What I’m Playing, part 23

Soma

Please note that this entire post is going to be a spoiler for the game.  Thanks!

So for the month of October, I decided to join other gamers in playing horror themed games for the month and I decided to start with Soma.  At first I had no idea what to make of this game since only 2 of my online friends had played it and they both loved it.  And now that I’ve been posting that I’m playing it, other gamers on my friends list have taken note, so it must be a good game, right?

Something’s Not Right

At first, I was really bored with the game.  The protagonist, Simon (who sounds a lot like Daemon Hatfield from IGN), wakes up in his apartment after a weird dream to a phone call about coming to the doctor for a brain scan.  The tutorial area (Simon’s apartment) teaches the awkward controls on opening and closing doors with the analog sticks and how to pick things up and how to run.  Fairly basic stuff, though I can tell a lot about Simon from his surroundings: he loves to read since he has books all over the place and his eating habits are terrible since there’s fast food containers all over the place.  I also liked that you could read emails on his computer and send the daft that he’d written.  Then there was the strange/awkward phone call while he was on the subway with his coworker and I started to wonder if I hadn’t sent the email, would that conversation have been different?

All of this, so far, was interesting but I’m still bored.  And then…

Then I finally get to the hospital for the scan and have to solve a simple puzzle to get to the back room where the doctor and the chair are waiting for me.  I sit down, listen to a bit of dialogue between Simon and the doctor and everything goes black and I wake up somewhere else…

Um, ok Soma, you officially have my attention.  What the FUCK is going on?  At this point I’m so absolutely confused that I keep playing and hoping that answers come soon.  Is this one of those games where they don’t show you the big evil horror, you’re just hunted by it through out the game?  Or is the evil thing there, I just haven’t met it yet?  I would soon find out.

After discovering a bit more context from objects in the game through what I assume is some sort of psychic ability and learning that I must avoid/hide from the white light creatures, I finally press onward and am greeted with the first big reveal:  I am in some place that’s under water!  Definitely getting a Bioshock vibe from it all now that I know this.  I make my way a bit further and find (after a bit of crawling) a poor robotic like creature trying to stay alive.  I talk to it to try to glean as much information as I can and when that fails, I unplug it from the computer it’s attached to out of spite.  Presto!  That restored the power and now I’m in contact with a woman named Catherine who tells me to get to the control center in the domed room upstairs.  The sound quality is a bit jumbled so I have to turn on subtitles in order to understand what’s being said by anyone.  I go on my merry way without a second thought…until I get to the next room.

After falling down from the catwalk, it occurs to me that I am suddenly not alone anymore and the next reveal happens: I can see a monster!  And I can hear the monster!  I quickly crouch and slowly and silently follow it around the room, feverishly trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I spot the stairs in the back of the room.  I wait until it gets far enough away and I run up the stairs, burning myself with steam and close the hatch behind me.  Safe at last!  I wander around this new area and find the corpse of some poor soul who didn’t make it, a few locked doors, a wall map, a locked computer and a robot that’s complaining about being in pain and needing help.  I wander around for a bit and by this time I’m exhausted from the events of the day so I decide to call it a night.  All in all I’m still a bit bored and on the verge of just passing on the game entirely because I’m just not getting it plus I’m filled with nothing but confusion about how the game started versus where I am now.  Maybe sleeping on it will help, we’ll see.

The Next Night

So I decide to return to this bizarre underwater world and give the game a second chance after all.  I make the pain robot scream a few times by cutting off the power and cutting it back on then I find the passcode for the terminal on the body in the hall.  I punch it in and unlock the storage closet and the power supply and I see the note attached that says flip it at your own risk, so I did.  That’s when the ‘oh shit’ moment happens and the monster from before comes up the stairs and is now wandering around where I’m trying to hide.  After clenching real hard, I make a run (well, a crouched hustle) for the terminal and power up the control center up stairs where I need to get to so I can talk to Catherine again.  I dash up the stairs after several long minutes studying the monster and it’s walking pattern and close the hatch behind me.  Safe again!  Catherine and I converse for a bit when all hell breaks loose and the dome breaks and the room begins to flood.

At this point I think 2 things:  1) I really fucked this up and I’m going to die and I’m going to have to reload my save and start over again and 2) hopefully after I die I wake up back in Toronto and this fucking nightmare is over with for now because I need a serious break from this discomfort.  No such luck on either part as I suddenly am alive and breathing underwater.  What the fuck (again)?  I climb out of the ruins of the comm area and find myself on the sea floor.  I run around outside, avoiding a crazy robot that wants my fluid (or whatever it was, I didn’t stick around, I just ran) and find a way back into the building.  And suddenly I have a flashlight?  What the hell?  Why wasn’t I shown this sooner?  Are they being serious right now or are the developers poking fun at horror games?  Whatever is going on I just ignore it and press on to the shuttles.  I crawl around for a bit, leery of the idea of using the flashlight at all (after all I might as well be sporting a giant KILL ME sign in the dark) but I keep searching and I find this:

What the fuck is that?  Whatever it is, it’s keeping her alive.  And more importantly, yay another human being!  I was beginning to think I was the only one in the whole damn game.  After talking to her a few times, I reluctantly unplug her machine from the power supply so I can get the shuttle working again.  I feel really bad about doing that, but I press on anyway.  I board the shuttle and hope that it gets me to Catherine without a hitch, but I’ve played enough horror games to know that this isn’t going to end well.  I board the shuttle and I’m treated to an in-flight movie about what the hell is going on.

The Big Reveal

Holy shit!  So after the video, the shuttle of course crashes in a fiery heap and I’m left to tread along on foot.  I run to the end of the tunnel where another of these weird flower sphincter things is and this time, much to my horror, instead of simply sticking my finger in it (which is still questionable and gross) my character sticks his whole fist in it!  What the shit?!?!  Ugh, ok, that was a bit more than I was expecting.  I go back to the door and make my way back out into the ocean, run from some more of these weird robots and find the area where Catherine is.  But once I’m inside things go bad really fast.  She screams at something to leave her alone and my fight or flight instincts kick in and she warns me not to look at it as I’m running toward the room she’s in.  Uuuuuhhhhhhh…..ok, what the hell is THAT?  I look at it briefly then turn away thinking that as long as I don’t look at it (like Catherine SAID), nothing’s gonna happen, right?  Nope.  Whatever that thing was pulverizes me and disappears.  I’m thinking ‘game over’ and Soma is thinking ‘GOTCHA!’ as Simon comes to in the room with Catherine, albeit a bit worse for wear.

That’s when things start to get very real, very quickly.

It turns out that Catherine is another robot that thinks she’s a human.  And she (and the computer in the next room) reveals what the hell is going on:  we developed a technology to launch satellites into orbit from under water so as not to have to rely on fuel anymore.  Then, a comet hits the Earth fucking everything up and the only way to save humanity is to digitize their brains and place them in a satellite called The Ark and launch it.  Only, much to their horror, The Ark hasn’t been launched yet, it’s still on Earth.  I wasn’t really surprised by that, though I did have my doubts when I was doing the searches.  The little searching mini game was neat and easy to figure out once I understood that the scan went longer the closer I got to the target square.  After finding out that I’m now responsible for launching The Ark and getting Catherine (and somehow myself) on board and the fact that Catherine is now in my Omnitool, I decide that’s a good place to stop for the night because that’s a lot of shit to decompress, not to mention drudging up the old ‘what does it mean to be human’ thoughts again.

Night Three

Nothing matters at this point except launching The Ark.  After staring at the start screen for several long minutes trying to psych myself up for the task at hand, I return to this waking nightmare.

I exit the building where I found Catherine, try to use a small submarine that’s nearby only to find that it’s not functional.  I follow some lights on the sea floor and realize that I’m being hunted by that thing that attacked me earlier.  I run into the ruins of a ship – The Curie – and crawl through it to the other side.  I think I’m safe and then BAM! that thing appears for a split second and scares the shit out of me.  God damnit, this is not cool anymore.

I’m inside the ship but there’s one of those fucking things in here.  I’m panicking.  As it approaches I quickly look away hoping that it will save me from whatever is about to happen.  To my surprise it works!  It goes way out of sight…but where?  I’m still getting the static distortion as though it’s near, but I can’t see it.  I hide in a side room, hoping it will pass me by and it opened the fucking doorWhat the shit!  I look away again and it disappears.  I don’t know how long I can keep this up so I need to find that other submarine and quickly!  After an uncomfortable walk through the ship to the engine room and ripping out the black tentacles from the engine, I run like hell back to the sub from that monster (I died the first time because I didn’t understand what was going on.)  Catherine launched my sub and we crashed and now I don’t know where I am.  There’s some robot talking to himself and I found a door into a building.  I go inside and there’s blood everywhere.  This is all beginning to feel so hopeless.

Where am I?

Theta

I have reached Theta after an uneventful but emotionally uncomfortable zeppelin ride.  I’m coming to the realization (both in and out of game) that I’m not human – I’ve been a robot all along!  I land and proceed to the building in front of me, but first I have a very depressing conversation with a robot named Robin.  It’s becoming very heavy, this weight, this personal horror.  I stopped the game and bury my face in my hands for a minute.  This is when I could use the comfort of your hand on my back, but you’re not here.  I have to go on, I must go on.

So the mystery of how I got here is revealed at last: Simon died at the beginning and his brain scans were used as a template for an A.I. development kit.  The last bit of hope I had for getting back to that other reality is now gone.  This has all become spectacularly insane.

I’ve rebooted the router in the server room below.  Sheer terror.  Whatever that thing was that was wandering around walked close to me several times but didn’t see me in the darkness.  I went back to Catherine’s lab to get the cipher for the submarine and had an irritating time trying to trick Brandon Wan into giving me the information.  Once that was over I had the option of erasing the data or just shutting down the simulation.  Neither of them felt like comfortable choices to make, so I just shut it down.  I’ve killed people in games before, but this…totally erasing someone’s existence or just turning it off…I don’t know how to put this emotion into words.  I don’t like it.

I failed to get the sub and now I’m being hunted in a lab.  I managed to get the chip to unlock the elevator but I have to avoid the creature that’s here.  It’s attacked me twice but I’ve survived.  My pulse is racing.  The elevator has crashed.  I’m so dead.  I managed to escape the monster through some dark tunnels and rooms.  I found myself in what I assume are sewage tunnels.  When I pulled the lever to open the door, I was surprised to see the monster had found me.  I started to run only to be flushed out some pipes into the sea.  I live, for now.

Omicron – Night Four

I find I am no longer able to read the black boxes of the dead.  Have I lost the ability somehow (due to damage to my body?) or has it just run its course.  I keep seeing what I assume are subliminal messages when I’m reading terminals.  Is my body damaged or am I going crazy?  Or is it something else?  I’m trying to find parts to repair a power suit so I can get to The Ark.

It’s gotten to the point that I can’t bear to watch my character heal himself.

Existential crisis moment.  Panic attack.  I managed to get the items needed to repair the power suit to make the transfer to the new body.  But it didn’t work out like Simon – or I – planned.  Instead of a complete transfer to the new body, Simon is still in the old one too.

After an argument with Catherine, a panic attack and the realization that I’d be condemning the old me to stay in this hell forever and all alone…I made the choice:

What have I done?!?!  What.  Have.  I.  Done?!?!  I’ve lived with this scenario, this living nightmare, in my mind for years of being forced to take someone off life support and give them a humane death instead of selfishly keeping them alive.  And now that it’s happened…

I stood there and watched as the old me slowly stopped breathing.  I picked up Catherine and left.

I get on the elevator and listen to some very heavy thoughts between the two of them about life and death.  Simon mentioned what was the point of going on because everyone was gone.  I’ve often lived with that fear.  That someday everyone I know would be gone and I’d be all alone.  Uncared for, unwanted, alone.  I felt the brush of this terror years ago in my youth when my parents had died.  There was so much said between them in that moment, and I have a lot to say on all those subjects, but words fail me at the moment.  I am at a complete loss.  I have to fix the elevator.

That was a terrifying run from the elevator across the ocean floor to the front door of site Tau.

Site Tau – Night Five

After last night’s events, I stopped to decompress and compose myself.

I’ve just met the last living human on Earth, and I don’t even remember her name.  She’s hanging on by a thread and has given me The Ark.  I did the humane thing and put her out of her misery.

Sarah was her name.  I stayed with her until she took her last breath.

I’m so angry right now that this thing that keeps appearing and talking to me doesn’t scare me anymore.  I want to punch it in the face.

Whatever – or who ever – this thing is has now led me to Alpha and to the heart of he WAU (the substance that’s been controlling all the monsters I’ve had to run from in the game but it’s also been healing me when I needed it.)  It’s telling me to poison the WAU and kill it but I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, but there’s no other choice.

It ate my hand and then killed the creature that’s led me here.  I ran from it and now I’m at Phi.  I’ve got The Ark loaded into what looks like a giant bullet and I’ve found Catherine’s human body; her remains.

The Ark is loaded, I’m about to fire it into space.  I’m filled with dread that this isn’t going to work and that all this will have been for nothing.  I’m also filled with anxiety that I might save humanity.  I have to keep going.

I was left behind.  I launched The Ark but I was left behind.  In that moment, I was filled with despair.  The same despair that I felt when my parents died and left me behind, when Tyler died, when Jeff died, when Max died.  I was left behind.

After the end credits, I was greeted with Ark Simon’s awakening in a cave.  I ran and ran until I came upon Catherine standing on the shores of a lake with a massive structure in the background.  The lie of the afterlife never looked so beautiful.

I am greeted with one final shot of the satellite  – The Ark – orbiting the ruined, dead Earth.  I feel like it’s more of a high tech casket than anything else.  The real Simon died hundreds of years ago, yet he’s still alive in the room down below on the planet, and alive in The Ark.  But is it really him?

I feel devastated inside, yet glad that this nightmare has finally come to its bitter end.

Final Verdict

The concepts presented in this game – what does it mean to be human?  How do we know if we’re alive? – aren’t anything new or original.  These ideas have been explored by games before and by some of my favorite TV shows (Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse to name a few.)  The way Soma presents these is, however, a bit more terrifying than others, and ultimately leaves me with a sense of something lost or something that I just don’t have the answer to.

I am filled with more thoughts and emotions about the events in this game than I have words for.

I often think about mortality and immortality, about copying my consciousness into a machine and having “myself” live on like that, but is it really living?  Would it be living?  And immortality…would I really want it?  No.  The fact that you only have so much time on Earth is what makes it so precious, so fleeting.  I would never want immortality, I couldn’t bear the thought of watching the people that I love wither away and die while I stayed healthy and fit (not that I haven’t watched people I love die, but that’s another story for another time.)  There are so many people that I never want to live without, but I know that one day I’ll have to face that nightmare again.

Inter spem curamque, timores inter et iras / omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremem: grata superveniet quae non sperabitur hora.

Amid the hope and worry, the fear and anger / believe that each day which breaks is your last: the unhoped for hour will be a welcome surprise.

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What I’m Playing, part 20

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Please note that everything in this post is a spoiler for the game!  Also please note that there may be some depictions that some may find unsettling and may be sensitive to.

Please take this shit seriously.  Thank you.

It’s difficult to put into words the way we feel when we experience loss.  Sadness, anger, rage, frustration, none of these words accurately portray the pain or the emotion that fills us.  The story of Hellblade is one such story of loss and the intense pain that follows…

Love

Our story begins with our heroin, Senua, on a makeshift boat heading into the lands of the old Norsemen to save the soul of her beloved, Dillian, after her village was ransacked and he was offered as a sacrifice to the goddess Hella.  As Senua narrates her journey, I was filled with an intense unnameable dread as I watched her boat reach the shore.  Conflicting feelings of excitement for the story that’s being told and of dread for what’s to come.  I had to pause once the boat had stopped in order to compose myself and begin this post.

It is during this boat ride that we are greeted by not only Senua, but the nagging voices that live in her head.  Those nagging voices that we all have within, telling us that we’re no good at anything we try to do, we’re worthless, we’re useless.  The constant voices are unsettling and excruciating but set the narrative perfectly.  There is also another voice, that of Senua herself, as she narrates this terrifying journey to the underworld.  The narrator speaks much truth that you would do well to listen to intently.

I haven’t even started the game and I’m already ready to go home.

The game does a good job of making you feel uncomfortable and keeping you in that state.  Every part of me was tense with each session I had with the game, my fight or flight response was on high alert at all times.  Once you have control over Senua, we are greeted by our first collectible, a runic stone.  The runic stones, narrated by a man Senua met in exile named Druth, tell the story of the Norse mythology excellently but their fiery red appearance is unsettling to say the least.  They also remind me just how hardcore Norse mythology is.Afterward, we are greeted with a sight that’s both awe inspiring and terrifying at the same time

This is your ultimate goal throughout the game.

We come upon a lone building on what feels like an empty, lifeless shore and are told by our narrator that this is where we must go.  After making my way through a rocky path and a little climbing you are tasked with one of the other core mechanics of the game, finding runes in the environment.

Find a gate with runes…

…search the environment for floating runes and then…

…focus in on the shape to unlock the door.  Simple yet entertaining!

Through out the course of the game, you are occasionally tasked with environmental puzzles where you have to find rune shapes in everyday objects/surroundings.  It starts out very easy at first, but later on becomes much more complicated.  We are then greeted by a gate, a choice and a fight.

This is the gate that will lead you to Hella.  This is also where the “tutorial” on how to play the game ends.

Upon discovering the gate that will lead to Hella, you are met with your first, and easiest enemy in the game.  Combat is simple yet satisfying.  It can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be.  I didn’t figure out until my second playthrough that you can tap R1 at the right time during an enemy’s attack animation to stun them long enough to do some serious damage.  During my first playthrough I pretty much just hammered on square and triangle so I could experience the story of Hellblade.  Landing a strike is very satisfying, you definitely feel the weight of every sword strike as you watch your enemies buckle and start to bleed and limp under your attacks.

Rot inside a corpse’s shell

Upon falling in combat (it’s an unavoidable point in the game that serves to set the stage) you are presented with the consequence of failure.  A consequence that was/is very polarizing among the gaming community.  That consequence is this: as you fall in combat and die, the rot slowly consumes Senua’s body, essentially making her arm your life meter for the game.  If you die enough times and the rot reaches from her arm to her head, you lose your life AND your save file and you must start over.  Speaking from personal experience, even though I died a fair amount throughout the course of the game, I never once lost my save file.

I lived with the fear of this loss throughout the course of the game and it was a constant thought at the back of my mind as I made my way through this awful land.  But thankfully, I was spared.

Try not to worry too much about it, but don’t fuck it up either.

After everything settles, you find that the gate to Hella is sealed by two marks and that each mark is held by the gods Surtr and Valravn.

Valravn on the left in red, Surtr on the right in yellow.

Bathe The World In Fire

I decided to first face the fire god, Surtr.  This was when the game became a bit less linear and presented you with a more open space to explore.

All of the puzzles in Surtr’s realm (and the game as a whole, really) were fairly straightforward and easy to figure out in one or two attempts.  The only thing I had any trouble with was combat since I was new at the game.  Surtr’s realm is where the disturbing imagery of the game really starts to pick up.  In order to progress through certain gates in the area, Senua must touch pyres with Surtr’s mark on them.  Once she does, ashen corpses screaming for mercy start to appear out of nowhere as you run for the gate and progress deeper into Surtr’s territory.  Progressing through this zone was relatively easy, then came time to fight the god himself.  I was filled with fear as this small, frail, lovesick woman went up against a man easily three times her size.  I didn’t think I would be able to defeat him, but ultimately I was gifted with a new ability:  Senua’s Focus.

Senua vs. Surtr during a Focus attack

Senua’s Focus is definitely a game changer for combat and the way it’s displayed/shows up on screen is a lesson in how a minimalist user interface should be implemented in a story driven game such as this.  After landing so many blows on opponents (or getting the shit beat out of her) there will be a small blue/white spiral that appears from Senua’s back.  When one of the voices in her head tells her to “Focus!” it’s time to unleash Celtic fury against who or whatever is in your way.  For a few seconds (or more if you have all 3 spirals filled) Senua becomes a practically unstoppable killing machine, splattering blood everywhere. After a few tense minutes and some swearing, I emerged from the flames triumphant. The first mark was mine, and the music that played during the fight still haunts me all these days later.

The World is an Illusion

Next it was time to enter the realm of Valravn. Valravn is an illusionist, a trickster and navigating his realm was no easy task.  There were portals that changed the very landscape around you and – you guessed it – you had to use them in order to find the god of illusions.

Door

No door.

I remember a haunting sound that would happen when trying to navigate some of the areas.  The voices in Senua’s head said it was Valravn’s voice or his chant.  The thing that really sticks out about his place was this room:

The room with multiple glyphs took me a while to navigate (I eventually just gave up and Googled what to do) and once I got through the rest of his realm, actually fighting Valravn gave me some serious hand cramps.  I’d even go so far as to say that he’s the second hardest fight in the entire game.  Either way, I’m glad that I opted to fight him after Surtr.

Fuck that guy.

The Path of Totality

When Senua looks at the camera, it definitely breaks the 4th wall and is unsettling.

After the battle with Valravn, I just can’t bear re-living the journey as I write down my thoughts, plus I think the remainder of the game is best experienced on your own terms.  Senua’s journey through hell is more than other horror games; more personal, more relatable.  The game does a fantastic job of playing on my old childhood fears of the dark and the unknown.  The imagery, both visual and vocal, of the afterlife and of hell and pain and suffering is something that won’t soon be forgotten.

I can see why Ninja Theory thought that doing the game in this manner was risky, but I think it is a risk that paid off.  Would I change anything about the game?  Absolutely not, I think it’s fine the way it is, even the “threat” of losing your save if you die too many times.  I do wish, however, that I had been warned that after beating the game there would be no way to continue, that you would be forced to start over, but since the game is so short it’s not really that big of a deal.  It’s definitely given me thoughts of trying to speed run the game or maybe even trying to play through with combat difficulty set to Hard.  Fighting Fenrir (the beast) was the only time in the game that I had to set the difficulty to Easy in order to progress.  I was frightened of losing my save file and having to start over.  I knew from looking at the trophy list that I was close to the end and just wanted the torment to end.

Hella waits silently for you to come and face her.

I would like to revisit the game in its entirety at some point in the future when the sting of pain has worn off.  I got so caught up in what was going on, I didn’t even take any opportunity to try out the game’s photo mode (similar to the one in Horizon Zero Dawn).  I did start a second playthrough in order to comment on Surtr and Valravn and I can also tell you that whatever runes you found do carry over to subsequent playthroughs, so getting the platinum won’t be terribly difficult.

Ragnarok

There was many a time I had to put the controller down and just cry, and other times that I was so overcome with emotion that I simply had to save and quit for the night.  I know Senua’s pain, I’ve felt that loss several times in my life, I can sympathize.  I’ve lost friends, family and lovers to the inescapable grip of death.  I’ve felt the torment of wanting them back but ultimately being powerless to do anything; the maddening feeling of helplessness.  Senua’s journey is not for the faint of heart, but I promise you that you’ll be glad you took it.  It reminds me that I would do whatever it takes for the people I love, even my own life.  Hopefully you’ll understand why it’s my #2 game of the year after Horizon Zero Dawn.

To Hella, Dillian was sacrificed and to Hella, you must bargain

Lovers separated by the veil

VNV Nation – Illusion

I know it’s hard to tell how mixed up you feel
Hoping what you need is behind every door
Each time you get hurt, I don’t want you to change
Because everyone has hopes, you’re human after all

The feeling sometimes wishing you were someone else
Feeling as though you never belong
This feeling is not sadness, this feeling is not joy
I truly understand, please don’t cry now

Please don’t go, I want you to stay
I’m begging you, please, please don’t leave here
I don’t want you to hate for all the hurt that you feel
The world is just illusion trying to change you

Being like you are, well, this is something else
Who would comprehend? But some that do lay claim
Divine purpose blesses them, that’s not what I believe
And it doesn’t matter anyway

A part of your soul ties you to the next world
Or maybe to the last but I’m still not sure
But what I do know is to us the world is different
As we are to the world, I guess you would know that

Please don’t go, I want you to stay
I’m begging you, please, please don’t leave here
I don’t want you to hate for all the hurt that you feel
The world is just illusion trying to change you

Please don’t go, I want you to stay
I’m begging you, please, oh please don’t leave here
I don’t want you to change for all the hurt that you feel
This world is just illusion always trying to change you

Please don’t go, I want you to stay
I’m begging you, please, please don’t leave here
I don’t want you to hate for all the hurt that you feel
This world is just illusion, trying to change you

Please don’t go, I want you to stay
I’m begging you, please, oh please don’t leave here
I don’t want you to change for all the hurt that you feel
This world is just illusion always trying to change you

  • Is platinum attainable?  Yes, easily
  • % of trophies at the time of writing according to PSN: 90%

Life Is A Suicide Mission

Do you ever wonder why people kill themselves? I used to.

Way back in school, when I was first introduced to the concept of suicide, I couldn’t for the life of me understand why someone would do such a thing. I get that your life is currently in a shit place and things are bad, but are they really that bad? Little did I know that in a few years, I’d learn why in a very difficult life lesson.

When I was young, I used to listen to all the grown ups in my family talk, I loved hearing their life stories. One story always stuck with me through the years. I don’t remember his name, but mama knew a man that she described as ‘always happy and funny and cheerful.’ She had a picture of him with my sister Regina when she was young. She told me that he had killed himself. Being so young, I had no idea what that meant or why it made her so sad.

Not long after high school was finally over, life decided to really take a turn for the worst. I’d be willing to go so far as to say that it’s the darkest period of my entire life. First, my mother died a couple months after I graduated after a nearly year long battle with cancer. My birthday and Christmas meant nothing to me that year. Then my friend Wendy’s grandmother died at Christmas. Then my father died the following March. Then his mother died a month later. Then on top of all that, I was forced out of my home by my father’s piece of shit sister since it was now legally hers. So I ended up living with my sister. Those were very dark times.

Did I think about killing myself? You bet, and often. I had nothing really to live for, I was merely existing. I often look back on it all and wonder how I made it. I suppose I never gave up hope that things would get better, and I guess in a way they did. Every time I thought about killing myself, I remembered what I was taught in health class in high school:

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

It pretty much became my mantra for years, said silently to myself when the voice within became too loud. I had friends, sure, but eventually they all turned out to be a bunch of fakes except one (he knows who he is.) In retrospect they weren’t really worth living for, but it was all I had. Life got better. Life GETS better, that’s why I’m still here.

Those times I entertained the thought, I weighed the pros and cons carefully. It would all be over; all the daily misery, the suffering, the anxiety, the sleeplessness, the fun and games, the sex, the music, the voices within, the noises without. Would it hurt my family? Probably, but I didn’t really care if it did or not. The ones that it would hurt the most were the ones that kept me from doing it, I stayed alive not for myself but for them. They are why I’m still here.

Those times I entertained the thought, I thought about how I’d do it. Pills? Not 100% effective. Guns? Too much of a mess. The answer came to me at work one night. I had an accident where I hit my right shin on a metal guard and ended up cutting open a vein. There was blood everywhere; every beat of my heart brought me closer to oblivion as I watched my life force drain from me. All I wanted was to sleep. All I wanted was to lay down and die. I was so tired. This was the way out, this was how I’d go out. I was taken to the ER and sewn up and drugged. I felt fine the rest of the night thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. Now that I had chosen a how, all I needed was a reason. An impetus for my destruction.

The years have passed since that night and while I have the occasional bad day here and there I still don’t have a reason to do it.  I like to think about it the same as this guy:

I don’t fear death and/or suicide. Whenever I get low I look at it as a very far off option if things don’t get better. They always do so I’m not worried about it. For me a quote from Neil Hilborn illustrates it best, “I think a lot about killing myself, not like a point on a map, but rather like a glowing exit sign at a show that’s never been quite bad enough to make me want to leave.”

I see suicide as an option, especially if you’re terminally ill.  An option that not everyone agrees on, but it’s an option nonetheless.  Do I still wonder why people do it?  Yes and no.  Why they do it is still a mystery, a case by case basis, but I think I have an inkling.  They just feel hopeless, like there’s no escape, like this misery is going to be endless.  But I don’t wonder about it as much because I feel I’ve lived through the why.

Life and Death, part 6

Ever text someone at just the worst possible time?

Yesterday, I asked my friend Alex if he’d like to get something for dinner before he went to work.  His response was something I didn’t expect.

I can’t, I have the girls until I have to leave for work because mom had to make an emergency trip to Canada to see aunt Yvette.  She has lung cancer and it has spread to both breasts and other parts of her body.  She’s opting for doctor assisted suicide at the end of the week.

Ouch.  Needless to say, he’s not taking this news well as after that he was more than a little upset at her decision.  Having witnessed firsthand what cancer does to a person, I feel like she is justified in her decision to end her life while she is still in full control of her faculties.  It’s what I would want were I in her place.  It’s what I will demand if I’m ever in that situation.

I still remember the daily living horror of watching my mother wither away while she had cancer.  Initially she was herself, only sick.  But as the last year of her life went on, the pain became unbearable and the sickness slowly eroded her humanity until what I was looking at from day to day was a husk, a shell of a human being, kept alive by drugs and our selfishness, our inability to let her go peacefully.  Had I had any say in the matter and any level of maturity (I was 17 when she died) I think I would have had that talk with my family about letting her go, whether they liked it or not.  I can still remember her last night at home.  I stood there with my father and watched helplessly as she went through her death throes and finally stopped breathing.  This is the personal hell I endure, that I live with from day to day.  Most of the time the flames don’t bother me, but today I feel their wrath.

My knee jerk reaction to Alex’s disdain for her decision to end her life was a simple question:  who would you be keeping her alive for, her or yourself?  It’s a painful question and not one with an easy answer to say the least but I think it’s one that everyone with a sick and dying relative should think about.

Life and Death, part 5

I feel really sad today.  My friend, my Gerrybear, is making a hard choice to have his 20 year old cat put to sleep.  I wish I could be there with him as he goes through this terrible time and I hate that he is going through it alone.  Yesterday when we were video chatting, he mentioned going through it alone and I hated that.  As empty as it is, I offered him my condolences and told him that I’m here for him.  Since I can’t physically be with him I just feel like that sentiment is worth nothing.  I’m also sad that I won’t get the chance to meet Rogue, the cat, in person.  She seemed like such a sweetheart in all the videos Gerry sent me of her.

 

Relationships, part 12

Jeffery,

I’m going to go on. I’m going to go on living to spite you. To spite myself. I’ll never forget what we had. How could I? You have me several firsts. Several intimate moments. Special dirty things that we used to do together. Sorry our ending was what it was, but I feel that’s what you wanted. I will go on living, go on loving, I will go on this journey alone if that’s what I must do, but I will go on regardless. I will go on regardless of the fact that part of me is missing, that I am damaged. Hopefully my next love can see past that and help me put the pieces back together, the way I tried to help you.

Life and Death, part 3

“What is it like to lose someone you love?” he asked.

The Oracle replied:

“It is a long process.  First, your insides are replaced by burning rags wrapped in barbed wire.  As the realization reaches you that your loved one will not return, the whole burning mass begins to burn hotter and rotate inside you, ripping your soul to pieces.

As time passes, as MUCH time passes, the burning shredder spins more slowly and the fire dies down a bit.  Often, you will hear a sound or a word that reminds you of the departed, and the mass spins faster and burns hotter.  Eventually, when there is so much of you ripped away, that the pain becomes familiar, you actually got for MINUTES at a time without feeling it.

Finally, after many years, the rags burn away, and the barbed wire burns away, and you discover what was at the core of it.  A bright, glittering giant diamond made of light.  Dazzling and beautiful.”

“What is that?”

“It is the love you always had for who you will not see again.  It was smoldering at the core the whole time.  It still burns, and spins and hurts terribly, but you would never choose to part with it even if you could.”

“I do not wish to suffer this.” he said.

“Neither did I.” said the Oracle.

m pinheiro – 2002