It happened a few weeks ago, when I got an old Link's Awakening cartridge. I didn't get it from some shady old man, I got it from a local store. I was excited because I recently got really into the Zelda series and wanted to beat all of them, and was happy I would be able to play one of the 2D games on a cartridge, not an emulator.
I put the cartridge in an old Game Boy Advanced from my childhood I dug up. The cartridge was too big and looked awkward as it was sticking out, but I didn't mind. I flipped on the power. The title screen came up... "Link's Sleeping". What? I'd heard of a lot of hacked Pokémon games with weird names like this, but never a Link's Awakening.
I was so excited about playing a 2D Zelda game on the console it was made for, and now this crap. A few moments later, though, my anger turned to curiosity. A lot of the Pokémon hacks were creepy or scary, and I liked stuff like that. Would it be the same? I eagerly pressed start with brightened spirits.
I got exactly what I wanted.
I know this was probably stupid, but I watched a play-through of Link's Awakening on Zelda Dungeon before playing my cartridge, only so I could tell what was different. I played through most of the game, everything was exactly the same, except of course that ZD had used DX and I had the original so I was confined to red, blue, and green colors. I was a bit disappointed, ironically. Maybe someone just changed the title screen name, to make people think it was some awesome hack, when realistically it wasn't?
Then I got to the Wind Fish's egg.
I walked up to the egg, and played the Ballad of the Wind Fish to open it. This was the first difference. The Ballad was much... darker then I remember it being. It seemed as if all the other instruments were angry at me, ready to murder me, while the sound from Link's Ocarina sounded as if it were pleading, begging the other instruments for mercy. After the Egg cracks open, the owl visits you one last time. I don't remember exactly what he was supposed to say, but these are the paraphrased words he told me instead:
"Your time has come. You will face a dark evil inside, and your life is very much at risk. Goodbye, Caleb."
I looked away from the screen for a second then looked back. Did that owl just call me my real name? No, it said it right there "Goodbye, Link." Must just be my imagination. What he said still made sense for the situation, so I didn't think much of it.
I walked into the egg and there was another difference. Instead of there being one empty room then another room with a hole you're supposed to jump down, there was just countless numbers of rooms like the first one. "What the hell?" I figured it was some sort of puzzle. Ugh, I was tired and didn't feel like using brain work. I flipped the power switch off and the game informed me, "You are too far now. You cannot leave." What?
THAT was creepy. How had the hacker made it do that?
Okay, I needed to figure the puzzle out. The room was completely blank and flat. Except two torch-holders (not sure what to call them) In the top corners, on top of the wall. Maybe I had to jump and use magic powder to light them? Doubtful, as the Roc's Feather (The item that allows you to jump) didn't have very much height, but I tried it. Nope.
I tried bombing the left and right walls, to no avail. Wait. Bombs... I had an idea! What if I bombed the walls under the torch-holders and they crumbled and allowed them to fall? To my surprise, it worked. I lit the torches and a 1 square hole opened in the middle of the floor. I readied my sword and jumped down to see what awaited me.
I dropped down into an empty room. This was the same room you battled the final boss in in the original Link's Awakening. Was what just happened REALLY the only difference in this game? I was dead wrong. A shadow started rising from the floor, just like the Nightmare in the normal game, but instead of a giant bot shadow rising from it, a black humanoid figure did. Was I to battle a 2D rendition of Shadow Link? I got excited, but when the shadow was finished forming it wasn't shaped like Link at all, just some random NPC shape. Well, whatever it was, I was about to battle it. It started off with something we all know and love: Energy Ball Tennis.
As expected, this was MUCH easier to do on a 2D game then a 3D game. The things that disturbed me were the boss's pain noises... They sounded like a tortured spirit in hell. The pattern was pretty simple: Tennis, the ball hits him, I run up and slash at him with my sword, repeat. But I did this for what seemed like hours. I had no idea how long I did it, for when I tried to look up from the screen and at a clock my eyes wouldn't move. Finally, the shadow figure looked defeated, as far as I could tell from a pixelly silhouette, and text came up.
"You persist so, I am in so much pain, I will allow you to meet my master. But I warn ye, turn back now, or you will be doomed!!"
I was given a Yes/No choice. In the excitement of finally beating him I didn't notice I could now again look around freely, and didn't check the clock to see how long I had been playing. I chose YES and was again transfixed to the screen. After the easy task for that long, I did slowly take hits, so I was glad when my health was refilled. A door opened in the top of the room and I went in.
In the next room, I saw what I assumed was the shadow's master. My first thought was a sarcastic "I see a lot of hard work and creativity was put into making him..." It was basically a big, pulsing, black blob with angry red eyes. It spoke. But not through game text. It came through the speakers in a cruel voice that scared me so much I probably would have dropped the Game Boy, but I could not let it go.
"I see another has entered my room. *laugh*. I will make a deal with you, boy. Fight me. That is all I ask. If you refuse, all of your loved ones will soon be dead. If you accept and win, I will---"
"What kind of fucked up person would put sound files like this in here?" I realized too late that the... Whatever it was stopped talking when I started talking. Anger flared in his eyes, and images flashed on the screen. Horrifying images I won't even describe. Images so real they shouldn't of been possible with 3DS graphics, much less original Game Boy graphics.
"DO NOT INTERRUPT ME WHEN I AM SPEAKING!" Terrible pain shot from my hands and through my body, and I screamed in surprise and agony.
"Now, if I may continue, if you refuse this fight your family and loved one's lives are forfeit. If you accept and win, you will get to go free and all the souls I have right now will be freed. If you accept and lose..."
Souls I have right now? It became pretty obvious very quick that this was not a game anymore. Whatever was in this cartridge, was very real and very powerful. I guessed right what he said next...
"... your soul will be mine, and you will have to battle the next player who comes across this game. I have ways of making sure it gets around..."
"...But enough chit-chat. Do you accept my challenge?"
I wasn't given a yes or no option. I said, "Yes" out loud. ...IT chuckled evilly.
"Then let it begin..." Instead of an evil chuckle, it decided this time to let out a maniacal laughter. The blob disappeared and I was swarmed by shadows like the one earlier, except instead of shooting energy balls, they simply ran towards me.
I had 13 of the 14 heart containers in the game, but only a level 1 sword and shield. I thought you needed 10 seashells for the level 2 sword and so when I finally got 10, but then found out I needed 20, I was a little pissed off and stopped caring about finding the seashells. I now regret that decision. It took 2 hits to kill each and they were coming fast, but at least when they hit me it only took away half a heart. I could hear incoherent babble from them and screams when I hit or killed one. I felt bad. I knew I was torturing these poor souls just like the first one. But if I freed them, it would all be worth it. Occasionally I would catch a word or two from them. It was usually things like "I'm sorry..." or "I don't want to do this..." or "Help us...". Those disturbing voices still haunt my dreams.
Eventually, after killing at least a few hundred of them, they stopped coming. I was down 5 and a half hearts, (So I still had 7 1/2), but I was surprised it was only that much.
I probably should have mentioned this before, but I SUCK at video games. Especially Zelda, because it required both smartness and skill, of which I have neither. But I survived that night. I did what hundreds of other people couldn't do.
I outsmarted it.
The blob reappeared in the room, its eyes seeming to say it was amused. It pulsing was disturbing... Like an artery pumping blood as forceful as possible.
"Now it is time for you to be MINE!"
It launched towards me, faster then it looked like it could, and I paused out of panic. I had my sword and shield equipped, though I noticed something missing from my items, one of the most insignificant items in the game: magic powder. I thought, "That must be its weakness! and it removes it from your inventory, that's why no one has defeated it!" I un-paused and didn't have enough time to dodge the attack, so I held up my shield, which surprisingly deflected it to the other side of the room. This time he jumped at me instead, so I had to move out of the way to avoid him falling on and crushing me. I spoke with it.
"Wait! I have a question."
"Dammit, child, what is it you want?"
"Can I please have my magic powder back?"
Silence for a few moments. Then he chuckled softly. "Ah, you figured it out quickly. You are not the first, but to get the powder back you must pay a price that will surely be your undoing."
"What is this price?"
"Before my attacks would do 3 hearts, but now, they will do 14. Basically, automatic DEATH if I hit you."
"Well I don't have much choice do I?"
"Oh, but that is not it, in exchange for the magic powder, I will also take your shield. I will allow for you to keep the Roc's Feather so you can dodge, but if you fail to avoid my attacks, your soul will be mine."
I thought about this, and instantly knew I was FUCKED. There's no way I could do this. I really do suck at video games, hell, the reason I decided to beat Link's Awakening before 'A Link to the Past' was because I got stuck on ALttP's second boss. But if I said yes there was more of a chance then if I said no.
"I accept your terms, and give you my shield."
My shield was instantly replaced by magic powder, which I put in my sword slot (A), then moved Roc's Feather to B. The blob was pretty easy to avoid, but I knew if I made one small mistake (which I made lots of), my soul would be taken and I would join the other souls.
The thing was singing some sort of tune, very softly. To where, I didn't notice at first. But when I paid attention, I heard it clearly. From what I remember, it went like this...
"Now you lay your head to sleep"
"Send to me your soul to keep"
"You will find you'll never wake"
"Stuck forever in this state"
"Now entertain me, be my plaything"
"You can't change it, just try and pray"
"The pain and suffering, never waning"
"Now you are with me to stay"
This was repeated throughout the battle, while I tried to dodge him and get magic powder on him. Every time I got close enough to him, he would either jump and get ready to crush me or dash towards me and I'd have to get out of the way. I don't know how long I managed to avoid death. I never took my eyes off the screen the whole time. Eventually I realized what I must do.
I had to let him dash at me and time it perfectly to where I would sprinkle the powder on him before he hit me. This is something I could do, but not on my first try. I would have to learn from my mistakes and get hit until I figured out the right way to do it. But I couldn't do that here. I had to do it perfectly the first time.
I lined us up on opposite sides of the room. I took a deep breath. It charged at me. With the best timing and dumb luck of my entire life, I hit him. I sprinkled magic powder on the giant black blob.
A horrid scream of agony escaped my speakers. Black goo fell away to reveal what I was really battling.
It made sense, in my mind anyway. This thing was the entire game world. And this whole time I was battling an artery, coming up from the floor and going back down into it making an upside-down U, it simply shifted the floor while moving the artery. That's why the blob was pulsing so violently.
It was writhing in pain and anger as I equipped my sword in my A slot. I walked up to it and pressed the most satisfying A of my life: Severing the artery.
A scream that caused my ears to ring for a few hours afterwords came out. "NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" The game world faded away, and the cartridge simply stopped working. The GBA acted as if there were nothing in it. I couldn't see them, but I could sense the souls escaping. They said stuff to me as they flew past, pretty much different variations of "Thank you..." In whispery voices. I looked at my clock, and the time... 8:37 AM. I had started playing at 10 o' clock last night.
I burned the now-dormant cartridge.
After that, reports from all over the world of children suddenly coming out of a coma popped up. Some have been in one for only a few weeks, some for more than a decade. No one knew why they were in one or why they woke up, but I knew the truth. I knew they were in much worse than a coma. I do not know if any of them would recognize me, or even if they remember what happened. All that matters is that they were free, and that that... THING that will never leave my dreams is gone forever.
Written by ShadowShine57