Howdy. You can call me "Jack". It's not my real name, but that's what I'll go by for now. I reckon the time to tell my story has come. Believe it or don't, but here it is. I suggest you take away the lessons it teaches, even if you dismiss it all as bullshit like 98% of the other stories on the internet.
But there's more truth in this story than any one of you could know.
Now, I've been out of high school for three years, but that's when this particular event takes place, so I'm going to have to wind my clock back a little here to tell the story.
Originally, for my first two-and-a-half years of high school, I attended a school in the deep Southern part of America, close to the Gulf.
We had all kinds of ghost stories growing up and if there was one lesson our super-conservative parents taught us, it was this: Don't go fooling around in things you don't understand.
Now, I was really unpopular at my high school in the South. My first two years of high school were a real pain because I was a big dork and everyone made fun of me. I was a loner and all I really did in class was play my Game Boy all day before rushing home to play an MMO I was addicted to.
All of that changed during my Junior year, when my mother's job moved us out West.
I started to attend a little Catholic high school with no more than around 250 students. It was at this time that I finally started to fit in and make friends. No one out here knew how much of a dork I was, so I opted to "hide my power level," as they tend to say on /a/, and try to make friends for once in my life. Who knows? Maybe I could even get a cute girlfriend if I was careful.
I started to meet people at the school. At a school that small, you end up knowing everyone in your class.
My first day I made a new friend named Sam and at lunch I opted to sit with him and his friends. He told me all about the other kids at the school - who was most popular, who the jocks were, so on and so forth.
He introduced me to his friends, too: Jim, a big jovial fellow who tipped the scales at 300 lbs, Vogelman, our table's resident computer nerd and hacker, and Thomas, a musician who played electric guitar.
I also met Stephanie, the school's resident spunky Asian girl. Some of the guys said she could be a bitch, but she seemed cool enough. She was into gaming and never messed with any of us. She even seemed to think I was funny, so maybe that's why she started to call me at home after school on some days.
Sam told me all kinds of stories about her, like how she used to make snacks for guys at the school but then sprinkle Viagra all over them or pour laxatives into them so that anyone who ate it would suffer the brunt of her painful and arguably cruel joke. I just chuckled to myself and politely refused whenever she offered me anything.
Then... there was Rottenbacher. His real name was Jason, but everyone always called him "Rottenbacher" or "the Kraut" because he was a hardcore Nazi. He was an outcast and a loner. No one wanted to be associated with him. Every day he'd wear a red Swastika armband to school just beneath his jacket where the teachers couldn't see, but whenever he'd get hot and slip it off - or whenever he was changing in the locker room - he'd be wearing the Nazi armband.
Furthermore, on Halloween and on school costume "event" days when he knew he could get away with it, Rottenbacher always wore an entire replica of an SS uniform like the Gestapo wear, with the black hat and the long boots.
He was a mean and angsty son-of-a-bitch. Whenever anyone told a teacher about him or asked him about the Nazi stuff, he'd shout racial or ethnic slurs at them, cuss them out, and yell "Heil Hitler!"
Furthermore, one peculiar thing that caught my eye was that I couldn't help but notice that Rottenbacher always walked with a slight limp, like he was in pain. Sam told me that somebody once saw him tightening a barbed Cilice in the locker room like the ones the Catholic priests wear to punish themselves for their sins.
It was a Catholic school so I, like most people, just assumed at the time that maybe he just wore the Cilice because he's a devout Christian. It was kind of strange for a hardcore Hitler lover like Rottenbacher, but it was high school and none of us preferred to think too much about stuff like that.
After he got done introducing me to everyone, Sam told me some of the school's old stories - including an urban legend that circulated about Kaylee, a girl that died mysteriously after playing some sort of "cell phone game." Sure enough, he could point out the girl in the year book to me and everyone recalled that the police had declared her missing under mysterious circumstances; she was presumed dead almost immediately thereafter. If you asked anyone exactly what happened, no one could tell you a damn thing. They always just said it was because she played the "cell phone game."
Sam. Stephanie the cute, mischievous Asian. Rottenbacher the self-torturing Nazi. The cell phone game. The police's investigation of a teen's disappearance. All of these people and events were about to come together to drag me into something in which I wanted no part. It wouldn't even be until over two years later that I finally understood how and why everything went down just the way it did.
Anyway, the last half of Junior year came and went, and the long summer passed us all by in what seemed like a heartbeat; it was finally time to begin our last year of high school.
Everyone was back for the new school year, pumped to start the laziest and most fun year of our high school lives. Even Rottenbacher, still limping around the school in that barbed Cilice, still spouting his Nazi garbage every time someone decided to mess with him.
The year started out eerily quiet. Word was that two more "cell phone game" related disappearances had happened over the summer to one boy and one girl from another high school and that the police were investigating a possible serial killer. According to the paper, the only common link the police had found was that every person who disappeared had received a text message that read, "Welcome to the game." None of the text messages had been sent from the same cell phone, so this evidence had been dismissed as circumstantial.
For me, things weren't half bad. It was this year when I finally started to open up more as a person. I had made a good circle of friends who I trusted and I felt more calm about being myself at this point. Gradually, I started to fit in more and more and pretty soon I was pretty popular in certain circles.
Stephanie liked to hang around with me more and more because of how funny she thought my jokes were. Before long, one day - which I still remember as one of the happiest of my life - she came to me in the middle of campus after school and looked up at me with this beautiful Asian eyes and that long, black hair and a smile to die for. She asked me right then, "Jack, will you go out with me?"
I laughed, ran, and jumped for joy. "Of course I will," I said, and danced around with her there in front of everyone. I finally had a girlfriend. I still remember that as one of the happiest days of my entire life, if not THE happiest. We went on dates, we hung out after school, and she even started to eat lunch with Sam, Jim, Vogelman, and I every day.
Maybe I wouldn't have been so happy had I known what was going to happen next.
It was one day at lunch when she was sitting with us, when she mentioned that while sleeping over with her friends one night, they had stayed up late with some girls from another high school talking about the cell phone game. She said that these girls knew all about the rules of the game and that they had explained it all to her in great detail.
Supposedly, you can join the game at any time by sending a text message at midnight to the right phone number. The text message was supposed to say, "I wish for the power to curse." If you did it right, you would get a message in return that said, "Welcome to the game," and, supposedly, this was the reason they had given for why the police found that message on the phones of everyone that had disappeared.
Stephanie went on to talk about the game. We all listened attentively to what she was saying.
She told us that once someone was in the game, they were in danger. Within two weeks, they had to complete one of a number of different tasks or else they would be dragged away in the night.
I stopped her right there. "Dragged away? By what? To where?"
She got silent for a moment.
"I don't know," she whispered before continuing her story.
She said that in order to protect oneself from being dragged away, you could one of two things:
The first was to find a special protective item. The item could be anything. You never knew what it was going to be, but it seemed that whatever the item was, it would make the bearer suffer in some way. This was considered a small price to pay in return for protection for as long as you wore the item.
The second way was to bring someone else into the game. This could be done by sending the text message, "Welcome to the game," to someone else's phone. If someone received the text message from someone else who was in the game, then that meant that this person was now in the game, too, and subject to all of the same rules and consequences of the game. If the person didn't find a protective item themselves, or bring another person into the game, then they too would be dragged away.
The catch about the second was this: While the protective item, if found, could protect you indefinitely so long as you kept it with you, bringing someone else into the game would only buy you a temporary grace period. The first time you brought someone into the game, you'd get a two week extension. Then, only one week. Eventually the grace period would get shorter and shorter until you barely bought yourself any time at all by bringing someone else into the game. By that time, you needed to have found your protective item.
Even though I've always been something of an /x/phile, I didn't like hearing her talk about this stuff, so I told her it was a bunch of nonsense.
"You really think so?" she asked. "If it's true, it would explain what the police found. And imagine how cool that would be to be able to curse anyone who messed with you by bringing them into the game! You could get rid of anyone and no one would ever know."
There was an edge in her voice I'd never heard before from Stephanie. She almost sounded intoxicated at the thought of it. Truth be told, it scared me a little.
"Don't go talking like that," I told her. "Stuff like that's beyond people like you and me. We shouldn't go messing with stuff like that. What if you got involved in it and then it all turned out to be true? What would I do if something happened to you? Promise me you won't go messing around in that stuff."
She gave me a funny look. "I never thought you would be the kind of person to be scared of silly things like this, Jack."
"Well, I don't think it's right to mess around in stuff you don't understand, you know?" I gave her a concerned look. "Now promise me, Steph. Promise you won't go try it."
She sighed in annoyance. "Fine, fine. I won't play the scary cell phone game. Are you happy now?"
I told her I was, but truth be told I was scared. I didn't believe her. In all the time I'd known her, I'd never seen her betray anyone or sleep around or anything, but she had always been a trickster and a liar, and would lie to anyone about anything if it got her ahead without hurting anyone else. But, to be honest, I always thought it was kind of cute and just accepted it as one of her quirks. But this time it was serious.
So, a few days later, when she came back and told us that she had joined the cell phone game, I was pissed.
"What are you thinking, Stephanie? You promised me you wouldn't do that!"
"Yeah, yeah I know! But it's not any big deal. I've already got it all planned out. Besides, if it's true and it works, it's too good of an opportunity to pass up!"
She held up her cell phone. "Look!" she said giddily.
A text message was open on the screen which read, "Welcome to the game."
"Kind of freaky, huh? I got it just after I sent the text at midnight, just like the girls said."
My jaw dropped. I was speechless and scared stiff. This game couldn't be for real, could it?
"Stephanie, if this is real, then you're in danger now. You've only got two weeks to find the protective item."
"I know. That's why I sent the text to Rebecca. I'm gonna find out if it's true or not!"
I hit the roof. "You did WHAT?! But Stephanie, if this is real then that makes you as good as a murderer! You cursed Rebecca and now she could die because of you!"
"Relax, Jack. I don't actually believe any of this stuff. But even if I did, Rebecca's always been a big time bitch. It's not like she doesn't have it coming anyway." She giggled that same mischievous giggle of hers that I'd always loved. But this time, I wasn't loving any part of it.
A couple of weeks passed and nothing happened. But then, one day, Rebecca didn't show up at school. At lunchtime, Stephanie was sitting around with us as usual when the assistant principal came to talk to us all with a megaphone.
"May I have your attention, please." Everyone got silent. "The police have reported that one of your fellow students, Rebecca, has gone missing."
Stephanie's golden skin turned white. She froze.
"Her parents are very worried about her. If any of you know anything about this, please come and talk to me after school. That is all."
"Stephanie..." I whispered. I was very afraid for her. I was very afraid for what she might do. She looked at me and said, "Don't say anything. Just don't."
She got up and bolted from the lunch room. I chased after her.
"Stephanie! Stephanie! What are you doing?"
She kept jogging away from me, her cell phone out.
"Don't try to stop me, Jack. If I'm going to survive, I'm going to need more time. I can get another week if I curse someone else, and that'll give me three weeks to find it."
"Stephanie, listen to yourself! Who are you going to curse? You'd kill someone else for a little extra time? Look what's happened to you!"
She was starting to cry.
"I know, damn it! But I know who I'm going to curse. No one's going to miss them, I promise."
"Stephanie, that's not right. You can't do it. No one deserves this. Let me help you! We can find a protective object for you together!"
She turned and showed me her cell phone. Her text outbox had a message which read, "Welcome to the game."
She had sent it to Rottenbacher.
I started to weep. I grabbed onto her as tightly as I could. "Stephanie, Stephanie. I love you. I'm so sorry. This isn't right. None of this is right."
She held onto me and began to cry deeply as well. We held each other there for nearly an hour like that. I still remember it like it was yesterday.
Then, that night before we went home, we both resolved we would start looking for a protective item the next day.
The next day, I was walking with Stephanie along the track after school when Rottenbacher approached us with his cell phone. He was furious. He held it up to her face.
"Is this your idea of a joke, you stupid slant-eyed bitch?"
Truth be told, I felt Rottenbacher had the right to be a little angry. Sure, he was a Nazi pervert freak, but with all of the whispers of murder going around, I could imagine anyone being angry about getting a text like that.
But even so, I wasn't about to let anyone talk to my girl that way.
"Hey, buddy, you watch your mouth. That's no way to talk to a lady."
"Lady?" Rottenbacher shouted. "This fucking slut is not a lady. She's just a bitch, and she tried to kill me! I bet you killed that other girl, too, didn't you? Rebecca? She's missing 'cause of you, isn't she?"
Stephanie began to cry again.
I pulled my arm back and punched as hard as I could at Rottenbacher's face. He stumbled backwards a few steps and grabbed at his lip, from which trickled a little stream of blood, but he kept his composure.
I halfway expected him to swing back at me, but he just stood there.
After a moment, he spoke.
"You just don't get it, do you Stephanie? I'M ALREADY IN THE GAME. I always have been. I know the fucking score. But unlike you, I never cursed anyone else."
"Bullshit!" I said. "If all that's true, then how are you still-"
Suddenly, I remembered the Cilice Rottenbacher wore around his leg that caused him to limp in agony, and what Stephanie had told me at lunch.
Whenever a new protective item was discovered, whatever it was, it would cause its bearer to suffer.
"Your protective item! You have one!"
Stephanie's eyes lit up. It was clear that had realized the same thing that I had. Rottenbacher smirked. "That's right. So I just figured your girlfriend better know that she didn't get any additional time for trying to curse me. I've already been there and done that."
Stephanie looked up at him with fear in her eyes.
Days passed and, try as we might, Stephanie and I couldn't find anything that could qualify as a protective item. We were approaching the two-week deadline and she was looking more and more scared by the day. Her hair was a mess, her usually bubbly personality was glum and distraught. She stared off into space during classes and prayed constantly.
After the two-week deadline passed, we were both terrified. She came to me at school and said, "Jack, I want you to sleep with me tonight. Stay with me all night. Don't let it get me."
I couldn't refuse. I showed up at her house late that night and came in through her window. We slept together. It was bittersweet.
She went to sleep holding me, but I lay awake most of the night watching and waiting until I finally fell asleep around 4:30 in the morning from sheer exhaustion.
The next day, when I woke up, all I could think was "Stephanie!" I looked around frantically. She wasn't in the bed next to me.
"Stephanie!" I said louder as I climbed out of the bed and began to search for her. I walked into her kitchen.
"Don't be so loud," a voice said. It was Stephanie's. I turned around to see her sitting at a round table in the kitchen. She was smiling and seemed as giddy as ever.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
"My parents have already gone to work, but I don't want the neighbors to get suspicious and say something."
I wept with relief. It was over and she was safe. Nothing had come for her. I ran across the kitchen floor and hugged her, and kissed her all over.
Everything was perfect.
For two weeks.
Then I came to school one day and nine of our classmates had disappeared, including Sam.
Everyone was in an uproar. No one knew what had happened to them, or where they had gone. No one except for me and the person who had done it: Stephanie.
If the amount of time extended was halved each time you brought someone into the game, then nine people would have brought her just over two weeks. Which meant that her time would be running out again tonight.
I confronted her about it after school.
"Stephanie, the police are getting suspicious. You can't do this any more, and I can't watch you do this any more. It's wrong. It's evil!"
She looked at me silently. I still remember the look in her eyes that day. At this point, it had become clear to me that the girl I had known and loved was long gone, and all that remained was a soulless, wicked shell which clung to life and feared death more than anything. But, even so, I still loved her more than anything. She was my first and only girlfriend, and I couldn't let her go. I couldn't let anything happen to her.
"It's okay," She said. "I won't do it anymore. I've accepted what I need to do, and I'm going to do it. No one else is going to die because of me."
"Stephanie... are you sure? Maybe we can still find a protective item for you if we look now."
She looked down sadly. "There's no use in running from it now. I just want to spend the night with you tonight, okay? One more night together. That's all I want."
I was heartbroken. Everything was too melancholic and too melodramatic. I was so sad at hearing her words, at the thought of her being taken away.
I threw up. I vomited and retched over and over again into a nearby garbage can trying to fight back an endless stream of tears.
That night, she slept with me again. Sick, weak, and tired, I passed out from pure exhaustion at 3:00 AM.
Less than an hour later, though, I awoke with a start.
Stephanie was gone.
I sat up and looked around in terror, then found a note. I read it.
"[Jack]: I'm sorry for lying to you again, but I'm not ready to die yet."
A chill went down my spine. I continued to read.
"I've figured out what I need to do. Don't worry, as I promised, no one else is going to die because of me."
What could she be thinking? I looked around my room. Suddenly, I noticed that the .45 caliber pistol my father had bought me for my 18th birthday was missing from my room, and everything made perfect sense.
That's why she had wanted to spend the night with me tonight. She wanted my gun. she was planning to go after Rottenbacher and take HIS protective item.
As fast as I could, I threw on some clothes and bolted for my truck. I sped off towards Rottenbacher's apartment.
When I got there, the lock had been shot off and there were voices inside.
I pushed the door open. "What's going on here?" I demanded.
I looked around. Stephanie was holding Rottenbacher at gunpoint with my .45. The apartment walls were covered in pictures of Adolf Hitler and Swastika banners. There were whips and chains scattered around the bedroom floor. Rottenbacher was stomping around in long sleeve pajamas and cursing at her in his typical neo-Nazi form, screaming at her about 'home invasion' and 'calling the police' and this and that. He was even wearing that stupid Nazi armband. It was obvious this guy was a lunatic fanatic.
Stephanie screamed at him: "Shut the fuck up!"
She fired a round at the wall behind him and winced.
I remember my ears ringing from the loudness of the gunshot and a sharp pain in my inner ear, but I was too tense to worry about it at the moment.
"Now give me that barbed torture thing you're always wearing, or I'll kill you right now."
Her voice was all malice.
Rottenbacher stood in place for a moment and slowly began to remove his pajama leggings.
"You're making a big mistake," he said. "You should just accept the way things are and die with dignity. You're not going to get away with this."
He removed the cilice from his leg, from which trickled a small amount of blood and handed it to her.
Immediately, she slipped it onto her own leg with one hand, fumbling with my pistol as she tightened it until it hurt, and her own leg began to bleed a little.
"Let's go, Jack," she whispered and turned to leave.
I started to walk out with her. From the apartment, I heard Rottenbacher's shouting.
"You won't get away with this! He's going to come for you and he's going to drag you off to Hell for what you've done! You're going to pay for all those kids!"
I could see that she was sobbing a little as we walked away.
I was sick. I was disgusted with everything. I was disgusted with Stephanie for being so cruel and selfish and I was disgusted for myself for seeing all of this, and seeing the signs, and not doing anything to stop it. But at least now it would be over.
As we walked back to my truck, I said a small prayer for Rottenbacher in the hopes that he could find a new protective item within two weeks. He may have been a racist bastard, but in a way, he was still better than Stephanie if what he said about never cursing anyone else was true, and he didn't deserve to die just for that.
I drove Stephanie home. She was exhausted. I would have given her a kiss on the cheek, but I was too sick and just wanted the whole ordeal to be over.
"Good night," I whispered to her.
"Good night, Jack. I love you," she whispered back, and climbed out of my truck and went back to her house.
I started to drive home, exhausted from the day's events.
Suddenly, my cell phone began to vibrate. I picked it up. It was a call from Stephanie.
The first thing I heard was a shriek, followed by what sounded like the noise of pounding at her door.
"Jack! Help! He's here! He's here, and HE'S COMING FOR ME!"
"What? Hold on, Steph!"
I pulled a U-turn in my truck and sped off back towards her home. Stephanie was becoming more frantic.
Suddenly, on the other end of the line, I heard the sound of her door being bashed in, followed by another shriek. I could hear Stephanie screaming at the top of her lungs, a hideous, blood curdling scream. I still remember every moment of it perfectly, and I remember her screams word for word.
"No! No! I don't want to die!" Adrenaline surged through my heart and I floored the accelerator.
"No, no, no! Stop!"
She screamed again and I heard what sounded like the phone hitting the floor and Stephanie's screams getting further and further away.
And then, dead air.
"Stephanie? Stephanie?! Answer me, damn it!"
Getting no response, I hung up and called the police.
When I arrived at Stephanie's house, the front door had been smashed in. I parked my car on her lawn and jumped out, carrying my .45 caliber pistol with me.
I ran inside, searching the halls. Everything was in slow motion.
Then, I came to Stephanie's bedroom. I turned on the light and checked all of the corners with my pistol leading the way. At length, I lowered the gun as something caught my eye in the center of the room. Stephanie's cell phone lay on the floor next to her bed.
In the middle of the room, in the carpet, was a very small patch of blood. It wasn't more than a few drops. But the most chilling sight of all was that from the edge of her bed to the door of her room which lead out into the hall was a trail of claw marks that she had left as something or someone had dragged her away to her doom.
I couldn't take it any more. I turned and left her room. On the way out, I couldn't help but notice that she had torn out most of her fingernails clawing at the carpet and that they lay scattered near the trails her fingers had left.
I went out into the street and threw up again. I could hear the sirens coming in the distance.
Days passed, then weeks, then months. The police did investigations; they questioned me time and time again, and every time my stories were all the same. I told them the truth as I knew it, as unbelievable as it was. I don't think they believed me, but all of the evidence supported my story and there was nothing to implicate me in any of the crimes, so at length they finally let me go.
Things gradually went back to normal.
Our class eventually recovered from the losses of so many of our classmates, and over time my mind kind of accepted what had happened until it seemed like a distant dream. I graduated and moved on to college.
But there was one thing that still bothered me through it all, and that was Rottenbacher. He had been exactly right. Even though Stephanie had taken his cilice, he never vanished in the way that she and the others did.
But there is one thing that I do know, and that is to this very day, if you ever see Rottenbacher, he's still always wearing that red Nazi Swastika armband.
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