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Traipsing Through Silent Hill
Artwork Graciously Provided by the Incredibe Steven Luna

Part Fifteen, or You Don't Deserve Travis Grady

  Bonjour, lecteurs merveilleux! Bienvenue à traîne dans Silent Hill, la seule série de blog qui est une sorte de “jouons”, seulement dépourvue d'images mais emballé avec une douzaine de couches de savoureux critique culturelle. Je suis votre hôte fidèle, Jonathan Charles Bruce, auteur de livres où les gens frappe l'autre au lieu de parler de leurs problèmes. Et vous, comme toujours, vous êtes, toujours magnifique et toujours jeune que vous êtes.

  Pardon my French. It’s a bit rusty.

  When we last left Travis, he had just restored power to the curtain controls, which means we have to go to the curtain controls and fiddle with some more levers. So let’s do that! Since this level is infinitely better laid out than any previous one, we can just cut through the east wing again and end up where we need to be. Granted, there are a couple of monsters in the way, but provided we turn on our light, they’re utterly clueless as to who is running by/smashing their skulls in.

  Actually, I’m not sure where I’m hitting the grounded Ariels. Since their head is between their arms and it those are their “legs” so to speak then…

  …

  Moving on.

  After pulling the appropriate lever, we wander out on stage and discover that there is a huge—as in two story—mirror at the rear of the stage. Obviously, this is going to be our portal into the nightmare dimension, but a mirror of this size that is just one sheet would be ridiculously expensive. I guess I know the real reason why the wiring is all fucked up—the owners spent all their money on a tremendously unnecessary mirror and had barely enough cash for any electric rigging, let alone one on its own circuit.

  But whatever! Let’s hop into the mirror world and see what’s what!

  Unfortunately, what’s what is just an empty stage. I don’t even get a glimpse of the hellish auditorium, so I guess I can assume it’s some kind of horrific nightmare void that just yawns on for eternity. Um… okay?

  I pop on back to the real world, wondering what I need to do to get to the next part of the level. A casual run about reveals a series of levers just off stage left. There are six slots, but only five levers. Pulling one reveals an… incredibly elaborate scenery system. The left side brings down a massive (and single-piece) flat from above the stage. That’s… that’s probably the single worst oversight in the design of this entire theater. Not from a practical standpoint—hey, if you can make it so that scene changes can happen with the flip of a switch, go for it. And if you can find a way that they won’t also horribly crush whoever happens to be walking beneath it, all the better. But the actual design of the theater is essentially impossible.

  I can’t stress how fucking goofy this system is—apparently, the set designer constructed these massive, stage-spanning single piece flats in the 2nd floor scenery workshop, lugged it down two flights of stairs dragged it through the halls, and then brought it to the stage to be rigged up. Alternately, they dragged it to the thin-as-hell catwalks. Both cases I happily call bullshit on—the flats themselves are ridiculously tall—unless the Artaud Theater is a Tardis and every door is a fucking wormhole, this entire setup is bullshit.

  Anyway, as dumb as it all is, this is actually a really fun puzzle. Here’s the layout of the levers and what they trigger, found out by just experimenting and hoping for the best:

            1. Forest                      4. Table
            2. Cave                        5. Tree
            3. Library                     6. Empty (For Now)

The object is to set up the scene with the corresponding set dressing. It’s not terribly difficult to figure out what needs to be done, and it’s easy enough to just brute force your way through. I guess this was put in as a respite from the math puzzle. Or something.

  Anyway, setting up the forest with the tree (which pops up from a trap door, which is yet another ridiculously convoluted set decision but apparent some theater troupes are just loaded with cash) will trigger the mirror to send us to an alternate dimension based on the set—in this case, a forest made of corpses.

  The forest world gives up a key to the stage office. Well, it has the key hanging out in a tree made of dead people, so I guess that doesn’t quite constitute “giving up” in the direct sense of the words. But on my way back to the mirror, there’s a blue screen flashback, where we get to hear some Shakespearean dialogue from Act III, Scene II of The Tempest about how there are noises that can lull you to sleep and how dreams are awesome and waking from them totally sucks ass. It’s all very pertinent, in a heavy-handed kind of way.

  Through the mirror, it’s time to do some more manual manipulation of massive mattes and pull the lever for the library and the table. This leads to probably the single greatest room in all of Nullrigins: the nightmare library.

  I feel that it is vital to mention that this area is entirely optional. There are no key items that necessitate you visiting it at all. And yet it is one of the most important rooms in the game. Why Climax Studios was just so absolutely in love with cramming important/interesting shit in places people may never see is a mystery best left for those with an intimate understanding of the bad-decision-making process.

  It’s hard to do it justice, but we have access to what seems to be a very old and unused patch of a library. Specifically, we’re on a balcony of a library that goes on for what seems like forever, the walls of books vanishing into the darkness. The corpse garden was kind of creepy, but this is something else entirely. As an academic, my immediate impulse is wonder at the accumulated knowledge of the place. Knowing what I know of this nightmare world, though, I quickly come to the conclusion that this is a place of unthinkable horrors.

  Long story short, this is an awesome room, and the game needed a lot more moments like this—where Travis feels like a small part of something infinitely larger than himself. Silent Hill, as a whole, would benefit tremendously by remembering that cosmic horror of defenselessness in the face of unknowable machinations of things uninterested in humanity.

  Or whatever. I’m just one guy on a trip through this haunted hell hole. Well, one guy, his trucker buddy, and his always beautiful companions. How are you? Thank you so much for continuing to read. It means a lot to me.

  Anyway, this room contains a number of optional notes and always-welcome supplies. My first stop is a pedestal in the back corner that holds rifle ammunition and an ampoule. Underneath, however, is a chunk of a book. It talks about psychic powers, how nightmares can trigger them, and how children (particularly adolescent females) are the ones who tend to display such powers.

  I guess, then, that Alessa is psychic. And if Alessa is psychic, it follows that perhaps she’s astral projecting, and Creepy Girl is actually an aspect of Alessa that has been guiding Travis. Alright. But how psychic is Creepy… er… Alessa? Well, she did give Tony (the actor playing Prospero) a nose bleed. And she also popped that nurse like a meat-balloon, which certainly ranks much higher than “spontaneous psychically induced epistaxis” in the spectrum of mental prowess. But I suppose we’ll need more information.

  The table in the middle of the room has more documents for our reading pleasure, and interestingly enough, there’s a note dealing with astral projection as a method of killing someone. It suggests that there are tribes of people with shamans who can kill with thought alone. Ignoring that this more than likely isn’t a peer-reviewed source and therefore isn’t really a reliable way to gather information, I think it’s safe to say that Alessa quite possibly accidentally killed Tony. With her brain alone.

  Making her an insanely powerful psychic.

  …

  We’ll… save this conversation for another time.

  Because there’s more wonderful notes to be had! One particular note deals with a phenomenon where children suffering from the abuse of a loved one will divide their personalities into two halves—one desperate for the love and affection of their abuser, then other taking on aspects of their tormentor in an effort to propagate suffering. It’s heavy stuff, but it suggests to me that Alessa’s mother, Creepy Woman, is guilty of a whole hell of a lot more than just the “trapping her daughter in a flaming house and running away from the scene of the crime”. I mean… not like that wasn’t enough to disqualify her for Mother of the Year. But it’s probably just the end result of a long cycle of abuse and horror.

  I hope Alessa blows her right the fuck up. I say that with no hesitation. Fuck you, Creepy Woman.

  Finally, we get a note about how those with “mental issues” are often the easiest for intelligence and military agencies to mind control. They go on to say that, “The more a mind censors itself, the easier it is for outside influences to take hold and piggyback such mental programming.”

  Alright everyone, I promised I would keep this mostly internet-based-bullshit free, but I gave myself the SIDE NOTE clause for a reason. For the duration of this side note, I will be addressing things that I don’t normally address in my playthrough. In this case, a common complaint about Origins’ story. There’s nothing spoiler-y about it, so even if you’re unfamiliar with the series, you will want to read it. Hell, it’s required reading, as I address why that last note, and indeed this whole library sequence, is just so damn important.

  You ready for this?

  SIDE NOTE

  A metric fuckton of whining about Origins stems from lack of clear protagonist motivation. “Why doesn’t he just leave?” people ask, apparently forgetting the massive fuckoff holes in the ground. And ya know what? Up to this point, this criticism is kind of true (ignoring the chasms, natch). Travis and the player have only the most basic of understandings of what the hell is going on, and by the time we get to the Artaud, that’s pretty much “Well, there’s this ticket, so I gotta go here I guess.”

  But with this note, the reason why Travis is literally winging it at this point is because Alessa has latched onto him as her proxy. Yes, this is an optional room. Yes, it is easy to miss if you find the key item in the corpse forest and push on through to the boss. But Jesus fucking Christ, there is precisely no reason why self-proclaimed fans of the series, people who can talk about the symbolism of Silent Hill 2 until they run out of breath and die, people who have read into fucking notes to the point where fan-created-canon and actual verifiable, in-game conveyance canon are basically two separate entities, there is no reason why these people did not find this note to explain it.

  I will fully admit that this is lazy and hand-wavy. This is a simple variant of the “it was all a dream” explanation in video game note form, and it is just cheap. But just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean that it’s not the legitimate explanation. Alessa is piggybacking on Travis (Christ, they even use the term “piggyback” to describe what’s going on!) to accomplish her goals. Why do you think Alessa disappeared from the OR room’s mirror all the way back in episode two when Travis stepped through? Or how in every subsequent appearance she’s made, she has always appeared from behind Travis?

  And yes, I went back to check—after every boss fight, Alessa makes her presence known to Travis from behind him.

  Now, this doesn’t rectify the other substantial problems with narrative. Like, at all. But it is covered. And you’d think that people would be diving into the whole meta-commentary of it all, like how the player is actually controlling Alessa controlling Travis, and how it’s all a big thing to start a discussion of how players are puppeteering these hapless protagonists through all these dangers and blah, blah, blah.

  But the most despicable thing about this particular whining is that it reveals more about the audience than Climax, Travis, or anyone else. See, Travis saved a girl from a fire and is legitimately worried about her well-being. Through it all, Travis wants to find out what happened to her. Even without this note, this note that completely justifies why Travis is hanging around, his behavior and refusal to leave the town is already justified in that he’s a good human being who is worried about someone (a fucking child, no less)that he has reasonable cause to believe is in mortal danger. When people complain about Travis’s lack of investment in this situation, all I ever think about is just how shitty these people actually are.

  In Super Mario Brothers, we were never given context until the vague assumption that continuing to smash things to death would rescue a princess. No one complained about the fucking motivation of the mustachioed plumber.

  In Silent Hill: Origins, Travis rescued a horribly burned girl and is desperately trying to find her to protect her from some people who clearly do not have her best interest at heart. And somehow, for whatever fucking reason, this just isn’t good enough.

  Fuck you, anyone who ever questioned this. Travis is a goddamn hero and you don’t deserve him. Do you hear me!? YOU DON’T DESERVE TRAVIS MOTHERFUCKING GRADY!

  END SIDE NOTE.

  Well, shit, here I thought I was going to be able to get to Caliban today, but I spent too much time getting mad at arguments people were making, like, six years ago. I’m sure y’all are just absolutely crushed.

  That’s it for today, friends. With the stage office key in hand and a much better understanding of our insanely powerful psychic ghost girl hitchhiker buddy, we’ll be busting some heads in our quest to fully assemble the world’s most needless complex paperweight. Will Travis emerge from this experience unscathed? Or will Caliban triumph and keep the assumed-to-be-precious paperweight of… um… present, I guess?

  Find out in OH MY GOD, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR SPINE!?

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