Metronome

Every morning is a mixture of hurried showers,

a cereal bowl deep bath of granola in almond milk

and an ocean of emotions typed

on a computer screen. Thousand others dying

to reach the surface, a calmness

that is spectacularly similar to rigor-mortis erupts.

 

A weatherman is complaining about irregular weather.

There’s an accident in I-85.

All in a day’s

worth.

 

artwork by Haechang Sun

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Finite spoils of war

Smelling love on a day when the yellow cabs were on a strike,

she had bared herself out, naked

in the streets of passion;

Twenty minutes of sweat had turned into war.

Bearing shell scars between her legs

she had dug herself out of a grave

and jumped right back into

the madness.

 

drawing by Ariane Mayumi

What if you are a bird and want to be a bee?

Perched in a Bengal sun and a world full of binaries,

a spirit seeks validation in begging, yet there’s no Wikipedia

article about what she’s pleading for.

 

Retorting gazes that burn him with disgust are surprisingly united.

Some take the shape of his parents, some Youtube comments,

some are even his own image that still has makeup and

dried up blood.

 

A cinema-hall full of people laugh at iridescent jokes doled out

that hurt like a train, even more than when the officer-in-charge

asked her to strip down because there was a bulge

in her pants. Lying down in the training camp’s hard cot,

she remembers an equally deranged afternoon when

her dad had taught her that there were only

men and women in this world with the neatness of a

belt.

 

Five years ago, a man thought transforming into a woman

would finally make him whole, so he borrowed another man’s

writings from a hundred years back that told stories of a woman

who wanted to be a man. Later that year, the man was

surrounded by a thousand eyes as his body slowly entered the

crematorium. His soul, however, was burned an eon back.

 

When the news spreads, the Virginia sun is still busy painting the sky

with the color of an egg yolk; the familiarity of both is not lost to those

who read the stories of Greek heroes slaying mythical monsters. Only these monsters

were danger close, even closer than the uncle who slid his hands

inside the guy’s pants because he wasn’t like other boys.

 

The incinerator slowly burned all the flesh, and people enjoyed it with a couple of beers;

For there were only ones and zeroes in this world, and one-ones and zero-zeroes

were thrown out of heaven.

 

Illustration by Alex Williamson.

Cosmic Melancholia

Lying under a starry nothingness, the

dreams wander to the nearest nebula, and then burst into cosmic

illusions. The life, the bent road that took me here, are

lit by thoughts that had once meant something,

and now are still pictures.

The ambient music calms me down, and then

throws me a million galaxies away, as if it wanted

to make me find my way back home again.

“Haven’t you made your peace already?” whispered someone;

Shaking my head, I thought hard of

hot afternoons and dying breezes, and

artificially colored golas, and holding hands,

and sneaking kisses,

and a planet I had left

eons ago – and there I was, afloat,

in a timeless, stateless loop.

 

I woke up, in sweats, and realized

the nightmare had ended.

 

(Picture Courtesy: Blow – Stellarscapes New Media by Oriol Angrill Jordà)

OxenFree Review : A Sashimi of conversations, ghosts and emotions

Our world is a bizarre place. Our regular thought processes are severely limited, bound by the years of selective, institutionalized brainwashing. Hence the need to search for something that bucks the norm is innate and as primal as the human species itself. But it is not always the thrill of discovery that drives us. With the advent of social media, the slow death of private corners have shed light to dark corners of a human mind – the torrid spirals of which are not yet traveled by many;  hence for some peeking into the unknown is through seances and EMF readers. and for some it is as simple (and hard!) as to life the veil of the human psyche.

Terribly enough, the culture of the millennium has often sacrificed the intricacies of conversations between two characters to focus on the haute-couture of atmosphere. While the prevalence of investing into the ambiance has paid off to capture the imagination for a brief moment, true masterpieces have often been story and dialogue driven rather than a melange of brilliant images. In between these two polar opposites, simple formulas like Doom proves time and again that sometimes people just want uncluttered pieces of entertainment that come without any baggage of expectations, but then those are one too few in a sea filled with AAA sharks that still want to squeeze every bit of milk from a beaten formula.

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Oxenfree caught my eye in a video a couple of months back. In that video the developers, Night School Studio, were talking about human interactions in the society and how the game emerged as  a development geared towards the reactionary impulses rather than a linear progression. That was interesting since in the paradigm of a video game, different endings were rather fueled by actions and presented as consequences for those actions, and hardly as a result of what you had said. In case of Oxenfree, the experimentation went one step further: the choices did not directly influence the game’s ending. but like real conversations they only built up or ruined relationships between its characters. For most, this open-endedness is rather confusing and ill-devised, but for some it is fascinating play, a foray into territories where the definition of a consumable media is dictated by a cocktail of art and curiosity. But then not all cocktails are Bloody Marys.

A relatively small download and around five hours of playthrough later, Oxenfree is something I wanted to talk about. This is a game where the premise is much simpler than previous story-heavy games that I had played, but that doesn’t mean that this is a slouch. The story in Oxenfree is weird – the kind of weird that makes you continue playing it. The story is layered, and yet the yarns around it are not difficult to pull apart, primarily to make you concentrate on the dialogues that form a majority of your experience – the discussions between people who often reminisce about their past, wish about their future, and do all the other things in between in their present. The visual experience of it mixes the colors of ageing with the colors of growing up, with bright splashes in between. Those patches are reserved for contacts and communications of a special kind : the tearing in space-time continuum, the importance of choices and the desperation of rebirth.

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Voice-overs are to the point as well. Erin Yvette’s Alex is a delight, evoking poignancy in her most vulnerable moments as well as showing remarkable fortitude and strength when being cornered. She is in truest sense the focal point of this adventure, helped along with the sorry camaraderie of people who tag along. Another voice(voices?) in the wall is the radio – but unlike Grand Theft Auto’s jukebox extraordinaire, OxenFree’s static, broken down, discordant catalogue of channels are lost voices in the ether begging for their time. A movie dialogue plays again and again and again; Someone keeps on sending Morse codes; A woman who hides her secrets in thin air; A crescendo that never hits – you often pause and listen to these and think about your own past, of statelessness and existence, of echoes that never go away. OxenFree makes you listen.

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Even with such a script for success, OxenFree at times feels deliberately heavy on walking from point A to B. Some sections are devoid of dialogues or things to do – and revisiting locations only make it worse, hampering the advertised replayability of the game. Although I feel that OxenFree should have been episodic, akin to Telltale’s excellent ‘The Walking Dead’, this in no way feels like a Hors d’oeuvre. Night School Studio should be very proud of what they have achieved here – a near perfect rendition of human interaction and its outcomes, presented in layers of grief, wish, love, awkwardness and longing.

Is OxenFree a perfect video game? No, not at all. But it aspires to be much more than a video game. That in itself is an ambitious leap of faith from an indie developer. It fails, at times rather badly, but what they have created here will stay with me for a long time. If not, just the radio static and the odd piano at the very end of the spectrum; or the Groundhog Day loops; or the horror story it ends up telling through these characters.

Recommended.

Entitled Dreams 101

Your body sweating,

hands sliding down south, mouth following, breaths drowning ~

The radio had stopped long back, and

the static had mixed with

moans.

All in a dream, I wake up with

lingering smell of your

breasts. If the windows could open,

a thesis could have been written

on desperation;

But the world is saved, for now.