Support Chris, click to buy via us...
Terminus (Part One): A Link to the Past - A review in the form of a short story. A traveller in time tries to piece together the reasons he has visited his own past and is reunited with a great love. But is time itself against him?
I felt my stomach lurch into my chest. I was falling - falling fast and as the glaring light dissolved to black I couldn't even see how fast I was travelling. I was dropping through a dark vertical shaft. The edges seemed neither man-made nor natural. It was like a ribbon of dark energy passing before my eyes. The three features that came to my terrified mind were: dark, narrow and scary. The falling sensation stopped as suddenly as it had started. There was no painful crunch as I hit solid ground, although my stomach still felt queasy and my head was lolling with imbalance. It felt as though I'd just stepped off a roller-coaster. Roller-coaster. A word I hadn't heard in... how long had it been? I knew the word. I knew what it meant. Yet, for some reason it seemed like a long-forgotten memory. Something I had once known and loved but was now consigned to the past. My surroundings were familiar and yet strange. It was dark and I was near a parking area under an overhead roadway. The tarmac was damp underfoot. Remembering that had word triggered a sudden memory in my mind. It came to me like a flash of revelation; a blinding insight on my own personal road to Damascus. I looked around me, wildly. Anyone observing my behaviour would have compared my actions to those of a scared animal, desperately searching its surroundings for signs of danger. This was not my time. My memory felt fragmented and broken. This time and this place was a part of my past. I had travelled here to... what? I knew it was important. I had come here for something vital. I ran up and down the deserted street looking for some clue as to where and when I was. I heard the rattle of metal security shutters and turned to see a guy at the end of a row of boarded-up shops. He was closing up for the night. Sprinting towards him, I called out, "hey!" He looked around, startled, and began fiddling with the padlock as fast as he could. "I don't want any trouble," the man called out to me. "Please," I pleaded to the stranger, "what time is it? What time?!" I must have appeared crazy to him. The man called out, "it's 11:15. Now leave me alone!" He ran away down the street. "No!" I exclaimed, distraught, "what year?" He had gone. "I need to know what year..." I sobbed to myself. Nobody else was around. I looked down at my hands. They looked younger than I expected. I tried to think, to focus as hard as I could. I had travelled here, backwards into my own past. But this was not my present body, sent back through time. Somehow I was inhabiting my own body as it had been years previously. A tinny electronic voice yelped from nowhere "hey, listen!" It was a notification. Someone had sent me a message. I realised that the communicator in my forearm was no longer there - or rather wouldn't be there for many years. I searched my pockets and found what I was looking for. A large, square, plastic handset with a flashing notification light near the top and the letters N - A - V - I across the bottom in stylish gold print. This was a phone. That's right, I remembered, a mobile phone. This is how we used to receive messages, before my 'accident'. Activating the screen I discovered I had two messages. They both came from hidden numbers. The first message read "we need to talk. I will find you." I racked my memory for a clue as to who this could be from - but nothing came to me. The second message was much clearer. "This is Faria Nicometo at the Cryogenic Research Labs. Your message is received and understood. We have a pod standing by. We await your instruction." I almost couldn't believe my eyes as I read the next part. "Zelda located. Details to follow." I had another memory flash: a big one that hit me right between the eyes. ***** Zelda. If any could bring back memories, that one was a dead cert. I had so many memories of Zelda my topsy-turvy mind didn't even know how to start unravelling them. As a young man, meeting Zelda had been a revelation. I'd had fun before Zelda but my relationships had all been very similar. They had been predictable. I could see where we were both going at all times. It was like a linear trail we were on together and neither of us could move away from the pre-set path. My first experience of Zelda revealed to me how magical she was. This was a different kind of journey altogether. She was a sophisticated, older woman - at least, she felt that way to me. Zelda's world was more open than any I'd experienced before. I felt much more like it was up to me to use my head as well as my instincts to progress with her. Zelda had tested me, mentally and physically in a way that no other had done up to that point. She had not done this because she was a tease, or a tyrant - certainly I didn't think that at the time - but rather she had set challenges for me because she knew that I would feel richer for having overcome them myself. I remember all my friends at the time saying how incredible Zelda was. I think that was why I had met her in the first place. "Hey, listen!" my phone chirped again, breaking my reverie. I flicked the message open. It was another message from the cryogenic laboratory. It contained Zelda's number. Underneath the number was a stark warning: "the window is closing." I blinked, staring at the message. It would not have seemed so loaded with portent had I not already realised why I had come to this time period. It was to try to bring Zelda home with me. The memory of my life in the future - or my present depending on your point of view - is that I was always feeling out of my time. As my memory recovered I recalled that I had been in a terrible accident. Possibly a war. Possibly an disaster. That wasn't clear, but what was clear was that I had been recovered from a cryogenic sleep many years later. Something had happened to me which the doctors of my time couldn't fix; my somewhat eccentric family had decided to freeze my body in the hope that I could later be recovered. I awoke after decades, having been fixed by modern medicine, to find myself in an unfamiliar world. In the future, I was alone. My cryogenic freezer had been one of a small number made by Nintendo. Nintendo had produced the first home versions of the revolutionary cryogenic technology, but like their other advances - such as the Virtual Boy and the 3DS - they had supported them poorly with negligible marketing and third party support and the technology soon fell into disuse and became forgotten. I was the only person I knew of in the future that had also bought Nintendo's new hardware. Frustrated and lonely, I had forced them to make a deal. The boffins at Nintendo could bring back someone from my past. It was tricky, they said, but it could be done. They were unable to physically transport me back in time but they had developed the technology to project my consciousness into the past. I would inhabit my own younger body and could make small changes to my history. This would give me the chance to explore my past for a suitable and willing companion for my present - as long as I could convince them to enter cryogenic sleep themselves. It was a risky project. The mind broadcast would only last a limited time, at the end of which I would snap back into to the present. It was also a one-time deal. Nobody could make the trip twice. Whatever choice I made, it had to be certain and it had to be quick. And so I had made the choice to bring back Zelda. It seemed like an obvious choice, given the impact she had had upon my life. In my memory I was sure that all of my past experiences had paled in comparison to the incredible journey I had taken with Zelda. Now, somebody from the Cryo lab in the past had clearly been contacted and tasked to track her down for me. My phone chirped, "Hey, listen!" again. It was the same message. Clearly the phone was going to nag me incessantly until I made the call. Nervously, I highlighted the number for Zelda and made the call. The next few minutes were a blur as we talked, made pleasantries and arranged to meet. As I was putting the phone away I saw that another message had appeared. It was from an unknown number again and I had to presume it was from the same source as before. The message read, "don't do anything rash. Your future is in jeopardy. Wait for me to find you." ***** I waited in the park, near Zora's Fountain, at the time we had agreed. I was getting a little nervous. While I felt confident I had time to deal with matters before the window closed, I still felt a rush of urgency that time was running out. Looking up, I saw the figure of Zelda approaching from the park entrance. As she swept up the path I had a terrible realisation. She was old. Older than I remembered her being, at any rate. That wasn't to say she didn't look fantastic. She'd clearly had "some work done" as the saying went in that time and I even thought that she looked better than she ever had. There was a definition and detail to her features, which actually allowed her beauty to strike through with even more clarity. Seated by the fountain was a man with a newspaper. Sneaking a look at the date stamp, I read with horrible realisation that the year was 2011! I gasped involuntarily. I had assumed I had come to meet the Zelda from 1998! Somehow the time technology had missed by 13 years. But still, this more modern Zelda was highly refreshing. I didn't really approve of using technology to alter looks, but she did look amazing. Additionally, my memories of her seemed forever flat and two dimensional compared to seeing her again in the flesh in three dimensions. As I looked at her with new-found solidity, I found that I witnessed depths of which I had never hitherto suspected. I poured my heart out to Zelda. I wanted her to understand what had happened to me in the intervening years and the games I had had to play to survive. Mostly, I wanted Zelda to understand the profound impact that she had once had upon me. She smiled all the while and nodded. My phone bleeped, "hey, listen!" but I ignored it. I was getting tired of being interrupted by the irritating little thing. But despite my youthful fervour I was becoming concerned. On the one had my reunion with Zelda was everything I had hoped it would be. There was still a challenge there. She still found ways to test my limits and unlike many of others I'd been involved with over the years it was nice to use my mind. But, I found that I couldn't help but be rankled by some of Zelda's bad habits. Looking back I could see that these had always been there, but I'd been too wrapped up in her new-found freedoms to notice. She had a tendency to be vague about where she wanted to go next. It was clear that she wanted to be taken somewhere particular, as she wouldn't respond until I made the right choice. I took her from location to location, backtracking many times, hoping for some comment or clue that would reveal I was on the right track. This became tiring quickly and Zelda remained inscrutable. Eventually we found ourselves in a dimly lit and cosy restaurant. To my surprise, Zelda responded to my earlier appeal by telling me she would gladly join me in my time. She said that she had missed me as much as I had missed her. All I had to do was give her the address of the cryogenic laboratory and she would submit to the freezing process and awaken with me in the future: changing both of our destinies in the process. Almost immediately as she told me this, I had a sudden doubt that this was what I wanted. I began to feel the weight of my miscalculation. I felt like had seen many different sides to Zelda over the years. When I was a younger, more game boy we had been stranded together on an island. Those were rich days, full of joy. There had been another time when Zelda had taken in a stray wolf. Crazy days, but full of exploration and wonder. Then there was the sea voyage, the train journey... I began to realise that many of the other times Zelda had been a part of my life were better than this obtuse, vague and sometimes frustrating version. I had fallen victim to my own rose-tinted glasses. I realised that I wasn't sure it was Zelda I wanted. Even if it was, this was not the Zelda I had loved the most. Stunned, I knew I had to make a choice. Time was running out and I couldn't return to the past a second time. Were these really my only options? To choose a former love whom I now saw with both eyes open and had realised that she was not the perfect dream to which I had clung? Or to return to the future and face living alone? At that moment my phone bleeped again. Thankful for the distraction, I looked at the message. "I'm outside. I need to talk to you, now." I looked at the windows. Rain had started falling in thick sheets and lashed against the glass. I saw the figure of a person looking at me. In spite of the pouring rain they had not entered the restaurant to disturb my evening with Zelda. Somehow I felt that showed huge respect. As my heart pounded, I looked back at Zelda and then back to the figure outside. How could I choose? Zelda was a known part of my life. I knew what our time together would be like - there were few unknowns. But, outside the restaurant, there lay another possibility. A person of mystery that represented an unfixed future. There existed the chance for more than I could ever have dreamed as well as the possibility of an unthinkable nightmare. I drew in a deep breath and swallowed hard as I realised I had to make a critical decision. The clock was ticking... TO BE CONTINUED
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: