Audible

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A few months ago, I had purchased an MP3 player from the local supermarket. Nothing fancy, as I don't need all of these bells and whistles that most have. It holds 2 gigabytes of data and has no screen or method of selecting song order, but, y'know, it was $15 and it provides me with what I need.

At one point last month, I was listening to some music on my way home, and suddenly there was an 8-bit-sounding track that I didn't recognize. I had a similar occurrence in the first batch of MP3s I loaded onto the device, where I accidentally loaded some music from the game Psycho Soldier that I thought I had deleted, but accidentally dragged into the folder. After deleting the file from the MP3 player, however, the music continued to remain on the device. The only difference was that I never downloaded this new music.

So I listened to this new track that had randomly popped up, trying to pinpoint it. I knew I had heard it somewhere before, but its origin was not immediately forthcoming. It was a strange, eerie tone, and it made my hair feel tingly, as if it were standing up on end. After the track ended and the next began, I pressed the Previous Track button to return to this mystery song, but it simply returned me to the track prior to the new one. I kept cycling between the one that had come before the new track, and the one that came after. There was no sign of this track after it had finished playing. To put it mildly, I began to get creeped out. After I arrived home, however, I put the event out of my mind.

Three days later I was on my way home again, and the track came on in between two other, completely different tracks. I spent some time trying to identify the sound again, and I was still perplexed as to this track's origin. During this time, I happened to glance over a vehicle, a Lincoln Zephyr, which had its logo spelled out in Unowns on the side. I chuckled a bit, finding a Pokémon fan hardcore enough to do such a thing amusing.

The track was still on my mind when I got home, so I set out to do some research. Checking the files on the MP3 player itself, I found that, like the Psycho Soldier track, it was nowhere to be physically found. I checked my download history to see if I had accidentally downloaded it at some point and transferred it without thinking, but there was nothing of the sort.

I also went through several dozen catalogs of 8-bit gaming music, spending hours of time doing so, but did not find a match to this mysterious music. Dismayed, I went to sleep with the tone echoing in my head.

That night, I dreamt of a spectral girl in a long white dress. Possessing long black hair that covered her face and lacking fingernails, she closely resembled The Ring's antagonist. As she floated along a foggy graveyard, she kept chanting "The answer is in the letters," over and over. When I awoke, the dream still lingered in my mind.

It wasn't until the following Monday that I had an opportunity to listen to my MP3 player again, and once again, it happened on my way home from work. This time, I had made the connection. During the previous instance, I had only just happened to glance at the logo of a vehicle once, not paying any attention to any other words or lettering around me. This time, I focused on every sign, every license plate, every pedestrian's t-shirt. All of them, for the duration of the track, were spelled out in the appropriate Unowns.

That is when it had hit me. I hadn't played the game in question for some time, and especially this specific section, which is why the answer was not immediately forthcoming. I raced home to boot up YouTube and confirmed my suspicion: the track was the theme for the Ruins of Alph.

It took a few minutes to absorb all of this. Somehow, the Ruins of Alph music had implanted itself into my MP3 player despite my not having acquired it. It was playing at complete random instances, and when it was occurring, I was seeing Unown in any instance of lettering around me. Okay, it was strange, but not necessarily fear-inducing. At best, it was some sort of repressed memory hallucination.

The following weekend, I was staying overnight at my parents' house. It was late at night, after my folks had gone to bed. My brother was sitting at his computer, and I had brought my laptop, so we were both just checking up on various things such as the news and Facebook before we went to bed. Listening to my MP3 player, I came across the Ruins of Alph track again. I urged my brother to come over and listen to it. Putting one of the headphones on, he said, "Yeah. It's On a Boat."

"You're not hearing some creepy 8-bit music?"

"No. It's definitely On a Boat."

He went back to his computer while I listened to the rest of the track with confusion. Toward the end of the track, there was some sort of weird, garbled noise, like when a CD skips repeatedly. This wasn't here previously, so I took special note of this occurrence. Following the track's end, in which On a Boat actually did start playing, I plugged the MP3 player into the USB slot of my laptop again, searching once more for some sign of a file that I had overlooked before.

Burrowed amongst a wall of MP3 files, was something that stood out from the rest, something I hadn't seen before. It was a file labeled pkmnslvr.gbc. Recognizing this as a Game Boy Color ROM, I booted it up in my emulator.

It was indeed Pokémon Silver, but what I saw upon running the ROM made my palms begin to sweat.

The trainer name was "The S", and upon loading the game, I had my old party from my cartridge game. The current location was the Ruins of Alph. I knew all too well what was going on: this was a ROM of the haunted Silver version I had discarded months earlier!

Scrambling across the keyboard to shut down the emulator, I accidentally bumped the down arrow, causing the trainer to walk forward and enter a battle. The opponent was the Generation 1 MissingNo., just as I had seen in the corrupted Silver version that had plagued me. At this point, my cell phone started ringing - the ring tone was the Ruins of Alph music, complete with the glitchy, garbled noise from the last time I had heard it. I shut down the emulator, deleted the ROM file, and began using my various anti-malware programs to ensure that there was nothing else malicious afoot. Everything passed through clean.

I haven't had any other problems with this MP3 player since then, other than that Psycho Soldier track that I still can't get rid of. As for the cell phone, all that I saw when I finally had the nerve to open it was a missed call message with a blank number.