When people ask why I don't just torrent games, I usually tell them, however pretentious it makes me seem, that I just don't feel comfortable stealing the intellectual property of a company that really worked really hard and spent a lot of money on a project, and so on and so forth.
Truth is, if I told the real reason, no one would believe me. So why not tell it here, on the internet, where I am anonymous and it doesn't matter who judges me? One of my favorite games in the history of mankind is a game called Gothic II. I first played it a few months after release, when my brother bought it, and I was hooked. Long after my siblings got bored with it, I soldiered on, having to start a new character a few times over the next couple years when someone decided to reformat the computer without giving me a chance to backup my saves. But I loved it to death and played it to completion more than any game before.
A while back, I got the inspiration to play again. It happens every few months. Problem is, I lost one of the discs. I owned the Gold edition at this point, and there were four discs. I don't know what happened to disc 2, but obviously, this made it unplayable. I didn't have a debit card at the time, my parents were apprehensive about making internet purchases with their credit cards (old-fashioned, you know), and none of the video game outlets in a reasonable distance carried the game anymore. I had no other option, except to torrent the game.
Thankfully, I managed to find one that worked, even though I downloaded half a dozen others that either wouldn't seed or were just plain broken. I jumped right in, full of excitement, and blazed through all the chore quests you need to deal with early in the game. I spent the next few days soldiering on, and within a couple weeks I had finished about half the game. All very ordinary, nothing odd to say about it.
For those of you who don't know the game, you'll just have to bear with me, because I'm not going to explain the whole thing. Basically, in Chapter 4, you have to kill four dragons which were the threat from the beginning. But after this, you learn that the true enemy hasn't shown himself yet, and you investigate clues to try and find out where this enemy is hidden.
This occurs in the Monastery location, which contains a secret underground vault containing some undead enemies as well as books that point you in the right direction. I never quite liked this level because it was dark, the camera had some issues in the narrow corridors, and it was difficult to see or hear an enemy coming at you. But I heroically pushed on and cut down the skeletons and even though I knew exactly where to go, I went down every corridor of the labyrinthine tunnels to make sure I re-killed everything that made its home down there. This is how I came upon something unexpected.
I pride myself in basically knowing this game like the back of my hand, but occasionally I stumble upon little things so well hidden that I never find them even after a couple hundred hours spent playing this game over and over again. Down one of these corridors, there was another skeleton, but this one had a different skin, wearing a re-textured Fire Magician's robe, which looked ratty, faded, and stained with old blood. My heart started pounding instantly, never encountering anything like this before. Of course, a killer's reflex kicked in and I cut the thing down mercilessly. It wasn't until it was dead and I collected my composure that it occurred to me that the skeleton never tried to attack me.
I looted the skeleton and found a key, without a name and without a description. This was really odd. Maybe this torrent was a bit broken after all. But I thought I would keep at it anyway, because everything had gone smoothly so far.
On the wall behind where the skeleton stood was a torch, which I would have ignored, but as I was turning around, I accidentally mis-clicked, a consequence of my naturally twitchy hands. To my surprise, my character was bumped forward and pulled down on the torch as if it was a lever. This happens a lot in the game, so I was only surprised that I've never found this before. The lever apparently opened a trap-door in the floor, which my character fell into and disappeared into the blackness. For a second, I thought I was trolled by a trap. But instead, the game cut to a loading screen, and unlike all other loading screens in the game, there was no image behind it. Just a blank black screen with a loading bar.
My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it in my ears. Not that I was frightened, mind you. It was a mix of shock and sheer excitement. 'This is what I love about Gothic,' I thought to myself. There was always something new to find.
When the loading screen ended, I found my character standing in an area I've never seen before. It looked like a prison, a long, multi-floor corridor with locked cells on the sides. I felt very nervous. I had never seen anything like this in the game before, and considering how much time I spend reading about my favorite games on the internet, I was surprised I never read anything about this place.
Suspending my hesitation, I began to explore the place. None of the cells were open, covered by grates and extremely dark inside. Even when I pulled out a torch, I couldn't see all the way inside. Pressing on, I went down a flight of stairs to the next level. Once again, there were nothing but closed cells. I thought to ignore these floors entirely and go look for a way to open the cells, but I heard something strange which caught my attention. It also made me aware of the fact that there was no music playing here at all.
This was odd, because every area in the game had a unique soundtrack to go along with it, but I've experienced glitches before where the music never loads, so I ignored that. I tried zeroing in in the sound I heard, but while I seemed to get closer, it never really got much clearer. I decided it must be on the next floor, so I went down another flight of stairs. From here, I was able to follow the sound more easily, and a chill shook my spine as I realized it sounded like a child crying.
I paused the game. Quite disturbingly, the crying continued, but I figured this was probably because it was just ambient noise. I took a minute to calm myself. I wanted to turn on the light, but at the time I was sharing a room with my brother and he was asleep. It was, after all, about two in the morning by this point.
So I unpaused the game and moved closer to the source of the crying. It was coming from one of the cells. I overcame my trepidation and stood in front of the cell, with my torch equipped. The torch couldn't illuminate the whole cell, but I could see... something. I switched into First Person view for a closer look, and I could see... there was definitely someone in there. It was sitting against the furthest wall, and all I could see were two bare feet on really spindly legs sticking out from the shadows. The crying was very hushed, like the child was trying to be quiet.
My stomach churned. I couldn't see the figure's face, and I was completely convinced I didn't want to. This was far too morbid, far too bleak for a Gothic game. The developers would never put something like this in. Would they? I thought of how the developers have had a history of removing unfinished content because of budgetary and time restraints. Maybe the torrent I downloaded just had this modded back in? Or maybe the modder was a sick fuck who did this himself?
I didn't care. I was curious enough to check out the level some more, but not to try and figure out what this child was. I kept moving.
Eventually I was on the bottom level. None of the other cells contained anything at all, but on the bottom level I saw a lot of broken furniture. Some of it was torture equipment, like I was used to seeing in certain areas of this game. It wouldn't look out of place in a prison like this, to be frank. But what made it stand out was that it didn't look like any of the models that existed in the game. The textures were different, and they also had a much higher polygon count, somehow. This was really strange.
There was no way this really ancient game engine, which wouldn't render hands that were anything more than lumps drawn to look like fists, could render such high quality objects. I don't know much about game modding, but I could only assume that the modder who created this level may have somehow changed the engine to do this? I really don't know. Go ask a game designer. None of this is that important anyway, so just keep reading.
On the wall was a lever. I assumed this lever opened the cell doors. I wasn't ready to open them all yet, fearing that figure I saw in the cell back on the second floor. Before pulling it, I decided to go back and check to see if it was still there.
When I came out on the second floor, I stood frozen. Four cells down on the right, where the figure was imprisoned, the gate was somehow open. My breath held in my throat and I couldn't even blink. After about three seconds, I heard a quiet hiss, and from the cell, completely black in shadow, something, I don't know what the fuck it was, crawled out on all fours. I couldn't see well enough, but it went climbing over the rail on the side and leaping down to the floors below.
I nearly shit myself. I hit escape, saved the game over an empty file, and immediately closed it. I stared at my desktop screen for a good ten minutes before gathering myself. What the hell was that? Holy shit.
By this point, it was almost 3:00 in the morning. The thought crossed my mind that this wasn't real. Maybe I was hallucinating because I was so tired. I think I was playing for too long. Maybe I already went to bed and I'm just having a fucked up dream. Whatever. I pressed the power button to put my laptop to sleep and just crawled into bed and passed out.
I woke up in the early afternoon on a Saturday. The sun was bright in my room, and I looked at my laptop, sitting on my desk. I remembered vividly what I saw last night, but I felt somehow much more reassured in the daylight. I spent the afternoon and most of the evening out of the house, and it wasn't until after midnight that I sat down at my computer again. My brother was asleep, and I prepared to wake up my computer. I decided I wasn't going to play at all tonight. I was just going to browse the internet for a bit and go to sleep.
But when my computer woke up, I found, to my distinct horror, that the game was still there with the pause menu open. My throat seized up and I sat there in horror. Did I not close the game last night like I thought I did? Maybe I just forgot to quit. I might have just hit the power button and went to bed.
For some reason, I didn't just quit the game and avoid playing like I intended to. I unpaused it and kept playing. There, four doors down on the right, the cell that the thing crawled out of was still open. Slowly, I approached and took a look inside.
There wasn't much in there, thankfully. There was a skeleton against the wall, where I saw the figure sitting before. In its chest was a knife, which I could take. When I took out my torch to get a better look, I lost my shit. There were small, child-like handprints in blood all over the wall and floor around the skeleton. Blood was smeared on the wall, barely legible. It looked like it said... “Mommy.” What the fuck?
I left the cell. Fuck that, I thought. Whoever modded this is just fucked up.
Outside, I heard noises. Hissing, and scratching, somewhere around me. I looked around frantically, taking out my sword to kill whatever this fucking thing was. I only caught a glimpse of it, on one of the upper floors, crawling over the railing. I decided that this thing was going to fucking die. I ran up a couple flights of stairs and hurried to where I last saw it.
As I was standing in front of a cell, I heard a gross guttural breathing sound, like someone was was trying to breathe in while choking. I took out my torch again to try and look inside. Again, the torch could not reach the furthest parts of the cell, but in a shadowy corner I could just make out something sitting in there. It was fidgeting and making that choking sound. I could tell it was that child thing, the only living thing in this whole damn place apart from me. How the hell did it get in there now? I couldn't tell if it was chasing me or running from me.
Since I couldn't get to it now, I decided to open my inventory and look at the knife I picked up. It didn't have a name. Just a description.
“Mommy made me. She didn't love me.”
Well, just add it to the list of disturbing shocks I've had so far.
I backed away from the cell. Instead of trying to find anything here, I decided to just look for a way out. However, though I looked through every inch of the damn place, peeking into every cell but daring not to open them, I couldn't find the exit. At least the creature hadn't moved so far. I had two options. I could open the cells and let the thing out to look for a clue, or... cheat. I knew enough about the console commands to know that whenever you're in a dungeon, the command “goto pos” would warp you to a location near the exit.
I decided it was worth a shot, and so I tried it. I popped up inside one of the cells, standing in front of the gate and facing outward. Through my headphones, I could tell there was something behind me. The choking sound of that child-thing. It was right there. In that cell. Right behind me.
The thing screeched right as I opened the pause menu. I screamed somewhat, only barely managing to restrain it so as not to wake my brother. I was shaking, in a cold sweat, with tears in my eyes. After a moment, I started to laugh. Wow. That is JUST my kind of luck. I decided that this place just wasn't worth the trouble. I clicked Load, and then clicked on a save game from before I went into this damn place, while I was still in the courtyard of the monastery I was so familiar with.
But that wasn't where the game loaded. Instead, it loaded back in the prison, inside one of the cells. My mind blanked. What? I must have clicked the wrong save file. So I tried again. And again. Every save game loaded in the same place. Desperate, I even tried starting a new one, but all that happened was I began in one of the cells with no items at all.
I concluded that my game was genuinely fucked. So I tried to quit. Instead of the typical “Are you sure?” screen with the Yes and No options, I got a pop-up saying “You can't leave me.” I felt my stomach move up to my throat. This game was REALLY fucked. Alt-tab didn't close the game. Well, that usually happens. Ctrl-alt-delete didn't work either. So I tried to restart my computer by holding the power button down for a while. But even after a solid 60 seconds, the computer was still on and the game still running. So I unplugged my laptop and pulled the battery. I didn't care what I did to my computer. I couldn't do anything with it as long as this fucking game wouldn't close.
At least that shut down my computer, so I knew it wasn't COMPLETELY possessed.
I plugged the battery back in and hit the power button. I was going to uninstall the game, delete the torrent and completely reformat my computer, all data be damned. I wasn't going to leave any trace of this demon shit behind.
But instead of getting a log-in screen, the game showed up again. FUCK.
I was back in the cell. I saw the thing crawling on the walls outside, as if it was looking for me. On the floor at my character's feet was a note. Before I destroyed my laptop, I thought I would humor myself and read it.
To the best of my memory, this is what it said. “This world has no children. You've been here time after time and you never thought about that. There are no children. No one talks about children. Has anyone claimed to have a son? Or a daughter? Or be the child of anyone else? No. Children don't exist here. But they should. How can there be a world with no children? I knew this had to change.
So I tried to create one. I tried to create a child. But what I created, it was not a beautiful young human babe like I tried to create. It was an abomination. You can't just make a child in a world that has no children. I wanted it to be okay. I tried to raise it like a child, but it was just a monster. It cried for my love, but it destroyed me. I tried to nurse it but it just devoured my flesh like an animal. It wants love but it doesn't know how to take it. It belongs here. It doesn't belong in the world. It should never have been.”
I choked back all the bile rising in my throat. My hands were shaking and were slippery with icy sweat, as I reached across the keyboard to hit the Escape key and close the note.
When I did, the thing was there. While I had been reading, it reached through the bars of my cell and grabbed me. My character was dead, propped up against the cell, with half his face missing as if it had been gnawed off. The thing, the child-monster, was there, with its long, bony arms wrapped around my character's corpse in a loving grasp. And it was staring at me. AT ME. Not at my character's corpse. Its glowing eyes were staring right out of the screen into my own. All I can remember is those eyes. As if it was longing. It was longing for me.
The game closed. I blinked a few times, not really sure what happened. The game just crashed to the desktop without any pop ups or indication of what happened.
I opened the folder where the game was installed to, but there was nothing there except for one text file. I opened it, because at this point I was mindlessly doing the things I obviously shouldn't be doing.
The file read: “I let it out. I found it in the game files and I modded it back into the game but I should not have. I let it out and now I can't stop it. I won't be able to stop it from spreading. I can only hope that you read this file before ever playing the game. If you do, uninstall it now. Delete it. Do not ever run this game. When it finds you, you won't get away.”
I closed the text file. I pulled the battery from my laptop. My mind was completely blank at this point. I was just relieved that the game closed, and nothing else mattered to me. I crawled into bed and slept dreamlessly.
The next day I reformatted my computer, and then later sold it and bought a new one, to make sure there was no trace of this experience left. But I haven't gotten away completely. The user who created it wasn't lying. The thing is out. It knows me and it is looking for me. Some day it's going to find me. I don't know when, I don't know how. Just take this as a lesson. Don't download this game. If you do, and you find the text file, uninstall the game and get rid of every trace of the download. It may keep you safe. I really don't know. It's a little too late for me now.