By Tidel 11 Comments
Early in my journey, I come across another soul wandering the dessert. He hoots at me. I hoot back. We take a few moments to share staccato hoots, and then he flits off across the sand like a breeze-caught leaf.
From there we climb ruins, and surf down dunes, weaving in and out of each other’s path like flirting birds, like dancers, like butterflies. Journey is a simple game with few inputs, but everything executes with exquisite grace. We discover nooks with secrets. I help him; he helps me.
Journey takes directions that surprise me. And through it all, I’m not alone. At times, I feel a bit dragged, like I am being forced to match a pace I don’t want; other times, most times, I am just grateful – for the company, for the help, for the comforting hoots when things get dark.
Toward the end of the journey, I lose sight of him.
On the precipice of the last path, I pause. It doesn’t feel right to take the next step without him. In our short time together I feel bonded to him. The journey wasn’t long, but it felt… deep, and full. A lot happened, and we had seen each other through it.
He didn’t have to stick with me. He could have left at any time. I could have left, too… but then, no, I couldn’t have, because I didn’t – because I wasn’t leaving right now. I wait. I hope he’s just behind me, but the seconds stretch out. I have to pee – I’ve had to pee like crazy for the last hour of our trip together. But there was no way to tell him, ask him, so I just held it. Because he needed me… no, that’s not something I can say. I needed him. Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe I just wanted him with me. It blurs, my assumptions and his motivations, and in the end I can’t ascribe things to him that want him to be feeling – I can’t tell myself he needs me just because it’s more comfortable to say that, than admit I didn’t want to go on alone.
But here I am on the threshold of the end, and I am alone. I hoot. Once, twice. Several quick in row. We had a kind of language we developed together – short, quick bursts meant trouble or help or over here right now. And… nothing.
As I wait, the foolish feeling creeps in. Maybe he’s already gone through. Maybe I am the one left behind. It’s a cold thought. Standing like a chump waiting for a companion who has long moved on ahead, without me – every twist and trial behind him, forgotten, thanks for all your help, dude, smell ya later.
I know that feeling better than I’d like – being the fool, the one who waits because of a story he told himself about the way things were, not the plain, uncomfortable truth. I may have even been that for someone myself.
In the distance, under the background noise, I hear something distinct, and familiar. Short, quick bursts, faint but growing louder and closer: over here over here over here.
And there he is. He did not leave me. I did not leave him.
We passed through the final door as we had the first: together, hooting at each other like fools.
A stranger becomes a friend, and then is gone. That is the way of it, in life. What a wonderful thing people are, and how they can surprise you. Some things are worth risking a small piece of ego over – sometimes waiting is rewarded with the thing you wish for.
This playthrough will stay with me, like thoughts of nameless stranger I shared it with.
I will go back again. This gorgeous husk of a world, the beings of light and creatures of dark than haunt its sands and skies. Maybe I’ll see you surfing the dunes sometime. Maybe I’ll hoot hello. Or maybe I’ll just race away. I’ve had my romance in Journey, and it was lovely. But that’s the end of a story, and Journey isn’t really about ends at all.