Part 1: in mediAS res
They say life begins with darkness and ends with darkness.
That's probably way more philosophical than my situation was then, because my life had already begun many summers ago, and as far as I was aware, hadn't ended yet. Something else had to have been the cause of this darkness.
Clearly, all of this was explained by the fact my eyes were simply closed. I'd dozed off earlier and now I was waking up, that's all. Something did bother me about that predicament: the surface I was on wasn't a bed. While comfortable, it didn't feel like a bed.
BGM: Ambient Strain
I sleep horribly on couches, which was why I made a point of never doing it if I could avoid it. Something very unusual must have happened for me to consider it.
From behind, I spied three people. They were discussing something with the utmost urgency. Their tones were hushed, as if they were trying to ensure they couldn't be overheard. Did I have any cause for concern? No, that's too paranoid, even for me.
They most likely just didn't want to wake me up. I had a feeling that was the case because... one of them was Jasmine and she had no reason to keep anything from me.
You don't have to worry. Nothing bad will get through me!
Then again, her words implied she was my jailer. I hadn't seen her face to face since maybe... four years ago now. Truth be told, I missed the times I spent with her before. That's right, she's my childhood friend! Yeah, nothing more.
Except now, she lived on the other side of the country, unlike the boy next to her, who was named Marco. He lived much closer to me. We shared an apartment, after all. Once again, we were friends, nothing more.
He was in disagreement with her plan. His words, unlike Jasmine's, eased my mind about my predicament: she was not, in fact, my jailer. Honestly, though, I wouldn't have minded that.
Wait, what did he mean by not safe? Where exactly were we? If I was here with Jasmine and him, it couldn't have been so bad, but... I thought maybe I should ask him. Maybe he would have some answers for me, since he's pretty smart. ...Or would he make fun of me by turning it into a joke, like he always did?
At least, I knew I could depend on him. After all, he's got a master's degree in some weird stuff that sounds like mathematics. I forgot what it was and obviously, it's not that... and I wasn't awake enough to remember it.
Instead, I tried to remember what could have brought us here. Were we in the landlord's office? Ugh, my head hurt so badly, I had issues remembering anything... Looking around once more, I noticed we were in some kind of bar, or at least, there was a counter with some stools. Yeah, that wasn't the landlord's office.
It read: You don't know what you have til it's gone.
A chill ran up my spine as I read the words in my head. This entire place was giving me the creeps, now that I was awake to take it all in.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Little...boy? I looked at my body only to realize I wasn't little. I was twenty-four. That man, though... I didn't know who he was, but we as much bigger than I was. Judging by the gray hair, he was in his fifties, perhaps?
You're finally awake! That solves our little problem. I hope we didn't wake you up.
No, it's okay... I... didn't sleep very well.
It sure won't beat the bed you just got last month. And by the way, you still owe me for that, remember?
I absent-mindedly nodded, but Jasmine changed the topic. I was thankful for that, since I didn't want to be reminded about my debts right now.
Some words she said didn't make sense. M and Ray? I had to assume Marco was M and this guy was Ray, but why call Marco M? I was very lost so I simply nodded, masking my confusion.
Ah, yeah, a new place after heading out... Makes sense.
A part of me wanted to believe this was a weird dream. That was probably... the cowardly part in me. The same part was also telling me to not let them know I wasn't up to date with the recent events. Unfortunately, where others might have quieted that part, I... listened to it. I always listened to it.
It might've been a little on the nose to admit to myself how cowardly I was, but if there was one thing I couldn't hide from, it was that. I knew I was a coward even if I didn't look the part.
Whatever. The sooner we explore more, the sooner we'll be out of here. I'll take the punk with me again and you can go with your girlfriend. That good for you?
Girlfriend?! W... wait, wait- I didn't know what happened before I slept, but... I mean, I was not really opposed to it either because she's cute and... What was I thinking? That man almost got me flustered there for a moment. It would be far too embarrassing to reveal that... I did have feelings for her, kind of. Maybe. Oh, I actually was embarrassed.
Shit, there was no hiding it anymore now. I felt like an embarrassed, clueless teenager. Get a grip, Simon! I just had to say something before my cheeks got any redder.
I took a sidelong glance at her and noticed she looked as rosy as I was. I didn't think it was fair for her to blame me if she was also embarrassed! Marco stayed quiet, apparently thinking about doing something horrible. I felt an incredible need to leave before he opened his big mouth again. Thankfully I was saved by the imposing man. Cursed and saved by the same man in the span of two minutes? That ought to be some kind of record.
This 'Ray' person didn't seem too friendly so I took my mind off him by turning my attention back to Jasmine and Marco. The latter was a little deflated by what I assumed was Ray calling him punk over and over.
Yeah, can't wait for that, sounds amazing, woo... Hey J and S, you sure you want to head out together? Either of you care to mix it up a little?
Jasmine categorically shook her head.
And just like that, after a brief wave, she was gone too, leaving me with Marco. He looked back at me, uncertain of how to proceed.
That guy could destroy me with a well-placed punch.
That would at least give me enough time to talk to Marco a little, if I wanted to die due to a horrible joke or two. Or... I guess I could also head out to join Jasmine right away.
Basically, all an Active Search is is a moment where you can poke around a location or talk to the people who are in the same place to get their input on things. There's no penalty for looking around, and sometimes you have to do so in order to be able to talk or use something and progress. Talking can sometimes progress the story (but not always), whereas interacting with an object will always progress the story. It's generally recommended to look at everything whenever an AS occurs, as it is entirely possible to skip these segments entirely which can lead to missing information.
As this is technically the tutorial AS, the only things you can do are talk to Marco or examine and then leave the room (which will progress the story). Thus, we should talk to Marco first...
I keep telling you, Marco's fine when nobody's around, Simon. Apparently, we're just using these names in lieu of our real names just so we don't... uh... honestly, I don't know.
Ah, yeah. That wasn't too smart.
I shook my head. No, I didn't know, and I didn't want to know. Everything he touches turns into a joke. Kind of like Midas, who had the power to turn anything he touched into gold.
I didn't want to be turned into a joke myself, so I saluted to part from him.
Yeah, I should head out too. Ray will get mad...
I wondered why he was named Ray and not something like 'R, but that would be like admitting I was a little lost lamb and that's really not... cool. The last thing I wanted to do was to give him even more ammo for his stupid jokes.
Since Marco went back to hanging around in silence, I left him be.
There's nothing left for us to look at and we can't talk to Marco anymore, so all that's left is to leave.
It wouldn't be a good idea for me to postpone joining Jasmine down the stairs, so I moved as if to leave the place.
Marco's words reminded me of something. I focused on that while grumbling some farewells back at him.
From my uniform's side pocket, I pulled out a cap which I nervously adjusted back onto my head. I kept it stashed away whenever I could, but right now, it might give me some courage. My boss wasn't here, thank god. If he saw me without that cap on, he'd probably give me a truckload of swears. Normally, I hated wearing the dam thing. In here... it was kind of comforting, at least.
BGM: Ambient Strain
It was comforting because it was one of the few things that felt normal.
Stepping outside, I found myself in the last area I'd have thought I'd emerge into.
The more I looked around the station, the more this didn't make any sense to me. I gave up trying to understand exactly where the hell I was because no matter what station this was... I knew for a fact none of them had a spacious bar upstairs. At least, there was no open bar like that, directly after taking the first flight of stairs. That didn't make any sense.
Straight to the point, not even a hello. I assumed this place didn't really have her in a jolly mood.
I was completely lost so I just nodded. However, I had a feeling Jasmine had picked up on my confusion. Taking a glance to the other side of the station, I saw Marco and Ray in the distance. Well, like she said, we had some time to kill before the train arrived. I was curious about the place, so I could either look at stuff, or... talk to her. I'd probably need to talk to her sooner or later, so it's just a question of when.
This next AS, on the other hand, has a lot to look at. Starting with the walls...
Funny, I didn't remember the walls being like that in any station I'd seen. I hadn't visited all of them, though, so maybe that's just how this station was. Station walls certainly varied wildly depending on where you were at. Some of them had brick walls, while others were tiled. Some were pristine, some were decorated with graffiti. Some were featureless... and some of them had ads all over the place. Most of them did, to be fair.
Next, the television screen...
That wasn't there last time I came in here. All the screens used to be suspended, but this one was mounted on the wall with four mega-large screws behind it. Currently, it was powered off.
That TV was bigger than any other I'd ever seen. Clearly, that must've cost a fortune. Marco would lose his mind if I brought something like that back home.
Might as well look at the sign while we're at it.
Danger! Staff only! That's what it said. That little maintenance hall was shrouded in darkness. That's where the staff usually went to fix all of the subway's problems, whenever it had any.
So of course, we're going to poke around in that hallway immediately
It was too dark in there. I could barely make out some kind of weird metallic gate. If Jasmine wasn't going in, then I assumed it was locked and searching it wouldn't help me in the least.
Next to the little maintenance hall was a yellow stripe on the ground which stretched across the entire border of the station. If I stepped beyond it, I'd fall down onto the rails.
Nothing left to look at, guess it's time to talk to Jasmine.
I didn't really know how to tell her. On one hand, I didn't want her to find out I had no clue about what was going on when they all clearly did. It would make me look like I didn't have my stuff together.
On the other hand, I was at a severe disadvantage not understanding.
Luckily for me, Jasmine was a kind person who always had my back and she listened. Finally understanding what nagged at me, she began explaining in vague terms.
I think I know what you have right now and... that sounds like amnesia to me. It's probably super dangerous if I go too fast, due to how the memories are like, locked right now or something? I'll just take it slowly, then, assuming its temporary. I guess I can explain the minimum to you just so you know and understand enough, at least.
If you say so. I don't really know much about amnesia but I still want to know what's going on. Where is this place? Who's Ray?
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
I honestly don't know who Ray is, so I'll talk about what I know. There are five color-themed lines, but you already know all this. What's really important is the fact we're actually stuck here. There's no way out; we already tried to force doors open, no dice.
I felt a shiver run up my spine at that. This felt a little like one of those... One of those Escape the Room new-age reality games. Except for the fact we were clearly not paying to be entertained, here.
I swallowed. She had to be joking... Surely it wasn't real and someone was just toying around with us? It was then that I noticed the collar Jasmine was wearing around her neck.
Come to think of it, Marco and Ray had also been wearing a collar like that, hadn't they? I didn't even need to check my own neck. I could feel one there too. I decided against touching it. It seemed... dangerous, somehow.
I waited for her to continue, but it took a while, and as the seconds passed I could tell she was trying to... It felt like she was trying to stop herself from... giggling?
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Pretty much all my fears left at this moment, and instead I was staring at her with the same irresistible desire to laugh.
What the hell, the Dating Game? We're definitely being toyed with here, that's what I think.
Just as suddenly as the mood shifted to something lighter, it reverted to something rather uncomfortable as Jasmine stared at me, no longer amused. With the most serious tone in the world, she completed her thought.
BGM: Alarming Silence
A glacial feeling spread through me from my feet, crawling upwards along my legs to latch onto my back. It was tightening my stomach, creating a knot in my throat. Wait, might?
T... There's no way, that's a joke, isn't it...? And besides... might? So you aren't sure?
Jasmine looked at me, as seriously as she could ever be.
It's not a joke and... about the uncertainty, it's complicated. But if what I saw was real, someone really... died... so as funny as the name is, this is real...
Then I looked at the train again. The Dating Game, huh? That was a stupid name. And yet, as she walked forward and tugged me into the train, there was no avoiding it.
I was going on a date with Jasmine, then. A date that could very well... kill me.
BGM: Ambient Strain
One thing was for sure: all I had been told was making me feel nauseous. Yet, for all it was, I couldn't sit down. Normally, I would have. I just... needed to do something in this familiar, yet... unfamiliar place.
A three-step ding dong echoed, signaling the train was leaving the station. When it took off, I reflexively grabbed onto one of the beams for support. Crap! Those things were full of germs. That was why I usually sat down. I had to wash my hands soon.
At least, that was familiar. It was the announcer speaking as a lady's voice, whose entire job had been to record public service announcements for those who used the metro lines. They were in French, because we're in Montreal, of course. Translated literally, it's just next station with the name of the station.
However... the station wasn't named correctly. The messages must've been changed, but why? Did they want to make it clear what we'd find at each station? Or were they worried about copyright? Nah, it couldn't be that stupid.
Since we had some time, I decided to strike up some conversation with Jasmine.
None of this information is missable, it's more a matter of what we want to find out immediately; I'm going to skip the questions about Simon, as he's the point of view character, and I'm also going to skip the question about the game, since that'll be explained properly again later so no point in having it covered twice. As such, I'll start with asking more about Jasmine.
Oh, erm, right. Anyway, I meant to ask about how the job's going.
My graphical designs? They're all going swimmingly. Sometimes I wonder if I should have studied further though... not that I can justify going back right now... I got a bit client who wants me to make large nature landscapes and it's really difficult. I'm not very good with the colors he's involving in it.
The pay is probably good to offset that, though. I know you wouldn't take a job you didn't think you could do.
I didn't know what to add to that, so I added nothing. Jasmine always had her shit together. A complete contrast with me...
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Instead, I took a seat on one of the various colorful benches scattered about. The last thing I wanted to happen was her to think I was useless. I needed to rest to be in shape. But I'd already rested, on that couch, no? Unless... I was carried there.
Hey, what are you thinking about?
The announcer cut her off rather rudely as the train set off again.
I don't know.
She flashed a smile. Yeah, she was dependable to a fault.
Since the last question I asked was about a character, I'm going to ask about the current year instead.
-The current year
Of course. What, did you forget that too? Or are you just making sure you didn't leave the stove on for seven months?
No, no, I remember everything normal, like your name, your occupation, my own name... I just forgot what we're... doing here. Just making sure some things are still normal, you know?
Short term memory loss then, I see. It's not really that bad of a case of amnesia then. But yes, we're in 2022, the year where nothing goes right.
Isn't every year like that, anyway?
I thought back to 2020, with the large-scale virus outbreak we lived through. Same year also had tons of riots over injustice and racism. And in 2021 was... don't even mention it.
(This was NOT in the original game, for the record, so I lost it when I first got to this bit )
Or terror attacks, or crimes committed by teens. No school shooting that I can tell, and also, they restocked my favorite limited brand of pizza!
I had to change the subject before we got onto the topic of pizza.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
This one's already done, so we don't need to go here. And the next one... that's the one some of the others chose to go to. Oh, right, you don't know about them. I don't mean M and Ray. We're eight here in total.
There was something that didn't feel right, somehow. The amount of people was eight... but it wasn't what was nagging at me. What was nagging at me was the train's trajectory.
I had to ask her about it, but first I wanted to catch up with her some more. It was, for all I knew, the only opportunity I might have had to do so in here.
So what's Marco's deal, anyway? We know he's Simon's roommate, but is that all?
-Marco, Simon's roommate
So what do you think of Marco? You two haven't met before today.
She made a motion with her hands, but I couldn't understand what she meant by that. She was pointing at me while making a V with her fingers. Huh? No, that was counting. She was doing the sign for 2.
Wait, wait, hold on. No, that's not like it at all! We're just roommates.
That kind of guy? Hey, there was nothing wrong with...
I remember how you looked at Ms. Penmill, back in college...
Woah woah, hey! That was six years ago! I... listen, you're impossible! You can't just bring that back up, that's not fair...
All she had to offer as a retort was a mocking giggle. Why did she see everything, all the time? Every time anything happened, she just... knew exactly what was going on. I cursed myself for ever having a crush on that teacher. I brought everything back to my earlier thought, deciding that was enough for now. My available time before the train arrived at our destination was getting shorter and shorter.
So... couldn't we just ride the train all the way to the end?
The next one's taken already. After that is... ours.
That was simple enough. She really knew everything that was going on, huh? I was about to confront her about that, since it might give me an idea for how long this whole thing had been going on, but the train arrived at the station.
I expected it to go off again this time but contrary to what she said, the next station was... not our stop. The train didn't move to leave.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Is that a problem?
Now that I asked, I remembered what she said earlier about the others. She took the lead, stepping further ahead of me, closer to the doorframe.
Yeah, that's really weird because the others went here. Two of them did: an older guy and some really weird girl with a mask and headphones. Hey, anybody here?!
Jasmine called out in the station, but there was no reply. My stomach tightened as a flash of a thought went through my head.
Jasmine said...someone died already.
BGM: Alarming Silence
Could it be... Did the others also...
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
No, no way. They'd be fine too. For sure. I shook my head to get out of that stupor.
The train had already gone and the only way back was to cross the rails to take a train from the other side. But... the rails were definitely too dangerous to cross.
Giving a glance over there, I noticed it. The indication. 750 volts. That's the voltage going through those rails at all times. If we touched them, we were toast. Not to mention, crossing was dangerous because... what if a train was coming?
The much safer alternative was to go up the stairs, cross to the other side using the station above and come back down there. I was going to suggest it, but Jasmine had things to tell me.
And... if they solved this place, then the train should've left earlier with us inside it. Which means this is ours to deal with. Do you feel okay now?
Yeah, I can handle myself.
I'll take care of most of it, since you're still, you know. Not entirely caught up. But I might need help.
Sure. Hey, uh, how do I ask this...? There's no time limit or anything, right?
Say, you know a whole lot about this place, Jas.
I changed the topic for something that had been bothering me. She looked at me with a smile and a wink.
Oh, I'm just perceptive, that's all. And besides, it's been a few stations already, so I'm getting the hang of it! Though, you should call me J here, so people don't figure out our names...
Smiley, is that right? As much as I'd like to ask about him, you probably don't know any more than I do, huh?
Hey, come up too!
Yeah, yeah, coming!
While we didn't have a time limit, I couldn't stay down here and be left behind.
Once again, the thought that I didn't want to appear useless came over me. That's right. I had to join her in the search of this place. With only one way to go forward, I took the stairs. Arriving at the top, I saw what she'd meant much earlier.
BGM: Ambient Strain
It's not weird, J. You haven't been in an infirmary before, have you?
I don't think so, no. I already searched those drawers over there.
I remembered that I needed to wash my hands. After touching stuff in the train, I really needed a good rinse. There was a sink next to the counter, so I made a beeline for it.
You know, that makes sense. I should've cleaned my hands too.
You didn't?! That's definitely a sin in one of our existing religions, I'm sure...!
Hey, hold up, I was going to do so, now that you reminded me of it. I'm not a heathen or anything!
You better repent, that's right.
I just meant to tease her, but I didn't know if she took it that way . Not too far, there was some sort of bed. It looked comfortable...
Uh, not really. I'll go search elsewhere in this place for a while and come back here later.
I'll holler if something's wrong. Like if some slime monster crawls out of the sink now that I woke it up by running the faucet...
Oh, that's just ridiculous, now!
And yet, she moved away. Did I finally get back at her? I didn't know. But one thing I knew... this bed was going to give me a good nap. Maybe that's why I didn't sleep on couches too. No matter how comfortable they were, when I woke up I always felt like shit. This rest was just what I needed.
Now lying on the bed, I closed my eyes and drifted off.
But the more I tried to sleep, the more I couldn't. This bed was remarkably uncomfortable. I didn't notice it until I was on it, but it was kind of hard, like if it had seen countless use and hardened with time. It was probably used for short examinations. Go figure, we were in an infirmary and not a luxurious hotel suite. I rose back up while grumbling some profanities.
All in all, that entire process had taken a few minutes. I wondered what Jasmine was doing now.. but since she wasn't around, I didn't feel the need to call for her yet.
And then, she'd be grateful, and it would be a successful date. Heh... that was probably just wishful thinking. I didn't think I could ever get to her level.
Slapping my cheeks with both hands, I woke myself up. Alright, Simon, now's the time. It's time to search the shit out of this place, and then call for her when I found something cool.