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It started when my well-worn laptop finally gave out on me. Years of avid daily gaming finally caught up with it, resulting in heavy internal damage, or so they told me at the repair shop. And so I was left to search out a new computer to feed my gaming addictions.
However cash was tight, so I didn't have much to spend; which meant any decent rig was out of reach without months of saving. Months without a computer?
Unacceptable - I quickly hit the used computer scene: pawn shops, flea markets and eventually Craigslist. After about a week of steadfast searching, I eventually struck gold on Craigslist – a high dollar gaming laptop being given away!
I immediately contacted the poster and inquired about it. Fortunately, even though others had contacted the poster, the computer was still available due to the poster living in a somewhat remote location, and his reluctance to meet anyone halfway.
I didn't care, and quickly set up a meeting for later that day, and drove over as soon as I could. Arriving at the location, I had to agree with the others who had contacted the poster; it took me hours to arrive and was located on the very edge of town.
I pulled off of the road onto the dirt path that served as the driveway. The house itself seemed to be part of a farm, although looking around it seemed the field had not been taken care of in years, heavily overgrown with grass and weeds.
I parked and approached the door, but before I reached the old porch, a bearded man, perhaps in his late 50s, opened the door. I greeted him and introduced myself. He nodded and invited me in to look at the computer. Barely containing my excitement I followed along behind him as he led me to a room towards the back of the house.
Opening the door, I was shocked: Posters, strategy guides and game cases littered the room, despite several moving boxes already quite full. In fact the only space not involved with packing or clutter was the modest desk, holding the sleekest computer I've ever seen. It was clearly worth thousands of dollars, and as I looked it over I asked the man why he would give such an expensive machine away for free.
He looked at me sadly, then glanced about the room.
“It used to belong to my son,” he said quietly “His friends already claimed most of his other things, but insisted I keep this. I don't have any need for it, and can't bring myself to accept money for it. It's better if there's nothing left to remind me...”
He went quiet then, and I knew I'd get no more answers. I accepted the computer and he helped me load everything into the car.
It was late at night when I arrived home, nearly 1 in the morning, but I was too excited to wait. The old man's claims it had belonged to his son were upsetting but I had been without gaming too long to care. I spent ten minutes hooking everything up and turned it on. It booted up using Windows 7 OS, skipping a login screen. The desktop appeared, the background a HD image of a couple sitting below the night sky.
As I was glancing about the desktop for icons, a Steam window appeared, notifying me, “Connecting Steam account: mementoea”. I assumed this was the son's account and allowed it to load. I had my own account of course, but I wanted to know what this fellow gamer had loaded onto his account.
After a few seconds, Steam finished and revealed an amazingly small library of games. In fact, only one game was even installed: Bastion. I was admittedly confused, and checked the installed programs, but it was true: Only Bastion was installed. Not that I minded, I didn't expect to get free games along with the computer, but Bastion was one I loved, so I settled in for a bit of play.
It loaded up normally, displaying the options of Continue, New Game, New Game +, etc. I attempted to click Continue, but after a few seconds of loading an error appeared stating, “Cannot load game. Save file may have been deleted or corrupted.” I shrugged and started a New Game +.
The game started, but instead of Rucks saying, “I'll see you in the next one,” there was a quiet sobbing sound. When Rucks began his standard narration, he sounded very tired, and his script seemed subtly altered.
Proper story's supposed to start at the beginning. Ain't so simple with this one. Here's a kid whose whole world got all twisted, leaving him stranded alone. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I began playing, walking down the path that rose before me. Finds his lifelong friend just lying in the road. Waiting for him, like always. Where the hammer should have been, a girl with long blonde hair stood, smiling. I had never seen that character model in the game before, and it seemed to me to be far more beautiful than anything else in the game.
As I approached her, she faded out, replaced by the hammer, which sported a golden sheen that matched the girl's hair. I grew excited at this point, as I realized it must be a modded game. An excellently polished one as well, to have a voice actor and graphic artist to so closely match the original.
I continued playing until I got the saloon.
He sets foot inside one of his favorite watering holes. Inside is his lifelong friend. She already had a few.
The girl was sitting at the bar, but began fading as soon as the screen loaded. This girl fascinated me. She was clearly the center point of this mod, but why? I jumped out of the window to progress and landed in the Sundown Path.
Couples walk down the Sundown Path. She invites him for a stroll.
The girl was walking down the path as the Kid pulled himself up. I followed after, eventually reaching a skybridge. I took it, and flew into the air. I landed in an area I had never seen before, in a different style from the usual areas – solid ground as opposed to a patchwork of squares. It was a night sky, full of stars and the moon hanging large in the sky. The girl was sitting on the grass, looking up at the stars. I walked over next to her and sat down. And they all lived happily ever after. The screen slowly faded to black. I smiled. That was sort of a touching ending.
Nah, just kidding.
Red splashed across the screen, dark and wet. A female scream pierced my ears and I jumped in my chair. The screen faded in onto a street, the girl lying in the middle with blood pooling around. The narrator picked up again, his voice now cruel and vicious.
Finds his lifelong friend just lying in the road. Waiting for him no longer.
I walked over to the body and the scene changed again. It was a field, the Kid standing in front of a headstone. He looked visibly depressed and tears flowed down his face.
Proper story's supposed to start at the beginning. Ain't so simple with this one. His story starts with an ending.
Goes to see what's left of his lifelong friend. Cold and buried in the ground.
Looking at the scene it seemed familiar, but I couldn't place it. The screen faded to another scene.
It was a room, very dark, lit only by the glow of a screen. The Kid was barely more than a silhouette, slumped over a desk. He looked extremely depressed, and the narrator came again.
Here's a kid whose whole world got all twisted, leaving him stranded alone. What's there left to do when your world's come undone?
An option selection screen, similar in style to the regular ending selection appeared, with the options “Continue On” and “Surrender.” I selected continue. The scene changed, and I was in the Bastion at night, all buildings unlocked. I began to visit them, one by one.
The Distillery. Tries to drink away the pain, but he can't drown his soul in spirits. Not this time. Mori Midori acquired.
The Shrine. Curses the gods for their cruelty. They don’t respond. Silver Cross acquired.
The Memorial. Memories just make it hurt. Hurts worse to forget though. Memory Locket acquired.
The Lost-and-Found. Her stuff’s already been given away. He snags what he can. Hidden Diary acquired.
The Forge. Tinkering about with toys distracts him. Not for long. Dream Computer acquired.
The Arsenal. He lashes out at the world for a spell. Can’t fight what’s in your own mind though. Straight Razor acquired.
After visiting them all, I went to the skybridge, only to find the bedroom again, oddly familiar. Again the option flashed up. Continue. Kid can’t keep holding on like this forever.
Continue. Can’t keep fighting.
Continue; it was getting harder to select now - as if some part of me couldn’t keep going. Just let him go.
Continue. The Kid looked at me - directly at me, as if he could see me through the screen. His eyes held so much pain and suffering I almost couldn’t bear it. There’s only one way out now.
The option screen again.
It took me to the main menu screen. New Game + had been replaced with New Game -. I chose it.
What else could I do?
From behind me the narrator came, voice dry and raspy. Proper story's supposed to start at the beginning. Ain't so simple with this one. This story starts with an ending. I looked at the Kid. he was resting on the stone bed, blood soaking it and the floor, his wrists slashed open. Here's a kid whose whole world got all twisted, leaving him stranded alone in a world without love. Lost the only one that mattered to him. What else was there to do?
The girl appeared at his bedside, frowning sadly. She began fading out as flames began appearing at the sides of the screen. The voice was a whisper now. Right into my ear. He died to join her. But now he’ll never see her again. I turned around quickly to look behind me, but only the darkness of my room was there, and nothing more. I turned back to the monitor. Bastion had closed itself, as well as Steam.
I reopened Steam, but it only opened a blank login screen, as if I had just installed it. I looked in the file directories, just to make sure, but nothing was there. It was only after this that I noticed the desktop image had changed. Now a bright light shone in the sky like an aurora, and a sinister looking shadow was cast on a far hill, as if a terror was silhouetted by fire. The spot where the couple had sat before was bare, save for a bloodstain on the grass. I quickly shut down the computer and turned on my lamp before crawling into bed. I didn’t sleep that night.
It wasn’t until much later I remembered where I saw the field and that bedroom. The field near that house. Where she now rests in peace. His bedroom. Where he bled from slit wrists to see her again. Both taken by that cruel unfeeling Narrator of our lives, and deaths. I still hear him sometimes, if I'm awake on the computer late at night. Just behind me, just louder than the soft whir of the cooling fans.
I'll see you in the next one.