I have been a huge Zelda fan for all of my 19 years, but my favorites were Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and The Wind Waker. Just thinking about these games brings waves of nostalgia. Longing for the days of no responsibility, where everything is simple, rush through me when I reminisce on these games.

That said, this summer has been about reliving those games. I sold my GameCube when I thought I needed an Xbox 360 (terrible decision), and my Nintendo 64 was recently stolen from me (thief beware, I’m looking for you and justice will prevail). In light of these circumstances I had to download the games onto my computer to play them. Now I know it’s not the same as playing on the console, but I was desperate to play these games so that’s the route I took.

Naturally, I started with Ocarina of Time, intending to work my way through to Wind Waker. Ocarina of time, my personal favorite Zelda game, went perfectly. I wrapped myself up in the game and was finished in about a day and a half. The feeling of completing that game is still immensely satisfying. Next, I moved on to Majora’s Mask. Now, this game scared the heck out of me as a child. Everything about it is just plain creepy.

The Happy Mask Salesman, the moon (with that terrifying face), the whole concept of the world ending, the general despair of the game, it was just unnerving, especially for a kid. Playing it again now, I’m able to appreciate just how great of a game it is. It is a very challenging game and getting all of the masks is an impressively difficult task. It took me a little longer than I expected, which is a bit embarrassing. The stone temple was especially difficult. Troubles aside, I completed this game too.

Finally, I came to Wind Waker, and I guess this is where the story really begins. To run the N64 games, all I had to do was download Project64 and some ROM’s. They ran smoothly and easily. The emulator for GameCube is a little more challenging to use. I downloaded Dolphin like everyone says to do, and I tried to download the game from the same site that I had used for the previous games. It didn’t work.

No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the game to open up. This was sad for me because of the three games; Wind Waker was the one I had never completed. In my rush to join my friends in the Xbox 360 world, I took my GameCube and all of its games to GameStop and traded them in. I was determined though, so I searched the internet for other files to try. I must’ve downloaded files from 15 different sites, all with the same failing result.

I was close to giving up, but something told me to keep searching a little bit longer. Finally, I came to the 16th page of my google search. I remember it well because the results had gotten irrelevant, but mixed in with all of the dumb sites was the link “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Download.” I don’t remember the exact web address because at the time I was just excited to get another try with this game. Looking back the page itself was sketchy. Honestly, it probably should’ve tipped me off that something wasn’t right, but like I said before, I really wanted to play this game. Anyways, I clicked the download link and began the process.

Once I finally had the file ready, I crossed my fingers and booted it up. Incredibly, it started up and looked to be running smoothly. I got the familiar start screen with Outset Island in the background and the theme playing. It’s safe to say I was pretty ecstatic. I pressed start and got the file select screen, also normal. I started a new file and began the game. Playing it really took me back because it was the first Zelda game I’d ever really been into.

I’d had the two for N64 before it, but I wasn’t quite into video games until I got my GameCube. I remembered Outset well. It was a lot of fun going around and talking to the characters from my childhood. Anyways, I played through almost the whole game without any major issues. There was a texture distortion around any fire, but according to the voices on the internet (who are never wrong), that was normal. I say almost the whole game because at the very end, I began to have trouble.

The game would run the long cut scene with Ganon on top of his tower, and right at the end when he turns around and the screen fades to black, it would freeze. I looked up all kinds of fixes, but to no avail. Each and every time I tried, the game would run the cut scene and freeze on a black screen. I was frustrated but determined. I was going to finish this game. I think it was around my 20th try that I got the message. “You’re a persistent one, aren’t you?” At first, I was a little taken aback. The game didn’t just talk to me did it? Surely it didn’t. After the one line, I got the familiar black screen. I couldn’t give up now, after the glimpse of change.

I restarted the emulation and my heart skipped a beat. Immediately the game took a sinister turn. The start screen, where normally you get the happy video of Outset, was a thing straight from my nightmares. The water was blood red and the sky looked just like it did in the market in Ocarina of Time after you had pulled the Master Sword from the pedestal. It didn’t just stop there though. The plants were all dead and the trees were wilted. All except for one at the top of Outset. At the place where you normally see Link looking out over the sea, there was one tree still standing. The tree was not the disturbing part. I was horrified to see young Link hung by his neck from the tree. It was terrifying, and I immediately closed the emulation.

I went to Google. Surely this was someone’s sick joke. I searched for any kind of story similar to mine, but I found none. I decided to go back to the page where I’d found the file, just to see if there was anything there. It was gone. I looked in my history, no trace. It was as if it had never existed. With nothing to go on, I hesitantly went back to the game. I started it up and was greeted by the normal start screen. Relieved, I went to the file select. It looked normal only now, instead of Link as the file name, it said “TRY AGAIN.” It was creepy, but I decided to give it a shot. It seemed the same. I was back in Ganon’s tower.

I ran up the stairs and made my way to the top of the tower. I watched the familiar cut scene and fully expected the black screen freeze, but it didn’t come. The game ran smoothly through to the fight with Ganon. I was amazed. I began the fight and something immediately wasn’t right. Ganon moved unnaturally quickly, and no matter what I did I could not do any damage. Zelda was off to the side attempting to fire light arrows but had no bow. With the speed of his attacks, there simply wasn’t time to parry.

I had two fairies so the one sided battle went on for a little bit, but he steadily wore down my health. Link’s death was inevitable. All I could do was wait. When the final blow came was when the game got bad again. Instead of a typical death, Ganon gathered and thrust his sword into Link’s stomach, all the way through so that Link’s body touched the hilt of Ganon’s sword. Ganon held Link’s ear up to his mouth and said, “This is your future now.” The text box stayed on screen as he let Link slide off the sword into a pool of blood. I wasn’t given the opportunity to continue, I could only watch the pool of blood slowly grow larger. I ended the emulation.

Most normal people probably would’ve just given up, but I was curious to see what else was in store. Honestly, I wasn’t convinced yet that this wasn’t some kind of elaborate joke. After about a day of getting myself together, I started it back up again. Again, normal lock screen, and again save file named “TRY AGAIN.” I opened it up and started again. I made my way up to the roof. This time the cut scene was wrong. Zelda was lying on the ground like always but this time with her eyes wide open and a dead look on her face.

The text was all normal. At the point when Zelda wakes up and brings Link his sword, there was no Zelda with the text. Again I made it to the black screen and the game didn’t freeze. This time though the final battle was nothing like a battle at all. Instead of Ganon on the roof, it was Aryll. I looked around but there was no sign of Ganon. I approached Aryll, but just as I got into range to speak to her, one of Ganon’s swords flew through the air and struck her in the head. She was rocketed to the side where she lay dead. The game showed a scene of Link crying over Aryll’s body, while Hyrule was flooded beneath the ocean. The screen faded to black and a text box appeared. “You must continue…” I don’t know why, but I honestly felt like I had to continue, like something bad would happen if I didn’t.

I began the game again and was greeted by the horrifying intro from before, only this time underneath the tree with Link, Aryll lay dead. I pressed start and the file was there, “TRY AGAIN.” I opened it expecting Ganon’s tower. That is not what I got. I was at Outset. Not the normal Outset, but the Outset from the terrifying intro. Free to move around, I was able to explore this hell. The world was dead. There’s no other description to give. Everything was decaying. I decided to see what was in the buildings. I checked Grandma’s house first.

When I entered, everything seemed fine. I forgot to mention up until now that there had been no music at all in the game from the time I got the first message about persistence. However, once I entered Grandma’s house I got the cheery music the normally accompanies it. It was hugely relieving to get a taste of normalcy from the game. My respite from the terror was brief. I went around the corner to see Grandma, but she wasn’t there. I climbed the ladder and saw her in the corner of the room facing the wall. I walked up and tried to speak to her.

The music melted away and was replaced by maniacal laughter as Grandma turned around. Her eyes were sunken in and she had an insane smile on her face. The text that appeared: “You must continue…” I quickly left her house and went to the house where the giant black pig normally is, all the while this laughter is playing in the background. I went in to see another horrific sight.

The two children and the father were around a table, grey as is they were dead. They wore the same insane smile as Grandma. The mother was nowhere to be found. I spoke to each child, and each told me the same thing. “You must continue…” Finally I spoke to the father. “You must continue…Evan” It did not just say my name, I thought. At that point, I didn’t care what the game said. I was done. I closed the file and deleted it along with my emulator.

It was weird after that. When distracted, I was fine. However, any time I was left alone to think, I would always think about the game. I had stayed away from my computer for the week after my last experience. I didn’t need to be around it right then. After a week, I wanted to get back on, not to play the game, but to try to find something out about it. I booted up. Everything was normal. No emulator. No game file. It seemed to be fine. I dug and dug, but I found nothing online. Eventually, I decided I just had to put it behind me.

Another week passed and I felt myself getting better. Everything felt less ominous, and I was beginning to forget about the game. I got on the computer regularly and everything was fine. Everything was fine, until 1:32 a.m. on June the 6th. I was deep in the bowels of YouTube watching pointless videos when the dolphin emulator window opened and Wind Waker started.

I had no idea what to think and I watched as the hellish start screen played again. This time instead of just Aryll below the tree, there were around 30 more bodies. Strangely, these bodies didn’t look like any character in the game. I didn’t know who they were. I pressed start and all three files were the same. Each simply said “You failed.” I tried clicking on them with no success. After I had clicked on each one the game shut off and was gone again.

After this episode, I felt like I was teetering on the edge of insanity. Everywhere I looked, I saw the smiles from the faces of the people on Outset. My family was distant and my friends were gone. I had nowhere to turn and no one to talk to. I couldn’t eat.

What tiny amounts of sleep I was able to get were haunted by dreams of that island, except instead of Link on the tree, it was me. Finally, I made up my mind. I couldn’t live with it anymore. So here I am. I’m typing this story with the rope around my neck, in hopes that it could possibly save others from this same fate. But if you’ve already begun…you must continue…