Playable on this site.
I’ve been pondering over this for long: when living beings depart from this world, where do they go? I am tempted to believe that they return to the universe, dwelling in every star, every grain of sand, every flower, every person; every corner of the world will be filled with them ever since. They no longer live here, but the footprints of what once was will always be there for those who are still in this place.
Then, we don’t need to grieve. If we build connexions with our hearts, everything we love has never been away; if we engrave there what has left us and carry it along the way, we will never be alone.
An entry to Raylib 5K game jam. This was the first time I had participated in a weeklong jam, and I worked hard with a few stay-ups. Despite missing the prizes due to misinterpretations of the theme and the delivery hindered by the lack of polish, I received a great amount of kindness. Earnest appreciation will always move me ; - ;
Tiny bits of spoilers follow.
Story of a Goodbye
Shortly after the jam ended, one of the cats in our family, Dimp, was rushed to a large vet hospital nearby. She has been sick all winter, but watching her being surrounded by the doctors that day was heartbreaking. I lost my temper on the way home; I broke down and cried at home that night.
It suddenly occurred to me that if she was really leaving, it would be regretful to mess up here on her last night in this world. I gave Mum an apology and managed to calm down and fall asleep.
We woke up to a rainy day. On the bus to the hospital, we happened to get a call from the hospital asking that we come and see her. At the hospital, the doctor told us that things were not looking good, under her voice a restrained sense of regret. I did not know what the night has been like for Dimp, and did not have enough courage to look at her frail in the sickbed.
We finally came to the hard decision to give her the relief. Before that, we called a senior friend who also had raised cats, and for the first time ever I witnessed the heroine in my life choke up. For some reason, I felt more profoundly that I was no longer able to be the carefree little child that I used to be. This time I was the one to pet her head — as if at least now, I wasn’t that willful child anymore. Will Dimp be relieved as well?
It wasn’t long before we were called into the operating room and saw Dimp on the bed amidst the noisy beeps of the machines. Still as endearing as ever, she just seemed to be struggling to get along with her body, as if she was back at the time of birth. I was worried that she would be disturbed by the environment, and made an effort to say a lot, in the hope of creating some sense of security. The scene of an ordinary afternoon a few days ago came to my mind, when I did not let her hop onto my lap when she pleaded at my feet. I apologized sincerely with regret. When the sounds fell silent, we embraced her for the last time in this world, and left along the cold, wet winter street.
“She will be watching over you from heaven,” Mum lamented. But I didn’t think such things needed to be soothed by words of “blessings” and such, so I revealed my unexplained intuitions before the jam. The pulses of all things probably do resonate.
I had often heard that spirits could linger in this world for a while before leaving, so I left the door open when I went to bed at night. I could not fall asleep, and wept under the covers with mafu’s “Nighty Night”. It was long before I wrote something on social media and then drifted off to the dreams.
In “Coco”, it is mentioned that when a departed one is forgotten by all in this world, they will be truly “gone”.
But is the impact of a spirit only “to be remembered”? The words said, the things done, or the mere existence itself, are all changing countless beings around them, shaping the world as they see it, and becoming part of each other. Even when one of them passes away, the imprint it leaves behind lives on in the world, going further and further into the future as other souls collide and merge with each other.
Just as the part that is talking now might be a black cat in white boots and a white bib. If you are willing to listen to her, she can be a part of you too.
All beings in the world are like a sea of stars, and each individual among them might be a droplet as well as a ripple, or even a whole river mingled with the thousands of spirits that have come and gone. A flower is a world — this is probably one interpretation of it, right?
After everything had been settled, I had a day’s rest before leaving for school for the training of the wind band. I was flooded with thoughts the moment the train sets off — the physical distance between me and her would never be the same again.
Shortly after I returned to school, I had a dream. I saw Dimp sitting on the sink of our balcony; I reached out to touch her, and she happily came over and rubbed against me before dissipating into a cloud of black smoke into the air. She has never visited my dreams since then — had she fulfilled all her wishes?
But sometimes I still missed her, accidentally shedding tears when talking with others about it. I was still so reluctant to face the last little step of saying goodbye.
It was when I came home in the summer vacation, finding the same state of mind in the same space, that I was able to finish the music “Bellflowers’ Wonderland” and add the sounds. With the help of a friend’s playtesting, I adjusted the levels and tutorials before letting Mum play it. I still tell people that “there are three cats in our house — one is on the stars”, but I do not weep over it anymore. The protagonist of the game, Alice, has finished a farewell to Nana in this wonderland; maybe it’s time that I move on too.