Bogleech.com's 2016 Horror Write-off:
Tyler Spicknell (email)
My older brother Gael died last week at the age of 33. It was horrible. We don't even know HOW he died. All that we know was that he was found by his next door neighbor laying on the floor in his house. Right in front of this old 80's arcade cabinet he bought at an auction that same week.
Growing up in the 80's and 90's Gael loved playing at arcades. I was born in 1989 so I don't really know what they were like back then but he told they were WAY better than the arcades of today. Much more harder and with only quarters to pay with instead of plastic cards, it was harder to hold so much money at a time and therefore more challenging and therefore more FUN. He never played console games because he said getting infinite tries just took away from the challenge. So when every arcade near our home just closed down he never played another video game again.
Once he finally moved out he got a very well paying white-collar job, so he could save enough to but an arcade cabinet of his own. He thought about buying it online but he figured he could buy them at an actual auction, that way he could get one lower than the price it usually went for. Then last week he did. He bought a used cabinet for only 250 dollars. I was with him at the time so he was as happy as a cat with a catnip filled toy.
It just wasn't fair that he would die right after that. The worst part is that we didn't even know how long he was dead for, his neighbor found him 3 days after we brought the machine to his house. Knowing him he played it the moment he plugged it in and he probably got so excited he had a heart attack and just laid there dead in that spot for 3 days straight.
After the funeral we all went to his house. Me, my parents, our friends (including my brother's fiancee Stacy) and his closest neighbors. That same neighbor brought me to where he found my brother. He kept calling him to see if he could return his automatic card shuffler to him before a poker game he was going to have. So after a whole bunch of unanswered calls he decided to go to his house and ask in person. He wouldn't answer even though his car was in the driveway and his lights were on. Thankfully, my brother trusted him enough to show him the location of his hidden spare key. He went in and looked around the house calling for my brother.....and THAT'S when he found him.
"There he was, just lying there on the floor," he said. "his body frozen and his face twisted like a MC Escher drawing." Obviously he was exagerating but it wasn't TOO far off. Every time I close my eyes I see Gael's ungodly face.
I looked at the arcade cabinet. It looked like your average machine except for the color. It was ALL black except for the marquee (the part of the machine that shows the title of the game) where the only thing on it was the word "ZaP" in bright neon-purple letters. The machine was unplugged. According to Gael's neighbor he said he unplugged it himself, he just hated that machine since he blames it for his death and wanted to ask me what to do with it. Honestly, Gael would've wanted me to have it.
I had a crew take ZaP to my place and put it in my spare closet (a closet that I NEVER use or open). This was my brother's most prized possession, I didn't have the heart to destroy it. But I also didn't want to see it so I hid it away and hoped to never use the machine that took my brother away from us.
But, everytime I walked by my closet a strange urge passes through me. An urge like the arcade was calling out to me. I knew that wasn't actually the case but when I thought about it knew it would be a waste to just not do anything to it. I mean my brother DIED for this game. I may as well see what it was like.
I used my dolly to carry it out of my closet and to the nearest outlet. I plugged it in and the next thing I knew the screen turned on.
The only thing appeared was the games title: ZaP. Nothing else, no Insert Coin, no Push Any Button To Start, not even music. Just ZaP and only Zap. It wasn't even the same color as the one on the marquee. This one was white, like Pong white. It was even the same blocky style as Pong.
I decided to press a button and the next thing I knew it took me to the game. At least I think it was a game. On the screen was a long white line going side-to-side horizontally. On it was a strange vertical line with a large white dot on top of it. I moved the joystick and the thing moved. The line was actually a stick figure and when I moved the joystick from left to right you could see it moving it's arms and legs. You know, typical 8-bit game character movement.
Actually, the game was less 8-bit. The movement was very slow and stiff. I didn't know what to do. At first I figured I would do like what you're supposed to do in games like this and go to the right. But I walked for at least 5 minutes (trust me I could tell) and nothing happened. But, unlike the title screen there was sound. With every step there was a quick but high-pitched beeping sound that hurt my ears.
I was THIS close to unpluging the damn thing when suddenly something else came up on screen. Another character besides the one I was playing walked into view. Now the weird part was she looked WAY different the character I was playing. First of all, she was in color and she was more detailed that my characters, she was in 32-bit.
You may have noticed I called the character HER. That's because she looked like a girl. She wore a shirt and pants and had ponytailed hair. She was like something out of the SNES. She could also talk because a speech bubble came up. "Oh my God! Somebody's here!" The bubble said. "Everyone come here! We've gotta stop this guy!" The female character said as she ran towards me.
She then punching and kicking me. She was one of the games enemy and therefore I had to fight her. But all I could do was move and jump. So I jumped over her and ran away. But as I did more characters like her came running towards me. Like her they were all colorful 32-bit characters that looked like people. Each one looked different, with their own sets of clothes and appearances. Some of them were men some of them were women. It was like someone personally designed each one with it's own look.
Speech bubbles popped up all over the place: "Get him!", "Take him out", "Do whatever it takes to make sure he doesn't make it to the end!" These bubbles and more were all over the place as the enemies surrounded me and started kicking and punching my character. With each hit my character flashed crimson red and a hollow sounding scream came out. But I kept jumping my way out until I got away.
I kept running and running as the enemies kept on chasing me. As they did more speech bubbles kept popping up: "You need to stop!", "You don't know what you're getting into!", "We're trying to help you!". All these speech bubbles were about telling me to stop before I reached the end. Why would video game enemies tell me that losing would be helping me? I didn't really think about it since nothing about this game made sense.
I kept running from them for a while until another speech bubble came up: "Stop!" it said. It came from another enemy, this time standing in front of me with another group of enemies. I did but not because I listened to him but because I was surrounded, and I didn't think I was going to make it out of it. The group of enemies behind me then followed suit. But no one attacked me, instead the enemy that yelled "Stop" said "Thank You" as he started to walk towards me.
And then he said this: "OK, listen to me and listen to me good!" "I don't know whose playing this but what I am about to say to you WILL save you from ending up like us." "This game ZaP, is Hell in Video Game form!" "All these people in this thing? They're human souls!" "You see this character you're playing is sort of blank slate. A manequinn that you're basically moving!" "If you reach the end of this game and win, your soul will be sucked out of your body and into the character." "The character will start looking like you and you'll be trapped in this thing FOREVER!!!" "Please for the love of God, stop playing this thing!" "But don't destroy it either otherwise everyone here will be lost forever!!"
What could I do? I unplugged the machine immediately and shut it off. Then I left the machine there in that sport until the crew I called showed up. But not before I bought a storage space. To this day ZaP is right there in that space locked up, never to hurt anyone or suck up their souls again, and to make sure that the next person who gets my storage space never tries to use it, I put up a piece of paper on the screen saying: DO NOT IN ANY CASE PLAY THIS GAME!!
To this day there's something that bothers me. The person who told me about the true nature of ZaP he...well...he looked a lot like Gael.