The Worst Filing System Known To Humans
Reload the Canons!
This series of articles is an attempt to play through The Canon of videogames: your Metroids, your Marios, your Zeldas, your Pokemons, that kind of thing.
Except I'm not playing the original games. Instead, I'm playing only remakes, remixes, and weird fan projects. This is the canon of games as seen through the eyes of fans, and I'm going to treat fan games as what they are: legitimate works of art in their own right that deserve our analysis and respect.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
So enjoy. And happy Halloween!
Have you ever been afraid of seeing something?
You’ve been afraid. Of course you have. It’s a part of the human condition. We’ve all been afraid of being hurt. Or being made uncomfortable. Or afraid for someone else. Or afraid for the future. I’ve been afraid of some small thing or another for most of my life. But five years ago at King’s Creek, I was afraid in a way I never had been before, and never have been since. I was afraid to see something- afraid to know it was there. I was afraid of being sure it existed. I tried to look away, but instead I saw, and I knew. I’ll tell you about it if you’ll listen.
I’ll tell you what I saw at King’s Creek.
I was a teenager at the time, still living with my parents. And of course, this meant that beyond certain periods and places, I had little power over what I did and where I went. My parents were fond of the outdoors. We had moved to a particularly beautiful state several years back and they were still in love with the mountains and the glaciers and the forests. We didn’t hike or camp or hunt or fish. My parents just liked to wander outside, in much the same way a seven-year-old does: just to be there. To surround oneself with trees and sky and to look at things.
I wasn’t interested in the world around me at the time. I was more preoccupied with what did not exist- books, television, videogames; everything I wanted to see was something or other that I knew I wouldn’t find in the real world. So on the near-weekly excursions into the hills of the woods not far from the edge of our town, I would usually scuff my feet near the car and idly watch nature pass me by for about an hour until my parents returned from aimlessly exploring, when they would unlock the vehicle and let me reunite with my book or my Gameboy or my something to take me out of my surroundings.
One particularly warm Sunday in August, my father informed me we were driving to a small park with purportedly beautiful streams and brooks that we had not yet been to. I learned afterward it had been called King’s Creek, but at the time, the only name I retained was Another Stretch of Gravel to Putter In. My mother brought snacks. We were going to spend the whole day there. Joy.
The trip there took much longer than it should have- not that I minded. My father had quickly gotten lost on small back roads that our maps did not acknowledge. But somewhere in the brush, he had been promised a beautiful park. So we did not stop until we found one. In truth, we had already reached it- the roads were a part of it. It wasn’t until we passed a wooden sign by the road that we realized parkland was in our midst.
You wouldn’t blame us for not noticing. The “park” consisted of dirt roads, lumpy and uneven with stones the size of your head that responded to tires with an eruption of dust, alder thickets almost thin enough to see through that grew full stop at the very edge of the hard-packed gravel, and periodically, a thin trickle of filthy water orange with rust and microbes, less running through the dirt and mud as much as dampening it. The sky was almost completely cloudless, but the brightness just seemed to wash the landscape out. Even after several minutes in the light, I had to squint to see small dark details.
Oh, and the sign we had stopped at to read? It was clearly weathered- nicked and scraped by wind and rain along the edges, so the paint on the frame flicked away in large mangy patches. But it was not thoroughly worn enough to explain why it was blank.
There was nothing written on it. There was nothing carved or engraved. There wasn’t even graffiti. It stood five feet from the ground and was large enough to see from across the clearing, and there was not a single artificial mark in it.
My parents were both visibly dismayed that King’s Creek was not the picturesque glen of clear bubbling springs they had been promised. But they were determined to make the most of it. My mother immediately pointed out an interesting hillock to my father and off they went. I stayed behind in the rocky clearing we had parked in.
The first thing I noticed was that there was no one else here. The people of my state are known for being active, and on a day this beautiful, I knew for a fact that the more popular outdoor areas would be filled to the brim. But no other visitors had shown themselves here. No other cars were parked in sight of ours. In fact, there was nothing to indicate anyone had come by here at all. No refuse, no outhouses, no tire tracks in the damp mud. We were, according to all evidence, the first visitors to King’s Creek in a very long time. The second thing I noticed was that there were no animals. There were no squirrels or shrews scurrying in the underbrush nearby. There were no finches or robins fluttering in the taller trees behind the alders. The only contact we received from local fauna was the occasional shriek of some distant bird. It echoed in the way sounds do when they travel a great distance without interference.
After a short time alone, I decided to start wandering on my own. I shuffled off in the opposite direction my parents had gone- if we needed to contact one another, we could yell. It was what we had always done.
I didn’t get far before I discovered there was more water than the puddles and rivulets that peppered the road. Some of these… let’s call them creeks… emptied into pools small enough to consider jumping over, but large enough and deep enough to discourage trying. I can still see the pools if I close my eyes. The generic nondescript filth that permeated the water turned the rocky beds dark and monochrome. Everything under the surface was the color of fresh rust, and after about three feet of depth, no more light could reach far enough and return. It gave the impression that the pools steepened out just past the visible point and went down forever. I stared at one such pool for what felt like hours- though it was probably only a few minutes. There was a powerful sense of stillness in it. The surface was so smooth and undisturbed, after a while it felt like there was no surface to the water- that I was simply looking into a crack in the earth that led somewhere dark and cold and rust-colored. There was no wind. No sound. The entire world had stopped in its tracks and held its breath while I stood here and looked through the water, into the crack in the earth. I dared not move. It felt like I wouldn’t be able to if I tried: this stillness was too thick, too strong.
I heard a sound. It was the sort of round, small whoop that I can never easily identify- it could easily have come from a small dog, an old man, a large bird, or any number of other woodland creatures. And my ears told me it wasn’t more than a few dozen meters away.
Both my feet left the ground.
After whipping my head in every direction at once and not seeing anything immediately obvious, I quickly calmed down. These were woods, and wild animals lived here. Most of them were stealthy by nature, and many of them enjoyed making low, ponderous whooping sounds. It wasn’t the first time something had snuck up on me. It wouldn’t be the last. Nonetheless, I decided to head further down the road. And I forced myself to walk, rather than jog as I felt like doing.
I came back to the pool. The path I was on was actually a surprisingly small loop. This time, I found myself not wanting to look straight at it. I picked up a small, flat stone and tossed it into the center of the water, thinking it would help to disrupt the surface. And it did help just somewhat. I watched the stone flit and twist as it sank like a leaf in the air. It showed no sign of slowing as it fell deeper and grew darker. I couldn’t see where it was no longer visible. It was like trying to follow a razor to its edge with your eyes; the change was so imperceptible that there almost wasn't a boundary between here and there at all.
Just then, I heard my name called from the car. My parents were back from poking at things in the dirt. When I arrived at the car, they did not look pleased as they usually did when they were outside. They were quiet and they looked uncomfortable. We were ready to leave, they said. We all climbed into the car. We didn’t talk. I didn’t ask if we were staying here for snacks. My father started the car and drove.
As we were approaching the paved road that would connect us with the highway, my mother and I noticed a shock of color in the mirror. I didn’t want to turn to look at it. And I don’t think she did either. But we didn’t have a choice. We both spun in our seats and we saw something.
A small person- not a child, just a bit small, was stooping by the side of the road in a black knit cap and a thin blue jacket. Bright blue. Blue tarp blue. The jacket stood out against the pale rock and brown dirt and dusty green foliage like a flashing light. No color could have contrasted with the backdrop more. This person faced away from the road, not walking or gesturing or even looking up at us. Just standing slouched forward.
We had not noticed this figure when we were approaching the point on the road they occupied. My mother only noticed the streak of blue in the mirror, when it was behind us.
I only saw this person for about a second and a half before we rounded a bend, but it was just long enough to get a very good look at them. A good enough look to be completely sure of what I saw.
From the angle at which they were standing, we could see their face in almost perfect profile. I remember their small, round nose, and the ruddy tone of their skin.
I did not see eyes.
I don’t mean their eyes were closed, or shadowed by the cap. I saw the part of their face where eyes would be. And I saw bare, featureless skin.
I did not see a mouth, either.
I didn’t scream. I didn’t say anything. I wanted nothing more than to close my eyes and slide down in my seat and clamp my hands over my ears and not see anything, not expose myself to anything. But I and my mother both stayed in position in our seats, twisted around to focus on the road falling away behind us. We didn’t move until we were on the highway with other cars. My father says he saw the shock of blue in his mirror, but he did not, would not look. He focused on the road in front of him. When we got home, we told him what we had seen. He wouldn’t listen.
My parents never told me who had suggested the visit King’s Creek and given them directions to it. I didn’t ask. I’m naturally curious by nature, and I rarely shy from the unknown, but I didn’t want to know anything about King’s Creek. I didn’t want to know where it was on a map, I didn’t want to know what the place was for, and I didn’t want to know anything about what I had seen there.
I was afraid to know. I was afraid of seeing. And I still am. Every now and then, I’ll see a blotch of something in the corner of my eye or in a mirror or through the trees outside my home.
And I’ll look away.
. . . . .
Well, it seems like Yanmato can't bear to... FACE his fears! EE eee ee eee ee! EYE don't know what he's so worried about! Eee eee ee eee ee!
In seriousness, thanks to Yanmato for that chilling tale! What a wonderful example of the uncanny. If anyone else feels like sending such stories my way, please feel free. And, as always, feel free to leave comments, complaints, or, best of all, your own interpretations, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org . And, if you like what you've read here, share it on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Xanga, Netscape, or whatever else you crazy kids are using to surf the blogoblag these days.