Written by: Leaf Spiritweaver
Images by: Natacha Haroldson
We are far too comfortable in our lives. Electric light bulbs, burglar alarms, and neighborhood watch programs have lulled us into a sense of safety. Science has taught us that monsters and demons are impossibilities. We have nothing to fear in the dark corners of the earth except terrorism, biowarfare, and poverty.
But what if we’re wrong?
What if there are things so terrible that just the understanding that they exist is enough to reduce the sanest man or woman to a babbling wretch? What if there are monstrous things that came from beyond the stars, that existed before time itself? What if those monstrous things slumber restlessly in the angles of space and time – waiting to rise again and devour us?
What if the old gods that are lost to the slow grind of history are, in fact, nothing but these horrors?
H. P. Lovecraft believed this to be the case.
Touted by many as the grandfather of modern horror, Lovecraft is one of the best-known, most celebrated, and most prolific writers to ever take up a pen with the singular goal of scaring the hell out of us – a task he achieved with masterful regularity. Lovecraft believed that the greatest terror was the unknown, and from that doubt he brought forth alien horrors that have captured the imaginations of readers for more than a century.
One of Lovecraft’s best-known little nightmares is “alive and well” in Second Life: Innsmouth.
Lovecraft described Innsmouth as having a palpable sense of decay, and this aspect is apparent within moments of arriving. It’s not just that things are disordered, rusted, dirty, or worn. Rather, it is the sense that, at some point, life was normal here.
In the present, however, there is no end to the destruction. Cars litter the main street, and buildings sag or sit partially swallowed by stretches of bog. It is tempting to assume that in the near past, sunlight poured over the abandoned playground, and birds chirped in the remaining trees. That’s when you begin to notice that there is no chronological unity to the destruction. In fact, it becomes increasingly apparent that something is very wrong in Innsmouth. Something has been very wrong for a very long time.
It’s during this moment of sudden clarity that you are likely to notice the sinister details nestled within what should have been a quaint little town. There are, for instance, the strange standing stones on a nearby hill. Moreover, there is also a strange funerary stillness. Amid the wreckage, there are no survivors struggling for help. Only one old man sits along the main road, nursing a bottle and gazing at passers-by with eyes that seem just a little too far apart.
Exploring Innsmouth is where the fun really peaks. We visited no less than a dozen times, and each time there was something new to find. From posing opportunities with Deep Ones to a showdown with the great Cthulhu himself, we were consistently (and gleefully) surprised. The area is honeycombed with secret doors, hidden chambers, and unusual locations.
Be warned, there is no specific governing body or rules system as far as we could see, but, oddly, it was never a problem. Each time we visited, we encountered people who fell into their roles almost automatically. This phenomenon became increasingly astonishing after we learned that most of the people we encountered had no intimate knowledge of Lovecraft’s works, but rather were naturally reacting to the undeniable mood of the sim.
Even the parts of the sim that seem flawed reveal their brilliance as you continue to explore. For example, quite a few of the doorways in the sim are short. This, in effect, seems like some sort of builder’s oversight… at first. After ditching our Amazonian and Herculean shapes for more realistic proportions, we were able to easily navigate the village. We even made our way into the sewers to locate a copy of the Necronomicon and gaze upon the shrine of a Cthulhu cult.
It was during one of these subterranean crawls that we came face-to face with a monster.
We had witnessed a few of these, littered around the sim. To date they had only provided us a creepy backdrop for some photo ops. This one… moved.
Yes, you can actually play as the monsters – to our great delight. Even better was the fact that, in our new shapes, this beast dwarfed us, and we had very few options. At length, we opted for the most logical plan: we ran, screaming our fool heads off. That’s when we discovered the EXACT reason the doorways are so small.
The monster couldn’t fit.
The sim is created for beautifully staged encounters where you effectively run for your damn life. This is precisely the point of Lovecraft’s work. Monsters are bad. Real people don’t just go all kung-fu hero and save the day. People run, and they bleed, and they die.
In the last few weeks we have ventured out of our safe zone a few times. Food is running scarce, and there’s a terrible racket by the saw mill. Something’s coming, and whatever it is, it’s going to be bad. A few of us think the answer may still be in that book. We drew straws to determine who would go back down into the sewers to look for it. We know the unlucky ones may die.