I recently moved into my dorm room starting as a Sophomore in college and a friend of mine gave me his old Nintendo 64 to play. I was stoked, to say the least, I could finally play all of those old games of my youth that I hadn't touched in at least a decade. His Nintendo 64 came with one yellow controller and a rather shoddy copy of Super Smash Brothers, and while beggars can't be choosers, needless to say it didn't take long until I became bored of beating up the computer players.
That weekend I decided to drive around a few neighborhoods about twenty minutes or so off campus, hitting up the local garage sales, hoping to score on some good deals from ignorant parents). I ended up picking up a copy of Pokemon Stadium, Goldeneye, F-Zero, and two other controllers for two dollars. Satisfied, I began to drive out of the neighborhood when one last house caught my attention. I still have no idea why it did, there were no cars there and only one table was set up with random junk on it, but something sort of drew me there. I usually trust my gut on these things so I got out of the car and I was greeted by an old man. His outward appearance was, for lack of a better word, displeasing. It was odd, if you asked me to tell you why I thought he was displeasing, I couldn't really pinpoint anything - there was just something about him that put me on edge, I can't explain it. All I can tell you is that if it wasn't in the middle of the afternoon and there were other people within shouting distance, I would not have even thought of approaching this man.
He flashed a crooked smiled at me and asked what I was looking for, and immediately I noticed that he must be blind in one of his eyes; his right eye had that "glazed over" look about it. I forced myself to look to his left eye instead, trying not to offend, and asked him if he had any old video games.
I was already wondering how I could politely excuse myself from the situation when he would tell me he had no idea what a video game was, but to my surprise he said he had a few ones in an old box. He assured me he'd be back in a "jiffy" and turned to head back into the garage. As I watched him hobble away, I couldn't help but notice what he was selling on his table. Littered across his table were rather... peculiar paintings; various artworks that looked like ink blots that a psychiatrist might show you. Curious, I looked through them - it was obvious why no one was visiting this guy's garage sale, these weren't exactly aesthetically pleasing. As I came to the last one, for some reason it looked almost like Majora's Mask - the same heart-shaped body with little spikes protruding outward. Initially I just thought that since I was secretly hoping to find that game at these garage sales, some Freudian bullshit was projecting itself into the ink blots, but given the events that happened afterward I'm not so sure now. I should have asked the man about it. I wish I would have asked the man about it.
After staring at the Majora-shaped blot, I looked up and the old man was suddenly there again, arms-length in front of me, smiling at me. I'll admit I jumped out of reflex and I laughed nervously as he handed me a Nintendo 64 cartridge. It was the standard gray color, except that someone had written Majora on it in black permanent marker. I got butterflies in my stomach as I realized what a coincidence this was and asked him how much he wanted for it.
The old man smiled at me and told me that I could have it for free, that it used to belong to a kid who was about my age that didn't live here anymore. There was something weird about how the man phrased that, but I didn't really pay any attention to then, I was too caught up in not only finding this game but getting it for free.
I reminded myself to be a bit skeptical since this looked like a pretty shady cartridge and there's no guarantee it would work, but then the optimist inside me interjected that maybe it was some kind of beta version or pirated version of the game and that was all I needed to be back on cloud nine. I thanked the man and the man smiled at me and wished me well, saying "Goodbye then!" - at least that's what it sounded like to me. All the way in the car-ride home, I had a nagging doubt that the man had said something else. My fears were confirmed when I booted up the game (to my surprise it worked just fine) and there was one save file named simply "BEN". "Goodbye Ben", he was saying "Goodbye Ben". I felt bad for the man, obviously a grandparent and obviously going senile, and I - for some reason or another - reminded him of his grandson "Ben".
Out of curiosity I looked at the save file. Eyeballing it, I could tell that he was pretty far in the game - he had almost all of the masks and 3/4 remains of the bosses. I noticed that he had used an owl statue to save his game, he was on Day 3 and by the Stone Tower Temple with hardly an hour left before the moon would crash. I remember thinking that it was a shame that he had come so close to beating the game but he never finished it. I made a new file named "Link" out of tradition and started the game, ready to relive my childhood.
For such a shady looking game cartridge, I was impressed at how smoothly it ran - literally just like a retail copy of the game save for a few minor hiccups here and there (like textures being where they shouldn't be, random flashes of cut-scenes at odd intervals, but nothing too bad). However the only thing that was a little unnerving was that at times the NPCs would call me "Link" and at other times they would call me "BEN". I figured it was just a bug - a fluke in the programming causing our files to get mixed up or something. It did kind of creep me out though after a while, and it was around after I had beaten the Woodfall Temple that I regrettably went into the save files and deleted "BEN" (I had intended to preserve the file just out of respect of the game's original owner, it's not like I needed two files anyway), hoping that that would solve the problem. It did and it didn't, now NPCs wouldn't call me anything, where my name should be in the dialogue there was just a blank space (my save file name was still called "Link", though). Frustrated, and with homework to do, I put the game down for a day.
I started playing the game again last night, getting the Lens of Truth and working my way towards completing the Snowhead Temple. Now, some of you more hardcore Majora's Mask players know about the "4th Day" glitch - for those who don't you can Google it but the gist of it is that right as the clock is about to hit 00:00:00 on the final day, you talk to the astronomer and look through the telescope. If you time it right the countdown disappears and you essentially have another day to finish whatever you were doing. Deciding to do the glitch to try and finish the Snowhead Temple, I happened to get it right on the first try and the time counter at the bottom disappeared.
However, when I pressed B to exit the telescope, instead of being greeted by the astronomer I found myself in the Majora boss fight room at the end of the game (the trippy boxed in arena) staring at Skull Kid hovering above me. There was no sound, just him floating in the air above me, and the background music which was regular for the area (but still creepy). Immediately my palms began to sweat - this was definitely not normal. Skull Kid NEVER appeared here. I tried moving around the area, and no matter where I went, Skull Kid would always be facing me, looking at me, not saying anything. Nothing would happen though, and this kept up for around sixty seconds. I thought the game had bugged or something - but I was beginning to doubt that very much.
I was about to reach for the reset button when text appeared on my screen: "You're not sure why, but you apparently had a reservation..." I instantly recognized that text - you get that message when you get the Room Key from Anju at the Stock Pot Inn, but why was it playing here? I refused to entertain the notion that it was almost as if the game was trying to communicate with me. I started navigate the room again, testing to see if that was some sort of trigger that enabled me to interact with something here, then I realized how stupid I was - to even think that someone could reprogram the game like this was absurd. Sure enough, fifteen seconds later another message appeared on the screen, and again like the first one it was already a preexisting phrase "Go to the lair of the temple's boss? Yes/No". I paused for a second, contemplating what I should press and how the game would react, when I realized that I couldn't select no. Taking a deep breath, I pressed Yes and the screen faded to white, with the words "Dawn of a New Day" with the subtext "||||||||" beneath it. Where I was ported to filled me with the most intense sense of dread and impending fear I had ever experienced
The only way I can describe the way I felt here is having this feeling of inexplicable depression on a profound scale. I am normally not a depressed person, but the way I felt here was a feeling that I didn't even knew existed - it was such a twisted, powerful presence that seemed to wash over me.
I appeared in some kind of weird twilight-zone version of Clock Town. I walked out of the Clock Tower (as you normally do when you start from Day 1) only to find that all of the inhabitants were gone. Usually with the 4th Day glitch you can still find the guards and the dog that runs around outside the tower - this time they were all gone. What replaced them was the ominous feeling that there was something out there, in the same area as me and that it was watching me. I had four hearts to my name and the Hero's Bow, but at this point I wasn't even considered for my avatar, I felt that I personally was in some kind of danger. Perhaps the most chilling thing was the music - it was the Song of Healing, ripped straight from the game itself, but played in reverse. The music would get louder, building up so as if you should expect something to pop out at you, but nothing ever did, and the constant loop began to wear on my mental state.
Every now and then I would hear the faint laugh of the Happy Mask Salesman in the background, just quiet enough so that I wasn't sure if I just hearing things but just loud enough to keep me determined to find him. I looked in all four zones of Clock Town, only to find nothing.... No one. Textures were missing, West Clock Town had me walking on air, the entire area felt... broken. Hopelessly broken. As the reverse Song of Healing repeated for what must have been the 50th time, I just remember standing in the middle of South Clock Town realizing that I had never felt so alone in a video game before.
As I walked through the ghost town, I don't know whether it was the combination of the out of place textures and the atmosphere and the haunting melody of the once peaceful and soothing song being butchered and distorted, but I was literally on the verge of tears and I had no idea why. I hardly ever cry, something had gripped me here and this powerful sense of depression that was both foreign and crippling.
I tried leaving Clock Town, but every time I attempted to zone out, the screen would fade to black and I would just zone in to another part of Clock Town. I tried playing my Ocarina, I wanted to escape, and I did NOT want to be here, but every time I played the Song of Time or Song of Soaring it would only say "Your notes echo far, but nothing happens". By this point, it was obvious the game didn't want me to leave, but I had no idea why it was keeping me here. I didn't want to go inside the buildings, I felt that I would be too vulnerable there to whatever I was terrified of. I don't know why, but I came up with the idea that maybe if I drowned myself at the Laundry Pool I could spawn somewhere else and leave this place.
As I zoned in and ran towards the pool, that's when it happened. Link grabbed his head, and the screen flashed for a brief moment of the Happy Mask Salesman smiling at me - not Link - me with Skull Kid's scream playing in the background and when the screen returned I was staring at the Link Statue from playing the song Elegy of Emptiness. I screamed as the thing just stared back at me with that haunting facial expression. I turned around and ran out and back into South Clock Town, and to my horror the fucking statue followed me in the only way I can compare this is like the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who. Every so often, at random intervals, the animation would play of the statue appearing behind me. It was like the thing was chasing me, or - I don't even want to fucking say it - haunting me.
By this point, I was on the verge of hysterics, but not even once did the thought of turning off the console occur to me, I don't know why, I was so wrapped up in it - the terror felt all so real. I tried to shake the statue, but it would literally appear right behind me every single time. Link started to begin to make weird animations I had never even seen him do before, he would flail his arms around or spasm randomly and the screen would cut to the Happy Mask Salesman smiling again for a brief moment before I was face to face with that fucking statue again. I ended up running into the Swordmaster's Dojo and ran to the back, I don't know why, but in my panic I just wanted some kind of assurance that I'm not alone here.
To my dismay I found no one, but as I turned to leave the statue cornered me in the cubby in the back. I tried attacking the statue with my sword but to no avail. Confused, and backed into a corner, I just stared at the statue waiting for it to kill me. Suddenly, the screen flashed again to the Happy Mask Salesman and Link turned to face my screen, standing upright mirroring the statue, looking at me along with his copy. Literally staring at me. Whatever was left of the 4th wall was completely shattered while I ran out of the dojo terrified. Suddenly the game warped me to an underground tunnel and the reverse Song of Healing queued up again as I was given a brief moment of rest before the statue started appearing behind me again... this time aggressively - I could only take a few steps before it would summon behind me again. I hurriedly made my way out of the tunnel and appeared in Southern Clock Town. As I ran aimlessly - in a sheer panic - suddenly a Redead screamed and the screen faded to black as "Dawn of a New Day" and "|||||||||" appeared again.
The screen faded in and I was standing on top of Clock Tower with Skull Kid hovering over me again, silent. I looked up and the moon was back, looming just meters above my head, but the Skull Kid just stared at me hauntingly with that fucking mask. A new song was playing - the Stone Tower Temple theme played in reverse. In some sort of desperate attempt, I equipped my bow and fired off a shot at the Skull Kid - and it actually hit him and he played an animation of him reeling back. I fired again and on the third arrow, a text box appeared saying "That won't do you any good. Hee, hee." and I was picked up off the ground, levitated upwards on my back, and then Link screamed as he burst into flames, instantly killing him.
I jumped when this happened - I had never seen this move used by ANYONE in the game and Skull Kid himself didn't HAVE any moves. As the death screen played, my lifeless body still burning, the Skull Kid laughed and the screen faded to black, only to have me reappear in the same place. I decided to charge him, but the same thing happened, Link's body was lifted off the ground by some unknown force and he immediately burst into flames again killing him. This time during the death screen the faint sounds of the reverse Song of Healing could be heard. On my third (and final try), I noticed that there was no music playing this time, that all there was was eerie silence. I remembered that in the original encounter with the Skull Kid you were supposed to use the Ocarina to either travel back in time or summon the giants. I attempted to play the Song of Time but before I could hit the last note Links body once again horrifically exploded into flames and he died.
As the death screen neared its end, it began to chug, as if the cartridge was trying to process a lot of something.... when the screen came to, it was the same scene as the first three times, except this time Link was lying on the ground dead in a position I had never seen in the game before, his head tilted towards the camera, with the Skull Kid floating above him. I couldn't move, I couldn't press any buttons, all I could do is just stare at Link's dead body. After around thirty seconds of this, the game simply fades out with the message "You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?" before kicking you out to the title screen.
Upon getting back to the title screen and starting again, I noticed my save file was no longer there. Instead of "Link", it was replaced with "YOUR TURN". "YOUR TURN" had 3 hearts, 0 masks, and no items. I selected "YOUR TURN" and immediately when I did I was returned to the Clock Tower Rooftop scene of my Link dead and the Skull Kid hovering over, with the Skull Kid's laughing looping again and again. I quickly hit the reset button and when the game booted up again there was one more save file added, below "YOUR TURN", entitled "BEN". "BEN"'s save file is right back where it was before I deleted it, at the Stone Tower Temple with the moon almost crashing.
I turned the game off at that point, I'm not superstitious but this is WAY too fucked up even for me. I haven't played it at all today, hell, I didn't even get any sleep last night, I kept hearing the reverse Song of Healing music in my head and just remembering the sense of dread I felt exploring Clock Town. I drove back to the old man's house today to ask him some questions with a buddy of mine (no way I was going there alone), only to find that there's a For Sale sign in the front yard and when I rang the door no one was home.
So now I'm back here writing down the rest of my thoughts and recording what happened, sorry if some of this has grammatical errors and whatnot, I'm running on no sleep here. I'm terrified of this game, even more so now that I relived it a second time writing this all down, but I feel like there's still more to it than meets the eye, and that there's something calling to me to investigate this further. I think "BEN" is something in this equation, but I don't know what, and if I could get hold of the old man then I would be able to find some answers. I need another day or so to recuperate before tackling this game again, its already taken a toll on my sanity I feel like, but next time I do this I'm going to be recording my footage all the way through. The idea to record only came to me towards the end, so you see the last few minutes of what I saw (including Skull Kid and the Elegy statue), but it's on Youtube here.