I’m from the generation that really was the first to have video games as a major form of home entertainment. I started on the Atari 2600 at my Grandma’s house. As I grew up, my parents divorced, and I went to live with my mom for most of the year. It so happened that some days after school, I needed to go hang out with my cousin until she got off from work. Those were good days, because my cousin actually had an NES. We played all kinds of games together, we loved Contra and Mega Man, but I really fell in love with the Mario games. I can’t quite put my finger on the attraction, but I think if you talk to guys from my generation, most of us were charmed by this weird little platformer. I couldn’t get enough of the Mario games, and it was always kind of hard to tear myself away from them when it was time to go home.
Now, fast forward a few years. The first game console that I really owned for myself was the SNES. I didn’t have very many games, but I didn’t need very many, because it came with the one I really obsessed over anyway, Super Mario World. I played that game over and over, even after I had beaten it multiple times. I mastered every level, including the star road levels, on all three save slots, and while that might not seem like much now, back then, it was pretty cool. Then, to make a long story short (I know, too late, right?), the game broke. I won’t go into the whole thing, but suffice it to say that it involved my sister, who didn’t like me, and the microwave.
I couldn’t afford another copy of the game, so I started scouring the local game rental places. One store had a copy of it, but it was always rented out. So I would always rent other games, but they never really satisfied like Mario. I loved F-Zero and Pilotwings, I got pretty good at Street Fighter 2, but I missed Mario. Then, one day, it was finally in. I was so excited. I got it home, pushed it into the top of my SNES, and fired it up. Soon I was immersed in the adventure through Dinosaur Land again.
Now, I told you guys all of that to get here. I played through that game until I got to the Forest of Illusion. In the first ghost house, about half-way through the level, the screen froze. I didn’t think anything of it, after all, that was the danger of renting games, especially popular ones, sometimes they were played so much and abused, and they glitched. I turned off the SNES, turned it back on, loaded up my save, got back to the ghost house again, and started playing. This time, I noticed that the boos were a little bit glitch looking, and they would chase me even when I faced them. I thought that was pretty cool, and ran through the level until, again, about half way through, the game froze. Again, I powered off my SNES, I pulled the cartridge out, and performed the ultimate maintenance maneuver on it.
I tapped it hard against my palm, and then blew hard into the bottom of it. Never fails. I popped it back in, loaded up my save, got back to the ghost house and went inside. This time, there were no boos. I made my way to the point that it kept freezing on me, and sure enough, Mario froze in place. But this time, a circle of boos appeared, and spiraled in to take Mario out. As soon as they touched him, the screen flashed several times. I don’t know what I saw in those flashes, but I remember dark shapes and white eyes. Weirded out a little, I turned off my SNES, and hit the eject button. I grabbed the cartridge, then immediately cried out and threw it across the room. The thing was burning hot! My fingertips were red for several days. I decided I was just going to leave the game where it was for the night, I wasn’t touching that thing again for a while.
The next day, at school, I met up with my best friend Joey. We talked for a bit, and I showed him the burn marks on my fingers. He looked at them for a long time, then gave me this strange look, and told me he had to get to class, and then walked off. Later in the day, when we would usually meet up to walk home together, he was nowhere to be found. I got home, gingerly touched the game to make sure it had cooled off, then told my mom that I was going to take it back to the rental place. When I got there, I told the clerk that the game was glitchy, and he told me he would get it checked out. I never saw that game on the shelf again.
The next morning, a Friday, when I woke up, my sheets were covered in sweat, and both of my pillows were on the floor. I tried to remember my dreams, but all I got were flashes of dark figures staring at me. I went to school, waved at Joey from down the hall, but he turned around and walked away like he was mad about something. At lunch, I saw him at a table, so I sat down next to him, and asked him what was up. He stared at me for a second with a rage in his eyes I had never seen before. He told me that I knew exactly what was up, and picked up his tray, stormed off, and from then on, never spoke to me again. Ever. I walked home alone again that day.
That night, I dreamed of the dark figures again. This time I could remember it a little more clearly. I know there were three of them. I know they didn’t move. I know they stared at me with those white eyes.
Let me fast forward, because, in essence, I had that dream every night for about two weeks. Every day, when I went to school, I’d try to find Joey, but he was avoiding me. The dreams never stopped, but over time, I’ve gotten used to them.
I’ve never been able to make friends since that day. As soon as I get close to someone, they get angry at me for no reason, and they leave. Once, I waved at someone as they drove by, and they met me a few minutes later and pushed me over, accusing me of flipping them off. Once, I tripped in the hall, and all of the books I had been carrying fell out of my hands, and everyone around me started kicking them as far away from me as possible. I was slammed into lockers, ignored by girls, even teachers seemed to have some kind of problem with me.
At home, I just hung out by myself playing video games. I’d go to sleep at night, and wake up to find things were different than they were when I went to sleep. Maybe the television would turn on, or books would rearrange themselves on my shelves. Once, I woke up to find that all of my action figures were spread out all over the floor. Once, I woke up in the middle of the night, and my sister was standing there staring at me, not moving. I was too scared to tell my mom about any of this, I just knew I was going crazy.
Eventually, summer break came, and it was time to go visit my dad for a couple of months. Nothing strange happened during that time, except for that recurring dream. But when we went back to Mom’s, it was a completely different apartment complex. Literally. She had moved. She told me she just didn’t like that apartment anymore, and so now we lived somewhere else.
Other than the dreams, all of the weird stuff seemed to have stopped. I was in a new school, I had new teachers, surely, I would make some new friends, right? But, no. No one would associate with me. No one was violent or anything, they just pretty much acted as if I didn’t exist.
It’s funny what you will eventually get used to. For years, I had the same dream. The same three dark figures staring at me. For years, I was never able to hold on to a friendship. But over time, I just... adapted. Who needs friends? I devoted more and more of my time to sitting in my room playing video games.
In high school, I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t go to homecoming or prom, I played my N64.
I’ve never been able to hold down a job, because it seems like as soon as I get one, either a co-worker or a customer will get angry at me, and I’ll end up fired. Eventually, I wound up in a cubicle, in a dead-end job that made me enough money to eat, pay the bills, and get the occasional game. I mostly stuck with Nintendo systems, because they seemed the most fun to me. I even had a Virtual Boy. I have a Wii now, and I still love Mario games. Mario Galaxy blew my mind, and so of course, when the sequel came out, I got it.
The dreams never stopped, but I expect them now. I tend to spend all night now staring right back at those dark figures.
Last Monday, I woke up drenched in sweat. The television in my room was on, showing nothing but static.
Last Wednesday, I woke to find three rats on my desk, staring at me. They didn’t move until I threw a shoe at them.
Last Thursday, someone threw a rock through my window.
It’s all starting again, and it’s all because of that stupid YouTube video. It was one of those “creepy stuff in video games” videos, and when I watched it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There they were. I loaded up my copy of Mario Galaxy 2, went to the Shiverburn galaxy, looked up, and there they were. Those three figures. No matter where you go in that level, they’re there. Staring at you. Staring at me. As soon as I saw them, my fingertips started to hurt.
Guys, I can’t take this anymore. I thought I was used to it, but I’m not. I’m thirty-four years old, and I have nothing to show for it. I haven’t gone to work since I watched that video two weeks ago. I assume I’ve been fired. It doesn’t matter. Sooner or later, my landlord will come looking for the rent, so I know that someone will eventually find me. I’m leaving this record so that at least some people will know my story. I’ve got the rope all set up, and as soon as I finish typing this out and submit it to the website, I’m going to use it. If you’ve read this entire thing, thanks for sticking with me for a few minutes. You’re the closest things to friends I’ve had in years.
Written by Jim on 11-26-2012