I held the cartridge, not knowing what to do. Paranoid as to what would happen next, because what seemed like an entirely innocent game, turned out to be a terrible nightmare.
I'll start the story where it should properly begin, at my house. I was sitting on my bed when my mom came into my room and asked me if I could go to the store and pick up some soda, the usual for her, but this time, she said she'd give me 10 bucks for doing so. I didn't turn it down. Now, with $10 to my name, and having already picked up the soda, I contemplated what I would do with the money. It was a nice day, so, I coulda gone and spent some time walking around with some friends and gotten some drinks and a pizza, but instead, I decided to go down to the goodwill that is right near my house.
I walked in and looked in the glass cabinet they have by the door, the first place I go to every time, and saw something that I had been looking for at the time; A copy of Mega Man 3 for the NES. It was in great condition, little to no wear, but, the cart did have some scratches on it, slightly noticeable. They wanted $5.50 for it, so, I decided to look around while I thought about it. After about 10 to 15 minutes of looking through pointless junk, I decided to go pick up the game, and I was incredibly satisfied with my decision. I wasn't given a bag for it, so I just carried it. I noticed a rattling sound coming from the inside, not like a screw, but like paper, so I rushed home to see what it was.
I walked in the door and went to my room, shut the door, and pulled out the tool I needed to open the cart. Sure enough, I was right. There was a folded up note in there, taped up, and it looked fairly recent, maybe a month or so old. I grabbed my knife and cut the tape to read it, and I read what seemed to be instructions.
"Whatever you do, don't let go of the controller. Keep playing until the game is finished, but keep your guard up."
I took the note into consideration because I can easily beat Mega Man 3 in less than 5 hours, and it was the weekend, so, I had all day, and besides, it's one of my all time favorite games, I'm not gonna put it down that easily. I pulled my NES out of the closet and dusted it off with a dry rag, seeing as it hadn't been played in almost a year, got the nostalgic feel of blowing dust out of the cartridge, and placed the game firmly into the system. As I turned it on, everything loaded up normally, so I figured the note was a joke.
Anyways, I was happy that there were no problems with it and started out with Needle Man, my starting point of choice. I worked my way up until where you have to beat the robot masters from Mega Man 2, and had to go to the bathroom. I was somewhat paranoid about the note, but, I didn't mind it because there was nothing bad going on, until I tried to place the controller on my dresser.
A sharp pain went from my hands to my shoulders and what sounded like a girl in her teens, maybe even my age, saying something came from the speakers of my tv.
A little scared at this point, I shut both the system and the TV off to go to the bathroom. Once I finished, I came back to my room, and waited a little bit to turn the game on again, not knowing what would happen next. I waited about an hour or so, until mom and dad had left to go to a friend's house for a birthday party that day. I reluctantly turned on the game, picked up the controller, and put in the password to start back where I was.
I started back at the stage select and tried setting the controller down again, just to see if I was imagining it. Nothing happened, so I continued playing, starting with the bosses in Shadow Man's stage. Everything was normal, until I got to an enemy that wasn't normally on that screen, and I know this because I've played though the game enough to know. It was one of those rabbit-things, as I call them, but it didn't move. It just sat there, looking at Mega. I went to jump over it after about 2 minutes then heard:
"What's wrong? Am I so different from the others that you just ignore me and keep moving?"
I ignored this, and kept moving. The first gate came up, and I knew I was up against Wood Man. Simple, I thought to myself, and it was, but oddly easier than before. After I had laid waste to the bot, I headed to the gate to go into the second half of the map. It wouldn't open. I was trapped. I stood in the room for about 30 seconds, and went to reset the game, and then I heard the teleporting noise. The rabbit was there. I was starting to worry at this point.
"You ignored me, and now you're trapped here, just like me. How does it feel? Being restricted to move forward because of someone else? It sucks, doesn't it?" The girl said.
"Who or what ARE you?!" I shouted at the screen, not looking for an answer, until she gave me one.
"My name is Tracy. I've been stuck here for so long, hoping someone would get me out, but everyone just ignores me, and it makes me upset, so, I trap them here with me."
I began to freak out, thinking about turning off the game and getting rid of the cartridge for good. It was only $6, I could always get that money back.
"Why do you keep thinking of getting rid of me?" She had read my mind somehow... "What did I ever do to you?" She started to cry. "All you people think about is what YOU want, and don't pay any attention to me! I was neglected by my parents, and never had any friends. Everyone thought I was strange, and so different from everyone else. I cried myself to sleep every night, hoping that one day, I'd have something that everyone else had, but that never happened. This game was my escape from the real world. I always played it, day and night. If I was at school, I'd think about coming home to it. It was my only friend."
I began to tear up with her story because I've been there. I know how that feeling of loneliness is, because I was there for a while. My sister had all of the attention, and my escape was Pokemon, but, I started trying to stand out and be someone, and I made friends and started to be someone.
"I know how you feel, Tracy. I've been there before."
"..." She was crying. I could hear it, ever so faint.
"WHAT DO YOU KNOW?! You aren't me, you don't know what I went through!" She was angry, and I could feel it through the controller, the pain getting stronger in my arms. It felt as if spikes were running through my veins.
"You want to know what happened?" she finally said.
"Yeah." I began to tear up from all the pain. My hands gripping the controller tighter and tighter, out of my control.
"My mother and father left me home alone one night to go drinking with their friends, and I was sitting in my room, playing and feeling somewhat happy for once because I didn't have to hear them yelling at each other, or at me for no reason. They came home at about midnight, came to my room and asked why the hell I was still awake. I didn't answer immediately, and my mother came up to me and grabbed me by the collar and threw me against the wall. I could smell so much alcohol on her breath, so much, that I could almost tell exactly what they had been drinking. My back hurt and I was in a lot of pain, and they began yelling at me and telling me how worthless I was, and how little I'd achieve in life, and how much they had wished I was never born, and all of these things just made me cry. I screamed at them and told them to leave, and they didn't, so I snapped. I grabbed the closest thing to me that I could use, my controller, and beat my mother to death, and then my father. Their blood was all over the floor, my hands and controller covered in it. I sat there, crying and feeling a small amount of freedom, and that's when I realized what I had done. I murdered my parents....I truly had nothing left. I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and killed myself. I killed myself, and no one cared still."
After hearing her story, we grew silent for a while, she was still sobbing. The pain in my arms was intense, and the grip on my controller was so strong, that my hands had begun to bleed. She broke the silence.
"Now you know. That's what happened to me. Now, tell me, do you know what I've been through? Have you been through the same thing?"
Before I could get an answer out, she answered for me. "NO! You'll never, ever know what pain I've been through!"
The screen became black. I was crying out in pain, but I knew mom and dad wouldn't be home for at least another 2 hours. I sat, trying to figure out what to do, and then, I asked her.
"Why me? Why are you doing this to me? I never hurt you, I never meant to meet you, but you put me through so much pain. WHY?!" Silence. She didn't answer for about 10 minutes.
"Why? I... I wanted a friend."
"What?!" I exclaimed. "There's better ways to make a friend than to torture them!"
There was a pause that seemed like it had dragged on for 3 hours.
"Stay with me?" She replied.
I waited to make my answer, shocked at what had been said.
"Well?" She replied.
I thought to myself what the consequences would be if I didn't listen to her. Would I be trapped like her? Would I lose it all? I came to a conclusion, as hard as it was.
"Yes... I'll keep you here."
"Good. As long as you have this cartridge, I'll be here." She sounded happy and I was relieved due to the fact that my hands had been freed. I turned off the console, pulled out the game, and held it in my hand. I was paranoid as to what would happen next, but I knew, it'd be best to keep it with me. In the end, Tracy was my only friend. Everyone left me and ignored me, just like they had done to Tracy.