I don't even know where to begin this.
I recently finished another run-through of one of my personal favorite games: Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, and it reminded me of a rather sour part of my life from my elementary school years. Now, it isn't my all-time favorite, Kingdoms of Amalur has that privilige, but it was one thing that brought my friend, Amy, and I much closer in third grade.
One summer, Amy came over with her GameBoy Advance with Minish Cap in the slot and eager to show me. We were nine at the time, so we were absolutely giddy as we took turns playing it and reading the text boxes with ridiculous voices.
This fun escalated when I got my own copy. The next time Amy came over, I showed her my cartridge, with my grin still plastered on my face, but that smile didn't stay very long. Her face was a bit greyer than I remembered, like she rolled around in ash and tried to wipe it off. She looked completely drained of her thought-to-be perpetual good mood. I asked her about it, but she shook herself as if I caught her in a daydream.
"Sorry, " she answered, "Hey! You got the game too! How far'd you get?"
Though she had owned the game longer than I had, I beat it way before she did. I actually had to help her beat it herself. Every other time Amy came over, she looked worse, less colour, dark circles under her eyes, and I swear I could always hear her stomach rumbling loder and louder. I kept asking her what was going on, but she would always snap out of some trance and have no recollection of anything I said while she was in that state.
While very sour weather kept her from visiting again, she and I talked over the phone. Abruptly, she asked me if I had seen her copy of Minish Cap. Now, I thought she had taken it home with her, but after she dropped a DVD in my backyard during a heavy snowfall, I wasn't surprised. I told her I didn't know where it was, but I would look. Everything outside got worse and I'm pretty sure that a tree was blown down. After all the loud booming and whistling, the line dropped. Not surprising during a storm. That "tree" could have been a telephone pole or something.
That was the last time I heard from her.
I searched for her copy in my room, where we always hang out. It was on my dresser, beside my own copy. Here was the first issue: our copies were identical, same files and all. I guessed, grabbing one of them before running over to Amy's house. There was no one home but her mom, who had dark circles under her eyes as well, but not grey. She told me Amy and her dad had gone to see a movie and she would give her the game when she got back.
Without Amy, all I had to do was attempt to get 100% on the game, fuzing all the kinstones and finding all the heartpieces. I was so familiar with all the character sprites that the inclusion of a new one immediately caught my eye. A little girl with dark brown hair and green eyes standing by the well. I talked to her as soon as I saw her.
All she said was, "I think I'm lost. I don't remember this place. Oh well. I'll make the most out of it!"
I had just fuzed my last kinstone before I spoke with her, and a part of me accepted her presence as a reward for getting 100% so I ignored it. For a while, I continued playing through the end sequence. Mopping the floor with Vaati lost its lustre after around twenty rounds. I ran out of fairies in my jars and ran through Hyrule Castle Town to a fairy spring. On my way back, I noticed that the girl with the dark hair was now standing in front of the shop.
"Aww! They're out of Mysterious Shells. Now what am I going to make a necklace with?" A choice box popped up with the question of "Give the girl some Mysterious Shells?" and the options of "Yes" and "No". I had a surplus of them at the time and had no problem with giving her any. Out of "10, 50, or 100", I chose to give her a hundred shells. She jumped with joy, like Zelda does at the beginning when leading you to the Picori Festival. "Yay! Thank you so much, KATE! Now I have a souvenir!" After that, she ran off.
Okay...what just happened? I could swear that wasn't the name I used for the file. I didn't understand how games worked with their little circut boards then and I still don't now, but I lied to myself by saying that it was a save file I had made and deleted when I first got the game. It is stupid, but hey, I was nine; I still thought blue raspberries were a legit fruit. The new character saying my real name was more intriguing than creepy. I couldn't wait to see more.
This cycle went on for a while, where I would kick the final boss's purple rear end for a bit and then look for her. She would stand in front of the vendors, in the milk bar, in the library, and once in the school yard. This girl would say something different each place she went, but they grew darker.
She asked for rope from the vendors, complaining to me that they didn't have any and that she needed some for bracelets. In the milk bar, she would say that she was hungry but her mom had forbidden her from eating without her parents present. In the library, she was complaining about how cold it was and ran out yelling, "Where is everyone? I can't hear anyone! I want my mommy! Mommy! Mommy!!" The sudden change of tone in her character triggered something in the back of my mind, but when I went to the school yard, all the other children were inside saying, "She's kind of scary," "Why does she look like a statue?" and "Is she supposed to be so cold?" When I talked to her myself, in the middle of the yard, she spoke, "No one else wants to play with me. Will you?" I selected "Yes" and she jumped again, replying, "Great! Meet me at the Royal Valley so we can play Hide-and-Seek, KATE!" and she ran off.
Sure enough, she was right at the entrance of the forest maze you go through to find the graveyard. Not really a place for children to play, right?
"Awesome! Okay, now wait for me to hide in the maze. When I'm hidden, look for me. I'll run to the next place and hide there until we get to the graveyard. One...two...three!" When she left, I was getting kind of tired and I had to go to school tomorrow anyway. I saved my game, turned off my GameBoy, and cussed out my cat for jumping right on a bruise I got at recess the day before.
I didn't sleep well. Everything was cold and wet, and I could feel something crawling all over me. Somewhere in the freezing, rain-filled wind was someone else crying. "Mommy! Mommy! I want my mommy! Mommy!" I heard a loud and solid wet crunch. "Mom...my...M...mommy...y" A car sped away, leaving me with the decreasing cries of "Mommy" in the dark rain. I immediately woke up and took a shower because I felt dirty.
School was even worse. My friend was absent from school with a sore throat. I was alone at school for a week or so before my teacher walked in with a sullen face and a stack of fliers.
"Class, I'm sorry to say this, but one of our classmates, Amy Lest, has gone missing over the weekend. Please, if any of you know anything about her disappearance or where she is, please tell either a teacher, the principal, an adult, your parents, her parents or the police department. We need her safe and home as soon as possible."
I was the first to be interrogated about her disappearance. They rifled off question after question, taking a few minutes for me to calm down every now and again when I would cry. I was anxious as hell, I mean, my best friend was missing! When they heard my tale of the phone call during the storm a few weeks ago, they frowned or furrowed their eyebrows and scratched something on their clipboards. I was free to go crying home to my parents and sobbing into my bedsheets for several hours.
To get my mind off of it, I fired up Minish Cap and played hide-and-seek with the girl. Funny, why didn't I notice how much she looked like Amy before? No, I must have been seeing things because of my current emotional state. The game went as expected. I would find her and then she'd run to the next section to hide again with a happily chirped, "Great, KATE! Find me again, and don't be late!" Then, before the entrance to the graveyard, she jumped again an cheered, "Okay! One more round! I'm kinda tired and I want to sleep soon."
Upon entering the graveyard, a text message appeared simply stating: "Find me."
Whistling like what I heard in my dream replaced the usual creepy music of the graveyard as I searched for the girl. I swear I looked everywhere! I even tried using the Mole Mitts on the graves! But, I hadn't checked the tombstones yet. I wish I hadn't. As soon as I pressed the 'A' button on the tombstone, the whistling was accompanied by all the other noises I heard in that dream. The little girl screaming, the rain, thunder, wind, the cries of "Mommy", all of it in a chaotic choir as if someone was playing the sounds on different YouTube windows.
The tombstone read, "Here lies Amy Lest, a dear friend who will be sorely missed. 1997-2006." I felt my heartbeat skip. I checked the tombstone again. It still said the same thing! All of them did! My GameBoy struggled to produce the noises with its speakers and what they were capable of doing. It got louder, clearer. I ran to Dampe's house and talked to him. All I got was (He doesn't seem to notice you. He cries into his hands.) I tried running back into the forest maze to see if the game would reset.
In the middle of the room was the sprite of the girl lying in the dead grass. She was as grey as the stones and when I checked her, I got another message that read, "Amy isn't moving and she's terribly cold. Would you like to warm her up by making a fire?" Without thinking, I selected yes again. The screen cut to black and revealed a small campfire in front of the body. "Now she is smiling again," it told me. I stared at the screen for a really long time, long enough for it to run out of power around midnight. I have no idea when I finally got to sleep, but I got the worst "Good Morning".
School had been called off for the week. The first red flag. My mom had the news on with a breaking report. A passerby going down the highway saw a small fire down the hill to the right of the bridge. When he went to check it, he found a small campfire...and the badly decayed corpse of a little girl around the age of nine. She was bound and gagged with a fine nylon rope, her skull bashed in from behind that matted her hair with old blood. She was even wearing her favorite necklace, decorated with almost a hundred little blue shells.
Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my GOD!
They had found her. We had found her. We found Amy. All we wanted was to find her, and in a sick way, our wish was granted. I guess we never specified what state we wanted to find her in.
They investigated the scene from head to toe. It turned out that her father was a very abusive man, or at least had been that way since he was laid off earlier in the year and his extramarital affair was dicovered that same day. He kept everything in that house under lock and key, even the food. Amy never said anything because she was a scared, nine-year-old girl who didn't understand why her father had flipped personalities and was afraid for her life. All the screaming and fear that went on in that house kept her up so many times that any sleep was a blessing.
But she always put on a brave face for me. She always had. Amy was the one friend I had to cling to when things looked bleak for me. Whenever I saw her, I was always greeted with a Band-aid and a smile with a gap in the middle, her brilliant green eyes standing out under a curtain of dark brown bangs. I missed everything, every sign, and I beat myself up for so long, blaming myself for how things ended up.
Her father had come home in a drunk stupor and caught her on the phone with me. Normally, he let her come over and talk to me because he knew she would never tell. He heard our conversation about helping her through the end game, but he misinterpreted the message as a cry for help from me. He had hung up the receiver and dragged her to the basement, where he beat her to death with a lamp base. After that, she was tied up and dropped over the side of the bridge during the storm. Amy's mom had circles under her eyes because of the sleepless nights she spent waiting for her husband and daughter to return.
Amy's father was later found at a motel in the next town over, his head blown clean off by a pistol he often carried with him. They thought he must have sobered up after the incident and, in a moment of turbulent clarity, offed himself.
Her mother moved in with relatives, later dying of a broken heart. The actual cause of her death was an overdose of anti-psychotics she was perscribed after the discovery.
Amy was cremated a week after she was found. I, and my entire third grade class attended the service. She was wearing her necklace of blue shells when she went into the furnace. Her GameBoy was cremated along with her, minus the battery of course, because it was her most cherished item.
Later on, the man who found her was asked about how he found her. They didn't believe him about the campfire at first because it was raining quite heavily that day. The campfire was proof of the man's story. It had been lit recently, but the wood was of an unknown species of tree, the fire itself set up too neatly, and no one knew who lit it or how it stayed lit in the rain. Without it, it was unanimously agreed that no one would have seen it before a flash flood swept away the scene, and along with it, all the evidence. The crime scene stayed in my head, especially when I saw the burned out campfire.
I recognized the logs, the setup, and the scene. It was just like the last part of the game of hide-and-seek I played with the girl-no, Amy,- in my game. I had set the campfire that led the man to her corpse. She had the GameBoy in her pocket when she died. Maybe her spirit communicated with me through my game because our cartridges were pretty much the same? Or because it was the one thing we always understood each other with? I don't know.
Halfway through my fifth grade year, I found my GameBoy collecting dust under my bed while I was cleaning my room. The whole incident came back to me bit by bit like snow falling from the sky as the heroic music of the title screen blared through the speaker. A star marked my one remaining file, renamed KATE. I played it. Hyrule Castle Town was alive with a more energetic and grand version of the Picori festival. Princess Zelda and King Daltus stood before the vendors. Amy stood between them. Zelda gave me a yellow outfit, kind of like when you use the charms from Din, Farore and Nayru, but as a total replacement of the normal green. King Daltus gave me a hero's medal that actually showed up on Link's sprite. Both of them extended gracious praise and blessings for helping this girl.
Amy herself began jumping again. This time, she told me, "Thanks for finding me, KATE! I knew you are a good friend! Thank you!" She stopped jumping. A bubble sowed up, showing she wanted to fuze kinstones. In my inventory was a yellow kinstone piece that fit perfectly with her own. There was no scene showing me what happened. Instead, Amy actually spoke to me through the game to tell me, "I'll always be there for you, Kate. You won't be so sad when I'm with you all the time~"
Now, on that file, I can play whatever part of the game that I want to. The yellow clothes don't really do anything, but Link looks like a little candle fire running along the map. Amy has a new sentence for me every day to cheer me up. Sometimes it's like a really slow Skype chat.
I miss her every day. I haven't made any new friends yet (it's kind of hard to do when you're with the same people for several years), but I can always feel someone with me, and hear them laugh at my jokes in my head.
Rest in peace, Amy.