About a week ago my friend went missing. The day after I received an email from him. Inside was a link and a single line of text.
“You need to try this out.”
The link led me to a web site with a download for a text based horror game called “The Dark Mansion.” There were a few screenshots of the game; old school pixel art of a creepy looking house, some guys wearing hoods with no faces, and a woman tied to a table.
“Save the girl or save yourself? You decide in this exciting text based horror! Escape from the mansion before the monks find you. But be careful, three times and it’s game over… permanently. Are you smart enough to escape the mansion? Download ‘The Dark Mansion’ for FREE now.”
I clicked the link and installed the game. Old school midi music blared as I opened the file. I turned the volume off, waiting for one of the neighbours to start banging on the walls for waking them up so late.
‘Press ENTER to play’ flashed at the bottom of the screen. Why did Teddy send me this? Did he schedule the email to send before he went missing? Was there a clue to be found somewhere in the game?
I pressed enter.
‘You see a large mansion before you. It’s old. Dark. Scary. Will you go in?’
‘You enter the mansion. The door creaks but the entrance is empty. There are stairs ahead of you and a door to the left and right. Where will you go?’
I picked randomly. Left door.
‘You are crushed to death by a falling anvil. Will you play again?’
A pixelated blood splatter appeared in what appeared to be the mansion’s study. A desk sat in the middle of the room with a large bookshelf behind it. There was a painting of the hooded monks on the far left wall and beneath it a pedestal with a human skull sitting on top. Well that was one death down. Two to go.
Yes. I typed.
I was in front of the mansion again.
‘You see a large mansion before you once more. It’s old. Dark. Scary. Will you go in?’
‘You enter the mansion. The door creaks but the entrance is still empty. There are stairs ahead of you and a door to the left and right. Where will you go?’
Well I knew which way I wasn’t going to go this time. Stairs.
‘You go upstairs. There is a red door, a blue door, and a yellow door. Which door will you go through?’
I wondered if sudden death was waiting behind any of these particular doors. The website flashed through my mind, ‘die three times and it’s game over, permanently.’ Would the game stop working after that? I’d already died once, that meant I had two attempts left. Two attempts and three doors.
Red seemed like it would just lead to more death, and besides, I liked yellow more than blue.
Lightning flashed outside, startling me in my chair. The wind picked up and rain began to fall. Just five minutes ago the sky was clear, not a single cloud in sight…
‘Lightning flashes and you see a hooded figure in the distance. It’s coming for you. What will you do?’
Lightning continued to flash through the window in the game. Like it said, one of the hooded figures was standing on the mountain visible through the window in the distance. It was kinda creepy. It was also the first time I was given a little freedom in what to do next, however.
‘There’s nothing inside.’
‘The phone doesn’t work.’
Shoot hooded figure.
‘You don’t have a gun.’
‘There is no gun.’
I sighed. The room appeared to be a dead end. I drew closer to the monitor and tried to find something, anything I might be able to do in the room. Nothing I typed worked. I sat back in my chair and began to type again when I noticed it. The hooded figure… it was closer. It wasn’t just a flashing gif background. The figure was actually getting closer.
“Crap.” Leave room.
‘You leave the room. There is a red door, a blue door, and a yellow door. Which door will you go through?’
‘You are in a hallway. There are doors marked 1-13. Which will you choose?’
It was a dark hallway leading into the distance. The doors got smaller but I could see numbers on the closest ones. 1, 2, 3, 4, opposing each other at short intervals.
The rain picked up outside my study window when suddenly I heard a scream. That wasn’t from the game; it sounded like it came from outside. I got out of the chair and ran to the window but it was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything. Lightning flashed and briefly lit up the street below. There was nothing there.
Maybe it really was from the game?
I went back to the computer.
‘You hear a woman’s screams. There are doors marked 1-13. Which will you choose?’
Okay, I thought. They probably wouldn’t expect anyone to pick 13 off the bat, so I typed in 13.
There it was again. It sounded even closer than before. I looked down at the speakers and then I remembered… I turned the speakers off.
It wasn’t the game.
I sat and waited, listening closely. The room was dark minus the light coming off the monitor. Rain beat harder against the window outside.
All was silent but for the water hitting the glass.
I turned back to the computer.
‘You see blood on the walls and hear a woman’s screams coming from directly beneath you. What will you do?’
A dark sense of foreboding washed over me. The room itself was bare, four wooden walls and a wooden floor, all splattered in pixel blood. A single window took up about half of the opposite wall. This time there was a forest in the distance.
Lightning flashed. The hooded figure was right there in there window.
‘The door is locked.’
Of course it was.
‘There’s nowhere to hide.’
Of course not.
There was a tapping at my window. I jumped again. How could there be a tapping at my window? I lived on the fourth floor… It had to be the wind. Or a tree branch. So why was I so scared to go and look?
The text on the screen began to change.
‘The window breaks. The hooded figure enters the room. It approaches you slowly. What will you do?’
There was a time limit to do things in the game? It never said the story would keep moving if I didn’t do anything.
“Uhhhh…” Punch hooded figure. I didn’t know what else to do. It was a bare room with nothing of apparent use in it.
‘You punch the hooded figure but he stabs you in the throat. You are dead. Will you try again?’
I sighed. I was rapidly losing interest in the game but I had one more attempt left. Might as well use it.
‘You see the large mansion before you that haunts your dreams. It’s old. Dark. Scary. A figure peers at you from the window. Will you go in?’
Well that was new. Also kinda creepy. There was a hooded figure looking out one of the windows on the third floor. As lightning flashed I thought I saw one closing in from the mountains as well. The same one from my first attempt. I needed to get inside.
I avoided the door on the left, went straight through the blue door and stood in the hallway debating which door to go through next. 13 turned out to be a dead end, but that still left 1-12. Simply too many numbers to choose at random and hope to get lucky.
It said the woman’s screams came directly from underneath room 13. Maybe door 11 had a way down and under? But what if it didn’t? What if it was some random door and I only had once chance to get it right before it was game over. Permanently.
‘You hear footsteps.’
The text scrolled across the screen. The hooded figures were closing in already? It was too soon!
I got ready to type in ‘11’ when I stopped myself. No, the red door. It had to be the red door. I thought the same thing about unlucky 13 being the right door and that didn’t end up so well but this time it had to be. I knew it was the red door.
‘There is a red door, a blue door, and a yellow door. Which door will you go through?’
‘You are in a bathroom. What will you do?’
There had to be a secret entrance hidden somewhere in the room. I needed to find it before the hooded figures found me.
‘There’s nothing special.’
‘There’s some unmarked pills and a toothbrush.’
Probably best to leave the unmarked pills alone. There was nothing else in the room, which meant…
‘You put your hand in the toilet. There’s something there. Will you pull it?’
‘You pull and hear a click. A single tile raises in the middle of the room. What will you do?’
Did I really have much choice?
‘You press the tile. A section of the wall opens. Will you go through?’
I heard it again. This time much louder and clearer. It was downstairs. A woman downstairs was screaming.
‘You enter a secret room. The screams are getting louder. You hear footsteps getting closer. There are two doors? Which will you go through?’
The text flashed at me on the screen as a storm raged outside. I waited and listened. No more screams. Nothing but the sound of heavy rain and strong winds.
No. Not just rain and wind. There it was. It was faint but it was there. Footsteps. Large, heavy boots like steelcaps hitting the concrete. There was a knock on the door several apartments away. I glanced at the clock. 1am. Who was knocking on doors at this hour?
‘You hear knocking nearby. Which door will you go through?’
The game text changed once more. It was starting to become more than just a coincidence. My heart began to race. When it said perma-death it couldn’t mean… could it?
My heart jumped into my throat as I realised the last time I typed left I immediately died.
‘You enter a laboratory. It seems an experiment was conducted here recently. Blood stains the operating table. What will you do?’
Outside was quiet. Did they answer the door? Maybe it was just a friend or family member coming home late who forget their key.
‘There’s a report. Will you read the report?’
‘Report: October 1, 2017.
Subject complained of pain in stomach.
Stomach was removed.
New subject required.
Report: October 2, 2017
New guest arrived today.
Intelligence sub-par but will suffice.
Brain was removed. Transplant to new host to commence shortly.
Report: October 3, 2017
Transplant a success.
Report: October 6, 2017
Subject complained of pain in lower limbs.
Limbs will be removed.
Further study required.’
I stared at the computer screen. I didn’t want to play anymore. I had no idea what was going on but it was creeping me out and nothing was making sense.
Clank. Clank. Clank.
The footsteps outside were getting closer. They were slow, methodical. Another knock on the door. It was perhaps two or three doors down this time.
“What do you…” I didn’t hear the end of the sentence. I swallowed and turned back to the computer, my heart beating faster and faster.
‘The footsteps are getting closer. You must make a choice. Will you find the girl or will you escape?’
I typed it without thinking. I just wanted it to end.
‘You must find the exit.’
‘The door is locked.’
Of course it was. There was a single door ahead.
‘You open the door. There’s a hallway with a single door at the end. There are two windows. What will you do?’
If I tried to jump out the window the character would probably die, he was on the second floor after all. Lightning flashed through the windows and my heart stopped. There was a forest of pixel trees just outside, but lining the forest were countless hooded figures all just standing there. Watching. Waiting. With each flash of lightning they seemed to grow in number.
‘You’re not close enough.’
Run to door.
‘You run to the door. A woman screams from a nearby room.’
Several of the hooded figures were getting closer. Others remained behind, as if on watch.
‘You enter a greenhouse. Its dark with no lights. What will you do?’
Turn on light.
‘Cannot find switch.’
‘You don’t have a match.’
‘You can’t see.’
I tapped my foot furiously as I racked my brain trying to think of commands. Like clockwork the in-game lightning continued to flash on the monitor. The entire wall of the greenhouse was glass with the forest in the background. Each time it flashed several of the hooded figures were closer than before.
Then it hit me.
I typed in walk forward and waited. As the lightning flashed in-game I pressed enter.
‘You walk forward. A row of shelves blocks your path.’
I typed in turn left and walk forward, waited, and then pressed enter as the game flashed again. The hooded figures were almost right by the glass wall. My heart raced.
There was another knock outside. This time it was next door.
There was a door just ahead. I could reach it with the next flash. I typed in run to door and waited.
The screen remained dark. White text began to scroll.
‘Are you sure you want to leave the woman behind?’
‘Are you really sure? This action cannot be undone.’
Lightning flashed. The hooded figures were right outside the glass wall.
There was a knock at my front door.
Run to door.
I pressed enter. The screen went black. I waited. The wind and rain raged outside. I strained, my heart sitting in my throat as I waited for another knock.
‘As you run from the mansion you hear screams in the distance. The hooded figures watch but don’t follow. They have their sacrifice for tonight, but you have escaped.’
The screen faded to black before ‘CONGRATULATIONS’ began to flash in large letters and a variety of colours. There were no further knocks at the door.
I turned the computer off and got into bed. I lay there listening to the sounds of the storm until daybreak.
As I left my apartment the next morning I saw police cars surrounding the building entrance. Apparently a woman was found dead. Her legs were cut off and had yet to be found.