You don’t want it. You think you do, but you don’t.
I worked on that “playable teaser” from its inception. From the brainstorming to the actual programming, I did it all. The teaser and Lisa were both very special to me, but there are things that need to stay gone.
We wanted to bring “shit your pants” terror to the gaming world, as my boss said. That meant that we had to think in new ways, we had to try to tap in to what would truly terrify us and we had free reign to use whatever technologies we saw fit.
It wasn’t until the teaser achieved such massive success that I suggested using AR technologies and not a day goes by now that I wish I hadn’t. At first, we went for the obvious Oculus port, but it was too simple. It wasn’t immersive enough. The Kinect was laughable at best and the Hololens was barely revealed at that point, so we turned to something else.
The idea was to use a Glass app to map out your home and surroundings. Doorways, closets, windows, walls, gaps at least three inches wide or more. Then, according to that information, we would place Lisa into your home, your workplace, anywhere. We used an RNG program to decide when she’d pop up at random and how she’d act. She could be behind you when walking down the street, laughing unseen, in your bathroom mirror, anywhere. Whatever occurred in P.T was replicated and expanded upon. Obviously we added disclaimers against driving.
I worked on the program tirelessly. Like I said, the teaser and Lisa were very dear to me, I saw them as my Magnum Opus, my legacy to the world of horror to stand alongside Silent Hill 2 as its first, true equal. The programming was perfect, the app integration seamless. I could conjure Lisa anywhere, I even added new code that would randomly alter your home environment whenever you returned from work. Suspended blood-filled freezers were only the beginning. Our team achieved such realism that you’d swear you were slipping in actual gore.
I say “team” because I clearly couldn’t do it alone. None of us could. We relied on video conferencing to brainstorm new ideas. New horrors. We knew we were on the cusp of something truly great. And the first time Lisa appeared behind us during our video calls, we knew we’d created a truly 100% immersive horror experience.
Until we realized none of us were wearing Glass.
Lights don’t work and daylight is meaningless. What she doesn’t like, she changes. The moment you stop looking, the lights turn off. The curtains draw. Day turns to night. Mist rolls in. There’s nothing in the code or programming to explain it, no way it can be possible without Glass, but it is.
We scraped it all, deleted everything, removed the game from the stores and destroyed any chance of downloading it again. At first, no one believed us. Until we made them wear the Glass. Once was all it took and, like us, Lisa never left them.
Our only saving grace is that she still isn’t real. She can only appear, make noise, change the environment, but she can’t exert physical influence. But we know she’s there. Babies cry in her presence. Or we think they do. It could be her. The dogs sitting outside my house, staring into my windows might be her doing as well. I can’t tell anymore. Calendars and watches aren’t reliable because she keeps changing them. I don’t even know if I’m really writing this.
There’s no rhyme or reason to her appearance or methods. We modeled her after a vengance-obsessed apparition full of nothing but bloodlust and the programming of some of the brightest minds in the horror industry. She isn’t designed to invoke horror, we designed her to pioneer terror.
And it’s working. Even now I can hear her breathing behind me, repeating that famous “Turn around” line. I can’t and I won’t, but I know that won’t do me much good for long.
Because unlike all the other times, this time I can feel her breath on the back of my neck.
We’ve been trying. God, we’ve tried. We’ve been programming and coding for a solid month, but what she’s done to us, it’s maddening. Each passing day drains us of our will and sanity just a little more.
I try to call people, but they either speak too quickly or too slowly to understand. The team and I have locked ourselves in my house because it’s the closest thing we’ve got to a stable, constant environment, but it’s still taxing. The clock on my wall won’t stop spinning while the watch on my wrist doesn’t seem to be working at all. It takes minutes or even hours for the second hand to move.
So far, all we have is the internet and our computers as a reasonable means of following the passage of time, since it appears she can’t affect online functions. We’ve been having food delivered to us — the company wants us to fix this as soon as possible. One of the higher ups, someone we gave the Glass to, he’s shifted the entire company focus. Lisa won’t leave him alone either and it seems to have rendered him paranoid towards gaming media. He wants an entire shift away from interactive media development and I can’t say I blame him. Lisa’s been getting stronger.
A month ago it was feeling breath on the back of our necks, but she’s been becoming more violent. She still can’t pick things up or move things, but we’ve been waking up with bruises. She’s even had some minimal success choking one of us in our sleep. But her attacks are still mostly psychological.
We know what to expect now based on the programming, so we’ve been largely ignoring her, which seems to both weaken and infuriate her. The mist has become bearable even though she’s been able to affect room temperature, but we just put on warmer clothes. She tries to alter the appearance of our food, but we know it’s a trick. The first two weeks were hard, she’d turn rotisserie chicken into stillborn infants, pizza became circles of stretched skin garnished with teeth and what seemed like salivating pieces of diced human tongue and “crust” stuffed with…
You’re better off not knowing.
But she can only change the appearance. Not the taste. Not the texture. Like I said, each passing day drains us a little more. But we have to eat. We need to drink. Regardless of what the fluids look like. We’re horror game programmers. There’s nothing she can’t throw at us that we haven’t programmed her to do, that isn’t influenced by the games we’ve played or films we’ve watched.
It was after the first week when someone suggested:
What if you made a similarly detailed and complex program, the also altered the environment… But this time, it alters it by removing the things the original added?
That’s when we got our first real glimpse of hope. We couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of it earlier, but we started coding regardless. We started with the small things. Removing her ability to visually manipulate the surrounding environment as a test. Then audio.
It worked. But christ did it make her mad.
Her appearance became more frequent and it was like she was trying to make it harder to alter the programming, but we made more progress everyday. Last night we removed her ability to alter the appearance of food. We drank water like it was century-old wine.
Then we screwed it all up.
We were trying to solve the problem of her being able to exert physical influence on the world. She’d been getting more and more desperate to the point where the alterations we removed from the word still had a physical presence but not a visual one. Things would bump or grab us when there was nothing immediately visible, invisible walls would appear and vanish. We wanted to remove her ability to conjure things at random entirely.
So we removed the RNG programming.
At first, we thought we’d won. She had no coding to tell her when to appear. But when the mist returned, we realized we’d also removed the coding telling her when to leave. We’d removed the algorithms that she was bound to, we’d given her the means to act according to her free will instead of what the numbers told her to do.
Our boss called us a few minutes ago, the first phone call in a month that we could understand. His young daughter’s been crying because of “the scary lady behind the couch with the black eye.” She never put on the Glass.
She knew. From the very beginning, Lisa knew exactly what she was doing. We thought we’d freed her, but we never controlled her to begin with. We should have seen it, should have known.
She’d started appearing with more frequency the more we ignored her or messed with the programming, but that shouldn’t have been possible in the first place, she was supposed to be governed entirely by RNG. No matter what we did, how she felt, it shouldn’t have mattered, she should have only appeared when the coding told her to.
She played us. Kept us distracted and panicked. Some of it was subtle, like messing with the temperature, others less so, like what she did to our food. But once we removed the RNG programming, we tried to replace it in the hopes of containing here once more.
It was four days later we realized the coding never worked to begin with. A single line of hexadecimal code that rendered the entire RNG program useless. Seven days after that, her original programming was gone. Everything. And then she really started.
Whenever one of us started to fall asleep, children started screaming. We slept only when she let us. For three hours one morning, none of my team could see me. They thought my body was hanging from the ceiling fan and when they tried to cut “me” down, I reanimated, soiling myself and clawing open my own stomach just so I could consume the innards.
Some of us cry, others have tried to end their own lives, but every weapon we grab isn’t real. Whenever we try to attack each other, we attack a hallucination. Why is she doing this? Why is she tormenting us but keeping us alive? The only time we know peace is when we’re coding, but any attempts to retrieve her original programming are suppressed. She conjures the images of our loved ones and torments us with visions of their death and torture, she’s even started altering the clothes we wear now. Last night she made me wear the skin of my mother.
I don’t scream anymore. I don’t cry. I just accept it. I do what she wants us to do, I send the emails, change the code, remotely insert that single line of hexadecimal code into our systems to be patched in to our existing games catalogue. I don’t care anymore. She’s won. The only thing I’ve been able to do is laugh, but last night she took my sound away from me.
For two months I’ve eaten the dead, bathed in bile and slept to the chorus of screaming infants. Some days she’ll take my sight. On other occasions, my hearing. For a week she replaced my sense of touch with that of pain.
It’s real. All of it. It has to be, otherwise how else could she be doing these things? She doesn’t augment reality, she alters it. Maybe she doesn’t even do that, maybe this is reality? Have I always been like this? Was I ever who I thought I was? Have I always been alone in this house?
I’ve asked Lisa these questions. She just smiles.
She always smiles now. It’s like all she wants to do is make me happy. She knew what I wanted, what I hoped for. My Magnum Opus of terror. She’s only ever done this for me, I can see that now. She loves me like nothing else could, and I love her. Thinking back on the things she’s done for me, what else could it be?
And why shouldn’t she love me? Don’t I deserve to be loved? Isn’t that what families are for? To love and care for each other? I love her and I love the life we have, the home we share, the daughter we’ve raised. We couldn’t be happier here. Even now I can hear the screams of childish laughter coming from the nursery.
I’ve been pushing myself too hard, working to much. After I add this last line of code I’ll go see them. I think I hear Lisa knitting and it smells like a pork roast is in the oven. It’s only one line of code for some survival horror game. Apparently there was a distribution error and the entire thing was accidentally deleted, but this should fix it. Then I can focus on what’s important.
I love you, Lisa.