A thought after playing Oxenfree.

Watch This

Every time she climbs down that ladder, Alex hates it. Not the darkness -- she knows what they'll find below. Not Jonas's nervous chatter or the bunker's rancid mildew smell. Not even the clang as the door seals itself overhead.

Alex hates the ladder. Itself. It's cold, damp, slippery. Jonas's boots always smear mud on the rungs. Of all the moldering radio equipment and time-snagged furniture haunting the island, the ladder is what gets to her? Stupid, Alex. Live with it, Alex.

The worst part is when the ladder ends.

Alex usually ditches Jonas in the bunker. "Yeah, it does sound like your mom! Let me try..." She should feel guilty, but it's been too many cycles. She's going to have to walk past that radio console and it's easier to do that alone.

She should feel guilty at how she manipulates the crew, but the fact is, they're young. Teenagers. Alex must be something like thirty now -- if her estimates are right, which they probably aren't. No way to keep a clean count.

Anyway. She knows the crew a lot better than they know her, now. It's not that they never surprise her. Ren has a talent for non sequiturs and Clarissa has a talent for off-handed jabs, and they can both still come out with a brand-new line occasionally. The kids still feel like people, not tape recorders stuck on loop.

But Alex has a good sense of their boundaries. Jonas will never try a brownie, no matter how many times Ren offers one. Nona will never talk about freshman year. Clarissa will always bogart the last smoke and will never forgive Michael for dying.

(Jonas will kiss Clarissa but not Nona. Nona will kiss Ren or Alex. Clarissa will moon after Nona if she thinks nobody can see. Alex plays these games, some cycles, trying to test the crews' boundaries or just make a space for joy before the ladder comes around. Maybe in a hundred "years" she'll have mapped everyone's psyche and they will all feel like puppets. For now, Alex has her friends.)

(Ren will kiss anybody. She knew that before-the-island.)

Some cycles, Alex pushes the knowledge away and lets herself slip into the past. Lets herself believe it's the first time. It's easier in some ways. But then she's on the ladder and she has to remember. Otherwise, the radio is too tempting.

She knows it would work. She could launch a message into the past, the real past, before-the-island. "Don't get on the ferry, Alex." "Don't go into the cave, Alex." "Throw that damn radio into the ocean, Alex, far across the waves, Alex, make that fucker fly." And then none of this would have ever happened.

Ren would never lean into Nona with that nearly-concealed expression of wonder. Jonas would never give terrible brotherly advice. Clarissa would never say one honest ghost-ridden word. Michael would never sometimes live and sometimes not.

If the first cycle was the real one, the what-really-happened of the island, then Nona and Ren went home and went on a date. They're thirty now (if Alex can count) and they might have kids (if they ever went on a second date). Alex could erase that with one radio message, and that's why she walks past the console. Every time. Alone or with Jonas at her side.

The ghosts insist that the island is unutterable tedium, but Alex is never bored. She's learned a lot of physics, a lot of engineering, just poking through manuals and leftover equipment. She's gotten a lot better at steering the portable radios. A few cycles back she tuned in something, voices going on about mathematical formulae and a catastrophe, in strange foreign accents -- and the word "Ganymede" clear in the static. Just for a moment. Even the ghosts were struck dumb.

(That is not dead which can eternally learn new tricks.)

If this isn't the only crack in time, then the way out, the real-way-out, could lead anywhere. And in the meantime, she can keep what's real for the crew... real. For the crew.

Alex won't give up. She'll climb down the ladder and walk past the radio and then get off the ferry once again. She'll climb the tower and look out over the island.

She'll sit beneath the statue, the huge lonely sailor peering out to sea. The sentinel. The one who keeps the watch.

Updated June 19, 2016.

More Rambles

Zarfhome (map)