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Uzumaki Simulator

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Cinema Nippon

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« on: 07:53:03 PM 10/06/17 »
   I had an email from Aaron. It was a name I didn’t recognize for a moment and that gave me a weird, pit-of-the-stomach feeling until I recalled having contacted him sometime earlier. I don’t remember when it was exactly, but I had sent him a message to ask about a pretty rare game. My mouth tasted like I had just been sucking on a penny. Maybe I should go back a bit and explain how I got into this situation.

   I was researching this series called Uzumaki for a personal project. You might recognize the name from the movie that came out in 2000 or from the manga that it was based on by Junji Ito. I was trying to get in-depth with the research, and I learned shortly that there were actually two video games based on the series. They were both released for the Wonderswan which was this handheld console made by Gunpei Yokoi, the father of the Gameboy, after he had left Nintendo and before he passed away. Of course, given my luck, the Wonderswan was never officially exported from Japan meaning that neither of the games were released in English.

   I was able to find brief descriptions of both games online, but this wasn’t enough to satiate my appetite; my stomach still rumbled from the mere snack that they had offered. Raiding the proverbial fridge in the form of a few emulation sites, I quickly found that not only had the ROMs for both the games been dumped but that there was also a robust little Wonderswan emulator. Having at last acquired a full-sized meal, I sat down with my spoils to indulge in what I hoped was their perfection.

   The rusted gears in my brain began to grind with great effort while the kana sprawled itself across my screen. The first was a visual novel, which didn’t interest me terribly, so I only gave it a cursory glance trying to understand the main beats of its narrative. The second was a simulation where you take control of the town in which the manga and movie take place and try to drive its citizens insane. The story of the whole franchise deals with people becoming obsessed with spirals to the point of contorting their bodies into spirals, killing one another over spirals or even committing seppuku because of spirals. So, in this game, the player is some omnipotent being who tries to ensure that any and every horrible thing that could happen to the town’s citizens does.

   The music from both games was pretty catchy. I found myself a little while later - even after shutting down the emulator - with some of the tunes running through my head. I caught myself more than once unconsciously tapping my foot along with them. Having some experience with how dedicated fan communities can be, I figured there might be some remixes of the music online. I found this guy, Aaron, on Bandcamp who had a few remixes up, all to which I could definitely get down, but one in particular was especially captivating. If you’re not familiar with the shepherd’s pitch, it’s this phenomenon in music where it sounds like the frequency continues increasing. Of course, humans can only hear within a certain range, meaning that this perpetual rise in tone isn’t really possible - it’s just an illusion. This song, though, had something like a reverse shepherd’s pitch. It sounded like the frequency in the background kept decreasing.
The more I listened, the more it sounded like a one-way ticket to Hell. And if that wasn't enough to make me wish I wasn't home alone with nothing but a warm ginger ale to comfort me, the origin of the song certainly was. The simulator game is called “Uzumaki: Noroi Simulator”, but this remix said it was of a song from “Uzumaki Simulator”. It was a seemingly irrelevant typo on Aaron's part but his other remixes had been credited as samples from "Uzumaki: Noroi Simulator" which, in my mind, implied a difference. I shot Aaron an email and settled into the unfortunate reality of waiting for someone online.

   The whole event fell into the cracks of my memory like when a cute girl keeps glancing your way at the bar all night and when you go home you can't stop thinking about her but by morning you don't even remember the color of her hair. Luckily for me, the cute girl was a fiery redhead, and she hadn’t forgotten me. I woke up one morning to find that I had received an email from Aaron. All he said was, “sorry for the wait,” and attached a Wonderswan ROM file. No explanation. Just, “sorry for the wait.” It made my skin crawl the way it does when your friend says something you know she shouldn't, but I tried to just chalk it up to poor internet etiquette. Shrugging it off and with focus like that of the spider to its web-ensnared prey, I loaded the ROM to find that the intro animation and title screen were, in fact, different from Noroi Simulator.

   My wife was leaving for work when I booted up the ROM. She called goodbye to me, and I waved her off from the computer desk. I had the day off - there were some perks to working in the industry of institutionalized babysitting. I figured I would try out the game for a few minutes to see what merit was there, my interests in such material having waned since the completion of the project. I had barely started the game when the sound of the front door jolted me to attention.
I felt my face flush from embarrassment at my jumpiness. "Did you forget something?" I asked my wife and a concerned look of confusion spread across her face, her eyebrows forming into nearly a single unit.

   “You’re still at it?” She asked in response.
I hit alt + tab on my keyboard to exit the fullscreen window in which the game was displayed and felt my stomach knot at site of the hour. It was now nearly evening.

   “What are you even playing?” she asked, and came up behind me leaning forward to look at the screen the scent of her perfume bringing the entire situation ad nauseum. Together, we looked back at the game window. I honestly don’t remember what was going on in the game, but I do remember the profound sense that I had barely moved from my starting position.

   My wife’s phone rang, snapping our attention away from the screen. She answered it. Probably her mother calling to bitch again about my “lack of professional skill or motivation”, or some shit like that. My wife walked into the other room. It had grown ridiculously dark in the apartment, and, looking at the clock again, I found that it was now past 9 PM. I navigated the cursor up to the X on the emulator, but glanced again at the game. Once more, I couldn’t tell you what was going on, no matter how hard I attempt to recollect. I can only describe trying to remember this instance like trying to recall someone else’s memory.

   “Are you coming to bed?” My wife asked, startling me. My cursor hovered over the X. The clock read 11 PM. My eyes burned and teared up as I blinked into reality. I exited the window.

   My bones cracked and muscles ached as I stretched from my position and realized how exhausted I felt. I shuffled off to bed and crawled under the covers beside my sleeping wife. She must have zonked out immediately, as she couldn’t have been more than a few minutes ahead of me. I didn’t even bother getting out of my clothes. My brain felt like it wasn’t going to let me fall asleep, but my body’s demands emerged triumphant. I was knocked out pretty much as soon as my head hit the pillow.

   “Are you okay?” my wife asked from over my shoulder. I looked back at her. Her discontent expression was covered in dark lines and creases I hadn't noticed before. "Did you even sleep?" I could have asked her the same question.

   Morning light was coming through the curtains, but the sun’s rays didn’t bring me any warmth. I felt my face sagging. It was like I hadn’t slept at all.

   “I,” I started but didn’t know how to continue. My head swam with every excuse I could make besides having to admit it.“I don’t remember.”

   “Do you need me to call out and take care of you?” she asked. “You look sick, baby.”
"I shook my head, "I'm all right." I could hear the static hum of my monitor right behind me. I wasn't in our bedroom. Had I even truly gone to bed?

   “Well, be safe, dear,” she said sarcastically as she blew a kiss, gave me a wink and walked out the door.

   My office chair squeaked as I slowly turned around. I squinted hard as I could while still being able to see the screen and clicked the X. The clock leered at me, saying hours had passed since her departure. I selected the ROM and the emulator and hit Delete then emptied the recycling bin breathing a sigh of relief. I looked about the room and noticed the edges of objects sharpening as my vision began to focus. The crick in my neck pulsed to the beat of my heart and my head swam as if I had just downed an entire fifth of Jameson. I needed a shower.
The steamed cleared my head and the pang in my stomach offered some verification of reality. I couldn't remember the last time I had eaten anything at all, and though the leftovers in the fridge may have been an indicator of this, the taste of the pork-chops felt foreign in my mouth, like when you sit down for a meal cooked by your mother after not seeing her for quite some time - entirely refreshing but strikingly nostalgic. The same effect would have been had on me now were it not for seeming starvation.

My mind placid and my gut gorged, I laid down to nap but felt like the princess with that goddamned pea placed under her mattress. It was like I had drank 10 gallons of coffee while pulling three successive all-nighters, a feeling I knew all too well from my intern days after college.

I must have nodded off, because the next thing I knew, my wife was getting home. We ate dinner together and she seemed mildly upset by the need to cook. We didn’t speak of the events that had transpired in the previous twenty-four hours. After dinner, I went to bed. It was lack of sleep that ultimately sent me there so early, though the lack of conversation was pushing me that way to begin with.

   The next morning, my eyes cracked open at the break of dawn, my mind and body springing into motion like the fatigue of the previous day had been nothing more than a bad dream. A disconcerting feeling crept up as I stretched out of bed that I had been out of the loop of the outside world. The same feeling one might experience when returning to work after a week-long vacation. I grabbed some coffee and sat down at the computer to check over everything before I left the house for work. My wife waved goodbye, seeming more disgruntled, leaving off our typical "I love you" exchange. Perhaps I would purchase a bundle of roses on my way home this evening. A thin smile crept across her lips when she saw what condition I was in. A sour air pervaded the room, but she blew a kiss and left nonetheless. I tried to ignore her curt departure and got online. I checked my messages to find that

- E & K

Edit: 10-22-17 (Took out one sentence which was in here on accident.)
« Last Edit: 09:50:00 PM 10/22/17 by Cinema Nippon »