October 31, 2009 8:00 AM | Mister Raroo
[In a change of pace from his usual GameSetWatch column, Mister Raroo treats us to a Halloween tale of gaming gone horribly wrong. As an added bonus, the story features guest artwork by death metal vocalist and illustrator Sean McGrath. You should think twice before you head to your favorite game store around Halloween, or you might suffer the same bad fortune as Mister Raroo. But don't worry, Mister Raroo's tale is only fiction. Or at least, we think it is. Now that we think of it, we haven't heard from him in a while. You don't think this chilling tale could be real, do you?!]
A Desperate Warning
Please hear my tale, dear readers, for it is through writing these words that I am attempting to confirm what is left of my sanity. I am still not completely sure that the events which transpired last night actually happened, as the mind is capable of strange and cruel fabrications. If it weren't for one horrible piece of evidence, I would write the whole thing off as nightmare. If only it were that had I ventured too far into the supernatural realms we visit while we sleep!
But no! I fear there is no escape, for even if it were all in my imagination, is there any refuge from the visions that fill our minds? When a moment arrives in which my throughts finally provide me with a brief respite from this terrible affliction, I hear her voice whispering in my ear. What a horrendous punishment! Why has fate chosen me to carry this burden?!
All my life I have had a fascination with the macabre, an attraction that has permeated into my interests and hobbies. My friends and colleagues did their best to warn me that too much attention to grim pursuits would come back to haunt me. I always sloughed off their words, but now it seems their ghastly predictions have come true. It's one thing to enjoy an occasional visit into the shadowy recesses of the world, but the horror that lurks in the darkness is nigh unbearable when there is no escape from it.
It is only now that I am a prisoner that I see the error of my ways. When we lend our minds to the ghoulish world, it can take hold of us and steal our sanity. Dear friends, it is with but a thin thread of reason that I am even able to focus and write these words! So please, hear what I have to say, and take heed of my warning! For if you follow the same path I have tread, you may be the next vicitm of this abnormal, unnatural curse and you will be unable to free yourself from the horror that is this relentelss video game psychosis. Beware!
An Unfortunate Encounter
Last evening I made a venture to my local video game store, The Game Haven. Its rows of shelves overflowing with almost any game imaginable, the establishment truly lives up to its name as a haven for someone as enamored with games as myself. However, oddly enough, I cannot recall how I arrived at The Game Haven, nor can I remember how I returned home. All that stands out in my memory is the unnerving series of events that occurred.
As I walked through the entrance, I thought perhaps I had arrived too late and the store was closed, for all the lights were off and there were no customers in sight. It was so dark inside that I couldn't see but a few feet in front of me. I turned to leave but a faint, weary voice called to me. "Please, come in."
As a frequent patron of The Game Haven, I was familiar with the store's layout, and had little difficulty navigating in the low light. More than the lights being out, however, I felt that something was certainly amiss. The store's shelves were nearly empty and covered with a thick layer of dust, while a musty, thick scent filled the air.
When I finally made my way to the source of the voice, I was surprised to find a shrivled, fragile woman sitting behind the counter. In my many visits to The Game Haven I had never seen her, nor had I heard the store's owner and operator, Howard, make mention of her. As if in response to my thoughts, the woman said, "You were expecting Howard, I'm sure." She paused a moment before her lips curled into a crooked smile as she added, "He won't be able to join us this evening, I'm afraid."
Something about the way the woman formed her words made me feel uncomfortable. She looked me up and down for a moment then finally asked, "What type of game are you interested in? I'm sure we can find something to suit... your fancy." She let out a hollow laugh that echoed into the void of darkness enveloping the store.
Going on appearances, I figured there was little chance the woman knew much about video games. Howard knew my tastes well and was a walking encyclopedia of video game knowledge, always ready to offer up suggestions on what games I should try next. But as for the mysterious woman who sat before me, I had little faith that she would know the difference between Pac-Man and Mega Man. Still, I decided it couldn't hurt to inquire, so I said, "I'm looking for something to play this Halloween. Maybe something along the lines of Luigi's Mansion or Grabbed by the Ghoulies."
The woman's expression suddenly became more serious, and she leaned over the counter toward me, whispering, "Oh, so you're looking for a little scare, are you?" She then let out a loud cackle and closed her eyes, quickly mumbling something to herself in a language that seemed impossible to form with the human tongue. I was so taken aback that I stood frozen for a moment. I finally snapped out of it and tried to respond to let her know that I wasn't necessarily looking for a game to frighten me, but her eyes opened wide and a chilling, deep voice bellowed from her chest. "Your choice has been made!"
It is at this point that all memory of my weird visit to The Game Haven comes to an end, though I will never be able to forget the stare of the old woman, whose eyes seemed to gaze far beyond my own and into the confines of my inner self. It was as if she was able to see further into my being than I even knew existed, and I am afraid that it is in these unreachable corners of my soul that she now resides! How I am even able to write these words for you to read, dear friends, is unknown to me, for I fear she has taken control of my mind and its thoughts! Perhaps she is allowing me to warn you of my fate before you make the same mistake!
The Night of the Demoniac Game
My world drifted from one scene to another, as if I were in a dream. The old woman's voice was still reverberating in my head when I found myself in my living room, sitting in front of my television set with a video game controller in my hands. What I played, my friends, was not any type of video game I have ever seen, nor was it anything I would imagine even the most vile of game developers would have the ability or courage to create. I dare not describe the atrocities that I saw last night, for you still have your innocence. But I will say the scenes that transpired before me were enough to drive even the strongest of minds mad, and I now long for the time before which my eyes witnessed such sights.
There was no sense of time, and as the night progressed it was as if I were no longer holding a controller in my hand, simply playing a video game. Instead, everything melted away into the gloominess surrounding the screen, and the monstrous images that were unfolding before my eyes became the only bit of existence I knew. I was not playing a game, I had became part of it, and I fought with all my might to keep my mind from mercilessly trying to spare me the horror by causing itself to crack.
No matter how many times I tried to turn away from the madness that was enveloping me, I was powerless, as if some invisible force were holding me in place and forcing my eyes open. Perhaps it was for the best, for as the night wore on I felt an increasing dread as some presence crept up around me. There were eerie rustlings and shuffles coming from the darkest parts of the room, and I was certain I was not alone. As my eyes stared straight ahead, the doom that engulfed me increased, and I fear that had I turned to face what unimaginable entity was inching nearer to me, I would have gone mad on the spot!
My body and mind were overcome with an exhaustion the likes of which I never knew was possible, but the night seemed to rage on endlessly and I couldn't escape it. At one point I loudly cursed the old woman, for I knew she was responsible for my torture, but this only worsened the intensity of the game's cruelty, as if in response to my desparation. Finally, at long last the night unexpectedly and mercifully began to melt into dawn, and with it my consciousness faded as well. I felt myself racing toward an infinite blackness. My sense of being was extinguished, and my world ceased to exist.
The Morning After
The soft, faint sounds of bird songs woke me up this Halloween morning, laying in front of my television set with a game controller nearby. I quickly sat up and looked around the room. Everything seemed normal and as I remembered it, though an uneasy silence filled my home. I checked every room of the house, but there was no sign of my family anywhere.
I returned to my living room and pressed eject on the game console to inspect the disc, only to find that the disc drive was empty. Yet the game I was forced to be a part of seemed too real to be only a loathsome dream. Even now my mind's eye cannot see anything but the ghastly scenes from last night, and I beg that you never know the harrowing sights I have witnessed, dear readers!
As I stood in the center of the room, I suddenly felt the breath of a voice whispering in my ear, causing me to exclaim in fear. However, when I turned around to see who was standing beside me, there was no one to be found. I thought it must be my weary mind playing tricks on me, until it happened again, repeating the same phrase over and over. It took me a few moments to make out what the unholy whisper was telling me, and my heart all but stopped when I realized it was the voice of the old woman. "Your choice has been made. Your choice has been made. Your choice has been made!."
It was then, my friends, that my gaze fell upon something that made me rue my affection for the morbid interests I had so often filled my life with. Sitting on the coffee table was a scrap of paper, upon which was scribbled the words that confirmed my worst fears. Should it be I have lost my mind and gone insane it would be a blessing, for it would mean that my night of unthinkable terror had not actually happened.
But no, I now know that the hideous images I watched against my will were not merely the hallucinations of a crazy man. I picked up the paper and saw it was a receipt from The Game Haven. As I read the simple words that were scrawled upon it, I could hear the voice of the abhorrent woman: "Thank You For Your Business. Your Choice Has Been Made!"
[Mister Raroo is a happy husband, proud father, full-time public library employee, and active gamer. He currently lives in El Cajon, CA with his family and many pets. If you happen to catch him when he's out trick-or-treating with his family this Halloween night, you'll most likely find him dressed as Sir Topham Hatt. You may reach Mister Raroo at email@example.com.]
[Sean McGrath is one of the founding members of gore afficionados Impaled and is rumored to have ties to the infamous Creepsylvanian group Ghoul, though any evidence to verify this fact remains inconclusive. He has generated artwork and logos for many bands, including Strung Up, Municipal Waste, and Voetsek. Omake time! You can view larger images of Sean's artwork for this story by clicking here, here, here, here, or here.]
Categories: Column: Game Time With Mr Raroo