View Full Version : Seeking the Power of Atom

Mutated Waffle
October 19th, 2010, 09:05 AM
Hey, everyone. Over the summer, I worked on what I refer to as a "literary interpretation of Jonathan Blow's Braid." Braid, if you didn't know, is a highly acclaimed puzzle platformer game available on PC, Playstation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade and is one of my favorite games. This story that I've written is, rather than a strict re-telling of the events of the game, a re-imagining of the game's theme and purpose in a way that's compatible with the literary medium while keeping the game's story-telling style intact. Essentially, my intent was to write the story in such a way that its flow was as close to that of the original as possible in order to achieve the same impact without the assistance of the gameplay aspect that the game used to portray its meaning.

Also, I should note that my laptop's hard drive crashed so I had to copy and paste this from another website I had posted this on. I'm fairly certain there were a few typos that I hadn't found when I posted it there, but I haven't gone back through to fix them. If you find any, I'd appreciate it if you would point them out so I can fix them.

Anyway, here it is:


Seeking the Power of Atom
(A literary interpretation of Jonathan Blow's Braid)

Tim grimaced. The Manhattan skyline radiated through the night up to his humble rooftop. The busy streets below contradicted what he felt from the blackened void above, the starless sky. He pondered how to proceed as he wandered back to the doorway that beckoned him. Hesitance stayed his feet as he took a parting glance, requesting guidance from the goddess of the night sky. To his dismay, he received nothing in return as the maiden hid herself from his sight. Tim couldn't understand why she insisted on eluding him, so he continued his venture into his residence.

Inside, the walls spoke out and Tim listened. They motioned him into his study, where he would find his collection of journals. Each one possessed a recording of his research and experimentation. All of them were neatly organized on a separate shelf, perfectly sized for the whole collection. Tim opened the first in the series, labeled Vol. 2. Contained within were not words, but visions of sorrow and frustration.

Memories of past times were reflected into his mind. These times, though troublesome to ponder, were not quite as dismal as he knew the later volumes had been. Despite their flaws, it was obvious the amount of effort they both had put into fixing their mistakes. Tim needed only to find those which slipped through the cracks. After scanning the book twice over, Tim was, if only briefly, content with his progress. Several obvious flaws in his method had been exposed, errors which had concealed themselves for far too long. He was certain this volume contained nothing else of value, so he proceeded to the next.

Years of hiding their flaws constricted them; they were constantly deciding what was best for each other. It came to a point where they needed to move independently in order to better understand each other. Tim had difficulty reading Vol. 3; it troubled him think about her escape from his grasp.

Vol. 4 allowed him to gain perspective. He remembered time spent with his family when he was young, before he was able to fully understand the world. He remembered time spent studying at the university, when he was trying to understand the world. He remembered time spent with her, when he was trying to understand she who had become his world. He remembered her growing distant.

Tim kissed her goodbye. He knew that, in order to find her, he had to look elsewhere. But, he never truly left her behind. No matter how far he went, she felt as if he were still by her side. Tim nearly gave up reading Vol. 5. He couldn't bear the thought of never again being by her side. Yet he managed to make it through, finding that which he had done wrong along the way.

However, it was Vol. 6 which troubled him the most. He observed the hesitant manner in which people approached or even walked by him. People were uneasy around him which he found difficult to understand. Tim couldn't fight their impression of him, so he learned to work with it. Their hesitance and unease was matched by some of his own, which allowed him to build their trust. The task was far from simple, but he eventually managed to procure the solutions to the mistakes that had haunted him.

With the final journal complete, the walls began to scream. They twisted and warped until Tim was no longer in his study, but rather in his workshop. On his desk, atop some blueprints, was a journal labeled Vol. 1. This was the journal Tim had been searching for. He began reading.

Tim sighed. The bartender asked if he would like another drink, but he declined. He had somewhere he needed to be. His watch read 1:00 AM; he should have enough time. The bustling crowd frustrated Tim; their flow contradicted his own. Like swimming through a torrent of negativity, Tim trudged through a sea of people trying to push him away. He checked his watch; 12:00 AM. He needed to hurry.

Her house appears in the distance. An elegant estate perched atop a steep hill, it seems so very uninviting. A car pulls up to the driveway and out steps a sleazy-looking businessman, clearly the type who cares only about the company's profits. But, Tim spots someone else. It's her. She bursts out of the vehicle and makes a mad dash toward the house. The man commands her to come to him, but she defiantly continues her escape while screaming for help. Tim chases after her. They both reach the staircase which leads up the hill only to find some of the first steps are broken. He hoists her up to first step that's still intact, but there's no time for her to return the favor. Tim must find another way. He follows a path around to the back of the house. Through her bedroom window, Tim finds her safely sleeping in her bed. He made it.

His watch reads 11:00 PM. It's time. Startled, she wakes up to find him staring through her window. She tries to escape from her house, but Tim runs around and waits for her at the bottom of the stairs. Unaware of his presence, she jumps down the broken stairs, only to get captured. She manages to break free of his grasp and makes a mad dash for the driveway, screaming for help. The businessman calls out to her, telling her to come to him. They both get in his car and, before Tim is able to catch up, they drive away.

Confused, Tim begins to wander. He runs toward the city so he can get lost in the crowd. After following them for a while, he happens upon a bar. The bartender asks if he would like a drink, which he accepts. Tim sighs.

Upon closing the journal, the walls began to shriek and tremble. Those encompassing his workshop collapsed. Tim ran back to the foyer to make his escape, but all of the doors were gone. While looking for a way out, he noticed a strange source of light in the ceiling, a star. If only he could find a way to reach it, he knew he could relieve the walls of their pain. Tim finally understood. He had made a mistake. He had to restart.

Tim grimaced. The Manhattan skyline radiated through the night up to his rooftop. The busy streets below contradicted what he felt from the empty sky above. He knew what he had to do to proceed, so he quickly made his way to the doorway, stopping for only moment to confirm the status of the goddess of the night sky. As he expected, she was nowhere to be found, so he proceeded back inside his residence.

Quickly grabbing a stepladder from his closet, Tim managed to remove the star from the ceiling. There had to be more; they were his only chance. Tim ran back to his study and opened Vol. 2. He scanned the book thoroughly once, twice, three times, all to no avail. But, he was determined to find something he had missed. After nearly two hours of constant reading and rereading, something finally caught his eye. A cloud in the second memory stored in the book had moved and in the space it occupied Tim was able to find, even in the light of day, a star.

Finally, Tim found hope. Although it would be far from easy, Tim had to find every star that had hidden itself within his journals. Hours turned into days, which turned into weeks. Tim found himself discovering entirely new parts of the world he thought he knew, each one, to his delight, containing a star. After many weeks and tremendous effort, Tim had assembled a collection of seven stars. He was certain one more remained. He entered his workshop. Vol. 1 remained to be searched, but there was no need. Tim knew exactly where it was.

He approached her house. As expected, his mistakes had been fixed and subsequently the stairs had also. Tim ascended the stairs, making his way to her bedroom. Hanging above her bed was a star.

A car pulled up to the driveway. Out stepped the businessman and out ran Tim's prize. She rushed to her bedroom. Upon opening the door, standing before her was Tim, a smug grin on his face. She stopped dead in her tracks and slowly looked up to the sky. Blinding rays of light poured out of her eyes and mouth; a cloud of smoke emerged from her nostrils and mushroomed upward. Those hollow men must have been mistaken, because there most certainly was a thunderous bang.

"It worked."

Tim grinned. The burning Manhattan skyline radiated through the night up to his proud rooftop. The bright fires of below complemented what he felt from the shining trophy hanging above, the star-filled sky. Tim no longer needed to hurry inside. Instead, he could finally enjoy a relaxing night under the watchful eye of the goddess who rested above him, bound in chains.


Thanks for reading.

October 19th, 2010, 04:31 PM
I would have enjoyed this far, far, more without the introduction.

I know nothing of the game, so all through the piece I was distracted by questions about how this bit or that bit would be part of a game. Any piece of writing should be able to stand on its own merits without reference to anything else. This could stand on its own, I should think, for fans of science fiction and fantasy. There are nits to pick, but overall the story hangs together well. I'm not much of a fan of such literature, but I enjoyed it, except for that nagging voice in the back of my mind which kept reminding me that this is a story out of a game.

That spoiled it for me.

Mutated Waffle
October 19th, 2010, 09:13 PM
Then it seems I have a bit of a dilemma. You see, the first few people who read this were given only the subtitle (something I most certainly can't omit) and the first thing they always said after reading the story was, "What the hell is this Braid thing?" Then they all proceeded to ask questions which could have been answered by what I put in my introduction. I'd decided to write that introduction so I could avoid all those questions and get straight to the constructive criticism, but it seems that may have been a bit counter-productive.

October 19th, 2010, 09:43 PM
Is there any way to tell the story, which is well written and interesting, as a straight (?) alternate reality, time anomaly, fantasy, whatever, kind of story without any thought about the game? I think you've provided yourself with both a crutch and a hindrance by building the story around the game. Cut the story loose from its moorings, let it float free, expand your imagination beyond the game.

You have skills as a wordsmith. Use those skills, but use them in your own way.