A Lonely Walk

October and, uh, the begin­ning of November, is Horror Month here at the Ontological Geek!  All of our pieces this month relate to hor­ror in games, and we’ve got a bunch of great guest arti­cles lined up for your enjoy­ment. 

I fol­low the Huldra deep­er into the for­est. I hear only her voice hum­ming through my ears, and the crunch of sev­er­al inch­es of snow under my boots.

She is the guardian of the for­est. The trees, plants and ani­mals belong to her and bend to her will.

My guide warned me about her. She is an unre­li­able force filled with woe, and her rela­tion­ship to humans is, at best, “com­plex.” Her glow­ing skin, flow­ing hair, and gen­tle voice can switch at any moment to expose her true hor­rif­ic form. Few have sur­vived that inef­fa­ble trans­for­ma­tion. When she sings to me, she lures me deep­er into the woods – into her home.

So I tread light­ly, rely­ing on my sens­es and instincts, and I hope to find answers.

This is my Year Walk.yw1

Year walk­ing is a gift and a curse. It’s a vision quest to see the future, an expe­ri­ence made pos­si­ble after tremen­dous suf­fer­ing. In prepa­ra­tion for their walk, year walk­ers are with­held food and drink on sev­er­al sig­nif­i­cant occa­sions in the dead of win­ter, and must be kept in soli­tary con­fine­ment until the stroke of mid­night on a New Year’s Eve. The suc­cess of a walk relies on a series of cruel med­i­ta­tions to test their faith, med­i­ta­tions which are not with­out their dan­gers. By this time, a year walk­er has embraced mal­nour­ish­ment and insan­i­ty, and even­tu­al­ly, a mys­te­ri­ous rift between time and space opens for them as an invi­ta­tion to see their future. They dis­cov­er if they’ll find true love, become wealthy, or be happy.

During my walk, I meet other crea­tures as treach­er­ous as the Huldra and I am aware of the leg­ends of their cru­el­ty. At the lake lives the Brook Horse, who lures infants on his back and drowns them. He demands that I bring them to him, and I must drag their wretched lit­tle bod­ies to feed his waters. If I stare into the eyes of the Night Raven long enough, a dis­ease will over­come my body and I’ll fall ill. He is a greedy, ter­ri­ble bird that I must chase until I’m exhaust­ed in order to retrieve a key. Once I final­ly achieve that, I meet the final guardian. The most dan­ger­ous of the crea­tures is the Church Grim, described often as a par­a­site, who meets me at a church to show me what I’m here for. He is a tall, caped goat known to feed on hopes and dreams who guards the ener­gy of the church. Through touch­ing his heart, I find my future.yw2

There are ele­ments of hor­ror in this jour­ney. I am alone, dis­cov­er­ing dark caves of blood­ied dolls and unset­tling crea­tures who may decide to attack or mur­der me. I have no weapons to defend myself and can only progress through solv­ing puz­zles and unclear visu­al rid­dles. The sounds I hear in the dark are descrip­tions of mis­ery, and the images I see clear as day are repro­duc­tions from my night­mares.

I recall some­thing Martin Nilsson said after he com­plet­ed his own walk:  “Before I saw what hap­pened next year, I lived among the stars. I lived there for many life­times it seemed. What do I care for next year? Time has already ended.” He was admit­ted to a men­tal hos­pi­tal, and maybe I will be in one too after my jour­ney comes to an end. Maybe the truth behind my explo­ration is that I have no more time left, and this will have been for noth­ing.

But this isn’t what I fear most. yw3

The beau­ti­ful ter­ror of Year Walk is that in it, your deep­est fears and anx­i­eties are based on the truth. In a deranged twist of events, what I am expe­ri­enc­ing is essen­tial­ly a love story. The walk began when my beloved Stina had to choose between me and anoth­er man. I starved and stayed awake until the guardians of the for­est opened their gates for me to dis­cov­er if my lover was going to for­ev­er be mine, or if she was going to aban­don me in these dark woods to the atroc­i­ties of nature. It’s trag­ic how far we would go for the ones we love and how much we will pun­ish our­selves just to know if they will love us back, too.

My deep­est fear is to have her eyes burn through mine and see her mouth the words, “I don’t love you any­more.”

At the end of the jump scares, omi­nous sound­tracks, and haunt­ing crea­tures, the fear of loss and betray­al is what lingers the longest in my Year Walk. We give our­selves entire­ly in seek­ing the truth and yearn­ing for love to the point of a phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al break­down. Perhaps this jour­ney is the most accu­rate descrip­tion of love and heart­break: a series of signs and sym­bols we have to decode, and we receive either the answers that pro­vide us warmth, or remain lost in the freez­ing woods until we are freed to walk again. The Huldra who betrays, the Brook Horse who drowns the most vul­ner­a­ble, the Night Raven who mocks and steals, and the Church Grim who blocks the path – they are all sym­bols of roman­tic part­ners and rela­tion­ships into which we have poured and lost our­selves. In return, they have tor­tured and bled us dry, but maybe we will come out of this alive. Broken, but alive, and pos­si­bly even the hero of the story.