It was just a silly little myth that people liked to take too seriously on Halloween night. Ginger knew that, and God, how silly were her sisters, the both of them – the older Lacey and the younger Molly – for buying into it all, believing they should do it, too. Beyond silly, the both of them were superstitious – that made it all the more worse and obnoxious as well – superstitions were needless. This was a fact that Ginger liked to point out at least once a month.
Now as it was October, the girl with long, black hair sat on the living room couch, legs crossed with her laptop opened before her as she searched page after page of search engine provided links – some good, some bad, some hopelessly outdated – for quote-unquote retro types of games. Her best friend's boyfriend had introduced her to the idea of bit-torrents and emulators.
Adam, his name was, and he had explained to Ginger that he'd made a sort of hobby out of it, downloading older games, from the 8bit generation to the point-and-click adventure games and beyond – he was down for it all, really. Bored of her PS3 and the very few games she had afforded to buy for it with her monthly pension of ten dollars worth of allowance, the brown-eyed girl currently searched for games in the survival/horror genre.
It was Halloween, after all – a good enough excuse as any to download a new file on her already overheating laptop.
"Ging' – do you wanna come with us to the upstairs bathroom?" a voice called out to her from down the hall. "It's almost midnight!"
"First of all," the girl replied, as she scrolled down a list of descriptions and links to various video game downloads. "If saying the name Bloody Mary three times in order to be able to summon a long-dead spirit of a queen was going to work on Halloween night – and why Halloween night, I have no idea, because it's got nothing to do with Mary Tudor – then saying the alleged phrase three times before a mirror at the stroke of midnight wouldn't matter. At twelve-oh-one, it'd be All Saints' Day, and no longer Halloween anyway."
"Right, you just keep yourself busy with your games and History Channel documentaries then," the voice replied.
"Second of all, Molly," Ginger then called back. "Saying 'bloody Mary' three times isn't going to do anything except to elicit a thirty-second thrill for yourself and Lacey. There's no such thing as ghosts, ghouls – Mary died a long, long time ago and she isn't going to make some great journey from the beyond just to entertain you two idiots."
"You're needlessly nasty some times," Molly said, now as she stood at the end of the hall, just shy of being within the living room itself, her arms folded as she leant against the wall. "Just . . . so you know."
"I wouldn't have to be – if you and Lacey weren't needlessly stupid . . . just so you know." The game she'd chosen and clicked a link for was currently being downloaded and she was only half-paying attention to her baby sister's gabbing anyway, so she might as well humor it in the moment; there was nothing better to do while she watched the progress bar slowly fill. "I mean, I'm sure that sounds harsh, but just try to look at things from my perspective: I'm dealing with two people that, though I care about, tend to take voyages into things beyond senseless. Sometimes I wonder if you're both using obfuscating me with faux-stupidity."
"Right, right – like I said, watch your documentaries and read the dictionary for fun some more. Call us what you like, but we don't look down on you in the same way you look down on us, Ging'."
"Ginger – Ginger ; I never said I liked that nickname," the girl said as she rolled her eyes, clearly frustrated despite that fact that her download was nearly completed.
"Lacey and I never said we wanted to be called stupid, senseless or idiotic, either."
Turning her head to look back at Molly, Ginger saw that she had already turned to walk back down the hall, and so she rolled her eyes again, before shrugging and deciding that continuing the argumentative conversation wasn't worth the wasted breath on her part. Besides, she discovered as she looked back to her computer screen – her download was finally completed.
Minimizing her Internet browser window, the fifteen year old clicked onto the zip file she'd downloaded to her Desktop, before extracting the files and opening the source folder. Dragging the game application itself to the appropriating emulator that would run it, Ginger's eyes caught sight of the ReadMe file, as well. Giving a half-shrug, she double-clicked on it and read the text located therein.
Welcome to Stay Alive. Navigate yourself with your mouse cursor – press Spacebar while navigating to run faster. Note: this is a voice activated game. Make sure you have a working microphone.
"Check!" Ginger exclaimed aloud to herself, adjusting her screen to tilt back slightly.
Beyond the gates of Gerouge Plantation, beyond its many graves (completing a veritable graveyard within its own backyard) lies a very old mansion, which contains within its walls a manifestation of evil so vile, so detestable, so lustful for the taste of human blood that the heart quivers to even imagine its countenance.
Users beware, for a word of caution comes prior to playing this tale:
More than one real life, factual account of life imitating art has been attached to players of this game . . .
"Oh, great," Ginger said, sighing in an almost disappointed way. "I hope this dumb, 'oh yeah, it really happened' mumbo-jumbo doesn't affect the gameplay."
. . . Perhaps the most notorious tale was that of three friends who claim to have survived multiple encounters with the lady of the game's manor, Hungarian-born Elizabeth Bathory herself. However, it should be noted that they were under suspicion of the murdering of their other friends at the time, due to their alleged cult-like activity regarding playing this game, such as researching it. The obsession, authorities say, led to the murders, and the three who claimed the video game was responsible for said murders were said by same authorities to be of questionably mental soundness. . .
"Sounds about right to me," Ginger commented aloud, under her breath.
. . . However, do try to enjoy the game, despite the implications and stigma it acquired some time ago. Thank you for reading, and enjoy Stay Alive.
"Yes, yes, I'll try to, despite the Blair Witch real-story angle and the impossibly uncreative title of the game itself," Ginger said, giving her third eye-roll within ten minutes' time.
Optimizing the emulator screen to full resolution, Ginger soon found herself looking at the image of an opened diary or journal, one with old, browning pages. Upon it in cursive was written some sort of saying or prayer, and she found that no matter what she clicked or which key she struck, the game would not begin. She then thought of the ReadMe's mention of it being voice activated.
Deciding that perhaps it would work, Ginger then began to read the words before her aloud:
"Come to me, clouds. May you rise as an evil storm born to rip them open. Let the cover of night bear witness and destroy those who resist, so they shall harm me not. Let the blood of many cleanse me, preserving my beauty eternal – I pray you."
Feeling a strange shiver come over her entire body, Ginger gave a bit of a shudder, watching as the words, which had disappeared from the page one by one as she spoke them, vanished entirely, before continuing to watch as the diary itself closed and left the screen, revealing a new screen that had a generic looking playable character standing there, swaying to and fro slightly.
"Fully-customizable characterization?" Ginger wondered aloud, before fooling around with some of the options and breaking out into a grin. "Well, I guess so – sweet."
Utilizing the many options at her fingertips, Ginger soon found herself looking back at a scale-model visage of herself. The character had her hair, her eyes, her skin tone, a near-exact knockoff of the outfit she was wearing (a button-down plaid shirt and denim jean shorts). Satisfied, she said, "Now to choose a weapon."
Scrolling through the potential artillery, she ultimately decided on wielding a katana. "Katanas are cooler," Ginger murmured, before scrolling her cursor over the button that would begin the game.
The character screen quickly fading into black now that her player avatar was created, Ginger watched as the black screen before her soon disappeared, parting to reveal a stormy-looking sky that soon panned down and out to reveal an enormous, gothic- and foreboding-looking house. As it panned out, a strange, deep voice began to speak:
If you're listening to this, it means you've made a grave mistake. You spoke the words, and soon . . . you will die for it. At this very moment, the evil of this place courses through your veins. You have been marked for death. Your choice has brought you here, to Gerouge Plantation.
200 years ago, Countess Elizabeth Bathory opened Gerouge as a finishing school for young girls. What happened to those girls was so depraved that all accounts were stricken from public record.
The evil of Gerouge has been reborn.
"Weird. This is weird, but . . . cool, I guess," Ginger said, feeling more and more intrigued whilst listening to the narration.
Your salvation lies beyond the gates of this plantation. Your only chance is this: Uncover the horrible truth about Gerouge Plantation and stop the evil, but in order to do that, you must stay alive.
Ginger couldn't deny that the graphics weren't all that bad – the house looked lifelike enough. The camera angle changing, she soon found herself zooming in on her created character as she stood there, her facial expression smug as she idly swung her katana back and forth a few times as the camera panned out back away from the initial zoom-in.
Nodding her head, Ginger said, "Let's do this."
Walking down the hallway of her home's second story, the tall-for-her-age Molly saw her own gangly-looking shadow cast against the wall from the dimly lit wall-mounted lights. A chill was present in the house, she thought, though she also considered the possibility that everything just felt all that colder since she had cut her long locks of brown hair off into a bob hairstyle. Her mother and father had hated it, but hey, it was her hair, right? So who cares?
Stepping down to the hall a few steps more to reach her oldest sister's room, the pale-skinned twelve year old poked her head into the bedroom, saying, "Lacey, are you ready to go and wait for Midnight to come?"
Turning away from her computer screen, the brown-eyed, brown-haired Lacey had a look of apprehension on her face. "You're still up for it then? I was just reading up on some stories of people who've really summoned her, you know – they're really scary, these stories. Some people have died, Molly."
"Wait, what? You really, really believe that Bloody Mary appears when you say her name three times? Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary," pausing to look around herself afterward, before smiling as she looked back to Lacey, she said, "See – nothing happened, am I right?"
"You didn't say it at the stroke of Midnight in the dark before a mirror," the oldest sister pointed out. "Maybe this is a bad idea."
"Eh, if nothing else, I was just informed by the all-knowing Ginger that we can't do it right if we say her name at the stroke of Midnight anyway – technically it's November first, so it's not even Halloween night anymore."
"Maybe it happens at the stroke of Midnight any night you try it," Lacey pointed out, before looking back to her screen to find that her Internet was down. "That's weird. I'll have to have Dad call the cable company again tomorrow since he's away with Mom tonight at that Halloween party. I guess the cable company going wonky with our service provision again."
"Maybe – personally, I think we should just switch companies; remind me to bug Dad about that tomorrow, will you?" Molly said, before stepping forward and stretching her hand forward, taking hold of her sister's. "Come on, let's just go and get this over with. It's really not that big a deal. Besides, if we do summon the spirit of a long-dead queen, then we can rub it in Ginger's face."
Laughing a bit, Lacey said, "Alright, alright, whatever – maybe these people just made up these stories about seeing her and being killed and what-have-you anyway, right?"
"You think?" Molly said with a snicker, before tugging at Lacey's hand. "Come on, it's almost Midnight."
Back in the living room, Ginger was mowing through droves of undead, virtual zombie girls, some teenaged-looking, some much younger, but still girls all the same, each one of them. But no matter how they ran at her crazed, ambushing her and so on and so forth, Ginger's katana sliced through undead after undead, while her character also picked up roses that were sometimes dropped from time to time. An ominous, deep-sounding voice had spoken during the initial few-moments' long tutorial, and it had let her know that these roses could be thrown down to do away with an enemy, should she become overwhelmed by them all.
So far she had only thrown two roses, to dissipate a couple of separate, small hoards of the girls that had charged her unexpectedly moments beforehand. But she seemed to be doing pretty good now, as she made her way through the graves and progressed further and further toward the mansion.
Gasping aloud as a girl took a leap at her and knocked her character to the ground, Ginger panicked and fumbled and tossed two roses out in a row; it got rid of the undead child, but she thought that a single rose would've done. Oh well, maybe she'd find more item drops. At any rate, she continued forward, only one rose in her inventory. Slipping into the mansion, Ginger's character turned around swiftly to watch as the door closed itself tightly behind her, dousing her in shadow and darkness, with only a few lit torches along the walls lighting the way. A creepy, strange-sounding wind seemed to be heard blowing throughout the hall of this virtual mansion, though, stranger still, Ginger could swear she felt a chill actually pass over her for real.
Closing the door of the upstairs bathroom, Lacey flicked on a flashlight that she had insisted on taking with her. Together with Molly, the pair stepped over to the mirror, the oldest sister's free hand reaching for her baby sister's hand, before taking tight hold of it as they approached the looking-glass.
"You really are freaking out, aren't you?" Molly asked, looking back at what little of their respective reflections she could see within the mirror with the gleam of the flashlight; she could feel her sister trembling, even just through the hand-holding.
"Just a little, I am," Lacey admitted. "I guess of the two of us, I'm a little more superstitious or paranoid or whatever – probably both."
"Just don't let Ginger know you're more superstitious, she might aim all of her nastiness at you," Molly said, before sighing and saying, "I wish she wasn't so stuck-up."
"Me, too," Lacey agreed, before slowly putting the flashlight down on the countertop by the bathroom sink and then releasing her sister's hand to lift her wrist upward, before pressing a small button on her watch, illuminating the face of her watch so that she could read it. "It's eleven fifty-one."
"Almost time then," Molly said, feeling a slither of fright cause her heart to race a bit. "You know what I said earlier about how if Bloody Mary did appear, that we could rub it in Ginger's face? I kind of do wish something would happen so that we could get her back for all her claims that our beliefs in things are dumb and stupid."
"Well, just in case we think we see something," Lacey said tentatively. "We could take a picture. Hurry – go in my room and grab my cell. We can have the camera app open and ready in the even that, well, we see something. But hurry – it's eleven fifty-two."
Once Ginger had guided her character to the end of the tunnel-like and torch lit corridor within the game mansion she found herself looking at a portrait of a beautiful but foreboding looking woman. Hair almost as dark as her own, which was twisted into an elaborate bun atop her head; eyes that were cold despite their warm, brown color – "This must be that so-called countess from the beginning of the game."
Turning the camera angle, Ginger caught sight of a gleam of bright light shining from behind a pair of what looked like cabinet doors. She'd just opened them to spy upon what looked to be the diary from the opening screen when Ginger watched as, seconds later, a very dark, dense shadow passed over her character.
"Guess I should get out of here . . ." she mused aloud, before turning her character and running her down a second corridor, which ultimately led her to a doorway.
The dark shadow passed her by a second time just as she attempted to climb the staircase found just inches beyond said doorway. Once the shadow had passed her by, Ginger managed to navigate herself up the stairs, coming to find a quite well-lit room. It was then that she heard the sound of two distinct screams coming from overhead. The girl paused the game after she nearly jumped out of her own skin. Ginger then placed the laptop on the coffee table before her, taking care not to disconnect it from its charge.
Getting up from the couch, she sprinted down the hallway to reach the foot of the staircase, before calling upwards, hoping for her sisters to hear her. "Stop being so ludicrous, you guys!"
Then sighing and dashing back to the couch, Ginger sat down and crossed her legs, before placing her laptop on her lap once more. Rolling her eyes as she resumed the game, she soon did a double-take, for what was once a well-lit room now had no lights lit to speak of. It was as if the torches adorning the walls had simply disappeared. "Gah – it probably glitches from pausing or something stupid like that."
All the same, light or no light, Ginger still heard the sound of the dark shadow as it passed her over. "Yay . . ." she muttered sarcastically, before tossing her final rose and beginning her trek across the darkened room.
Reaching its midpoint, Ginger glanced up at the ceiling in her own house as all the lights flickered unexpectedly, before shutting off altogether. "Damn – my battery wasn't fully charged yet," Ginger grumbled, before resuming her trek across the room in the game.
Hearing the shadow move again and beginning to panic over her complete lack of roses, Ginger pressed the Spacebar, causing her character to run even faster as she turned and fled down another hallway. Spotting a dim light from beneath a closed door just up ahead, she turned to face it and jerked the door open before dashing inside the room and spotting the source of the light – an overturned flashlight lying on the floor.
Taking another step forward, she tripped over something drenched in shadow that she had somehow missed, which in turn caused her to fall face-first to the floor. Within a second an apparition was upon her, lurching downward and then leaning back upright again as the camera quickly panned around and zoomed in on the action.
Less like an apparition and more like a grown version of the previously seen undead girl characters, upon closer inspection of her face Ginger realized that the countess herself was killing her, pulling back against her throat with a cord of some sort, choking her. No matter what key she struck or how frantically she moved her cursor about and clicked the mouse, she could neither fight the Countess, nor flee from her.
Facing certain virtual death, Ginger tried the Shift key to see if anything would happen, but it was without success. Groaning in further frustration, Ginger looked on as her screen darkened significantly, before flashing once and then going completely black. Battery dead – character dead – power out; All in all just fantastic, she thought to herself as she closed the laptop and placed it back on the coffee table. Slowly stretching as she did so, Ginger got up from the couch and decided to inflict her aggravation upon her sisters.
Granted, they hadn't made a peep after she had yelled at them before, but still – her digital watch read that it was after Midnight as she glanced at its face. "I'm sure they're done with their little Halloween fun anyway."
As she said this, Ginger heard what sounded like a doorknob jiggle. Looking back over her shoulder toward the front door she said, "Mom – Dad?" No answer came though, and besides, the jiggling had subsided. Shrugging, Ginger turned and walked down the hall before ascending the stairs found at the end thereof.
It was impossibly dark and nearly impossible to see enough to walk onward – however, there was a light coming from the bathroom at the end of the hall. "That's Lacey's flashlight, I bet," she said to herself, before inwardly adding, I hope the power went off right as they said their little chant in front of the mirror, just to scare them enough to stop annoying me with it like they've been doing ever since Lacey read about the Bloody Mary myth a few years back.
Making a beeline for the bathroom door, Ginger placed a hand on the doorknob and called out, "Forewarning: I'm coming in you guys. After all, I guess you're too afraid to leave the bathroom now that the power's out."
Feeling a strange chill pass by the back of her neck as she said this, the dark-haired girl quickly looked around behind herself – nothing was there, no one at all. "Well, whatever . . ."
Opening the door and stepping inside, a second breeze passed by, and this time it tickled the calves of her legs. Hurriedly stepping on inside, Ginger took two steps forward before she tripped and fell over something she had not noticed in the darker parts of the bathroom. Catching herself slightly by falling on the palms of her hands rather than outright smacking her face, Ginger had only a couple of seconds to register the shock of the fall before she felt the air pressure behind her change – someone was definitely behind her.
"Molly, Lace–" she began to say, before making a strange, short yelp of a sound as she felt a thin yet rope-like something pull upward against her throat.
She tried to scream for help, but the croaking and gagging sounds were the only things she managed to utter. Reaching out with her hand to reach for the edge of the bathtub – which was something, anything, to try to help her pull herself up and away if possible – Ginger could feel herself growing more and more lightheaded. Feeling a crude, warm sensation slip down her cheeks as her eyes began to burn in a merciless fashion, Ginger made a couple more gurgling sounds as the smell of iron caught her attention seconds later. Needing to scream but unable to do so, Ginger barely grasped the edge of the tub before feeling the world grow even darker around her more so than it already was.
Another few seconds and she was unconscious, waiting for death's shadow to surround her as a strange half-ghost, half-living creature of dark desires took the cord-like string she'd strangled her victim with and hoisted it over the nearby shower curtain rod, wielding all her ghoulish strength to string Ginger up and over it. Fixing the end of the string onto the faucet down below, the revived spirit of the Countess produced a pair of shears, and its twin blades were soon used to slice into Ginger's throat.
The blood rained down upon the Countess in sprinklings of crimson and ruby, slowly but surely covering her all over even as she opened her mouth and protruded her tongue, the better to taste the blood with.
On and on this went for several minutes, until the last drop of drained blood struck the temple of the murderer's forehead. Smiling vaguely, she licked her lips one last, crude time as it trailed downward and then the fiend slipped away into the strange darkness that exists between a blink and a glance, shrouding all things save for the times you perchance catch their movements reflected in a mirror or still water.
She was gone, even though a husband and wife were on their way home, not knowing that they'd find their daughters dead in the bathroom – two on the floor, one hung crudely from the shower.
The smell of fresh blood was rich in the air, though, and would be sure to greet them and invite them to this dreadful sight upon coming home.