Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dreams In Darkness

On Sunday, as I was driving along the interstate, I came up behind a car with an operator symbol on its back bumper. As any other rational person would do in such a situation, I calmly flicked on my turning signal, slowly moved into the left lane, and then slammed on the accelerator until I couldn’t see the car in my rearview mirror anymore. I was hoping to at least get a few more posts in before weirdness started to happen around me.
Think that excuse would work on Slender Man?
“Hey, Slendy, it’s great you finally decided to show up and all, but my blog isn’t ready for your introduction yet. See, I need to get some more regular posting in, establish everything first, set up sympathy with the audience, you know. The usual stuff. We can’t just rush into this like some overeager blogger who starts posting about weird dreams or being stalked by tall people three posts in!”
Little would Slendy realize, as this is an informative blog instead of a personal one, there would never be a time when I had built up enough audience sympathy for his appearance to have a major impact! My plan is foolproof!

On a slightly more on topic note, I’ve finished reading Dare 2 Die, and caught up with H(a)unting, Something Awful, Watched, A Lost One, NoWheretoHyde, The Stopping Lights, Road to Heavens, As the Clock Turns, Consuming Insanity, Strange Occurrences, Finding the Darkness, and Breaker. That’s the majority of the ARGs; just a handful more, and I’ll have read/watched every single one I could find.

Dreams In Darkness

With Marble Hornets and Just Another Fool finished, I’ve covered the two most basic ARGs, which are both essential viewing/reading for the Mythos. Now we’re traveling into what is essentially the expanded universe of those two stories; these are the stories which built up from, and occasionally improve upon, the foundation which had been established.
In terms of best reading order, it would probably be better to read Seeking Truth after finishing JAF and MH, as it serves as an excellent gateway into multiple other ARGs. However, in my previous post, I had to make multiple references to Dreams In Darkness, each time needing to qualify the reference with a statement about how it doesn’t really count. This post is so I can get that out of the way, and mention it without needing any explanation.

Dreams In Darkness is an ARG which ran from May 4, 2010, until September 3, 2010. It also had a companion blog, Watch This City Burn, which ran in parallel to it for a while.

Plot

If you intend on actually reading Dreams In Darkness, right now I recommend that you stop reading this post, scroll down to the links at the bottom (without reading any text), read through the both Dreams in Darkness and Watch This City Burn, and then come back. Because there be major, major spoiler alerts here. The ending is of the “What a TWEEEST!” variety, so if you want to actually be surprised by it, best not read this post.

This is a pretty detailed plot description; Dreams In Darkness goes for more intricacy than the usual formula of someone just being followed by Slender Man.

The main character of Dreams in Darkness is Damien, who describes himself as “an arrogant bastard of a nerd, and I have a bad habit of thinking I'm always right. I obsess over stupid things. Greatly appreciate intelligent thought. Overimaginitive... Self-loathing.”
Damien starts out his blog for mundane reasons. He talks about his retail job, his roommate/friend Ted, his crush/love interest Amelia, etc. Ted discovered the Slender Man Mythos via Marble Hornets, and recruited Damien into the fandom. Damien decided to start his own Slenderblog under the alias TheArsonist, which became “Watch This City Burn”. Apart from his (sub-par) Slenderblog, and a new psychological medicine Damien started taking, things remained grounded in normalcy.
But as it always does, insanity starts happening around Damien. First he received a package containing a totheark mask, along with an anagram which, when decoded, read “"For when you face the faceless". This was followed by vaguely threatening message on the answering machine, Damien’s home being broken into, and Slendy style creepy fun.
When things look like they’re coming to some form of confrontation, Ted disappeared. It’s at this point where Damien admitted that the entire stalker thing was fake; it started out as an elaborate prank Ted was pulling on Damien. After seeing Damien freak out over it, Ted told him the truth, and the two decided to keep the story going on the blog, as a way to advertise Watch This City Burn. However, Ted’s disappearance wasn’t part of the plan.
Ted’s body was found by the police, having been very brutally murdered. Damien decided to drop his blog. This decision was reversed when he learns that Watch This City Burn had been hacked, leaving many odd edits and cryptic messages. It’s apparent from the messages that someone else was in danger, but both Damien and the audience were unable to figure out whom. The next victim ended up being an old friend of Damien’s, Emily, and her husband, Vincent.
It’s at this point that Damien realized that the person who has been posting on Watch This City Burn (who was named TheArsonist, after the username Damien had on that blog) was actually a split personality of his. Damien’s first reaction was that the reason TheArsonist knew about Emily and Vincent’s deaths ahead of time was because he was the one who murdered them. This conclusion led to Damien deciding to commit suicide, but before he could do so, he received a text message from Amelia about a weird tall guy watching her. For Damien, this confirmed the existence of Slender Man, and he immediately told Amelia everything he could. But before Amelia could make it back to him, she died in a car accident, with her last words to him being “He's here. I love you. Oh god."

Having lost all those close to him, Damien began to investigate his own past, following Zeke Strahm’s (of Seeking Truth) theory that Slender Man targets adults who escaped him as children. Partially assisted by TheArsonist, he discovered that his parents were part of a Slender Man cult, which sacrificed children to Slendy. The deeper Damien dug into his past, the more control TheArsonist gained, growing from an insane, unintelligible chaos into an intelligent and manipulative personality, capable of controlling Damien’s body for extended periods of time, and with the singular goal of destroying Slender Man. TheArsonist killed Matthew Wilcox, the leader of the Slender Man cult, and discovered the existence of an item which could repel Slender Man.

Damien then went inside an old building in the forest, which had been the center of the Slender Man cult. Inside, he/TheArsonist encountered Slender Man. They escaped, successfully stealing the item which would protect them from Slendy (a bone with some sort of engravings on it). Afterwards, Slender Man began following Damien. The bone successfully warded Slendy off when initially used, but later Slender Man would appear inside Damien’s room, and not only examine the bone, but pick it up. Realizing how impossible it is to try and understand Slender Man’s constantly changing behavior and abilities, Damien fell into despair. In his last post he is barely holding onto sanity, claiming that Slender Man is coming, and that death would be preferably to the fait which awaits him.

Scroll down a bit to the comments section. In it, Rick O’Connor (Damien’s brother), informed the audience that Damien had killed himself, and that the majority of the blog’s contents are fictional. Not fictional as in, “It’s an ARG, of course it’s fiction”, but fictional in-universe. Amelia had left Damien, and was getting groceries, not returning to him, when she died. Much of Damien’s past which he had told the readers was completely fictional, and the childhood drawings he had posted on the blog were recently made. The red building which Damien claimed to be the cult’s center was in a park, not in the woods. Among Damien’s possessions which Rick found were many notes, planning out how the blog’s story would have gone.
Rick decides to hand over all of Damien’s notebook, as well as computer files, over to the police, to assist their investigation of Matthew Wilcox’s murder.

Relation to the Mythos

It’s nearly impossible to determine what exactly DiD contributes to the Mythos, as we can’t tell what parts of it where fact or fiction. Was it all Damien’s insanity, or was Slender Man actually involved? If Slendy was involved, to what a degree was his involvement? The story changes radically depending on how you answer those questions.

No Slender Man Involvement

Damien admitted early on that he had psychological issues, and had experienced hallucinations before starting the blog. His dive into the Slender Man Mythos may have screwed with his already fragile psyche, resulting in him trying to turn his life into an ARG. If this interpretation is accepted, than the blog and Rick’s comments imply that Ted, Emily, and Vincent may have all been killed by Damien. Whether or not that is true depends on exactly when Damien began trying to create this real-life ARG; if it was before Ted’s death, then Damien is likely the killer. If Ted’s death was what caused the slippage of sanity, then we have the unanswered question of who killed Ted. Either way, this interpretation turns the blog almost into a “Take That!” against ARG players. Everyone who participated in this game supported and egged on Damien in his fantasy, thinking it was all a game, when in reality Damien was a mentally unstable person who had killed at least one innocent man solely for the purpose of making his blog more realistic.

Slight Slender Man Involvement

According to Rick, it was the gruesome death of Ted which probably caused Damien to take the dive off the deep end. But then, who was it that killed Ted? At the time of his death, Ted was dressed in a Slender Man costume. He was then killed, and his organs removed, in similar style to how Slender Man likes to murder many of his victims. There is a strong possibility here that the one who killed Ted was Slender Man himself. This in itself doesn’t mean that the rest of Damien’s story is true; Slendy may have just killed Ted, and then left. That TheArsonist knew about Emily and Vincent’s deaths ahead of time still means that he can’t be completely exonerated of suspicion, but Slendy’s involvement does weaken the possible case for Damien being the killer.
Even if Slender Man killed all three, it is still not necessary for him to be involved at all later on in the story. Damien had already snapped enough from Ted’s death, that it is very possible that he would create the entire fantasy without any outside assistance. The existence of notes planning out how the blog would go is the most damning evidence to ruling out Slender Man’s involvement; it’s not as though you can plan out how Slender Man will treat you.
The implication of this is that the common trend of Slender Man going after everyone close to his victims doesn’t always hold true. He killed Ted, and possibly Emily and Vincent, without harming anyone else. Not that he needed to; Damien took care of that for him. It may be that Slender Man intentionally killed Ted, for the purpose of driving Damien insane enough to commit suicide. If that is true, this is the most manipulative and intelligent version of Slender Man to appear in an ARG thus far.

Major Slender Man Involvement

This is the idea that Slender Man actively was hunting Damien, and was the cause of the majority of the things which happened to Damien. This isn’t a belief that Damien’s claims on what happened in his past were true, or that the blog was unplanned; Rick’s testimony puts those ideas to rest. Instead, it’s the interpretation that Slender Man was really screwing with Damien’s head, as he oft does to his victims. Instead of Ted’s death being the cause of Damien’s fragile mental state, Slender Man’s negative effect on his victim’s sanity was the cause. This interpretation is a very passive Slender Man, who sits in the background while his victim goes insane. Due to Damien’s planning of the blog’s future events, we still have to accept that much of the blog was his fictitious story. The difficulty is trying to figure out which parts were his story, which were his hallucinations, and which were actual Slender Man involvement.
This interpretation also has the possibility that Damien’s last post was in response to Slender Man actually coming for him, instead of being a result of insanity.

Total Slender Man Involvement

Everything that Damien said in his blog was true. His parents were part of a Slender Man cult, he had a split personality named TheArsonist, there is a bone/artifact/thing which may be able to help one against Slendy, Slender Man was hunting Damien, and Damien even saved that kid in the store from Slendy. After all, we have no more reason to believe Rick’s comment than any of Damien’s posts. This Rick could be a Slenderproxy posting under the name of Damien’s brother, or if it really is Rick, he could be under the mental affects of Slender Man. While it is rare for Slendy to cover his tracks to such a degree, it isn’t unheard of for him to cause people to not see things which are there/see things which aren’t there (EverymanHYRBID being one example), and messing up computer files is status quo for him. Considering Damien’s discovery of the bone which supposedly offered protection, Slender Man may have used this overly elaborate cover up as a way of preventing people from finding too much information which could harm him.
If this interpretation is true, than it opens up all sorts of questions. What was the bone which repelled Slendy? Are there still Slender Man cults out there? What was that bone?! What knowledge did Damien/TheArsonist take to the grave with them? What was the bloody bone?!?!?!


Whatever interpretation is accepted, Dreams In Darkness still had what is, in my opinion, one of the best lines to describe the Slender Man:

“Nothing about this thing is consistent. One minute he's passive, the next aggressive. Last night, he flung himself at my house trying to get in. Today, he simply appears inside. The bone warded him off previously. This time, he just casually inspected it. Watching him previously stopped him from pulling his disappearing act. I just saw him vanish before my eyes.

He's constantly changing. It's as though, with every encounter, he's never quite the same being twice. It's like there aren't any rules with him - he simply is.

How the hell do you fight that? How do you resist chaos?” (August 30, 2010)

DiD was also one of the best examples of an ARG which put in the effort of appearing real. The first signs of things not being all they appear to be weren’t until a full month after the blog started. That’s 18 posts of non-ARG material. This is really something many other ARGs could learn from; while it’s fun to just go straight into the Slender Man stuff, by giving a period of real life-esque postings, it builds a greater connection between the audience and the characters. In addition, it makes the entire story seem more realistic. Someone start up a blog, and then three days later talk about being stalked by Slender Man? That makes it too obvious that the blog was started for the sole purpose of being an ARG about Slendy. The mundane events at the beginning add legitimacy to the blog, which does a better job of drawing the audience in when the Slender Man events start to happen.


Useful Links
Dreams In Darkness Blog: http://dreamsindarkness91.blogspot.com/
Watch This City Burn Blog: http://tonightitallburns.blogspot.com/
TVTropes Entry: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DreamsInDarkness

6 comments:

  1. DiD had a rather...INTENSIVE following, wouldn't you say?

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I prefer to avoid the "total involvement" interpretation, because the cult makes Slendy seem less menacing, somehow. Like the Slender Man is being lazy in getting his victims.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I believe that it's an illusion Slenderman. The realistic kind that exists in our imaginations.

    I find it to be Fridge Brilliance that their Slenderman breaks its own rules, because it isn't real.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fun Fact: D.I.D. is the current (as of 2004's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th ed.) term for what used to be called "Multiple Personality Disorder." It stands for Dissociative Identity Disorder.

    Could it be that Rick was a third personality, covering up the evidence in the blog?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just finished catching up on this...There seems to be something more going on - Zeke is apparently investigating this (I haven't caught up on Seeking Truth yet...M mentioned it in the algora chat last week.)

    ReplyDelete