For some people a good video game can be used as a form of escape from the troubles of the world. When you sit down and let yourself fall into that world of interactive fiction the pains of life may not disappear, but at least they can be numbed for a while.
I myself had never thought of video games in this way before I bought Pokémon Black Version. I enjoyed the Pokémon series while you could say I was just a bit behind in buying the new generation, but I could’ve cared less. It was just a small pass time of mine that I’d never really taken too seriously.
The local games store was around ten years old. Despite its relatively young age, the place had the air of an ancient building which had stood to watch the world grow and change around it. I, personally, had never liked to go into the back corner where the Nintendo handheld console games were kept. My friends agreed that area of the store had an ominous feel about it, but it was probably simply because how dark it was. A person had to rely solely on the single flickering light bulb which hung haphazardly from the ceiling by a wire to pick out his or her game.
That day when I went back there I couldn’t help but notice an odd stench. Wanting to get out of the store as quickly as possible I grabbed the first Pokémon Black I saw on the shelf, paid, and headed out.
I didn’t really look at the game’s case until I got home. Nothing out of the ordinary, just the cover art I’d seen in pictures online. However, I did notice that only the bottom right corner of the cover there was a smudged red mark. I shrugged and opened the case tossing it onto the couch as I retrieved my game. Who cared about a little dirt on the box?
The game started with cheerful Professor Juniper telling me everything I already knew about the world of Pokémon. Like most people I just sort of idly pressed the A button waiting for the woman to ask my gender, but oddly enough the woman didn’t ask for my name or gender before just tossing me into the first scene of the game.
My character was female and her two friends seemed to call her Janette. Cherin and Bianca said things that I was certain would never be scripted in a Nintendo game like, “Does it hurt Janette?” or “Stop screaming, no one can hear you!”
The cheerful music started to skip and be drowned out by a loud static until I could hear nothing else. I quickly flipped the off-switch and took a minute to shake off that unsettling feeling in my gut. I didn’t want to take the game back to the store just yet being the lazy, all American teen I was, but I did at least have the sense to start another game save.
I was able to enter my name, John, and my gender this time. The game ran normally; no more threatening messages from Cherin or Bianca and no more static. I took my Snivy and my Pokedex before finally heading out on my Pokémon adventure.
It was raining on Route 1 when I first discovered it. My character moved sluggishly and some of Cherin and Bianca’s text boxes seemed to be missing all together making it hard to follow what it was they were saying. I was able to gather that I was in a competition with them to see who could gather the most Pokémon. I grabbed a Lillipup and a Patrat and slowly made my way to the end of the path where Cherin and Bianca stood. The two of them stood side by side about a space apart from each other staring at my character. Neither of them seemed to notice the pitch black silhouette of what I knew was the female character from the opening.
As I got closer to the group the rain started to pelt down harder and the static returned becoming louder with each step. Beneath the static I swore I could hear something else, like a soft whimpering. When I reached the three of them that whimpering sudden roared out into panicked shrieks that I was certain would blow out the speakers of my console. Between the screams a woman cried, “Please, stop! It hurts! Stop!”
When I entered the dialog with Bianca, all of the sounds stopped and the black figure disappeared without a trace. I immediately flipped the off switch again, but a message appeared saying,
“Don’t go away. Please listen. Please find me.”
I tried to turn the game off several times, but always the message would appear. I had to hear whatever it was that this thing was trying to say if I wanted it to end.
The game once again was running as it should for the most part, but it never did stop raining. After I beat the first gym leader and was able to use the move cut I went to the Dream Garden to the East of the town. Bianca met and accompanied me into the dream garden where usually an encounter with Team Plasma takes place. Instead the black figure from before was shown kneeling in front of a Munna in the center of the garden.
Bianca said with what I assumed was annoyance, “Stupid slut, always coming in here but never saying what I know you want.”
I was actually able to approach the figure without the game going static and her disappearing again. Her chat box simply read “…” the first five or six times I tried to talk to her, but eventually I got the message,
“Don’t you sometimes wish you could dream forever?”
The figure vanished again leaving a container behind. Inside of it was the Dream Mist I was supposed to have obtained by completing the event with Team Plasma. Dr. Fennel came on screen and told me to meet her in the top floor of her house to test a new invention of hers. Before she left she turned to the spot where the black figure had been and said, “Dirty whore! Dirty whore! Dirty whore!”
I went back to Fennel’s house and got the C-Gear from the scientist. I couldn’t help but feel a little disgust at the woman, after all her words had been kind of cruel considering the fact that the figure really hadn’t done anything particularly terrible as far as I could see. Yeah, she’d freaked me out and couple of times, but she hadn’t earned the harsh responses all of the NPC’s seemed to be dealing her. Then again, I’d only just started. Who knew what this thing in my game could’ve done?
I tried to leave the town and saw the figure again, this time blocking my exit. I talked to her and she asked, “Will you walk with me for a while? Yes, No.”
I selected ‘Yes’. Considering the rough treatment all of the other characters were giving her, I figured this nameless girl needed a friend or two.
The girl followed behind me without causing any real disturbances as I went on my merry way past the Day Care heading for Nuvema Town. Every now and then she’d make a light comment such as, “Don’t the little children on the playground look like they’re having fun?”
When I reached the waiting Cherin who no doubt wanted to test his strength against me, the girl said, “What did I do? Why do you hate me? What did I do? What did I do? What did I do?” The text box continued to say this until the words began to jumble up into gibberish. The rain started to pelt down harder and the static returned.
I could hear the woman screaming again, “Why are you doing this? Please, stop! It hurts!”
I talked to Cherin to try to make the screaming stop as it had before, but he wouldn’t say anything to me and the shrieks just got louder. Beneath the cries I could hear a dull slapping sound, like someone was beating on flesh with an unsharpened object.
Despite what had happened before I started mashing the off switch in a panic as beating grew louder and harsher. I could hear bones snapping as the woman’s pleas started to grow weak. I just wanted it to stop, I wanted to do anything to make the girl’s pain end or too at least be able to forget about it. As my terror began to increase I swore I could hear a man’s voice now. The son of a bitch was laughing.
That was when I snapped. Expensive device be damned, I threw my DS at the wall and finally the screen went dark and the sounds stopped. My living room was unnaturally silent after that. It almost felt as if the world was having a moment of silence for whoever had been the victim of the attack I’d heard. I fell forward with my head in my hands unable to stop shaking as the adrenaline rush passed.
After a while, I was able to bring myself to make sure I hadn’t broken my console. Both screens were intact and the game started up just fine. There was a new save file over my old one called, “Find Me.”
When I booted up the save file I found myself in what appeared to be a completely different game. It looked like something you would find on the Gameboy Color and none of the cities or landmarks from Pokémon Black could be found.
My character started out from his house which seemed to be on a street in a regular neighborhood. I started to get a sense that I knew this place, that I recognized the placement of the mailbox and the three windows on the bottom floor of the house. I knew the houses beside my character’s and the little mom and pop bookstore at the end of the road.
My home town had been recreated in the game perfectly. Everything was there right down to the trees and garbage cans at the ends of the driveways. Not really sure what to do, I looked inside of my virtual mailbox. I got a message reading,
“Find Me. 2780 Fern Rd.” I knew the address pretty well, I’d seen it countless times on my way to buy video games in the past. Whatever this thing was, it wanted me to go back to the store where I’d bought the game.
I walked my character to the store. The place was, of course, an exact replica. I saw that this version of it also had the door that lead to the stock room in the back and wondered if it was locked as it had always been in real life. Miraculously enough, the door opened.
There was nothing back there but shelves full of what I assumed were games. The lights seemed to flicker randomly leaving my screen dark. Just as I was about to leave the lights went out again, and in the corner I saw a mangled body with its arms and legs twisted at odd angles. It was lying in a pool of bright red, poorly animated blood.
The static returned, growing louder than it ever had before. The once screaming woman commanded with a surprisingly firm and steady tone, “You know where I am. Find me!”
I called the police and gave them an anonymous tip to search the back room of the store. Sure enough, they found the body of a thirteen-year-old girl named Janette Williamson. Evidence suggested that she’d been brutally beaten to death by one of the staff workers with a baseball bat two weeks ago.
The staff worker confessed to the crime, but stood firmly by the belief that the girl had earned her fate. He apparently had grown a sexual attraction for the adolescent after having seen her enter the store to buy new games multiple times and had after a while begun to stalk her. Janette had started to fear for her life when she discovered this and had told her parents. The parents had sent Janette away to live with her aunt and uncle, but what they didn’t know was that the staff worker had abducted the girl while she waited at the bus stop.
The worker had taken the girl back to the store and had cornered her in the back by the handheld console games. Janette denied his advances and eventually had angered the man enough for him to hit her with the bat. The man reported that seeing her in pain excited him, so he continued to pummel her despite her cries for help. He said that he’d started to laugh when she reached out to grasp for the shelves holding the games to try to stand.
I looked back at the red smear on the cover of my game’s case and realized that it was actually a bloodied fingerprint. Hearing the details of the death and reading them online had affected me, but it wasn’t until I saw this that I actually began to cry.
That girl had only been a couple years younger than me. I hadn’t known her, but I’d seen her in the store before and at school. She’d just been a normal, happy kid who liked to play video games. No one had known what kind of fear and pain she’d really been feeling, and perhaps, in the end, she’d reached out for that game case to try to forget the problems of the world one last time. Or at least, numb the agony for a while…