vendredi 28 mai 2021

Questions de design – Moteurs ludiques

Je republie ici une liste que j'avais établie des moteurs ludiques que j'ai pu identifier dans ma propre expérience et dans le discours d'autres joueurs sur le net.

Je distingue les moteurs, qui sont propres au joueur des techniques appartenant elles au créateur, pour « accrocher » le joueur (exemple : des récompenses régulières)

*

Le désir de gagner, arriver au bout du jeu.

Le désir de compréhension / maîtrise.
  • Comprendre puis maîtriser les règles du jeu, le gameplay.
  • La qualité de ces règles, et des mécanismes de jeu - le plaisir du jeu "bien huilé" à l'interface et aux mécanismes fun en eux-mêmes.
  • Désir de puissance : faire des trucs qu'on ne peut pas faire dans la vraie vie (tout en étant en prime libéré des contraintes / pesanteurs de la vie réelle).
  • Voir les effets concrets de ses actes dans le monde du jeu.

Le désir d'accumulation.
  • Explorer. « Faire toute la carte ». Débloquer tous les lieux secrets, etc.
  • Cleaner une zone. Le plaisir de trouver et prendre tous les objets, ou un maximum, que leur utilité soit avéré ou pas à ce moment du jeu.
  • Vaincre des ennemis.
  • Leveller son perso, le personnaliser, progresser de toutes les manières possibles (relations avec les PNJ, achievements en tous genres, etc).

Le désir de l'immersion.
  • Voir se développer une bonne histoire – bon scénar, bons personnages, bons dialogues, bon background. Qualités littéraires / narratives.
  • L'envie de « vivre dans le jeu » (qu'il offre ou non des mécaniques de jeu type vie quotidienne - l'envie d'y passer beaucoup de temps, simplement).
  • Le désir de stimuler sa propre imagination : comme un enfant imagine au-delà du jouet qu'il manipule, ou comme un lecteur « écrit » la moitié du roman qu'il lit, le joueur de JV stimule son imagination, sa sensibilité, son éveil, en jouant.

Le désir d'émotions
  • Amusement (humour dans les dialogues, etc)
  • Tristesse / catharsis
  • Plaisir – défouloir de la violence, du sexe, des transgressions morales, comportementales, etc.

Le désir de surprise et de nouveauté permanente, tout au moins régulière ; aussi bien en terme de contenu (persos, lieux, quêtes) qu'en terme de gameplay (débloquer de nouvelles possibilités, nouveaux mécanismes de jeu, etc).

Le désir de partage (même pour un jeu solo) : exister socialement par son score, son niveau, etc. Pouvoir communiquer avec des étrangers à partir de ce qui est commun et qui peut être une activité solitaire.

mercredi 25 novembre 2020

GET LAMP - Robb Sherwin

Robb Sherwin est un auteur américain de fictions interactives connu pour ses jeux déjantés, dans un esprit très « Série Z », parfois un peu aux limites du mauvais goût (un peu au-delà de la limite) mais authentiquement drôles et qui surtout montrent un véritable talent d'auteur, de conteur, bref d'écrivain.

J'ai personnellement joué à Cryptozookeeper et Necrotic Drift, que je n'ai pas réussi à terminer – cela figure dans ma liste de choses à faire avant de mourir – mais qui m'ont diverti, fait rire, et réussi à m'accrocher même avec leurs puzzles ; chose assez rare.

Il travaille actuellement sur un RPG textuel comme toujours, appelé Cyberganked et qui est un hommage cyberpunk aux vieux jeux type Bard's Tale.

Les jeux de Robb Sherwin sont écrits avec le moteur Hugo, qui permet (comme Inform mais de manière plus poussée il me semble) de gérer les couleurs et l'affichage d'illustrations ; et leur contenu visuel, leur identité visuelle, est sans aucun doute l'un des charmes de ses jeux, et quelque chose d'unique dans la F.I contemporaine.

Son profil IFDB.
Sa page sur IFWiki.

– Quand il a commencé à jouer à des fictions interactives, Sherwin a été très agréablement surpris par la qualité d'implémentation et de finition des jeux produits par Infocom, Level 9 et Magnetic Scrolls.

– Il distingue l'école Infocom et l'école Magnetic Scrolls, qu'il a découvert en premier, et dont il dit qu'elle a (puisque c'est une entreprise anglaise) une « manière anglaise de parler au joueur » et un humour anglais bien spécifique.

De la même manière, mais sans intention laudative, et c'est peu dire, on pourrait évoquer ce ton « bien français » dans les jeux textuels hexagonaux du début des années 80 : humour potache voire lourdingue, obsession pour les situations « sexy », recours aux jeux de mots douteux, etc...

– Les illustrations des jeux Magnetic Scrolls, comme The Pawn, l'ont également marqué – il dit clairement avoir, quand il a commencé à travailler avec le moteur Hugo, voulu faire quelque chose qui ressemble à un jeu Magnetic Scrolls.

– Il souligne que cette qualité des jeux Infocom et Magnetic Scrolls inspire confiance au joueur, c'est-à-dire lui fait se comprendre que s'il n'arrive pas à avancer dans le jeu (en résolvant un puzzle, par exemple) c'est dû à son manque de réflexion et non pas à un défaut de conception du jeu.

Chose très importante tant le découragement du joueur, dans une fiction interactive à l'analyseur de syntaxe trop limité, peut l'amener à quitter le jeu dès les toutes premières minutes.

– Les feelies lui paraissent importants parce qu'ils étendent l'expérience du jeu hors de l'ordinateur et du fait même de jouer. Il cite notamment les textes fictionnels fournis avec The Pawn ou The Guild of Thieves, qui l'ont conduit lui-même à proposer le même genre de choses avec ses propres jeux.

À ma connaissance (merci de me détromper, au cas où) aucun jeu français ne propose cela. Ce sont des pistes intéressantes pour l'avenir.

– Sherwin est l'un des rares auteurs à produire des copies physiques de ses jeux, et à réussir à les vendre : ainsi les 50 copies de Necrotic Drift ont été vendues, d'abord sur son site personnel, puis sur Ebay.

– Sherwin raconte que quand il a su qu'il était possible de faire des jeux textuels, il n'a plus jamais désiré autre chose, même si c'était une idée qui ne lui était jamais venue auparavant.

– Il explique que le fonctionnement même de la fiction interactive lui permet de développer certains aspects de ses histoires, plus qu'il ne pourrait le faire dans un roman où on ne peut pas « tout caser » sans perdre le fil et où il est nécessaire de maintenir un haut niveau d'attention de la part du lecteur en permanence. Dans une F.I il est possible de profiter des actions que le joueur tentera (examiner tel ou tel objet, tester telle ou telle action) pour dire des choses, développer des choses comme des à-côté de l'histoire générale.

– Au sujet de son jeu Necrodic Drift, Sherwin rappelle qu'il est sorti (certes de peu de temps) avant Shaun of the Dead et le remake de Dawn of the Dead, et tout cette hype autour des zombies. Le jeu se voulait d'ailleurs un hommage au film de Romero (qui se déroule lui aussi dans un centre commercial, mais avec uniquement des zombies, tandis que dans Necrotic Drift c'est tout le bestiaire de l'horreur qui surgit). Mais également comme une histoire sentimentale, puisque la relation du personnage-joueur avec sa petite amie est au premier plan du jeu.

– En tant que joueur, il recourt aux soluces. « Bad at puzzles » ; presque mot pour mot ce que Michael Gentry dit également de lui-même.

– Adam Cadre est l'un de ses auteurs favoris, et il qualifie Interstate zero de meilleure F.I depuis l'époque Infocom.

– Son « puzzle » préféré est un moment dans le jeu Knight Orc où il faut tuer un PNJ et où il a volé un objet à ce PNJ afin qu'il le suive pour le récupérer, jusqu'à un lieu où se trouvait un vampire. Vampire qui attaqua le PNJ, réglant la question. Sherwin ne sait même pas si c'était prévu dans le scénario du jeu ou si c'est un hasard, mais il cite cette anecdote comme premier exemple dans sa vie du concept d'émergence dans un jeu vidéo.

– Robb Sherwin dit de lui même : « I'm into the fiction part of interactive fiction ». Il se définit comme un raconteur d'histoires, sur des gens, pas sur des choses – par opposition avec l'I.F « scientifique » à coups de machines compliquées et de mécanismes en tous genres comme dans Hadean Lands de Zarf. Il donne pour exemple Necrotic Drift qui contient un seul puzzle plutôt simple, et dont le reste consiste à parler aux PNJ et à explorer.

– Que les joueurs prennent plaisir à rencontrer les PNJ et lire les dialogues dans ses jeux est l'un des grands buts de Robb Sherwin, qui dit vouloir partager avec les joueurs les bons moments qu'il a pu vivre avec ses amis dans le passé ; amis qui inspirent ses PNJ et leur prêtent même leur visage, à l'écran.

– En effet, Sherwin dit aimer sortir prendre des photos avec ses amis et les inclure ensuite dans ses jeux, comme portraits de PNJ ; expliquant que quand de nombreux PNJ sont présentés au joueur en un temps réduit (j'imagine qu'il parle des scènes d'exposition) il est plus facile pour le joueur de les mémoriser s'il peut y accoler une image, un portrait.

– Il décrit également comme cela un moyen agréable de partager avec ses amis un hobby qui il est est souvent difficile à comprendre pour l'entourage, et pour X raisons, très solitaire.

Ce qui m'amène à me demander pourquoi, surtout à notre époque où tout cela est très facilement réalisable d'un point de vue technique, on ne trouve pas de « studios » créant de l'I.F. Avec un ou des codeurs, mais aussi des musiciens, des photographes ou illustrateurs, pourquoi pas des acteurs pour les voix, etc. Je ne parle pas de professionnels engagés pour l'occasion, dans la mesure où l'I.F ne génère en général aucune rentrée d'argent, c'est tout-à-irréaliste. Mais des groupes d'amis, ou de gens qui comme à l'occasion de jams sur itch.io décident de travailler ensemble, pour la gloire ?

mercredi 23 septembre 2020

Transcript of « Blind house » by Amanda Allen (as Maude Overton)

The game is available here :
 
 
*
 
Two women. Overcoats, the collars turned against the cold. Windswept hair, anxious eyes. Feet shuffling closer to a modest house.
 
The taller woman, a step behind her companion, suppresses a shiver. Her jaw hardens, almost imperceptibly.

The Blind House
An Interactive Fiction by Maude Overton
Release 1 / Serial number 101001 / Inform 7 build 6E72 (I6/v6.31 lib 6/12N)
 
 
The wind howls at our backs as Marissa fumbles with the lock on the front door. Her little fingers, the tips blue and shrunken, seem to struggle with the bulky mortice key. I bite down on my impatience before it has a chance to flare.
 
It is uncertainty that holds me back from assisting. It's not exactly by invitation that I find myself here - more, by necessity - so my grasp of social propriety is somewhat shaken. My nerves, already on edge, are further stirred by the unseasonal cold and I rub my hands together, more as something to occupy my mind than as a genuine attempt to fight the numbness.
 
At last, the lock clicks open and Marissa pushes the door open. "Sorry," she murmurs. "Come in. Please." I oblige without delay, stepping into the relative warmth and darkness of Marissa's entry hall. The dimness, the overall drop in stimulation, is soothing. I try not to look too disappointed when she flicks on the light switch.

"Is there anything... can I get you something?" Marissa's eyes avoid mine as she delicately shrugs off her coat. I get the distinct impression she's not accustomed to playing hostess and I feel an inconvenient twinge of guilt. I mentally stomp on it. Now is not the time for self-doubt.

[1] "I'm fine. Thank you, Marissa."
[2] "Please, don't worry about me. I'm just thankful to be... out of the wind."
[3] "I'm... actually very tired. Would you mind showing me to somewhere I could sleep?"

She meets my eyes for the first time in hours and I try to smile. She looks away nervously. "Okay. Well. I... I'll show you to where... to your room. If you'll please follow me."
 
We are half way down the hall before I even register we have started walking.
 
Helena's Bedroom (on the bed)
 
Marissa closes the door behind her and I sigh in relief, sinking down on the bed.

>i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.
 
>search overcoat
There's nothing in my overcoat.
 
>x overcoat
It's wool - far too warm for this time of year, but the weather has been less than clement and I needed an outer layer when I left the house last night.
 
>x clouse
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x skirt
The brown skirt comes down to my knees. The two large pockets at the front can carry almost as much as a handbag.
 
>x blouse
It's a short-sleeved white blouse.
 
>l
Helena's Bedroom (on the bed)
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is a closed door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

>x cupboard
An oak linen cupboard, imposingly tall and square-edged. Bevelled double-doors hang above a large drawer at the base.
 
>open drawer
(first getting off the bed)
The room dips threateningly as I get to my feet. My limbs attempt to tremble; I suppress them impatiently. Sleeping somewhere so foreign to me will be difficult, but I must be near collapsing from exhaustion. I should at least try to get some rest.
 
>sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow. It's light in here, and I feel uneasy about my door being unlocked.
 
The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.
 
I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.

>open drawer
Sliding open the drawer, I impatiently wave away the wispy cloud of dust that floats forth. I can see some paintings stacked up inside.
 
>x paintings
A stack of old paintings. They can't have been touched for years - even inside the drawer, they've somehow managed to accumulate a thin layer of dust. Their subjects all seem to be women relaxing together in various settings - under parasols in a scenic park, by a fireplace in a cosy living room, lazing on a drifting canal boat.
 
>l
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is a closed door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.
 
>e
(first opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

>s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. Doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The living room is to the south.
 
>w
(first opening the west door)
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.
 
>use toilet
I don't need to.
 
>take a shower
I'm clean.
 
>x toiletries
An assortment of feminine toiletries. Nothing unexpected.
 
>open cabinet
It seems to be locked.
 
Fatigue plucks at the edges of my consciousness. It's getting late.
 
>e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The living room is to the south.
 
>e
(first opening the east door)
Studio
This is surely an artist's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.
 
Marissa, apparently deep in concentration, doesn't even glance up from her painting as I enter the room.

>talk to marissa
Marissa turns her eyes upon me, questioning.
 
[1] "Is there a key to my room?"
 
>1
Marissa fiddles nervously with her blouse. It strikes me how unnecessarily frilly the thing is; she certainly has plenty to fiddle with. "Is it not by the bedside? I must've forgotten, sorry. A minute..."
 
I watch her patter down the hallway and dart into my room. Her desire to take care of me seems more genuine than is warranted - or deserved, I catch myself thinking. Before last month, we had not seen each other since sixth form at college, years ago. She had no real reason to help me, no real reason to bring me to her home today.
 
On the other hand, it seems pointless to question her motives when I'm unable to clarify even my own. Last night... I didn't know what to do. She just happened to be the one I remembered. Maybe I thought I could be anonymous here. Safe.
 
Maybe I just knew she'd be unable to refuse.
 
I see Marissa walking back down the hall towards me, an odd look on her face. A vague look, I think. Something approaching regret stirs in me - maybe it's my own unease that has flustered her into losing keys. "Here," she says, dropping the key into my expectant palm, "I'm sorry." I manage to suppress a grimace as she places a well-meaning hand on my injured arm.
 
"I know having a key must be important to you now," she goes on, "but... you'll be safe here, you know. I don't think anyone could have followed us."
 
[1] "Thank you for understanding."
[2] "I'm sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you."
[3] "It's difficult to be certain of that. Thanks for the key."

>1
She smiles uncertainly and returns to her painting.
 
>l
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.
 
>w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>s
(first opening the hallway door)
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway and doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>save
Ok.
 
>restore
Restore failed.
 
>n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.
 
>w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.
 
>lock door
(with my bedroom door key)
(first closing my bedroom door)
I lock my bedroom door.
 
>sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow. It's light in here.
 
The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.
 
>close shutters
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>turn off light
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>l
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is a closed door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

>look at the window
The window mostly looks out onto the fence between Marissa's property and her neighbour's. The fence itself is plain chain-link, but some privacy is offered by the climbing rose vine.
 
Evening approaches. It is still light outside, though the sky is dreary.
 
Cream-coloured venetian blinds are in their compressed position above the window.
 
>close blinds
I close the blinds.
 
My eyes take but a moment to adjust; the darkness is soothing.
 
>sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow.
The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.
 
>x bed
It's a single-sized bed, with a panelled bedhead and deep blue duvet. There is a minimal bedside table next to the bed.
 
>take duvet
I have no reason to take that.
 
>cover mirror with duvet
(first trying to take the duvet)
I have no reason to take that.
 
I can feel my movements slowing down significantly. I should really get some sleep.
 
>x bedside table
It's completely bare. Not even a clock or a lamp to break up the surface.
 
>turn mirror
It is fixed in place.

>e
(first unlocking my bedroom door with my bedroom door key, then opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>n
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to another room. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.
 
>e
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The obvious exits are south (to hallway) and west.
 
>w
(first opening the west door)
This dark room appears to be a cramped laundry. My skin prickles with the chill of the evening; there must be a door leading outside here. I close the door rather quickly, feeling faint. Maybe later.
 
>n
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The obvious exits are south (to hallway) and west (to the laundry).
 
>s
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.
 
>s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway and doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>s
Entry Hall
A nondescript alcove separates the front door from the living area to the north. Two large windows here allow a little light to permeate the otherwise dull living room.
 
>s
(first trying to open the front door)
What an unconscionable thought. No. I'm not safe out there.

>l
Entry Hall
A nondescript alcove separates the front door from the living area to the north. Two large windows here allow a little light to permeate the otherwise dull living room.
 
>look at the window
They let in natural light - a rare commodity in this house, it would seem.
 
>n
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway and doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>turn on tv
It's late; I'm not in the frame of mind to watch television.
 
>x table
The dining table is so tiny it's almost square.
 
>x chairs
A pair of dining chairs flank each side of the little table.
 
>x armchair
A fabric armchair; it looks old.
 
I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.
 
>open cabinet
I open the cabinet.
 
Some misshapen, unglazed red clay ornaments decorate the shelf. They're unsettling to look at.
 
One ornament stands out from the disturbing clay figures: an imposing porcelain queen, swathed in an elaborate blue gown, her head tilted back regally.
 
>l
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway and doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.
 
Marissa is here. She is currently painting, leaning forward in concentration. Her pale fingers appear blue with cold, but her grip on the brush is steady.
 
>talk to marissa
She's busy, and I have my bedroom key. I've no further reason to disturb her.
 
>x painting
Marissa is painting a landscape, apparently without visual reference. It looks near completion - a desolate cliff overlooking a misty ocean. Melancholic, but admittedly quite beautiful.

>n
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The only obvious exit is west (to hallway (south end)).
 
>w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.
 
>get toiletries
I have no reason to take that.
 
My vision is fading around the edges. I need to sleep, as soon as possible.
 
>x basin
The basin is white, and only faintly stained around the drain.
 
>x mirror
The bathroom door is reflected in the mirror, behind my own reflection. Dark eyes stare back at me.
 
>x miscellanyu
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x miscellany
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.
 
>sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow. It's light in here, and I feel uneasy about my door being unlocked.
 
The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.
 
>lock door
(with my bedroom door key)
(first closing my bedroom door)
I lock my bedroom door.
 
My eyes take but a moment to adjust; the darkness is soothing.
 
>sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow.
The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.
 
>x mirror
The bed is reflected in the mirror, behind my own reflection. Dark eyes stare back at me.
 
My vision is fading around the edges. I need to sleep, as soon as possible.

>x me
Helena. I'm neatly dressed in a beige overcoat, a white blouse and modest brown skirt. My pale hair follows the curve of my spine in a long, but practical, plait.
 
>t me
Last night was just the catalyst. I've never really felt safe out there in the world.
 
>g
Last night was just the catalyst. I've never really felt safe out there in the world.
 
>t marissa
People in general are repugnant. She, however, is not. She intrigues me.
 
>t mirror
A hazy memory from last night wavers at the periphery of my mind. I feel my skin prickle.
 
>t last night
It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say I can't remember, but the details are hazy and I'd prefer to keep them that way.

>t painting
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>t house
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>t husband
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>t mirror
A hazy memory from last night wavers at the periphery of my mind. I feel my skin prickle.
 
>t bed
I don't know what to think about that.

>t bed
I don't know what to think about that.
 
>i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against my bedroom door key and the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.
 
>x knife
It's a clean, ordinary kitchen knife.
 
I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.
 
>t knife
I suppose it's for self-defence, but I feel an inexplicable queasiness when I think about it. Something happened last night that I don't wish to contemplate.
 
>put knife on table
That would be pointless.
 
>open cupboard
I open the cupboard doors. Peering inside, I see a few shelves covered in neatly-folded bed linens.
 
>take linen
I take a single blanket from the shelf.
 
>put blanket on mirror
I throw the blanket over the mirror.
 
>sleep
The bed does look inviting. Should I sleep now? y
 
I double-check the lock on the door and undress in the dark, tossing my clothes onto a shelf in the wardrobe. The bedsheets are comfortingly crisp against my skin.
 
I am so thoroughly exhausted that - blissfully - I drift off to sleep almost immediately and am not forced to endure the company of my thoughts for long.
 
Nightmares chase me for hours.
 
I wake suddenly, disoriented.
 
The room is dark and I have neither clock nor watch, but I feel certain it is not yet dawn. There is a strange splattering noise coming from outside; it takes me a moment to register it as rain.
 
The window rattles in the wind and the blinds chatter against the pane. I stand, my bare flesh prickling in the cold, and wander over to the window. The blinds seem damp and I wonder if the window is leaking. Moisture beads, brims, overflows in a pattern that seems chillingly familiar. The slats - so sharp - are not slats: they are knives, and the knives are in my hands. Rivulets of auburn bleed into the rain, plasmatic. Red stains spreading to the rhythm of the rattling window.
 
A gasp sounds as I bring the knives down again. My gasp. I wake again - properly - my heart racing painfully. Awake. Thank god.

>l
Helena's Bedroom (on the bed)
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is a closed door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.
 
It is dark in here, but I can still make out the room around me.
 
>sleep
I'm too charged with adrenaline - and I'm afraid the dream might come back.
 
>up
(first getting off the bed)
I venture over to the cupboard to retrieve my clothes.
 
As I dress, I catch sight of my forearms. They are damp with fresh blood.
 
>x blood
Blood, welling up from day-old lacerations and smeared down my forearms. I take a few steadying breaths. I guess I had hoped I would be strong enough to forget all this.
 
>t blood
I can see cuts on my arms underneath the blood. Last night... the struggle. That woman; that damned woman. I never intended for it to happen. At any rate, my arms are pretty shredded; it seems she defended herself adequately.
 
I feel nauseous as I think about it.
 
>t lacerations
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>t woma
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>t woman
(that damned woman)
I... only remember her eyes. Did I even know her?
 
>t fight
I'm not sure what that refers to.

>l
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is a closed door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.
 
It is dark in here, but I can still make out the room around me.
 
>e
(first unlocking my bedroom door with my bedroom door key, then opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>n
I'd prefer to avoid too much wandering around in the dark. I should just clean myself up in the bathroom and go back to sleep.
 
>s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.
 
>use toilet
I don't need to.
 
>use shower
I don't understand.
[Try a more specific verb than "use".]
 
>take a showe
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>take a shower
The basin should suffice for washing my arms.
 
>wash my arms
I run some cool water over my itching forearms. Bloodied water swirls down the drain, stark against the white of the basin.
 
Oddly, there seems to be some redness under my fingernails, too. I pick out some dried flakes and wash them away.

>e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>e
I'd prefer to avoid too much wandering around in the dark. I should just clean myself up in the bathroom and go back to sleep.
 
>n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>knock on door
(the east door)
I knock gently on the east door.
 
There is no response.
 
>g
(the east door)
I knock gently on the east door.
 
There is no response.
 
>g
(the east door)
I knock gently on the east door.
 
There is no response.
 
>g
(the east door)
I knock gently on the east door.
 
There is no response.
 
>w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.
 
It is dark in here, but I can still make out the room around me.
 
I feel a weird tingling in my right knuckles. I massage them gingerly.
 
>lock door
(with my bedroom door key)
(first closing my bedroom door)
I lock my bedroom door.
 
>sleep
I'm concerned I could make a mess of the sheets if I don't try to bandage my arms before I go back to bed.
 
>open cupboard
That's already open.
 
>search it
Inside the cupboard are a few shelves covered in neatly-folded bed linens. My overcoat is in here, too.
 
>get linen
I don't need anything more from the shelf.
 
>e
(first unlocking my bedroom door with my bedroom door key, then opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.
 
>open cabinet
It seems to be locked.
 
>e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>e
I'd prefer to avoid too much wandering around in the dark. I should just clean myself up in the bathroom and go back to sleep.
 
>s
I'd prefer to avoid too much wandering around in the dark. I should just clean myself up in the bathroom and go back to sleep.
 
>w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.
 
>x table
It's white plastic, with a subtle abstract pattern painted on it - that much looks home-made.
 
Neatly arranged on the table are some toiletries, a perfume bottle, a packet of plasters, a bottle of hair dye and a vase.
 
>x vase
A traditional tall vase in green glazed ceramic. A few browning flowers hang wilted over the lip of the vase.
 
>search vase
In the vase are some dead flowers.
 
>get flowers
They're not very pretty, but the vase would look even sadder empty.
 
>take plasters
(first opening the packet)
I take a handful of plasters and slip them into my skirt pocket.
 
>plaster arms
I count out twenty plasters - ten for each arm - and methodically peel off each strip of backing paper and stick them in place.
 
Something wobbles in my peripheral vision. I snap my head up and stare at the mirror, at once on edge. Nothing. Only my reflection staring back at me. The odour of blood must be affecting my senses.

>e
As I turn to leave, the surface of the mirror draws my eye; it seems, impossibly, to waver and shimmer. I pinch my forehead, trying to stay in the present, but memories from last night overwhelm my conscious mind. A struggle with a knife. A woman, her name I can't recall - only her eyes: angry tunnels, and then suddenly lifeless. Stunned regret supplanted by terror. Fumbling to clean the fast-coagulating mess. Running. Calling the only number I could focus on. Marissa's gentle concern, innocent of the reason for my distress.
 
Enough. I'm safe here. I should try to sleep again.
 
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
I can hear a strange muffled sound here, almost like a human voice.

>knock on door
(the east door)
I knock gently on the east door.
 
There is no response.
 
>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.
 
It is dark in here, but I can still make out the room around me.
 
>lock door
(with my bedroom door key)
(first closing my bedroom door)
I lock my bedroom door.
 
>sleep
The bed does look inviting. Should I sleep now? y
 
Wearily, I repeat the motions of undressing and crawl into bed.
 
Morning. I exhale slowly and run my fingertips along my arms, feeling the plasters there. Apparently, last night wasn't just a dream.
 
Rising from the bed, I stumble over to the cupboard to dress - almost tripping on the open drawer on the way. Did I forget to close it last night?

>dress
I don't understand.
 
>x me
Helena. I'm holding together.
 
>put on clothes
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>e
(first unlocking my bedroom door with my bedroom door key, then opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>n
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.
 
>w
I hesitate, remembering a glimpse of an external door in this room. The night's rest, however, seems to have emboldened me.
 
(first opening the laundry door)
Laundry
The laundry is tiny; there is scarcely room to move around the sink and washing machine that occupy most of the space in here, and I'm forced to hunch inelegantly to avoid being battered by the clothes hanging from a line across the ceiling. A crumpled blouse is on the lid of the washing machine.
 
In the west wall is a door leading outside.
 
>w
I feel cold beads of sweat forming on my neck as I consider going outside. Marissa's assurance that no-one could possibly have followed us here seems empty and foolhardy with the outside world so close. I hesitate, wrestling with my rapid breathing. It is only her back garden, I tell myself. No-one is there.
 
(first opening the back door)
Back Garden
The back door opens westward onto a small, fairly sparse back garden. A pair of concrete steps lead down from the doorway onto a neat but plain lawn, and facing them is a chain-link fence separating Marissa's property from her neighbour's. The fence is completely covered by a thick rose vine bearing magnificent red flowers.
 
>x vine
The vine's tendrils are wreathed intimately with the links of the fence; I can't tell if it has sprouted here of its own accord, but it must have been at least nurtured to grow so strong.
 
>x flowers
The vine is heavy with red roses.
 
I find my breath is coming in short gasps. Being outdoors is making me intensely nervous.
 
>e
Laundry
The laundry is tiny; there is scarcely room to move around the sink and washing machine that occupy most of the space in here, and I'm forced to hunch inelegantly to avoid being battered by the clothes hanging from a line across the ceiling. A crumpled blouse is on the lid of the washing machine.
 
In the west wall is a door leading outside.
 
>e
(first closing the back door)
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.
 
>s
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.
 
>x wall
Row after row of exposed, unpainted bricks.
 
>w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.
 
>pee
I don't understand.
 
>use toilet
I don't need to.
 
>e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway and doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The entry hall is to the south.
 
The house is utterly still; I think Marissa must have gone out for the day. Perhaps I can take this chance to look around a little.

>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>turn on tv
I switch the television on.
 
>l
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway and doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>watch tv
The old television set is hooked up to a video recorder. A box on the floor nearby seems to be filled with several video cassettes.
 
Some dull, free-to-air broadcast plays. It doesn't interest me at all.
 
>x cassettes
It's a plain cardboard box. Inside, there are some films on cassette tape, as well as some homemade tapes labelled "all the roses that were ever painted" and "Neverending Fantasia".
 
>search cassettes
In the box of tapes are some film tapes, an "all the roses that were ever painted" tape and a "Neverending Fantasia" tape.
 
>get cassette
Which do I mean, the "all the roses that were ever painted" tape or the "Neverending Fantasia" tape?
 
>all the roses that were ever painted
I can only refer to one item here. Which exactly?
 
>take all the roses
Taken.
 
>insert tape
(the "all the roses that were ever painted" tape)
Immediately, a new image appears on the television screen.
 
A documentary about Matisse. Skimming through it, I find myself questioning why the man is so famous; his paintings look gaudy and amateurish to me - not at all like the little I've seen of Marissa's art. The film covers some philosophising about the purity of art and the dangers of expressing "over-excitement" in a painting. Most interesting is the sentiment expressed towards the end, an entreaty to all artists: "guard the original naiveté". Fascinating - at least, as far as it concerns those with naiveté left to guard. I wonder how much Marissa takes these philosophies to heart.
 
>take fantasia
Taken.
 
>insert it
(first removing the "all the roses that were ever painted" tape)
I put the "all the roses that were ever painted" tape back in the box.
 
Immediately, a new image appears on the television screen.
 
"Neverending Fantasia" - it looks to be a children's film about a boy who escapes an unhappy reality and ventures into a fantasy world. Even fast-forwarding through it, I can see how the tape has been damaged in sections from countless viewings.
 
>watch film
There are a few in there I recognise. Several of them seem to be French films - artsy flicks, presumably.
 
>watch tv
The old television set is hooked up to a video recorder. A box on the floor nearby seems to be filled with several video cassettes.
 
A video is playing. "Neverending Fantasia" - it looks to be a children's film about a boy who escapes an unhappy reality and ventures into a fantasy world. Even fast-forwarding through it, I can see how the tape has been damaged in sections from countless viewings.
 
>take fantasia
Taken.
 
>put videos in cardbox
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>put fantasia in cardbox
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>put fantasia in box
I put the "Neverending Fantasia" tape into the box of tapes.
 
>put all the roses in box
The "all the roses that were ever painted" tape is already in the box of tapes.
 
>l
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway and doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>w
(first opening the west door)
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.
 
A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.
 
A handwritten note has been placed near the middle of the bench.

>read note
 
Helena,
I hope you slept well. Sorry we didn't get a chance to talk much last night - it's just that I'm not used to company. I'll be back this evening. Please make yourself at home.
-M
 
>x bench
Grey marble laminate. A note is on the bench.
 
>read note
 
Helena,
I hope you slept well. Sorry we didn't get a chance to talk much last night - it's just that I'm not used to company. I'll be back this evening. Please make yourself at home.
-M
 
>x sink
Steel, and stainless indeed. Marissa certainly keeps her space clean.
 
>x stove
The kitchen appliances are of little interest to me.
 
>x fridge
A tall white fridge. It seems well-maintained, but age is beginning to show: there are flecks of corrosion along the edges.
 
>open it
Marissa's fridge seems reasonably well-stocked; perhaps she bought some of these fresher items yesterday after receiving my call.
 
>search it
Marissa's fridge seems reasonably well-stocked; perhaps she bought some of these fresher items yesterday after receiving my call.
 
>x calendar
It's a calendar, pinned on the wall and open to the current month. It's completely empty of appointments, but every Tuesday has been neatly highlighted in yellow. Today is Tuesday, I suddenly remember.
 
>x phone
A telephone base is attached to the wall, next to the door. A basic-looking handset sits on the cradle.
 
>use phone
I don't understand.
[Try a more specific verb than "use".]
 
>phone
I don't understand.
 
>hang up phone
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>call
I don't understand.
 
>call someone
(on the telephone handset)
(first taking the telephone handset)
(dialing "someone")
I have no idea who "someone" is.
 
>dial marissa
(on the telephone handset)
(dialing "marissa")
I have no idea who "marissa" is.
 
>dial the police
(on the telephone handset)
(dialing "the police")
I have no idea who "the police" is.
 
>dial
I don't understand.
 
>dial 911
(on the telephone handset)
(dialing "911")
I have no idea who "911" is.

>w
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The only obvious exit is east (to the living room).
 
>e
(first closing the fridge)
I replace the telephone handset on the base.
 
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.
 
>x chair
One of those "ergonomic" chairs is just in front of the artist's easel.
 
>sit down
I sit down on the studio chair. I immediately notice that it's at entirely the wrong height and angle for my body.
 
>t marissa
People in general are repugnant. She, however, is not. She intrigues me.
 
>t painting
Either Marissa has a powerful imagination, or this must be based on a memory. Maybe a little of both.
 
>t chair
It seems a little newer and more expensive than most of the furniture in the house. Well-used, too.
 
>t brickwall
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>t wall
The brick wall does seem strange, unbalancing the room somehow - but I have no reason to mess around with it right now.
 
>up
(first getting off the chair)
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The only obvious exit is west (to hallway (south end)).

>l
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.
 
>x floor
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x easel
An old but sturdy wooden easel. There's a canvas on the easel.
 
>x canvas
Marissa is painting a landscape, apparently without visual reference. It looks near completion - a desolate cliff overlooking a misty ocean. Melancholic, but admittedly quite beautiful.
 
>t landscape
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>t ocean
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.
 
>x basin
The basin is white, and only faintly stained around the drain.
 
>take a shower
I'm clean.
 
>x shower
A glass-screened shower.
 
>x glass
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x table
It's white plastic, with a subtle abstract pattern painted on it - that much looks home-made.
 
Neatly arranged on the table are some toiletries, a perfume bottle, a packet of plasters, a bottle of hair dye and a vase.
 
>x bottle
Which do I mean, the perfume bottle or the bottle of hair dye?
 
>perfume bottle
A pretty, tulip-shaped glass bottle.
 
>open bottle
(the bottle of hair dye)
There's just the dye inside.
 
>open perfume bootle
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>open perfume bottle
I can smell it from outside the bottle. Rose and jasmine.
 
>t perfume
Does she just wear this around the house?
 
>x dye
It's a bottle of hair dye. Auburn #602.
 
>t dye
That sort of vanity has never really made much sense to me. Who is it for, anyway?
 
>t plasters
They're for staunching bleeding and warding off infection.
 
>t vase
I don't know what to think about that.

>l
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.
 
>e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.
 
The cream blanket lies crumpled on the floor near the mirror.
 
>t blanket
I'm not at all sure how it could have fallen on the floor.
 
>get blanket
I start to lift the blanket and pause, my pulse suddenly in my throat. Is that... blood?
 
>t blood
Maybe I... knocked against the blanket last night? I can't remember.
 
>t blanket
Maybe I... knocked against the blanket last night? I can't remember.
 
>get blanket
Taken.
 
>put it in cupboard
I put the blanket into the linen cupboard.
 
>close cupboard
I close the linen cupboard.
 
>l
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.
 
>n
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The only obvious exit is east (to hallway).
 
>s
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The only obvious exit is east (to hallway).
 
>w
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The only obvious exit is east (to hallway).
 
>look through window
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>look window
The blinds are closed.
 
>open blinds
I open the blinds, revealing the window.
 
>look window
The window mostly looks out onto the fence between Marissa's property and her neighbour's. The fence itself is plain chain-link, but some privacy is offered by the climbing rose vine.
 
The sky outside is overcast and uninviting.
 
Cream-coloured venetian blinds are in their compressed position above the window.
 
>e
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>look under carpet
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x carpet
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x ground
I'm not sure what that refers to.

>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>n
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.
 
>e
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The obvious exits are south (to hallway) and west (to the laundry).
 
>w
Laundry
The laundry is tiny; there is scarcely room to move around the sink and washing machine that occupy most of the space in here, and I'm forced to hunch inelegantly to avoid being battered by the clothes hanging from a line across the ceiling. A crumpled blouse is on the lid of the washing machine.
 
In the west wall is a door leading outside.
 
>x sink
There's nothing remarkable about the laundry sink.
 
>x washing machine
A top-loading washing machine. A blouse has been tossed onto the lid, presumably waiting to be washed.
 
>search blouse
(Marissa's blouse)
I find nothing of interest.
 
>get blouse
(Marissa's blouse)
Taken.
 
>search machine
(first opening the washing machine)
The washing machine is empty.
 
>t blouse
(my blouse)
I don't know what to think about that.
 
>x blouse
(Marissa's blouse)
A pale, long-sleeved blouse, smelling faintly of perfume. It is stained dark on one sleeve.
 
>x stains
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x sleev
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x sleeve
It looks like an ink stain, perhaps an imprint from something Marissa had written on her arm. Squinting, I think I can almost make out writing. "4, 9"?
 
>t 4,9
No... as a guest, I think I need to be more mindful than that. One action at a time.
 
>t numbers
I'm not sure what that refers to.

>l
Laundry
The laundry is tiny; there is scarcely room to move around the sink and washing machine that occupy most of the space in here, and I'm forced to hunch inelegantly to avoid being battered by the clothes hanging from a line across the ceiling.
 
In the west wall is a door leading outside.
 
>x clothes
The clothes are uniformly simple and practical.
 
>search thel
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>search clothes
I find nothing of interest.
 
>w
I take a steadying breath and venture outside.
 
No point in dragging Marissa's blouse around. I'll leave it here.
 
(first opening the back door)
Back Garden
The back door opens westward onto a small, fairly sparse back garden. A pair of concrete steps lead down from the doorway onto a neat but plain lawn, and facing them is a chain-link fence separating Marissa's property from her neighbour's. The fence is completely covered by a thick rose vine bearing magnificent red flowers.
 
>search vine
I find nothing of interest.
 
Cold sweat gathers around my sternum. I'm anxious to get back inside.
 
>x fence
A chain-link fence, weighed down by a climbing rose vine.
 
>x vine
The vine's tendrils are wreathed intimately with the links of the fence; I can't tell if it has sprouted here of its own accord, but it must have been at least nurtured to grow so strong.
 
>take rose
(the roses on the vine)
Carefully avoiding the thorns, I gather a handful of roses from the vine.
 
>l
Back Garden
The back door opens westward onto a small, fairly sparse back garden. A pair of concrete steps lead down from the doorway onto a neat but plain lawn, and facing them is a chain-link fence separating Marissa's property from her neighbour's. The fence is completely covered by a thick rose vine bearing magnificent red flowers.
 
>i
I'm holding a cluster of roses.
 
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against my bedroom door key and the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my blouse and skirt.
 
>s
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The only obvious exit is east (to the laundry).
 
>e
Laundry
The laundry is tiny; there is scarcely room to move around the sink and washing machine that occupy most of the space in here, and I'm forced to hunch inelegantly to avoid being battered by the clothes hanging from a line across the ceiling. A crumpled blouse is on the lid of the washing machine.
 
In the west wall is a door leading outside.
 
>e
(first closing the back door)
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.
 
>x painting
The painting is of a brightly coloured landscape: a silhouetted forest against a vivid sunset, stark orange casting the foreground into blues. The figure of a woman can be made out in the darkness, clinging to a tree dramatically. Her long hair covers her face.
 
>x woman
She is almost draped across the tree, her hair falling wildly across her face, rendering her without identity.
 
>take painting
I have no reason to take that.
 
>move painting
The forest has an enchanting illusion of depth to it, but there's only blank wall behind the painting.
 
>l
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.
 
>e
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The obvious exits are south (to hallway) and west (to the laundry).
 
>s
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.
 
>x window
The huge window could easily be mistaken for a door, only it doesn't seem to be openable. It looks out onto an isolated street.
 
>x street
The neighbourhood is quiet and leafy. I imagine Marissa must be the youngest inhabitant of the street by far; the houses here have an unmistakable "retiree" look to them.
 
>t street
I don't understand.
 
>t painting
Either Marissa has a powerful imagination, or this must be based on a memory. Maybe a little of both.
 
>w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>t painting
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x painting
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>n
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.
 
>x painting
The painting is of a brightly coloured landscape: a silhouetted forest against a vivid sunset, stark orange casting the foreground into blues. The figure of a woman can be made out in the darkness, clinging to a tree dramatically. Her long hair covers her face.
 
>t painting
The very bottom of the painting lacks detail - it looks almost unfinished, as though the artist had finished all the important details and then abandoned the effort.
 
>s
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The entry hall is to the south.

>n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.
 
>open drawer
That's already open.
 
>search drawer
A stack of old paintings. They can't have been touched for years - even inside the drawer, they've somehow managed to accumulate a thin layer of dust. Their subjects all seem to be women relaxing together in various settings - under parasols in a scenic park, by a fireplace in a cosy living room, lazing on a drifting canal boat.
 
This painting looks fresher than those beneath it. The image is disturbing. Moreso, the longer I look at it. Depicted is a woman floating naked in the ocean, red strands of seaweed unfurling in the current and... strangling her about the neck. Her dying eyes are wild, staring upwards as though pleading.
 
A glint of wayward sunlight flashes at me from the mirror. The blanket must have fallen off sometime during the night.
 
>x mirror
I find myself unable to focus on the mirror. My vision fills with black when I try to look at it.

>open cupboard
I open the cupboard doors. Peering inside, I see a few shelves covered in neatly-folded bed linens. My overcoat is in here, too.
 
>cover mirror with blanket
(first trying to take the blanket)
Carrying around the cluster of roses is cumbersome enough. I'd prefer to put that down, first.
 
>cover mirror with blanket
(first trying to take the blanket)
Carrying around the cluster of roses is cumbersome enough. I'd prefer to put that down, first.
 
>put down roses
(the cluster of roses)
Dropped.
 
>cover mirror with blanket
(first taking the blanket)
I throw the blanket over the mirror.
 
>t note
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>e
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>w
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.
 
A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.
 
A handwritten note has been placed near the middle of the bench.
 
>x note
 
Helena,
I hope you slept well. Sorry we didn't get a chance to talk much last night - it's just that I'm not used to company. I'll be back this evening. Please make yourself at home.
-M
 
>t note
"Please make yourself at home." Her kindness catches me off guard. I find myself wondering if there may even be the possibility of a longer-term solution to be found in my stay here.
 
>x behind calendar
I lift the calendar, and find a key hanging on the pin behind it.
 
>get key
(the mortice key)
I remove the key from behind the calendar and pocket it.
 
>e
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>unlock door
(with the mortice key)
I unlock the east door.
 
>e
(first opening the east door)
Study
The modest study has a cold, neglected feel to it; the air is still and oppressive, the silence broken by the stern, relentless ticking of a wall clock. A flimsy desk against the far wall provides support for a primitive-looking computer. An overflowing bookcase sits against the south wall, while the door leads back west to the living room.

>x clock
It's a plain, unattractive, ticking timepiece. The hands point to 9:01.
 
>x bookcase
The bookcase is tall and expansive; despite this, it is crammed beyond its intended capacity with books.
 
>search it
In the bookcase are some art theory books, some romance books, some fantasy books and some self help books.
 
>x self help books
There are quite a number of self help books in the bookcase. I can see terms like "cognitive therapy" and "self-esteem" repeating through several of the titles.
 
>x fantasy books
Fantasy novels about strong-willed lady knights and sorceresses. I think I can see a scrap of paper protruding from one of the books.
 
>get scrap of paper
Taken.
 
>read it
It's a scrap of lined paper, probably torn from a notebook. In small, neat writing are the words "serenity devoid".
 
>x romance books
A few "stock standard" Mills & Boon, though most of the books seem to be from smaller publishers.
 
>x computer
The computer is a bulky beige model - it certainly doesn't look recently-bought. The CRT monitor is currently blank.
 
>turn it on
The computer hums and grumbles its way to life.
 
A dialog box is on screen, requesting the user password for "Marissa". Damn.
 
>enter serenity devoid
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>serenity devoid
I don't understand.
 
>type kokok
"Password incorrect."
 
>type serenity devoid
The password field vanishes.
 
The desktop is displayed. The following icons are available to click on:
 
Mail
Browser
Word Processor
 
>mail
I don't understand.
 
>type mail
I double-click on the "Mail" icon.
 
Marissa's inbox. The following emails are available to read or reply to:
 
Plymvale Health Centre   Auto reminder: Prescription renewal
Pain~M.eds               80% discounted prices
Helena Jevne             Re: Re: Hi
ClassmateReunion.com     Inquiry Results
Helena Jevne             Re: Hi
Helena Jevne             Hi
Estelle Clements         Thank you
Estelle Clements         Request
 
I can also click an "escape" button to return to the operating system.

>read auto reminder
 
This is an automated message to remind you to renew your prescription for Valium. We look forward to seeing you at Plymvale Health Centre soon. Please do not reply to this email.
 
>read 80%
 
Suffering from pa1n_or_anx1ety? An order is one click away!
 
>read helena jevne
No such message is available.
 
>read re re hi
 
Dear Marissa,
Absolutely. I've never understood that sort of "social prostitution". It can only be damaging to surround yourself with people of that calibre! I've always found it so much more rewarding to spend time with just one, worthwhile, friend.
Well wishes,
Helena
 
>read hi
 
Dear Marissa,
It was lovely to run into you again today. You're looking well. It is such a pleasure to speak to you again after so many years. I hope you made it home safely.
Well wishes,
Helena
 
>read thank you
 
Marissa
Thank you. I appreciate it. You are always so reliable.
Estelle
 
>read request
 
Marissa
I am expecting some company later this week. Would you be available to come over on Wednesday in addition to your usual Tuesday?
Estelle
 
>x me
Helena. I'm holding together.
 
>read re hi
 
Dear Marissa,
No, I haven't seen any of them since school. Besides, I mostly found them to be a trivial waste of time, even then. Wouldn't you agree?
Well wishes,
Helena
 
>type browser
No such message is available.
 
>click escape
I return to the operating system.
 
The desktop is displayed. The following icons are available to click on:
 
Mail
Browser
Word Processor
 
>click browser
I double-click on the "Browser" icon.
 
The browser is open. The following icons are available to click on:
 
History
Favourites
 
I can also click an "escape" button to return to the operating system.
 
>click favourites
Marissa has very few favourites saved: there are a couple of art blogs, an online bookstore, and one of those "classmate finder" websites.
 
The browser is open. The following icons are available to click on:
 
History
Favourites
 
I can also click an "escape" button to return to the operating system.
 
>click on art blog
That selection, "art blog", is not one of the available choices.
 
>click on classmate finder
I could while away many hours browsing through all this, but then Marissa would likely come home and find me in here. Besides, I'm sure I can manage to occupy myself with other things.
 
>click history
Empty! Either she doesn't actually use this computer, or she goes to the bother of clearing her history. How paranoid.
 
The browser is open. The following icons are available to click on:
 
History
Favourites
 
I can also click an "escape" button to return to the operating system.
 
>escape
[Try "click escape" or "click esc"]
 
>click escape
I return to the operating system.
 
The desktop is displayed. The following icons are available to click on:
 
Mail
Browser
Word Processor
 
>click word
I double-click on the "Word Processor" icon and glance briefly over the program. Marissa has only one recently-opened document: a Tax Invoice template for "M. Ridley Cleaning". Her business, I assume. Interesting. I give the file a cursory glance, then close the word processor.
 
The desktop is displayed. The following icons are available to click on:
 
Mail
Browser
Word Processor
 
>turn off computer
I switch the computer off.

>t request
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>turn on computer
The computer hums and grumbles its way to life.
 
A dialog box is on screen, requesting the user password for "Marissa".
 
>type serenity devoid
The password field vanishes.
 
The desktop is displayed. The following icons are available to click on:
 
Mail
Browser
Word Processor
 
>click mail
I double-click on the "Mail" icon.
 
Marissa's inbox. The following emails are available to read or reply to:
 
Plymvale Health Centre   Auto reminder: Prescription renewal
Pain~M.eds               80% discounted prices
Helena Jevne             Re: Re: Hi
ClassmateReunion.com     Inquiry Results
Helena Jevne             Re: Hi
Helena Jevne             Hi
Estelle Clements         Thank you
Estelle Clements         Request
 
I can also click an "escape" button to return to the operating system.
 
>read request
 
Marissa
I am expecting some company later this week. Would you be available to come over on Wednesday in addition to your usual Tuesday?
Estelle
 
>t request
The tone in the emails from "Estelle" seems... condescending. I recall Marissa's painful shyness throughout her school years and feel a flicker of anger on her behalf; it is perhaps not surprising that someone so obviously vulnerable should fall victim to a dominating employer.
 
>turn off computer
I switch the computer off.

>w
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.
 
I can hear a phone ringing from somewhere to the west.
 
>w
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.
 
A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.
 
A handwritten note has been placed near the middle of the bench.
 
The phone rings out just as I step into the room. It echoes eerily in my head.
 
>take phone
Taken.
 
>listen to phone
I hear nothing unexpected.
 
>answer phone
It isn't ringing.
 
>dial last call
(on the telephone handset)
(dialing "last call")
I have no idea who "last call" is.
 
>call estelle
(on the telephone handset)
Curious, I dial "Estelle". The phone rings once. Twice. Six times, then a female voice - no, a recording of one - answers in stiff Oxford English: "Hello, you've reached Estelle. I am unable to receive your call at this time, so please leave a message after the tone and I will get back to you as soon as possible." I hang up before the tone.
 
>t estelle
Her name alone nauseates me. I am certain there is something dangerous about that woman.
 
>e
I replace the telephone handset on the base.
 
I flinch, startled, as I step into the living room: an elaborately-dressed woman is sitting at Marissa's dining table, bold as day. She looks to be in her late fifties and glares at me from beneath a permanently-wrinkled brow.
 
[1] "Who are you?"
[2] "What are you doing here?"

>1
The woman meets my eyes with a steely gaze. "Surely, you've already read enough of my correspondence with Marissa to know." My vision wobbles threateningly, but I square my shoulders and glare back at her.
 
[1] "What are you doing here?"
 
>1
She smirks. "Marissa wishes it. Can you honestly say the same for yourself?" I can begin to feel rage quietly building up beneath my ribcage.
 
[1] "I think you should leave, now."
 
>1
"You utter imbecile. Can't you even recognise yourself in the mirror?"
 
[1] "Mirror? What would you know about that?"
[2] "Of course I can, you vile woman!"
 
>1
"I was watching from behind the glass - as, obviously, were you."
 
I gasp, tiny fibres from the carpet floating into my mouth; somehow I am lying cheek-down on the floor. The woman is gone. Presumably, the old bitch struck me prone.
 
I raise myself to my feet, feeling angry for the intrusion. Who exactly is this woman that Marissa is dealing with?

>t woman
(the strange woman)
She seems almost familiar. I am certain there is something dangerous about that woman.
 
>w
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.
 
A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.
 
A handwritten note has been placed near the middle of the bench.
 
>call estelle
(on the telephone handset)
(first taking the telephone handset)
I don't really have cause to call her again. Besides, that stiff voice sends a chill up my spine.
 
>call marissa
(on the telephone handset)
(dialing "marissa")
I have no idea who "marissa" is.
 
>call marrissa
(on the telephone handset)
(dialing "marrissa")
I have no idea who "marrissa" is.
 
>e
I replace the telephone handset on the base.
 
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.
 
>e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.
 
>touch wall
I find myself remembering the strange numbers printed on Marissa's blouse - "4,9". Oh, surely not. Feeling a touch self-conscious, I count across to the fourth brick in the ninth row, and give it a gentle nudge. Sure enough, it is loose.
 
>push bricj
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>push brick
I give the brick a gentle nudge. Sure enough, it is loose.
 
>take brick
I pull the brick free from the wall. Through the hole it leaves, I can see right into the adjacent room.
 
I feel a touch dizzy. My hands are covered in mortar grit - and blood?
 
I think I can hear Marissa coming home.
 
>look in adjacent room
I don't understand.
 
>look through wall
I lean in towards the hole, close enough that the edges of the surrounding bricks feel sharp against my brow and cheekbone, and look through to the dimly-lit master bedroom. I can't make out much detail, but there seems to be something unusual about the walls. Perhaps it's only the shadows, but I feel as though I'm being watched.
 
I feel certain this loose brick can't have come about by chance. Marissa must have left that blouse and the co-ordinates out for me to find - maybe she wants me to keep an eye on her.
 
>w
Well, no point in lugging this brick around the house. Dropped.
 
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
>s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with a handbag placed on top and two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.
 
Marissa is here, putting her handbag down on the dining table. She glances up and acknowledges my presence with a shy smile, only briefly meeting my eyes.

>talk to marissa
Marissa turns her eyes upon me, questioning.
 
[1] "You're home. How has your day been?"
[2] "Marissa. Where have you been all day?"
 
>2
She seems confronted, her head lowering. "Just at work. There's a lady I help... it's housekeeping. Nothing glamourous. How was your day?"
 
[1] "I've just... looked around your house a little."
[2] "Fine. Why do you ask?"
[3] "I've had a pleasant stay. Thanks for all your kindness."
 
>1
I feel a twinge of something unpleasant in my chest. Treacherously, my lip twitches. Marissa's eyes, wide and unsettlingly clear, flick down to my mouth, then meet my eyes seriously. That vague look enters her expression again.
 
"Of course." She closes her eyes for a moment before staring at me seriously. "Helena... I'm sure you'd do no harm here." She almost reaches for my arm, then seems to think better of it. The silence swells.
 
[1] "I'll let you get on with your business."
 
>1
Marissa clears her throat. "I'm going to take a shower. I'll be out soon. Please don't mind me." She walks off down the hallway and I am again left alone.

>l
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with a handbag placed on top and two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>save
Ok.
 
>n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
I can hear the shower running.
 
>w
(first trying to open the bathroom door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>knock on door
Which do I mean, the hallway door, the bathroom door or the studio door?
 
>bathroom door
I really have no reason to disturb her in there.
 
>s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with a handbag placed on top and two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is an open display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible inside.
 
A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.
 
>search handbag
The contents of the handbag are neat and few. A purse, a keyring and a piece of paper.
 
>take all
No... as a guest, I think I need to be more mindful than that. One action at a time.
 
>read paper
(the piece of paper)
(first taking the memo)
It's a little memo, written in a stern hand. "Marissa. Kindly make the arrangements today as discussed. The white roses are appreciated. Everything else you'll need is in my room. Estelle."
 
>get keyring
Taken.
 
>n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north.  A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.
 
I can hear the shower running.
 
>n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.
 
>e
(first trying to open Marissa's bedroom door)
It seems to be locked.
 
>unlock door
With what key?
 
>i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against a keyring, Estelle's memo, a scrap of paper, a study door key, my bedroom door key and the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my blouse and skirt.
 
>x keyring
A metal keyring, with an intricately plaited decoration of thread and beads trailing from it. On the ring are a well-used mortice key and a gold mortice key.
 
>unlock door with mortice key
(Marissa's bedroom door with the well-used mortice key)
I unlock Marissa's bedroom door.
 
>e
(first opening Marissa's bedroom door)
Marissa's Bedroom
Marissa's bedroom is initially confusing to the eye; the walls are almost entirely covered in an eccentric display of unframed paintings and tiny mirrors in mismatched frames. Lace curtains drape over a window in the north wall, letting dappled light filter onto a white-framed bed. In the dimly-lit south side of the room is a bedside table, covered in a pale floral cloth and a reading lamp. A white wardrobe, far less intimidating than the one in the spare room, is here too. The door is to the west.
 
>x bed
A very neatly-made single bed. The duvet has a pale rose pattern printed on it.
 
>x duvet
A very neatly-made single bed. The duvet has a pale rose pattern printed on it.
 
>x under duvet
I find nothing of interest.
 
>x behind duvet
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x painting
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>x paintings
The paintings are nearly all landscapes, with any human figures silhouetted or obscured by scenery. Every painting seems almost to glitter with creativity, and yet there is a sense of longing to all of them - each waterfall is not dramatically foregrounded, but lingers, hazy, behind a layer of mist; each sky seems to stretch endlessly, not quite delivering on the promise of a horizon.

>l
Marissa's Bedroom
Marissa's bedroom is initially confusing to the eye; the walls are almost entirely covered in an eccentric display of unframed paintings and tiny mirrors in mismatched frames. Lace curtains drape over a window in the north wall, letting dappled light filter onto a white-framed bed. In the dimly-lit south side of the room is a bedside table, covered in a pale floral cloth and a reading lamp. A white wardrobe, far less intimidating than the one in the spare room, is here too. The door is to the west.
 
>x mirrors
There are dark eyes everywhere, blinking at me from every wall. The mirrors are framed in a whimsical assortment of frames, ranging from dark wrought iron, to embossed silver, to raw timber.
 
>x table
A little round table with a floral cloth draped over it. A drawer, its face rounded with the curve of the table, faces towards the bed.
 
>open drawer
Around me, all over the walls, blonde women lunge forward in reflective fragments. Dizzy, I focus on the drawer. There is a small diary inside, its cover hand painted.
 
>read diary
It is important that I know as much as possible about Marissa's situation in order to help her. Later, I am sure she will understand to thank me for my concern. I remove the diary from the drawer and spread it open on the bed.
 
There are several pages filled with text. I read the first entry.
 
"Life outside the studio window blurs on without me. Sometimes, when the loneliness is at its strongest, I move my easel close to the door and hide behind it, watching the neighbourhood's movements. There is a little old lady across the road who I often see struggling to carry her groceries inside from the bus. No-one is ever there to help her. I wonder what her name is, why she is alone."
 
>g
That's already open.
 
>read diary
I continue reading.
 
"I'm trying to keep to my schedule. Cleaning, always cleaning. Nothing is ever clean enough. Nothing is ever essential enough. I look away from my canvas and everything seems without essence and covered in dirt."
 
>read diary
"Estelle is the kindest employer I could ever hope for. Today she told me a little more about her work at the opera theatre. I listened, spell-bound as a child. I think she knows I have no anecdotes of my own to contribute, so she just talks and smiles kindly. I guess what she is is a friend, though I retreat from the word with uncertainty."
 
>read diary
"I am sure the sunrise is influencing my palette - dear Matisse would not approve! - but oh, the studio is spectacular in the dawn light. I paint all night until I am too exhausted to think, and then I sleep and sleep and sometimes I can't get out of bed. The itch of tears is fresh in my eyes when I wake because I dream of such pretty things and then I wake, and I stare at my blank ceiling, blankness reflected in such blank eyes."
 
>read diary
"Oh Nan, how is it that I live like this? I dreamt of you and I hope I keep your house well enough for you because I do still miss you, every day. I hope you are in peace."
 
>read diary
"Coming back from Estelle's today, I ran into Helena Jevne. She is still as strikingly beautiful as she was back in school. And goodness, so tall. Nervous as I was, I could not escape from our conversation for over two hours... but in retrospect, I am glad. She seems such a strong-minded, sensible person. Better-adjusted than me, most likely. She has brought me back from this slumber of blankness, I think. I dare to hope that maybe I will see her again."
 
>read diary
"Alone. It bites at me over and over and over and I have forgotten my schedule, but it seems so meaningless so meaningless so"
 
>read diary
"I almost can't look at my paintings after they are painted. The loss of that moment of creation is painful. I dreamt of so many things, once. Now I hold onto a series of singular dreams, fluttering against my palms as I grasp them, almost too afraid to breathe for fear of crushing their delicacy, and I paint them with a mechanical concentration. And can't look back. I am beginning on the cliffside I saw in my dream. I hope it will be enough for now."
 
>g
That's already open.
 
>read diary
"Emails. So nerve-wracking. Of course I am intimidated by her; her wisdom and her worldliness must see right through my meek existence. 'Purity' is what I value, I tell myself. In the face of another human being, though, my convictions waver... and even if I weren't so shy, I don't know if I could let a person into my life. Especially... well, oh. I don't know."
 
>read diary
This page is smeared with dark stains, rendering most of it illegible. "... phone call in the night ... ecked and the key wasn't there ... rror had been smashed in viole ..."
 
>read diary
The dark stains continue on this page, and the following. "... been here for over a week now ... aints, everywhere! ... drawer, found the most terrible thing but didn't dare ..."
 
>read diary
I flip through the pages, reading the few fragments I can, all written in a hand seemingly overcome by distress. "... ntire mirror covered in plasters! and I ... heart-stopping crashes and then a thud on my door ... ound the mark of a fist! What does sh ...  scraping at the brickwork ... a knife, no less! and bloo ..."
 
>read diary
The rest of the pages are blank.
 
From somewhere to the west, I can hear Marissa calling for me. My clammy palms betray an inexplicable apprehension.

>w
I quickly return the diary.
 
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.
 
Marissa runs past in a tearful blur, almost crashing into me as she dashes into the bedroom.
 
>talk to marissa
I'm not sure what that refers to.
 
>e
Marissa's Bedroom
Marissa's bedroom is initially confusing to the eye; the walls are almost entirely covered in an eccentric display of unframed paintings and tiny mirrors in mismatched frames. Lace curtains drape over a window in the north wall, letting dappled light filter onto a white-framed bed. In the dimly-lit south side of the room is a bedside table, covered in a pale floral cloth and a reading lamp. A white wardrobe, far less intimidating than the one in the spare room, is here too. The door is to the west.
 
Marissa is here. Her small frame heaves with silent sobbing, her eyes unfocused.
 
>talk to marissa
Marissa looks at me with teary eyes, a startling red ringing the grey irises. I hesitate, sensing the likely gravity of this conversation. Should I talk to her now? y
 
[1] "Why are you crying?"
 
>1
Marissa swallows and just stares.
 
[1] "Is someone trying to hurt you? I might know who."
 
>1
She looks disbelieving and glances around the room, as though looking for an exit.
 
I follow her gaze across the dozens of tiny mirrors on the walls. In each one, I see a different angle of the face of the woman I killed. My pocket feels suddenly heavy and I slip my hand in there, sweatily clutching the handle of my knife.
 
[1] "It's that woman, isn't it? The one you work for. Marissa, you deserve so much more. She came here today, you know. Just walked straight in the front door. I won't let her hurt you."
[2] "I won't hurt you, Marissa."
[3] "I know what it's like to be alone."
 
>2
 
 
We look at each other quietly. Marissa's face is soft and open. 'Impressionable' seems the fitting word, as though I could mould her features with a gesture. The edge of a sunset filters in across the bed, softly meshed with the shadow of the lace curtain.
 
"I saw what you've written about me," I eventually confess. She looks afraid, lowering her eyelashes. "Sometimes," I explain, "fear can distort your perception of events. You needn't be afraid, though. Anything I have done is only to protect you. I'm here, now. You don't have to be alone anymore." She lifts her eyes to meet mine and slowly takes a breath, about to say something - but seems to choke on her words.
 
I lean forward and embrace her gently. Her little frame, at first so tense, eventually softens in my arms. "What I dream of," she murmurs, "is a life of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of trouble or depression." It sounds like a quote, but the sentiment is clear to me. I smile into her hair, holding her closer. She slumps into me, quiet and submissive.
 
With me, she will be safe. And I know she will not stray from me again.
 
 
 
    *** End ***