Happy Halloween, citizens! When midnight comes and October ends, I, Ghoastus, will be banished once more into the spirit realm - at least until something sufficiently Roman happens to summon me back. I will miss you all. But before that dread hour arrives, there is time yet for one more terribly frightening story.
It concerns my friend and colleague Nate, who started an unofficial RPS minecraft server back at the end of July, thinking it would be a bit of fun for friends and colleagues. Indeed, it was (although Sin might disagree!). But as summer withered and the nights grew darker, it was to become a truly harrowing place, riven by religious conflict, and plagued by the spectre of a dreadful ogre. Read on, if you dare, for the story as told to me by Nate…
When the server began, it was a peaceful, reasonable place. The spawn point was beside a picturesque canyon, and there were sheep and trees, and all the other reassuring and normal things you might expect to find in a minecraft world. There were around five or six of us back then, and we worked together to build pleasant things.
One of those people was my friend Adam. He hadn’t used his account in years, and at some point while it lay fallow it had been hacked. When he logged on, he found his skin was a disconcerting version of Shrek, but with... an infinity gauntlet? It was odd to say the least, but we laughed it off, and there was no Shrek roleplaying. Alas, the skin was haunted, and in time, it would drive us all to madness.
For a long time, the server was a paradise. We built a quaint settlement in the canyon, my friends Mark and Dave built wizard towers in the mountains nearby, and several of us got together to build a town deep in the earth. Working outwards from a home carved into the foot of an underground ravine, we made gardens in the caverns, and filled them with life.
“How nice it is,” said my friend Thryn, “just to make simple, beautiful things together as equals.” There were some servers, Thryn told us, governed by founders who acted like “Pharaohs”, handing out stacks of materials and ordering people to work on their megaprojects. “Thanks for not being That Guy, Nate,” they said.
I would, however, become That Guy. It started soon after the foundation of the underground gardens, when I discovered server admin commands - essentially, godlike powers. I tested them furtively at first, in the early morning when no one was around: teleporting myself short distances, spawning a polar bear in Sin’s bedroom, giving myself one of the flight packs called elytras and flitting between mountaintops. But the powers became intoxicating, and I wanted to share the magic.
One day at dawn, I went on to the server and buried an enormous cube of obsidian in the walls of the underground garden, where I knew it would be found in the course of my friends’ excavations. I put a shulker box in the centre, filled with elytras and rockets, and decorated the interior with end rods.
Sure enough, the cube full of endgame items was discovered, and we held an unearthing party. As my pals cracked it open, I launched a ton of server commands - a cacophony of eerie sound effects played, a flock of skeletal horses appeared, and the server itself began making chilling nonsensical pronouncements in the name of Gak, the Ant-Faced God of the Underground. “You have awakened me”; that sort of thing.
It was all fun and games, apart from the fact that shrines to Gak began springing up in various buildings. But hey, it was all just playing along with the light roleplay element I’d introduced, and by and large people kept doing their thing.
But as my friends realised the powers I had, they began to hunger for materials, so they could do their things more efficiently. They’d ask for a stack of chiseled stone here, a few iron ingots there, and I acquiesced - I wanted them to be happy. Soon, Adam and Thryn began hungering to build a railway, despite the huge resource cost. They wanted to find a jungle as well. I decided I would help them kill two birds with one stone.
On one of my early morning flights, I travelled 8,000 blocks - probably an in-game week of travel on foot - crossing mountain ranges, sprawling forests, vast swamps and two whole oceans. Eventually, I found a jungle. “Ooh, can we see?” said Adam and Thryn.
I said yes, and teleported them there, to a vine-covered stone temple. They loved it. “We’ll build a railway home!” they declared, and I said I would give them the materials to do so. “How far is it?” they asked warily, as they clocked the number of rails I’d provided them with. “Eight thousand blocks,” I replied cheerily, and whooshed away home on my elytra.
Adam and Thryn built their way home. It took nearly a month. In the time they were away, a massive second wave of players joined the server, and it was populated nearly around the clock. Under their teeming hands, the spawn area was reshaped into a great walled city, laid out according to my grand design, and raised from the earth with magically-provided materials. Poignantly, virtually all that remained from those first, carefree days was Sin’s dirt hovel, preserved under glass in the Museum of When We Lived Like Beasts.
It was a big change. When the railbuilders finished their odyssey, exhaustedly laying down the final tracks at the outskirts of town, they were aghast: the site that greeted them was me, flying over the city like a lord, turning night into day each sunset so my friends could work around the clock. “You’ve become…. A Pharoah,” whispered Thryn, stunned by the betrayal.
I had, indeed, become a Pharaoh. But I was giving my subj… I mean, my friends the things they needed, and they were happy with me. They began to literally call me Pharoah, beseeching me for goods on the discord in tones of awe, and I acquired a skin that made me look like an actual Pharoah. A titanic statue was built in my honour, and when my friend Ollie took on the role of town planner, he named streets after me.
But all was not well. Adam was quieter on chat, and became sullen and obscure. He insisted we refer to him as Shronk (“for copyright reasons”), and he began to… lurk. I would be working on some grand crenellation, and he would suddenly be skulking nearby, holding TNT as if to suggest he was thinking about placing it. Poorly-spelled signs began to appear around Pharaohopolis (for that was the city’s name), protesting my actions and contradicting my edicts. People began to notice.
And in time, they joined in. Shrines to Shronk began appearing in people’s houses, built on top of the old shrines to Gak. People began putting their own signs up in support of Shronk’s, and the town was rife with civil disobedience: things were turned green, planning laws were laughed at, and chests were emptied and refilled with Shronk’s favourite treats (eggs).
I grew anxious: it felt like revolution was brewing. But I had a plan to win peoples’ love back. A problem with the lighting in town meant that creepers (or “The Brutes” as they became known) were spawning non-stop, and wrecking peoples’ homes. The constant rebuilding was annoying folks, and so they began to mutter that they wished they could play with no monsters. This was my time to shine.
“Aha!” I proclaimed, switching the server to ‘monsters spawn: off’. “Fear not! Your Pharaoh has vanquished Gak, the Ant-Faced God, who is the Father of Brutes, and the Brutes will trouble you no more!”. With the Casting Out of the Brutes, more structures were erected in my honour, and I felt my reign was secure again. It was just in time, as I had to go overseas for work for a week, and wouldn’t have time to log in to the server.
While I was away, things seemed to tick along nicely. There was a night where Adam messaged, not remotely in character as Shronk, and asked me for temporary admin rights so he could respawn some stuff he’d lost falling into lava. I did as he asked, and forgot about the whole thing.
A week later, when I logged back on for the first time, things were… a nightmare. For a start, the city I had left as my capital was now called Shronkton. My colossal statue, overlooking the city like Cristo Redentor over Rio, was now being held up by a giant, glowering statue of Shronk. All the streets were named after Onions, Donkeys and Smashmouth lyrics.
Also, my friend Nick was dressed as Garfield and was building a gigantic glass dome in a nearby desert, but that was the least of my worries.
“Ah well,” I thought, “it was bound to happen. At least Adam acted honourably and didn’t abuse the fact I forgot to rescind his admin powers.”
I was wrong.
The next day, right next to my mansion in town, a huge, vile Shronk head made from sponge sprang up, with signs beside its mouth beckoning us townsfolk to enter. An expedition was formed, with some trepidation: apparently, while I had been away, Shronk had gone from folk hero underdog to a kind of bogeyman figure (which is apt, as he looked like a man made from bogeys), and people were talking about him being in league with Gak.
When we made the journey into the underground, those fears were emphatically confirmed. Here, dear readers, is what we saw when we travelled into Shronk’s maw (video courtesy of my mate Frank):
After spelunking down through a variety of increasingly gross-textured blocks, we ended up in a granite chamber full of skulls and fire. There was a minecart dispenser, so we jumped into a cart each - only for them to round a corner and plunge off a cliff into a pitch black hole. Once the carts landed, they proceeded along a track, where they triggered a series of note blocks that played an entire verse and chorus from 'All Star' by Smashmouth.
Finally, the carts sailed off another precipice to land in a ditch full of dank fungus. And there, rising above us from the muck, was an obsidian cube - just like the one Gak had left in the server's early days. We punched through its surface, only to find a second cube inside - "liek onyon", as one of Shronk's helpful signs pointed out. Eventually, we got to the centre, where we found a chilling sight: the disembodied head of every player on the server, floating in mid-air and turned to face a central pedestal.
On that pedestal was my own regal head, and a chest containing a huge stack of Shronk heads - one for every player on the server. Silently, with the bleak resignation of the damned, every one of us put on a Shronk head, taking on the visage of our tormentor. and then we left, the way we came in. Reader: you have never seen a sight so unnerving as a series of Shronks sat silently in minecarts, trundling through the depths of the earth as several different instances of 'All Star' play backwards at the same time.
When we emerged from the very literal mouth of the complex, Shronk was waiting for us. Only now, he was dressed in enchanted armour, and introduced himself as "Shrernk the Grene". We do not know what this Shrernk the Grene wants of us - I have a dreadful feeling we will find out in time. But for now, one thing is clear: he is the Pharaoh now.