Well, that's it, then. I'm finally eighteen years old. Finally an adult, in the eyes of the law. Finally heading off to university, leaving the country, forging my own life. I can leave my childhood, my school, my parents, all of it behind. It's about damn time, too. Not that I have anything against my family, or the people whom I call friends. That being said, hopefully, you'll understand when I say that I am bloody sick and tired of seeing the exact same things in the exact same city with the exact same people for 17 years, without a single break. Now, I take what I've learned, and leave the rest behind me. A clean slate.
Unfortunately, it also means that I'd be leaving the gang behind, which I'll admit, is a real tough pill to swallow. There were 8 of us, and we'd been friends since... well, since the beginning of school. We all stuck together, out of fear of isolation at first, I suppose. Every group project, we would be together. Every sports team, we were together. After a while, you spend so much time with the same people, you start to bond with them. We are always there for one-another, and whenever one of us has a problem, there are 7 others right there to give advice. Most of them protested my departure at first, which is understandable. I just told them that if I wanted any chance of being an aquatics engineer and living my childhood dream, I'd have to go.
They threw me a going-away party, and it was just like old times. All eight of us together in Cameron's basement, playing whatever games we wanted and eating/drinking whatever we felt like. It was awesome. We just did whatever the hell we wanted, which, on good nights, ended up turning into illegal/disgusting shit. Like that one time Carley and Kevin got drunk and decided to "sneak away" from the rest of us. But don't worry, that didn't go unpunished. I won't go into details, but let's just say it involved the mental scarring of both Carley and Cameron's pet snake.
They even decided to get me some gifts, which was nice. Most of it was money. I got an atlas from Kevin, which I was very thankful for. The strangest gift, though, was from Cameron. He handed me this sketchy-ass blank DVD case and a sealed folded piece of paper. It had the instructions written on it "Only open when you reach your new life." Inside the DVD case was a completely blank disc. The distinctive smaller size told me it was a Gamecube game of some sort. I frowned and looked up at him. He was grinning ear to ear.
"It's Paper Mario," he said cheerfully. "The second one, remember? The one you forced us all to play?"
I gave him a look. "You sure? This disc looks like it once had 'StabbyMcFuckFace.exe' on it, to me."
He laughed. "Yeah, sorry about that. The guy at GameStop said this was the only copy they had. It's used, but it should work perfectly fine."
I looked at him like he was insane. "Holy shit, a used game on a completely blank disc? Yeah, no, whatever gory screamer crap you put on here, I ain't playing it. I'd prefer not to be forcefully sucked into my computer screen."
It was his turn to look at me like I was insane. "Whatever, dude. Tell me when you decide to stop being crazy."
He walked back downstairs, and I just stared at the game for what was probably 10 minutes. It didn't look like it, but the most epic of battles was taking place in my mind. Curiosity vs. common sense. Every scrap of my common sense told me that whatever was on this disc, it was not something I'd want to experience. On the other hand, curiosity was pushing me to play it. What if it really was Paper Mario? He's right, I do love the game. Plus, it would be a great way to kill time on the plane ride over. Oh, what am I saying, the Gamecube discs don't work on my laptop anyways. Whatever this is, it's practically worthless to me.
I decided to deal with it later, and to just spend the night having a little fun. After all, this was going to be one of the last times I'll ever see my friends again, might as well make the most of it. I smiled, went back downstairs, and the rest of the night was spent partaking in eating, playing, alcohol, and scaring the shit out of Carley by putting a rubber snake down her shirt. Not the real snake. That snake had suffered enough thanks to her.
Fast forward two days later. I had just gotten on the plane, waiting for it to take off. I had my laptop on my lap, my headphones on, my assortment of games stashed away above me, and some annoying asshole beside me who looked like he was trying not to throw up his own stomach. Not exactly the best start to the new chapter of my life. Thankfully, I was on the aisle seat, so I could reach up at any point and grab my bag, without having to get up. I brought it down and fished through, seeing if there was anything loud enough to drown out this guy's moaning.
"Let's see here..." I muttered to myself. "Steel Diver, no... Amnesia, not in the mood... where's Sim City?" That's when I recognized the creepy, blank case again, that should have contained what I considered to be my favourite game of all time. And just like that, curiousity and common sense were at it again. I could almost hear the voices in my head.
"The game won't work, remember? And even if it does, it's not worth it. Do you really want to piss your pants in a plane full of people, 1200m straight up?" "Then again, if something weird DOES happen, at least you have a bunch of witnesses right here. Nobody can think you're crazy. Not to mention, if it IS Paper Mario, you have something fun to do for the next 15 hours."
Curiosity won that fight. Against every fibre of my being, I put the disc in my laptop drive, and closed it. I was fully expecting it not to work. After all, how could it have worked, when it's half the size of the slot I put it in?
Guess what? It worked.
Holy shit, it actually worked. I don't know how, but it really was the game that had claimed my childhood. My brain was screaming at me to stop, that it defies all logic, but I didn't really care at this point. I was staring the at the classic title screen and listening to the bright, cheery music. I couldn't help but smile; that's just the effect it has on me, the unwavering nostalgia. There was one difference, however, on the main screen. I didn't even notice it at first, as it wasn't exactly consipicous. But in the top right corner, I could make out a phrase in the classic font, something that wasn't there before.
"Good luck. Cameron"
"Cameron, you clever bastard." I said to myself. I couldn't help myself from grinning. He had actually taken the time to personalize the title screen, just for me. What an awesome guy.
I hit enter to start the game, and leaned back in my seat. We were just taking off from the airport, the flight attendents were offering complimentary root beer, and I was 15 hours away from the rest of my life. This was going to be good.
I spent a long time playing that game. Almost the whole trip, in fact, and gameplay-wise, it was pretty much the same game I knew and loved. Cameron had made a couple of minor edits along the way, nothing amazing, just little touches to serve as a memoir, I guess. There were two major changes; one, none of the characters in the game referred to the protagonist as "Mario", but rather, by my real name, which I thought was pretty cool, albeit confusing. He had to have gone through every single text sequence and replace Mario's name, which seemed WAY too tedious for a guy like him. Guess he was really keen to make sure I didn't forget him.
The second change was that all of the partner's names were also replaced by the names of my friends. Cameron had made himself Koops, Carley was Flurrie (can't imagine why), and Kevin was Admiral Bobbery, just to name a few. It was an awesome edit; I felt like I was really playing with my friends. Although, it still made no sense. He went through every single text file and edited all of them? How long was he doing this? I had only told my friends I was leaving about 3 weeks ago, and Cameron never puts 3 weeks worth of effort in, well, anything. Not even his relationships.
I shrugged it off. Paranoia wouldn't do anything for me. Besides, for a little while, the gameplay was completely unchanged.
Though, after a while things started getting... weird. Like, unsettlingly, personally, weird.
It was near the end of Chapter One, in Hooktail's castle. And what I saw seemed so inconsequential... yet so out of place. One of the rooms had a dull bones that was completely frozen. Like, stuck in a giant block of ice, frozen in the 'taking damage' animation. It caught me off guard. I would have taken a screenshot and shared it here, but an airplane isn't exactly the friendliest of wi-fi environments. Mario walked over to investigate it, and this is what it said:
"When winter came, while he would grieve, you prayed to which you do not believe."
What. The. Fuck.
The really weird thing is, I sort of understood what it was talking about. Our town got hit by a massive ice storm last year, and we went 6 days without power, right through Christmas. And, in a move that can only be described as pathetic desperation, I prayed to just about every deity I could think of, just so the power could kick back on and I could stop freezing to death. Although I have no fucking clue how Cameron knew that! I was in my own house, lying in my own bed, and the thought of Cameron sneaking around and listening to me in the dead of night is really fucking worrying! And "while he would grieve"? Who was grieving? None of my friends seemed traumatized by the event, and Cameron didn't say anything at the time, so what was he trying to say here?
I soon got my answer (sort of) in the form of Koops. He just walked over to the chunk of ice, turned to me, and said "Do you remember yet? Hopefully, you will."
The fuck? No, I don't remember. I was legitimately creeped out at this point. I got control back of Mario, and the rest of the chapter played out like normal. Only... Koops was different. He lagged behind Mario a bit, and he had this permanent face of anger.
Cameron, you crazy shit, what are you getting at with all this?
This wasn't the only event, either. The story progressed as usual, but every single chapter in the game had an event like this.
Chapter 2: It was during the timed escape sequence. A short cutscene played right after the bomb was armed and the timer started, one that isn't there normally. Two of the punies were standing in the middle of a big empty room with the bomb.
"What are you doing? We have to go!"
"No, I can do this! I can disarm it, just give me a minute!"
"We don't have a minute! If you don't want to come, I'm leaving you here!"
"No! Just, please, come help me! I can save the tree!"
The screen cut to black, and I got control of Mario again. I got back to the start of the level, when the timer is supposed to stop. And it did. Only I could hear a very faint noise... holy shit. That was an explosion. The bomb had gone off under the tree. And yet... nothing had changed. I still fought the boss, beat him, and got the Crystal Star. The puny with the bomb was never addressed again. After that, Goombella had the same permanent look of anger and slow demeanor of Koops.
Chapter 3: In the storage room. I had just discovered the bodies of the three fighters completely drained of their energy. Nothing out of the ordinary... wait, three fighters? There's only supposed to be two! Who was the third one? I think it was one of the bob-ombs that you fight against. I walked up and spoke to him:
"My tooth... Where's my tooth? What...ack... happened to it?"
That's all he said. I couldn't speak to him again. Now it was the baby Yoshi's turn for the angry look and slow speed.
Chapter 4: I was in Doopliss' castle for the umpteenth time in the chapter, this time with Vivian, to eavesdrop on the parrot to get Doopliss' name. He said what he was supposed to... then something new.
"Elizabeth, why? Why did you torture her?"
"She did nothing to you..."
That name sounds familiar... wait a second, Ella? Cameron's pet snake? I assumed he was referring to the Carley incident, but why the hell was he blaming me? It was HIS idea! Or, was it Kevin's... Frankie's? Fuck... why can't I remember? It was one of the funniest moments with those guys, and it just seems hazy, distant, like it was all a dream. Of course, that can't be right, if it was a dream, Cameron couldn't have possibly known about it and put it in the game. Then again, since he's apparently watching me through my goddamn window while I sleep, maybe he DID hear me mention it in my sleep. Oh, that creepy fucker is so dead.
I couldn't talk to the parrot again. Flurrie had now slowed down, but her face wasn't really anger. It was more vicious, homicidal rage. It took me by surprise. Then again, she might have just been upset that I never actually used her in battle, as she's pretty useless outside of Chapter 2.
Chapter 5: In Cortez's cave, he was moaning and taunting me again. And, like the other encounters so far, he said something he wasn't supposed to.
"You can't fight it."
"There would be no hope for you."
"Accept your fate."
Admiral Bobbery had now been granted the sluggishness and anger that most of my party had now. I couldn't help but feel that it was somehow directed at me. I still didn't understand why, though.
It's worth pointing out that I had been playing the game for hours at this point. It was late in the afternoon, and I was starting to get a headache from staring at my screen for too long. It didn't faze me much, though; I had to figure out why Cameron had put this in, what he was trying to tell me.
Chapter 6: In the deserted train station, there was a poster on the wall. It caught my eye because it was solid purple, completely out of place. I walked up to it, and I got another creepy message for my troubles.
"Where do your memories lie?"
"Why do your memories lie?"
My memories are lying? What the literal flying fuck is going on in this kid's head? My memories are all I have of my friends right now. Is he implying that they were lying to me this whole time? It would explain why they were all angry with me. What if he's right, what if my memories ARE lying to me? Or, maybe he's just being a massive fucking troll and playing me for a moron. I swear to god, when we land, he is going to get such an earful...
Now Vivian had the look of anger. Why were my friends so upset with me?
Chapter 7: I had gotten all of the Crystal Stars. The base on the moon had blown up. The screen cut to black, and I got one final message.
"You still don't get it, do you? Don't worry, you will. Just do me a favour. Kindly wait for me when you land. Your friend, Cameron."
I shut off my laptop and let out a long string of breath. Dammit Cameron, what the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you doing this to me?
It was late. We'd be landing in a couple of hours, and I really did not want to play the final chapter, for hopefully obvious reasons. I closed my eyes as the turbulence of the plane helped me drift off to sleep. The messages kept ringing in my head over and over again. I tried to make sense of them as I lay there, like some obscure puzzle. I was drifting in and out of consciousness. They have to make sense somehow...
While he would grieve... Come back... My tooth... Ella, why?
"Ladies and gentlemen, we appear to be under some turbulence. Please buckle your seatbelts."
There would be no hope... Why do your memories lie?... Kindly wait for me...
"Please, remain in your seats!"
While... Come... tooth... Ella...
Wel... come... to... hell...
Something was going on. People were screaming, or crying. Everything around me was a blur, a misshapen smudge of grey and blue, with orange highlights, brilliant orbs flashing in and out. I just sat there, numb. Not even sure whether my eyes were open or shut. My brain screaming at me to move. So tired...
"Mayday, mayday, we are going down! Does anyone copy?"
There would be... your memories... kindly wait...
It all made sense. I can't believe I didn't see it before. My friends, my life, everything... all of it was a lie. that's why they were upset. They wanted me to see the truth. Who Cameron really was. Heh. The smudges seemed to manifest into his face. He stared at me with this half-smile, the kind he only gives when he has outsmarted someone. I could almost hear him whispering.
"DOES ANYONE COPY?! REP-"
"Would... you... kindly..."
Written by User:I_r_Cabose