The following is an interactive fiction story. Your choices (by clicking on the links) affect where the story goes… or does it? SPOOOOOKY VOICE
The night is dark and you are tired. You have been walking along a path for longer than you can remember; it has produced in you the sort of fugue state where you question why you even began this journey and, even, who you are. You are unsure of where you are, though you keep reminding yourself that you’re somewhere in Pennsylvania, even if you are not convinced.
Your cell phone is powered on, but there is no signal and no apps on it. It is a blank slate, like you. But a light beckons in the distance; a small light in one second-floor room in what looks like it would be a cheerful house should it not have been so dark and you so scared.
It was the first sign of life you had seen in awhile, or so you thought, as your memories seemed to be constantly rewritten over like a way-too-small hard drive.
You do not see anything tangible in the distance, but you didn’t see this creepy house 15 seconds ago. Maybe there is a large city or even small town up ahead. Decision time. Do you?
You chose to make purposeful noise
Make a lot of purposeful noise
Are you nuts? Look, buddy, I don’t know a lot about you, but I know myself and if I am this homeowner (or renter — who cares?) and my silence is interrupted by some loud banging, my first response is to get a blunt object and prepare myself for either jail or a fight to the death. Hopefully, I don’t need to use it, but I’m ready and I’m on the edge.
Well, you stupidly decided to make a lot of noise, so here we are. You continue the stomping — what else are you going to do — and now decide to say hello. Why? I have no idea. You reach the door and before you can decide what to do, the light goes off upstairs.
Do you open the door, or do you cower behind a chair in the corner?
You chose to wait
Sit and wait for someone to come get their horse and rescue you in the process
Sure, someone took their horse to an abandoned forest and is just going to come back at any moment now to rescue you. Probably has some food and brandy too. Seriously, you believe that? I am beside myself with how foolish your decision-making process is. Yeah, just sit down and wait. Nothing quite like sitting in the darkness next to the only thing that will call direct attention to people looking to harm you.
And before you know it, someone does come to find you. Idiot. But you don’t see him and you certainly don’t feel him hit you on the back of the head with a blunt object. The world goes to black.
Cower behind the chair
Remember The Smiths song? Oh to die by waiting for inevitable death while cowering behind a chair in a spooky house, I couldn’t think of a more heavenly way to die?
Look, buddy, you probably never should have approached this house, and you have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s dark and scary, but you had your dignity if you at least took the situation head-on. If there’s someone nefarious in there, they’re either supernatural (which means they can likely see in the dark) or they’re prepared (which means they have equipment that will enable them to see in the dark). It’s probably the stupidest move you could have made so far, and that’s saying something.
You’ve lost track of the time. He’s probably at the front door by now. Gonna open it anytime soon. And, yet, nothing happens. It’s very strange.
And right when you realize that the smart move for Mr. Occupant is to go out the back and sneak up on you, the knife is halfway through the space between your shoulder blades.
You chose to approach the house
Approach the house
Are you mental? I get that you’ve been disillusioned with your search for safety for some time now, but the first house you see? One that’s scary as fuck and only has one light on? You know you could always double back if you went a bit further and found nothing. But, nope, you put your entire livelihood on the line in the hopes that this one house – the first house you saw! – had inhabitants that were good people.
You approach the house, but cannot decide whether it’s better to do so quietly or loudly. It’s time for you to make a deadly serious decision. You can either:
You chose to shout
Quickly shout out that you’re here, lost, and not a threat
No one has ever lied in his or her life, the occupant of this house is surely thinking. I should take this stranger who just shouted at me at his word, the person undoubtedly says to his or herself, like a goddamn moron.
Good news, he or she heard you. Because the door just opened and there was the bright flash of a bullet heading quite quickly to your sternum. You exhale.
You chose the kitchen
Maybe the person upstairs didn’t hear you. Maybe he or she is just hungry. And that means they are heading directly to you. Great job! You never cease to amaze. You are an MVP of bad decisions.
Suddenly, what was once quiet now seems cacophonous. You hear the slow thrum of the refrigerator. It now sounds like a can of paint being mixed. The creaking of the stairs that announces the descent of another human. Even the silence feels like a rattle.
You don’t know what to do. You can’t just wait down here. You look around the kitchen for an object to protect yourself. There’s nothing. Maybe there’s a glass bottle in the fridge. You open it. Explosion.
You chose to walk on
Keep walking into the distance
Do you know how cities and towns work? They emit a ton of light and you can see them far away. But, sure, the fact that it’s pitch black for as far as you can see surely means there’s a huge settlement just beyond yonder. Maybe you’re thinking, well, I can always double back. Not so easy – you go far enough, you’ll lose the trail back to this house. It was probably your best bet and you blew it.
You continue walking and suddenly there’s no more light from whence you came. Your cell phone battery is at 4% and the light you are using to see in front of you is dimming. When you begin to abandon hope, you see your last chance at survival. A horse tied up to a post.
What do you do?
Sneak up to the front door slowly and silently
Sure, the right answer is to surprise someone by unlawfully entering their home. There goes any chance you have that the owner (or renter — who cares?) will treat you as a benevolent guest. Imagine what you would do if, on a dark night, someone decided to creep up to your front steps slowly with methodical purpose, but making no sound? I doubt very much you would greet them with open arms.
But your quietude enabled you to get into the front door, where you’re able to enter without any detection. You, a fool, decide to press your luck and stealthily climb up the stairs to the door of the room with the light on. Now what?
Open the door
You opened the door? Are you crazy? Of all of the various scenarios behind that door (a room full of gold, an explosive wired to blow you to bits the moment you open the door, Tupac and Elvis going to town to a Sheetz chicken and fish platter), what percentage likelihood did you think the result would be positive? 3%? 10%? Even if it was 50%, which is highly unlikely, is it worth it? Wow, unbelievable how dumb you are.
You’ve opened the door and hear the slow creaking of footsteps down the stairs. You quickly identify your surroundings. There is a door to the right, and you vaguely make out the silhouette of a refrigerator – it’s the kitchen, you think. Wow, you are incredibly smart. So smart, you decided to enter a random stranger’s house.
On the left is probably the den. There is a light flickering of a TV that you did not notice previously on account of the fact that all of the downstairs windows are blacked out. Which just reinforces what a great, great! decision it was to enter this house. You know that you have to choose one of these rooms. You choose
Turn the knob
Slowly turn the knob without saying anything
I don’t know about you, but nothing puts me at ease more when I’m alone than a knob slowly turning and a door slightly opening. Unfortunately for you, the occupant doesn’t see things your way. When you slowly wave your hand through the crack in the door to whoever might be sitting (or standing) there, you soon realize it has been severed from your wrist. Turns out the man inside had a machete, and he put it to good use.
You crumble to the floor, beginning the slow process of bleeding out.
Get on that horse and ride as far as far away as possible
Do you know anything about horses? Have you ever ridden one? And yet, when your life depended on it, you assume you’ll just fly through the dark woods without decapitation? I want to give you a pass given the stress of the situation, but this is definitely one of the top three stupidest things you’ve done this night.
But here you go, sliding all over the place, as the horse canters (you probably don’t even know what cantering is) through the darkness. Now it’s a gallop. You don’t know about horses, but you assume they would only run this fast if they could see where they were going. For the most part, that’s true. But they can’t always see the low-hanging branches that can knock you out or knock your head clean off. CRUNCH.
No one in the history of existence has ever woken up to a TV still on and decided to go to where it is to turn it off. Never before has that been done, so you have clearly made an excellent choice.
The room is dark and you see silhouettes everywhere, or is that your mind playing tricks on you? No, they are definitely silhouettes because you just saw one move, and it looks like that, yep, is definitely a shotgun pointed in your direction. You start to say fuck, you can’t even say f. You expire on the carpet.
This is the end
You awake, groggy. You’re in a small room with an old-fashioned television. A voice comes over the loudspeaker. It is direct and firm. You are told, simply, that you are the subject of an interactive movie for rich people. That is your sole existence. That is all you’ve ever done. You have done this hundreds of times and will do it millions of times more. There is no escape, you will always return to this moment in time. You will always wake up in dark woods and believe for an hour that you are free, even though you do not know anything about yourself. You will have free will to try to escape, but never will.
You now must narrate what just happened to you – unless it’s happened before. Once that is done, your world will again go black and you will start again.
The night is dark and you are tired. You have been walking along a path for longer than you can remember; it has produced in you the sort of fugue state where you question why you even began this journey and, even, who you are.