Originally posted 10/23/07 on GGL Wire.
Greetings, friend. That most terrifying of holidays, ancient Samhain, which the ignorant call “Halloween,” is almost upon us. Across the globe, the walls between the lands of the living and the dead will fall, and the souls of the slain return to wreak their terrible vengeance on the living.
And people will dress up like Spiderman or a Naughty Nurse, bob for apples and tell ghost stories over an open fire.
Few know there are tales of horror unique to the world of videogaming. Here are ten blood-curdling tales of gaming horror and the macabre. Read on — only if you dare!
The Curse of the Mobile Game
The kiosk stood alone and forlorn in the food court of the old abandoned mall. As the young boy approached, a crone appeared, her cackling laugh splitting the boy’s ears like a knife through rotted cauliflower. She bore a small silvery object in her hand, and held it aloft to glint in the sickly red moonlight.
“It’s a cell phone, boy,” she lisped through splinter stumps of ancient teeth. “And it plays games.”
The boy pulled out his cash, his fingers sticky with the sweat of terror. It was his mother’s dialysis money, but who cared? This cell phone played games!
The crone snatched the cash from his hand and bit down on it, chewing greedily on the brittle tens and twenties. Slowly, almost regretfully, she released the glinting cell phone into the boy’s shivering fingers.
He ran, as far and as fast as he could, and hid in the cellar of the old wheelhouse. Clutching his new prize in the dark, the boy held down the red key – it was sticky with some nameless ichor – until the screen spasmed to life with a sickly pale glow.
He scrolled through the games – Pac-Man, Galaga, Metal Gear Solid Mobile, Destroy All Humans. Crouched in the damp, fetid darkness, he began to play.
Soon, the horror of realization sent chills down the boy’s spine. These games were slow, awkward and ill-conceived! They bore too little relationship to the original game! The controls were clumsy with lousy responsiveness! The graphics were terrible! And the games tore through the phone’s battery life!
A low steady moan from the back of the boy’s throat rose sharply into a scream of eternal terror that rang out across the moors to awaken eldritch creatures better left slumbering. And over it all, the cackle of the evil crone drive mad those men unfortunate enough to hear it.
The Dreamcast of Unknown Kadath
“He’s quite mad, you say,” quipped Dr. Bent as he followed Dr. Whithers down the grimy hospital corridor.
“Quite,” the elder physician replied. He held an ancient linen scarf to his nose, as scant protection from the twin odors of antiseptic and human effluent that permeated the halls of St. Lucius’ Rest Home for the Mentally Deranged.
Ahead in the dim light of a single electric lamp stood the last door on the ward; Room 101. The steel-reinforced isolation room was reserved for only the most dangerous patients, and this one was the worst yet.
Dr. Whithers peered over his spectacles at the medical chart in his hand. “Charles Mooncalf, age 22. Murdered 16 persons in a rampage at his local Babbages. No known motive.”
The two medical men stopped outside the oak-and-iron door, which was featureless but for a small sliding window and a latch barred by an enormous padlock. Confidently, he pulled the window open and peered inside.
A whispered cant emerged from the darkened hole, a low guttural voice repeating over and over, “Tap on the glass. Make the Seaman dance. Tap on the glass. Make the Seaman dance…”
“What does it mean?” Dr. Bent inquired. He rose up on his toes to view the patient through the tiny aperture.
“No one knows,” Dr. Whithers replied with a sad shake of his head.
Mooncalf sat in the center of his cell, cross-legged, clutching a plastic box in his skeletal hands, scratching at it with his four-inch-long nails. Perhaps the box was once white, but now it bore the patina of years of filth and neglect.
“He beat an elderly woman to death with something called a ‘Samba de Amigo controller,’” Dr. Whithers said.
Whither’s voice roused the lunatic from his babbling. “They cancelled it,” the patient hissed. “No more support, no more new games! They cancelled my dreams!” His voice rose to a high-pitched wail.
Sadly, the doctors pulled closed the window, and continued on their rounds. There was nothing that could be done for a man whose Cast of Dreams had become a Cast of Nightmares.
Holiday of Horrors
Stanley was nine years old in 1982, the year his father disappeared forever.
It was the most anticipated Christmas in young Stanley’s life. That Summer, Stanley and his father had gone to see the greatest movie ever made, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The film’s message of love and acceptance built a special bond of friendship and affection between Stanley and his father.
And now, for Christmas, there would be something even better – the Atari 2600 game based upon the movie!
For a month, Stanley had lain awake nights, wishing the holiday could come sooner. But now it was here – Christmas Eve, when young Stanley could choose one present to open in anticipation of the next day. And Stanley knew exactly which one to choose – the small flat package wrapped in cheery Santa paper, the exact size and shape of a 2600 game box.
Neither Stanley nor his father could ever have known the terrible truth – that the Chinese factory where the game cartridge was manufactured lay upon an ancient American Indian burial ground, where laid the desiccated bones of slaughtered Navaho tribesman who became very lost on their way to a powwow and were massacred by Chinese Imperial soldiers. Their angry spirits cried out for revenge.
At his parents’ bidding, Stanley tore open the wrapped gift – it was indeed what his heart wished for, an E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Atari 2600 cartridge! Cradling the treasure in his young hands, he excitedly pulled the cartridge from the box and, yanking out the copy of Breakout currently in the slot, pushed the game into the 2600’s cartridge slot.
The game came to life on the screen of the Sylvania color TV. An electronic version of John William’s beloved E.T. Theme came wafting from the speakers. Stanley was beside himself.
As Stanley began to play, a look of horror slowly crossed his father’s face. Stanley was too excited to notice it, but across the living room, objects began to move of their own accord, being slowly pulled toward the television screen.
“What is going on?” Stanley’s mother asked. Then one of Stanley’s other presents, a baking kit for making plastic bugs out of hot molten goo, flew across the room and into the television screen, as if it were a portal to the deepest levels of hell rather than a piece of convex glass.
The mother screamed as more objects were pulled into the TV screen. Stanley’s father yelled at him to stop, but the boy was trapped – certain he could complete the first level, unaware that this was impossible.
“Stop, Stanley! Shut it off!” the father screamed as gifts, furniture and decorations whirled around the room in an orgy of violence before disappearing into the demonic video game.
“Just a minute, dad – I have to levitate out of the pit!”
“What is going ooooooonnnnnn??? The mother screamed, clutching the chaise lounge for dear life.
“Don’t you understand,” the father cried above the din, “the game SUCKS!”
Suddenly, the family Christmas tree came loose from its base and flew towards the TV. The father leapt to grab it, and Stanley looked up in time to see his father, tree and all, sucked forever into the TV screen.
Stanley shut off the Atari 2600, and never turned it on again. But it was too late. His father was gone forever, drawn by a terrible curse into a world where delightful children’s movies became suckfests of dull incompetence.
Men from the government would come, close down the house, and take the TV away for study. The company that made the game would shut down, but Stanley’s father would never return.
The Death By A Thousand Cuts
Claymore stood at the edge of the lake, poring over the ancient map. It was night, and he could only read the fading characters by the waning light of a gibbous moon.
It’s here, he thought. The holy grail of gaming. The free MMO. And all I have to do, he thought, is cross this lake.
Claymore stuck his toes into the black, brackish water, and his feet at once were freezing, despite his heavy leather boots. The water was colder than sin, cold like the murkiest depths of the bottomless ocean trenches, where eyeless beasts swam in a darkness too complete for even the eyes of God to penetrate.
I must cross, he said to himself, and with a deep breath, plunged himself into the chill lake.
The cold took his breath away, but he began to swim, remembering always his goal, the long-fabled free MMO. But halfway across the lake, he felt a nip, like a tiny bite, upon his knee.
Stopping for a moment and treading water, Claymore felt for the tiny wound, little more than a bug bite. Looking down into the dark liquid, he realized he could see the culprit – just below the surface, a tiny bug-eyed fish, like a piranha but much smaller, luminescing from within with a pale green light.
It’s almost cute, Claymore thought. But there’s no time. And this fish can hardly harm me.
But then Claymore felt another tiny bite, and another. Suddenly, the little fish were everywhere, hundreds of them, thousands, nibbling at his clothes and skin. He flailed his arms and kicked his legs, but the tiny predators ignored his efforts to dispel them.
Panicking, Claymore tried to swim away, but the damn creatures were everywhere. Now they were on his face, and in his mouth. He screamed, and cold water choked his lungs.
The pain of the tiny bites became torment as whole swaths of skin and muscle were relentlessly stripped away. Within a minute, only Claymore’s bones remained, his body eaten alive from inside and out – with only his bugged eyes, strangely unmolested, left to stare lifeless at the water-logged map that floated upon the stagnant water.
There, in an evil hieroglyphics that predated the first writings of Men, it warned in an eldritch tongue forgotten in these days, “BEWARE OF MICROTRANSACTIONS.”
Dialup of the Dead
Inspectors Wong and Chen found the body, sitting upright, in a chair at the Internet Café, just as the owner had reported it.
“He came in three days ago, and never left,” the woman said. “Never left the computer, never even to go to the bathroom. He just sat. And played.”
“Which game was he playing?” Inspector Chen asked, as he searched the man’s papers.
“I don’t know,” the woman replied. “One of those MMOs. The one with the little anime wuxia characters.”
Oh, Wong thought to himself sarcastically, that one.
This was the third addicted MMO gamer to drop dead in an Internet Café in the last month. Wong’s superiors at the Ministry were concerned, and ready to enact sweeping new rules that would effectively cripple one of China’s fastest-growing economic sectors. If Wong could prove the gamer were not to blame, it could give his career quite a boost.
The coroner’s office was located in what had been, before the Cultural Revolution, a mausoleum. Ancient Buddhist deities still looked down from the ceiling as Inspectors Wong and Chen arrived to inspect the body of the dead gamer.
“Obesity, and an unhealthy fascination with these Western Capitalist computer games,” Chen declared the cause of death without any concern for the facts. “A healthy diet and a firm familiarity with the Little Red Book, and this man would still be alive.”
The coroner was a wizened old doctor, not out of place amongst the crumbling idols. He poked and prodded the corpse with a variety of instruments.
“I don’t understand why you waited,” the doctor snapped.
“Waited for what?” Wong asked?
“Waited to bring this one in. If you want the cause of death, I need to see them right away.”
For some reason, a chill passed down Wong’s spine.
“He died today. We brought him right to you.”
The doctor shook his head. “Nonsense… this man has been dead three days!”
But — the Internet café proprietor saw him playing – the online records confirm it – the terrible implications swam in Wong’s head. Staring in to the man’s lifeless eyes, Wong felt his sanity slipping away. These games were turning players – into the LIVING DEAD!
Read Part 2!