Friday, September 27, 2013

Crossed Off: An Animal Crossing Diary - Day One

Two years ago I moved to the town of Mayhew. It was a quaint little village located in the heart of a mysterious forest which exists on a dreamy island that seems inaccessible to those who do not arrive via the private train managed by a cult of smiling monkeys who all go by the name of "Porter".  It is my understanding that, contrary to all knowledge of forests and their like, that the trees of this fair island spread further out to encompass many great lands. I would know little of this. Porter's tracks crisscross the entirety of the known world, like chains locking away some terrible truth.

Shortly after my arrival in this village I was summoned away. Important business, you see. I can't reveal anymore than that. Now that I have downtime, I aim to reengage this old community. I hope I have not been forgotten.

Immediately after departing from Porter's train, I am greeted by an odd brown-and-white patched cat who goes by Purrl. I don't remember such a woman from the times before my leaving, but there were many who had come and gone. Perhaps she exists among these fleeting memories. Or perhaps she, like I fear so many others may be, is herself new to this land. Regardless, she seems quite inviting. Perhaps overly trusting. She refers to me familiarly as "Honey". Have I some relationship with this girl? And the heart on her shirt is off putting... I get the feeling she has been standing here a long time, awaiting my return.

Purrl sounds confused. After a glance at her clock, as though I have arrived late for an unscheduled meeting, she informs me of the hour: 3:29 AM. That doesn't sound right. Have I truly been asleep so long? I glance at my phone. No, the girl is off. It is 2:24 AM. She seems flustered, and in her panicked state fumbles with the watch dial. Sweat bounces from her brow like it is raining. After a moment she gives a sigh, looks up at me sheepishly, and says: "Finally. I'm glad that's over with..."

Before I can say anything else she blurts out: "Shall we get started?"

Started? I wonder. Started with what? What nefarious scheme does this bizarre beast have in store for me?

"By the way, what was your name again?" Purrl cocks her head to one side and frowns, placing a paw on her chin thoughtfully.

This cannot be real. She seems so familiar, speaks so intimately, yet I have no memory of her and she, evidently, none of me. Or perhaps we have both forgotten each other. Still, I am reluctant to give my name. Who knows what one may do with such a thing. Regardless, I hope that telling her will jog a memory. At least a memory, preferably two.

"Nate," I answer slowly, letting the word breathe across my lips. I'm not used to saying my own name, and in this particular instance it feels foreign and unwieldy. It seems, to me at least, that it wishes not to be heard by her ears.

"That's right! Nate! Of course I remember! I could NEVER forget you!" Her solemn expression explodes into one of intense, almost orgasmic joy. She emphasizes the word "never" with more than just a change of tone, but a flick of the eyes and a quirk of the mouth. I wonder again exactly what the nature of our relationship had been.

I remember no lovers among these folk. I fear that I may find my memory somewhat... faulty.

"All right, I'm going to get things ready for you," she says.

At the time, I was too lost in her previous words and the melting innocence of her eyes to ponder what exactly she meant by this. Now, alone in the darkness of my mind, I wonder: what precisely needed getting ready? And how did she handle it without moving so much as a whisker? Is there some vast conspiracy here? Am I being played for a fool. What awaits for me beyond the station stairs?

"Thank you for waiting. I Hope you enjoy your time in Mayhew." Waiting for no response by myself, Purrl disappears into the darkness. I hear her claws scratching on the cobbled streets for acres before they fade into silence.

Perplexed, I glance at the updated map distributed to the passengers of Porter's train. I see that this Purrl character is a resident of the D-3 district in town. Across the bridge from my neighborhood, but not too terribly far. Perhaps I will give a visit to her after I recollect myself in more familiar settings.

As I make the short trek down cobbled streets, I am humiliated by the state at which my former has found itself. Weeds line every inch of the acre which is not home to stone or tree. It is truly a disgraceful thing. Are there none with any pride in their home? Or do we all leave for long periods, allowing the poor Mayhew to become a place of desolate wreckage?

It seems my theory may not be far off: I notice that my neighbor, Maranda, has not been around recently. The flag on her mailbox flashes urgently, beckoning to be answer. Alas, there is little that can be done. Despite our time together, I have not her key. I can, however, put an end to the incessant beeping of my own paperbox.

Despite my lengthy absence, I find it is home to only pink envelopes. With a groan, I open the one addressed as being from the HRA (that's the Happy Room Academy to those not in the know. It is a sort of cult, and, between you and I, part of an investigation which is pertinent to my original departure).

They deride the size of my home, claiming that I have wasted such space by not furnishing it. I am awarded a measly 8,793 points. I scoff and toss the letter to the ground. What good are these ratings, anyhow? And just who are they, these Happy Room fellows, to enter my abode and judge it on their whims?

I put such felons out of my mind. The next letter is more interesting anyhow. It is addressed as being from a man named Cousteau. I don't recall the name, but many of those who enter these woods have outlandish monikers which, in my opinion, are far more richly and fanciful than they deserve. Wary of potential toxins, I open the envelope.

Sadness overcomes me. Sadness is probably not right word. It's more of a combination of guilt and bewilderment. I remember nothing of this Cousteau person, but they have vowed never to forget me. These words are so earnest, so sincere. I have no doubt that they are in some way true. Yet, I cannot for the life of me remember this individual. That seems to be a theme for the night; forgetfulness. Purrl's memory seemed itself flaky, and now I am to call into question my own. Is there maybe something in the air here? Something that causes those who breathe it to forget all interpersonal relationships?

I hope not.

I save the letter, and step inside. It has been two years since I've seen my home. I can hardly remember it.

It is quite different from the image in my mind. To begin with, I have three floors when all I can recall is one. The middle floor has birch-wood paneling and a simple yellow wall with a green border along the bottom. A quartet of rocky mechanisms, seemingly relatives of the dancing fire hydrant outside my home, sing a beautiful, hypnotic hymn. They are accompanied by the upbeat rhythms emanating from my personal radio. I wander over to check the track, not remembering well the name of these older albums. "K.K. Salsa". An odd accompaniment to the airy bells of the Gyroids, but I like this combination, so I leave it be.

The radiator in the back serves itself well in keeping me toasty. My furnace must be filled, I realize suddenly, despite not having tended to it in nearly two years. It is then that it strikes me, and I slide into the cream sofa with my fingers dragging at my eyes: the lights work as well. Somebody has been paying my utilities and generally, despite the cockroach infestation, caring for my facilities. Could it be that wily Thomas Nook? Yes, that seems likely. He had always taken an unusual interest in my dwellings. Of course, I suppose they are technically his dwellings. I still owe a heft debt on it all, if I recall. Still, it is odd that he would pay such expenses and keep things generally tidy. Maybe he intended to rent the place out once more, or maybe, perhaps even more likely, he scrambled to keep the HRA satisfied. It was he, after all, that signed me up for their scrutiny.

A glance at the table reveals all. Beside my globe and compass and the travel papers (was I truly so foolish?) I see a photograph I don't quite recall. It is one of Nook himself, smiling and winking as though to say: "I've got my eye on things, Nate. And certainly I've got my eye on you."

I look over my valuables briefly, noting that my former self was seemingly fond of foreign goods. I see a taxidermied grizzly bear, too small to be mature and a nauseating display piece for a town with such... particular inhabitants. Additionally my home is shared with the towering statue of a beastly mermaid and the many children of a Russian matryoshka. It's possible that these goods were placed by Nook to spruce things up, but I recall a wordy seagull who dealed in such oddities.

Wishing to familiarize myself with the rest of my home, I head downstairs.

The basement is a cluttered mess. Besides being the home of my unpocketed tools, it is also half-covered in pumpkins. Not only do jack-o-lanterns occupy the space, but a number of jack-in-the-boxes and pumpkin-themed furniture as well.  From the stairs I can spy two sofas, a dresser, and an armoire, all sporting the triangle grin. Amongst these are also a slot machine and a colorful elephant slide, a toy which reminds me of my youth. I remember now my intention that this be an arcade of sorts, a fun spot. Such explains the golden statue of one popular plumber, and feeling more at rest here than elsewhere, I take a slide and head upstairs.

My uppermost floor is dark and grim, and made entirely of stone and brick. An odd choice for a room built upon one made of light wood, but I'm no architect. It has few furnishings and the cockroaches are dismayed at my arrival, finding nowhere to hide. They dive for the stone lantern. For now I'll let them be. Additionally there are two enormous chess pieces sitting at opposite sides of the room: one a six-foot tall black queen, and the other a barely-shorter white rook. They stare at one another uneasily, and wonder just where they have lost their kings.

Mildew seems to have grown between the brick cracks. It makes me cough and agitates my asthma, so I head outside for some fresh air.

Back outside, I notice that the ground is littered with apples. I remember that such fruit are a delicacy in this village, and wonder if I had intended with them to grow an orchard. It is, however, unlikely that they are mine: the fruit occupy a certain shape surrounding Maranda's property line. Deciding to ignore the mess for now, I head to the town bulletin board to catch up on current events.

There was evidently a fair on the twenty-second. I have arrived just a few days too late. Saddened, I turn away.

My stroll through the night takes me to the most pleasant smelling of all town dumps. There I loot the rubbish and find a perfectly good leaf umbrella hiding amongst it. Additionally, I find a Maki figurine. I pocket the two, intending them for gift or barter. Doing so, I discover that my pocket is brimming with striped candies. Finding no expiration dates, I sample one of the goodies. It is delicious, and I am delighted to note that even the wrapper is edible.

I carry on with my night, considering as I go to pluck the weeds. I decide against it, for I am quite weary and in need of a good day's rest. Something chirps at me from beneath the ground, but with neither shovel nor net hunting does me no good. The town is much more populated than I remember it being, which is disappointing. I was rather fond of the sparse population.

Shortly I find that a villager has fallen asleep outside her home. Further evidence that something is wrong with the air here. Who in their right mind falls asleep on the ground? And in September? The wind is biting cold, and despite there being no rain, I fear for the girl's health. I give her a nudge, and thankfully she stirs. She looks up at me sleepily, muttering something about a "Bingo". At once her eyes pop and she lets loose with a night-shattering scream.

"Nate! What in the world are you doing here, bingo?"

This dog knows me, and I am again visited by that guilty feeling. I don't know this beast, though the map assures me her name is Bea. Flustered, she looks over my shoulder. With a blush, she admits to her embarrassment at having fallen asleep. I assure her it's alright, but don't let her in on my theory just yet. After all, she may be in on the cause.

She walks confusedly in all directions but the one to her door, despite the sleepy look in her eyes. I consider assisting her into the home, but she seems more interested in gossip.

"What do you think of Maranda, anyway, bingo? I'm kind of torn, myself," Bea begins, painfully unaware that Maranda and I quite happily involved. "That person has never sent me a single letter, even though we both live here in Mayhew."

She goes on for a while about the importance of letter-sending, despite all residents living within walking distance. I start to remember why I left this town.

After our chat, Bea nods off. Toxins or not, something is wrong with this girl. I give her a nudge, and again she wakes with a start. This time she dances urgently, as though she has to pee, begging me not to tell the others. I suggest that she head to bed, but I am blissfully ignored. Having had enough of this foolishness, I depart from the acre.

I find the familiar Nookway store just north of Bea's brand of bother. Regrettably, it is closed... but what more did I expect at such an hour? I decide to take its lead and retire for the evening. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring, I make the brief journey home and bid goodnight to my Gyroid. He seems sad to see me go, but grants me blessings nonetheless.

Now, with the Sandman lurking somewhere nearby, I chase the bugs from my cabin bed and try to rest...

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