Ben Drowned :
I recently moved into my dorm room starting as a Sophomore in college and a friend of mine gave me his old Nintendo 64 to play. I was stoked, to say the least. I could finally play all those old games of my youth I hadn’t touched in least a decade.
His Nintendo 64 came with one yellow controller and a rather shoddy copy of Super Smash Brothers and, while beggars can’t be choosers, it didn’t take long before I got bored of beating up LVL 9 CPUs.
That weekend, I decided to drive around a few neighborhoods about twenty minutes or so off-campus, hitting up the local garage sales. I was hoping to score some good deals from ignorant parents. I ended up picking up a a copy of Pokemon Stadium, Goldeneye, F-Zero, and two other controllers for two dollars.
Satisfied, I began to drive out of the neighborhood when one last house caught my attention. I still have no idea why it did; there were no cars there and only one table was set up with random junk on it. However, something sort of drew me there.
I usually trust my gut on these things, so I got out of the car and was greeted by an old man. His outward appearance was, for lack of a better word, displeasing. It was odd. If you asked me why I thought he looked displeasing, I couldn’t really pinpoint anything.
There was just something about him that put me on edge. I can’t explain it. All I can tell you that if it wasn’t in the middle of the afternoon and there weren’t other people within shouting distance, I wouldn’t have even thought of approaching this man.
He flashed a crooked smile at me and asked what I was looking for. Immediately, I noticed he must be blind in one eye; his right eye had that “glazed over” look about it. I forced myself to look to his left eye, trying not to offend, and asked if he had any old video games.
I was already wondering how I could politely excuse myself from the situation when he would tell me he had no idea what a video game was, but to my surprise he said he had a few in an old box. He assured me he’d be back in a “jiffy” and turned to head back into the garage.
As I watched him hobble away, I couldn’t help but notice what he was selling on his table. Littered across his table were rather…peculiar paintings – various artworks that looked like ink blots a psychiatrist might show you.
Curious, I looked through them. It was obvious why no one was visiting this guy’s garage sale; these weren’t exactly aesthetically pleasing. As I came to the last one, I noticed it looked almost like Majora’s Mask, with the same heart-shaped body with the little spikes protruding outward.
Initially, I just thought that since I was secretly hoping to find that game at these garage sales, some Freudian bullshit was projecting itself into the ink blots. However, given the events that happened after, I’m not so sure now. I should have asked the man about it. I wish I asked the man about it.
After staring at the Majora-shaped blot, I looked up and the old man was suddenly there again, arms-length in front of me and smiling. I’ll admit, I jumped out of reflex and laughed nervously as he handed me a Nintendo 64 cartridge.
It was the standard gray color and had no label. Someone had written Majora on it in black permanent marker. I got butterflies in my stomach as I realized what a coincidence it was and asked how much the old man wanted for it.
The old man smiled and told me I could have it for free. He said it used to belong to a kid around my age that didn’t live here anymore. There was something weird about how he phrased that, but I didn’t really any attention then. I was too caught up in not only finding the game, but getting it for free.
I reminded myself to be a bit skeptical since this looked like a pretty shady cartridge and there was no guarantee it would work. However, the optimist inside me interjected that maybe it was some kind of beta or pirated version of the game. That was all I needed to be back on cloud nine.
I thanked the man, who smiled and wished me well, saying “Goodbye then,” which at the time is what it sounded like to me. All the way in the car ride home, I had a nagging doubt that the man had said something else.
My fears were confirmed when I booted up the game (to my surprise, it worked just fine) and there was one save file simply named, “BEN.” The man was saying, “Goodbye, Ben.” I felt bad for him. He was obviously a grandparent going senile. I, for some reason or another, reminded him of his grandson, “Ben.”
Out of curiosity, I looked at the save file. I could tell he was pretty far in the game; he had almost all of the masks and 3/4 boss remains. I noticed he had used an owl statue to save his game. He was on Day 3 by the Stone Tower Temple with hardly an hour before the moon would crash.
I remember thinking it was a shame he had come so close to beating the game but never finished it. I made a new file named “Link,” out of tradition, and started the game. I was ready to relive my childhood.
For such a shady looking cartridge, I was impressed at how smoothly it ran – literally just like a retail copy of the game, save for few minor hiccups here and there (textures being where they should be, random flashes of cutscenes at odd intervals, nothing too bad).
However, the only thing that was a little unnerving was that, at times, the NPCs would call me “Link” and call me “BEN” at other times. I figured it was a bug, maybe a fluke in the programming, that caused our save files to get mixed up or something.
It did kind of creep me out after a while, though. Around the time I beat Woodfall temple, I regrettably erased the “BEN” file. I had intended to preserve the file out of respect for the game’s original owner. It’s not like I needed two files anyway.
I hoped that would solve the problem. It did and didn’t. Now NPCs wouldn’t call me anything. Where my name should be in the dialogue was a blank space (my save file was still called “Link,” however). Frustrated and with homework to do, I put the game down for a day.
I started playing the game again last night, getting the Lens of Truth and working my way toward completing Snowhead Temple. Now, some of you more hardcore Majora’s Mask players know about the “4th Day” glitch. For those who don’t, you can Google it.
The gist of it is that right as the clock is about to hit 00:00:00 on the final day, you talk to the astronomer and look through the telescope. If you exit the telescope just as the timer hits 00:00:00, the countdown disappears and you essentially have an endless amount of time to finish whatever you were doing.
Deciding to do the glitch to try and finish Snowhead Temple, I went in and tried. I happened to get it right on the first time and the counter at the bottom disappeared.
When I exited the telescope, I found myself in the Majora boss room at the end of the game (the trippy boxed in area), staring at Skull Kid hovering above me. There was no sound, just him floating in the air above me and the background music, which was regular for the area (but still creepy).
Immediately, my palms began to sweat. This was definitely not normal. Skull Kid NEVER appeared here. I tried moving around the area and, no matter where I went, Skull Kid would always be facing me, not saying anything.
Nothing would happen and this kept up for around sixty seconds. I thought the game was bugged or something, but I was beginning to doubt that very much.
I was about to reach for the reset button when text appeared on the screen. “You’re not sure why, but you apparently had a reservation…” I instantly recognized that text. You get that message when you get the Room Key from Anju at the Stock Pot Inn. Why was it playing here?
I refused to entertain the nothing that it was almost as if the game was trying to communicate with me. I started to walk around the room again, testing if that was some sort of trigger that enabled me to interact with something before realizing how stupid I was.
To even think that someone could reprogram the game like this was absurd. Sure enough, though, another message appeared on the screen fifteen seconds later and, like the first one, it was already a preexisting phrase. “Go to the lair of the temple’s boss? Yes/No”
I paused for a second, contemplating what I should press and how the game would react, when I realized I couldn’t select No. Taking a deep breath, I pressed Yes and the screen faded to white, with the words “Dawn of a New Day” and the subtext “||||||||” beneath it.
Where I was transported to filled me with the most intense sense of dread and impending fear I have ever experienced. The only way I can describe the way I felt here is having this feeling of inexplicable depression on a profound scale.
I’m not normally a depressed person, but the way I felt here was a feeling I didn’t even know existed. It was such a twisted, powerful presence that seemed to wash right over me.
I appeared in some kind of weird Twilight Zone version of Clock Town. I walked out of the Clock Tower (as you normally do when you start from the 1st Day) only to find all the inhabitants were gone. Usually with the 4th Day glitch, you can still find the guards and the dog that runs around outside the tower, but they were all gone.
What replaced them was the ominous feeling there was something out there, in the same area as me, and it was watching me. I had four hearts ot my name and the Hero’s Bow, but at this point I wasn’t even considering for my avatar. I felt that I personally was in some kind of danger.
Perhaps the most chilling thing was the music. It was the Song of Healing, ripped straight from the game and played in reverse. The music would get louder, building up so you should expect something to pop out at you, but nothing ever did and the constant loop began to wear on my mental state.
Every now and then, I would hear the faint laugh of the Happy Mask Salesman in the background. It was just quiet enough that I wasn’t sure if I was just hearing things, but just loud enough to keep me determined to find him.
I looked in all four zones of Clock Town only to find nothing…and no one. Textures were missing, too. West Clock town had me walking on air and the entire area felt…broken. Hopelessly broken.
As the reverse Song of Healing repeated for what must have been the 50th time, I remember standing in the middle of South Clock town realizing that I had never felt so alone in a video game before.
As I walked through the ghost town, I don’t know whether it was the combination of the out-of-place textures, the atmosphere, and the haunting melody of the once peaceful and soothing song being butchered and distorted, but I was literally on the verge of tears and I had no idea why. I hardly ever cry, but something had gripped me here and caused this powerful sense of depression that was both foreign and crippling.
I tried leaving Clock Town, but every time I went through one of the exits, the screen would fade to black and I would enter another zone of Clock Town. I tried playing my Ocarina. I wanted to escape; I did NOT want to be here. However, every time I played the Song of Time or Song of Soaring, it would only say, “Your notes echo far, but nothing happens.”
By this point, it was obvious the game didn’t want me to leave, but I had no idea why it was keeping me here. I didn’t want to go inside buildings; I felt I would be too vulnerable to whatever I was terrified of. I don’t know why, but I came up with the idea that if I drowned myself at the Laundry Pool, I could spawn elsewhere and leave.
As I ran toward the pool, it happened. Link grabbed his head and the screen flashed for a brief moment of the Happy Mask Salesman smiling at me – not Link, but ME – with the Skull Kid’s scream playing in the background. When the screen returned, I was staring at the Link Statue usually created by playing the Elegy of Emptiness.
I screamed as the thing stared back at me with that haunting facial expression. I turned around and ran back to South Clock Town. To my horror, the statue followed me in a way I can only describe as being similar to the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who.
Every so often, at random intervals, the animation would play of the statue appearing behind me. It was like the thing was chasing me, or – I don’t even want to say it – haunting me.
By this point, I was on the verge of hysterics. However, not even once did the thought of turning off the console occur to me. I don’t know why, but I was so wrapped up in it. The terror felt all so real. I tried to shake the statue, but it would literally appear right behind me every single time it went off-screen.
Link started to make weird animations I had never seen him do. He would flail his arms around or spasm randomly. The screen would cut to the Happy Mask Salesman smiling again for a brief moment before I was face to face with that statue again.
I ended up running into the Swordsmaster’s Dojo and ran to he back. I don’t know why, but in my panic I wanted some kind of assurance I wasn’t alone. To my dismay, I found no one. As I turned to leave, the statue cornered me in the cubby hole in the back.
I tried attacking the statue with my sword, but to no avail. Confused and backed into a corner, I stared at the statue and waited for it to kill me. Suddenly, the screen flashed again to the Happy Mask Salesman and Link turned to face me, standing upright as a mirror image of the statue and looking at me with his copy. Literally staring at me.
Whatever was left of the fourth wall was completely shattered while I ran out of the dojo, terrified. Suddenly, the game warped me to an underground tunnel. The reverse Song of Healing queued up again as I was given a brief moment of rest before the statue started appearing again… this time aggressively.
I could only take a few steps before it would be summoned behind me again. I hurriedly made my way out of the tunnel and appeared in Southern Clock Town. As I ran aimlessly in a sheer panic, a ReDead suddenly screamed and the screen faded to black. “Dawn of a New Day” and “||||||||” appeared again.
The screen faded in and I was standing atop the Clock Tower with Skull Kid hovering over me again, silent. I looked up and the moon was back, looming just meters above my head, but the Skull Kid stared at me hauntingly with that creepy mask.
A new song was playing: the Stone Tower Temple theme played in reverse. In some sort of desperate attempt, I equipped my bow and fired off a shot at Skull Kid. It actually hit him and he played an animation of him reeling back.
I fired again and, on the third arrow, a text box appeared that said, “That won’t do you any good. Hee-hee.” I was picked up off the ground, levitated upwards on my back, and Link screamed as he burst into flames, instantly killing him.
I jumped when this happened. I had never seen this move used by ANYONE in the game and, in addition, Skull Kid didn’t even have any moves! As the dead scene played, my lifeless body still burning, the Skull Kid laughed and the screen faded to black.
I reappeared in the same place. I decided to charge him, but the same thing happened. Link’s body was lifted off the ground by some unknown force and burst into flames, again killing him. This time, during the death scene, the faint sounds of the reverse Song of Healing could be heard.
On my third and final try, I noticed there was no music playing; all there was was eerie silence. I remembered that in the original encounter with Skull Kid, you were supposed to use the ocarina to either travel back in time or Summon the Giants. I attempted to play the Song of Time, but before I could hit the last note Link’s body once again burst into flames and he died.
As the death scene neared its end, the game began to chug. It was as if the cartridge was trying to process a lot of something. When the screen came to, it was the same scene as the first three times, except Link was lying on the ground, dead, in a position I had never seen in the game before.
His head was tilted toward the camera and Skull Kid was floating above him. I couldn’t move or press any buttons. All I could do was stare at Link’s body. After around 30 seconds of this, the game faded out with the message “You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?” before kicking me to the title screen.
Upon getting back to the title screen and starting again, I noticed my save file was gone. Instead of “Link” was “YOUR TURN.” “YOUR TURN” had three hearts and no masks or items. I selected this file and was returned to the Clock Tower Rooftop scene of Link dead and the Skull Kid hovering over, with the Skull Kid’s laugh looping again and again.
I quickly hit reset and when the game booted up again there was one more save file added below “YOUR TURN”: “BEN.” That save file is right back where it was before I deleted it, at the Stone Tower Temple with the moon almost crashing.
I turned the game off at that point. I’m not superstitious, but this is WAY too screwed up – even for me. I haven’t played it at all today. I didn’t even get any sleep last night. I kept hearing the reverse Song of Healing in my head and couldn’t get past that sense of dread I felt while exploring Clock Town.
I drove back to the old man’s house today with a buddy of mine (no way was I going there alone) to ask him some questions, only to find there’s a for sale sign in the front yard. When I rang the doorbell, no one was home.
So now I’m back here, writing down the rest of my thoughts and recording what happened. Sorry if some of this has grammatical errors and whatnot; I’m running on no sleep here.
I’m terrified of this game, even moreso now that I relived it a second time just writing this down. However, I feel like there’s still more to it than meets the eye and there’s something calling me to investigate this further.
I think “BEN” is something in this equation, but I don’t know what. If I could get hold of the old man, I would be able to find some answers. I need another day or so to recuperate before tackling this game again, however. I feel it’s already taken a toll on my sanity, but next time I do this I’m going to record the entire thing.
The idea to record only came to me toward the end, so you only see the last few minutes of what I saw (including the Skull Kid and Elegy statue), but it’s on Youtube here:
The story continues in Ben Drowned Part 2
The Ben Drowned Series: Ben Drowned 1 Day Four Ben Drowned 2 Ben Ben Drowned 3 Drowned Ben Drowned 4 Jadusable Ben Drowned 5 The Truth