Walter Holmes

I know that nothing I do will resurrect the nameless victims, nor will I be able to bring their ruthless killer to justice. If anything, I’m writing this story as a reminder that we are never truly safe.

Not if we live next to an ancient cemetery, nor if by the peaceful woods of Pennsylvania, like myself. Nevertheless, you may choose to live blissfully unaware—a decision I stuck by all my life before last weekend’s horrible events unfolded.

If this, too, is your decision, I encourage you to cease reading immediately; after all, you may easily attribute my experience to a coincidence or misunderstanding. If, however, you are able and willing to take a narrow leap of faith and connect the dots of these strange occurrences, I invite you to read on and to learn from my previous errors in judgment.               

Just last Saturday, my best friend Jordan and I were scrounging in the cellar for my old N64. Every month or so, we dedicated a night to playing video games. We usually play more modern games, but for whatever reason, our nostalgia strongly urged us to find the old Mario Kart game we often played as kids.

“This place is disgusting!” Jordan said after examining a cobweb draped across the dim light of the cellar.

“Why would I bother cleaning it? I never even go down here,” I responded. He shrugged and began moving the towers of boxes that cluttered the floor.

“What’s that?” I heard from across the room.

“What?” I asked.

“This,” Jordan answered, dangling a dusty CD, scrawled with an illegible title, between his thumb and forefinger.

“I don’t know, but it’s certainly not mine. Where’d you find that?” I questioned.

“It was pushed between the floorboards, next to those boxes. Come on, let’s see what it is,” he said.

We headed to the office, waited for my sluggish computer to turn on, and loaded the disk. After being prompted by multiple windows, I installed the contents of the CD. A few minutes passed, and a videogame popped up on the screen. The game, rendered in a first person perspective, began in a tiny bedroom with no furniture, save for a blocky bed.

“These graphics are horrible,” Jordan complained. I nodded in agreement; it was evident that the game was created by an amateur designer.

“And why is it so quiet?” I demanded, searching for my headphones. Meanwhile, Jordan was pressing every key on the keyboard, discovering that the arrows and the mouse were the only input. I plugged in my headphones and listened carefully. All I could hear was a quiet ringing sound and the soft footsteps of the character Jordan was controlling. “This is really stupid,” he mumbled. “Well, go see what’s on the other side of the door,” I commanded. When Jordan approached the door, it slowly opened by itself, revealing the rest of the house. “What the—” I began to say, mesmerized.

“What is it?” Jordan asked.

“N—nothing…” I lied. Jordan continued to explore the second floor of the house, but no other doors would open. Giving up, he headed down the steep steps. “Look at this place…” I gasped, pointing towards the large living room, nestling an old stone fireplace, that filled the monitor. “It looks exactly like my house!”

“That’s really w— ”

“And the background noise… it’s ringing louder and louder,” I interrupted.

Jordan shrugged and inched forward. Suddenly the cellar door flew open from a significantly longer distance this time…inviting him in. We nervously glanced at each other, and Jordan continued down the stairs, shrouded in darkness.

By the time he reached the bottom of the stairs, the screen was pitch black. Suddenly, inferred from sound alone, a door slammed behind. “Maybe you chose the wrong door,” I suggested, “try going b—” I was cut off by a feeble light that suddenly turned on, revealing a tall and thin man holding a rusty razor blade in one hand and a black plastic bag in the other, standing hunched over in the corner of the room.

My eyes shifted from him to the floor, and there they witnessed two mutilated corpses of a girl and a middle-aged man. The girl had no eyes—just the blood spattered nerves that once held them. The man’s cadaver was equally gruesome: his left arm was nothing but a jagged stump; it leaked into a pool of blood which eerily drifted towards Jordan’s feet.

The ghastly figure noticed him standing there. Slowly, he turned around to face Jordan. Except for my rapid heartbeat, my entire body froze; words cannot describe his grisly face. His lips, which appeared to have been sutured on, were missing their chap and climbed the side of his face.

His one eye was significantly lower than the other—both were fully dilated. He was clothed in a filthy, mangled attire of a white shirt and black pants that cloaked the rest of his crooked body. He took a step closer, the ringing sound’s intensity increasing in proportion.

“Your ears... give them to me...” he whispered in a deep voice. He continued forward, and the piercing noise grew exponentially.

“Then I’ll have to take them from you!” he said, rubbing the razor’s edge with his deformed thumb. He quickened his pace, and my ears pulsed in response to the deafeningly loud sound that was at its maximum; my head felt like an overinflated balloon ready to burst. I prayed for the noise to stop (I was too paralyzed to say anything).

The figure, seemingly reaching out of the screen, raised his knife and quickly thrust it down when everything shut down: the computer (and thus the headphones), the lights, the fan—everything. Unfrozen and panicked, Jordan and I darted out the door, stumbled down the staircase, and fought our way outside. I nervously yanked on the locked handle of Jordan’s car, while he fumbled for his keys.

Once inside, he put the car in reverse and practically floored it. We were on our way to the local police station, followed hopefully by the hospital (I was pretty sure that the combination of the videogame and Jordan’s suicidal maneuver gave me heart palpitations).

We reached the station, and explained what we saw. Although we demanded immediate action, we were told that an investigation would be filed, and that we would later be contacted (for better or for worse, our theories of a “cursed videogame” or a “massacre re-creation” weren’t taken too seriously). Jordan left his address and went back to his place, where he let me stay for a few days. Eventually, a letter regarding the investigation arrived. According to the letter, the alleged “cursed videogame” was nowhere to be found and there were no locally reported homicides that matched our description of those found in the game.

Despite the police’s assurance, I refused to set foot in my house again. I called my realtor (who happened to know me relatively well from my mother’s many relocations), and told her that I wanted to search for a new home.

“Sure, no problem, but what made you decide to move?” she asked.

I sighed, knowing the truth would fall on deaf ears:

“Let’s just say it has something to do with videogames.”

“Videogames?” she asked in a joking yet patronizing tone, “honestly, I can’t understand what you kids see in those things... you and Walter would have gotten along famously.”

“Who’s Walter?” I questioned.

“Oh, you never met him; he was the previous owner of your house. Anyhow, I think he was a game-creator, or something of the like,” she revealed. I gulped.

“A game designer? …where is this…‘Walter’?”—this time, my skin crawled when his name escaped my lips.

“Nobody knows,” she said, “after his disappearance, the house was deemed abandoned.”

“No,” I said in a horrified awe, “it can’t be…”

I hung up and quickly searched for a missing “Walter” in my town. The link I clicked appeared to be a transcription of a four month old newspaper, containing a missing persons section. I skimmed the excerpt while scrolling down until a picture in my peripheral vision immediately caught my attention. I was suddenly trembling uncontrollably, and the familiar ringing, this time coming from within, droned louder than ever before, as stared at the horrifying and ugly face of Walter Holmes, many features of which resembled the virtual slayer. Once my trepidation quelled, I shut my laptop, and, for the first time in my life, felt completely and utterly hopeless. I wanted to help and to be helped… but how could I if no one would believe me?