It’s horrible in here. White, clean, luke warm. Everything is controlled, everything conditioned for us. I can’t remember how long I’ve been here, they have control of the clocks, the fog, the screens displaying the day and night cycle... themselves controlled by a meglomanic ward sister. Minutes pass like hours, nights are over before they have even begun. Once I decided not to take my pills, hiding them under the mattress, the pills help you sleep and when you sleep on those pills its unlike anything. You wake up tired. You never dream. After seeing what I saw the ward staff doing to others, I always take my pills. We are herded like cattle from group activity, to pill time, to sleep, a sleep that lasts moments... then back to lunch, breakfast. A psychotic order designed to push us to the brink... push us further into insanity... to breaking point.
Then it’s off to shock therapy for further conditioning.
Shock therapy, that takes me back. The reason why i’m here in the first place and why I will never leave. Living the rest of my life with the clinically insane.
In January of 1987 I bought myself a ZX Spectrum. A small and relatively cheap home computer which allowed for home coding and of course, gaming. I was fascinated with it, it had started an independent movement of small game design, great games like elite, chuckie egg and hover bovver to name but a few. The best part of it was that you could get hold of these games for free, or relatively nothing. The games came on audio cassette which meant that they were notoriously easy to copy, all you needed was a tape deck with that functionality and you were ready to go.
Of course with such an open environment copied games were rampant and I had many in my collection. With new titles coming out often I really wanted to try as many as I possibly could and bought a large amount of blank tapes, so I was always prepared whenever a friend of mine got hold of a new title.
One evening I was trying out a few games that a friend of mine had copied over for me, the first two worked brilliantly, Jetpac and Chuckie Egg. In fact I must have got through around 5 until I came across something strange. I had a habit of labelling every game I copied with a white sticker, writing the name neatly along the front in black permanent marker. This final tape didn’t have anything on it at all.
I decided to try it anyway, assuming that my friend must have thrown it in by mistake or that I might have simply forgotten. After two failed attempts I figured that the tape must be busted, static danced across my screen like so many angry insects and the harsh paper tearing buzz shook me. How people sleep with that in their ears, i’ll never understand. Either way I decided third times the charm and booted it up one last time. The loading screen was torturous, but it played. If you have never played a spectrum game and therefore never heard one loading I suggest looking it up on youtube. Remember dial up? It’s like that if it was spun through a vortex of ear vomit. I sat patiently as the first graphics appeared on my old CRT. Shock Therapy. That was the name of the game.
I’d never heard of it before, but there was so much homebrew floating around I wasn’t surprised. The graphics looked pretty cool. One of those bowls wish tesla coils poking out of it sat jauntily upon the S and lightning crackled across the screen. A brilliant job for a home coder.
As I was appreciating this there was a knock at my front door, it wasn’t too late, only about 8 but it was still unusual for someone to call at this hour. Especially seeing as I hadn’t made any plans with anyone. I looked through the window and saw straight away who it was. Jehovahs witness. Fuck it, I left them out there to take in the cold and headed back to my game.
As I walked through the door of my front room the loading was finally finishing, they took a long time back then. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I looked around startled... what was that? Whispering? Could have sworn I heard something. Somewhat un nerved I sat down in front of the screen. There it was again. Soft, but definitely there, under the harsh high squeals of the spectrum. A faint whisper, coming from the screen this time.
The game started up, taking my mind of it. The title screen featured the same logo as before. It looked pretty cool. Lightning in two long columns on either side and in the middle a single selection. “Are you ready for shock Therapy?”
Selecting it is one of the last things I remember clearly from that night, the rest is a macabre blur. The screen flickered, turned twisted in every possible direction pulsing red, black, pink, green, black, white, black, white, black white. Distressing sounds issued from the box with an unfathomable furiosity. I felt like my head was going to explode. Pain rushed through my brain in pulses. I grabbed hard to my armchair as I started to convulse. That’s the last thing I remember apart from the sirens. The Jehovahs witness had contacted the police claiming she had seen bizarre pulses of light and very peculiar and ridiculous loud noises coming from my house. The nurse told me they found me in my apartment still shaking, frothing at the mouth. A single message remained on the screen “therapy complete.”
My motor skills aren’t what they used to be, I can’t walk, talk coherently, or eat without assistance anymore. They say that i’m mad and I believe them... I yell, scream, thrash, spit and cause trouble all the time. It takes me a long time to get my thoughts together and it took me a long time to write this. All I know for certain is that whoever made that game knew what they were doing and now I have shock therapy to look forward to weekly. Taking away a little something that makes me, me. Until I die.