"Hi, kids! Let's play!"

Part of the Cold Relics Series - Previous Story: LIZ-4, Next Story: Signal Intercept

By late 2014, it had been six years since my search for an imaginary place that left me with mental scars and a mistrust of my own memories. I had long given up on finding anything else about Kiddie Land or the machine that implanted it into my head. I didn’t really expect to find much, because whatever organization or branch of government that made or owned this tech has the power to stay hidden, or maybe even remove itself from history. And we’re just a group of youngish adults trying to focus on more important things, like college debts.

Life had returned to its dull normalcy, but I kept up some light contact with Jack and Kate, both of whom I still hadn’t met—for real—in person. They had yet to get over the fact that something out in The Middle of Nowhere, Florida burned them into my neurons, despite having never met them. But the real reason we still hadn’t gotten together yet, was more because we had no need to.

Then there’s Tyler. By now, he had gone into full-blown conspiracy mode, though only on this particular set of events. He was only focused on the three stories I had typed up or archived, two of which I can’t validate, but I was still a little worried. The Cold War-linked stories weren’t worth so much effort, I told him. But, in my absence, he had made connections. Maybe even, dare I say it, progress.

“Jackpot,” he told me in a sudden, long-winded email one night that I will heavily truncate for the rest of you. “Dude, I’ve made an online buddy, and you need to check out this guy’s house. I went and he showed me something that could be connected to the rest of this crap. Guy’s name is Boris [Yes, that’s an alias as usual, and yes, it’s based off of the hacker in Goldeneye]. Trust me, you will want to see this. He lives up in Buffalo, NY. I know, it’s not a short hop, but he has INTACT MERCH! It’s not the killer laser guns, but it might be the next best thing. A video game! GO ASAP if you still care about this stuff.”

I didn’t think much of it at first, but of course, the idea left an itch that lingered and grew, and I soon bought my plane tickets for a flight up there in November. But it really should’ve been sooner. Just because I live in Florida doesn’t mean I’m not used to cold weather; I’ve seen snow plenty of times. But for the record, in November 2014, New England saw one hell of a blizzard.

I’m not writing this from the comfort of my warm bedroom desk this time. No, I’m in a cold bed, in a cold room, under cold blankets, on a laptop with 50% battery. The screen is dimmed to its lowest to conserve power. I hope this isn’t my last will and testament, and just another creepypasta cliché. I don’t expect anything to happen in the next few hours. But I want to be safe.

After packing one suitcase and a carry-on of clothes that were meant to last me a week, I departed, only telling Tyler and Boris that I was going up there. I didn’t see much of a reason to let my sister and her family know. I’d call her now, but we have no service at the moment. Also, I just took another round of pills. I’m hopped up on medicine just to ward off the headaches and stay awake. If I sound a little delusional or start rambling, be aware that I am currently on the ass end of a very nasty fever. It’s probably best to get that out there right away. If I mention my condition after I tell the tale, I’ll just wipe away any assurance that any of this is true, won’t I? Now, maybe there’s a little hope.

That damned rodent. Lagomorph. Whatever.

I will say this: Boris, you’re a pretty cool guy. I don’t know many people that still smoke in this day and age, and you probably could’ve done less of it, but there is something a little retro-badass about a Russian guy who spouts a witty, sardonic remark and then in the next motion, lights up a cig. But try switching to the electronic ones, or just vape, seriously. We’re all here for you.

I shouldn’t waste energy talking about unimportant exposition. Anyway.

Boris met me at the airport, told me a little about his family and their immigration, his favorite football team (I’m not a sports fan), and his other love: collecting old electronics. Taking them apart, finding out what makes them tick, modding them, laughing after getting shocked by capacitors—he loved it all. He still speaks his native tongue, and English too, as good as anyone. And Tyler, you were right. He knows his programming, hacking, and video game history as well. I definitely wish I could’ve had him as a neighbor growing up.

His house is in a neighborhood that can just barely be considered a part of Buffalo. It’s fairly isolated, and though it has a few dozen residences, they’re each separated by about a quarter-mile of trees. His home, which he had grown up in and now takes care of alone, is a two-story place that doesn’t take up much space. He keeps it immaculate, which is in contrast to the structure right next to it. Long ago, it might’ve been a garage, but now it’s a combination storage shed and “science lab” with an old, torn up beige rug, buried under hundreds of cardboard boxes and misplaced electronic components. He keeps a couple of space heaters inside of it that are only on when the “lab” is occupied, so it was another cold interior upon initial entry. I hate cold rooms.

The only thing I knew in advance was that he had an odd, one of a kind game of some sort. He didn’t talk about it all throughout the dinner he, I’ll say it, lovingly prepared. He treated me like an old friend even though we had just met. I think he really likes to meet new people and practice his hospitality.

Over dinner, he asked me about the previous three stories in this slowly growing collection. He wanted to know more about Kiddie Land in particular, as it was the only one whose author was sitting at the table eating risotto with him. I still didn’t have much to add that wasn’t in the retelling.

“So, you like the scary stories the internet has to offer?” he asked me.

“I still read them sometimes,” I told him. “I don’t mind the stereotypes and running themes. As long as it has an interesting concept, makes you think, or maybe turns something commonplace into something sinister.”

“I grew up on scary movies, but I read some, too. Sometimes these pasta things fall into the trap of saying or revealing too much. Almost makes me want to stop trying to find out more about what I’m going to show you.”

“Because you like that feeling of being afraid, right? But what if the truth is scarier on a higher level?” I continue the paraphrased discussion.

“I do feel like it is time to move on if I can. I’ve come at this thing from all angles by now. I’ve dissected it. But I still want more.”

“Chasing after that initial fear… You’ll never get it back, man.”

He smiled at me and took another puff of tobacco.

Boris told me that past midnight, he’s at his prime. That’s when he digs into and tears apart the world. Dark things, electronic things, the deepest of information, finds, and theories—he eats it all up. He craves to learn, to be the smartest guy around in the subject of “Stuff”, all the things that would never be useful in a career.

Night 1

Boris brought me into his garage-science-lab, where I was totally confident he wasn’t going to murder me. Past all the boxes, in the back, on his current project worktable and under a flickering fluorescent light, were two smallish old tube TVs. One was a Zenith that was probably from the late 80s, and the other was some off-brand I had never heard of.

“That one is from Russia,” was the first thing Boris explained. “NTSC is fine for most things, but I needed something that can run SECAM.”

He then showed me the hardware that they were hooked up to, on the shelf under the table. There was a bundle of wires and convertors, some caked in dust, all mashed together like an industrial accident waiting to happen. Sitting in front of all the copper was a giant, solid black VCR, about twice as big as the largest one I could remember seeing as a kid. It was both tall and large, and the slot flap for tapes was nearly indistinguishable from the plain faceplate.

“Is this it?” I asked him. “Looks like some heavy duty military VCR.”

“I spent years making this thing, and finding compatible parts. There are only a few of these in the whole world. And maybe no authentic, original units remain. This wouldn’t have been possible without the community.”

“Community? This thing is all homebrew, user-designed?”

“Pretty much from the ground up, though someone did find half of a system manual—that gave us the start we needed to get anywhere at all.”

“How many of you guys are there? And what’s this for, anyway?”

“Not many. It’s an elite club,” he joked. “Look, you see that?”

I went further under the table, and noticed that the big box actually ran on a 240-volt plug. It needed extra power to work.

“Does it play normal tapes?” I asked, knowing it was a stupid question.

He told me that it could, sure, but the thing was primarily a computer—a powerful but obsolete machine, built with specific high-endurance parts. Boris had lost track of how much time and money he had put into it.

The device had one piece of known software, and it was speculated that the hardware never left its prototype stage. But it had software! Maybe that shouldn’t have really come as a surprise. Unless it could blast lost-media Disney tapes into your mind or something, what would be the point of making this thing?

“I can switch it between the two televisions,” Boris explained as I followed him to a secured metal locker in the corner of the garage. “It can run in two different formats. I’m only going to show you one of them tonight.”

He grabbed a box from the locker, opened it, and took out one of those old, bigger VHS cases—the kind made of plastic that snapped opened and cushioned the tape inside. It was solid black, and the media within was gray, with no markings. There was only a worn label with one hand-written word. “Rabbit”. The cassette had no windows, so it was impossible to see the spools inside.

“Hold it. Be careful.”

He lowered it into my hand. It weighed about three pounds, a little heavier than a modern hard drive. By now I had figured out that this was no typical videotape, and it was no wonder that hardware had to be built around it.

“Have you popped it open?”

“You can’t without destroying it. Someone tried already.”

“But did they get a look inside?”

Normally, I don’t think there’s anything scary about just, you know, physical objects—but this came close.

“The guy who pried one open was filming it. You can see a few frames of the inside before it burns up. It reacts with the air and catches on fire. There is a spool in there and you can hear it going back and forth in the VCR, but we don’t know what it’s made of. We don’t want to open one again and lose another.”

“Then what’s in contact with the hardware?”

Boris flipped the media over and opened the flap where the magnetic tape would usually be. Only here, it was solid, black glass of some kind. Whatever fed data into the readers did so through an opaque material.

He laughed. “If you think this is weird, wait until you see what’s on it.”

I admit that I began to shake in anticipation. Boris had hooked me.

He lit a cigarette, brought the game to the table, and set it down so that he could bring out and position a camcorder that must have been wired into the heavy-duty tape player. He explained to me in technical terms that the hardware was meant to connect with a camera, but nothing was known about the official peripheral. However it was found that a specific brand of a Russian video camera, with some slight tweaking of its circuit boards, could be made compatible.

Boris turned to me and flatly ended his lengthy retelling of everything he had to do to get things working by saying, “The software is interactive.” So, a spooky game. But wait—it’s also Russian, and is played on outdated and strange hardware, that for some reason is a system based off of a VCR. Sure. Why not.

He double checked everything, turned the TV on, and put the software into the machine. I prepared myself for whatever visions of hell were about to flash onscreen, and wondered how realistic the blood would look.

But, nope, that wasn’t the route it was taking. Instead, a cute and confident rabbit appeared, sitting and waiting on a solid color foreground under a flat blue sky—with no logos or menus in sight. It was either a platformer or a point and click, though he was looking to the left instead of the usual right. He had a nice idle animation as he awaited a command, despite all of the video interlacing going on and the creature moving at about an uneven five frames a second.

“How are you supposed to control the rabbit?” I asked.

Boris just pointed at the camera. “You look at him and speak.”

“So you have to tell him what to do?”

“Yes, and it wants to see a talking face, but we don’t know if it actually recognizes them. For a while, this was all we saw after we got the game running. What little we have of the manual only mentions a camera one time.”

Boris said something in Russian, which he translated for me as “Start.” This made the rabbit smile, and a solid white block dropped down. I figured that it was a placeholder for the game’s title, or was just a missing graphic. The rabbit then asked, in a bizarre, peppy, high-pitched yet heavily accented Russian, “Say hello to me, and we’ll begin the adventure!”

“We also got stuck here, guessing names for months like a Rumplestiltskin challenge,” Boris told me after he translated that first bit of dialogue. “We didn’t even know it was looking for a name at first. Incomplete software is a pain.”

He told me what ‘hello’ was in Russian, and offered me a try. So I turned to the camera and very clearly said, jokingly, “Zdravstvuyte, Rabid Rabbit.”

The creature snickered playfully and shook its head.

“In time, someone got it. In hindsight, we should’ve tried it sooner,” Boris said and turned the camera back to him. “Zdravstvuyte, Fun Bunn.”

The rabbit smiled and waved, and then began walking to the left.

“Fun Bunn? Come on,” I replied in disbelief.

“Yes. We spell it with two ‘n’s. No idea if that’s ‘official’ or not, though.”

I said something along the lines of the name sounding like a kind of sex toy, and he laughed and told me that everyone else in his group had similar reactions upon Googling it. But this was meant to be a kid’s game, apparently, so it was clearly supposed to be an innocent and “fun-to-say” name.

I just stood there after that, watching, and asking only a few more questions. It was a simple game with five long levels. Bunn would stop at a few puzzles or challenges on his journey to wherever he was going; simple things like a river, or a cave, or a fallen tree. Everything had a solution, and I could tell that Boris had played this game many times. The moment the rabbit asked what to do to clear the next obstacle, Boris answered right away. Mr. Bunn would then perform the task, and smile and say thank you before continuing.

The first level was a nice open field. The second level was a long road with abandoned cars, which felt like it had undertones of something darker. But the third level went back to nature, and was a vertical scroller in which Boris guided Bunn up a tree by picking the right branches, at one point returning a lost egg to a nesting bird. The fourth level was an urban setting again, this time exploring an empty shopping plaza filled with product art and logos satirizing American culture.

I found the back and forth shifting tone strange, and wondered what this was all leading up to, as no human characters had appeared. The last level took place in a city park overgrown with pixelated trees, which eventually led to an area that looked a little like Times Square. The buildings were intact but covered in vines, and animals like deer and squirrels lived in the road-turned-meadow in peaceful coexistence. If you’ve seen I am Legend, then you’ll definitely get the idea of what this ending screen looked like. Honestly, it was masterful pixel art for a game that Boris’s group placed at being made in 1990, and I liked how it all started with a flat two-color landscape and gradually became much more detailed as the player progressed.

As I watched Mr. Bunn reunite with his family (his wife rabbit and three kids), and then all take naps together in the Times Square glen, I actually felt my heart get lighter for a moment. This game wasn’t terrifying at all. It was poetic, and the whole post-human civilization but life-goes-on thing was humbling. The last time I felt something similar was when I watched that old Peace on Earth cartoon from 1939. It’s sad, but hopeful, and I could respect that.

Actually, an early impression I had was that this could be a perfect iPad game. It’s an hour long, creative, and could be made easy to pick up.

I should mention that there aren’t really “enemies” in the game, but there are some contentious encounters with other animals. Some started arguments, and a few wanted to fight, but Boris would tell the rabbit what to say to avoid a violent confrontation and resolve things peacefully. Even some of the uglier or meaner-looking animals that I expected he’d have to jump on or kick could be talked down or reasoned with. They would then smile and compliment Bunn.

I told Boris that I genuinely liked the game, and that despite my expectations of it being some demented creation or (sarcastically) a haunted cartridge, I was glad I got to experience it. But then he had to ruin things.

“That was a perfect run,” he told me. “It took us a year to figure out all the right answers. It’s not the most challenging game ever made, but…” I remember him trailing off for a moment. “I think that’s enough for tonight.”

I was disappointed. I wanted to see more. Tomorrow, he promised. He would show me “the rest” of the game tomorrow. I assumed that would include all the ways that the player could fail. But it was such a sweet little story. So what would a game over be like, if not just an “Oops, try again!”?

Boris’s house had three bedrooms, and I got the second largest. It was nicely made, and there was no evidence left that Tyler had been in this same room, what him being messy and proud of it. Again, I have a great host.

As I drifted off under clean blankets, I thought about Bunn’s journey, and wondered if Boris purposely only showed me a perfect game that first night.

Night 2

We had lunch out every day around town at his favorite restaurants, and though Boris always offered to, I couldn’t possibly have him pay for any of my meals. As we ate, we sometimes talked about the other stories, and about the next to be written, which he assumed would be this one. Maybe it was the whole reason he agreed to have me over, to tell the tale of Fun Bunn and his strange hardware of murky origin. I told him maybe, but if it’s not scary, then I probably wouldn’t be inclined to write. Well, obviously I’m writing.

On the outset of our second late night with the cartoon rabbit, Boris explained that we would be exploring consequences, and the debug menu—which was only accessible in the original Russian language version. Like any other game, the debug (or developer) menu let him jump around levels and change parameters. It was easy to access. All he had to do was plug an old keyboard into the PS/2 port in the back, and it popped up on the intro screen.

Instead of having to watch the rabbit move from trial to trial, he jumped straight to the first one. Fun Bunn teleported to the troubled field mouse looking for his lost sock. To win normally, the player would open up their inventory screen (which is seldom used, as there are only about eight items in the whole game) and pick the already-owned knitting needles so that Bunn could kindly make a new sock, instead of going on a hopeless fetch quest in a vast field. But apparently, it was also important to comfort the mouse first.

“Hang onto your butts,” Boris quoted Jurassic Park with a sardonic laugh.

He equipped the knitting needle before talking to the mouse, and the rodent, I guess thinking it was being attacked, reacted by… screaming at the top of its lungs, running up to the rabbit, taking the needles, and jamming them into poor Bunn’s knees before running off screen. He cried out in agony and became immobilized, only staring at his bleeding legs in pain as tears ran down his face. I’m pretty sure I muttered a few expletives around this point.

That incorrect choice was apparently a “soft-lock” game over; the only option was to reset the whole system, which seemed like either a fault of the prototype software, or was just to rub salt into the wound. Though with a debug menu at his disposal, Boris could simply restart the scenario. This time, he showed me a simple incorrect answer instead, which was a little less horrible. He called the mouse a jerk, and in response it bit him and ran away, leaving a small red dot on Bunn’s arm that Boris assured me would stay there the whole game.

He emphasized that there were two types of failures. There were game-enders, and then there were wrong choices that would still let you continue. The types weren’t restricted to how you failed; game-enders and bad choices could either be caused by wrong answers or poor inventory decisions.

That meant that there were multiple ways to end the game: either with serious injury or death (more on that later), the perfect run, the middling playthrough, or by achieving the “dark” ending. I’d seen the perfect run already.

In the middle-of-the-road game, Bunn manages to avoid death but still pisses off a number of animals to sustain injuries, physically or mentally. Any scars are permanent, and if Bunn is verbally insulted, his face drops a little. He eventually goes from a smile to a very dour, soulless expression. The variety and attention to detail is impressive, and some of the injuries are pretty nasty. Even just screwing up once keeps Bunn from having his perfect day, and at the ending screen he turns his back on his family and the glen and simply walks off screen.

He showed me the dark ending next, which is just as hard to get as the perfect one, as you have to avoid being killed or maimed, yet still make all the wrong choices that cause injury. It was actually morbidly funny. Looking utterly beat-up and sick of life after failing all the animal residents, Bunn returns home, sees his family and the other smiling critters, and then takes out a giant butcher knife from nowhere and proceeds to behead everyone, even his own kids. Now, if you’re into that kind of “humor,” you’ll be glad to know that the animals’ heads are still smiling as they roll away and geysers of spraying blood erupt from their necks. I’m fine with this stuff as an adult, but, yeah, it would definitely give any unlucky kid that managed to get this ending some serious nightmares.

Oh, and then Bunn commits seppuku, the screen flashes, and the ruins of Times Square and the glen are suddenly engulfed by a blazing hellfire, endlessly looping. The end.

At this point, I only liked the game even more, being my twisted self who loved a dark comedy. I wanted to meet the people that made it. Boris, too, also still found satisfaction in the grim aspects, though he did agree with me that this was meant to be a kid’s game and yet had this horribly dark, easily experienced crap going on. Anything less than a perfect run, and children would see Fun Bunn receive grievous bodily harm as shocked parents watched on.

But that wasn’t quite the end of it. There was one feature of the game that perturbed even its most seasoned vets, and it really “had no reason to exist,” as Boris put it. He warped to the abandoned road stage, and started the scenario with the bandit raccoon. This was one of the more brutal challenges, as failing to pick the right dialogue would cause instant death. Boris proudly told the raccoon to go, well, “screw” himself, resulting in a quick stab to the gut by a long dagger. Consequently, he steals all your items and runs off.

Boris then lets the game sit there. Eventually the pool of blood under Bunn stops growing. Everything is still. It’s like the game has crashed.

Then he turns to me and says, “We’ll come back in the morning.”

Night 3

Wow. I didn’t expect the developers to take it so far. When I wake up the next day, I practically rush downstairs like it’s Christmas morning. Boris takes me to the garage, stops me before I round the corner of the last shelf, peeks at the TV first, and then nods and guides me over.

Fun Bunn is a rotting corpse. Flies buzz around him and vultures with two-frame animations pick at the carrion. I was legitimately bewildered. Why would THIS be programmed into the game? Who would leave it on just to see it? Was it to teach kids that life had permanent consequences?

“All the deaths and injuries are like this,” Boris tells me. “There seems to be a built-in timer, but things stop progressing after five days. Insane, isn’t it?”

In this case, by tomorrow, Fun Bunn would be nothing more than bleached bones. All the deaths were similar, except for the one where he could fall of a cliff and simply disappear, as the screen didn’t pan down.

The crippling injuries, Boris promised me, were far worse. Even he had trouble stomaching them, to the point where he hadn’t triggered them all in full himself. If Fun Bunn couldn’t move, he would call out for help after an hour. If he didn’t bleed out, he would begin to starve, and waste away over a couple days before decomposition began. There were instances where he would try to limp home, but not make it off the screen before collapsing. Boris described an instance where single-pixel ants would appear and slowly tear into his still warm flesh, gradually growing in number until there was nothing left but skeleton. And that was complete with disgusting chewing and biting sounds, because why not.

This whole game was designed to torture its poor main character, and the player as well for failing him. Under that perfect ending was a festering mountain of horrors, beyond the point of being just a joke. Perhaps it reached a place where it all no longer had any meaning. The rabbit could die any number of grisly deaths, and Boris reset the game to show me quite a few. There was nothing to translate, either. It always devolved into universal screams of terror and pain.

Just, WTF. It’s one thing reading about this stuff in scary stories, but seeing it and knowing people put time to program it all in… I’m almost surprised that pictures of my family being murdered or already in the form of gravestones didn’t start appearing on the screen. Nah, as sick as this crap was, it still had to exist within the realm of possibility. There were limits. There had to be limits.

By the time night came around, though, I was doing better. I felt like I was ready to go back and explore a little more, now that I was mostly desensitized. But there was really only one thing left to do. Play it in English.

“We can…” Boris said when I asked. “But I don’t… like what happens.”

I wondered how it could be worse, to a degree where even iron-will Boris might shudder just a bit. I would soon know how and why.

In the debug menu, he switched to the English version. A confirmation came up, and upon accepting the change, the game restarted. Even though the VCR could still play it, it was now running on a different frequency, that the Russian television couldn’t display. It took a few minutes for Boris to switch the wires around to the other, American TV, and to set up a compatible camcorder, this one a 1980s RCA model. Boris hesitated before turning everything on, but he didn’t bother asking me if I really still wanted to go through with it.

Ominously, the lights in the garage flickered just several seconds after he powered up the hardware and it began loading a localized edition of the game. Boris looked at me like he was used to this.

“I don’t know if the load on the VCR is higher or what, but this version kind of messes with nearby wiring. We generally don’t run it longer than a half hour at a time, to be safe. We’re still trying to figure out what’s happening.”

Strange. But otherwise, the game looked and ran the same; even its title was still missing on the start screen. And for the first time, I didn’t need a translator for Bunn’s dialogue. He sounded even more like a cartoon character, though the voice-over was still obviously done by a Russian, and he and/or the script translators only had a so-so grasp of the English language. Of the three hundred or so lines of dialogue in the game, around half were either broken or gave the wrong inflections. But it was still playable and understandable enough, and I think any American child would be able to get through the story on their own. Not that they should.

“Are you ready for adventure? Saying a hello to me, and let us go!”

Boris gestured for me to take over and give it a try, so I got in front of the camera and replied, “Hello, Fun Bunn.”

He smiled, waved, walked to the left, and it began. With Boris watching, I went through the game in an honest attempt. I screwed up most of the dialogue choices because Boris only ever translated a few of them for me before, but I did succeed in most of the inventory-based, visual puzzles, as I had memorized those. Boris gave me a few hints, but wanted to see how I’d do mostly on my own. After having to restart from the beginning over a dozen times, I managed to get halfway through the third level before dying again, at which point two hours had passed and the flickering lights had become more frequent. Boris shut off the game, told me I had done pretty well, and that it was best to quit for the night. I still wanted to finish. I was past its disturbing consequences of failure and genuinely had the urge to complete it.

The English version sounded like it only had two different voice actors, one with a deeper, gruffer voice. The other man could do a pretty good falsetto for what few female characters there were to interact with. And now that I got to try saying different things to pass challenges, I found that the system was looking for certain keywords. As long as they were said, the rest of the sentence didn’t matter. Two or three usually basic words just had to be said in order, and none of them were beyond what an eight-year-old would know.

Oh, and I think that the screams from Mr. Bunn were even worse in the dub. It was like the voice actors were shouting directly into the microphone. His death cries sounded unfiltered and raw, barely cartoonish at all. I hated it.

As the version didn’t have a debug menu that I could use to skip to the end, I asked Boris if there was anything different about it. There wasn’t. Everyone in the group had beaten it in both languages long ago. But no one ever let the English one run for more than three hours—that was the record—because the electrical anomalies only grew worse, and there was worry of fires starting or other permanent damage to a house’s power system. No one knew why the game behaved like that, or how it was interacting with the wires.

After two hours, Boris told me, the “buzzing” would begin. He didn’t elaborate, but I figured that this sound must’ve been similar to audio feedback. Only, somehow emitted from nothing but insulated copper. Despite that, I could still experiment some more tomorrow, so long as I kept it in short bursts. He wasn’t willing to cause thousands of dollars of damage to his family home by leaving a stupid game on too long. That was fair.

Night 4

We went to a busy buffet for lunch during a special. The restaurant was crowded with people, all crammed together getting food. I’m pretty sure I know what place to blame for my fever. Boris probably dodged a bullet.

He wanted to work on other things all day, as his life didn’t revolve around the game and he had already showed me pretty much everything it had to offer. So I spent a few more hours in the afternoon playing it. I eventually got a little frustrated with having to do things all over again after repeatedly failing the one-chance challenges, but I was too stubborn to ask Boris for help.

Instead, to vent, I began to repeatedly kill Fun Bunn. I would go after the deaths I hadn’t seen yet, replay my “favorite” ones, and waste time generally beating up the hero by collecting all the possible injuries. I can’t explain why I started to enjoy it. Maybe it was just the repeated exposure. I was definitely done being shocked by anything it threw at me. But that’s kind of what always happens when you see the limits, the script, and the coding behind a game.

I began to wonder if I could actually contribute to the group’s research in some way. Had anyone been an outright sadist to Fun Bunn, by just killing him over and over, with as little mercy as the real world’s rabbit-hunting predators would give him? I didn’t really want to be mean to the rabbit. I had nothing against him personally. But for science, I wanted to dig a little deeper.

As I was constantly resetting the hardware to restart the game, I figured I didn’t have to worry about the “purges” that Boris told me to do while playing: every hour, turn the game off for ten minutes, for the sake of the wiring. But I was only playing in bursts no longer than fifteen minutes, so I wanted to believe that the “charge” or whatever we should call it never had a chance to build up. Looking back, I probably should’ve done as he asked anyway. Sorry, Boris.

Spending all night breaking apart the game reminded me of being a kid again, looking for glitches and sequence breaks on my trusty old Super Nintendo. So there was a feeling of nostalgia, mixed in with the excitement of doing this to a piece of software very few had played. But after so many hours of trying to discover something the group hadn’t already, the excitement and novelty began to wear off, and it became just another strange, obscure game.

And I didn’t know why it took me so long, but just a few minutes before I decided to quit, I realized that I didn’t even know whether the game was saving any data that could change things in a playthrough past each of my many resets. Boris never mentioned anything being stored, or if the VCR had a hard drive, or if the tape was being written to at all. The question of a save file never came up, and I never asked. So I had probably just wasted my entire evening trying to set up variables that likely didn’t exist in the first place.

After I came to accept that as fact, I became pretty fed up with the game in general, and knew that I was probably done with it. Maybe I’d ask Boris a few more questions before I left, but they would be more on its history, its possible origins, theories, etc. Otherwise, I was about ready to head home.

So I turned to the camera, waved goodbye, and then reached to turn off the system. But, during my hand’s journey to the VCR power button, I swear I caught something in the corner of my sight, only lasting for about a second. The screen flashed, and for a few frames, there was a new sprite of Fun Bunn, that I had never seen before. He was facing towards the screen, glaring. Angrily.

I was tired, and couldn’t process what had just happened fast enough. I had already turned off the system before I fully realized what I had just seen. We all have those moments where we’re frozen, trying to accept whether or not we just experienced something bizarre. But I didn’t think on it for long, and made myself believe that I was just seeing things. I hit the main switch on my way out of the garage to turn off everything inside. But, Boris, I’m sorry. I did screw up, though I wanted to think I hadn’t. I simply forgot. I left the tape in the machine.

Night 5

This day was a bad one. It started when I woke up early in the morning with chills. The house is kept warm and I was under my blankets, so I already knew right away what was going on. I had a fever coming on; shaking and feeling cold is how they always start.

I despise fevers. Honestly, I’d rather be throwing up all day. They’re especially bad at night, when you’re trying to sleep. I knew I could be in for a rough one later, waking up every half-hour, with my sense of time slowed down as a barrage of bizarre, indecipherable dreams pounded at my mental stability.

I told Boris early on and asked if he had medicine. He did, thankfully, but only enough for two doses across the day. I wanted to take more if I had the option, hoping it’d knock me out. But I didn’t want to ask him to go out in the snow and drive the three miles to the drug store in the worsening conditions.

I was supposed to leave today, as I write this on Night 6, but the blizzard came in quickly and shut everything down. Instead of being home in bed without a fever, and gathering my notes together to write about the rabbit at a leisurely pace, I’m shivering under a cold, sweaty blanket, afflicted by the remnants of the fever. My head is pounding, and I swear I can still hear the wires…

I spent yesterday in bed, fading in and out. I fed myself and gave Boris a wide berth to avoid spreading anything. We were trapped in the house, and at around seven in the evening, with a layer of windswept snow outside and much more on the way, we lost power. But just a few minutes later, everything was on again and there was a very low rumbling that traveled through the walls. My addled mind was able to figure out that there must’ve been a generator in the shed out back. As always, Hotel Boris impressed.

But on backup power, we would have to lose most of our heat, so the house was soon quite cold. After spending the evening curled up under the blankets and filled with medicine, I woke up from a dreamless sleep at around one in the morning. I felt like crap, had a horrible headache, and couldn’t get back to sleep.

The water heater was one of the few things still running, and Boris had gone through the house to open up all the taps some to keep the pipes from freezing, so I figured taking a shower would be okay. The bathroom lights were unreliable, leaving me in darkness with the running water every few seconds.

I almost had a heart attack when I saw the shadow of two giant ears on the shower curtain, but I worked up the courage to swat at it and then sighed in relief. The shape of the light on the fabric had just tricked my eyes.

The hallway lights also flickered as I returned to my room, but I simply attributed the problem to poor performance from the generator. I slid back into bed, but couldn’t really sleep—if I did nod off, I’d do so for a few seconds and then wake up from yet another nonsensical dream. Needing to occupy my mind with anything at all, I took out my laptop.

Boris had turned off his home server and router, but the internet was out in the area anyway. All I had was a portion of my iTunes collection and a few movies, but just skipping through them helped me relax. As my eyes grew heavy again with my laptop on my stomach, I snapped out of a micro-nap and saw some strange interference on the screen. The left side, closer to the wall, had pink and green banding and distortion, almost like there was a powerful magnet nearby.

Thinking that my graphics card was messed up, I gave the machine a few taps with my palm, and after that didn’t help, I pulled it away from the wall, which cleared up the screen. If I brought it closer, it got worse. When I stupidly decided to try pressing it against the wall, my desktop began fracturing into graphical artifacts. And it was then that I heard the electrical buzzing.

I got my computer away from the wall before it might’ve been damaged, and pressed my ear against the stucco by my bed. For a few seconds, the buzzing filled my left ear, and I was worried about the wires sparking. But the sound soon dissipated. After waiting for the buzzing to come back for a few minutes, I rolled around in bed, looked up at the blinking light on the ceiling’s smoke detector, and began to drift off.

The light from my laptop, resting on the nightstand, had dimmed and would soon fade to black on its own as the computer went to sleep. But before it did, as I lay on my back in bed in some half-awake state, I saw a shadow take form. At first, there was an amorphous blob of blackness on the ceiling, and within seconds, its shape shifted into something with a head and two long ears. The shadow looked down at me, and I stared right back.

Then I woke up, at three in the morning. It was pitch-black in the room. It was only then did I realize what I had seen, but I had no idea if I was awake or asleep when it happened. I pressed my ear against the wall, but heard nothing. Maybe I had imagined the buzzing, too. I knew that reality and the world of dreams could blend together during a bad fever, but that didn’t keep things from getting worse.

I lost count of how many times I woke up and passed out again, and how many bizarre, meaningless dreams I had. I can’t remember any of them clearly. But they all had an element that connected them—they all had an invader. There was always a tall rabbit off in the corner, or at the edge of my “sight.” No matter what I dreamed, it lurked in the background, watching me, waiting.

I’m not making this up. I wish I were. Kiddie Land? My whole false memory incident, having my mind scrambled? That was all scary in one way. This was different. For hours, I existed in some dreaming-awake state, trying to fight off this creature that was like a jackhammer on my brain. Ever had an earworm during a fever, a repetitive tune that wouldn’t go away? This was like that, and there was an auditory thing to it as well. It was incessant.

The rabbit spoke in dull, hushed tones. At first, it was like audio static, nothing but noise. As I became more lucid during my brief dreams, I listened more closely to the sounds that came from the creature. I realized that what I was hearing… were lines from the English version of the game. Spoken in around five words a second, and broken apart to create sentences as fast and chaotic as these “stories” my mind was trying to create in my sickened state.

Once I understood what I was hearing, the words grew louder, and my dreams began to wrap around the rabbit instead of only including it in the background, as if my mind was trying to explain its presence. It was getting stronger. I could hear the electrical buzzing in its dialogue. Once my dreams began to turn into actual nightmares that were startling me awake, I gave up on sleep completely. I left my sweat-soaked mattress, used my phone as a flashlight, went downstairs, and started a fire in the den’s fireplace. I was lucky that the room didn’t fill with smoke, as I didn’t check the flue first.

I didn’t know if the wires were bunning [sic] again. I didn’t care. As far as I knew, the garage was unpowered, and the game was off. I thought, maybe this was some form of the Tetris syndrome; I had played the game so much that it was hard to flush it out of my mind, and I was seeing it long after I had stopped playing. I could have that problem when I was younger. But this was so much worse.

As I rested on the floor next to the fire and concentrated on the calming flames that seemed to help clear my mind, I recalled some of the hideous forms the monster had taken. It always looked threatening in a passive aggressive way. Sometimes it was simply a big rabbit. But it could also be tall and lanky. Or take on a humanlike form, with its limbs crushed and contorted into unnatural and twisted arms and legs. Sometimes its limbs were missing completely, or rotting away, festering with maggots. Part of its head was gone once, exposing skull. I think the worst one was when it looked like a walking starvation victim, with its skin tight around its bones, its incisors long and yellow and its ears gone. And that bothered me. I could handle all of its other funs [sic], but when you take away the ears of a rabbit, it just becomes an ugly rodent.

Was it trying to change forms until it found one that terrified me? Was it thinking? Learning? I didn’t ponder too long. Miraculously, I fell into a deep sleep by the fire, and Boris found me by its ashes at around ten in the morning.

Night 6

I didn’t think it could get worse than last night. This morning was when I found out that I might’ve been losing my grip on reality. Boris was still empathetic of my illness, but I could tell that he had something on his mind. My fever had diminished a bit, but I was tired, thirsty, and hungry. He made me a late breakfast with a portable propane cooker, and while we ate I realized that the house was even colder. We were now on a real energy-saving crunch. And it was my fault.

He tried not to sound accusatory, but I could tell that he was annoyed. The generator ran out of fuel last night, right around two in the morning, when I would’ve actually been asleep. He had expected it to last until at least noon the next day, meaning something had drained it. After feeling cold and getting up in the middle of the night to refuel and restart it, he checked the garage, to find the VCR on and Fun Bunn waiting idly on the TV.

We both knew that I had left the tape in the player, though I didn’t want to admit to it. Once we were past talking about the mistake itself, he explained a few things to me. Whenever a blizzard rolled in, he would turn on the garage’s space heaters to keep his lab and all of its valuable electronics from freezing, which could degrade certain equipment. Secondly, whenever the backup power kicked in, it would sometimes power up random hardware and appliances.

That meant that from the time the generator flipped on to it running out of fuel, the rabbit was waiting on a screen in an empty room. For about sixteen hours. Boris never checked the garage after I left. He had smoke detectors in there along with some webcams, but they didn’t face the TVs. And whatever Fun Bunn’s game did to the wiring emptied the generator.

Despite that, we still had enough fuel for now. The game was safely tucked away in the cabinet, and the TV setup had been unplugged. There was just one thing he didn’t understand. Though the generator could unintentionally turn on some machines, he had taken safeguards to make sure that didn’t happen to anything in the garage. There was no explanation as to why the game was running, or how the switch I knew I flipped on my way out, well, unflipped.

If that wasn’t menacing enough, Bunn had still been haunting me two hours after the game had been turned off. I say that knowing now that it wasn’t just my barrage of fever dreams that made me feel like he was stalking me. He “broadcasts” himself through the wires. I know he does. He got properly turned off before I fell asleep at the fire, but I still sensed him. I believe the effects of his radio waves linger for some time.

No more building up suspense and beating around the bunn [sic]. I know the tech of the VCR combined with the game feeds a program into the wires and somehow transmits a short-range signal. I may not know how, but I’m open enough to realize what’s going on and accept it as fact, instead of just cowering in fear, thinking I’m being possessed.

Still, arming yourself with knowledge only does so much. It didn’t give me a full grasp of what I was dealing with, what it was for, how malicious it could be, how long it lasted, or who made it and why. Too many unknowns. But I thought I might’ve at least been safe with the tape out.

If anyone would believe me and use what I experienced to learn more about the system, it was Boris. So I told him what I had gone through. I might’ve had a fever, but I think being sick enhanced Fun Bunn’s ‘abilities,’ instead of being the reason I suffered from them in the first place. After insisting he consider what I was telling him, Boris relented some and said it might be possible that the game was transmitting data through the wires, similar to how power over ethernet works, which uses the electrical system as a network line. But that didn’t explain how it could send information through a plain old 240-volt plug, or how that data could mess with the mind.

I asked if he had any similar experiences, and while the English version of the game did make him feel slightly “off” while playing it, he never went through anything like I had. I asked if I could sleep in the living room that night, or just anywhere away from the wiring. He said that he’d simply flip the breaker for my bedroom so nothing was flowing through its walls. That should’ve been obvious.

Once I was feeling a bit better, I asked to be filled in on the game and system, so I could know everything the community did. Here’s the short version.

Six copies of the tape are known to exist, minus the one that was opened and destroyed. None are labeled, leading those in the group to believe that like the system, they didn’t leave a prototype stage. I browsed the game’s small forum, which had long threads with thousands of posts. The place only had about fifty users, so most of them had never touched the cartridge directly, but still contributed research and theories. Dedicated as they were, posts were now only made once every few days, and the forum was close to dormant. Progress was rare, with even the smallest discovery exciting and briefly revitalizing.

The first tape was found in a bankrupted electronic store’s distribution warehouse in Romania in 2005, at the bottom of a cardboard box. But the finder didn’t share anything about it until a second tape was discovered in the same country at a liquidation auction of another, smaller media store chain.

So there was a pattern. But why try to sell an unfinished game on non-existent hardware? Demonstration purposes, maybe? Then why did they just sit in storage? No one in the group could make sense of it, and the store managers had no answers. Before corporate could investigate, the salespeople had always sold them to curious buyers, or likely trashed other copies.

After a buyer of the mysterious tape posted about it online in 2007, the first person responded that he too had a copy, and they began to chat in a thread on a message board similar to my old CreepyToys forum. As two more tracked down a copy and posted pictures, there were enough responses to warrant an independent message board, and the discussions multiplied.

Two additional copies were found in Hungary, two in Slovakia, and one in Moldova. All of which originally came from stores that sold home video media. But none of them appeared in the stores themselves, and none of them could be traced back to their shipper, so it wasn’t understood where they came fun, and any possible start to actual research on the game stalled. But that changed in 2009 when a single shipping label was found in an empty VHS case in Belarus, that matched the cases that held the other copies. The media itself was missing, but the address on the label was worth far more than another copy of the game.

That address led to the remains of a warehouse, in an abandoned industrial park, in the middle of nowhere, in Ukraine. Little remained of it other than its foundation and some pylons. Boris showed me the post with the first pictures of the place. It had gotten hundreds of replies within minutes.

Progress went nowhere again and things fell quiet, until 2012, when the person who tracked down the warehouse discovered a rusted and nearly destroyed half-buried filing cabinet in a nearby forest. It was filled with burned documents, but in the bottom drawer, a single manual had partially survived with only its front half reduced to ashes. The entire site had a dubious history, and no official documents about who once owned it have ever been found.

But the find was the group’s Holy Grail, and with it, its most technically adept members finally constructed a working player in 2013. It was bigger than they expected, needed twelve sticks of expensive and obsolete RAM, responsive and durable reels, and a top-of-the-line magnetic reader. The tech put the cost of the machine at about ten thousand dollars, and just over the limit of what a 120-volt outlet could power.

Before the system was made, one of the less-enthused members who wanted nothing more to do with the project and needed money put his tape up for sale, and Boris snagged it. America got its first copy, Boris’s contributions to the group got serious, he made a refined and smaller version of the player, and I guess the rest is history. He tells me that getting the game to run in his garage was the pinnacle of his hobby. He doesn’t know yet if he’ll ever surpass it.

If digital media never came about and analog tech advanced further, then maybe a modern player would be much smaller. But the game might also need a higher voltage line to do… whatever it does to wiring. If its creators wanted to sneak copies into rental stores so unsuspecting parents might terrify kids across the country, they’d need to shrink their hardware and cram the innards and a built-in camera into popular name brand players, so the tape could actually be loaded. Who knows how they were planning to do all that. This all felt like only the beginning of one of those “lost video tape that messes you up” stories. It just never got the chance to take off.

One last thing. Why rabbits? Why are they always causing trouble or acting as some ominous presence? From Alice in Wonderland to Donnie Darko to the pictures of demonic Easter Bunny costumes kids are forced to sit with, they’re often portrayed as malevolent. I don’t really like them anymore.

Last night, as I typed out portions of this journal in a powerless room, I thought about the story LIZ-4 in Alaska. It was probably just as cold, dark, and windy here as it had been at that distant warning station, and I too had a mysterious stranger looming over me. The worst part is, I still feel compelled to play the game. I’m drawn to it. Filled with Nyquil and surrounded by unelectrified copper, when I finally closed my eyes, I expected to sleep well. I did not.

At some point, whatever normal, pleasant dream I was having suffered a signal intrusion. I seized up, not too unlike our old nemesis sleep paralysis, and suddenly started dreaming lucidly, although my body wasn’t very responsive and my eyes felt heavy.

It began in Boris’s garage-lab, which was empty, dark, cold, and retained the ugly old carpet. On display like store mannequins were all of the different nightmare versions of Fun Bunn that I had seen so far, and a few I couldn’t remember. They were unmoving at first, staring into space. They were tall and intentionally horrific, but with them all hanging up like Halloween costumes, I found them even less scary, no matter how gory or lanky they appeared. Only the one missing its ears still unsettled me.

When I started walking towards the exit, the rabbit heads all turned and followed me, though their bodies remained frozen. They watched as I left the garage, but I didn’t feel like they were about to give chase. My dream “told” me, or I felt, that they were trophies; I had already conquered them.

I went through the door, and instead of leading outside, it brought me to a far different place, which existed in the past. It was my old house’s kitchen.

As a child, I had a few bouts of sleepwalking. That was a brief phase, but one of my memories that stuck out was the time I suddenly woke up, standing in the kitchen of the first home I knew, late at night. I didn’t know how I had gotten there, and I didn’t know where I was at first. I’ll admit that I kind of broke down and cried out until my mom came and comforted me. It had been a long time since I last revisited that house in my dreams.

In the dream, there was a strange emphasis placed on the appliances of the kitchen. And the outlets. Anything electrified. Everything was still dark and cold, but things like the old 1980s toaster, the fridge, the oven burners… They had a presence, some kind of power when I approached them. They hummed quietly, and I could sense the smell of burning dust near the objects.

Fun Bunn’s ghost or whatever the hell he is likes electricity, but I’m not sure if this was just one of my childhood fears leaking. Just like the writer of the Laser Tag journal, I was afraid of electricity as a kid. All I knew about it was that if you touched it, it would shock you to death. I actively avoided appliances when I was young, and even feared turning on the TV. The static that built up on old CRT televisions freaked me out.

But that was all in the past. Barely anything actually frightened me anymore. Even Mr. Bunn’s game had barely fazed me, though its effects were now bordering on the supernatural. I guess I’m a bit hardened and unfeeling. Maybe that was why I so liked that rare high of actually being scared.

Before I left through the void that was the kitchen entrance for what might have been my old living room, I perceived the soft footsteps of something small, moving across linoleum. I looked down and saw what I can only describe as an early, crude CGI cartoon character step out from the darkness and look up at me. There was no doubt about it. My mind had just created a three-dimensional Bunn. He was a dark shape, no bigger than an actual rabbit, without textures and having little more body definition than a balloon animal. He looked up at me, his eyes glowing like a cat’s. Only a thin sliver of his outline was lit up by the glow from the kitchen nightlight.

I remember what he said vividly. “Now, look at this! A cynical grown-up!”

I just stared down and tried to take it in. Was I supposed to reply? What was I supposed to say to him? Sorry I killed you five hundred times?

Bunn’s voice sounded organic, real. It wasn’t compressed, it wasn’t the semi-mechanical canned dialogue from the game. It was like he was speaking to me as a living entity, or at least I interpreted it that way and gave him life.

“Think ya got it all figured out, Mr. Adult?” I couldn’t even be sure if he had a moving mouth. “I’m a kid’s game, silly! But don’t worry. We can fix you.”

I woke up just a little bit, and used my lucidity to reason with the invasive cartoon. “You’re not real. You’re not talking. I’m just dreaming.”

“You can’t wish me away, Mr. Adult! You should’a just let your kids play!”

“I don’t have kids. And you can’t be here. There’s no power in my room.”

I was surprised by how well my dream-self can rationalize.

“No kids? Too bad! After all, this is just… kid’s play,” he told me, with a big, wide, toothy grin. “Let’s fix it.”

Somehow, he changed me. The floor got closer, and the ceiling got farther. I couldn’t see above the counters anymore. I knew I was in his domain. Maybe he was the one dreaming, with me as his hapless guest.

He turned me into a damn kid. The first thing I did was look down at my pudgy, small four or five-year-old fingers. And then the fear came rushing back, from the abyss of memory. I perceived myself as a child—a scared child, out of bed, afflicted by the terrors of the night. Such was his power in the realm of the mind. He couldn’t scare me as an adult, so he removed my best defenses: life experience, and the ability to reason.

I wanted to shout for my mom, but I still had enough control over my emotions to keep from doing so. Fun Bunn looked please. He also looked like he was ready to waddle over to me at any moment and pull out a knife.

“You’re bad,” he said with hatred, his springy ears twitching. “You enjoyed it, didn’t you? You enjoy turning my life into a nightmare. Dead. Dead. Dead again. Down to my bones.”

“I only wanted to see what would happen…” I whimpered like a toddler.

“Aw, boo-hoo. And I only wanted to have a good day with my family. For you, let’s turn off the filters. You’re gonna regret not playing along, kid.”

His grin finally left his face, and his shadowy form melted into the floor, where it turned into black sludge and drained into the cracks of the tiles. The kitchen shook. I felt eyes all around me, like thousands of needles. The air turned frigid. Everything became even darker. I sensed a presence behind me.

It’s impossible to describe the totality of the terror that this entity was able to instill. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re an adult. You’ve likely watched or read hundreds of scary stories. But you’re able to separate them from reality. You know, from things you learned in the past, that a dark room usually doesn’t have anything sinister lurking within. But try to imagine having all of your confidence destroyed, and seeing things from the perspective of a child.

The thing that began to stalk me was, what I have to call it, a corrupted soul. The cartoon Bunn and all of the scary masks it wore were only shells. What I now shared my dream space with was a real thing, that had lived in the wires, and now, I fear, took up permanent residence somewhere in my head.

As a kid, I didn’t have access to higher reasoning, and I’m unsure if it would’ve helped by this point. I had been reduced to nothing more than a terrified, trapped, alone, confused, youngster. The only powers I had left were my abilities to run and hide. So I did. Or, at least I ran.

It enjoyed the chase, and it always kept up. It was taunting me, and it could catch me at any moment, and I knew that. But I dared not slow my step or stumble. The thing, the monster behind me—I was too scared to even give it a glance. It was a living shadow, pure blackness that threatened to engulf me. I felt its malice pulsating, as rhythmically as its unceasing pounding. There was thunder in the air, like a heartbeat, varying in intensity and speed. It breathed in wheezy but powerful gasps that tugged at me, which threatened to pull my small self into its unseen maw.

There was no respite from the fear. I didn’t have time to stop and think, or try to make myself an adult again. From the kitchen, I ran into my old living room, and then outside, where I emerged at my elementary school’s playground. Every location was cloaked in skyless darkness, and I could only see about thirty feet in all directions before the world faded away past a pitch-black curtain. Every door I entered shifted time and space, and if I stayed in one area for too long, it would transform into somewhere else on its own.

Sometimes I would “run into” a normal dream, only to have it immediately turn into a nightmare that corrupted its elements into twisted, gnarled horrors. Other times I would revisit memories, and those would fall victim to the shadow as well. It felt like the entity was spreading infection across my mind, one piece at a time.

At a birthday party, all the kids were swallowed by darkness and the restaurant was set ablaze. During a family game night, the playing pieces were turned into shrapnel that eviscerated my parents. Some of these scenes were incomprehensible, and some only lasted a few seconds, but they hit me over, and over, and over again. And all the while, I only ever saw the entity’s shape in the corner of my eye, or on occasion casting its shadow onto the walls. It didn’t have any visible ears. I don’t know what it is.

Yes I do. It’s Bunn. Bunn bunn. Fun Bunn.

Just thinking about the night makes him stronger. What kind of damage did he do up there? Do I keep him alive by thinking about him?

It wasn’t even just memories and dreams. It was also memories of dreams. I revisited my favorite dreams from my past and saw them ruined.

It could access everything, tear through my cortex. Bunn. God damn it. But I have to keep writing. I have to get this down, no matter how much my hands hurt. I have to get to the important part. Why am I still pounding on the keyboard about nothing? I have to get this down. The important part.

My head is killing me. I’m on fire again. Should I call 911? No, I don’t need to resort to that yet… I’ll slow down. I’ll take a deep breath and type slower.

They all should’ve been more concerned about the electrical interference and looked into it. It’s far from normal. Too late now. I think Bunn is traveling freely in the house. I don’t know how, and there’s still no power in my room. Or maybe he had already downloaded himself straight into my head…

I hate this. I want to go home. I have to get on a plane tomorrow and get out of here. But I don’t know if I’ll be in any condition to leave, or continue writing. My fingers ache. I’m trapped in this bed. It’s taking every effort just to…

It’s like he’s fighting back. Trying to get me to stop writing. I think he’s scared. There’s something about that place that scares him. Here it is.

He ran out of places to chase me. And at some point, Kiddie Land formed around us. Kiddie Land. That small amusement park that exists only in the minds of a few kids from Florida. The laser tag guns, the VHS game, the LIZ-4 station, they all have some tie to an imaginary theme park.

I stopped running when I happened upon it, as did my pursuer. For the only time that night, we both stopped to look around. And that thing behind me muttered its only word. It was in a deep, low growl. But I understood it.

“… Here?

The inflection was inquisitive, but there was also a slight tremble that suggested fear. Then the dark remnant of Kiddie Land faded away, and the chase continued. For hours. I had almost forgotten about the stop over the course of the night, but I was able to remember it, and it stands out.

Eventually, I was woken up by Boris and it ended. But it was a struggle to rouse me, and my fever had returned and spiked. He had checked on me, as I hadn’t gotten out of bed by noon. I was in such a deep, unmoving sleep, that he thought I was dead at first. Sorry, man, but I just spent the last ten or so hours trapped with a demonic rabbit from some lower realm of hell.

The day was a blur, the blizzard is ongoing, and now it’s dark again. I’m about to pass out. But I’m going to find some way to end this interactive “Candle Cove: The Game” shit tonight. Are you reading this, you little bunny bastard? I hope you are seeing this, because if you come after me this time, I’m going to enjoy giving you one more deserved death.

Night 50

Where to start?

It’s been six weeks.

I don’t want to make light of what happened, yet it feels disrespectful enough adding to this journal, so I might as well get out what’s on my mind.

If he saw the creature again, I don’t think he won.

I feel guilty about all this. I know I could’ve done more. I can’t say I was totally unprepared. I took measures. To be fair, I tried. We did everything we thought would work. But we missed something. Now it seems like an obvious step. Yeah, so, Night 7… There wasn’t really a Night 7.

He didn’t wake up after finishing the previous entry. I should’ve braved the snow and gotten him to a hospital after that morning. But we waited. Now he’s in a coma. I’ve read that most comatose patients don’t dream. I hope that’s true. Jesus, I hope that’s true. Then, maybe he’d at least be free from…

Bunn. I really don’t want to call it that. It’s not a name fitting for the thing that drove my house guest into madness and misery.

All he wanted was another good story.

Okay. I’ll try to fill in some missing information and conclude things here, as incomplete and unfortunate as this might always feel. Unless he wakes up, it’s impossible to know what he experienced for certain on that final night.

Though I never experienced the things he had, I started to really believe him that morning just by seeing him in that state, and I couldn’t use his fever to explain it all away. He didn’t write about this, but I unplugged and stored anything that was ever hooked up to that VCR. I cycled the house’s power multiple times to try and “purge” the wires. I made sure that the guest bedroom was unpowered. The thing is, my breaker box is under lock and key, and when I first checked it after I forced him awake, it had been switched back into its on position. I didn’t do that, and I can’t explain it. After that discovery, I taped up the switch and made sure it couldn’t somehow flip on its own again. But that apparently didn’t keep him from dreaming about the rabbit.

We knew the game had peculiar effects on electricity, but had no idea how dangerous it might become, or that its character was a little more alive than expected, and could even be provoked. I read through the other entries many times before making my addition. He’s descriptive, and gave me a mostly clear picture of what happened. At his sister’s insistence, as her only link to the game and to help manage my guilt, I have to find out just what this system is, and what it was meant to do. I have to go even deeper than the group has.

I’ve already posted on the game’s forum my decision to never plug it in again, and I’ve urged other members to do the same. Though there were a number of circumstances in our case that led up to the incident, it’s just a matter of time before it happens to someone else. Maybe it will be even worse. I’ve gone so far as to put the game and system in my personal Faraday cage.

Despite my precautions, he still had a feeling that something bad would happen next time he fell asleep. I should’ve acted on my concerns. He thought it lived throughout the house’s walls and was targeting him specifically. And I thought the entity was gone now, erased. But we were both wrong.

It was his laptop, the computer that stayed near him every night, hunting for a wireless signal. All he had to do was shut it down, or turn off the wireless, but he never even suspected it. And why would anyone? Wi-fi didn’t really exist when the game was made. Yet, somehow, Bunn was able to use it. Can it adapt?

The laptop is also sitting in my Faraday cage, with its wireless card removed, so it should be safe. I’ve scoured it (though I kept out of anything that looked personal), and found a 20 MB file that I can’t open—and I know how to exhaust options. Its creation date marked it as having been made sometime in 1990. I’ve made a single copy and have it secured like a loaded gun. It might’ve been a mistake to tell the others in the group about this file. I’m not going to share it unless I really can’t find a way into it, but it ignited interest and activity again, as did my report about what the game just did to someone.

I’m going to get something out there for the record, that as a trusted member of the community and one of the few who can operate the machine, I’m supposed to keep a secret. Because after all this, screw it. There’s a mechanism in the VCR that he didn’t know about, and nor do most of the other members.

In the surviving pages of the manual, there are multiple references to a part needed to make the machine work. It even had a serial number that we used to track it down—it existed. There’s a lone seller in America whose father had a collection of the things, but no one knows where he got them. It explains the machine’s power requirement, and it won’t read the tape without it installed.

It’s a compact high-speed polyphasic alternator attached to an amplifier, capable of generating a weak radio signal. If that sounds like technobabble to you, then good. I’m not going to say more about it or where to find one. It’s a secret we’ve kept from others to keep just anyone from making more machines. Now, I’ve never tried this, but it’s been reported that receivers able to pick up low frequencies, when held near a running game, can record “indecipherable whispers.”

I don’t care about messing around the hardware anymore. I only want to find out who was involved in its creation. After I post this and add to my house guest’s growing collection of similar stories, I’m heading out.

The seller of the key component wants no further attention, and we’ve agreed to protect him as a source. But I’m confident I can convince him into a meeting. Maybe it will give us a start, and put us back on the trail of this whole thing. I know there’s a connection to the laser gun toys, which were likely made by the same company—and maybe even the memory machine in Florida, too.

That final morning, when he wouldn’t wake up and the ambulance came, the EMT crew commented on his fever. It was at nearly lethal levels. It probably did some serious damage and could explain his current health.

When I checked on him earlier today, which will be the last time for a while, a couple of thoughts hit me. Fevers are the body’s way of fighting invaders. I don’t know if his first one was the result of an actual illness or not, but his second, much worse bout could’ve been caused by a different kind of intruder.

And what lingers on my conscience is the knowledge that the human body also generates and carries electricity of its own, which comes from a beating heart. If that damn rabbit is still somewhere inside a living host…

Then what would it take to purge that abomination from a person?

I’ll end with a post by the admin of the game’s forum from way back, a few weeks after it was finally playable and he had enough time to fully study its features. He was the first to play it—and the first to beat it months later. The earliest screenshots of Bunn’s adventure were legendary to us. At the bottom of the original detailed report, which went in depth about the many ways the main character could die and what would happen to his body, he had this to say:

“It’s a game worthy of a scary story, absolutely, but when you see it from all angles and dissect it and assure yourself that it’s just another thing made by humans, the fear goes away. Mostly. The only way it has left to scare you is by taking it to another level. And, it’s strange to say this, but I feel like if any game in this world actually could take things to another level, it would be this one.”

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