Gird your loins, adventurers, for today’s blog post is not for the faint of heart. It is a tale of darkness (quite literally) in which there are many harrowing escapes and frightening images. If there are small children present, I recommend you grab a teddy bear before reading any further. This is a true story that happened to me – yes, the handsome and intelligent creator of the best gaming blog this side of the Mississippi, Ian Shepard of Adventure Rules.
It was a cloudy, moonless night in the month of July. I was lying in bed fast asleep when suddenly a horrible sound jarred me from my rest – my ringtone. Wearily I reached to the cell phone lying on my nightstand and swiped up on the screen to answer the call. I knew what this meant – I had experienced such calls multiple times already that week.
“Hello,” I muttered, my voice barely a whisper.
“Mr. Shepard, this is Officer Pepper from the Undisclosed Home Town Detention Center. We have a group of kids here charged with theft of an automobile we need you to process. You’re the only hope for our world!”
“Alright,” I said, rubbing the last remnants of sleep from my eyes. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
After ending the call I looked at my phone to see the time. 2 AM. Depending on how many kids a “group” was, I would probably be at the detention center until sunrise. I let out a sigh and put on my glasses, rising from the bed slowly. There was no point in putting on nice clothes – I simply splashed some water on my face and threw on some sweats for the trip downtown. I passed my wife in the living room and said goodbye as I headed out the door – it was a Friday night so she was taking full advantage of the extra video game time. She’d be okay while I was gone.
Although it was still summer the air was strangely cool that night. I stepped out of my apartment building and walked to my car, Prescott. He looked black as pitch in the darkness, none of his rusty green visible beneath the night sky. I got into the car, cranked the radio, and began my drive to the familiar opening of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
My drive was largely uneventful, spent primarily going back and forth between whether or not I wanted to apply for a new job opening within my department. The new position meant no more late-night calls and I was ready to be free of this tedious burden, but I wasn’t entirely sure if I was ready to apply for a promotion. As I drove, the roads seemed strangely empty – normally these streets were covered in vehicles. I contributed this to the late hour and thought nothing more of it as I made my way towards a very long night of interviewing juveniles.
When I reached downtown, I still saw no other vehicles on the road. At this point I was beginning to get nervous, my knuckles whitening as I tightened my grip on the wheel. Where is everyone? With no cars on the road the darkness seemed impenetrable – even the streetlights barely provided illumination. The cramped buildings felt more claustrophobic than usual, seeming to loom directly over the road as I drove by.
Suddenly I felt the car lurch as it struck something unseen upon the road. I struggled to maintain control and managed to stop beside a conveniently-placed parking meter. I stepped out of the car and went around to check the meter – luckily they were free at this time of night. I then turned my attention to whatever it was I had struck on the road.
“What the…” I said, trailing off as I tried to comprehend what I was looking at.
In the middle of the road was some sort of large plant, the long thin stalk attached to a gargantuan bulb, all black as midnight. Where the tires had crushed the plant matter, pink ooze spread out like a pool of blood. It glowed like neon in the night, and I gagged immediately at the stench. Turning around to look away from the sight, my eyes fell upon a dark alleyway between two historic buildings.
For a moment I thought I saw a figure in the darkness. But as I focused my vision, there was nothing.
Now thoroughly unsettled, I hurried back to Prescott and made to open the door. I tried to fit my fingers underneath the thin edge of the broken handle to pry it open with no success – as always, I would need to use my key as a lever to pull the handle. I reached into my pocket for my keys and along with the jingle heard what sounded like a high-pitched screech. I turned towards the sound and stared into the darkness ahead – it seemed to flutter before me, as if I had tears in my eyes or was staring at waves of heat rolling off of asphault.
I turned my attention back to Prescott. They chose that moment to attack. A swarm of shrieking bats descended upon me, yanking at my clothes and hair as they flew all around me in a vicious circle. My glasses fell to the ground and without them I too crumpled, paralyzed by my total lack of sight. I threw my hands over my head to protect me as the bats grasped at me some more, and after a few moments they went on their merry way. As I looked up from my defensive position, I laid eyes on a truly terrifying visage.
A figure stood before me dressed in black robes. A disturbing mask covered the individual’s face, and long bony fingers extended from beneath the massive sleeves of the robe. The figure hovered in the air just over the ground but touched down as I laid eyes on it. As I watched the mouthpiece of the mask slowly opened, revealing a smirking mouth of needle-sharp teeth. A chuckle emerged from that mouth, quiet at first but quickly building in intensity until the figure was laughing maniacally.
I was paralyzed. I still held the keys in my hand but couldn’t bring myself to use them to pry open the car door. My heart pounded against my chest as the figure began to coil up like a snake. It twisted its waist around and bent over backwards as it wrapped up in its own arms, writhing in a sickening pattern that looked humanly impossible – it was a jarring sight, and combined with the laughter I felt my fight-or-flight instincts kicking in. I chose flight and turned around, running as quickly as I could away from the disturbing figure.
Although not an athletic man, fear was driving me that night. I managed to put some distance between myself and whatever horrible creature I had encountered. Out of breath but operating exclusively on panic, I kept running down the abandoned street towards the office of another agency I had worked with a few times before. Perhaps I could get inside and hide while I phoned the police. I turned back to look at the distance I had put between myself and the disturbing figure – it was quite far away now, but that hideous laughter echoed all the way down the street as if the creature was right next to me.
Then suddenly, it was.
One moment I was looking behind to see how much distance there was between us. Then when I turned around, there it was right before me, those ferocious filed teeth grinning widely. The rest of the mask came away now, revealing a tall, skinny face with glowing red eyes. I tried to scream but my voice caught in my throat. The creature extended one of its bony hands towards me, its maniacal laugh filling my ears and dominating all of my senses.
“Halt!” shouted a voice. The grinning creature before me stopped moving closer to me but did not withdraw its hand. The booming voice spoke again.
“This one is not meant for you. I command you return him to me.”
The creature before me began to laugh again, this laugh placating and obedient where the last was disturbingly unhinged. As it laughed, it began to step backwards away from me. After taking a few steps, its mask materialized over its face again, the glowing red eyes replaced with the cold, dead stare of the old mask. Wordlessly, the figure disappeared, and I was left alone with my rescuer. I turned to face him.
“Thank you for your hel-” I started to say, but I was interrupted by my own gasp as a realization struck me. I knew this man.
“Mr. Dragmire,” I said. “Wow, thank you so much for getting rid of that thing. How did you even do that?” Ganondorf gave me a reassuring pat on the back and stroked his bright red beard.
“That thing is a man named Zant. He works for me at my firm. He’s a good kid, ambitious, but a little odd. Anyway, he worships the ground I walk on like I’m a god, so pretty much anything I tell him he’ll do immediately.” I nodded to indicate my understanding but barely absorbed the information – I was still pretty shaken up by the event.
“What brings you to town at this late hour?” he asked. At that, I looked down at my phone in my pocket and remembered what it was that brought me here in the first place. I let out a sigh.
“Let’s just say, I need a new job.”
So there you have it, adventurers, the story of my dark alley encounter. This totally true story was inspired by a question asked of me as part of the Charming and Open event here on my blog. Overthinker Y asked me which video game character I’d least like to meet in a dark alley, and who I would want to protect me. I chose Zant as the character I feared for a lot of reasons – his unhinged nature makes him a disturbing character to interact with. He switches pretty quickly from eerie calm to unbridled rage, and the way he writhes and twists around all the time can really shake a guy up. Combine that with his ability to summon dangerous creatures and teleport at will, and this is a guy who could torment you for a long time from your peripheral vision before every fully revealing himself.
Why Ganondorf to protect me? Well, fight fire with fire, right? Ganondorf is way more evil than Zant, and on top of that Zant literally worships him and will do whatever Ganondorf says. Choosing a brave hero like Link may appear to be the obvious choice, but protagonists are often better at “reclaiming” than protecting, meaning I’d likely get captured by Zant first and then rescued after the fact. What I really need are practical, immediate results that prevent me from ever having to worry about Zant in the first place. Ganondorf can give me those kind of results.
If you had fun with today’s post, adventurers, be sure to check out Chris at Overthinker Y and his contribution to Charming and Open, an excellent article on what he’d do as a video game villain. And be sure to come back on Friday for the answer to yet another question from yet another awesome adventurer. Thanks for reading!