16 maj 2013

Minecraft stalker

I love playing Minecraft. I don’t join servers to play the RPGs, zombie survival games, or to build cities with friends – I like to just play on my own and explore infinitely unique terrain. So lately I’ve been trying to find a fortress and reach The End, and this means building satellite houses far away from my own to expand my search radius.

The second house I built is in a mountainous region covered in depressing bluish grass. One day I started killing a few cows for food in preparation for a trek back to my primary home. After I gathered the cow hide and raw beef, I saw a skeleton archer under a large oak, staring at me. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but its head followed me wherever I walked for a solid minute. The tree it stood under was right on top of my underground home, and when I went inside I kept hearing the clinking of the skeleton’s bones as it walked around. I didn’t make anything of this until I realized that wherever I walked, the clinking was right over my head. I chalked it up to a glitch.

I returned to my original home for more mining, but after a few days I went back to my home in the drab hills for some redecorating. As soon as I opened the door, something felt wrong. Everything looked like it was in the right place, but the walls just seemed off. The only thing I could think of was that the paintings might have changed around. I rearranged them and made a mental note of which ones I had placed and where they were positioned. Even if they had changed, I thought, it was probably some kind of loading bug.

A few days later, I decided to look for a nether fortress. I warped into the cobblestone outpost I had built inside the nether a while ago and prepped for exploration. Now, I know the nether is supposed to be unsettling to begin with, but what happened made me dread going back. When I walked outside, a horde of zombie pigmen were staring at me. I hadn’t hit any of them, so I couldn’t think of a reason for this behavior. I walked around to see what they’d do, and the whole time they just stood in place and stared at me. I walked up to one of them, but as soon as I moved within two blocks it started squealing like it was dying and wouldn’t stop. The whole pack soon followed in squealing at me, so I ran back through the portal.

I made a post about these issues on the Minecraft forums. Most people thought I was making it up, but those who didn’t assumed I had installed a weird mod that wasn’t compatible with the game. This got me thinking. I checked the Minecraft jar file and noticed that it had been modified over a week ago, well after the latest update. I downloaded the latest version and replaced the jar file in hopes that the corrupted version would be gone forever. It was strange, I thought, that someone would go so far out of their way just to screw with a singleplayer save.

After the install, I booted up Minecraft, saw nothing unusual, turned my computer off, and went to bed. After a solid night’s rest I woke up wondering if the game would still pull anything weird. I checked the nether, and the zombie pigmen were acting normally. I ran all the way to my house in the hills and panicked at what I saw -- the room was covered floor to ceiling with creeper paintings. Clearly, someone had accessed my game, modified it, and was still manipulating everything. Feeling helpless, I placed a sign in the middle of the room that said, “Please stop. You win.” In retrospect, this was probably the worst thing I could have done.

All of the paintings immediately disappeared. I spun around a few times and tried entering text into the chat window, but nothing answered. Suddenly, every wall was covered with signs that said, “Please stop. You win.” I tried to run out of the room, but the wooden door had been replaced with an iron version. I tried to craft a switch to open it, but the stick and cobblestone combination produced wheat. I tried other combinations hoping everything was just mismatched, but every single recipe gave me wheat. All of the items in my inventory had been deleted, and my chests were empty. There was no getting out of the cobblestone room.

I stopped trying to break blocks and breathed for a moment. I heard clinking outside the metal door. I walked up to it and found a skeleton peering in. When I punched the door in frustration, it jumped up and down and spun in circles, taunting me.

I was really freaked out and, by this point, figured that someone had definitely hacked the game and had access to my PC. I shut the computer off and hoped that whoever it was hadn’t used a key logger, checked my internet traffic, or watched me browse. I took the bus to my university and went straight to the computer labs. I checked all of my important accounts, and everything looked normal.

I checked my original thread on the Minecraft forums to see if I had any new replies, but there weren’t any. I decided to make a short post explaining the new developments, wondering if this was a prank that other, more tech-savvy people had experienced and taken care of. I was in the middle of writing the post when a PM showed up in my inbox. It was from a user simply named Skeleton, and all it said was, “i miss you.” I debated sending something back, but instead checked the user’s profile. The account had been created seconds before the message was sent. Undeterred, I continued writing my post asking for help when I received another message. It simply read, “stop,” followed by my social security number, cell number, and every password I could remember using in the past two years. I was at the whim of this guy, and all I could think to do was respond.

“What do you want me to do?”

“come back and play”

I hoped that if I indulged him for a while he might get bored and not wreak absolute havoc on my life. I went home as fast as I could and immediately logged into the game. I’m not sure if my home had been rebuilt or if I simply spawned elsewhere, but I found myself inside a vast cathedral rather than my humble cobblestone cube. The interior was barely kept lit by torches. I heard the familiar clatter of bones, and the skeleton appeared before me. It only said, “come.”

I followed the skeleton down an incredibly long hallway with a red cotton path. I got very anxious. The skeleton never broke pace and moved with robotic precision as if it were following a pathing script rather than being controlled by a user. I wondered how such a big cathedral could have been built so fast, but I did not feel like making small talk.

After about ten minutes of walking, we reached an iron door flanked by obsidian columns. The skeleton stopped by a switch and stared at me, so I asked him what he wanted me to do.

“Through the door?”


“What am I supposed to be doing?”

“youll see”

“Are you going to stop messing with me?”

The skeleton opened up the iron door but didn’t say anything else. Inside I saw a scene as grisly as something can be in Minecraft. The room’s floor was entirely netherrack, the ceiling was glowstone, and lava covered every brick on the walls. Heads were densely mounted on fence posts, and the Enderman screech looped constantly. I looked around the room but didn’t immediately see anything that told me what I was supposed to do. I noticed that the heads were all PCs with custom textures that looked like normal people, and I checked each of them out. Each one had a sign underneath with a name, but none of them sounded familiar. Eventually, I reached a head that was unsettling – it looked like the closest Minecraft could come to rendering my face, and my name was on the sign below. By this point I already felt like the hacker had me by the balls and was hellbent on freaking me out and who knows what else, but this was the first time violence was ever implied. Without any other references or clues, I took the head. Once I did, Endermen swarmed through the lava and attacked me. I died instantly and respawned in the same place inside the cathedral. The skeleton was waiting for me there.

“Was that it?”

“hahaha, yes! Follow, follow”

The skeleton took off in a different direction from where we were last time. After another extremely long journey through the cathedral, we arrived at a new iron door. Inside this room were cages made of cobblestone and iron bars holding what looked like PCs shifting aimlessly. They all stared at me, and I figured I had to find myself again. Directly in front of me was a box containing a diamond sword, which I took. Fire spawned at random and I nearly burned to death a few times, but soon enough I found my render in one of the cages with my name over its head. There was a lever on the side of the cage, and once pulled, the iron door swung open. I realized I had to kill the NPC, and so I swung away with the sword. This time, once I collected my head, creepers swarmed in from the ceiling and blew everything up.

Again I spawned at the same point in the cathedral, and again the skeleton was waiting for me. It jumped up and down a few times and sped off in a new direction. I was fed up at this point. If there was more of a game to these rooms, I might have understood, but there was no point to anything, at least none I could discern. I caught up with the skeleton and said, “Wait, I’m not doing this anymore. What do you want from me?” The skeleton turned around slowly and stared. After about a minute, it walked forward, stopped right in front of me, and said, “play. or else.” Then it posted a long number and asked if it looked familiar. Some of the digits on the end gave me a chill, and I confirmed by one of the checks lying on my desk that indeed it was my checking account number. I couldn’t afford to walk away yet.

The skeleton led me to room after room, and in each one I had to find some version of myself, collect my head, and then suffer a death as miscellaneous as it was pointless. I would have gotten bored if I wasn’t so stricken with fear for my personal information. This continued till late at night, and I began to fall asleep at the keyboard. When this affected gameplay, the skeleton came up to me, “rest. big play tomorrow.” I was so tired by this point I didn’t even bother to ask when or anything else. I switched the computer off and turned in.

I had trouble sleeping. Several times throughout the night I heard bones clinking outside my door and was too afraid to check what was making the sound. When I woke up the next morning, I sat at my computer and thought about my options. Surely this guy couldn’t monitor me all day every day? There couldn’t be an infinite number of rooms and heads for me to take, right? No matter how I tried to logic my way out of the situation, I kept coming back to determining that I needed to play along for just a bit longer to finally put the craziness to bed.

I logged in and found myself inside the cathedral again, but the skeleton wasn’t there. I kept the game open and meandered about my house, always checking in. Eventually, after sundown, the skeleton came back. “been busy. lets play.”

I followed the skeleton again for about an hour. The same exercise was repeated over and over, each room with a slightly different take than the last. Before he let me go, the skeleton pressed a button on one of the pillars near my spawn point. The floor opened up, and below was an enormous pit stacked with heads. There were dozens of them, and it took me a moment to realize they were my own. Without thinking I typed, “What the fuck. This is sick.” The skeleton jumped up and down and ran circles around me. It pasted my bank account number over and over again. Finally, it yelled at me.


I didn’t need to be told twice.

That night, as I tried to sleep, I dreamed of the pit, except it was real. I sat helplessly among dozens of heads. I picked one up and looked into its milky eyes. Its lips were parted, and its jaw seemed to move. I thought I could hear breathing, and as I held it up to my ear, it screamed. I woke up immediately.

I decided to log on fifteen minutes before the time I did the day before. Exactly fifteen minutes later, the skeleton appeared again and we repeated the trek down directionless halls, the room reveal, finding my body, collecting my head, and an inescapable death. We did this for an hour, and at the end he showed me how full the pit was getting. I went to bed and had the same nightmare, except there were more heads this time and I swear I heard clinking bones right next to my bed.

This has been going on for two weeks. Every day the pit fills up with more heads, and we’re getting closer to the end. My friends are telling me that I’ve been acting strangely, but I don’t want to tell them what’s happening to spare them in case the skeleton finds out. Each night the dreams get more vivid. I’m drowning in a well of my own heads, and they’re becoming more and more real and more and more alive. I’ve developed a morning ritual of staring at myself in the mirror, as if to make sure that my head is still on my shoulders. The skeleton was holding a sword last night instead of a bow, and when I thought I heard it inside my room, I felt something sharp and cold against my neck. I don’t care about my personal information anymore, I just want the nightmares to end but I can’t bring myself to stop playing.

I don’t know what to do.

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