So many people have seen it...
Yet no one knows what it means.
I guess I can say I'm part of one of the best generations in entertainment: the 90's. Speculating about how the world would look like in the 21st century, we saw technology grow. Everything was changing, and videogames were no longer a bunch of pixels. I've had several consoles, but a specific one marked me in a special way.
Its precursor, the PSX, was the first console I got, and I honestly thought graphics couldn't get much better. For the time, it was like seeing real life. Every time I turned it on it was like entering home. A safe place where you can relax and have fun. I guess.
One spring we were cleaning the whole house, and I helped despite my attachment to those 2000's classics that now everyone has replaced with shooters, MMORPGs and games with more than 64 plot endings. Of course I did my own bedroom. I did it all, I even took a ladder to reach the higher parts. I slipped and fell to the floor, tilting the ladder and damaging the PS2 in the process. I got better, though my PS2 did not, so we had to throw it.
Years passed, I went back to my old PSX and sold my PS2 games, contrary to what the rest of the world was doing. Then I entered high school and started going out with friends, almost never playing with my PSX.
One day, an old friend I had at the elementary talked to me through MSN and invited me to go to his house and play together with the PS2. A hacked PS2, to be exact. Let's face it, nowadays it's pretty normal, but back in PSX times people with hacked consoles were regarded as weirdos, at least in my town.
He opened the door before I could ring the bell. He was alone. We went to his bedroom and stared at the screen, which was showing something that shocked me greatly when I was a child: the "Red Screen of Death". I always thought that name was too much.
The Red Screen of Death shows when you insert a pirate disc in a PS2 that hasn't been previously hacked for that matter, or simply when the disc does not run properly. It's like that dreamful blue intro you get when you turn it on, but turned into a nightmare. Instead of blue, it's an intense red hue with some kind of vortex on the center of the screen, and two cubes spinning around. The message "Please a insert a PlayStation or PlayStation 2 format disc." is shown, and it doesn't go until you take the disc out. The faint wind noise is more violent, as if scolding you for being an evil pirate.
We stared for half a minute. I looked at him slowly. He was sweating, and his legs and hands shaking erratically.
"Are you alright?"
He didn't answer. I started joking around imitating him, but he didn't move a muscle.
"Um... maybe you should take the disc out", I said with sarcasm.
He finally moved and followed my advice, pressing the Eject button as if he was inserting his fingers in a socket. The disc came out. It was completely burned. However, instead of getting angry, he sighed with relief and laughed nervously.
"Hey man, look, this stupid thing won't read the disk. I should throw it. And burn it. And then drop a bomb in the place where I bury it. Sorry dude, look, I just remembered I left my notebook in a friend's home and I need it for tomorrow. You understand, right? Well, see ya."
He pushed me out of the house and closed the door. I stood there clueless, thinking it was a joke. I left after a while. Back home, I was alone. As soon as I entered, the phone started ringing. I'm not stupid, I saw it was a private number so I let it ring. Eight times. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Assuming they just wouldn't stop, I answered it.
No one replied. Just a faint wind noise. I kept asking, but I got no response. However, something was strange - the noise was looping. It sounded like the wind that plays at the Red Screen. I came to the conclusion that my friend was doing it and claimed that I discovered his joke. Still no response.
"I'm fed up with this man, it won't work with me. Bye."
I went to my bedroom and turned on the PSX. I think it had one of those crappy old games that no one knows. The TV switched to the AV channel automatically. The Sony Computer Entertainment logo didn't show. Instead it showed directly the Red Screen of Death. I checked again - yes, I was using a PSX. But it was just impossible that it could show anything from the PS2. Also, my PSX wasn't hacked in any way. I pressed Eject and the screen didn't disappear. I did what every expert engineer or amateur player would do and blowed the disc, then cleaned it with my shirt. I put it back in and pressed Reset. Nothing. I took out the controller and the Memory Card, even though I knew that wouldn't work. I checked if the cables were plugged correctly. Indeed, the PSX and the TV were perfectly connected. No secondary devices.
This is when I started freaking out. The TV couldn't be shut down. I pressed the button again and again. My dad came home suddenly and wanted to enter my room.
"No, Dad, it's not the moment."
"Why? What are you doing?"
That only made him walk faster. My brain started linking everything and I got the feeling that he shouldn't see the screen. I pulled out all the plugs. The TV and the PSX turned off.
"What's the matter, son?"
"Um, I saw on the TV that a storm's coming. So I pulled put the plugs just in case."
"But there are no clouds out there!"
"You never know, Dad."
"Oh... forget it."
Without plugging the TV or the PSX again, I turned on my computer and checked my inbox. I had a new e-mail from my friend.
"please please don't hate me for this
don't just don't
just show it to another person it will go away"
I was puzzled. It was like that chain mail you sometimes get, but this time I had everything before my eyes. My "friend" had disconnected, but I still tried to talk to him. I got no response.
I googled "red screen ps2 curse", but everything I got was random YouTube comments. I checked the hour. The clock said 22:36. I went to the bathroom, and through the window I saw the sun didn't set yet. I went back to my room. The clock said 22:35. The one in my wrist said 22:35 too.
"Dad, what time is it?"
"A quarter to nine, why?"
Then I remembered it was about half past six when my friend called me. So I arrived at his home at roughly a quarter past seven. Everything made sense. It was a countdown. I had 22 hours and 34 minutes to show the Red Screen to another person. However, there's no way I could do that, since it would only continue the curse. I had to find a way to stop it. I investigated the origins of the PlayStation. There were some paranoic rumors reminding me of the tinfoil hat theory, and nothing more. I took a shower, where I usually get my best ideas.
"Well, why should I do it? By not showing it to anyone I'm doing the rest a favor. I'll be a hero. A hero..."
I wondered how it could have originated... maybe someone from Sony put a spell on the first PS ever sold? Maybe it was the revenge of someone who died at the hands of a pirate? The possibilities were infinite.
"Well I don't think a console could kill me. It's an inanimate object. That's it! And if it's true, well I will be the one that stops this."
I took my huge box of old toys, put the PSX in, and buried it, just in case. I didn't feel like eating anything that night. I didn't feel like watching TV either. My big brother was studying abroad, so I went to sleep in his room instead of mine just to not have my TV near. After an hour trying to fall asleep to no avail, I took two of my mom's sleeping pills, which didn't have any effect until 2 AM or so. My sleep was intermittent, with sleep paralysis moments, each one longer than the last one. When I finally fell asleep, I had a dream about that red vortex. Instead of the message, it showed a countdown with random changing numbers. I tried to stop it, but a huge pressure was compressing my brain. The wind got more and more intense as the numbers formed a legible hour: 15:12.
I woke up drenched in sweat and wished everything was a nightmare. But no. The PSX was not there. I immediately went to the garden and unearthed the PSX with my bare hands. I let the hole on the floor open and ran to my bedroom to plug it. I turned it on without a disc. The same screen, the same message. My mom entered.
"Are you alright? I heard you running upstairs."
"Yeah. I'm okay. I just wanted to clean the dust off my PS."
I went to the window and acted like I was cleaning (with my hands still earth stained) and dropped it to the garden.
The crashing sound made me rejoice internally. My mom started ranting about how I don't appreciate what I have. I just couldn't hear anything. I was happy.
That morning I went to school as normal. Walking normally, never looking back. I felt like everyone was looking at me like a weirdo. That day we were going to watch a video. My teacher told me to go get the projector from the storage room. As I entered, I got a bad omen. I plugged it somewhere out of curiosity, and turned it on. The projector worked normally, and I sighed with relief. The rest of the morning was completely normal, and I got back home with no homework. My parents called me fron the living room. Looking at their eyes I knew something very bad was going on.
My friend had an accident. He fell off the stairs at his home. The accident damaged him very badly, and now he was in a coma. His parents told mine that he had been thinking about me the whole day.
There was one only explanation: the curse falls back to the previous victim if someone avoids it. The fact that he was in coma meant I had to die to save him. I, or someone else.
But what could I do? I could let him die since he wanted to pass me the curse. But if I passed it too, we would be in the same place.
I'll be honest.
I let him die. They told me that some minutes before, he started babbling and shaking his arms for a while, as if falling constantly. Then he stopped, forever.
And I don't really know if I regret it. I'm not the typical guy who believes every lie he is told, but this was real. I've even heard about some of these curses being easily transmitted to the Internet. Whatever the case, I never played with a console again.
I hope this story opens your eyes so you can see.
If someday it gets to you, please, don't hate me for this. Don't, just... don't.
Just show it to another person, it will go away.