Like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I’ve been spending most of my time playing Animal Crossing. I’ve been shaking trees, catching fish, smashing rocks, and making virtual friends since it’s impossible to see my real ones.
The game has been soothing for me. A meditative experience. At least, that’s how it started out in the beginning. Lately? Some weird things have been happening.
It started when a new villager moved into my town. A spider, a creature that I’d never seen before, not even on the forums I read about the game. I figured there must have been an update to add new characters, so I assumed the weird things going wrong were glitches at first. Problems with the programming.
There’s a bulletin board outside of Resident Services where you can scribble messages. One morning, I noticed a bird perched on the board, signaling a new note. I clicked it open and saw… red. All red. Only red. Like someone had swiped a paintbrush across the paper, blotting out everything.
Honestly, it didn’t bother me much. I pretty much forgot about it and went on with the rest of my digital day. I returned a lost item someone had dropped on the ground. I planted a money tree. I sold turnips. Except that part was weird, too. Each one was bought for 666 bells. The number of the beast.
I took a screenshot to show my friends, then went right back to the game. I did some terraforming, added some new ponds, and then knocked on my newest villager’s door. They only had moving boxes set up the last time I visited them, so I wanted to see how they decorated their home. Did they do something cutesy? Something cool?
I walked inside to the last thing I would’ve expected. There were chairs set up in rows, facing a huge, black casket. Flowers were hanging from each wall along with flickering candles in sconces. And in the center of it all was a canvas with a photograph of another villager, my favorite octopus. As if it was a fucking funeral in his honor.
I took a few more screenshots, then tried talking to the spider. He never answered me. His dialogue never appeared. He just kept repeating the cold chill reaction. I instantly turned off the game.
A few hours later, one of my friends texted me back after seeing my screenshots. They sent me a link to an article about people experiencing the same problems as me. They hadn’t figured out exactly what was happening, either, and the developers hadn’t issued a response yet. But they knew this much: A new character appeared, a spider, and held a funeral for the villager you spend your most time interacting with throughout the game. Then that character, your best friend, your favorite, disappeared.
I didn’t know that last part.
I logged back into the game and bolted to my octopus’ house. It was still standing, which was a relief. Maybe nothing bad had happened. Maybe the article was wrong.
But when I walked inside the house, all of the old furniture was gone. Instead, there were candles placed in a circle, surrounding a crystal ball, like a seance was about to take place. Even creepier, there were red smears on the walls and the ground. They spelled out the words: THIS ISN’T A GAME.
My hands were shaking — out of fear and anger. It sounds silly, but I’d invested so many hours into that game. I loved that octopus. Whatever was happening wasn’t just creepy. It was unfair.
I walked around the rest of my island to make sure nothing else weird was going on and noticed my mailbox flashing. I opened it to find a letter. With zero capitalization or punctuation, it said: youre paying too much attention to this world and are blind to your own this isnt the mailbox you should be checking reality is so much stranger than fiction
I turned the game off once more, swapped my pajamas for a pair of sweatpants, and walked outside to check my mailbox. In between the junk mail and bills, there was a letter without a stamp. That meant someone had been to my house. It meant they knew where I lived.
I ripped open the envelop. Inside, there wasn’t a threatening letter or a warning. There wasn’t any paper at all. There was only thing squashed inside, the size of my thumbnail. A dead spider.