Nothing you are about to read is real. All of this is simply an idea, planted, left to grow.
The teaser photos from the film are the first things to emerge. The first is of a knight, in battered armour, down on one knee. The mud is thick, and the rain is heavy. The knight looks weary, his head lowered. Behind him, some way back, you see a castle wall. That's all. Certain areas of the internet explode.
The next teaser photo is of that same knight, standing alone. We are behind him, and he is facing towards the sun. He is nothing more than a silhouette against that blinding light. The comments on the Ain't It Cool News story run like this:
Then, we find out about a member of the cast.
James Purefoy does an interview with some mainstream website, and casually mentions that he's been signed up for a project called Dark Souls, based on, as he puts it, a computer game.
"I play this nameless knight. He's a mystery. He might not even exist. He's a fascinating character. You hardly ever see his face, and no-one ever says his name. All that you really know is that he has been fighting for a long time, and he is desperately tired. And desperately, desperately sad."
People start to speculate. Is Purefoy the main character? Is this even following the plot of Dark Souls? What is going on? Who's directing this?
Someone on a film website does some investigating, and discovers the webpage of a concept artist who is working on an unnamed project that features "...large creature designs, including a giant wolf who carries a sword in its jaws."
It's real. It must be real. It's happening. The pieces start to come together.
Duncan Jones, the director of the brilliant Moon and Source Code, gets confronted on the red carpet at the premiere for his film "Fleming". He denies any involvement with Dark Souls, but then cryptically adds "May the flames guide thee."
A teaser trailer appears.
You see it at two in the morning. Your geek friends on Twitter are going nuts. You tap on the link, and drop the phone on your face. The trailer is running. You hear a bell ring. A deep, haunting tone. And then, a woman's voice...
"Soul of the lost... withdrawn from its vessel...."
You grab the phone, switch it to full-screen:
You see - a knight walking towards us. His shield is high. He is on guard. His armour is battered, near broken. He stops. The camera moves around him. We see now where he is heading. A tower. The door is open. A staircase winds up.
Some undead thing folds out of the doorway. It raises a sword and half-runs towards our knight.
The knight bows his head, steadies himself. As the creature comes near, the knight swings his sword. He misses. He swings again. Misses.
The knight's eyes, what we can see of them, narrow.
Exhausted, he swings again. The creature comes under that swing and thrusts a sword into the knight's chest.
The knight falls.
A bell rings, somewhere deep below.
"...let strength be granted so the world might be mended."
The knight's blood fades to the title:
"...so the world might be mended."
The internet f***ing freaks out.
The dropping of one letter causes shock waves. Every frame of the teaser is examined and analysed. People brighten the video with art programs in an attempt to see more detail. There is great discussion about the voiceover, and about how it points to a merging of the two games, Demon's Souls and Dark Souls.
It is absolutely, unmistakably, James Purefoy under the helmet.
On a morning TV show in the UK, Purefoy does an interview in full costume. He is sitting on a beige couch in full armour. "I think it's a really daring project. It's why we need to achieve it on a low budget. A studio wouldn't throw a fortune at something like this. I think it's very experimental. Very abstract. I'm not sure what people will make of it."
He ends the interview by slicing the coffee table in half with his sword.
Then, things start to get really crazy.
On Twitter, screenwriter Damon Lindelof says: "I just heard what they're doing with this Dark Souls adaptation. This is f***ing crazy."
Another tweeter, legendary horror director John Carpenter, writes: "Whoah. Respect to the dudes behind this Dark Souls thing. Always wanted to do something like this."
Both delete their Twitter accounts soon after.
One morning, you watch a YouTube clip of Charlize Theron on Jimmy Kimmel Live! There is a point, a minute and 38 seconds into the interview, where Jimmy Kimmel asks what's next for Charlize. She says this: "There's this thing. I'm playing a character called Dusk. Um... she's called Dusk of Oolacile. I don't know how much I can say about this. But she's... yeah. It's a project called Dark Soul, but it's not a... I haven't done anything like it before. It's kinda... I better shut up."
Jimmy Kimmel then notices a spider crawling up Theron's arm. Theron casually picks it off her sleeve and eats it. The audience is horrified. The spider is why the video goes viral, but the Dusk news is why you are thrilled.
On a Tuesday, a story breaks on this very website.
FROM SOFTWARE - "DARK SOULS MOVIE IS NEWS TO US"
Dark Souls producer Daisuke Uchiyama has told Eurogamer that From Software has no information about the upcoming Dark Souls movie adaptation.
"I would have thought we would know about any movie. I have no information about any adaptation."
Uchiyama went on to state that no party, to his knowledge, had purchased film rights to the property.
"It is flattering that there is so much talk about this. But no rights have been sold."
When asked about the movie stills and the film teaser trailer, Uchiyama stated that he had no awareness of them.
"To capture the essence of Dark Souls in a film, you would need to try to create the same air of mystery and discomfort that makes the game so special. And let's be honest, that game doesn't just exist within the borders of your TV screen from START to QUIT. It stays with you. It follows you away from the game."
"What more can I say? I haven't seen anything relating to this. It is flattering, but I would rather not discuss it. It doesn't exist. I am not comfortable speaking about any of this."
Then, at San Diego Comic Con, there is an invitation-only panel, for something called "DSPROJECT".
Inevitably a report leaks to Ain't It Cool News.
"Guys, I've just been at the DSPROJECT panel at SDCC. What I'm about to tell you will seem like bullshit, but everything I'm about to say happened exactly as I write it here.
After showing my pass, I got taken into a small hall. There was maybe twenty of us in the room. That was the first weird thing. The panel itself was the next weird thing. James Purefoy was there, and he was dressed as a knight. He was sitting beside a guy wearing a top hat who I think was introduced as "Zacular Simons Beyond Simons". Then, there was a girl who looked a lot like Charlize Theron, but it wasn't her. She was really, really drunk, and she had a skateboard. Then there was Peter Serafinowicz, the comedian. He was just grinning, like he was just delighted to be there. And then there was, I'm not shitting you, Don Most, the guy who played Ralph Malph in Happy Days. And at the end, there was a dude who was introduced as Robert Florence, and I'm still not clear exactly what his role is.
For about the first seven minutes, nobody even spoke. It was unbelievably awkward, and when a couple of people tried to leave, James Purefoy shouted "SIT THE F*** DOWN!" and the guy with the top hat flung coins at them.
I can't lie, it was really scary. A really intimidating atmosphere. And then, the Almost-Charlize spoke, right to me. She said:
"Did you see me on Jimmys Kimmels?" That's how she said it. "Jimmys Kimmels".
And I said "I saw Charlize Theron on Jimmy Kimmel. I don't know who you are." And then a coin hit me in the face. It was at that point that some footage started playing on the big screen.
The footage started with an image of a girl sitting at her computer. When the camera moved in, you could see that she was reading a column on a games website. The site was called Eurogamer. The girl started to read the column aloud.
GIRL: "Nothing you are about to read is real. All of this is simply an idea, planted, left to grow."
And then, a demon appeared behind her, and put a sword through her back.
The title came in - DARK SOUL, DARK SOULS, DEMON'S SOULS, KEYWORD DEMON'S DARK SOULS FROM SOFTWARE DARK SOULS MOVIE MAKE A MOVIE DARK SOULS MOVIE RUMOURS TRUE MOVIE RUMOURS WHO WILL WRITE DARK SOULS RIGHTS MOVIE.
The panel all started clapping at this point, and insisted we all started clapping too. I didn't want any more coins flung at me, so I joined in.
Then this Robert Florence guy spoke. He said:
"There is no Dark Souls film. But if there was, what could possibly do it justice? It's impossible to imagine how vulgar a traditional build-up to a Dark Souls film would be. Concept art, costume leaks, exclusive stills, all that bullshit - these things would serve no purpose.
"To capture the essence of Dark Souls in a film, you would need to try to create the same air of mystery and discomfort that makes the game so special. And let's be honest, that game doesn't just exist within the borders of your TV screen from START to QUIT. It stays with you. It follows you away from the game.
"You think about it in bed, and talk about it at work. Its magic is so difficult to grasp that when you recommend it to someone you simply say "DARK SOULS". You never elaborate, because you don't fully understand it. The game is like a cold embrace that lasts for months. It hates you. The film would have to hate you too. Everything surrounding the film would have to hate you."
At this point, James Purefoy flung a polystyrene cup of coffee at us. The Almost-Charlize laughs and tries to kiss him.
"You would need to be utterly fascinated by the build-up to the film too. Names would be getting attached and unattached daily. Googling for information would find you weird stories about Charlize Theron from games columns by fired writers, and references to long deleted tweets that might never have been tweeted.
"You would need to think that you are getting ahead of things, think that you are getting some kind of grasp of what this film is going to be, and then it would need to be pulled away from you. You would need to be thrilled, and then your heart would need to be broken. You would need to feel like you are utterly alone, and unable to trust anyone."
"The truth about Dark Souls is that any film adaptation should be an art piece. Forget about a 100 million dollar budget. It should be some low-budget, dirty, weird thing that was shot over a rain-soaked month in Prague."
The Almost-Charlize got up on the table at this point. She started to spin the wheels on her skateboard. She looked dead at me again, and said:
"Did you like the teaser trailer?"
I said that I did, and everyone laughed.
Don Most, from Happy Days, said "There was no teaser trailer, ya dope." And then he turned to the rest of the panel and said "And I have no f***ing idea why I am even sitting here."
What I saw next I couldn't believe. The guy with the top hat, this Zacular Simons Beyond Simons guy, pulled some kind of bright light from his hat and kinda pushed it into Don Most's face. Like, straight into his skull. I'm not lying - we all started running for the door at this point. But we couldn't find the way out. The Almost-Charlize started zipping around us on her skateboard as we were screaming, and she was saying "This is a boss battle. You can't leave. You shouldn't have come through the fog door."
As we were all fighting for our lives, I could hear this Robert Florence guy talking again.
"The truth about Dark Souls is that any film adaptation should be an art piece. Forget about a 100 million dollar budget. It should be some low-budget, dirty, weird thing that was shot over a rain-soaked month in Prague. The effects should be built by Gareth Edwards-level geniuses, free from any external pressures. There would be hardly any dialogue. It would be relentlessly bleak and unwelcoming and baffling, but internally beautiful. It would be like reading poetry in a foreign language."
Everyone else was dead. I could see their bloodstains. Serafinowicz was watching , laughing, delighted. Zacular Simons Beyond Simons was walking towards me, but was also getting further away. His hand was burning bright, like a sun.
"Our duty as fans of the game, and as people who would love to someday see that faithful film, is to protect the strangeness of Dark Souls. In everything we do, in everything we write about that game, we have to hold onto that cold strangeness. The diamond at the heart of Dark Souls isn't something you want to break out and break up and analyse, it's something you want to keep buried inside, so that you can always sense it in its completeness. Our duty is to protect that. Demand weird. Demand difficult. Demand mystery. F**k story. F**k meaning.
Roll the footage again."
The footage starts with an image of you sitting at your computer. When the camera moves in, you can see that you are reading a column on a games website. The site is called Eurogamer. You start to read the column aloud.
YOU: "Nothing I have just read is real. All of this is simply an idea, planted, left to grow. So the world might be mended. So the world might be mended."