9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (999)

*BOOM*

Grubdog awoke to a loud explosion.  The sound buzzed in his ears as he put his hands up to cover them. What was going on? An earthquake? The sound faded, and he looked around to gather his bearings.

Grubdog: “Where the heck am I?”

He was sitting on a small bed in a dimly lit room. It was rather empty, the only thing lighting the place being a small bulb hanging from the ceiling. There was a small round window on one side of the room, and a door on the other. Grubdog walked over to the window. It was apparently pitch-black outside, because he couldn’t see a thing.

Grubdog then checked out the desk in the center of the room. Atop it was a notebook, the cover black with the number “999” handwritten on it in what appeared to be red paint. It was full of nothing but empty white pages. This is fucking stupid, Grubdog thought, shrugging his shoulders as he made for the door. He had to figure out where he was.  Grabbing the door handle, he yanked it down and pulled the door open. Or so he thought it would – the door wouldn’t budge.

Grubdog: “What the fuck?”

It was then that Grubdog noticed the watch on his wrist. Red and blue in color and having quite a bit of weight to it, the face was unlike any normal watch, carrying only the number “5” on its LCD screen. Grubdog had seen this watch recently, and his face showed new signs of anxiety. Panicked, he began pounding on the door.

Grubdog: “HELLO?! HELP! IS ANYONE THERE?”

Grubdog once again tried to force the door open, to no success. A series of loud thumps began echoing through the room out of nowhere, and he looked around for where they were coming from.

“HEY, SHUT UP!  I’M TRYING TO SLEEP HERE!,” he heard a muffled, irritated voice yell out from behind the wall to the right of the door. Grubdog ran over to the wall and pressed his ear to it, trying desperately to make out who had just spoken and whether or not he could garner any information about where he was. From the other side he was able to make out what appeared to be the same person talking to himself.

???: “Well that’s just great, now I’m not tired anymore. I guess I’ll just… Wait a second…”

There was a long pause on the other side, and Grubdog pressed his ear against the wall even harder to see if he missing anything.

???: “WHAT THE HELL!? THIS ISN’T MY ROOM! WHERE THE HECK AM I!?”

Grubdog heard some scrambling on the other side of the wall, including the sound of a door handle being jerked down multiple times, and the the voice called out again.

???: “Hey!  Hey, you over there! Who are you!? Where are we!?”

Despite the comfort of hearing another voice, Grubdog didn’t like what he was hearing.

Grubdog: “Don’t “who are you?” me! Who are YOU!?”
???: “The name’s Bill! Bill Aurion!”

Grubdog had sensed a vague familiarity from the name.  Then it suddenly dawned on him.

Grubdog: “Wait a second. Bill Aurion? You’re not the Bill Aurion from Pietriots.com, are you?”
Bill: “You know who I am? I didn’t realize that Pietriots was that popular!”
Grubdog: “It’s me, Grubdog!”
Bill: “No way, you’re joking, right!? What are YOU doing here!?”
Grubdog: “I could ask you the same thing!”

There was another pause on the other side.

Bill: “So much for thinking Pietriots has gotten popular.”
Grubdog: “Shut your mouth.”
Bill: “Anyway, what are the chances that the two of us would meet up here?”
Grubdog: “Good question. Actually, where IS here anyway?”

Grubdog tried to focus on what had happened. Think, Grub, think. What was the last thing that happened? He glanced back to the middle of the room, at the notebook on the desk. Then it hit him.

Bill: “Wait, you’re not entering a flashback sequence, are you?  Those things suck!”
Grubdog: “Too bad, it’s flashback time!”
Bill: “Noooooo!”

Grubdog was at home, ready to wind down after a hard days work, when he heard a noise coming from another room. His eyebrows shot up and he curiously went to investigate.

Suddenly, sensing something behind him, he turned around. Standing in the corner of the room was a person draped in a black trenchcoat and wearing a gas mask over their face. “Who the hell are you!?, “Grubdog shouted out, startled by its sudden appearance. “I am Zero,” the figure spoke, its voice garbled as if using a scrambler. Grubdog chuckled, the dire nature of the situation instantly puttering out. “‘Zero’? Seriously? That’s really original. Now get the hell out of my house or else.”

The masked invader acted as if Grubdog had yet to say a word. “You have been chosen to write a review for 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors. You will put your life on the line in order to do the game justice. The consequences are enormous.” Grubdog started making his way to the phone. “Okay, that’s it. I’m calling the…What the!?”

A thick, white smoke began filling the room. Grubdog tried to make a run for it, but he quickly succumbed to the sensation of slumber and fell to the floor. That’s the last thing he remembered.

Bill: “That’s all you remember? What a waste of time.”
Grubdog: “Well what about you?”

There was once again a long period of silence on the other side.

Bill: “Well, uh, that’s pretty much what happened to me too, I guess.”
Grubdog: “It happened to you, too? Why didn’t you say so!?”
Bill: “It felt way too similar to that game we just finished. I thought it was just a dream, but it looks like it wasn’t after all.”
Grubdog: “Whoa. Shit. This has to be some kind of joke right? This whole scenario really is just like the game. What the fuck? Are the developers taking it this seriously? Is that even legal? What the hell is even happening?”
Bill: “Wait, wait, wait. You think our kidnappers are the developers? If that really was the case, why’d they choose us?”
Grubdog: “Probably because we’re the only two people that actually played the game?”
Bill: “…That’s pretty depressing.”

Full of questions, yet light on answers, Grubdog started pacing around the room trying to confirm if this truly was real or not. He touched the walls, yanked at the watch on his wrist, and even started hitting himself. Shit. Then he approached the desk.  There was something he hadn’t noticed before: a single drawer along its front. He tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. He looked at the notebook more carefully. It was attached to some kind of wire that went under the desk to the drawer.

Bill: “Do you have anything of interest over there?”
Grubdog: “I guess. There’s a notebook sitting here on the desk. There’s also some sort of wire attached to it that goes to a locked desk drawer.”
Bill: “Is the notebook empty?”
Grubdog: “Yeah, how’d you know?”
Bill: “Just a hunch. I guess you just have to write a review on the game in it to get us out of here.”
Grubdog: “The hell!? Why do I have to do it!?”
Bill: “I don’t have a notebook over here, man.”
Grubdog: “What do you mean you don’t have a notebook? Zero told you to write a review, right?”
Bill: “Yep, but there’s nothing here to write on. Well, I DO have what appears to be a stylus and tablet, but writing anything results in an ‘ERROR’. I guess this is just his way of saying he wants you to write it while I provide input.”
Grubdog: “This is fucked, I only just finished the game. How can I piece together everything when this has just happened to me?”
Bill:  “Hurry up, I’m getting claustrophobia.”

With little else to do, Grubdog sat down on the chair and conceded that he’d just have to write something. Wait a second, Grub thought to himself. How did Bill know the notebook was empty? Was Bill lying about not having a notebook, hoping that Grubdog would do all the work for him? What could he possibly gain from that if his side didn’t open unless he wrote something as well.

Then another possibility hit Grubdog like a ton of bricks. What if Bill was the one who kidnapped him? He didn’t have any proof besides Bill’s word that Bill was trapped like he was. Besides, Bill was a raging ADV fanboy. This was totally something he would do to try and garner 999 more attention. It was also the best explanation for why Bill was able to read what they were supposed to do so easily.

Well, whatever. If it would make Bill happy then he’d write the stupid review. Taking a seat at the desk, Grubdog picked up his pen. Wait, what? There WAS no pen.

Grubdog: The hell!?
Bill: What’s the problem?
Grubdog: There’s nothing to write with!
Bill: Well if there’s nothing to write with, then FIND something!

Oh, I get it, Grub thought to himself. He realized that this was a puzzle that Bill had thrown at him, mimicking the game down to its gameplay. He checked around the desk again, but there was nothing besides the locked drawer. There was nothing around the chair either.  What else was there? Grubdogs eyes scanned the room. Aha! The bed. There had to be something hiding in it.

First he looked under the bed. Nothing. He got back up and checked the sheets. Also nothing. Finally he lifted up the pillow, and there it was, a pen. In the most obvious hiding spot at that. Alright, time to get this over with.

Grubdog sat down with the pen and started to think of something to write, there were a million things going through his head. He couldn’t focus. Was writing a review for the game all he needed to do?  Did it have to be a good review? He thought back to Bill’s words. “You will put your life on the line in order to do the game justice.”

Justice? This was definitely the work of Bill. Yes, Bill, 999 is certainly a fantastic game, but not everyone’s tastes will be able to appreciate it, that’s for sure. Grubdog was starting to think it’s a bit too immersive even for his tastes. Maybe his mind was so involved with the game he’d left something in his house unlocked. For the last week he’d been playing the game whenever he got the chance, exploring every element and detail, wracking his brain trying to piece together the game’s story. However, this was a whole new kind of problem. Grubdog then put the pen to the notebook, a sinking feeling hitting his stomach as he began writing. The pen didn’t work. He scribbled furiously on the page, but no ink came forth. He got up and began banging on the wall.

Grubdog: Bill, your game SUCKS! Is hiding a pen the best you could do? It doesn’t even fucking work! If you’re going to go to all the trouble to set something like this up, you could at least do it properly!
Bill:  Wait, what? WHAT!? What the HELL are you talking about!?

The two began to bicker back and forth, tossing accusations at one another.

Grubdog then heard the sound of cracking glass. He quickly glanced around the room, trying to determine its origin. Then the round window he had looked through before caught his eye. This time, however, several cracks had appeared in it, and upon closer inspection were GETTING BIGGER. Suddenly, the window burst into pieces, and Grubdog discovered what force had been pressing on it from the other side. Water, and a shit-ton of it.

Grubdog: Oh SHIT! Bill, this isn’t fucking funny, let me out of here!

To Grubdog’s surprise, Bill sounded panicked as well.

Bill:  Shit, shit, shit, SHIT! There’s water all over in here, man! Hurry up and start that review!

A multitude of thoughts and emotions were running through Grubdog’s head. Was Bill also seriously trapped? No, he couldn’t be. There’s no way. This is still something Bill had planned from the beginning, so don’t let him get in your head! I have to figure out how to write this review and FAST!

But no matter how many times Grubdog searched, he couldn’t find anything that could help him. Not that he could find much anyway, with the water up to his chest.

Grubdog:  Fuck this! FUCK! THIS! Are you SERIOUSLY really going to let me DIE over a stupid review, Bill!?

A voice suddenly came over an intercom neatly squeezed into a corner of the ceiling.

???:  “I LIKE TOASTY YUM YUMS! OH YEAH, AND TIME’S UP! L-O-L!”

It was the same robotic voice as the “Zero” that had kidnapped him.  But that meant… Grubdog pounded on the wall connecting his room to Bill’s.

Grubdog: Bill! Hey Bill! If you can hear me, answer me! Hey!

There was no reply. At least nothing that Grubdog could hear over the sound of the water continuously rushing into the room. Before he could understand the dire nature of the situation he was in, the water had already risen all the way to the top. Completely submerged, Grubdog made one last-ditch effort for the door. Stuck. Big surprise there.  What…a shitty…game…

And then, everything went black…

[BAD END]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*BOOM*

Grubdog awoke to a loud explosion.  The sound buzzed in his ears as he put his hands up to cover them.  What was going on?  An earthquake?  The sound faded, and he looked around to gather his bearings.

Grubdog: “Where the heck am I?”

He was sitting on a small bed in a dimly lit room.  It was rather empty, the only thing lighting the place being a small bulb hanging from the ceiling.  There was a small round window on one side of the room, and a door on the other.  Grubdog walked over to the window.  It was apparently pitch-black outside, because he couldn’t see a thing.

Grubdog then checked out the desk in the center of the room.  Atop it was a notebook, the cover black with the number “999” handwritten on it in what appeared to be red paint.  It was full of nothing but empty white pages.  This is fucking stupid, Grubdog thought, shrugging his shoulders as he made for the door.  He had to figure out where he was.  Grabbing the door handle, he yanked it down and pulled the door open.  Or so he thought it would.  The door wouldn’t budge.

Grubdog: “What the fuck?”

It was then that Grubdog noticed the watch on his wrist.  Red and blue in color and having quite a bit of weight to it, the face was unlike any normal watch, carrying only the number “5” on its LCD screen.  Grubdog had seen this watch recently, and his face showed new signs of anxiety.  Panicked, he began pounding on the door.

Grubdog: “HELLO?!  HELP!  IS ANYONE THERE?”

Grubdog once again tried to force the door open, to no success.  A series of loud thumps began echoing through the room out of nowhere, and he looked around for where they were coming from.

“HEY, SHUT UP!  I’M TRYING TO SLEEP HERE!,” he heard a muffled, irritated voice yell out from behind the wall to the right of the door.  Grubdog ran over to the wall and pressed his ear to it, trying desperately to make out who had just spoken and whether or not he could garner any information about where he was.

Grubdog:  Bill!?  Is that you!?

There was a long pause of silence on the other side.

???:  Wait, who is that?  I don’t recognize your voice.  How the hell do you know my name?
Grubdog:  It’s me, Grubdog!
Bill:  Grubdog!?  Seriously!?  Wait, wait, wait, that still doesn’t answer my question!  I sure as hell can’t see you from here, so how can you see me!?

Grubdog realized he couldn’t answer Bill’s question.  It could have been anyone on the other side of the wall, but it just FELT like it was Bill.

Grubdog:  I’m not sure.  I guess the first person I thought of with this ridiculous ADV game set-up was you since it’s your favorite genre and we’ve been playing 999 recently.
Bill:  I don’t buy it, but whatever.  What’s your story?

The two shared all the information they had.  In a nutshell, both had been visited at night by someone who called himself “Zero,” who had in turn told them that they needed to write a review for 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors before passing out due to some sort of white knockout gas.

Bill:  “Do you have anything of interest over there?”
Grubdog:  “I guess.  There’s a notebook sitting here on the desk.  There’s also some sort of wire attached to it that goes to a locked desk drawer.”
Bill:  “Is the notebook empty?”
Grubdog:  “Yeah, how’d you know?”
Bill:  “Just a hunch.  I guess you just have to write a review on the game in it to get us out of here.”
Grubdog:  “The hell!?  Why do I have to do it!?”
Bill:  “I don’t have a notebook over here, man.”
Grubdog:  “What do you mean you don’t have a notebook?  Zero told you to write a review, right?”
Bill:  “Yep, but there’s nothing here to write on.  Well, I DO have what appears to be a stylus and tablet, but writing anything results in an ‘ERROR’.  I guess this is just his way of saying he wants you to write it while I provide input.”
Grubdog:  “This is fucked, I only just finished the game, how can I piece together everything when this has just happened to me?”
Bill:  “Hurry up, I’m getting claustrophobia.”

With little else to do, Grubdog sat down on the chair and conceded that he’d just have to write something. Wait a second, Grub thought to himself.  How did Bill know the notebook was empty?  Was Bill lying about not having a notebook, hoping that Grubdog would do all the work for him?  What could he possibly gain from that if his side didn’t open unless he wrote something as well.

Then another possibility hit Grubdog like a ton of bricks.  What if Bill was the one who kidnapped him?  He didn’t have any proof besides Bill’s word that Bill was trapped like he was.  Besides, Bill was a raging ADV fanboy.  This was totally something he would do to try and garner 999 more attention.  It was also the best explanation for why Bill was able to read what they were supposed to do so easily.

Wait.  No. Grubdog stopped, taking a deep breath.  I can’t let my suspicions get the better of me.  The lack of evidence is not evidence, so we should work together to get this done and over with.  I can trust Bill wouldn’t do this.

Grubdog sat down at the desk, opened the notebook, and…there was nothing to write with.  Did it fall off?, he wondered, and he began searching  all over the room.  Then he found it.  Or at least he thought he did.  Inside a hollowed-out leg of the chair, he discovered a small rectangular box.  He poked and prodded at it, but was unable to open it.

That’s when he noticed the combination lock on the side.  There were four wheels in all, with a crapload of letters to choose from on each one.

Bill:  Hey, Grub!  Have you started yet?
Grubdog:  I’ve been trying to find something to write with, but all I have is this weird box with a four-letter code built into it.  Is there anything over there that can help?
Bill:  Hold on, I’ll check again.

Grubdog waited as patiently as he could, listening to the faint rustling in the other room.  Grubdog then heard the sound of cracking glass.  He quickly glanced around the room, trying to determine its origin.  Then the round window he had looked through before caught his eye.  This time, however, several cracks had appeared in it, and upon closer inspection were GETTING BIGGER.  Suddenly, the window burst into pieces, and Grubdog discovered what force had been pressing on it from the other side.  Water, and a shit-ton of it.

Grubdog:  Oh SHIT!  Bill, you might want to hurry the hell up!
Bill:  Dammit!  I’ve torn this whole place apart, but there’s nothing but this stupid tablet that doesn’t work!

Grubdog began desperately searching around his room again, water already over the tops of his shoes.   Think, Grubdog, think!  What use is a tablet that doesn’t take any input? His eyes glanced over to the notebook on the desk.

Grubdog:  THAT’S IT!
Bill:  What’s it!?
Grubdog:  Try writing “999” onto the tablet!  Hurry!

The seconds felt like hours as he waited for Bill’s reply.  However, the wait was worth it.

Bill:  It worked!……I…think…
Grubdog:  What do you mean, “I think”?!
Bill:  All that popped up was a single number!  A “0“!

It only took a second for the two of them to figure it out.

Grubdog/Bill:  OH!  “ZERO”!

Grubdog quickly put the letters into the cipher box.  Z-E-R-O.  He was rewarded with the satisfying click of the box opening.  Inside was the pen he was desperately searching for.

Grubdog:  Alright, time to start this review!
Bill:  About time, don’t you think?
Grubdog:  Okay, first of all it’s an adventure with a heavy focus on text, character interactions, and puzzles.
Bill:  Technically it’s an ADV, a.k.a. visual novel, but yes, the focus is mostly on the story and characters with a smattering of entertaining and challenging puzzles.
Grubdog:  Major focus on story, yeah, but it’s important to note just how important it is to the characters and even the gameplay.
Bill:  Oh, you mean how well interwoven the story, characters, and puzzles are?  Absolutely.  Some of the best, if not BEST, character and story development I’ve ever seen in ANY narrative, be it book, movie, or game.  Everything that anyone says or does has a reasoning behind it, and you are constantly on your toes trying to read the other characters.  And as you mentioned, even the puzzles are interwoven into the story, and mostly make sense in context.  I’d love to explain, but…
Grubdog:  Hey, no spoilers.  Anyway, I love how you can take multiple paths throughout the story depending on how you approach different situations.
Bill:  That is actually super important, too, because you need to replay the game multiple times in order to get the back story of all the characters and to fully understand the big picture of the events that take place over the course of the game.  You WILL get bad ends, but down these dead end routes you’ll learn a lot of information that will help you on your future playthroughs.
Grubdog:  Damn those bad ends.
Bill:  Put a frownie face after that.
Grubdog:  Oh yeah, the music is great.
Bill:  Definitely fit the atmosphere of the game.  There’s one particular scene where [sound of rushing water] the music made it so epic!
Grubdog:  You mean when
[sound of rushing water] That really was awesome.
Bill:  I’m really not sure what else I can say without spoiling anything.
Grubdog:  Agreed.  This is a game that you really have to experience for yourself.
BillIf you’re an ADV fan, suspense/mystery/thriller fan, or just like fantastically-written stories that make you think, BUY THIS GAME.

Grubdog had written about the story, characters, gameplay, and summed up both his and Bill’s experiences, completely filling up the notebook front to back.  He closed the book and sat there waiting for something to happen.  It didn’t take long before a click sounded from inside the desk.

Grubdog:  It’s open!
Bill:  Open on this side too!

Inside the desk was a key.  Quickly glancing over to the door, Grubdog noticed that there was a keyhole in the door handle he had originally overseen.  Grubdog grabbed the key and sloshed his way through the waist-high water to the door, his hands shaking so hard that it took several attempts to actually stick it into the handle.  Then he yanked down hard.

*CLICK*

The sensation of the unlocked door giving way to the force of gallons of water pressing against it produced a wonderful feeling within Grubdog’s chest.  Not so much throwing the door open than being washed out, Grubdog flushed into the unknown.  Stumbling to his feet, he glanced to his right and saw someone laying in the water, an open door with flowing water behind him.  It had to have been Bill.  Bill looked over from where he laid and grinned, throwing a thumbs-up in Grubdog’s direction.

The joyous feeling of freedom was fleeting, however, as the loud static of a loudspeaker rang out.

???: “Congratulations!  You were able to work together and finish up the review of our game!  And you even gave it a glowing appraisal!”
Grubdog:  “Our game”?  So it WAS the developers after all!  Where are you so I can give you a nice punch to the gob!?”
Bill:  “We did the review, so let us go!”
???:  “Okay.”
Bill:  “What do you mean…Wait, what?  We can go?”
???:  “Yep, you can go.  All you have to do is leave through that door behind you.”
Grubdog:  “Well that’s…awfully kind of you.”

Grubdog and Bill started walking down towards the exit door.  However, they were quickly interrupted.

???:  “OR!”
Grubdog:  “Augh!  What now!?”
???:  “Or…if you want to know what happens next in the story, you can step through that door over there.”

The two looked down the opposite end of the hallway.  A door with the number “9” painted on in what looked like red paint stood at the end of the corridor.

Grubdog:  “Screw that, we’re out of here!  Let’s go, Bill.”

Bill didn’t move a muscle.

Grubdog:  “Bill, what are you doing?  Let’s go.”
Bill:  “Um, by that did you mean a possible sequel?”
???:  “Maaaaaybe.”
Grubdog:  “Bill!”
Bill:  “The game was so good I want to see a sequel!  Don’t you?”
Grubdog:  You go by yourself then.
Bill:  But I can’t go through just by myself…

Bill held up his watch, a 4” clearly displayed on the LCD.   Considering the doors likely took the digital roots of their watches to open: 4 + 5 = 9.  The two of them together would be needed to open it.  But Grubdog had seen enough death-defying puzzles for a lifetime.  He turned towards the exit door and finally realized that another number had been painted on it.

The number “0“.

It didn’t even take a simple calculation for Grubdog to figure it out.

Grubdog:  What the hell!?  “0” isn’t even a possible digital root!

The sound of muffled laughter came from over the intercom.

Grubdog:  Zero, you bastard!
Bill:  I guess there’s no choice.  Let’s go!

Bill grabbed Grubdog by the wrist and dragged him down to the 9 door.  Bill put his watch next to the lock mechanism, which recognized the input with a mechanical beep.  Grubdog reluctantly put his watch up as well, disgusted by the look of anticipation on Bill’s face.

With a creaking groan, the door slowly opened, unleashing a bright ray of light from within.  The two looked at each other through squinted eyes, and after only a moment of hesitation, began slowly walking through the doorway.  On the other side, Grubdog finally regained his vision as the bright light subsided.  He noticed Bill was standing about 10 feet in front of him, looking around a corner with a look that Grubdog could only describe as a mix of shock, confusion, and curiosity.  Feeling curious himself, Grubdog walked up to the corner and looked in the direction Bill was.

Grubdog:  Holy…

[GOOD END(?)]

2 thoughts on “9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (999)”

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