The Let's Play Archive

The Manhole

by Bacter

Part 5

Suggested Listening: Sif Theme

Alright. Deep breath.

I stared levelly at the vine, writhing out of the hole in the universe.

I felt anger, a deep upset at the insult, the wound in the world, pushing me forward.

I felt curious about the vine. It had broken right through the air here, in a place that I was unable to effect with my... powers? Whatever they were. I would LOVE to find out how to do that - I might learn how to tunnel right out of here.

But on top of it, I felt responsibility. I had a sense that its being here was my fault - that I had left it unchecked somehow. Time to fix my mess.

Striding up, I grabbed the vine, and climbed through the tear in the universe.

WIND blasted me as soon as I climbed through. I had no idea how high up I was - and I didn't much want to look down and see. I hate heights. That's a new thing I remembered about myself.

I clung to the vine so hard my fingers hurt for a while, too frightened to break grip to descend. I didn't know about the physics of this place, and I wasn't really looking to test them out.

I couldn't stay here forever, and for whatever reason, the thought of descending was much more tolerable than climbing back up. Let gravity do the work. I just had to grip.

I was fighting a full panic. I was too frightened to know how hard I was gripping. I could offer vague commands to my arms and legs, and that was good enough to keep descending, but any fine manipulation was right out. I'd have knocked over a glass or let keys drop from my hands.

Better too hard than too soft, I guess, so I gripped hard enough that my fingers tore into the stalk. It felt electrically alive, and searingly, surprisingly hot.

I was feeling more and more disconnected. How far did I go down? How far was there left to go?

I couldn't worry. Reduce the world to instructions. Hand down, grab, move foot down, get hold, hand down, and on and on and on.

Was this... a fog?

I... something was....I couldn't... hold....

Falling. I was f a l l i n

Suggested Listening: Crickets at night

Where...?This place... felt familiar. Had I been here?

Author's note: The game presented here is unchanged. It's available here, and I don't show all of it, so feel to give it a whirl!

The universe was a question. It was waiting for my ascent.So fine, let's go.

Lois...Too dark to sleep? It didn't make sense.

Yeah. Chasing after them. Catching them, encircling them in a jar. They were too small and simple to know what was going on - they couldn't comprehend the trap. But they still glowed, they couldn't stop doing that, it was hardwired. They couldn't change with the new situation.

That... was one of my first Big Thoughts. I remember thinking how the firefly was trapped in the jar, how even without realizing it, it was trapped. And wondering if the same thing could happen to us.

Stands to reason. Power comes from constraint. Heat builds with pressure.

Whu... where was I?I had - I'd been talking in my sleep.I felt small, and simple.

There wasn't much I felt capable of. Up to.

There wasn't much to see here, either.

The only other source of light was the glowing moon.

Something... seemed wrong about the moon. It should be bigger, shouldn't it?

I tried to remember.

Memory. I was a creature of memory, that was something I felt capable of.

A stream of days, evenings, nights, poured over me.

I remembered chasing after fireflies, delighted to show cousins of mine who had never seen them before, too shy and awkward to talk to them.I remembered the backyard, framed by the pottery of my grandfather, who had worked in advertising but retired to practice that craft.

I remembered the cool stones, wet after swimming in the pool in the back, the bamboo grove, the blue glow of the television late at night, the smell of the sun and the sea.

I remembered playing in the pool, in the backyard.

That was something else I felt capable of.

No, that's right. Not now. I have to catch the fireflies. Trap them.

Oh it felt so good to have a goal.

I remembered being directionless, purposeless, paralyzed by options.

Now there were much fewer things I could do, which meant many more things I WOULD do.

I floated placidly.

Bounding about, taking joy in my massive leap, this was the life!

I opened myself to the stars, to remember them.

I felt a quiet sense of wonder.It was like being at the beach, or in the mountains. All of these points of light had been there before me, and would exist after me.

But back to the task at hand. I needed more fireflies.

I don't know if I can kick... that doesn't seem like something I know how to do.I felt frustration at my limitations.

I noticed the broken kicking machine nearby, and felt a surge of hope. Even if I couldn't kick, there were ways. A path had been provided.

But I didn't know how to "operate", or "repair". The best I could hope for was scraping by on a second meaning.

I tried the nearest thing I could think of.

My mind slipped and faltered, but the machinery was there, it was in place.

I felt frustration wash over me again. If I only knew how to make the pieces fit together - if I could only fix that machine!

I would also accept learning to kick, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. I was a slip of memory, I was all whimsy and records.

So what did a little figment of memory do on the moon, then?

Maybe try a different approach.

Hmm. Too general, if interesting.

This seemed dangerous. Why would I let things slip through my grasp?

Well, I might as well try - when you've only got a few options, you want to test them out.

I felt... better, actually. What was I getting so worked up about?

Whatever it was, I had put it down like a burden. What if I dropped everything I was carrying?

...Then I would end up back where I started. Heh.

There were some lessons to be learned from that I suppose. Learned and remembered.

I remembered the moon.

I turned my attention to the only other thing on this rock.

I think I'm getting the hang of this place.

If something seems too small, like I need to look more closely or more carefully to make it look right...

In the backyard. Yeah, that's where the fountain was.

I used to love how it smelled here, with all the flowers.

But the fountain was the real centerpiece.

Focal points...

They are what you need to hold things together, I remember learning that. Whether it's a backyard or... or....

OW! That wasn't something I remember at ALL. And trying to hold it in my memory was like trying to hold a live wire! Whatever that was... didn't fit into who I am. Where I am.

I think I'd better stop thinking about it for now!

Instead, I'll fill my head with flowers and fountains.

The fountain, the moon, these things thing seemed important. Memories that opened gates. To placed I'd been? The moon seemed less likely than the front and backyard of an old house, but who knows? I wondered if I could capture those memories-made-physical. They might be useful to have.

But no. Even trying, my efforts were diverted. Re-focused onto smaller minutiae.

Well, nevermind. I could beat my head against that all day.

I had FIREFLIES to catch.

Was that right? That didn't... seem right. How would the wind have planted just one kind of flower per pot? And not wildflowers, but cultivated flowers?

Maybe forgetting can be truer than remembering. Or maybe we skim over the inexplicable, trying to impose order and sense where there is none to be found.

Fireflies. Can't get distracted.

It was like being back on the moon again. Frustration welled.

All this time and I hadn't even wondered at myself. Lois? Was that who I was? It seemed possible.

I certainly remembered Lois. I just couldn't get the perspective right - first or third?

Maybe forgetting would open me up? Reveal something, like it had about the flower?

I felt like I was slipping. That was a mistake. If I slipped, I might


Ugh what was THAT? More thoughts, more places that I couldn't hold. I was filled to the brim and overflowed with them.

I wasn't up to any of the thoughts those places presented to me - they were too full, I had too much responsibility.

I should get back to my job here: catching fireflies.

Well, breaking fireflies out of jars.

So I could put them IN jars.

Look, it was complicated, but I had a job to do.

And to do that, I'd have to get myself back.

Hm. Maybe not QUITE that much. That was embarrassing!

So I couldn't deal with the jar. What about its foundation?

Finally, something that was going to be of some use! I saw a path to what I wanted, a way my few tools could accomplish the task.

Just like when I was a kid...

And like a gear clicking into place, the jar was open.

The question was, was this whole puzzle designed for the limited abilities I had? Or was I just finding a way to do what I wanted, regardless of my limitations? I'm not sure which would be more comforting - to be kept a per-designed puzzle, but given the tools to succeed, or to be making my own path, with no guarantee that I'd be able to complete it.

Time to do this.

Figures - I'll still have to get the fireflies on the moon.

What's in that window?

Well, away we go!

Huh. Well, this is different. I'm pretty small now, I guess.

I remember this game! CLASSIC puzzle game. UI was a little fuzzy, but overall it was better quality than most the garbage they make these... these days. Whenever "now" is?

Something seemed funny about that painting....

But no time! I had work to do!

Growing larger...

Moving further away...

NOW I knew what to do. I was learning! I was the captain of my destiny.

I would learn or not learn lessons as I so chose!

Ugh. Once again, not enough.

But I'd caught every one I'd seen.

But... wait.

Back in that computer room.

Something still seemed... odd.

I felt my stomach twist. Something was wrong in there.

What was...

No. No no no.

Forget it, I don't want to

Please listen I like it here, I don't want to have this here, this doesn't belong here, I need to... to fix it


Recommended Listening: Monster by Ghoti Hook - a song from my childhood.

Alive and... wrong.

Shouldn't... shouldn't be...

Shouldn't be

growing like

it is!

That awful vine - it had a quality I couldn't even begin to name, and on top of that it was... growing. The more I looked, the more real it seemed, more real than the room around me - not a memory, not any part of past at all, but present and invading somehow...

There... there a hole in the world


Ugh... I kept it back, I forced it back. Surely that was a good sign - better than being helpless I supposed. It was fading back to black and white.

Black and white, as opposed to... color. Ah yes. Now I felt too large for this place - outgrowing the past I suppose, if it even was my past.

I felt bitter.

The painting was returning to normal, but it was there, it was waiting. If I was to do something here, I needed to do it fast.

So no matter who made this place - and it was clear to me now that it was manufactured - it was clear that it centered around memory - which I had already tried, and...

game. That had to be it.


I was back. And there was the lamp.

But.... UGH.


I felt reality twist, harder than it had before.

That... that vine. It was pressing in. GROWING into this place. And this place was too thin to contain it! It would soon root in and consume the room, the backyard, the moon, heck, it probably already HAD.

Was it trying to prevent my lighting the lamp?

I... I remember wanting to fight it.

Was that even possible?

I saw the hole again. I felt a breeze blowing out of it - hot, and uncomfortable.

I took a last look at the house.

Goodbye house, I wish I could have remembered you better.

I remember now. Maybe that was the whole point of being here - to practice remembering.

I remember that I was going to stop this growth, this vine this - thing.

And that I failed, and that I ended up here.

Could the vine be fought? Was it SUPPOSED to be fought?

I could try. I could Return to the Manhole, and fight the vine

Or maybe that wasn't the point. Maybe I was here to remember more - maybe I hadn't gotten far enough, remembered enough. Maybe the lessons weren't done yet. And I didn't finish what I set out to do here, either. I could Light the lamp, and go deeper into this world.

I didn't even know the nature of the threat, let alone the nature of either of these two worlds. A charge that might be pointless and suicidal AND might take me away from whatever lessons remained here. Maybe I needed to get more information, find something locked in here. Or maybe this was retreat from what might be an unavoidable menace, and hiding my head in the sand would doom whatever chance I had.

What'll it be?