Farplane. This time however, everything was slightly darker. Most dialog came through fine but every now and then, when speaking to a non important NPC they would say the strangest things. A child running in circles said, “Sand has it’s limits.” and a merchant said, “Time is dead.”
These few things were a bit strange but I figured that perhaps the version I got was modified and someone very savvy in the ways of computer networking somehow saw I was looking for the game and sent me a link to their altered version. Nonetheless, that still didn’t explain how I downloaded such a huge file in such a short period of time.
I pressed on through the game hoping that if it was altered, that the main concepts of the game would stay intact and I could still get all the enjoyment I was aiming for. The Farplane had everything correct this time, the cinematic played, and the characters all did as they were supposed to and I left without a problem. I continued on, running into more and more NPCs with strange things to say. One said, “I can’t see the dark.” and “The sun rises but never falls.” and one that really stuck with me, “The lady moves but takes no steps.”
The game went smoothly from there. The game had it’s dark tinge and slightly slow speed but all in all I was enjoying everything. When I reached Bahamut’s Fayth is when I had reason to fear the game as more than just a game. We walked into the Chamber of the Fayth and once again I had no control over the entire group and all sound stopped. Each character of my party circled around the Fayth, they faced it but with their heads bowed down, as if unwilling to look directly at it.
The Fayth centered its attention on the fixed camera. Once again nothing moved, nothing talked. I figured once more all I would need to do is restart the game and continue. It started to look as if this was someone’s attempt at making a game seem haunted. I was annoyed but determined to get through the game. I was about to hit the Esc key when the Fayth spoke. The sound that came from it had the same tone as the Fayths voice, but was just fragmented pieces of it’s usual dialog randomly mixed together.
While the voice was impossible to interpret, the subtitles were all too easy to read. Below the Fayth read: “Lost and found. Death and Life. No one wakes, no one sleeps.” I pressed the “X” button on my controller to continue the dialog. The garbled speech was there again, except it had the tone of a woman. In the subtitles it read, “It’s so cold here. I can’t find Jim. Please keep the shadows. Please die, Michael.”
It took me a second to realize what had just been said. Michael is my name and my fathers name was Jim, which while that gave me a few chills I could still explain it away if someone knew this and planned this whole thing as a prank. But the rest of the message seemed familiar too. It took me a second but I realized why it was so familiar. My mother had died from cancer a few years ago. She was delirious and feverish and on her death bed shortly before she died she told me, and only me, “It’s so good here. I can find Jim. Please keep the light. Please try, Michael.” She fell asleep after that and was pronounced dead a few hours later. My father had died in a car accident a few years before she was diagnosed.
When I was aware of the meaning behind the phrase I looked back up at the screen to see all the characters staring at the screen. Blank expressionless faces stared directly at me as instinctively I exited the program. I sat in my office chair now immobilized with fear. After a few minutes I stood up and turned on all the lights in my apartment, suddenly the darkness seemed much more frightening.
When I was somewhat satisfied with my surroundings I got back on my computer and proceeded to delete the game and the emulator. I had had enough video games for a while. If this was a prank it was turning out to be very well done. Someone had a lot of resources, skill, and time on their hands.
After sending the files to the recycle bin, I was about to delete them from there when it gave me an error saying there was nothing in the bin. I went into it and it appeared to be correct. Upon returning to the directory with the game and emulator, I found it was indeed back. I hit delete once more but all it gave me was an error saying the files cannot be deleted. I thought for sure that this was some kind of virus and now I needed to use my restore point I had set before.
I used the operating system to restore my computer to the point before I started all of this and afterwards it appeared to have worked. I went to the directory and it was gone. I sighed in relief and sat back in my chair pondering what had happened. By this time the sun was once again coming up. I called the employers who had called me the previous day and was scheduled for a few interviews later that day. I decided to get some sleep before the interviews and laid down.
I awoke to the sound of a womans wail. It lasted barely a second but woke me from what felt like a deep sleep nevertheless. I sat up and noticed my alarm buzzing. I walked over and shut it off and before I could turn around I heard a very loud banging at my door. I walked over and looked through the peep hole to see a few people who looked very angry. I opened the door and immediately a man began shouting at me, “Why did you take so long to shut off your alarm? People are trying to sleep and that buzzing has been blaring for hours!”
To which I replied as apologetically as I could, “I’m very sorry, I must have slept passed it. It wont happen again.” The people just glared at me and walked off while gossiping amongst themselves. I closed my door slowly while trying to tell every one I was sorry over and over. Once again, I had slept the entire day away as it was now close to midnight.
I walked back to my desk and checked my phone. There was 15 missed calls and a voice mail for each as well as more than 30 new messages. Several of the voicemails were from employers saying that I missed the interview and that they went with another candidate for the job. A couple of calls were from my friends wondering where I have been and the rest were from the apartment manager calling me to tell me to turn off my alarm. The messages I received reflected the voicemails.
I sat in my office chair and again made a mental note to return calls in the morning. I set my phone down and something caught the corner of my eye. It wasn’t movement but a change in my apartment. I looked over to see my old Playstation2 hooked up to my TV and and powered on. The TV was not on, only the console. When I said it was broken before, it was broken to the point where it wouldn’t even turn on, much less play anything.
My first thought was that somehow I had slept so deep that someone broke into my apartment and replaced the console and hooked it up. It’s possible I was drugged. I stared at the console in horror for a few seconds until my rationality kicked in and told me whoever this was could still be in the apartment. I spun around and turned on all the lights. I had a large closet at one end and a bathroom in the back. Luckily my bed was not lifted above the floor and there was no way anyone could hide under or around it. Weapons were not in ready supply in my home so I went to the kitchen and pulled a knife out of one of the drawers.
I slowly approached my closet, ready with the knife and with little hesitation I opened it quickly to find nothing but boxes and clothes. No one hid in there. I went to my bathroom as slowly and quietly as I could and when I was close enough I quickly turned on the light to reveal nothing but a normal bathroom. The shower curtain was drawn back and there was no where anyone could hide. After I was satisfied I was the only occupant in the apartment I quickly walked over and locked my front door and put the knife back in it’s drawer.
I checked the door for signs of a break in as well as the windows but found nothing out of place. I returned to the console and TV and after a moment of staring at it I decided to turn on the TV. I could have called the police and reported a break in, but there seemed to be no evidence of that as all I could tell them is that someone drugged me and broke into my home to repair and hook up my old Playstation2, to which they would walk away laughing and make jokes about elves or something.
I knew what to expect, that somehow, someone replaced the console while I slept and most likely had made a burned disc with their version of Final Fantasy X and wanted me to play it more. Wasn’t going to happen, but I wanted to see what the asshole who has been devoting so much time and effort to screwing with me had for me this time.
As the screen on my old standard definition TV slowly illuminated I saw that it was the game again, but this time Lady Yunalesca’s character was standing in front of the camera. She stood on a beach somewhere in the game. Everything was right for the beach but the sky was grey and everything else had a sort of grey tinge to it. Her stare didn’t seem menacing or creepy in really any way. She had a kind expression on her face. I never touched the controller but it seemed as if the game knew that I had just turned on the TV. She began speaking and once again, it was a mash up of random sound bits from her dialog.
The subtitles below her read, “I see you.” which is something my mother used to always say when I was a child. It was always comforting to hear and she always had the most beautiful smile as she said it. This, of course, is something anyone could say. I quickly dismissed it as nothing too important and continued to watch. She continued with, “Time. Difficult… Love.” Yunalesca looked down as if sad and said, “Sick. Doctor. Rot. Please.” I still had not picked up the controller.
She spoke once more, however this time, the speech was not fragmented bits of random dialog and the subtitles were now random letters and numbers. She snapped her head up to face the camera. With a pleading expression she said in my mothers voice, ”I love you.” At the sound of her voice, perfectly emulated to sound as if she was actually in front of me, my walls of skepticism broke down in tears.
I said, “Mom?” with a weak trembling voice for which I could not maintain as I cried. As I said this her expression changed back to her kind and warm smile but before more than a couple of seconds passed, the sky began to grow darker. Yunalesca’s face changed to horror as she reached out to the camera and random letters and numbers changed rapidly on on the screen. The darkness consumed the entire screen and the TV returned to its normal stand-by blue screen. I looked down to see the console had shut down. I bent down in a panic to try to turn the system back on but the power button did nothing. I cried a bit more and remembered I could still redownload the emulator and use the disc in the Playstation2. The console was a top loader without the need for power to open. I opened the tray and found that it was empty. No disc was in the console.
I thought long and hard about the events of those few days and I never got rid of my console. If it had all been a huge elaborate prank, the pranskter never claimed credit. I spoke with my friends at length about it and they swore they knew nothing. I had never really known them to play pranks anyway. Thinking back, I realized I was being rather stupid considering at any point I could have collected evidence of my experience with my phone to show others.
A few weeks after the ordeal, I landed a job, finally. One day before work I started feeling pretty sick. I was raised to be the type that works whether I’m sick or not so normally I would have just went to work and dealt with the illness. However, because the recent events were still fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help but remember the words I was told that last night, “Sick. Doctor. Rot. Please.”
My paranoia and curiosity got the better of me. For the first time in years I called in sick and went to get a check up. They told me they caught it very early and were able to operate without any expectations of problems. I had the same cancer my mom had died of, but a much earlier state.
Written by Aussj4link