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  Greetings fellow traipsers (yes, I have decreed this to be your collective name now; no you don’t get a vote to change it)! I have emerged once more for the hidey-hole of iniquity to finish up the dreadful nightmare that Midwich Elementary has become! Last time, Harry had been savagely knifed in the groinal region, which required one of our several medical kits to suture up. We also stumbled on two keys which he didn’t know he needed—one from a corpse that plopped out of a locker and the other from a gutter that had to be unclogged with water, but only after a second gutter was plugged up with a rubber ball we just happened to find.

  Also there was a crappy shotgun that makes Harry do something quite… sexy… when it is fired.

Just look at those hips... damn.
Just look at those hips... damn.

Aw, yeah.

Reference
Reference

  So we start today on the cusp of entering the first locked room on the second floor—the library reserves. Here, we discover a first aid kit to replace the one we consumed in our last episode. We also discover the book The Monster Lurks, presumably written by Leonard Rhine. It just so happens to be open to Chapter Three, known to its friends as “Manifestations of Delusions”. It’s all new age nonsense, but to paraphrase: Psychic or paranormal shit happens sometimes when people have negative emotions, and adolescent girls tend to display such power more than any other age or gender demographic.

  So that was kind of…

  … wait a minute…

  Travis read a version of this in Origins! A much cleaner version, to be sure, but a version! That’s kind of cool to have that in the prequel, tying up that arc pretty neatly. It further sets up that poor Alessa, probably freaked out by blowing up Tony the actor, tried to research what was going on with her. It’s presence in the library mirror world in Origins and here in the nightmare Midwich’s reserve library reveals where she went to get her information. That’s a nice touch.

  And for anyone who is interested, you can’t actually read this book if you didn’t investigate the bloody message in the men’s room. If you attempt to do so, you get this message:

Again, no comment on the corpses, but that open book simply must be told it's useless.
Again, no comment on the corpses, but that open book simply must be told it's useless.

  Our hero! A man who will gleefully steal random knickknacks and read random bodily-fluid-penned graffiti for no reason, but will refuse to look at an open book in a nightmare world or investigate the lone dog house without a sound rationale. Sure! Beautiful! Go with it!

  While we’re kicking around in the library reserve, it kind of sounds like a muffled conversation is going on in the next room. It’s a pretty cool effect and calls to mind a similar moment in the asylum in Travis’s journey. Perhaps there is another wayward soul in the room to talk to! It’s been so long! So I guess it’s time to dust off this old chestnut…

I've missed you, old friend.
I've missed you, old friend.

… and wander into another goofy-ass conversation I will over-analyze to within an inch of its life!

  Actually, no. The library is empty save for a dusty book with a shitty fairytale about how to kill Godzillas. There’s a hunter and a lizard, and he mocks the lizard until it tries to eat him. Then the guy shoots an arrow into its mouth and it dies. I’m sure there was much rejoicing, the hunter settled down with a nice lady, and they all lived happily ever after.

  Except the lizard.

  Who was dead.

  Okay, this tale is obviously talking about an upcoming boss encounter. Since there’s no “taunt” command, I’m guessing that Harry’s gonna shoot the monster with a gun until it opens up its glowing weak point (in this case, the mouth in a stunning creative display). I will then probably switch to the shotgun to blow its brains into the sky.

  Also, Harry comments that this was a story he used to read as a kid which is… kind of weird. Like, what am I supposed to do with that piece of vital info, Harry? Other than come to the conclusion that you were raised on shitty fairytales? Wouldn’t it have been more ominous if we had come across one of his books instead? I mean, he is a author (purportedly… maybe he just claims to be one to impress women at bars/video game manual writers).

  So, I’m not even gonna bother seeing if the second floor’s northern hallway is cut-in-two-via-fence and just dart into the classrooms. The northwest one (which was locked; thank goodness I just so happened to have the key with me!) has three demon kids in it until Harry decides to put an extreme solution for hellish school overcrowding into effect. The next classroom has a health drink in a bloody chair, which makes me worry that—between the toilet in Origins and this particular pickup—the heroes of Silent Hill almost certainly conclude their adventures with some kind of STD.

  The important thing about this entire sequence is that we now have full access to the northeastern stairwell, which means that A) we can scramble to the infirmary to save our game if we like and B) we can finally get to the boiler, which may or may not be our final goal. It also grants us access to the basement storeroom, which, unlike the real world counterpart, is unlocked and… uh… stocked with shotgun shells and an ampoule.

  So I guess the janitor was harboring violent tendencies and happened to leave his medication behind.

Pictured: The suspect raiding the custodian's vital anti-psychotics.
Pictured: The suspect raiding the custodian's vital anti-psychotics.

It worked out for Harry, I guess, but… um…

  Moving on.

  The boiler room is a bit different this time around.

Behold! The... what the hell is this?
Behold! The... what the hell is this?

This is our final puzzle in Midwich, and it is… stupid. Basically, the turnstiles of the damned spin around in accordance to the valves on either side of the passage. There are a set of “teeth”, as it were, that face in three of the four cardinal directions—your job is to spin the valves, rotating the two spindle-thingers, until there are no teeth in your way and you can march forward like an idiot into the jaws of the lizard monster we all know is waiting for us, thank you magic foreshadowing children’s book.

  Both valves can be spun left or right, which will rotate its corresponding set of teeth two points clockwise—right—or counterclockwise—left. The trick is that it also rotates the other set of teeth once in the same direction.

  There’s no real strategy or anything of the like. You can brute force it. I did. It took about a minute or so, because the things spin so goddamn slowly that you can probably make a sandwich between every turn of the valves.

  Alternately, you can turn the left valve once to the right, then the right valve twice to the left and solve it on your first go, like I did on my screenshot run. I swear that was just on a lark. I guess, just like the piano puzzle, there must have been some kernel of knowledge in my brain that refused to be written over with something more useful.

  Anyway, the path cleared, we tromp forward, only to step on a heretofore unseen elevator that begins taking Harry to his inevitable confrontation with the boss. Once we arrive at our destination (which is in pitch blackness, mind), a corpse lights itself on fire (?), providing light for our battle.

Harry stood sheepishly in the glow. It had only been a lark, but the nightmare world's Clapper system had a price far greater than just sore hands.
Harry stood silently. It had only been a lark, but the nightmare world's Clapper had a price far greater than just sore hands.

Then, the lizard scuttles out and ba ha ha ha ha, is that it!?

D'aaaawwww, wook at da widdle guy!
D'aaaawwww, wook at da widdle guy!

  I feel so bad for that thing. I mean, Jesus… it has got to be a chore to lug itself around all sightless and lumpy-like. It’s almost adorable in a way. It has the silliest back legs, too, like it borrowed them from a grasshopper and they were about six sizes too small. I hate to have to shoot it OH MY GOD.

Well, this is going to end poorly.
Well, this is going to end poorly.

  I had to bump up the brightness and contrast, so if you can’t see what’s going on, imagine the lizard’s mouth ran up-and-down as opposed to left-to-right and when it opens up, it tries to swallow Harry whole goddamn.

  Okay, so outside of the one-hit-kill that the monster can bust out, there’s actually nothing terribly difficult or interesting in the fight, provided you keep pressure on the monster. Just as I said, phase one consists of harassing (via bullets) the lizard with your pea shooter. You may consider standing off to the side to avoid its headbutt, which comes in two flavors. A quick slap in the shins hits for light damage, but staggers Harry. Its other damage dealer is a heavy blow that knocks Harry to the ground for something in the neighborhood of 1/3 our fragile “writer’s” health. So it’s really best to not get hit.

  After a fair number of shots (at least 15-20 pistol bullets), the beast will stop and growl menacingly. If you can see its front, you will notice that drool begins to pool on the floor beneath its head. This is the start of phase two, so get out your shotgun. At this point, the bastard drops the “knock you to the floor attack” in exchange for its one hit kill and a massive, massive speed boost. How massive?

Nothing says 'horror' quite like running around in a circle.
Nothing says 'horror' quite like running around in a circle.

  It can still butt you with its face and stagger you, but the main purpose of that particular attack is to hold you in place long enough to get eaten. About half of the time, you’ll need to actually tank that attack before it opens its face. And don't get bogged down walking backwards as it approaches, trying to bait its attack—it will instead just keep you moving into a wall or corner, where you are right fucked.

  This boils down to the following strategy: you need to stand in front of the beast and lure it into trying to eat you or, just as likely, bashing you for cheap damage before trying to eat you. Once it opens its face, fire the shotgun twice while walking backward, just in case something goes wrong in the random number generator and you don’t do the massive damage™ required to kill it right away. Why, yes, you can fire the shotgun while moving around, thus making it even less distinguishable from the pistol outside of boss situations.

  If you want to save shells (even though it’s why we have them… you know… to kill horrors), it will cost you between fifteen and twenty rounds into its open maw. I think the reason is that the shotgun has a pretty wide spread that seems custom-fit for the monster’s attack… it’s just a shame that it limits the actual raw power of the shotgun in non-giant lizard situations. Whatever your choice of firearm (and it almost assuredly must be a firearm—a melee weapon would be suicide), pretending to be a stupid hunter in a stupid fairytale will kill it, causing sirens to sound and the world to melt away into blackness.

  And no, you can’t just shoot its sides—the kill shot must be in the recreation of the story. Extra bullets into its hide will lower the number of shells/rounds necessary to off it, but in testing this I went through 150 bullets and the thing was still determined to harry Harry (larf) until the bitter end.

  I do like the fact that the thing has a vertical mouth, but outside of that aesthetic choice, there’s nothing particularly memorable about the boss. Unlike Origins’s encounters though, there’s at least some attempt at varying up the “shoot it until it dies” strategy that Climax seemed so fond of. Which isn’t much, considering that it’s just “wait till you see the weak point and fire”, but hey…

  Wait… that thing doesn’t look like it has any teeth or jaw bone to speak of. Oh, god, getting eaten by that thing would be like getting crushed by twenty tons of rotten-meat flavored Jell-O, wouldn’t it?

The true horror is that someone, somewhere, is wanking to this.
The true horror is that someone, somewhere, is wanking to this.

  Well, we can be grateful that such things didn’t happen to our stupid intrepid hero, because they totally didn’t, why do you ask? What did happen, though, is that fade to black three paragraphs ago, which concludes our adventures in the nightmare school. There is still a little to do, as well as a little to hypothesize about this dalliance into night school (larf). Join me for our next thrilling episode: How Many Fucking Kids Go to this Place, Anyway?

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

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