She did all she was told, the good little ghost girl. She played nice, listened, and stayed in the darkness where she belonged. When the night told her to jump, she jumped. When it told her to walk by two lanterns and get the key, she searched and searched, found two lanterns, and unlocked a world she could never unsee. She was a good little ghost. Did everything she was told. So when the darkness told her it needed more friends, she went out into the graveyard and found you.
You are a kid, and you don’t do what you’re told. You snuck onto the graveyard just to defile what everyone else thinks of as scared. Armed with a flashlight, your GameBoy, and your thumbs, you find a nice gravestone that can provide enough support for you to learn on. Before you sit down, you glance at the inscription. Here lies Sally, you read hastily, not bothering to continue the rest and supplying your own epitaph: “Here lies Sally, who loved flipping people the bird.” In Sally’s honor, you stick your stubby, adolescent middle finger straight up into the air.
You try to engross yourself in the world of Pokemon Red/Blue. But something feels wrong—indecent. Like you’re exposed. Not alone. You feel something crawling on you, but when you raise your hand to slap the bug away, there’s nothing there. You feel itchy, being in your own skin. So you look around and find, to your delight and horror, an entrance into what appears to be a cave-like tomb. For a second, you forget about the itchy, scratchy, creaky noises crawling through your eardrums. You flip the darkness the middle finger before entering it, because your are thirteen, young forever, and laugh in the face of death.
Inside, she takes you on a duck-duck-goose chase that makes your blood boil. Two lies, one truth: that’s what you decide the rules of her game are. Note after note, lie after lie, you try to piece together a picture. But your ears are still filled with the sound of bones creaking and flesh chained to a shackle. For some reason, you think of your mother back home, sleeping, most likely dreaming of taxes or insurance or whatever adults gave up fantasies for. Two lies, one truth.
By the end, a dread creeps over you that you know has nothing to do with the ghost girl following your every move. You don’t dread her. You invite her presence, as she tries to keep you from making the same mistakes she made. You dread the inevitable march. The day when profane hand gestures lose their power, and you’re left with the hollowness of knowing more about the world.
You try to grab your GameBoy, to feel a little more alive again, but it’s gone. It’s been replaced by faded polaroid pictures of your GameBoy. The actual GameBoy is somewhere else, gathering dust. When you find the key that might explain it all, you unlock the door to a place you can never return from. Upon entering, you realize the room is exactly what you had expected it would be, and that somehow feels more tragic than anything else. The darkness stretches you, distorting your limbs to fit the shapes they need. You’re taller now, the world a bit smaller. You’re a good little ghost boy, who does everything he’s told and stays in the shadows with the darkness that beckons you. The pictures of the GameBoy turn to ash, just a bunch of dust gathered in your palms.
You’re a good little ghost boy, who needs more friends.
The Night That Speaks was made in four days by Adam Ryu. Inspired by the GameBoy game jam, it’s free to download on PC and Mac.