The Let's Play Archive

The Manhole

by Bacter

Part 4

Track 1
Track 2

Editor's note: That title isn't just for fun and games. I have literally no idea which flashing images cause trouble for epileptic folks, if they have to flash at a certain speed or with certain colors or whatever, but, true to the game, there are a number of flashing images in this update. If that bothers you just let me know!

I felt sick after the dragon. His stench filled the DEN he was in. When I thought about corruption, I imagined scaly demons and brimstone, but he had corrupted that den as surely as any imp would have. It was just stupider.

I remembered feeling calm and placid by the pool, but I was still shaking with rage and sick to my stomach. Now that I was out of the dragon's den, my abilities seemed to be reasserting themselves - I saw the ground warp and buckle in front of me, felt the temperature rise a few degrees.

Hm. The tower seemed to be more or less stable. I wondered if that meant I should or should not explore there, as I headed towards the pool.

The moon still shone bright, the despite my interference, the night was still cool, and the stars were twinkling overhead. I saw the trees rustle in the dim light, and felt calm already overtaking me.

The pool was just as I had remembered it. Placid, serene... final, in some sense. I was reminded of a time I was on a beach at night, looking out at the waves. It seemed like the end of the world, beyond where the waves broke. I was... with friends. I ran out into the waves, laughing, heedless of wetting my clothes... I... I...


I came to some time later - I had no way of knowing how long. Not that I even knew how time worked here.

I admit that I had considered the possibility that this could be some near-death experience already. It was difficult to make sense of this place - so much of it seemed to be... not exactly allegorical? But at least least more obviously meaningful than the world I was used to. Or was it? As I scrambled for details of my life before this, I felt the throbbing pain rise in my head, and shied away.

Were my thoughts being corralled?

I took stock of my situation quickly. I thought it unlikely this was merely a hallucination or near-death experience. I was relatively certain the dragon didn't come from inside me, even my darker side. It felt so... other. That was part of the terror of it, I suppose. But the longer I sat and watched the waters, the more I felt another presence. A subtle one.

They radiated placidity and calm. I dipped my hand into the pool, but felt only cool water. I KNEW there was something there, but I simply had no idea how to access it.

I reclined near the pool and decided to try to touch the waters with my mind, to move them.

But try as I might, nothing. There was no sense of revulsion, or of an opposing power like there was with the dragon in his den - it was just that my thoughts slid off the water soundlessly, not affecting them. And then, like ripples in a pond, I felt a voice in my mind.

You do not understand where you are, urger. Flesh and spirit. Spirit, AND flesh. Unity, not division.


Urger? was that a... title? Was that my name? Because I hoped not. It sounded like a name I'd want changed. It sounded creepy, honestly. Still... something about it...


Ok! Enough thinking about that!

Instead I tried something new with my mind - I noticed the face of Poseidon had an open mouth. I wondered if this was supposed to be a fountain. Maybe I could make it work? I reached out to grasp the statue and

Jumped back! A gout of flame poured out of the mouth! I thought of the dragon, and of him baking my biscuits, and of how I hated how that sounded. Had he changed this? Was I being directed to not using my mind?

Acting on that supposition, I thought I'd leave my on-the-fritz psychic abilities lie, and just poke around a little.

I circled the pillars, felt their cool stone surface.

Then my hand felt the surface of one of them. It felt... uneven. With a little tugging, a piece of the pillar moved sideways, revealing...

Author's note: I swear this is totally unaltered

I felt cold. What did... children? What was threatening about them? Who was Wriv? Why leave the message hidden like this? The screen looked vaguely like a TV screen, but nothing else was appearing there.

More obfuscation! More stupid riddles! Feeling a little of the anger from before, I reached out my mind to push the pillar.

...And just like that, the pool drained away.

I eagerly tried with the other pillars. The middle two didn't appear to do anything, but I discovered that the rightmost one would empty the pool.

So it wasn't like I was all-powerful exactly.

It appeared that some things could be adjusted at will - the temperature, for instance, seemed to change with my moods.

SOME things were closed to me. The dragon's lair was by and large implacable.

And SOME things were essentially single-use. I couldn't move the pillars, no matter how I tried, but by grasping them with my mind I could drain and raise the water level.

How were they made? How could I affect them? I felt an insatiable curiosity about the creation of these things. I had to know how they worked! I had to protect myself as well - who knows who was creating these, and what they might want! The message about the children came up again, causing me some unease.

I DID notice a passage at the bottom of the pool. I decided to investigate.

Was this all full of water when the pool was full? There was much more water than I thought, if so.

Not only that, the pool, the stairs, the whole setting everything was perfectly dry. It wasn't CLOSE to the weirdest thing I'd seen, but I made a note of it - who knew what would be important?

I wasn't particularly fond of enclosed spaces, but in I went!

...torches. In a previously flooded chamber. They could have been lit after the water drained of course. They were as dry as anything else. It was like the water disappeared, instead of simply draining.

There was an acrid, smoky scent in here that made my eyes burn and made me look for an exit. I tried a new trick - reaching out with my mind, not to CHANGE things, but to get a sense of what I could feel ahead.


> ...BOAT...
calm, placid, as peaceful as a spiderweb and just as inescapable. I hear a faint sound like a man humming to himself

ugh. Corruption. Revulsion. Claustrophobia. Alien. A faint throbbing and static

a total blankness. No sense of what lay ahead. Maybe this meant I could change things there? I had no idea if I should be hopeful or fearful.

> ...AND OUT.

Too many choices. Too much going on. I knew I'd have to press on, but I didn't have all the possibilities yet, and I needed to think. I clamored out of the tunnel.

I wandered out into the field, feeling the wet grass and insects scattering, listening to the crickets and watching the stars above. At least whoever made this place had some sense of peace.

I aimlessly got up and wandered around, and before long came to a... a hole in the ground. The top of a vine of some sort was writhing out of it, twitching in some wind that wasn't there. It... seemed familiar, somehow.

I felt... responsible somehow. Like I'd caused it. I couldn't think of why, but somehow the existence of this... hole in space... seemed accusatory somehow. Feeling vaguely sick to my stomach, I looked up.


Were they related? Did the dragon CAUSE the vine? Vice versa? It COULDN'T have been a coincidence that they'd showed up at the same time, could it have?

The corruption of the dragon's den, the appearance of this clearly foreign hole in space... Should I have done something differently?

No time to wonder about that. Things were how they were, and I had to... to do SOMETHING. It seemed more urgent than ever that I understand this place.

I looked up at the cool silver moon for comfort, found myself thinking about it's placidity, and without realizing...

Grasped it. And... letters appeared? I mean, I KNEW it was the moon.

But wait. What else was that?

That star...


So that did clear something up - assuming that whatever force held me back didn't prohibit things, I had some phenomenal power! I had... literally pulled a star out of the sky to the earth.

But it was small! Surely a star should have just... swallowed the earth. I knew that much. Were they really that tiny up in the sky? That led me to think of this place as a stage again.

Heh, I suppose the dragon would make more sense if this was all just some stupid dis...!

ARGH! My head was taking a beating. Why would THAT of all things bring up the pain?

Cautiously, I reached out with my mind to see if the star could be causing the pain, and was drawn forward quickly. Gasping, I got my feet again and looked at the lamppost and doorway.


Comfort, childhood, fantasy. A place of past.

I wondered if I could pull down any stars besides the one I touched. Maybe they were gateways? I reached out to the stars again, finding nothing to take hold of. Then I thought to try the moon.

I suppressed a laugh. That moon was DONE with me, and was dusting itself off. I... thought. Either that or sneezing. Either way, nothing more out of it I guess.

The tree branches covering the lit doorway did look cheery in the night, but I wanted to explore a BIT more.

I wandered through the field, lazily heading back towards the tower. Glancing at the vine, I saw that it at least didn't appear to be growing quickly enough to be seen. I had some time left before... well I didn't know what. Before something that felt ominous.

I made a beeline towards the tower.

Hm. I didn't remember this door before. Well, nothing to it but to go in!

So the tower was hollow, with simply a staircase leading upwards. The torches didn't feel as ominous as they did beneath the pool. I felt... something. That was it! Thinking of the pool was the key- I felt the same presence. The same... curiosity. It felt alien, but very strong. It pulled me up the staircase.

The stairs curled around many times before the top of the tower, but I all but ran them as I dashed upwards.

Running upwards I found myself...

The air pressed on me heavily suddenly. I had a sense of being very small in a very large space.

The presence was weighing in on me heavily now, pressing down hard on my head. It was like a dull roar in my mind, but I still didn't feel uncomfortable.

Imagine being plunged underwater, only to find that you could breathe water. I felt... at home. This geometry didn't make sense, of course, just like the hole with the vine growing from it earlier. But this felt much different. Comforting. Homey.


The Ibis was here, naturally. It stood silently, regarding me with one cold eye.

The questions I'd had so far welled up in me - where was this place? How could I change things? What was I capable of? Could I protect myself? Was I in danger? They all seemed to tumble out of me at once.

Our spirit animal speaks!


I... wasn't really sure what to make of this. I tried asking again.

Nothing. That sense of pressure seemed to return. It wasn't uncomfortable just... heavy. I felt like sleeping myself. I sat down heavily, and took in my surroundings for the first time.

I was on a chessboard of sorts, and was tiny. Or the pieces were big. Was that a castle? Bishop? Two sides, black and white, facing off.

I thought about i..

Author's Note: This is unchanged, and even more painful to watch in-game, because it's much faster. I have no idea.


So much as touching the pieces led to the painful buzzing from earlier, but this time, worryingly, a loud static noise stayed with me. I wanted to get out, but wasn't sure how. I peeked over the edge of the castle...

And suddenly found myself much larger, looming over the castle. My legs were in the... river? Pond? Whatever it was, it was indoors, and it wasn't making me wet. I felt the pressure on my legs, but none of the water seemed to soak in. I thought maybe at this size, and at this distance, I could investigate the chess pieces...

GAH! OK never mind. I saw a figure floating in a boat, and laboriously trudged over to him.

The figure speaks!

So this was another of the animals from before. He made no motions or movements, and stared at me placidly.

Out of nowhere, the world RALF came into my mind. Was... that his name? I asked, and he merely smiled, reached out his trunk, and pulled me bodily into his boat.

So now I was in a boat. With Ralf. I could see the chessboard in the distance...


Come to think of it, the tower I was on was blue, not black or white.

I relaxed in the boat by the motionless elephant. He seemed more like a statue than a creature. I felt neither familiarity nor discomfort around him, and so I felt no particular rush towards or away from him.

This was as far as I was going to get without making a decision about where to go next, that's for sure.


Let's decide by letter, and continue our journey into... into wherever it is we're going!