I’ve never really been afraid of much. Every Halloween for the past couple of years, I’ve made the joke that I’m the scariest thing that ever came from that day. As you can probably tell, October 31st is my birthday. I think that could be why I’m afraid of so little. Every year, skeletons, zombies, ghosts, and the like would give me presents, and it’s hard to be afraid of things when they buy you a new baseball, a new hat, or even a video game that you really want. Ah yes, video games… that’s what this is really about isn’t it? I can’t be sure why I’ve taken the time to write this story down. It could be guilt, sorrow, loneliness, or even fear, which is a feeling that I’ve just recently discovered.
It all started the day after Halloween actually. My friends threw me a surprise party, well tried to. They aren’t the best at being quiet. The party was fun and everything, but turning seventeen didn’t really feel like much of a milestone to me though. I complain a lot, so I’m obviously making this out to be a terrible time, when it was really a good time. The only major letdown was that my friend Jake couldn’t have been there. Jake was my best friend since Kindergarten. He got dragged off to his cousin’s Halloween party, because his parents were still pissed at him for getting into a tiny car accident recently.
The day after the party though, I talked with him after school.
“Hey Jake, you missed a killer party last night, but I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as cool whatever you were doing.”
“Come on, Dave. You know I would have given an arm to be there. My parents forced me to that stupid party. Practically everyone there was twelve or thirteen.”
“Oh shit. Did you get some again?”
“Shut up! She was fourteen, and it didn’t mean anything at the time because I was only a year older. Are you ever going to let that go?”
“I might if you give me that awesome gift that Mike was telling me about.”
“Wow, he’s cool. He said he wouldn’t say a thing about it. It’s no wonder you found out about the party.”
Jake reached into his backpack and pulled out a Gameboy Advance, with a copy of Pokemon Fire Red in it. I should mention that everyone was super into the older Pokemon games at the time. It was some crazy nostalgic trend that took my entire school by storm. I had never played video games really. My childhood had been mostly filled with sports because my dad was convinced I was going to be a star athlete. Things never really panned out that way.
“You’ll thank me for this, but at the same time hate me when you end up not being able to stop playing it.”
“How did you even get one of these?”
“My older brother said that he didn’t really care what I did with his old games. So his Gameboy I figured would be much better off in your hands. I also migrated most of my original Pokemon to my newer games by now. The only ones I have left are on Leaf Green.”
“Well thanks man, and you know I’m just screwing around with you.”
“If we weren’t always screwing around with each other, I don’t know what other reason we’d have to be friends.”
We laughed. I gave Jake a ride home and stopped in to start the game. I watched the start-up screen. It was the first time in my life ever seeing the Nidorino vs. Gengar fight that so many others held as a sacred nostalgic memory. Jake watched me go through the beginning with Professor Oak. I made my name Dave, and my rival’s name Ass. Following that was something that I wouldn’t have even thought of as strange if it hadn’t been pointed out to me.
The text read: “What are you scared of?” and went to another naming screen. Jake looked confused.
“That’s not supposed to happen. Hold on, give it to me, I’m going to restart the game.”
“Why? This could be interesting.”
“I really don’t think it’s a good idea to keep playing a game that’s glitching out, or worse.”
“Oh no! I bet Sonic.exe hacked the game, and his doll is going to pop out and make me bleed hyper-realistic blood! Ha.”
It’s also worth mentioning that nearly everyone I knew was also intensely into nearly everything that was supposed to be horrifying. I realize I was never afraid of anything, but even I can see that things like Slenderman, the Walking Dead, and those terribly popular shitty gaming creepypastas had no horror value to anyone with common sense.
“Come on, man- Oh shit! My mom’s going to be home from work early today, and I’m not supposed to have anyone over because she’s still pissed. You gotta go.”
“Okay, okay. See ya tomorrow. Tell your mom I said she’s hot.”
I went to grab the rest of my stuff and opened the door, but before I left, Jake said one last thing to me.
“And by the way, I know you always have to act like the tough guy to be cool, but if anything ever bothers you, make sure you tell me about it okay.”
Before responding, I paused for a moment.
Jake and I both laughed as I went out the door. However, I could hear something out of the ordinary in his laugh. He was upset that I hadn’t taken him seriously and he was worried about me. What was I supposed to do though? That was such a weird thing to just say out of the blue. We were never like that with each other, and I never really thought either of us minded. I couldn’t afford to give it too much thought at the time though.
After I got home, I realized I still hadn’t answered the question yet. I put in the letters to spell “nothing”. Honesty is the best policy after all. The game didn’t really seem to register that I had put anything in though. In fact, it played as if the question had never been asked. I eagerly played through the game to see if anything else was weird, but I was disappointed.
I managed to get pretty far in the first week alone due to sheer curiosity, but after that I started playing less frequently because the game was acting like I figured it should, and it wasn’t worth letting my grades slip. After about three weeks, I challenged the elite four. I don’t mean to brag, but I thought my team was pretty solid. A Charizard, a Nidoking, a Vaporeon, a Tauros, an Onix, and a Hitmonchan. I defeated them on my first try. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to pull through it. Charizard and Nidoking were the only ones left up by the end of my fight with Ass.
The credits rolled and ultimately I was glad that I played the game. It wasn’t until the end of the credits that I remembered that my friends told me there was some sort of follow-up plot after the Elite Four. Professor Oak met me outside of my house in game, and things started to act abnormally again.
Dialogue text appeared: “Tell me the truth this time. What are you scared of?”
The same naming option appeared again. I was excited. I could only assume that this wasn’t supposed to happen either. I figured I could get something more entertaining out of the game if I made up something. I picked the first thing that came into my mind and put in the letters for “Slenderman”. Oak gave me a response of three dots and left. I wondered if I had screwed it up by not putting in something that the game could recognize. Then again, I thought, this was a gameboy game that we were talking about, even if it was hacked or something, I doubt it could really register something like that.
The next day in school I asked Jake what I was supposed to do after beating the Elite Four. He told me that the next plot point would be back at the islands where the Bill sub-plot took place, so that’s where I went. Upon returning to One Island, I saw it.
There was nothing up for debate. This strange black and white figure that stood outside of a house was not there before. I stopped playing for a moment to get a good look. It had to be Slenderman. It was the most surreal thing I had ever seen. His sprite seemed to look so normal, but just his existence was so out of place in the game. I took a step towards him, but he disappeared. I wondered if I was dreaming.
I continued with the quest to grab the Ruby and Sapphire or whatever the hell they even were. I was too distracted to pay attention to the plot, because every once in a while, after coming out of a cave or building, that damned figure would just appear in some random spot, but then be gone the second I moved.
I wasn’t scared in the slightest though. In fact, it was probably the most fun I had playing the game when I was trying to guess where he’d show up next. I have to admit that this was much creepier than the Slender game. With every appearance, this strange sprite seemed to be closer and closer to me. I knew inevitably he was going to do something, and I was dying inside to figure out what.
After completing the side quest about the gems, I went to exit the Pokemon Center. It had been a while since I had seen him, so I figured he had to appear, I held the game close to my face and tried to guess where he’d be. I thought about it for a second… I had a strange premonition about where he was going to be. As I walked out, to my surprise, my hunch was right.
The sprite stood right in front of my character, as if it were looking at me. The game paused and I heard the battle music begin, as the screen faded to black. His battle sprite didn’t look like what it did in the games. Being the freak that I am, I’m always more interested in the origin of monsters rather than any fright that they can bring to me. If you’re well versed in “Slenderman” history, then you’ll know that he is derived from an ancient piece of art that depicts a skeleton knight with sharp arms used for stabbing. The sprite version of this creature appeared in the game. The battle sprite looked pretty odd to me. I’m not sure if all sprite-hacks looked like this for Pokemon, but Slendy really didn’t look natural, as he seemed to up until then. The name was the only words found on the original art, “Der Ritter”.
During the battle, I was trembling from the sheer excitement of seeing something like this. Now I tremble for a completely different reason. I wish I could give you the full description of what he looked like, and I wish I could place you in my shoes to the point that you can imagine exactly what I saw. I wish I could tell you that there were bizarre details out of place, weird music, subliminal messages, blood dripping from the eyes, all those bullshit things that they talk about in those creepypastas, but I can’t. This wasn’t one of those things, and I can tell you that all of them must be completely full of it because I can hardly remember a damn thing about what he looked like. God though, he was real, maybe not in the physical world, but in the game, he was there.
Sorry. I suppose that digression sort of ruins the tone, but I’m not exactly writing this for English class. I can’t honestly tell you why I’m writing this down and putting it out there for people to see. I just know I need to, and if that doesn’t make any sense, then fine, because nothing makes sense to me anymore.
At the time, Slenderman really didn’t frighten me, and it’s not him that frightens me now. I sent out Tauros to fight him. I attacked first using Strength. The move appeared to have no effect. Slenderman must have been classified as a ghost type. Der Ritter than proceeded to attack with Bonemerang, which took out about half of Tauros’ health. I fought back with Rock Tomb, which did a significant amount of damage, considering the game said that the attack was not very effective. I figured he must have also been ground type as well. Tauros fainted after a Bone Rush.
I sent out Vaporeon. Surf managed to knock him out. The battle concluded and as the sprite disappeared, it let out a low-pitched cry. It could have been one of a pre-existing Pokemon, or it could have been an entirely new one. I couldn’t tell.
After the battle, I went to heal my Pokemon. I checked all of them afterwards and found something wrong. Tauros was no longer in my party. A level five Ghastly had taken his place. He was nowhere to be found in the PC or anything. This really aggravated me. I deposited the Ghastly into the PC, and in an act of rash stupidity. I decided that I would go to Professor Oak, as if I could talk to him to get Tauros back.
It wasn’t quite as fruitless as you might imagine though. His dialogue was enraging to me at the time.
“Slenderman doesn’t really scare you. Answer me honestly and tell me: What are you scared of?” The box appeared again.
I was steamed, but I told myself that it was just a game. As much as I wanted Tauros back, I was worried that shutting off the game would result in the game reverting to normal. I decided that it was more important to play along. I wasn’t afraid of this game, none of this bothered me one bit.
I typed in ghosts. Professor Oak didn’t like my answer.
“You are lying. What are you really scared of?”
Maybe it could have been scary to see the game responding to my sarcasm, but I was too angry at the time to even consider that at all. The box came up again and this time I wasn’t even going to try to humor it this time. I was going to type in the most stupid thing I could think of. I thought for a while, and then it hit me.
Professor Oak responded with three dots. Apparently, he must have accepted my answer, because this was the only response I could get by talking to him afterwards. I decided that while I was waiting for my demon, I would try to train a new Pokemon in the place of Tauros. I went to the Pokemon Center in Viridian. I accessed the PC, but only one option came up this time.
I knew what was happening. You’d have to be a fool not to. I was rather hesitant to do so, but I pressed A and the battle sequence began. You know the pose that Sonic makes in the Sonic.exe game right before he kills your character. That was the one he was in for his sprite. The sprite looked more in place for the game, but again, I can’t really tell you what I saw word for word. At face value, he didn’t scare me; I was convinced that nothing could.
I sent out Vaporeon. I tried to attack, but Vaporeon was too scared to move. It was like the ghosts at Lavender town. Sonic.exe used Curse. He sacrificed his own HP, and at the end of the turn, half of Vaporeon’s HP was gone. I knew that this was wrong. Curse was not supposed to do that much damage. Not that it made a difference, Vaporeon was still too scared to move, and I couldn’t switch out because of Shadow Tag, which apparently Sonic.exe had. Recover put him back at full health and Vaporeon fainted from the second wave of Curse.
Hitmonchan didn’t have much of a different fate. It was practically the same thing as Vaporeon. No way to fight, no way to run. The story of Sonic.exe was brought to life.
I don’t know what it was, but I felt like Nidoking would be different. I had a strange sense of hope as I sent him out. The first turn it was the same thing again; he was too scared to move and Sonic.exe used Curse. On the second turn, I felt like this was a one-shot thing. I had Nidoking use Horn Drill, and it worked, he obeyed the command…
But Horn Drill doesn’t have any effect on ghost types…
I have no idea how I fought the urge to throw the game across the room, because I was beyond pissed off. Nidoking fainted, but before I was given the option to pick a new Pokemon. A message appeared saying, “Sonic.exe fled.”
There was some sort of poetic justice here, in this hell of an experience. I made fun of that story so much, and here I was living it out. I led three of the video game icons that were most important to me to their deaths, and yes, their deaths. I would say I deserve to be punched for every time that I made fun of people talking about video game characters that “died”, but I didn’t need to. This monster had done it already. I raised these Pokemon and practically offered them up as a sacrifice to this… it’s not a demon, fuck I don’t know what it is.
I wasn’t as flustered at that point as I am now, but I was angry. The Pokemon that I had just fought with were gone just like Tauros. I can’t explain how, but I knew I had to take revenge on him. I had to take revenge on Professor Oak, a video game character who did nothing, but let me type in the names of the monsters that would eat my Pokemon. There was no part of me that even thought to do what a regular person do and turn the game off. And you know why?
Because I wasn’t scared. I had to be the tough guy.
Whatever was in this game I was convinced was trying to scare me away, and I wasn’t going to have it. I convinced myself that I had to truck on and confront whatever it could throw at me next. So I marched into Professor Oak, and without any time wasted, we were at that point again.
“What are you really scared of?”
I typed in ghosts again.
Ghosts, I repeated.
“Tell me the truth”
“You can’t hide from your fears forever.”
Fuck you. I inserted those words into the game. I did it as if those words mattered somehow, as if I was talking to something that could even understand my rage.
“What are you scared of?”
Professor Oak responded with three dots. There was a small part of me that stopped to consider what I was doing, but it never came to a conclusion, not at least before I reached Lavender town. Entering the tower began a battle sequence.
It was the same ghosts that appear there before you get the Silph Scope. I sent out Onix and began to fight. The ghost went first and used Strength. It obviously didn’t do much against Onix. I commanded Onix to use Earthquake and it did a considerable amount of damage. The ghost attacked again with the same move with identical results. I wondered what kind of ghost would attack with a move like that. Another Earthquake took it down and gave me my answer.
When the ghost fainted, the fainting cry was one I had heard recently. It was Tauros.
I didn’t understand anything in that moment. I think tears began to rush down my face, but even those details I can’t remember. They were dead because of me, and they wanted me dead now. But it didn’t make sense and I knew it, but I couldn’t make sense of anything. I can’t make sense of anything.
Another ghost appeared, I got another attack off on this one, but before I knew it, Onix was taken down by a Surf. And he joined his brothers in the grave. I tried to hit the button to escape. “Can’t Escape” the game told me. Of course I couldn’t, I never could. I was never going to escape this. The game paused for a moment, I thought it had crashed, but afterwards, Charizard was sent out.
I had the premonition that Charizard knew as well as I that something was going on. No. He didn’t have a worried look on his face, and I’m not going to act like there was any sign in the game that justified my bullshit feeling, but if this video game creature, character… thing, had any feeling at all, it was the feeling of not wanting to be there.
I had to escape.
Even if I could have fought them, what would have been the point? I tried to escape again. “Can’t escape.” Surf nearly wiped out Charizard. In one last attempt, I tried to hit Run. “Can’t esca-”
I shut the game off.
I turned it back on, not knowing what the hell I expected to see. Everything seemed fine. I started the game, and it showed that I had just left the tower. But I knew I didn’t leave the tower… I immediately checked my Pokemon. Onix wasn’t there, but Charizard still was. I couldn’t understand. I never saved at any point during the game.
I was trembling, this time out of fear. I knew what it meant to be afraid, but I wasn’t afraid of ghosts. I had no idea what I was afraid of. This was a game. I couldn’t be afraid of it. Was I afraid of what could happen to myself because of the game? Was I afraid that I would lose everything in the game? I had no idea of what I was scared of, but there was some person- scratch that, - some thing that claimed to know what I was really scared of, and he, or it, was going to tell me now.
I returned to Professor Oak, but instead of answers, he posed me the same question.
“What are you really scared of?”
I thought to myself of everything I could possibly fear, but I wasn’t thinking of what I was scared of. I was thinking of things that I didn’t want to have happen that I didn’t want to be involved with. In my haste, I just typed in death.
“You still don’t understand.” A battle sequence began.
I was fighting a Charizard, but it was my Charizard. I didn’t send out any Pokemon to fight it. The trainer sprite just stood still. I was given the standard four options. I didn’t want this. I didn’t know how to deal with fear, with the thought that I could lose something important. What had this stupid game done to me?
I decided to run from my problems, but the game told me that I “Can’t Escape.”
I just waited and watched. With the fear I was in, Charizard, my friend, could have easily done whatever he wanted. And he just managed to do the thing that I wished he didn’t do most.
“It hurt itself”
Yes. That was the message the game displayed. It didn’t hurt itself out of confusion, no, it just hurt itself, much like I had been hurting myself. The already weakened Charizard took out the remainder of its HP. The battle ended. I just turned the game off. I was sad, confused, and worst of all scared. I hadn’t feared that I was going to die. I was wrong again; if I had died I felt that it would have been the preferable outcome.
For the next two days I was very depressed, I tried to do my best to avoid people altogether. My parents worried and my friends constantly were trying to figure out what I was up to, but I never let them in. They tried, but none of them could ever be with me for long enough to say anything. None of them could, except of course Jake.
One day, I was walking to my car and he ran up to me, nearly tackling me.
“Dude. Where have you been? Everybody’s been worried about you, they say that you’re not yourself and you’ve been acting really weird.”
I tried to keep walking away, but he stopped me.
“Man, what’s wrong? You have to let someone help you. Everyone’s worried sick.”
I pushed him away and kept going.
“Come on! You’re my best friend and you’re just going to shove me off. Tell me what’s wrong!”
“You want to know what’s wrong?” I responded. “Everyone just thinks that I can’t deal with things myself and that I’m scared of something.”
“I never said you were scared of anything. What are you talking about? What’s going on with you?”
“That fucking game is what’s going on with me! What did you do to it? You set it up as some sort of sick joke to make me realize that I am just as scared as everyone else is about things? Is that some sort of lesson you were trying to teach me ‘best friend’?”
I gasped for breath a bit. I looked back up at his mortified face, and started shouting again.
“Well, what is it? I don’t know what I’m scared of man! I don’t know what’s wrong with me! But thanks for ruining my life so that I could realize this.”
“God, dude… just… God. I didn’t know. Fuck, I didn’t think this would happen you have to understand… I was so sure… I never…”
He began to cry and ran away.
“I’m sorry, Dave! I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.”
I don’t understand what he meant. I’ll never understand what he meant. The game was clearly his brother’s, but at the same time it had to have been altered. How could he have not understood right away though that this was happening? Could Jake even hack games? But once I mentioned the game, he seemed to know what was wrong. Jake had done something, but it wasn’t what I thought it was. What he did I’ll never know, because upon only a few hours after returning home, I got the news that he had killed himself in his own house.
I cried. I didn’t know what else to do. I must have cried for half an hour. Just thinking about how I was scared now and there was nothing I could do. Nothing I could do, but finish what I started.
I started up the game. I talked to Professor Oak.
“What are you scared of?”
I was so sure of it this time. I typed in, y, o, u. I was afraid of the Professor. The one who made me lose everything, my Pokemon, my courage, and worst of all, my friend Jake. But I was wrong. The game responded.
“You are a liar. Why has it taken so long for you to realize the obvious? I did not take anything from you. You did everything yourself, and you had the free will to stop at anytime. You came close to doing so too. You think you are scared of us, but in reality we have done nothing. We did not take your friend’s life. He took it because of you, because you could not realize what you were scared of. You continually hurt those close to you because you cannot see how you’re hurting yourself and them by trying to be all tough and powerful. I tried to stop you but you let your ignorance kill them all. I ask you one final time: What are you scared of?”
I was done with the game. I ripped it out of the Gameboy. I took it to my garage. I grabbed a hammer and I smashed it. It broke into pieces, and I went to smash those pieces individually. With every swing of the hammer, I saw what I was scared of. All this time, I was scared of myself. I was scared of the things I could and would do to hurt others.
I’m doing what I can to live with myself after the events that I’ve told you. I still fear myself. I still defend the statement that I am the scariest thing to come from October 31st. I still have one question though, and I guess that’s the ultimate point that I wrote this for. I still have to wonder…
Am I a monster?