I’m not crazy.
I know I have said it a million times. To my doctors. To my parents. To my friends. But I have to keep saying it until I’m sure that nobody will help me.
In this moment I’m in a cell with soft walls. Everything is light green: the bed and its sheets, the door. There isn’t any other furniture. If I have to go to the bathroom I have to call a nurse. Way over my head there is a small window where sunlight enters and sometimes the sounds of the streets. Besides that, I’m alone. Very alone.
My parents don’t come as often to see me. My friends are the same story.
I’m writing this with a pencil Dr. García forgot, I hid it under my pillow. It also took me a few days to gather six napkins where I’ll write my story. When I’m done, I’ll fling them through the window. You, whoever you are, dear reader, will pick them up, put them in order, read them carefully and, if you decide to believe me, you’ll help me. You’ll be kind enough to come to the hospital, talk to the doctors and tell them I didn’t invent a thing, that the game exists and that I must finish it or in a few days they’ll have to bury my empty and punished body.
Everything started the afternoon my friend Humphrey obtained a CD with a game called Abaddon I. How did he get it? It is a mystery for me. He had said that it was among pirated copies of some DVDs his sister bought, although the CD of the game was original. The point is that when I played it for the first time, my life changed for the worse.
-Gerard, you HAVE to see this.- Humphrey had called me.
-What is it?
-A new game. It is… is… I can’t even explain it.
-I’m doing my homework. Tell me what it is about or I won’t go.
-Then don’t come.
I should have done that. I should have finished my homework. After a few minutes trying to concentrate, I gave up. I grabbed my jacket and got to his house, at the other side of the street.
-What is it about?- I asked when I sat with him in front of the computer.
He didn’t even need to explain. What I saw was stunning.
END OF THE FIRST NAPKIN
The screen of the computer showed our street, everything was on fire. The houses, the cars, the gardens, everything was exactly as the real street. Hundreds of black demons were flying over the destruction. There was many corpses on the pavement, I even recognized some of my neighbors among them.
-But… how did you?!- I tried to ask
-Don’t ask me.
Humphrey was trying to kill demons using the space bar of his keyboard. He moved the shotgun left and right with the arrows keys and fired blue rays. The demons were disappearing, yes, but many others keep appearing on the sky. They were like furious gargoyles.
Humphrey got out of our street and continued to kill demons in front of a supermarket. Then the clouds opened and a new demon appeared, this time it was red and humongous.
-This is the bad guy of this level! –he said- it is a tough boss.
I saw Humphrey fighting until he lost all his lives and the known words appeared. “Game Over”.
-This is awesome! – I said – Why is it so real?
-I don’t know. I just wrote my name and my birth date.
I took the keyboard. With the mouse I clicked on “New Game”. Then effectively, there was a space to write the full name. I did it and pressed “Next”. It asked me for my birth date. I wrote it and the game processed the information. Finally, the “Loading” bar disappeared and a new image appeared, this time of a sheet of parchment with an elegant calligraphy:
Gerard Manrique, United States of America, Tennessee , Nashville. Libra with Piscis ascendant. 4698-131
-Wow! Awesome! –I exclaimed.
-Shut up and keep going. Press Enter.
The typical license agreement appeared. That part where it says that one shouldn’t copy the software and all that stuff.
-Press that you agree.- Humphrey indicated me.
I did. The game started. It was curious that the character was standing just in front of the door of my house.
-This is really awesome.
A demon appeared flying over me and I shot it. Then another. And another. The best thing is that one felt the urge of killing them. Our neighbor Lillian entered the screen, with her bike. A demon went towards her and I killed it. But then more and more approached until I couldn’t save her. Poor Lillian, calcinated in middle of the street.
It didn’t take long before I died. It took like five minutes, but it still was an excellent game. The best scores appeared: Humphrey Gordon 4604-7 in the first places, Gerard Manson 4698-131 almost last.
What are those numbers?
-I don’t know. I guess the game invents them.
-This is like Google Earth, like watching your house from space, isn’t it?
-Yes. I think they use that map to make a copy of every street of the world. Pretty cool, huh?
My palms were sweating. This was, by far, the best game I had ever played. Humphrey had a hunch of what I was thinking in that moment.
-The math exam. –he suddenly said.
-I made a copy of the game for you. But its price is the math exam. You’ll give me your answers.
After I exited his house, there was only thing that centered my attention. Lillian was with her bike. I had goosebumps, as she was in the exact place where, in the game, the demons had attacked and turned her into ashes. It was nice to see her alive and playing.
END OF THE SECOND NAPKIN
I immediately inserted the disc in my computer. And although the game asked for information again, the license agreement didn’t appear. I didn’t care about that. I played until near midnight, because I still couldn’t believe how good it was. I had explored every place of the neighborhood; I even entered my school and shot the demons from there. The red demon always appeared and I always fought him, but I lost every time.
-Gerard! You better not be playing! – Mom’s voice made me finally turn off the computer and go to sleep.
The next day, after school, I played again. And the situation repeated every day until the weekend. The problem is that I couldn’t kill the red demon with anything, not even locking myself in my room for the whole Saturday and Sunday. I started to suspect that the game only had one level. Monday: I told that to Humphrey once I saw him in the school.
-I don’t play it anymore. I got bored of it. -he said- Besides, I have been feeling sick lately and the computer gives me headaches.
I was disappointed. It wasn’t a common game, and Humphrey was my only friend. I had to play it by myself, but there was something more I wanted to ask him.
-Lend me the original disc.
-Why? - he said, holding his belly and looking to the sites with anguish. It seemed like something in the environment caused him fear.
-I want to find information in Internet. I can’t defeat the devil and I’m desperate. It has been a whole week and I can’t get past it.
In the afternoon I went to his house for the disc. My friend was really sick, he had fever and his eyes were bloodshot.
-You should go to the hospital. –I told him.
-I did. But the doctor said that I’ll be fine soon because I’m not sick.
He gave me the disc and left me alone.
The truth is that there wasn’t much on the disc. It had “Abaddon I” on top, “Tenebrae” on the bottom and a sequence of numbers and letters in middle: “4qrtpp”. No trademark or creator. I started to feel that there was something wrong.
In Google I first searched for “Abaddon I”. There was a lot of results of a rock band that was called that, Abaddon. Then information about Abaddon, boss of the demons of the seventh hierarchy, also known as “The Exterminator”.
But nothing about the game.
I searched for “Tenebrae”, and the only thing I learned is that it is something that is used to make games where you’re on the character’s point of view.
As a last option, I searched the letters and numbers. Nothing appeared.
I went to bed, thinking that soon I would get tired of that game.
END OF THE THIRD NAPKIN
The next day our teacher gave us the bad news. Almost everyone cried and I couldn’t believe it. I had been in his house less than a day ago. I had many things that he had lent me when we was young kids and I never bothered to return: His Max Steel figure, some Yu-Gi-Oh cards, his marble collection. It was impossible.
After school I ran to his house but nobody opened the door. Mom later told me that everyone had gone to the funeral. She asked me if I wanted to go, but I was too shocked. I denied the offer and she understood. Looking for something to distract myself, I decided to play the game we had enjoyed in the last week, but it was worse in the long term. I still wasn’t capable of killing the demon, so it made me sadder.
Then I suddenly had the idea of searching everything in Google: “Abaddon I Tenebrae 4qrtpp”. There was only one result: A page in Romania (it had .ru at the end), that only had a line of white text over a black background: an e-mail account.
I couldn’t resist anymore. I booted my e-mail account and sent a message to that person. It was a very short message: “I want information of Abaddon I”.
In that moment I looked through the window. Humphrey’s parents were returning to their house. They were dressed and black and they were crying. I felt terrible. I didn’t know a thirteen year old boy could die so fast.
When I returned to the computer there wasn’t any reply from the e-mail account. I started to play other games, racing games and Civilization.
Three days later I played Abaddon again. Then I found a horrible detail. It was like the fourth time I started the game. In the window of Humphrey’s room, in the virtual house of the game, I saw a boy’s face. A sad boy that never stopped looking at me. I keep looking at that image until a demon attacked me with its fire and I died. When the Game Over words appeared I closed the game. My heart was beating too fast.
When Abaddon closed, a notification told me I had many unread message. I wanted to distract myself with my messages but it was impossible. Between two unread messages there was one that came from the Romanian account. I clicked it. Now it wasn’t just about understanding the game, about defeating the demon and that stuff, but also now I had to understand what I had seen.
“The information is on the cross”.
That was the whole message, in spanish, my mother language.
I didn’t understand its meaning. There were no crosses in the game, unless I had underestimated the software from the beginning and it were an Adventure type game and not just an action game. I probably had to explore more, to solve some riddle, to interact with other characters…
I decided to try again and do the only thing that seemed logical: run towards the nearest church. I tried not to counter the demons, I focused on running. However, once I approached the church, I noted that I was constantly repelled, like if it had a force pushing me out. I waited until I was killed by the fire, nothing else happened.
I turned off the computer and looked through the window. I observed Humphrey’s window, at the other side of the street. The curtains didn’t move. His bed was spotless.
I went to sleep, but during that week I had horrible nightmares. And every time I woke up of them, I couldn’t avoid running to the window and look at the other side of the street. I was sure I would see the eyes of a sad boy that used to be my partner in football games and videogames.
END OF THE FOURTH NAPKIN
A few days later my parents noted that something wasn’t right.
-What is “Regnat Abaddon”? – Mom asked after dinner.
-Why?-I asked, fearful. I didn’t even know what that meant.
-Because you have yelled that several times in your dreams, son. Did you see any scary movie recently? Or is it related to Humphrey?
I didn’t know what to say. But I noticed I couldn’t let this pass. I went to my room and broke the original disc. Then I did the same with my copy. And when I was about to uninstall the game from my computer, I understood.
I started the game. I couldn’t avoid looking at my friend’s house in the screen. His face seemed like he wanted to say something from afar, but it was obvious that it was impossible. The demons started their attack, and I did the only thing I knew I had never done before: I opened the door behind me and entered my house.
I was scared. Everything inside the house was identical to my real life house. It was even dark. So I walked through the hallway to the stairs. I noted that, behind the door of my room, somebody was playing with the computer. As you may imagine, I decided not to enter. And I, in the real life, decided not to look towards the door.
Then, inside the game, I went to the only cross in my house: one there is in my parents’ room. There, in front of it, the secret was revealed. Bright blue letters was floating in front of it.
The first number is the distance from the darkness to the day of the contract.
The second number is the day from the day of the contract to the darkness.
When Abaddon is defeated the original date is returned.
That was all. I stared at the message for such a long time, trying to figure out its meaning, that I almost didn’t see the bow under the cross. A shiny blue bow with only one arrow. I knew that with that arrow I could defeat Abaddon.
I looked at the clock in the computer. It was half an hour past midnight. How did I spend so long on this? What contract? What was that about the darkness?
I left the computer and ran towards my parents’ room. They were sleeping. There wasn’t anything under the cross, nor any words hovering over it. I started crying.
-Son, are you okay? – Mom asked, she had awoken.
-Yes, mom. I had another bad dream.
END OF THE FIFTH NAPKIN
I returned to my room, but heard my parents conversating, clearly worried. In the screen, one of the demons had entered the house, killed me and destroyed the bright bow. Game Over, the red letters over the black background announced.
The next day I didn’t want to go to school, I told Mom I didn’t feel well. I spend the day entering to the game and returning to the cross. The bow wasn’t around. Nor was Humphrey’s face. The demons kept attacking me, as a routine. I didn’t feel like defending.
Very upset, I messaged the e-mail account from Romania. I only got a reply when, in my query, I added the words the game had given me: Libra with Piscis ascendant. 4698-131.
-You’re so young, Libra. – the owner of the account replied in the first message.
-How did you know? I’m almost fourteen. –I responded.
-The first number separates you from the first darkness, that means, the number of days since your birth. – it replied in the second message.
I almost faint. It wasn’t hard to suppose what the second number meant. Humphrey had obtained a seven. I felt like crying.
-What is the contract? – I asked.
-The starting clauses, when you played for the first time. Didn’t you read them? You liberated your original date for the one Abaddon would give you.
-My original date?
-The day of your death. Abaddon chooses another one to give some emotion to the game. When you defeat the Exterminator, he gives you back your original date. And then the game is over. You’re lucky, Libra. Not everyone has 131 days to defeat him.
Then a demon entered through the window. It didn’t attack me with fire, it just started to torment me crawling on my back and hurting me with its claws and teeth. My screams alarmed my mother.
-Gerard! What is happening!? Where does it hurt!?
The next day, I was brought here, to this hospital room where, at least, the demons aren’t tormenting me. They only fly through the sky, with their eyes on me. Sometimes, just sometimes, they peek through the window.
I’m running short. If you think it is worth it, dear reader, made whatever you can so I’m allowed to go back to the game and finish Abaddon. I know there is some other cross with the bright bow so I can end it.
I’m tired and feel so alone.
END OF THE SIXTH NAPKIN
Those was a group of six napkins found in the gardens of the Child Psychiatric Hospital and given by Dr. George García, specialis, to the parents of Gerard Manrique, a few days after his death.
The existence of the game was never confirmed
The only known detail of the story is a strange conversation between the minor and a stranger in Romania via e-mail
The parents, about this fact, remarked that they ignored their son could write and read antique latin.