This was a story that began a long time ago on a hill somewhere, probably in Japan. Standing on this hill and looking down, one would see below them an image so horrific that I could not even begin to describe it for you here. Well, I could or at least I tried but that resulted in: my laptop crashing, me being hospitalized with a 104 degree fever, and the engine in my new car giving out while I was driving it, which almost got me killed. Let’s back up.
I’ve written about a lot of really weird shit. Researching said shit has led me to engage in some pretty questionable activities in the past: breaking into abandoned government installations, consuming mind-altering chemicals, and even making OKCupid profiles. But I’ve never felt like my life was truly in jeopardy until the time I tried to write about a video game.
It was the Silent Hill franchise, to be specific. I’d always been a big fan of the series and was more than a little let down when its latest sequel, Silent Hills, had been canceled last April. The project was being helmed by horror master, Guillermo Del Toro, and seemed poised to reinvent one of the truest staples of horror gaming. Then, out of nowhere Konami (the studio which had been backing the project) announced that Silent Hills was to be put on “indefinite hiatus”, which was basically triple-A studio speak for “It’s not you, it’s me.”
Reasons provided were vague and, as a result, the internet rumor mill was soon bursting at the seams with half-formed theories and unsubstantiated rumors regarding who was ultimately to blame for the game’s sudden cancellation. It didn’t help matters that both Konami and Del Toro remained noticeably tight-lipped on the matter.
So fans such as myself had been left scratching their heads, forced to contemplate the “why” behind it all from our own cobbled-together interpretations of how things had gone so terribly wrong. If I was a smarter man and had done my research before it was too late, I might’ve discovered that the Del Toro project was not the first Silent Hill production to suffer from mysterious complications.
In fact, every game in the series had been marred with issues. From critical studio oversights to whole creative teams quitting “due to issues regarding mental health”, it would seem that the Silent Hill franchise as a whole was cursed. Not even Guillermo Del Toro, a man whose contributions to the horror genre were downright categorical, could manage to get a proper Silent Hill game off the ground.
So of course my dumb ass thought it would be a good idea to write a story about it, unaware of what that would entail, because I honestly felt like I didn’t have a choice. It was my dreams again. It was always my dreams. I suffered from chronic nightmares, as some of you may know, and it’s probably no surprise that I used my writing as a way to vent about the disturbing shit which my subconscious felt a constant need to share with me.
The fresh form of hell that I was being plagued with at that time was a recurring dream where I was standing on a hilltop somewhere. It was just after dusk and the sky was a moonlit purple smear. I could see what looked like a feudal Japanese village below me (my initial thought had been that it looked like an early level from the second Tenchu game, but I digress.)
There was a silhouette moving towards the base of the hill that I was standing on. And by moving, I mean slowly crawling. It was a strange, oblong shape that didn’t appear to be even vaguely human in origin and it was inching its way very slowly up the hill. It was crawling towards me.
And this is where I would usually wake up, drenched in fear-sweat and squinting at the light from the DVD menu looping on the television in my bedroom. That night, it had been Ghostbusters and the first chords of the titular theme-song were just starting up again, accompanied by Ray Parker Jr. “If there’s somethin’ strange, in your neighborhood…”
I muted the TV and the room was drenched in an eerie silence. I had to pee and climbed out of bed, actively trying not to recall the dream I’d just had. I started down the hallway to the bathroom but then froze as I heard a loud clicking sound coming from my living room.
The TV in the den was on and so was my PS3. On the screen was a cinematic from Silent Hill 2 in which the protagonist, James Sutherland, watches a VHS tape of his dead wife and the clicking sound I heard had been James inserting the tape.
It was still strange though; I had a digital copy of Silent Hill 2 on my PS3 but I hadn’t played it in months. On top of that, how the hell did the game load by itself?
The whole scene was drenched in an ominous sense of foreboding and, though the footage on the tape wasn’t overtly scary, I knew that it would quickly devolve into the kind of abstract madness that I really wasn’t in the mood for at that moment. I scanned the den, searching for the Playstation controller so I could turn off the PS3, but couldn’t find it. Finally, I gave up and reached down to turn off the console manually like a freaking caveman.
And that’s when I saw the eyes glaring at me from the darkness below my TV. I let out a startled yelp and quickly retracted my hand like a man setting a mousetrap. The eyes were red and glowing and I realize how ridiculous that sounds, but I can assure you the whole thing seems a lot less ridiculous when it’s 3AM and those same eyes are staring you down from the shelf below YOUR television.
I stumbled back into the coffee table, knocking off the controller that hadn’t been there a moment earlier and it clattered to the floor. When I looked back at the PS3, the eyes were gone. That night was when I decided to write the Silent Hill story and I slept like a baby once I went back to bed. I had taken that as a good sign, but it was actually just the calm before the storm.
For about the next week or so, every night the dream would go on a little longer. Every night, it would get a little worse. The silhouette climbing up that hill would get a little bit closer. Slightly more visible…
At first, I could barely make sense of what I was seeing as the inhuman shape emerged from the darkened village and began to make its way up that moonlit hillside. By the third night though, things began to take shape and by the fourth it had inched itself close enough that there was no denying what I was seeing.
And here’s where we reach the real problem with this story: I can’t tell you what it is that I saw in those dreams. I tried and it literally almost killed me. And if you’ve read some of my other stuff, you know how much I detest the word “literally”, so if I’m using it then you KNOW somebody fucked up. Sadly, that somebody was me.
I was convinced what I was seeing in my nightmares had something to do with the origin of the Silent Hill mythos. So I started to research its creator, Keiichiro Toyama. When my initial investigation failed to uncover anything about the man’s upbringing that was even vaguely sinister, I decided to simply make up the rest.
The story I ended up writing was about my friend “Danny”, who was a game developer. The tale began with Danny scoring me a demo of the now-canceled Silent Hills and I, of course, played the game, resulting in horrific real-world consequences. The story’s climax included a vivid description of the image from my nightmares and I had been kind of hoping that the dreams would stop once I posted the story.
They did not and even more unfortunately; this was when things started to get REALLY bad. I found out that my grandfather — who raised me since I was five and was more of a father to me than my actual dad had ever been — was being moved into hospice care the same day that I sent the Silent Hills story into Thought Catalog.
Even days after it went up, I couldn’t bring myself to read over the article or even think about writing. Normally, dreaming up stories is ALL I do, but my grandfather dying was not a concept that I could just filter into words like there was some concrete way to define mortality, tie it up all nice and put a pretty bow on top of the fact that even the nicest, funniest, most badass men in the world are still flesh-and-bone people who will some day die. It’s fucking bullshit.
Though, as someone much smarter than myself once said (via some show I watched):
“Why do we have to die?”
“Because it makes the rest of this so special.”
Now, for those of you who might not know what a “rough draft” is, it’s what writers call their initial and least-polished attempt at writing a particular story. Meaning that, by their very nature, rough drafts are not something designed for human consumption. So, when I finally realized that I had turned in a mislabeled rough draft of the Silent Hills story instead of the finished version which I spent almost a week polishing, I was a bit livid to say the least.
If I really wanted to accurately describe the feeling of knowing that 20,000 readers had seen an early rough draft of my story, I would tell you to imagine you’ve just started dating someone that you really like and even better is that you know they really like you too and then you accidentally walk in on them taking a massive shit. It’s something that you know is a natural act that’s required to allow the rest of this to work, but it’s not something you ever needed to see. Now imagine how you would feel if YOU were the one on the toilet. Times 20,000.
THAT’S what it felt like when I found out that people had read a rough draft (and I mean ROUGH draft) of my story. I couldn’t have begged Thought Catalog to take it down fast enough. My editor at TC, Michael, initially wanted me to send him the finished draft so he could update the page, but by then, the damage was done. That rough draft had already been up for days at this point.
I felt like a war refugee after going through the comments section below that story. Of course, the bulk of the remarks had been from my most avid readers, who were all asking some variation of the same question: “What is this and why was it such a mess?”
Michael finally convinced me to send him the finished draft by offering to reset the comments, but when I tried to send him the file (after double checking that it was the right one this time), my laptop suddenly emitted a long low beeping sound and then it did this:
Yeah. So, trying to remain calm, I phoned my friend Jay (yes, the same computer guy named Jay who was the inspiration for the character in Cam Girl), who was my resident computer expert (how did you guess?). Luckily, Jay worked from home, running a start-up that develops medical coding apps. He was also a good friend who understood that a writer’s laptop was nothing less then the key to his very survival, so he told me to come over right away and he would take a look at it.
This was about 4:30PM on a Tuesday. Not wanting to get caught in 5 o’clock traffic, I packed up my laptop as quickly as possible and then rushed down to my car. It was less than a 10 minute drive from my place to Jay’s house via the interstate and traffic appeared to be mercifully light as I started up the on-ramp.
I merged into the middle lane and it was maybe 30 seconds later, the engine in my car (a certified pre-owned Jeep Liberty I bought less than two months early and hadn’t given me any problems until now) began to sputter. Soon, every warning light on my dashboard was blinking. And then, just like that, the car died on me.
Thankfully, I’d been going fast enough I was able to use the Jeep’s remaining inertia to roll down a nearby exit ramp and pull over on an adjacent side street. I had been so preoccupied with trying to remain calm this whole time that I didn’t notice the powder-blue Buick which had been trailing me since I left my apartment or that it followed me down the exit ramp. I barely registered the vehicle as I finally found a spot to pull over and it sped past me, pulling into a driveway about half a block up before the Buick immediately backed out so that it was now facing me.
I pulled out my cell and was about to call Jay when the large sedan crashed into me. The car had built up enough speed on its way back to my parked Liberty that the collision sent me reeling face-first into my steering wheel, activating the airbag which inflated around my head before flinging me back against the driver’s seat.
For several agonizing moments, I sat there in a daze, trying to piece together what had just happened through my rapidly blurring vision. I heard the sound of a car door opening and realized it was my own as a rush of warm summer air suddenly enveloped me. I turned and blinked at the figure standing just outside my open driver’s side door and when my vision finally un-blurred enough to see what I was actually looking at, I blinked again. Just to be sure.
According to the testimony given by one Gloria Deleon (the housekeeper who had been scheduled to clean the Madison home that Friday, August the 7th) Edgar Madison’s mother, Margaret, had been staying with her son and his family ever since Edgar Senior passed away two months earlier. From what Miss Deleon had observed, Margaret was a very nice lady — always smiling and friendly. “Marge” (as her friends knew her) seemed to share a special connection with her grandson, Edgar Madison III, who was 12 years old.
Early that Friday afternoon, Deleon had been putting towels away in the upstairs bathroom when she heard “Little Edgar” (as she referred to him) call for his grandmother to come see something in a video game that his friend had given him. According to the police reports, the game found paused on the kid’s TV was Silent Hill 2.
Deleon claimed that she then heard Little Edgar screaming.
“Grandma, no… Please! Stop!”
This was proceeded by the sounds of a scuffle and when Deleon entered the bedroom, she saw Margaret Matheson beating her dead grandson’s head in with a 10-inch pewter replica of Han Solo frozen in carbonite while screaming: “WHO DID THIS TO MY BABY?!”
Deleon claimed she tried to pull Margaret away from the body, but instead she ended up taking a blow to the head from the pewter statue.
“She was a mad woman,” said Deleon, via an interpreter. “Her eyes were red and her skin looked like it was melting.”
Miss Deleon was only out for a few minutes, but by the time she regained consciousness, Margaret and Little Edgar were both gone. She phoned the police, who were unsure of Deleon’s story, and they issued an Amber Alert for the boy despite the substantial amount of blood found on scene. The Medical Examiner had told them that it was an amount usually indicative of lethal head trauma, especially for a boy of Edgar’s size.
The next reported sighting of Margaret all but confirmed the young boy’s death. A clerk at a truck stop located roughly 40 miles from the Texas/Louisiana border called 9-1-1 about what he thought was an old crazy vagrant woman rummaging in the dumpsters behind his job.
The clerk assumed he’d interrupted the retired lot-lizard in the middle of a midnight trash-snack and was shouting for the woman to get out of the dumpster when she suddenly hissed at him and pulled what looked like a decomposing corpse of a child out of the trash before finally scurrying off into the night, dragging the body with her.
The clerk at the truck stop admitted several details to the first responders which hadn’t made it into the official police report. Details about how the elderly woman’s nose “was like a witch or something” and that her eyes had been “all red and shit.”
At the time, authorities didn’t link these two cases together because police had issued an APB on Margaret’s powder-blue Buick along with the Amber Alert and the detectives working the case had their attention on what was still presumably their best lead for getting Little Edgar back. The only reason I was able to make the connection myself was because this happened.
Margaret pulled open the driver’s side door of my wrecked Liberty, her glowing red eyes staring me down.
“WHY DID YOU HURT MY BABY?!” she screamed.
Her pale skin sagged like a melted candle and she reeked of unwashed human body, which accommodated the motif set by her soiled clothing and stringy hair. I could see what that clerk from the truck stop had been talking about — Margaret’s elongated nose did resemble a stereotypical witch, namely of the Wicked West variety. That weird nose hung like a droopy mess on the front of the old woman’s face as she stood shaking beside me, waiting for her answer.
I was still too dazed from the collision to understand what was going on and tried to mutter an apology. I thought the old bat had meant her car until I saw what, or rather who, she was holding by the wrist. It was Little Edgar’s tiny corpse hanging from the old lady’s white knuckled grasp. His eyes were wide and lifeless. One of his cheeks had begun to rot away and his lips had long since receded, revealing the toothy grin of a tiny mad man.
I hadn’t even begun to process what I was seeing when the little guy’s lifeless eyes turned to glare at me. The old lady, who looked like she had been painted by Dali, chucked Edgar’s corpse onto my lap and slammed the door shut before leaning against it. I tried to shove Little Edgar toward the passenger seat as he began to claw at my neck and face.
I raised my arms out of reflex and felt a tiny cold hand wrap around each of my wrists as he sunk his teeth into my left forearm. I cried out in pain and yanked my wrists free of his grasp. Little Edgar went to bite my nose and I headbutted the tiny dead kid as hard as I could.
This dazed the undead toddler long enough to give me time to think. When he tried to bite my face again, I used both hands to grab the little monster by his head and proceeded to dig out his eyes with my thumbs. Not as easy as it sounds. ESPECIALLY when it sounds like you’re blinding a child.
Little Deadgar howled in pain and when I finally let go and climbed out through the passenger door, he didn’t bother to chase after me. Someone did, though. I could hear the rhythm of lumbering footsteps behind me and glanced back to see the old woman on all fours (and this is really the only word that fits) galloping toward me.
“YOU DID THIS! YOU! YOU DID THIS!” she screamed. “YOU DID THIS! YOU DID THIS!”
I doubled my own speed, but it was no use. Within a matter of moments, the old woman pulled my legs out from under me. I could remember hearing the faint sound of emergency sirens approaching from somewhere far off as my head collided with the asphalt.
That’s the last thing that I can remember before waking up in the hospital three days later. Thankfully, a resident happened to be looking out his kitchen window when Margaret crashed into me. He was able to corroborate my balls-ass crazy story and said that Margaret bolted moments before the cops arrived, taking the partially decomposed corpse of her dead grandson with her.
I was technically the victim of a hit-and-run that became an assault, but naturally, the cops still had a lot of questions for me. Those questions would have to wait though, because I was unconscious by the time they arrived on scene. The EMTs rushed me to the hospital where I immediately came down with a fever of 104 degrees and spent the next three days in a coma.
No shit. And when I woke up, I knew why. Why all of this was happening. It was that goddamn Silent Hill story. See, one of many significant differences between the finished draft of that story and the rough draft which got posted was that the finished version contained a detailed description of the thing I had been dreaming about that whole week. The same something I had just spent an entire coma seeing over and over again. And apparently, that something doesn’t want me to tell you about it.
And, after a panicked 3AM chat with my editor at Thought Catalog, I finally decided I wasn’t going to. For what it’s worth, things actually got better after that. My laptop started working again and my Playstation stopped acting up. Plus, I haven’t had a single possessed person crash their car into me since, which is traditionally a good sign.