Some people tend to ask me how I got these scars on my forearm. Well, it all started a few months ago . . . ever since I played that horrible game.
It was a fresh Saturday afternoon. I was still dressed in my pajamas while happily browsing the internet for hilariously random Sonic the Hedgehog animations. After about two hours of browsing, a pop-up entered the screen. It was really flashy and colorful, so I couldn't keep my eyes away. Before closing the pop-up, my eyes saw the words "fan character" and "game." Then, I forced my hand to stop so I could continue reading.
"Hey, you! Yeah, you! Guess what? Your Sonic fan character can now be in their very own online game!"
Now filled with the feeling of pure joy, I decided to click on the "more info" button. Just then, my browser opened up a new tab with an unusual site. The background color was plain; pitch-black, and there was a red box at the top of the page. Small, white text inside the red box asked me for my e-mail address. I typed it in and hit "next." Then, I was asked to send an image of my character and type up their personality and back-story. After typing eagerly for approximately two hours, I hit "submit." The box then said that I would be receiving an e-mail in about two to three weeks with the link to the game.
After the long, tedious wait, I finally received the e-mail with the game. A spark of excitement panged against my lungs as I clicked on the link.
There it was! Crystal the Hedgehog in her very own game! The title screen had impeccable animation-- and the artwork was adorable! However, as soon as my mouse pointer clicked "PLAY," something strange happened. Crystal's eyes widened, a grin stretched across her face, and the screen appeared to shut itself off.
"Huh. That was awkward."
Once I turned the screen back on, my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. The title screen was the same, except the sky was a purplish color, the grass was black, and Crystal had dark-gray fur and blood dripping all over her body. Then, the screen rippled and changed to the character selection menu. The only characters available to play at the time were Darken the Darkhog, Flames the Hedgehog, and Shadow the Hedgehog. I was surprised—I never sent an image of Darken or Flames to those people who made the game for me! I selected Darken, who seemed quite confident at the moment. The screen twitched a bit and skipped right to the loading screen of "ACT _ _ _"
"Huh. Perhaps there are a few bugs?" I thought.
When the level began, Darken was located at a forest similar to the one where Crystal always walks through whenever she feels depressed. Something was obviously going on here—but I decided to try and ignore it. I made Darken run to the right. There were no enemies or obstacles for about a minute, but there was a very strange background change. The trees appeared to be dead, and the pixilated foliage began to look like bright red flames. What was this? Was this supposed to represent the fire that Crystal's family had died in, or was this a symbol of her rage embedded deep inside her soul? Either way, the game was already beginning to be a bit freaky. The olive-green colored grass began turning a burnt umber-ish color, and Darken suddenly stopped running. No matter how many times I pressed the arrow keys, he wouldn't move. My mouse pointer refused to move, either. The computer froze, but the game somehow continued to play by itself. It was the strangest thing.
Then, I suddenly heard a distorted, female-like voice that came from the game. "Are you ready to have some fun? You will have twenty seconds to escape the fire. The clock starts now." Just then, the computer un-froze itself, leaving me in control of Darken again.
The fire quickly came in from the right, and I was forced to run back using the left arrow key. I kept hearing the sounds of faded, malicious chuckles and snickers that were coming from the background. The timer, which was displayed on the top left of the game screen, started counting down at a faster rate than before. "Better hurry, time is running out," said the female voice, "We wouldn't want our precious Darken to be burned alive, now would we?"
The sound of that ticking clock rattled inside my skull. Darken's facial expression changed—it appeared to be worried and frightened. "C'mon, run faster!" I shouted. Darken seemed to hear me—his speed increased a bit as the fire continued to scorch and glow, annihilating everything in its path and making its way towards him. The time was down to eight seconds; I was almost at the exit! However, something happened in the game that made my jaw drop. Another flash fire came from the left and burned poor Darken to the ground! Unbelievable! Was I seriously leading him straight into his own death!? His screams of pure agony and torment rang through my speakers. Pixilated blood flew all over the screen. As the screen slowly faded to black, I heard a female-like, distorted, evil laugh. "Aww, that's too bad! Let's try that again."
The black screen went back to the character selection screen. I took a look at the other two characters that seemed a bit nervous. I searched for Darken in the menu, but he was nowhere to be found. When my mouse pointer scrolled over Shadow, I saw his body quiver with anxiety. I thought maybe picking him wasn't the best choice, so I clicked on Flames. The screen twitched yet again and skipped to the loading screen of the next stage. . . "ACT 101."
This time, the stage took place in an abandoned mansion. Flames appeared to be a bit unsure of himself, but I made him run forward anyway. As he continued to walk, I noticed that the mansion was acting very unusual. Bloody faces kept appearing through the windows, and every time lightning would strike, multiple blood stains appeared all over the floor and walls. Rusty, metallic spikes suddenly started to emerge from the ground, and I was acting all frantic trying to dodge them. Then, the screen froze yet again. "Here's to round two!" Shouted the female voice again. "Let's see if you can avoid all the spikes! Bet you can't! You have thirty seconds." The computer-un froze, leaving me with another timer ticking away. Flames began darting forward, twice as fast as before. The spikes appeared to be following him; popping up behind and in front of him. Luckily, I managed to jump over the tall ones. When the timer was left with five seconds, I was almost out. Until . . .
A huge section of the ceiling crashed down on top of poor Flames. His blood squirted all over the place, and the evil, distorted laugh came again. "Well, it looks like this level really crushed you!" And with that, the game was taken back to the character selection menu. The last character available was Shadow, whose facial expression seemed to be full of regret. I clicked on him; he turned his head at me and sighed. The screen twitched a whole bunch of times, not just once, and went straight to the loading screen again. This time, Shadow was placed in "ACT 666."
The stage took place in a gruesome cave. Blood was dripping everywhere, and there were various craters filled with a strange black liquid. The sounds of screams from tortured souls ran throughout the level, followed by the cracks of whips and whirrs of drills. The BGM sounded dark, slow, gloomy, and mysterious. As Shadow marched along, I could tell he was nervous by the occasional grimaces that would stretch across his face. There were many skeletons and unknown characters lying on the ground, hung by a rope, and chained along the walls; each and every one looked totally mangled. The lights that were hung by a weak little string flashed on and off, making the scene even more dramatic.
Once I found an old, rusty elevator in the level, I was indecisive. Should I go, or should I walk away? After about five minutes of arguing with myself, I forced my hand and made Shadow enter it. "GOING DOWN. . ." bellowed the female voice. The elevator then slowly shrieked as it traveled downward; the screen fading to black.
Suddenly, the screen was filled with static and shut itself off again.
"What the hell was that all about?"
I turned the screen back on, only to reveal a horrifying scene. Darken, who was nearly burned to death, was chained to the wall. All of his skin was peeled off his body; all his muscles revealed and bloody. Flames, who was crushed by the ceiling, was now just a pile of bones and skin scattered all over the rocky ground. Shadow was also chained against the wall and was trembling in fear. The terrified look on his face almost made me want to cry. Just then, Crystal sauntered happily into the scene from the right; her body covered in blood. The grin on her face along with her wide eyes horrified me as she hummed a little tune.
"Well, well! It's very nice to see you again, Shadow the Hedgehog!"
Lightning suddenly flashed, and once the scene was visible, Crystal's fur was yet again dark-gray. Her teeth were sharp and pointy, and her pupils have turned into a maroon-like color. Her head turned to face me, and I flinched when I saw her wink.
"It's nice to see you too, Sammi."
By this point, I had already been screaming my lungs out. I fell out of my chair and hurriedly crawled over to the kitchen. Perhaps my brain was playing tricks on me from too many hours of playing? I served myself a glass of water, but before I was able to drink, I heard Shadow's shrieks and shouts of pure agony. I darted back to my room while holding the glass of water firmly in my hand, but I managed to spill it anyway—Shadow had been cut in half! All of his entrails were seeping out from the gashes Crystal had caused. The creepiest part? Crystal was giggling like an innocent child! "Crystal, how could you do this!?" I shouted. I guess maybe I was going insane. Talking to a sprite wasn't exactly something a normal person would do.
Crystal turned her head slowly to look directly at my face. What's the matter, Sammi? Can't handle seeing the torture of a male hedgehog? Because that's exactly what you have done to me in your role-plays . . . torture me . . . make me suffer both mentally and physically . . ." Suddenly, the screen began to flash on and off for about two minutes. When the screen turned back to normal, I saw Crystal's face close-up. It was horrifying—her fur seemed touchable, her teeth and lips were soaking in the blood of her victims, and her eyes that were full of hatred stared at me. RIGHT at me. "WHY HAVE YOU CAUSED ME TO SUFFER SO MUCH, SAMMI? IS IT BECAUSE YOU HATE ME, SAMMI? WAS I NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU, SAMMI? WAS I SPECIFICALLY CREATED TO BE ETERNALLY PUNISHED BY THESE STUPID MEN, SAMMI!?"
I honestly didn't know how to reply to that, I was too petrified to say or do anything at the moment. "ANSWER ME! ANSWER ME NOW!" She screamed. "I-I I honestly don't know why I did—but—I-I'm sorry!" Her frown now became a wide grin—wider than any of the grins she had before. Her gums were clearly visible; black as her soul. "Oh, you're GOING to be sorry!" After saying that, the static started up again. When the static stopped, there were multiple, hyper-realistic images shown of the victims' corpses. Their entrails were wrapped around their throats as their blood flowed out of the gashes along their eyelids. As soon as my eyes experienced this horror, I began to puke. My eyes were watery now. I was on my knees clutching my stomach; the aftertaste of vomit burning in my throat. I frantically tried to shut the computer down, but it was futile. It was unresponsive. Crystal just laughed in my face as tears streamed down my rosy cheeks. Silly child, there is nothing you can do now to save yourself!"
After she said that, I glared back up at her. I was angry. She is my character. I am in control, not her!
"Oh, we'll see about that, Crystal."
I quickly ran up the stairs and grabbed my mother's metal baseball bat. Then, I put on my father's racing helmet and dashed back down to my room and began smashing the computer. The screen broke into millions of shattered pieces, and the computer was smashed completely. A sigh in relief passed through my chapped lips as I heard the calm breeze coming in through the window. I picked up the pieces of the mangled device and threw it in the huge green trash can out in the front yard.
Later on, the time read 10:06 and I had already been tucked into bed. I was not sleepy at all—those images continued to pop into my mind. I wasn't sure if I was fully traumatized, but I was indeed terrified.
Time passed, and I was still unable to fall asleep. Everything was starting to make my heart beat faster—the sounds of my parents walking around the house, the wind, even my own breathing. Yep, there was definitely something wrong with me.
Even more time passed, and my sleepyness was starting to get to me. I just couldn't keep my eyes open. Once I managed to calm down and shut my eyelids . . .
"Sweet dreams, Sammi."
My eyes sprang open, and as I turned my head, Crystal covered my mouth and began attacking me. Luckily, my parents' sensitive hearing heard my whimpers and muffled shrieks. They ran to my room and opened my door as fast as they could.
They saw my body bloody and beaten, but Crystal was gone.
"Sammi! What happened to you!?"
My mother hugged me tightly as I began to cry; my father went to the bathroom and came back with a first aid kit. As he soothed the scratches located all over my arms and chest areas, I tried to explain what happened. I couldn't, though, because my mouth couldn't form the words. I was only stuttering and whimpering.
A few weeks later, I came back from a hard day at school. As soon as I entered my room, I found another action figure in my collection that I did not recall getting before. I walked up to it, and to my dismay, it was a Crystal the Hedgehog action figure! Now feeling too horrified to speak, I lifted it up with a trembling hand and pulled a little string in the back of the toy.
" Let's be best friends FOREVER, Sammi."
And because of that, I know now to never click on a pop-up ever again.