Part 7: KeyWelcome back, everyone!
Kind of a shorter update this time, but filled with PORTENT.
Ok, there's only one portent, but it's 100% necessary for the 'true ending', and it's, as we discussed last time, pretty easy to miss. But let's GET IT.
The idea this time is that we went downtown BEFORE work.
A poor choice from somebody whose career is hanging by the most delicate of threads, who just alienated their only support at work and mentor, and who has mountains of medical bills (and was living beyond his means already), yes.
But, as I think we've become comfortable and familiar with, Henry Makes Bad Decisions.
Moving in our usual West->East decision, we start with Dark Chapter. Since we took the skull, we get this little one-line greeting every time we enter the store.
He doesn't seem upset, almost... cheery? Heck, maybe this thing DOES have a curse on it. Maybe we should put it down! Where are we keeping it? I feel like the cinder block is probably going to grind it into powder...
This is QUITE the high-effort game, in that many people get all new dialogue every day. Some (the homeless lady all the way to the west downtown) don't, but 'main' NPCs will refresh daily, and everybody has SOME kind of arc. It's just that they're usually depressing and weird!
What brought you here from Louisiana?
- What brought you here from Louisiana in the end?
Following your dreams, with a loving girlfriend?
- My journey is what led me here, I simply followed the guiding ghost!
The journey was long and arduous, but my mind was engrossed!
Buddy, that sounds pretty fake. Was it a bad break-up? You can tell 'ol Henry.
Do you really believe in this stuff?
- Do you really believe in these books and crystals you're selling?
Do you actually have a potion that's good at evil spirits repelling?
- But of course! This is all way too real, my friend!
I wouldn't spend all my life wanting to pretend!
Even if he didn't, Henry, he'd be shooting himself in the foot by admitting to it.
What's with the pentagram?
- What's with that odd-looking pentagram on the wall?
Are you praying for Armageddon and mankind's downfall?
- That is the sacred symbol of the lost belief.
There are no people left that believe in that motif.
Are you... not a person?
- I am the sole remaining protector of its sacred traditions.
It's a faith born in a time and place that lack definitions.
A time and place that what? Yeah shockingly, the guy who runs the occult bookstore is fairly obtuse. Is it so he can cultivate an aura of mystery, or is it because the knowledge he possesses is beyond mortal ken?
Honestly? Meta-gaming here, probably a little of A, little of B.
Have you heard of the 'hobo disappearings'?
- Have you heard of the "hobo disappearings" around here?
Any details you could share of which you might be aware?
You know, you could have just rhymed "share". No, it's not perfect, but neither is aware, OBVIOUSLY.
- It was a dark time for this area, a community gripped with despair!
Dark forces were at play back then, I could feel it in the winter air!
- Something sinister was behind those lost.
Their footprints forever gone in the frost...
Yeah seems like a pretty easy call, saying that the mass disappearance of the vulnerable members of a society is "bad". I'm amazed!
- It's time I hit the road,
don't turn me into a toad!
Next up is our best friend (and, honestly? It's a pretty decent subtle-ish move to have Henry be on a first-name, buddy basis with the pharmacy guy. Because of Grace!)
I like the new atmosphere!
- I love the vibe you've got in the place now.
It no longer looks and smells like a dead cow.
Henry you... you're very bad at compliments. Lots of other things too, but ESPECIALLY compliments.
- Thanks, the place got a whole new coat of paint.
Other than the franchise fees, I haven't got a complaint.
Yes other than the 70% FRANCHISE FEE.
What do you think of the police strike?
- What do you make of the current police strike?
Has the lack of cops caused a crimewave spike?
- It's the lack of cops that keep these hooligans loitering around.
They should be thankful they have a job, and clean up this town!
"Less demanding fair wages, more busting heads! That's what the police are FOR, right?"
Are all the homeless a problem?
- Are all the homeless people driving business away?
Maybe their presence make [sic] people not want to stay?
- They might be driving some custom from my store,
but they're also the ones that are buying more.
- They're always in here getting cough syrup and such.
So I have to admit I don't really mind them too much.
The real question is, was he this morally grey, cynical money-grubber who makes bad business decisions BEFORE he met Henry? Or does Henriness OSMOSE?
How's the blood pressure?
- Are you still on that blood pressure medication?
I was sure if you didn't learn to relax just a bit,
I would soon have to attend your cremation!
Again, Henry is TRYING to be sympathetic, and I mean, actually remembering details about another person and asking about them is FAR better than I usually give him credit for but... jeez, Henry.
- I'm still popping those daily, the dosage is now double!
They're saying all this stress is giving my heart trouble!
- I don't mean to sound like a recluse,
but it's time for me to vamoose...
Skipping next door to our friend who runs the liquor store...
Weather looks better today...
- The weather looks better today than the forecast for the week.
Maybe things will match the sky, and become less bleak.
I don't think it... fine. Optimism gets a pass.
- I doubt much will change, not with where this area is headed.
You'd run from this part of town too, but you must be hardheaded.
Thought about what I said?
- Have you put any thought into selling something new?
You could sell alcohol, but maybe baseball cards too.
Henry, nobody wants your stupid business advice! It's BAD.
- I've thought about it, and the answer is still "no".
I'd rather stay where I'm at, and fight rather than let go.
How are things outside work?
- How is life treating you outside of work?
Sure there's more to you than being a store clerk.
- Hey bub, I don't know you that well.
For you, I don't have any stories to tell.
THREAD CHOICE: NICE OR MEAN.
And on, to spread our joy around, to the bar.
- It's not complicated to figure that shit out.
Think about it for a second, and you won't have any doubt...
- I just want it to go back to the way it used to be.
That's a neighborhood I wish I can see.
You know, I know this is an adventure game, but it's a REAL bad sign if you're in a bar one night, and then again the next afternoon. I mean, yes, this place is economically depressed, but surely there's SOMETHING other to do than spend money on alco.
And it's not like everybody is ALWAYS in the same place! The prostitute isn't out today!
H...hopefully because she's taking the day off, and we're not going to have to fish her out of the company kitchen
Glass of bourbon please
- Can I have a glass of bourbon please?
Strong enough to put me on my knees.
- Coming right up, these are as strong as can be.
Too many of these and you'll feel like you're at sea.
You're always cut off after one shot, but still, Henry needs a little lubrication to keep meeting and greeting this entire street.
This seems like the only place doing good business...
- This seems like the only place doing good business around here...
Do you think that's an assessment that's on point and fair?
- That sounds about right buddy, I offer a cheap escape from reality.
People can't afford the liquor next door, but here it's practically free!
Somebody might know about bad bars better than me, but my baseline assumption is that alcohol from a liquor store is about 5 times cheaper than alcohol you buy in a bar. Am I wrong?
- When there's no work to be found, and you can't afford the bills,
you can either have an honest drink, or shoot up poison for thrills.
- The good people in here have decided to support local enterprise.
Others are choosing drugs from criminals, which isn't very wise...
I hope he's supposed to be coming across as hypocritical? I honestly can't be sure, in a game with a protagonist like this one.
How come this place is just called "bar"?
- How come the name of this place is just simply "Bar".
Seems like your branding budget didn't go very far...
THERE'S that awkward silence! You'll get the full set before we're through, Henry!
- Fancy marketing isn't needed around these parts.
People like honesty, that's how you win hearts.
- The people around here are honest to god, blue-collar folk.
Salt of the earth, at least until the drug floodgates broke...
Buncha rock-solid alcoholics they were! They went out of their minds on LEGAL substances!
Have you thought about serving food?
- Have you thought about serving food to your customer base?
It might prove to be an extra revenue source for this place!
HENRY NOBODY WANTS YOUR STUPID BUSINESS ADVICE
- OH! Wow! Yeah what a fantastic idea!
I can hire staff to serve food and pitch in!
I'll just knock down this wall right here!
And build from scratch a fucking kitchen!
- The bank will love to lend a business in this area some money!
I've no credit history, and you going to be my co-signor sonny?!?
Mmmmmmmmm. He may not serve food, but the schaudenfreude is piping hot!
- Ok, never mind, it was just a thought...
No need to treat me like I'm a crackpot...
- Need to leave, I do believe...
Henry of course scuttles off like an insect at the slightest resistance.
- Last night they cut off the power,
since we couldn't afford the bill.
We argue about everything now,
our marriage is going downhill.
- Be careful when offered investments,
that seem too good to ever be true.
I guess I just wasn't destined for riches...
Good fortune just never comes through.
Yeah, it's destiny that made that investor NOT be the one time that setup was an incredible deal offered to a stranger for no reason.
The two titans are of course still brawling. They are the dynamo that powers this universe.
Got any sales on?
- I'm looking for a penny-pinching deal.
Is there anything I can get at a steal?
- The sandwiches are on sale.
They're getting rather stale.
LADY, PLEASE. THAT IS A BIT OF A SORE POINT FOR ME, SO DON'T MENTION SANDWICHES.
What can you do for fun around town?
- What can you do for fun at night around town?
There must be something to do after sundown?
- Well let's see... there's actually quite a bit to do.
There's a hooker in you want something short-term.
A lot of people are into heavy drugs so there's that.
The library stays open past ten, if you're a bookworm.
Poetry problems again. Is she... being sarcastic? That's my best guess. Either that or she's an enthusiastic and very creepy tour guide!
Do you have a lot of problem with theft?
- There's always talk about the rising crime rates in the area.
Is that something you've noticed, or is it media hysteria?
- The place has definitely gotten pretty rough over the years.
Many times, I've had to run home holding back the tears.
- I've had a gun pointed at me so many times,
you'd almost think I'd been to some war.
But now that business is so slow around here,
it doesn't happen as frequently anymore.
You look pretty tired...
- You're looking pretty tired, are you feeling alright?
You [sic] also looking very tense, and a bit uptight.
- Oh,... it's nothing really. I've just got a lot on my mind.
And those kinds of comments can be seen as unkind...
Again, even if he's trying to show sympathy, it's the "Man you look HORRIBLE, what's WRONG with you?" kind.
- I better get a move on,
before the day is gone.
Yeah, shouldn't we be getting to w- oh never mind.
- I've told you a million times, I'm sorry! You know I hate horror flicks!
I got scared the tape was possessed, and we don't have a crucifix!
- So you went and threw it out into the night!?!
Man, sometimes I wonder if you're alright...
And believe it or not, this is the conversation that we NEED to encounter. This locks us from discovering the truth, and getting the 'true' ending. This conversation about a guy throwing away a movie because he thought it was haunted. READ ON.
- If I may ask, how is your home life?
Is it full of happiness or perhaps strife?
- It's alright, I guess. There's just one thing.
My mom isn't in the best state for parenting.
- What's wrong with your mother?
What is it that's the bother?
- Sorry, I've already said too much.
Disclosing more would be a crutch.
You know, when I take control of his brain and force him, Henry actually does take the time to get to know a lot of people. That's one semi-admirable trait, so there, I said it.
You seem young...
- If I had to guess, I'd say you're barely a teen.
Why do you work so hard, if you'll let me glean?
- My mom has trouble paying the bills.
I'm stuck here and she's selling pills.
THREAD CHOICE PART 2
Also, I'm pretty sure you don't get to go "heh, that's LIFE kid" unless you've been through something similar, and I mean, Grace has had a rough time, but no, Henry has not been through something similar. He's just (potentially) smarmy.
That punk on the streets is strange...
- I've seen that punk, with the mohawk so tall.
He seems fishy, is he up to anything good at all?
- I've seen him pacing the street outside this place.
He's always got a really mean look upon his face...
Have you seen the pharmacy rebranded?
- How do you like the new look of the pharmacy down the street?
I guess with a fresh and modern look, he's hoping to compete.
- There's nothing to complete with, he's the only pharmacy around.
The problem is there aren't enough shoppers around this town.
This teenager: a better head for business than Henry and his Pharmacy friend COMBINED.
- I'd better get going,
the wind outside is blowing...
Ok, now just a little catching up with the apartment folks:
Thanks, guy with a big bookcase full of melted mannequin heads. You're an inspiration.
- I'd wring the life out of each of those scum!
They've turned this place into such a slum!
That's... probably a bad sign to hear you saying that, Bavarian old man! In this game, you're probably going to start doing that!
I wasted a lot of time looking around downstairs after he said this. We can't get him the freezer.
Again, I refuse to be manipulated into feeling bad for over-naive "just good folk" like this. Sorry!
AND NOW, time for my favorite section, the "Henry's Awful Past Theatre!"
The day after we bought the house
- Grace worried we couldn't afford the mortgage for the house.
She has always been a level-headed and pragmatic spouse.
AKA she had any kind of financial or planning sense at all.
- Why don't we get a two-bedroom apartment downtown?
This neighborhood is the most expensive one around!
- Don't worry about it Grace, I'm starting my new job soon!
I want a backyard for our baby to spend a summer afternoon.
- I'll be making so much money, we'll easily afford this place.
Come on honey, trust me, let me take charge on this Grace.
"We'll easily be able to afford this once the money that isn't coming in yet starts coming in" is one of those things you really can't ever let go.
This is the first sentence I remember with Henry sounding enthused about fatherhood though! And note that, neatly packaged along with the desire for the kid to have a good time, is the desire to be the big man providing big things for the kid/Grace. It's practically a cliche, but spending time with your family and enjoying them is more important than over-extending yourself for some backyard!
- Ok Henry, if you're sure this is within our means.
I don't want to spend the next years eating beans...
- Never babe! We'll be eating like kings!
Every night we'll have chicken wings!
Story time! I know a family where the husband decided he wanted to build a big giant house basically on his own, and the wife was PRETTY sure he couldn't, but went along with things because she thought 'oh husband knows best', and guess what, it was a giant disaster and bankrupted the family.
Ladies/gentlemen! Voice your opinions! Don't be Grace, and for GOODNESS sake don't be Henry.
After the fall
- Everything that evening was spiraling out of control.
Grace in hospital, the baby gone... The death of my soul.
Yeah, I'm sure it was rough, but at least you could be there with Gr-
OK, or he could be meeting old friends at a bar. Sure, I'm sure grace'll be fine!
- Oh my god! I'm so very sorry! I feel so bad for you!
You know, if you want to feel better, there's thing we could do.
...Oh. I see.
- You know, your wife won't find out.
After the shit you've gone through,
let me take care of you down south.
You know, we talk about warning signs a lot, but this is one of those instantly-stop-talking kind of sentences! Right? I mean, who...
Of course, in all fairness, I'm pretty sure that by chatting up some strange lady in a bar, you're... KIND of selecting the people who might do something like this.
This lady is either drunk or messed up (or both!), and is also written as kind of an icky male fantasy, right? The slutty lady who throws herself at you in a moment of pain, so I mean, yeah, you DID the bad thing, but is it REALLY your fault?
But Henry had to GET here, and get a DRINK, and strike up a conversation with this lady. Nobody is coming out of this looking good, unless he turns around and
I figured not. Well, I'm still not letting you cheat with your cougar neighbor, you pile of garbage.
"Heyy, it's your great husband, who was gone all last night for legitimate reasons! I'm JUST ABOUT to start making money Grace, you have NO idea babe".
Ok Grace, they say you can come home today.
That's great news right? You wouldn't want to stay.
- It'll be so strange coming back to the house again.
Hey, what happened to your locket on a chain?
- And why do you reek of cheap booze?
Did you spend the night on a bar cruise?
Hah, you WISH. I mean
- I just couldn't bear the thought of you missing in bed.
So I went out to a bar and got trashed instead.
- I, uhm, I guess the locket must have been misplaced.
I might have taken it off when I got home, shitfaced.
- I'm sure it'll probably turn out to be at home by the bed.
Come on lets go home, or do you want to stay here instead?
- But I knew the locket wasn't a home beside the bed.
I lost it getting my dick sucked by some slutty redhead.
- I left it at her place, too drunk to remember the address.
Having lost such a precious gift, has been an awful mess.
Yeah, life's hard when you're complete and total gutter trash, Henz.
Grace is Sick
- A few years on, we were recovering from losing our child.
God must have felt that more trails [sic] should be piled.
"We" were recovering?
- The details of the disease were worse than I feared.
On that day, all hopes for the future truly disappeared...
- How long do I have left Dr. Richards? Is it months or weeks?
When will the colors disappear from my rosy cheeks?
...kind of a weird follow-up question, but I guess you DO have to rhyme.
- It's hard to say my Grace, but it's probably a month or three.
Then from a weakened body you'll eventually be set free.
But... but my trophies! Grace, you don't understand! I'll be given my unearned success so soon!
- It didn't even seem to faze her, she took it all in stride.
Maybe she lost the will to live, back when our baby died.
- I'm afraid that's all the time we have for today.
Gather your thoughts and get on your way.
- Come again soon,
And on we rush...
Waaaait, what's this on the bench?
Yes, it's VERY small and missible!
If you'll remember...
- No deal, I want to watch "Killer Clowns from Outer Space Four"!
I hear it tops out all previous three, with lots more juicy gore!
So this... must.... somehow be the tape!
I guess if they lived on the fourth floor on the apartment building, and he HUCKED it outside, and it landed here and was sitting in the rain all night... ah, they'll still want it!
Ok, one last new conversation person...
Ho HO! I like that she remembers us being mean, and sasses right back. I LIKE it.
- Don't take it so personally! I was only being honest.
Why don't you learn something new? Become a pianist!
- A pianist? Great! I hear that's a job in high demand...
Why don't I just go ahead and join a high school band.
Heaven help me, I love every time somebody just stares levelly at Henry, causing us all to think about the thing he said, and how dumb it was.
There's a funky smell in here...
- What's with that funky smell in here today?
If you ever had patrons, it'd drive them away.
- There's sewer mold starting to grow on a back wall.
That stuff reeks so bad, it'll make your skin crawl!
The... stuff that kills on contact?
That you need to call the health department if you see ever?
That there are posters up for everywhere? THAT stuff? O...ok
What's sewer mold?
- Sewer mold? NEver heard of it, what the hell is that?
Sounds made up by those who think the earth is flat...
Henry, we read a poster about this. We've had like 10 conversations about it. Shut it.
- You must not be from around here,
the public health posters are everywhere.
- There's this very toxic mold growing, down under ground.
Apparently it's one of the most dangerous molds ever found.
YEAH, SO YOU SHOULD CALL SOMEBODY.
What time do you close at?
- What time does this place close at?
I'm enjoying making this idle chitchat.
- I prefer to be here, rather than at home.
So I usually keep the place open past late.
Beats developing battered wife syndrome...
Boy... that's... pretty grim, lady!
Do you have any books on mystical symbols?
- Do you have any books on mystical symbols on your shelves?
I've got this strange letter that might be written by elves...
Thank goodness "elf" and "elves" rhyme with so much, is all I can say for Henry when he's talking about mystical stuff.
- I can't understand a word it's saying,
so I haven't a clue what it's conveying.
- On topics of mysticism, this library is a bit of a flop.
I recommend you pay a visit our [sic] local occult shop.
That's a great idea, but he's of absolutely no help. Can't translate anything, won't even acknowledge the letter.
- I need to leave,
I do believe...
Ok, so now that we have the tape...
- Oh my god, yes! We lost it last night.
IT was caushing quite a domestic fight!
- Thank you ever so much for returning it to us!
Even if it's a bit scruffy, that we have it is a plus!
Nice! Sidequest down, let's get a rew-
- As a token of our gratitude, here, let us give you this.
It's called "the third key of the bottomless abyss!"
It's called the what.
- We swiped it from the occult store.
Apparently, this isn't the only one,
there's supposed to be a few more.
- The legend goes that the person to possess all keys will see the truth.
From hidden universes to those that may have wronged you in youth.
I honestly think the keys thing is kind of a missed opportunity.
We've been warned that there are keys we should be finding (annoyingly, by the time we get the dream with the angel and young Henry where he tells us to find the key, we've PROBABLY already missed this one, which you can't go back for, so get stuffed).
The keys, when assembled, unlock a thing, as keys tend to do. I just think it would have been neat to have them come about in... I don't know, a more magical-realism-horror kind of way.
What if, in the course of the gameplay, if you made certain decisions, you'd get keys (which would do things in the game world, like one could be a house key or something!). As a consequence of making certain decisions, which would make for a particular kind of game, you could get these keys.
Later, when you were using them, the line between prophecy and individual action would be, you know, challenged and blurred. Were these always special keys? Did they BECOME special because of their significance? Would you have gotten different, equally effective keys doing different things? Is it a hallucination?
But no, there are six keys with super-spook discount halloween names, and they're just kind of around, and the things you have to do to find them are... not really tied in with the main plot at all. They're just "did you talk to everybody/look in every crevice" kind of keys.
I mean, I'm not saying there's NO theme, we'll investigate that later, but...
Ok. Here's the "third key of the bottomless abyss"
- No more horror movies, not after what last night! [sic]
I want to rent that buddy copy movie "Mr. Dynamite!"
- Ugh fine, it is your turn to choose tonight after all.
We never find something we both want to watch,
without fail we always manage to hit a brick wall...
Well, they DID say they stole it from the occult store (apparently a pretty popular passtime!)
I kind of hate the name. Let's give it back.
Yeah, not like we have to go to w...HOLD ON
- I thank you for taking the noble path, and returning this key.
Dark secrets where [sic] imparted when first it was given to me.
- The man who brings this key back to its companion,
shall take the role as their new protector and champion.
- This key belongs with another, and now they both belong to you.
Make sure you find their home, if it is the last thing that you do.
Oh, great. Now we have TWO stupid keys.
Now we're off to work, to get a murderess and cannibal mad at us!
The story picks up where last chapter left off...
A sidequest buffet!
Hilarious item interactions!
SEE YOU THEN