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

Part Twenty, or A Series of Very Bad Decisions

  Previously on Traipsing Through Silent Hill, we happened upon a “maintenance tunnel” that served more to provide hours of wanking material for the perverts running the Riverside Motel. Also, we unlocked the manager’s office, the sole purpose of which is to drop a not-too-subtle hint that Travis had a messed up childhood and to provide us a means to access the northern portion of the motel.

  So let us continue to explorify this place, shall we?

  Room 106 has a fuck-monster in it, but it is easily sent to wherever monsters go when they die with the proper application of force. The more distressing thing is that there is a huge Confederate flag on the wall, above a .44 caliber revolver named the “Redeemer”, as in someone has gone and carved the name into the barrel.

  This is troubling for any number of reasons. First, since I’ve been picking up “Redeemer ammo” as opposed to, say, “.44 ammo”, this implies that Travis knew the gun’s name before even picking it up. This is more than likely a narrative oversight than anything else. After all, one of Travis’s very first acts of vandalism under my direction was to pick up a random Faberge egg without any context as to why. So you know what? I’m okay with that little quibble.

  But it does go a bit further. What appears to be the surface level intent of the name—that Travis is either being redeemed or is redeeming Alessa—is patently stupid. Neither Travis nor Alessa have actively done anything that warrants needing to be saved from past sins or whatever. “But Alessa possibly killed Tony!” you may counter. But we don’t know. And even if we did, it was hardly intentional—she is just getting to understand her own abilities. By almost every metric, if Alessa did kill Tony it was entirely accidental. Long story short, if that’s the reason hy you named it that way, it’s a stupid name and a stupid reason.

  The bigger issue for me, though, is the combination of the Confederate flag and the gun being named “the Redeemer”. Why, you ask? Well, the post-Civil War South underwent a period called Reconstruction, wherein the federal government attempted to actually enforce the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. What should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, a culture based entirely on white supremacy and slavery didn’t quite like this enforcement of equality very much and fought back, often times violently, to reassert what they felt was the “proper order of things”, i.e., a permanent servitor class based on race.

  The people who felt the need to violently suppress pro-Reconstruction forces in the South called themselves the Redeemers. With the Tilden-Hayes compromise of 1877, Reconstruction ended and African American political and personal freedom died in the South. This moment is effectively the triumph of Southern “redemption”, prompting the reassertion of the pre-Civil War status quo and the formalization of Jim Crow laws that now mandated the “proper relationship” between races.

  I have forgiven a lot of stuff in this game, I really have. But if Climax Studios purposefully chose this name for the gun and purposefully chose to have it linked to the Confederate South, then they purposefully made the most powerful gun in the game directly reference the brutal actions of forces like the Ku Klux Klan and other paramilitary organizations in reasserting white hegemony in the south. And what exactly are we, the players, supposed to do with that knowledge? What is it you would have us do knowing the weapon’s name is a direct reference to racial terrorism?

  And if it was an accident, then, well, the words we choose to write mean things, friends. Just because you think it might be cute to suggest that a “redneck gun-nut” or whatever has named his gun can potentially carry a whole hell of a lot more weight than you intend. Basically: WORDS MEAN THINGS.

  Let that bounce around your head for a moment. I’ll still be here.

  The only other room I can visit is 106, and all that has is a worthless knife and some ammunition. The entrance to the laundry room is on this side of the motel, but it is locked from the other side. All this means in practice is that I have to get railroaded through some other, crappy part of the motel before I can enter. So we head on over to the kitchen entrance, only to discover that someone has brutally killed a fuck-monster. Or, to have Travis describe it, “Someone’s gone to town on it with a knife.”

  That someone is, unsurprisingly, the Butcher, who is chillin’ in the kitchen. It very slowly slices open a fuck-monster that’s been chained to the ceiling (the female side, natch, because we can’t seem to get away from that kind of symbolism now). The beast also seems really, really into it. Like, sexually into it.

  Travis watches quite a bit of this unfold, and unlike last time, this gets the Butcher’s attention. Deciding that this is a massive turnoff, it advances on Travis. Our trucker hero just kind of hides around the corner in a move that is as stupid as it is inexplicably adorable. Anyway, I regain control of Travis and have him whip out his automatic rifle for this confrontation that is, quite frankly, out of fucking nowhere.

  So, this fight consists of running around a kitchen’s center island as the Butcher follows at a somewhat casual pace. I’m sure that the Butcher is really a menace if it manages to get its hands on you, but like Caliban, you have to be really shit at the game or intentionally trying to get hit to find out. As it is, you just run to one end of the room, unload as many bullets as you possibly can into the thing’s stupid face, run to the opposite corner, shoot until you need to move, repeat. There’s no trick, no obstacle that can trick you into running into a corner… just you, the Butcher, and a really easy way to keep him out of reach.

  About 40 AR rounds later, the Butcher falls over dead. Luckily, Travis has seen a horror movie before and yanks that big ass cleaver out of the baddie’s hand before embedding that thing in its spine. After this oh-so-harrowing challenge, I still have 99 AR bullets to my name. That’s… so sad. And it was thus that the Butcher died as it lived: a minor hiccup in an already weird day.

  I guess what we have to ask ourselves now is what/who the hell was that? Realistically, the only culprit of note is actually, surprisingly enough, the Artaud Theater’s costume designer. Think about it: he designs costumes around the Cult of Valtiel and a vague understanding of Native American culture. Tony dies and the designer begins seeing the Butcher at his motel. This suggests less that it is a separate entity but more along the lines that he’s beginning to have a connection to the same nether-Silent Hill that Travis is mucking about it. As a double dose of “dun dun duuuuun!”, when we close the note about his hallucinations we get a sound of a knife being unsheathed (or something).

  He vanishes from the narrative for a bit, but while we’re in the theater, we can find notes that pretty much explain why Travis and Alessa have a bond. It is reasonable to assume, though, since the note also suggests that “intelligence agencies” can piggyback on someone’s consciousness, that the cult can do it as well (I mean, really, it’s kind of what cults do). And who do we know that is presently studying the cult, even if it is merely aesthetically?

  Sometime later, when we stumble on his room, we discover that it’s covered in drawings of the Butcher. The note we find in his motel seems to suggest that he has been doing more than just visual research on the cult—he actually knows precisely what they’re up to enough to question the legitimacy of their plan. When we spy on the same room from the maintenance tunnel peep holes, we see the Butcher chillin’ out there like it’s no big deal.

  To put it bluntly, it’s a reasonable assumption that the costume designer is the Butcher. He got in too deep with the cult and, when they realized he was a threat, they somehow turned him into a murder machine operating for them. We never discover his dead body or see it referenced—and this in a game that foreshadowed the Helen Grady “twist” to the point of meaninglessness—so it isn’t completely outlandish to think this.

  Of course, I could be giving the developers way too much credit, here.

  SIDENOTE: (Potential Silent Hill 2 spoilers—feel free to skip this paragraph if you want your experience of a game that is old enough to have started puberty to remain unsullied) The Butcher gets a lot of hate because Zerorigins is clearly trying to emulate the “pursuer” relationship that James had with Pyramid Head/The Red Pyramid/The Executioner. The problem is that James’s encounter with Mr. Head is a manifestation of his own guilt for a very nasty thing that he’s gone and done, whereas (as I mentioned above) Travis is never really ever implied to have done something nasty, so the Butcher’s presence seems stupid at best and painfully out of place at worst. I mean, sure, Travis is a bit messed up, but precisely 0% of that is his own fault.

  You know, this whole thing could have worked on a gameplay level if not a thematic one. Travis only encounters the Butcher directly twice. Fucking TWICE, and the second time is the boss fight. Sure, we see some of the beast’s handiwork here and there, but it’s always against a monster. Plus, between Alessa and Travis, the population of foggy Silent Hill is rapidly approaching single digits as it is. So the Butcher kills like… three things? Like, he maims the nurse (remember, Alessa pops it later), kills a taffyman, and then two fuck-monsters? That’s nothing.

  Making the Butcher an actually enduring monster, popping up physically in every level at least once to either give chance to Travis or provide a near-miss, will actually build up tension and work to establish a relationship. Explaining that it operates on its own will or the will of the cult, and that will further establish that Travis attempting to help Alessa puts him in direct danger of this assumingly sentient monstrosity.

  But this? All this pointless “dread” and pseudo-tension only to end after a underwhelming, single-stage boss fight? Weak, Climax. Weak. END SIDENOTE.

  With the menacing terrifying dogged relentless kind of slothful Butcher finally dead, we can steal a cleaver from the counter and a meat gaff leaning against a freezer. Room thoroughly cleared out, save for the corpses, we head into the diner. There isn’t a whole lot going on, other than Travis doesn’t happen to know any of the songs on the jukebox. There is a note from Travis’s dad, wherein he excoriates himself about how he’s no longer a good father because he has become a total perv in his wife’s absence.

  Really, Richard’s story… it’s kind of sad. I mean, this guy is just going through this endless cycle of depression and his poor kid has no idea, what with being a kid and all. You’d think the doctors he’s seeing every time he visits his wife would check up on him, but we’ve “met” the staff of Cedar Grove—they’re too busy suffocating patients to care about anything else.

  Anyway, we’re now in the vicinity of the next plot critical room, which is the laundry room. Naturally, however, my insatiable need to go fuck about for a bit takes over. There’s a pool in this western area of the motel in the shape of a heart, which is definitely tacky. However, there’s something shiny in it that catches Travis’s attention. Apparently, Travis refuses to get wet, since he won’t just dive into the pool. Also, I don’t seem to be carrying anything that could reach it normally. So Climax actually made a “oh, there’s something out of reach” puzzle that makes sense.

  Except for the fact that there’s really no reason why Travis can’t strip down to his underwear and retrieve the shiny from the pool. Unless he can’t swim. But we’re not told that, now are we?

  Stupid forced puzzles aside, there are a couple of rooms that we can get into. None of them are particularly exciting. Room 201 has a bunch of animal cages with what appears to be liquid waste on the floor, so that’s fun. Also, the door to the Rose Suite has what I believe to be a unique error message: “The lock is broken or jammed. It won’t open.” I suppose this means we’ll be stumbling about in there soon enough.

  Our main point of interest is the game room. Once we enter, we hear the sounds of pinball being played. We also discover a total of five pool cues that we can use as weapons. If we examine a cigarette dispenser on the wall, Travis mentions that he only smokes when he’s happy. Judging by his inability to run very far, I’d say the guy was pretty goddamn happy before this whole fun trip down Psychological Hell Hole Lane.

  To be serious, though, this comment just makes me so sad and I want to just hug the hell out of the poor guy.

  Anyway, we head to the pinball machines and grab a token off a game. I’m guessing this will allow me to solve the riddle of the dastardly washer that was teased a while ago. On my way out the door, another flashback triggers. Richard wants to talk to Travis about “this afternoon”, said in the tone of someone who was caught doing something suspicious. Travis says that everything is okay and he just wants to play pinball. Richard gives him some change and tells Travis to wait for him in the game room.

  Judging what we know about Richard—and seeing as how the last note we got from him directly referenced how “sleazy” he felt—it’s safe to assume that Travis walked in on his dad getting it on with a lady who was not his mother. Now, the primal scene is something that a lot of people could probably do without, but imagine how Travis must have taken it, being too young to really process his mother’s death (he went to see her after he was told she died) and the act of sex itself. The fuck-monsters would be a manifestation of that moment when Travis walked in on his dad.

  If that’s the case, then that explains why they’ve only made their presence known in the motel. Good job, Climax.

  Well, with the token in hand, we can get around to opening up a broken washing machine for reasons that I’m sure will justify themselves after the fact. Join me next time for a totally shocking twist in Dr. Skeeves Lives Up to His Name.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

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