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Scraps and Fragments of Advice

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Once upon a time is how the story always unfolds. Sometimes there's a girl riding a bunny, an alligator, or a fox. Sometimes there's a boy atop a bear, a unicorn, or a panther. Sometimes it's a human and their ravens, one on each shoulder, or a bold rider and their dragon. We choose what we look like and what our companion looks like long before the first square appears, even if we forget that we have chosen soon after the story begins.

It's not really a surprise to me what you chose. You remember now, all those stories you consumed, of the perpetually six year old kid and his tiger, the girl and her unicorn, the stories where time passed and everything stayed the same. At the tree, where the lightning struck and gave you the magic, that's where you remembered the small one, the one who jumped in and you kept because you knew someone would come for him, and then you kept because no one came for him. The memories you have create the pages of the story, unfolding as if Sabuda himself had painstakingly placed every detail, every obstacle, and every shiny collectible in your path.

The words probably didn't feel too difficult this time. Childhood, after all, is a time where we don't know much and we don't even realize what we don't know, because most of the time, people are trying to protect us from the world outside. We try to keep things simple for children so they don't spend their time grappling with concepts far beyond them.

You, of course, know that even though you may look young, and have the memories of childhood, that you are not a child. There's a feeling in the middle of you that, even though you can't put words to it right now, that something is wrong, and that you have done this quest and read this letter before.

You have.

Even as a child, ideas would spark quickly and race their way across, this way and that, not stopping for any closer examination unless someone else demanded one. It makes sense this is the first magic you recovered. There will be others. For now, though, go onward. There are more things to recover.

Ha, I'll bet your brain is feeling particularly stretched after that. By now, you're probably wishing that "tabarnak" was one of the words that would appear above all of those waves that you had to deal with. Les insectes sont bâtards, n'est-ce pas? All that time in Montréal certainly paid off, though. That immersive course sure brings back the memories. Curling, skating, all the snow and ice, and a lot more lacrosse than you had initially thought. And a few other memories, too, about cocoa mugs, pretty people, and some firsts of your life.

It might seem strange to get back all those warm memories in a place like this, but you remember that blizzard now, the one where everything outside looked like it had been caught and frozen in a scene. That still moment where everything glinted and sparkled and looked so beautiful, when there wasn't any wind or snow or anything else to disturb it. A perfect time for a confession, and then, well, your heart shattered when that confession didn't go as well as you had hoped. That moment stayed frozen, etched in incredible detail, in your memory, and that's where the power of ice comes from. It's when you really learned how to be cold, how to close off everyone else as much as you felt you needed to, so that you couldn't get hurt again. Votre cœur gelé.

Do you remember what finally thawed your heart? Did that come with this, or is that somewhere else? Because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, not that you knew it at the time. « Je t'aime, Je t'aime, » iel dit. Vous n'avez jamais compris pourquoi. Moi non plus.

You still don't understand everything yet. There's more to explore, more to remember. Trust the words will reveal the pathway to take.

I can trust you to be a completionist, at least. Chasing down all the treasures and the achievements is the way you like to play games. You remember that much now, I'm sure. Maybe you remembered it at the last letter. You've known, if not consciously until now, that a 100% completion often unlocks the last secret movie.

You know that it also usually means you have to go after the optional boss fights. How many times did you reset before you could swap back and forth fast enough between the spark and the ice, to know which things needed to be frozen so they would slow down and which things needed lightning chained between them so they would be weakened enough that they could both die and start a new chain? Why did you persist so much? Were you worried that if you explored somewhere else, you wouldn't be able to get back? Were you afraid of missing out on some completion percentage?

Would it have been easier if you had taken a break, done a couple loops to calm your mind, and then come back to it? You remember how helpful that could be, to take a break, let your brain work on the problem for a bit while you dealt with other things. Or to let the random number generator decide on a different path for you, one that was just that little bit easier so that it could be completed. You win, and then you wonder why it was so difficult before, because this time it all came through and you caught the unlucky bit before it happened, or you changed your strategy just slightly and everything worked so much better.

You've gotten back another part of your magic, but it came with some unpleasant memories. All those times where things simmered beneath the surface, where you had to push things down because there wasn't anyone who would help you, or because someone was looking for an excuse to do something to you if you told them what you really thought. All the very lucid, very coherent, extremely detailed rage at institutions and people who you couldn't affect at all, and who wouldn't have listened to you even if you had been able to talk to them and to try and convince them to change.

Did you notice how the words gouged and tore at the ground, and how easily and readily the lava would bubble up or flow in to cast them into sharp relief, liquid anger filling in the spaces that your words struck? This place, more than the others, is one that you have permanently changed, etching your words and your will into the landscape. Small wonder there is nothing alive here, nothing that can quiet your rage, or direct you away from exploding at everything around you. Save the insects, of course, and you have done as much as you can to destroy them, as well. And what comes of all this effort to obliterate everything around you? The lone and blackened sands stretch far away. Look upon your works.

The ice can cool the lava enough to walk on it, but it's always temporary. You can calm down enough to get to the next thing, to cloak your heart in ice, so that you can get through, but when you cool lava, you get obsidian, and eventually, as I'm sure you believe, cœur gelé becomes cœur de pierre. And your belief tells you that while you were terrible when you froze, when you finally lost, and there were no retries left, no continues, then you became terrifying. You built a fortress, an island, and you refused to let anyone approach. You remember now, how little you thought of yourself and how willing you were to embrace the worst of what you believed about yourself.

There is one more thing to remember, though. These memories that have returned to you, they come before, not after. It is hard to recall, when there is so much that is raw still about this time, but you must remember that earth came before ice, not after it. When the spark went out is when the walls closed in.

I suppose there's no more need to lie to each other about this, now that you've captured the last piece of your magic. As I'm sure you suspected from the beginning, you and I are one. I am an echo of your past through this place. I suppose I'm not so much guiding you through this space, as much as I was motivating you with crypic riddles and hints to get you to continue moving through each of those spaces, collecting your memories and finding the magic that you needed to survive and continue.

The last magic is the most difficult one for us to master. Wind magic is the magic of boundaries, and it flows best when you are asserting them. Perhaps that is why, for the most part, the magic only pushed back the insects and bought us some time. In the hands of someone who is far more practiced at maintaining the space between themselves and those that want to hurt them, I suspect the wind would be more effective at pushing things away than it was for us. And, perhaps, that they could summon the malestrom more effectively to shred the winged ones in groups while keeping themselves protected from the ones on the ground. What a terror someone might be to this realm if they discovered the wind first and learned how to fashion it around themselves as a protective barrier. What kind of world would they be coming from if they had to learn how and when to let their guard down?

I trust the implications of that last sentence were not shocking to you. We are from another place, visitors here to this realm and its inhabitants, a place that seems designed to help us remember who we are, and perhaps, to learn a bit of wisdom about ourselves in the process. An adventure unfolding in front of us, beckoning us forward with curiosities, with memories and magic, and with enemies to vanquish for our satisfaction. And, as we have both found out repeatedly, where the penalty for failure is nothing more than being sent back to a checkpoint and having to redo the section that we had failed. There are still some spaces as yet unexplored for us, but we have succeeded, guided by the creature we ride, at remembering the person that we were before embarking on this journey.

I am sorry that so much of what we are has been shaped by tragedy and loss, that the memories chosen to create this place are not the few fleeting moments of happiness in our lives, but the sorrows and the disasters that make up the spaces we have explored. We have learned and grown stronger because of the hardships, but that does not make them any less painful to re-live as they were to live in the first place. If it were possible to have spared you those pains, and to let this experience be one of joy, exploration, and freedom, with perhaps the occasional interruptions from those chitinous creatures, I would have gladly done so.

There is one more region to explore. There is a note of finality about it that makes me uneasy, as if it were a place that, once entered, cannot be exited. It is very tempting to stay here, where I can command the elements and the words and not have to risk the possibility that passing beyond the lamp-post will expel me from this place without the possibility of even returning to it. You must make that decision for yourself, when the time is right, to decide whether you wish to press on into the unknown.

I thought you might stay on for a little while longer, to explore every square possible in this world, scour it clean of any remaining insects, search just in case there was a fifth magic to be found, or a secret capsule somewhere with a superpower known only to those who fully explore the map and beat all of the optional content. Some of the words in those battles were things that I only remember vaguely, having read it in passing somewhere, or heard it once in a lecture, or having been exposed to it only in the sense of it being on one of the sundry lists of the longest words, or the strangest. In either language. Toujours pas du tabarnak, malheureusement.

This was the last collectible from all of the explored spaces. We've cleansed the realm, the world, whatever this place is, as thoroughly as we can, and seen all of the breathtaking and bautiful sights there are available to us. And now, the only thing left for us to do is to go beyond, back to wherever the place is at the end of the desert. Back, I suppose, to whatever world and life we have had beyond that point. I wish I knew what it was. I wish I knew what had happened to us, to be able to guide you into making what the correct decision is for us. Even so, I'm nearly certain, at this point, that we're supposed to go back. The world doesn't change if we refuse. It's the same memories, the same magic, the same place. It's familiar, it's defeatable, it provides the appearance of a sense of purpose, to be able to save the world over and over again. But you, and I, and all of the others who have preceded us on our journey, we have done all the things that we can. We have grown and remembered and rearmed ourselves, but we have reached the limit of what this world can provide for us. The desert must be crossed if we are to go further. There is still one more memory for us to achieve, but to retrieve it, we must go beyond this safe space.

Yes, safe. Out there, I have to assume, our problems aren't quite so easily vanquished, and failure isn't quite so easily tolerated. Here, we gather confidence, courage, and strength, so that we can go back out there, wherever, whatever, "out there" means.

The decision is ultimately yours, but I implore you, we have to go back.

We must leave this place.

We must reclaim our name.


It's like a dream that I can't quite catch. I know I slept a lot while things were bad, and a lot of the time, there were dreams, but I can't quite remember this one. Maybe I'm remembering some video game I played instead and my brain just doesn't want to separate the two.

I'm really excited that someone finally bought that novel I had been working on for years. It just didn't have the right ending, but when I woke up, the thing basically wrote itself as soon as I was cleared to get back in front of a computer. If I can get another sale like that one, I might finally be able to pay the rent on somewhere for a year and really have a go at trying to do this writing thing professionally. But for now, I want to celebrate my first sale! How does Tuesday night ice cream sound? I'll even spring for the good stuff.

I really appreciate all the support that you and Art have given me while I recover. I feel embarrassed about how much I'd been convinced nobody cared or wanted to help me while I was with Bill. Speaking of, I really hope Art wasn't serious about showing him what the real Wild Hunt was about. He's been enough trouble in my life already, and knowing my luck, he'd come back to haunt me or something like that. Better that he's gone and we've done our best to make sure he doesn't come back into any of our lives.

See you Tuesday!