The Blind House by Maude Overton.

Help : H
Start a New Game : (SPACE)
Restore : R
Quit : Q

IMPORTANT: If this is your first time playing The Blind House, please type H and read the Introduction to The Blind House for some general guidelines on how to play.

> Introduction to Interactive Fiction
Introduction to The Blind House
Credits

Introduction to Interactive Fiction
> Introduction to The Blind House
Credits

Introduction to Interactive Fiction
> Introduction to The Blind House
Credits

The Blind House is a work intended more as an "interactive fiction" than as a "text adventure". That is to say, it is the author's hope that the focus is more on plot, atmosphere and exploration rather than on intense puzzle-solving.

The story will probably flow much more smoothly for the player who takes the time to thoroughly investigate his or her surroundings and pick up hints from the environment - so "examine" and "think about" everything you find!

The game is set in first person, and has a few special commands that you should know:

TALK TO [CHARACTER] will initiate a dialogue with a non-player character. Numbered dialogue options will then be displayed, which the player may choose from by typing the corresponding number. For experienced players of IF, note that this feature overrides the standard SAY/TELL/ASK commands.

THINK ABOUT [SOMETHING] (or T [SOMETHING] for short) will prompt the player character to consider the [something] specified in more detail than the standard EXAMINE. The action generally applies to visible objects, though some more abstract topics are recognised. This command is essential for finding out more information about the game world.

There are also a few other non-standard commands available in the game. Try whatever feels logical for a given situation, but as a general rule try to keep your commands simple.

Note that, during play, the status bar at the top of the screen reveals the player character's current location, along with the current "thought" or motivation of the player character. This "thought" should help guide you towards actions which will advance the plot.

Similarly, at the bottom of the screen, you'll see a map of the current location. This is to help orient you to the layout of the room; it does not necessarily detail all the objects in the room. If you prefer, you can hide the maps by typing MAPS at any time. (Type MAPS again to turn them back on).

As a final note, it should be mentioned that the story of The Blind House has several possible conclusions. Hopefully, each player will feel satisfied with whichever ending he or she reaches. There is no "correct" ending.

Please press SPACE to continue.

Introduction to Interactive Fiction
> Introduction to The Blind House
Credits

Introduction to Interactive Fiction
> Introduction to The Blind House
Credits

Please press SPACE to continue.

Help : H
Start a New Game : (SPACE)
Restore : R
Quit : Q

IMPORTANT: If this is your first time playing The Blind House, please type H and read the Introduction to The Blind House for some general guidelines on how to play.

Two women. Overcoats, the collars turned against the cold. Windswept hair, anxious eyes. Feet shuffling closer to a modest house.

The taller woman, a step behind her companion, suppresses a shiver. Her jaw hardens, almost imperceptibly.

The Blind House
An Interactive Fiction by Maude Overton
Release 1 / Serial number 101001 / Inform 7 build 6E72 (I6/v6.31 lib 6/12N)

The wind howls at our backs as Marissa fumbles with the lock on the front door. Her little fingers, the tips blue and shrunken, seem to struggle with the bulky mortice key. I bite down on my impatience before it has a chance to flare.

It is uncertainty that holds me back from assisting. It's not exactly by invitation that I find myself here - more, by necessity - so my grasp of social propriety is somewhat shaken. My nerves, already on edge, are further stirred by the unseasonal cold and I rub my hands together, more as something to occupy my mind than as a genuine attempt to fight the numbness.

At last, the lock clicks open and Marissa pushes the door open. "Sorry," she murmurs. "Come in. Please." I oblige without delay, stepping into the relative warmth and darkness of Marissa's entry hall. The dimness, the overall drop in stimulation, is soothing. I try not to look too disappointed when she flicks on the light switch.

"Is there anything... can I get you something?" Marissa's eyes avoid mine as she delicately shrugs off her coat. I get the distinct impression she's not accustomed to playing hostess and I feel an inconvenient twinge of guilt. I mentally stomp on it. Now is not the time for self-doubt.

[1] "I'm fine. Thank you, Marissa."
[2] "Please, don't worry about me. I'm just thankful to be... out of the wind."
[3] "I'm... actually very tired. Would you mind showing me to somewhere I could sleep?"

[To respond in dialogue, enter a number, or enter "repeat" to reacquaint yourself with the options.]

> 2
"Yes. Yes, of course." She pauses for a moment, staring, then blushes and looks away. "I'll show you the... your room. There are extra blankets in the cupboard if... if it's cold tonight."

We are half way down the hall before I even register we have started walking.

Helena's Bedroom (on the bed)

Marissa closes the door behind her and I sigh in relief, sinking down on the bed.

> save
Ok.

> x me
Helena. I'm neatly dressed in a beige overcoat, a white blouse and modest brown skirt. My pale hair follows the curve of my spine in a long, but practical, plait.

Yikes. Good opening so far.

> i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.

> x bed
It's a single-sized bed, with a panelled bedhead and deep blue duvet. There is a minimal bedside table next to the bed.

> look under bed
I find nothing of interest.

> x table
It's completely bare. Not even a clock or a lamp to break up the surface.

> l
Helena's Bedroom (on the bed)
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is a closed door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

> look in mirror
There's a mirror facing the foot of the bed. I can't see much reflected in it from here.

> get up
The room dips threateningly as I get to my feet. My limbs attempt to tremble; I suppress them impatiently. Sleeping somewhere so foreign to me will be difficult, but I must be near collapsing from exhaustion. I should at least try to get some rest.

> i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.

My vision is fading around the edges. I need to sleep, as soon as possible.

> remove overcoat
I... no, not right now. My coat gives me a certain feeling of security. I'll take it off later.

> sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow. It's light in here, and I feel uneasy about my door being unlocked.

The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.

> look in mirror
The bed is reflected in the mirror, behind my own reflection. Dark eyes stare back at me.

> open cupboard
I open the cupboard doors. Peering inside, I see a few shelves covered in neatly-folded bed linens.

> x door
My bedroom door. It's closed.

> lock door
With what key?

> i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.

> push table
Not a chance of me shifting that around.

> push cupboard
I don't see any reason to be pushing things about.

> l
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is a closed door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

Fatigue plucks at the edges of my consciousness. It's getting late.

> x window
The window mostly looks out onto the fence between Marissa's property and her neighbour's. The fence itself is plain chain-link, but some privacy is offered by the climbing rose vine.

Evening approaches. It is still light outside, though the sky is dreary.

Cream-coloured venetian blinds are in their compressed position above the window.

> close blinds
I close the blinds.

My eyes take but a moment to adjust; the darkness is soothing.

> get in bed
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow. I feel uneasy about my door being unlocked.

The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.

> x door
My bedroom door. It's closed.

> move mirror
It's no use; the mirror is fixed to the wall.

> l
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is a closed door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

> i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.

> get knife
I already have that.

> wedge door
I don't understand.

> pick lock
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> push bed
Not a chance of me shifting that around.

> x table
It's completely bare. Not even a clock or a lamp to break up the surface.

My vision is fading around the edges. I need to sleep, as soon as possible.

> get linens
I take a single blanket from the shelf.

> x it
It's completely bare. Not even a clock or a lamp to break up the surface.

> x linens
Various neutral-coloured linens - blankets, duvets, sheets, pillowcases. They all look freshly-laundered.

> search linens
I find nothing of interest.

> i
I'm holding a blanket.

Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.

> put knife on bed
I put the knife on the bed.

> x bed
It's a single-sized bed, with a panelled bedhead and deep blue duvet. There is a minimal bedside table next to the bed.

> x bedhead
It's a single-sized bed, with a panelled bedhead and deep blue duvet. There is a minimal bedside table next to the bed.

> put knife on table
(first taking the knife)
That would be pointless.

> x duvet
Which do I mean, the blankets or the duvet?

> duvet
Dark blue. It looks warm.

I can feel my movements slowing down significantly. I should really get some sleep.

> sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow. I feel uneasy about my door being unlocked.

The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.

> i
I'm holding a blanket.

Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.

> x door
My bedroom door. It's closed.

> e
(first opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> x door
Which do I mean, my bedroom door or the east door?

> my bedroom door
My bedroom door. It's open.

> close it
I close my bedroom door.

> x it
My bedroom door. It's closed.

> e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. Doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The living room is to the south.

> w
(first opening the west door)
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.

I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.

> e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The living room is to the south.

> s
(first opening the hallway door)
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway and doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The entry hall is to the south.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> n
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to another room. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.

> x painting
The painting is of a brightly coloured landscape: a silhouetted forest against a vivid sunset, stark orange casting the foreground into blues. The figure of a woman can be made out in the darkness, clinging to a tree dramatically. Her long hair covers her face.

> w
(first opening the west door)
This dark room appears to be a cramped laundry. My skin prickles with the chill of the evening; there must be a door leading outside here. I close the door rather quickly, feeling faint. Maybe later.

> s
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> w
(first opening my bedroom door)
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

Light radiates back into the room.

> close door
I close my bedroom door.

I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.

My eyes take but a moment to adjust; the darkness is soothing.

> look behind mirror
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> look on cupboard
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> look in cupboard
Inside the cupboard are a few shelves covered in neatly-folded bed linens.

> x shelves
Several shelves supporting a variety of bed linens. There'd be room for my clothes in here.

> think about door
I don't know what to think about that.

> think about lock
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> think about bed
I don't know what to think about that.

> think about me
Last night was just the catalyst. I've never really felt safe out there in the world.

> think about sleep
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> x walls
I'm not sure what that refers to.

It seems like I should lock the door but I don't know how.

> l
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is a closed door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

> sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow. I feel uneasy about my door being unlocked.

The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.

> put blanket in front of door
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> jam door
I don't understand.

> i
I'm holding a blanket.

Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.

> remove overcoat
No. Not right now.

> put blanket on bed
I put the blanket on the bed, though there is sufficient linen there already.

I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.

> e
(first opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.

> x east door
It's closed and locked.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The living room is to the south.

> e
(first opening the east door)
Studio
This is surely an artist's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

Marissa, apparently deep in concentration, doesn't even glance up from her painting as I enter the room.

> talk to marissa
Marissa turns her eyes upon me, questioning.

[1] "Is there a key to my room?"

> 1
Marissa fiddles nervously with her blouse. It strikes me how unnecessarily frilly the thing is; she certainly has plenty to fiddle with. "Is it not by the bedside? I must've forgotten, sorry. A minute..."

I watch her patter down the hallway and dart into my room. Her desire to take care of me seems more genuine than is warranted - or deserved, I catch myself thinking. Before last month, we had not seen each other since sixth form at college, years ago. She had no real reason to help me, no real reason to bring me to her home today.

On the other hand, it seems pointless to question her motives when I'm unable to clarify even my own. Last night... I didn't know what to do. She just happened to be the one I remembered. Maybe I thought I could be anonymous here. Safe.

Maybe I just knew she'd be unable to refuse.

I see Marissa walking back down the hall towards me, an odd look on her face. A vague look, I think. Something approaching regret stirs in me - maybe it's my own unease that has flustered her into losing keys. "Here," she says, dropping the key into my expectant palm, "I'm sorry." I manage to suppress a grimace as she places a well-meaning hand on my injured arm.

"I know having a key must be important to you now," she goes on, "but... you'll be safe here, you know. I don't think anyone could have followed us."

[1] "Thank you for understanding."
[2] "I'm sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you."
[3] "It's difficult to be certain of that. Thanks for the key."

> 1
She smiles uncertainly and returns to her painting.

> save
Ok.

> w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

My vision is fading around the edges. I need to sleep, as soon as possible.

> w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

I can see a blanket here.

> lock door
(with my bedroom door key)
(first closing my bedroom door)
I lock my bedroom door.

My eyes take but a moment to adjust; the darkness is soothing.

> get in bed
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow.
The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.

> remove overcoat
No. Not right now.

> put knife on bed
I put the knife on the bed.

> get in bed
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow.
The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.

> i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against my bedroom door key. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.

> x bed
It's a single-sized bed, with a panelled bedhead and deep blue duvet. There is a minimal bedside table next to the bed.

> put knife on table
(first taking the knife)
That would be pointless.

> e
(first unlocking my bedroom door with my bedroom door key, then opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

Marissa is here. She is currently painting, leaning forward in concentration. Her pale fingers appear blue with cold, but her grip on the brush is steady.

> talk to marissa
She's busy, and I have my bedroom key. I've no further reason to disturb her.

> w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway and doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The entry hall is to the south.

> x cabinet
The cabinet is dark timber with a glass panel. I can see some strange-looking ornaments lining a shelf inside.

> x ornaments
I'm a little taken aback by the ornaments. They're crude and disfigured, limbs out of proportion and faces melted into disturbing expressions - screams, sighs, grimaces. They're certainly not what I would choose to display in my own living room.

> e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.

> s
Entry Hall
A nondescript alcove separates the front door from the living area to the north. Two large windows here allow a little light to permeate the otherwise dull living room.

> s
(first trying to open the front door)
What an unconscionable thought. No. I'm not safe out there.

I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.

> n
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway and doors in the east and west walls lead to other rooms. The entry hall is to the south.

> w
(first opening the west door)
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.

A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.

> x phone
A telephone base is attached to the wall, next to the door. A basic-looking handset sits on the cradle.

> x plants
The plants are pleasant enough; they bring a little life into the drab kitchen.

> open fridge
Marissa's fridge seems reasonably well-stocked; perhaps she bought some of these fresher items this morning after receiving my call.

> look in it
Marissa's fridge seems reasonably well-stocked; perhaps she bought some of these fresher items this morning after receiving my call.

> e
(first closing the fridge)
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The entry hall is to the south.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

I can see a blanket here.

My vision is fading around the edges. I need to sleep, as soon as possible.

> lock door
(with my bedroom door key)
(first closing my bedroom door)
I lock my bedroom door.

My eyes take but a moment to adjust; the darkness is soothing.

> sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow.
The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.

> think about safety
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> think about room
I don't understand.

> think about bed
I don't know what to think about that.

> t key
I don't know what to think about that.

> t knife
I suppose it's for self-defence, but I feel an inexplicable queasiness when I think about it. Something happened last night that I don't wish to contemplate.

> t knife
I suppose it's for self-defence, but I feel an inexplicable queasiness when I think about it. Something happened last night that I don't wish to contemplate.

> t me
Last night was just the catalyst. I've never really felt safe out there in the world.

> t marissa
People in general are repugnant. She, however, is not. She intrigues me.

> t table
I don't know what to think about that.

> t cupboard
I don't know what to think about that.

My vision is fading around the edges. I need to sleep, as soon as possible.

> i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife and my bedroom door key. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.

> e
(first unlocking my bedroom door with my bedroom door key, then opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> n
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.

> x painting
The painting is of a brightly coloured landscape: a silhouetted forest against a vivid sunset, stark orange casting the foreground into blues. The figure of a woman can be made out in the darkness, clinging to a tree dramatically. Her long hair covers her face.

> t painting
The very bottom of the painting lacks detail - it looks almost unfinished, as though the artist had finished all the important details and then abandoned the effort.

> look behind painting
The forest has an enchanting illusion of depth to it, but there's only blank wall behind the painting.

> s
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.

> x basin
The basin is white, and only faintly stained around the drain.

I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.

> t basin
I don't know what to think about that.

> x toilet
A white toilet.

> x shower
A glass-screened shower.

> x table
It's white plastic, with a subtle abstract pattern painted on it - that much looks home-made.

Neatly arranged on the table are some toiletries, a perfume bottle, a packet of plasters, a bottle of hair dye and a vase.

> x vase
A traditional tall vase in green glazed ceramic. A few browning flowers hang wilted over the lip of the vase.

> e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The entry hall is to the south.

> x table
The dining table is so tiny it's almost square.

> x chairs
A pair of dining chairs flank each side of the little table.

> t table
On closer inspection, it looks like the table folds out to a more substantial length, but the hinges are rusted stiff from disuse.

My vision is fading around the edges. I need to sleep, as soon as possible.

> t chairs
One chair looks as though it's never used. It's almost as though it's just there for symmetry.

> x tv
The old television set is hooked up to a video recorder. A box on the floor nearby seems to be filled with several video cassettes.

The television is off.

> x cassettes
It's a plain cardboard box. Inside, there are some films on cassette tape, as well as some homemade tapes labelled "all the roses that were ever painted" and "Neverending Fantasia".

> x armchair
A fabric armchair; it looks old.

> look under it
I find nothing of interest.

> get fantasia
I wouldn't mind having a look at these, but not tonight.

> t fantasia
Marissa must have recorded this from a broadcast.

> l
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The entry hall is to the south.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The entry hall is to the south.

I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.

> w
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.

A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.

> x plants
The plants are pleasant enough; they bring a little life into the drab kitchen.

> get plants
I have no reason to take that.

> x calendar
It's a calendar, pinned on the wall and open to the current month. It's completely empty of appointments, but every Tuesday has been neatly highlighted in yellow.

> t calendar
What's the significance of Tuesdays, I wonder?

The calendar seems to be hanging oddly; it isn't flat against the wall.

> look behind calendar
I lift the calendar, and find a key hanging on the pin behind it.

> get key
(the mortice key)
I remove the key from behind the calendar and pocket it.

> x it
It's a mortice key, most likely fitting a door.

> save
Ok.

> e
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The entry hall is to the south.

> e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.

I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.

> unlock east door
Perhaps this is not the wisest time for that. Marissa might not approve, and I can't risk her casting me out.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.

> unlock east door
(with the mortice key)
That doesn't seem to fit the lock.

> n
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.

> w
(first opening the laundry door)
Maybe later.

> s
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> x mortice
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against a mortice key, the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife and my bedroom door key. I'm wearing my beige overcoat and my blouse and skirt.

> x mortice key
It's a mortice key, most likely fitting a door.

My vision is fading around the edges. I need to sleep, as soon as possible.

> t mortice key
I don't know what to think about that.

> think about me
Last night was just the catalyst. I've never really felt safe out there in the world.

> think about safe
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> think about overcoat
I don't know what to think about that.

> think about blouse
I don't know what to think about that.

> think about marissa
People in general are repugnant. She, however, is not. She intrigues me.

> w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

I can see a blanket here.

> sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow. It's light in here, and I feel uneasy about my door being unlocked.

The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.

> close door
I close my bedroom door.

My eyes take but a moment to adjust; the darkness is soothing.

> lock door
(with my bedroom door key)
I lock my bedroom door.

> sleep
I'm so tired that my hands are trembling involuntarily, but I'm just not comfortable enough to sleep yet. If only I could make this room feel safer, somehow.
The mirror facing the bed stares back at me, menacing.

I struggle against the exhausted trembling of my hands.

> turn mirror
It is fixed in place.

Doh, it took me too long to work out the mirror. It was clued well enough.

> put blanket on mirror
(first taking the blanket)
I throw the blanket over the mirror.

> sleep
The bed does look inviting. Should I sleep now? y

I double-check the lock on the door and undress in the dark, tossing my clothes onto a shelf in the wardrobe. The bedsheets are comfortingly crisp against my skin.

I am so thoroughly exhausted that - blissfully - I drift off to sleep almost immediately and am not forced to endure the company of my thoughts for long.

Nightmares chase me for hours.

I wake suddenly, disoriented.

The room is dark and I have neither clock nor watch, but I feel certain it is not yet dawn. There is a strange splattering noise coming from outside; it takes me a moment to register it as rain.

The window rattles in the wind and the blinds chatter against the pane. I stand, my bare flesh prickling in the cold, and wander over to the window. The blinds seem damp and I wonder if the window is leaking. Moisture beads, brims, overflows in a pattern that seems chillingly familiar. The slats - so sharp - are not slats: they are knives, and the knives are in my hands. Rivulets of auburn bleed into the rain, plasmatic. Red stains spreading to the rhythm of the rattling window.

A gasp sounds as I bring the knives down again. My gasp. I wake again - properly - my heart racing painfully. Awake. Thank god.

> save
Ok.

> open blind
(first getting off the bed)
I venture over to the cupboard to retrieve my clothes.

As I dress, I catch sight of my forearms. They are damp with fresh blood.

> x forearms
My arms look terrible. The blood is fresh and bright, the cuts underneath about a day old. They must have been aggravated as I slept.

Running some water over my arms might help to relieve the heat and itching.

> i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against my bedroom door key, a mortice key and the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my blouse and skirt.

> e
(first unlocking my bedroom door with my bedroom door key, then opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.

> wash arms
I run some cool water over my itching forearms. Bloodied water swirls down the drain, stark against the white of the basin.

Oddly, there seems to be some redness under my fingernails, too. I pick out some dried flakes and wash them away.

> think about blood
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> think about arms
My arms are littered with cuts. Last night... the struggle. That woman; that damned woman. I never intended for it to happen. At any rate, my arms are pretty shredded; it seems she defended herself adequately.

I feel nauseous as I think about it.

> think about arms
My arms are littered with cuts. Last night... the struggle. That woman; that damned woman. I never intended for it to happen. At any rate, my arms are pretty shredded; it seems she defended herself adequately.

I feel nauseous as I think about it.

> x arms
With the blood cleaned away, the gashes on my arms are exposed, looking like so many horrid red mouths.

> get plasters
(first opening the packet)
I take a handful of plasters and slip them into my skirt pocket.

OK, so am I a vampire or a werewolf?

> put plasters on arms
(the plasters on my arms)
I count out twenty plasters - ten for each arm - and methodically peel off each strip of backing paper and stick them in place.

Something wobbles in my peripheral vision. I snap my head up and stare at the mirror, at once on edge. Nothing. Only my reflection staring back at me. The odour of blood must be affecting my senses.

> taste blood
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> smell blood
I've washed the blood away, but the odour seems to have clung to my nostrils. Unpleasant.

> x table
It's white plastic, with a subtle abstract pattern painted on it - that much looks home-made.

Neatly arranged on the table are some toiletries, a perfume bottle, a packet of plasters, a bottle of hair dye and a vase.

> get perfume
I have no reason to take that.

> wear perfume
(first trying to take the perfume bottle)
I have no reason to take that.

> e
As I turn to leave, the surface of the mirror draws my eye; it seems, impossibly, to waver and shimmer. I pinch my forehead, trying to stay in the present, but memories from last night overwhelm my conscious mind. A struggle with a knife. A woman, her name I can't recall - only her eyes: angry tunnels, and then suddenly lifeless. Stunned regret supplanted by terror. Fumbling to clean the fast-coagulating mess. Running. Calling the only number I could focus on. Marissa's gentle concern, innocent of the reason for my distress.

Enough. I'm safe here. I should try to sleep again.

Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

I can hear a strange muffled sound here, almost like a human voice.

> listen
The noise is coming from behind the east door. I lean in, pressing a palm to the doorframe, and listen intently. It sounds like whimpering.

> save
Ok.

> e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.

> unlock east door
(with the mortice key)
That doesn't seem to fit the lock.

> listen
The air is silent, now. Perhaps Marissa has also been suffering from nightmares tonight.

> t marissa
It is almost as though she is consumed by fear of something. I wish I knew what it was that frightens her.

> w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

It is dark in here, but I can still make out the room around me.

> lock door
(with my bedroom door key)
(first closing my bedroom door)
I lock my bedroom door.

> sleep
The bed does look inviting. Should I sleep now? y

Wearily, I repeat the motions of undressing and crawl into bed.

Morning. I exhale slowly and run my fingertips along my arms, feeling the plasters there. Apparently, last night wasn't just a dream.

Rising from the bed, I stumble over to the cupboard to dress - almost tripping on the open drawer on the way. Strange. I certainly can't recall opening it yesterday.

> save
Ok.

> x drawer
The drawer is at the base of the cupboard, with two squarish knobs protruding from it. I can see some paintings stacked up inside the open drawer.

> x paintings
A stack of old paintings. They can't have been touched for years - even inside the drawer, they've somehow managed to accumulate a thin layer of dust. Their subjects all seem to be women relaxing together in various settings - under parasols in a scenic park, by a fireplace in a cosy living room, lazing on a drifting canal boat.

This painting looks fresher than those beneath it. The image is disturbing. Moreso, the longer I look at it. Depicted is a woman floating naked in the ocean, red strands of seaweed unfurling in the current and... strangling her about the neck. Her dying eyes are wild, staring upwards as though pleading.

A glint of wayward sunlight flashes at me from the mirror. The blanket must have fallen off sometime during the night.

> look in mirror
I find myself unable to focus on the mirror. My vision fills with black when I try to look at it.

> open blind
I open the blinds, revealing the window.

> look through window
From here, it appears that the rose vine has laid claim to the entire fence.

> e
(first unlocking my bedroom door with my bedroom door key, then opening my bedroom door)
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.

> e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to another room. The entry hall is to the south.

The house is utterly still; I think Marissa must have gone out for the day. Perhaps I can take this chance to look around a little.

> e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.

> unlock east door
(with the mortice key)
I unlock the east door.

> e
(first opening the east door)
Study
The modest study has a cold, neglected feel to it; the air is still and oppressive, the silence broken by the stern, relentless ticking of a wall clock. A flimsy desk against the far wall provides support for a primitive-looking computer. An overflowing bookcase sits against the south wall, while the door leads back west to the living room.

> x clock
It's a plain, unattractive, ticking timepiece. The hands point to 8:02.

> t clock
Is that the time? Sometimes I wonder where the hours get to.

> x desk
The white desk is of the kind designed to fold up for easier storage. An old computer is on the desk.

> t desk
I don't know what to think about that.

> x computer
The computer is a bulky beige model - it certainly doesn't look recently-bought. The CRT monitor is currently blank.

> t computer
I don't know what to think about that.

> turn on computer
The computer hums and grumbles its way to life.

A dialog box is on screen, requesting the user password for "Marissa". Damn.

> type marissa
"Password incorrect."

> turn off computer
I switch the computer off.

> x bookcase
The bookcase is tall and expansive; despite this, it is crammed beyond its intended capacity with books.

> x books
The books mostly seem to fall into three genres: art theory, fantasy and romance. There is also a sprinkling of non-fiction books with titles like "Training the Black Dog" and "The Light at the End of Depression".

> read books
I'm not really interested in reading these.

> t books
Which do I mean, the art theory books, the romance books, the fantasy books or the self help books?

I don't think the separation between "examine" and "think about" is very useful. I'm tending to automatically do both.

> t art theory
The art texts look like heavy and serious reading; they hardly seem to fit in with the other books here.

> x art theory
Art theory, history, essays and other related texts.

> x romance
A few "stock standard" Mills & Boon, though most of the books seem to be from smaller publishers.

> t romance
On closer inspection, it looks as though the authors are exclusively female, as well as the bulk of the main characters, too. Hmm.

> x fantasy
Fantasy novels about strong-willed lady knights and sorceresses. I think I can see a scrap of paper protruding from one of the books.

> t fantasy
I would have expected most young women to grow out of such books in their teen years.

> get paprt
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> get paper
Taken.

> read it
It's a scrap of lined paper, probably torn from a notebook. In small, neat writing are the words "serenity devoid".

> turn on computer
The computer hums and grumbles its way to life.

A dialog box is on screen, requesting the user password for "Marissa".

> type serenity devoid
The password field vanishes.

The desktop is displayed. The following icons are available to click on:

Mail
Browser
Word Processor

> click on mail
I double-click on the "Mail" icon.

Marissa's inbox. The following emails are available to read or reply to:

Plymvale Health Centre Auto reminder: Prescription renewal
Pain~M.eds 80% discounted prices
Helena Jevne Re: Re: Hi
ClassmateReunion.com Inquiry Results
Helena Jevne Re: Hi
Helena Jevne Hi
Estelle Clements Thank you
Estelle Clements Request

I can also click an "escape" button to return to the operating system.

> read emails
No such message is available.

> read plymvale
No such message is available.

> read auto

This is an automated message to remind you to renew your prescription for Valium. We look forward to seeing you at Plymvale Health Centre soon. Please do not reply to this email.

> read prices

Suffering from pa1n_or_anx1ety? An order is one click away!

> read hi

Dear Marissa,
It was lovely to run into you again today. You're looking well. It is such a pleasure to speak to you again after so many years. I hope you made it home safely.
Well wishes,
Helena

> read re hi

Dear Marissa,
No, I haven't seen any of them since school. Besides, I mostly found them to be a trivial waste of time, even then. Wouldn't you agree?
Well wishes,
Helena

> read re re hi

Dear Marissa,
Absolutely. I've never understood that sort of "social prostitution". It can only be damaging to surround yourself with people of that calibre! I've always found it so much more rewarding to spend time with just one, worthwhile, friend.
Well wishes,
Helena

> read request

Marissa
I am expecting some company later this week. Would you be available to come over on Wednesday in addition to your usual Tuesday?
Estelle

> read thank you

Marissa
Thank you. I appreciate it. You are always so reliable.
Estelle

> read results

Dear Marissa,
In response to your recent inquiry, this email is to inform you that your search for "Helena Jevne" returned 0 results.
Thanks for using ClassmateReunion.com!

> press escape
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> escape
[Try "click escape" or "click esc"]

> click escape
I return to the operating system.

The desktop is displayed. The following icons are available to click on:

Mail
Browser
Word Processor

> click browser
I double-click on the "Browser" icon.

The browser is open. The following icons are available to click on:

History
Favourites

I can also click an "escape" button to return to the operating system.

> click history
Empty! Either she doesn't actually use this computer, or she goes to the bother of clearing her history. How paranoid.

The browser is open. The following icons are available to click on:

History
Favourites

I can also click an "escape" button to return to the operating system.

> click favourites
Marissa has very few favourites saved: there are a couple of art blogs, an online bookstore, and one of those "classmate finder" websites.

The browser is open. The following icons are available to click on:

History
Favourites

I can also click an "escape" button to return to the operating system.

> click escape
I return to the operating system.

The desktop is displayed. The following icons are available to click on:

Mail
Browser
Word Processor

> click word
I double-click on the "Word Processor" icon and glance briefly over the program. Marissa has only one recently-opened document: a Tax Invoice template for "M. Ridley Cleaning". Her business, I assume. Interesting. I give the file a cursory glance, then close the word processor.

The desktop is displayed. The following icons are available to click on:

Mail
Browser
Word Processor

> save
Ok.

> turn off computer
I switch the computer off.

> l
Study
The modest study has a cold, neglected feel to it; the air is still and oppressive, the silence broken by the stern, relentless ticking of a wall clock. A flimsy desk against the far wall provides support for a primitive-looking computer. An overflowing bookcase sits against the south wall, while the door leads back west to the living room.

> x clock
It's a plain, unattractive, ticking timepiece. The hands point to 8:43.

> t clock
Is that the time? Sometimes I wonder where the hours get to.

> w
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

I can hear a phone ringing from somewhere to the west.

> lock study door
(with the study door key)
(first closing the study door)
I lock the study door.

> w
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.

A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.

A handwritten note has been placed near the middle of the bench.

The phone rings out just as I step into the room. It echoes eerily in my head.

> read note

Helena,
I hope you slept well. Sorry we didn't get a chance to talk much last night - it's just that I'm not used to company. I'll be back this evening. Please make yourself at home.
-M

> x phone
A telephone base is attached to the wall, next to the door. A basic-looking handset sits on the cradle.

> x handset
(first taking the handset)
The handset has very little functionality; it must be a relatively old model. On the LCD, there is a remarkably brief list of what appears to be contacts stored in the phone's memory:

1. Estelle: 01395847839
2. CAB: 01395137503
3. PHC: 01395042356

> dial 1471
(on the telephone handset)
(dialing "1471")
I have no idea who "1471" is.

> phone estelle
(on the telephone handset)
Curious, I dial "Estelle". The phone rings once. Twice. Six times, then a female voice - no, a recording of one - answers in stiff Oxford English: "Hello, you've reached Estelle. I am unable to receive your call at this time, so please leave a message after the tone and I will get back to you as soon as possible." I hang up before the tone.

> phone cab
(on the telephone handset)
I'm fairly certain that's the number for the local Citizens Advice Bureau. I have no reason to call them myself.

> phone phc
(on the telephone handset)
PHC... Plymvale Health Centre? I don't need to call them.

> l
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.

A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.

A handwritten note has been placed near the middle of the bench.

> save
Ok.

> e
I replace the telephone handset on the base.

I flinch, startled, as I step into the living room: an elaborately-dressed woman is sitting at Marissa's dining table, bold as day. She looks to be in her late fifties and glares at me from beneath a permanently-wrinkled brow.

[1] "Who are you?"
[2] "What are you doing here?"

> n
[To respond in dialogue, enter a number, or enter "repeat" to reacquaint yourself with the options.]

> 1
The woman meets my eyes with a steely gaze. "Surely, you've already read enough of my correspondence with Marissa to know." My vision wobbles threateningly, but I square my shoulders and glare back at her.

[1] "What are you doing here?"

> 1
She smirks. "Marissa wishes it. Can you honestly say the same for yourself?" I can begin to feel rage quietly building up beneath my ribcage.

[1] "I think you should leave, now."

>
Excuse me?

A tiara? She's wearing a frickin' tiara?

> x woman
An older woman with an air of wealth and haughtiness. She wears a strikingly elaborate blue gown, and a tiara is nestled in her silver perm.

> t woman
(the strange woman)
How the devil did she get in here?

> talk to woman
[1] "I think you should leave, now."

> 1
"You utter imbecile. Can't you even recognise yourself in the mirror?"

[1] "Mirror? What would you know about that?"
[2] "Of course I can, you vile woman!"

> 2
"Just remember, Helena, that Marissa belongs to me."

I gasp, tiny fibres from the carpet floating into my mouth; somehow I am lying cheek-down on the floor. The woman is gone. Presumably, the old bitch struck me prone.

I raise myself to my feet, feeling angry for the intrusion. Who exactly is this woman that Marissa is dealing with?

> save
Ok.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

The cream blanket lies crumpled on the floor near the mirror.

> look in mirror
I find myself unable to focus on the mirror. My vision fills with black when I try to look at it.

"look in" ought to work here.

> look in drawer
That's already open.

> x drawer
The drawer is at the base of the cupboard, with two squarish knobs protruding from it. I can see some paintings stacked up inside the open drawer.

> x paintings
A stack of old paintings. They can't have been touched for years - even inside the drawer, they've somehow managed to accumulate a thin layer of dust. Their subjects all seem to be women relaxing together in various settings - under parasols in a scenic park, by a fireplace in a cosy living room, lazing on a drifting canal boat.

Another new painting. This one is so messy it's difficult to be certain of the details, but it looks to be a figure of a blonde giantess attacking a human female with a knife. The giantess figure is apparently translucent: within her, another female is visible, her mouth frozen in a scream.

> t paintings
These must be Marissa's rejects, since they're not up on the wall. Dusty and forgotten. Kind of sad.

> x new painting
Another new painting. This one is so messy it's difficult to be certain of the details, but it looks to be a figure of a blonde giantess attacking a human female with a knife. The giantess figure is apparently translucent: within her, another female is visible, her mouth frozen in a scream.

> t new painting
I can't begin to imagine what this is supposed to mean! Is this some obscure message from Marissa?

> get it
I have no reason to take that.

> save
Ok.

> e
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> n
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.

> n
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The obvious exits are south (to hallway) and west (to the laundry).

> w
I hesitate, remembering a glimpse of an external door in this room. The night's rest, however, seems to have emboldened me.

(first opening the laundry door)
Laundry
The laundry is tiny; there is scarcely room to move around the sink and washing machine that occupy most of the space in here, and I'm forced to hunch inelegantly to avoid being battered by the clothes hanging from a line across the ceiling. A crumpled blouse is on the lid of the washing machine.

In the west wall is a door leading outside.

> x clothes
The clothes are uniformly simple and practical.

> t clothes
I don't know what to think about that.

> x blouse
(Marissa's blouse)
A pale, long-sleeved blouse, smelling faintly of perfume. It is stained dark on one sleeve.

> x stain
It looks like an ink stain, perhaps an imprint from something Marissa had written on her arm. Squinting, I think I can almost make out writing. "4, 9"?

> t blouse
(Marissa's blouse)
I don't know what to think about that.

> t stain
"4, 9"? A list? A co-ordinate?

> w
I feel cold beads of sweat forming on my neck as I consider going outside. Marissa's assurance that no-one could possibly have followed us here seems empty and foolhardy with the outside world so close. I hesitate, wrestling with my rapid breathing. It is only her back garden, I tell myself. No-one is there.

(first opening the back door)
Back Garden
The back door opens westward onto a small, fairly sparse back garden. A pair of concrete steps lead down from the doorway onto a neat but plain lawn, and facing them is a chain-link fence separating Marissa's property from her neighbour's. The fence is completely covered by a thick rose vine bearing magnificent red flowers.

I blink and frown in the glare of the clouds, conscious that a neighbour could be watching me.

> x flowers
The vine is heavy with red roses.

> t flowers
These could make a thoughtful gift. No-one has ever given me flowers.

Cold sweat gathers around my sternum. I'm anxious to get back inside.

> get flowers
Carefully avoiding the thorns, I gather a handful of roses from the vine.

I blink and frown in the glare of the clouds, conscious that a neighbour could be watching me.

> x clouds
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> e
Laundry
The laundry is tiny; there is scarcely room to move around the sink and washing machine that occupy most of the space in here, and I'm forced to hunch inelegantly to avoid being battered by the clothes hanging from a line across the ceiling. A crumpled blouse is on the lid of the washing machine.

In the west wall is a door leading outside.

> x flowers
A handful of vivid red roses.

> e
(first closing the back door)
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.

> s
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is a door which I can only assume leads to the master bedroom.

> e
(first trying to open the east door)
It seems to be locked.

> unlock east door
With what key?

> i
I'm holding a cluster of roses.

Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against a scrap of paper, my bedroom door key, a study door key and the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my blouse and skirt.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> s
Entry Hall
A nondescript alcove separates the front door from the living area to the north. Two large windows here allow a little light to permeate the otherwise dull living room.

> x windows
They let in natural light - a rare commodity in this house, it would seem.

> s
(first trying to open the front door)
What an unconscionable thought. No. I'm not safe out there.

> look through windows
I find nothing of interest.

> n
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> get fantasia
Carrying around the cluster of roses is cumbersome enough. I'd prefer to put that down, first.

> w
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.

A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.

A handwritten note has been placed near the middle of the bench.

> e
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.

> put roses in vase
There's no room for the roses with those dead flowers in the vase.

> get dead flowers
I pluck out the ruined flowers and flush them away. As I begin to tip out the murky water, a quiet clank sounds from inside the vase, and I barely catch a small yale key before it drops down the drain.

> save
Ok.

> x yale
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> x key
Which do I mean, the study door key, the yale key or my bedroom door key?

> yale key
It's a yale key, most likely fitting a drawer or cabinet.

> e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> e
(first unlocking the study door with the study door key, then opening the study door)
Study
The modest study has a cold, neglected feel to it; the air is still and oppressive, the silence broken by the stern, relentless ticking of a wall clock. A flimsy desk against the far wall provides support for a primitive-looking computer. An overflowing bookcase sits against the south wall, while the door leads back west to the living room.

> x desk
The white desk is of the kind designed to fold up for easier storage. An old computer is on the desk.

> w
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> x cabinet
The cabinet is dark timber with a glass panel. I can see some strange-looking ornaments lining a shelf inside.

> open it
I open the cabinet.

Some misshapen, unglazed red clay ornaments decorate the shelf. They're unsettling to look at.

> x ornaments
They're crude and disfigured, limbs out of proportion and faces melted into disturbing expressions - screams, sighs, grimaces. They're certainly not what I would choose to display in my own living room.

> t ornaments
They're relatively ugly and uninteresting. I don't care to mess with them.

> t yale key
I don't know what to think about that.

> close cabinet
I close the cabinet.

> w
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.

A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.

A handwritten note has been placed near the middle of the bench.

> x sink
Steel, and stainless indeed. Marissa certainly keeps her space clean.

> x stove
The kitchen appliances are of little interest to me.

> e
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

> x easel
An old but sturdy wooden easel. There's a canvas on the easel.

> t easel
I don't know what to think about that.

> x canvas
Marissa is painting a landscape, apparently without visual reference. It looks near completion - a desolate cliff overlooking a misty ocean. Melancholic, but admittedly quite beautiful.

> t canvas
Either Marissa has a powerful imagination, or this must be based on a memory. Maybe a little of both.

> x window
The huge window could easily be mistaken for a door, only it doesn't seem to be openable. It looks out onto an isolated street.

> x north wall
Row after row of exposed, unpainted bricks. I find myself absent-mindedly counting them. 14 rows of 30 bricks.

> pull brick
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> move brick
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> count bricks
I don't understand.

> touch brick 4,9
I feel nothing unexpected.

> x brick 4,9
One brick does look slightly askew. Perhaps if I try touching the wall...

> touch wall
I find myself remembering the strange numbers printed on Marissa's blouse - "4,9". Oh, surely not. Feeling a touch self-conscious, I count across to the fourth brick in the ninth row, and give it a gentle nudge. Sure enough, it is loose.

> save
Ok.

> get brick
Carrying around the cluster of roses is cumbersome enough. I'd prefer to put that down, first.

> move brick
I give the brick a gentle nudge. Sure enough, it is loose.

> drop roses
Dropped.

> move brick
I give the brick a gentle nudge. Sure enough, it is loose.

> get it
I pull the brick free from the wall. Through the hole it leaves, I can see right into the adjacent room.

I feel a touch dizzy. My hands are covered in mortar grit - and blood?

> x hands
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> x my hands
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> x me
Helena. I'm holding together.

> i
I'm holding a brick.

Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against a yale key, a scrap of paper, my bedroom door key, a study door key and the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my blouse and skirt.

> look through hole
I lean in towards the hole, close enough that the edges of the surrounding bricks feel sharp against my brow and cheekbone, and look through to the dimly-lit master bedroom. I can't make out much detail, but there seems to be something unusual about the walls. Perhaps it's only the shadows, but I feel as though I'm being watched.

I feel certain this loose brick can't have come about by chance. Marissa must have left that blouse and the co-ordinates out for me to find - maybe she wants me to keep an eye on her.

> t hole
How could this hole have come about unintentionally? I hesitate to guess at what Marissa might mean by it.

> l
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

I can see a cluster of roses here.

> x chair
One of those "ergonomic" chairs is just in front of the artist's easel.

> t chair
It seems a little newer and more expensive than most of the furniture in the house. Well-used, too.

> w
Well, no point in lugging this brick around the house. Dropped.

Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

The cream blanket lies crumpled on the floor near the mirror.

> x paintings
A stack of old paintings. They can't have been touched for years - even inside the drawer, they've somehow managed to accumulate a thin layer of dust. Their subjects all seem to be women relaxing together in various settings - under parasols in a scenic park, by a fireplace in a cosy living room, lazing on a drifting canal boat.

Here is another painting that I'm certain wasn't here before. A mattress lies in the centre of a bare wooden floor, covered in a mass of bloodstained bedsheets. Nested in the middle of the sheets is the body of a woman - she is asleep, or perhaps dead. Her skin is so pale and the brushstrokes so clumsy that it is difficult to tell limb from sheet.

> e
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

The cream blanket lies crumpled on the floor near the mirror.

> t paintings
These must be Marissa's rejects, since they're not up on the wall. Dusty and forgotten. Kind of sad.

> x paintings
A stack of old paintings. They can't have been touched for years - even inside the drawer, they've somehow managed to accumulate a thin layer of dust. Their subjects all seem to be women relaxing together in various settings - under parasols in a scenic park, by a fireplace in a cosy living room, lazing on a drifting canal boat.

Here is another painting that I'm certain wasn't here before. A mattress lies in the centre of a bare wooden floor, covered in a mass of bloodstained bedsheets. Nested in the middle of the sheets is the body of a woman - she is asleep, or perhaps dead. Her skin is so pale and the brushstrokes so clumsy that it is difficult to tell limb from sheet.

> x woman
(the woman in bedsheets)
I think she is smiling. It is a disturbing image.

> t woman
Where are these paintings coming from? Is Marissa trying to communicate something?

> e
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> unlock east door
(with the yale key)
That doesn't seem to fit the lock.

> i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against a yale key, a scrap of paper, my bedroom door key, a study door key and the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my blouse and skirt.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.

> x cabinet
I find myself unable to focus on the mirror. My vision fills with black when I try to look at it.

There is a small keyhole in the cabinet.

> open it
It seems to be locked.

> unlock it
(with the yale key)
I unlock the medicine cabinet.

> look in it
(first opening the medicine cabinet)
The interior of the cabinet is stained with age, but spotlessly clean. Inside, I can see a canister of Valium and a tube of superglue.

> save
Ok.

> get valium
I don't require it, myself.

> get glue
Taken.

> lock cabinet
(with the medicine cabinet key)
(first closing the medicine cabinet)
I lock the medicine cabinet.

> e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> e
Study
The modest study has a cold, neglected feel to it; the air is still and oppressive, the silence broken by the stern, relentless ticking of a wall clock. A flimsy desk against the far wall provides support for a primitive-looking computer. An overflowing bookcase sits against the south wall, while the door leads back west to the living room.

> w
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> e
(first trying to open Marissa's bedroom door)
It seems to be locked.

> break door
(Marissa's bedroom door)
I'm loath to encourage such violence.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

I can see a brick here.
I can see a cluster of roses here.

> look through hole
I lean in towards the hole, close enough that the edges of the surrounding bricks feel sharp against my brow and cheekbone, and look through to the dimly-lit master bedroom. I can't make out much detail, but there seems to be something unusual about the walls. Perhaps it's only the shadows, but I feel as though I'm being watched.

I feel certain this loose brick can't have come about by chance. Marissa must have left that blouse and the co-ordinates out for me to find - maybe she wants me to keep an eye on her.

> look through window
The neighbourhood is quiet and leafy. I imagine Marissa must be the youngest inhabitant of the street by far; the houses here have an unmistakable "retiree" look to them.

> t window
There aren't even any curtains! I can't understand how Marissa abides the lack of privacy in here.

> x walls
I can see very little through this tiny hole. I'll have to wait for an opportunity to explore the room close-up.

> w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.

> x table
It's white plastic, with a subtle abstract pattern painted on it - that much looks home-made.

Neatly arranged on the table are some toiletries, a perfume bottle, a packet of plasters, a bottle of hair dye and a vase.

> x perfume
A pretty, tulip-shaped glass bottle.

> t perfume
Does she just wear this around the house?

> get it
I have no reason to take that.

> x toiletries
An assortment of feminine toiletries. Nothing unexpected.

> x plasteres
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> x plasters
(the plasters on my arms)
Adhesive bandages.

> x dye
It's a bottle of hair dye. Auburn #602.

> t dye
That sort of vanity has never really made much sense to me. Who is it for, anyway?

> x vase
A traditional tall vase in green glazed ceramic. It is empty.

> e
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> e
Study
The modest study has a cold, neglected feel to it; the air is still and oppressive, the silence broken by the stern, relentless ticking of a wall clock. A flimsy desk against the far wall provides support for a primitive-looking computer. An overflowing bookcase sits against the south wall, while the door leads back west to the living room.

> w
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

I can see a brick here.
I can see a cluster of roses here.

> get roses
Taken.

> w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

The cream blanket lies crumpled on the floor near the mirror.

> e
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> w
Bathroom
The bathroom is modestly sized and equipped, and as pristine as a hospital room. A white basin faces the door, a small mirrored cabinet attached to the wall above it. A toilet and shower are fixed against the north and south walls respectively. Just left of the doorway on the east wall is a small plastic table, covered in toiletries and other miscellany.

> put roses in vase
I fill the vase with some water, then take some time to satisfactorily arrange the roses. They improve the room considerably.

> e
As I turn to leave, I catch sight of my hands. My fingertips are slightly stained, as though the red from the roses has rubbed off onto them. Impossible, surely. I turn on the tap and rinse my fingers, frowning. Reddish water swirls down the drain, stark against the white of the basin.

Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

I can see a brick here.

> put brick in hole
I replace the brick in the north wall.

> w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> x tv
The old television set is hooked up to a video recorder. A box on the floor nearby seems to be filled with several video cassettes.

The television is off.

> get fantasia
Taken.

> put it in video recorder
I put the "Neverending Fantasia" tape into the recorder.

> watch fantasia
The "Neverending Fantasia" tape is already in the video recorder.

> turn on tv
I switch the television on.

Immediately, a new image appears on the television screen.

"Neverending Fantasia" - it looks to be a children's film about a boy who escapes an unhappy reality and ventures into a fantasy world. Even fast-forwarding through it, I can see how the tape has been damaged in sections from countless viewings.

> x cassettes
It's a plain cardboard box. Inside, there are some films on cassette tape, as well as a homemade tape labelled "all the roses that were ever painted".

> watch roses
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> get tape
Which do I mean, the "all the roses that were ever painted" tape or the "Neverending Fantasia" tape?

> get roses
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> get all the roses
Taken.

> watch all the roses
(first removing the "Neverending Fantasia" tape)
I put the "Neverending Fantasia" tape back in the box.

Immediately, a new image appears on the television screen.

A documentary about Matisse. Skimming through it, I find myself questioning why the man is so famous; his paintings look gaudy and amateurish to me - not at all like the little I've seen of Marissa's art. The film covers some philosophising about the purity of art and the dangers of expressing "over-excitement" in a painting. Most interesting is the sentiment expressed towards the end, an entreaty to all artists: "guard the original naiveté". Fascinating - at least, as far as it concerns those with naiveté left to guard. I wonder how much Marissa takes these philosophies to heart.

I hear the front door open and look over to see Marissa entering the room. She greets me with a shy smile and places her handbag down on the table.

> save
Ok.

> talk to marissa
Marissa turns her eyes upon me, questioning.

[1] "You're home. How has your day been?"
[2] "Marissa. Where have you been all day?"

> 1
"Oh, fine. I've just been at work." She seems almost embarrassed to be asked. "How... how was your day here?"

[1] "I've just... looked around your house a little."
[2] "Fine. Why do you ask?"
[3] "I've had a pleasant stay. Thanks for all your kindness."

> 3
I feel foolish as I force the words out. Sincerity has never come easily to me. Marissa's reaction, however, is transparent: she flushes and struggles to suppress a smile. "I am glad! I really wanted you to be comfortable. I tried to make you as welcome as I could. I mean, I hope I didn't make you feel abandoned here. But I did also want to give you space. I-I..." She trails off, suddenly self-aware. I refrain from raising an eyebrow. We each meet the other's eyes before looking away, likely for different reasons.

[1] "I'll let you get on with your business."

> 1
Marissa clears her throat. "I'm going to take a shower. I'll be out soon. Please don't mind me." She walks off down the hallway and I am again left alone.

> l
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with a handbag placed on top and two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> x handbag
A soft fabric handbag with a shoulder strap. I can see something inside it.

> look in it
The contents of the handbag are neat and few. A purse, a keyring and a piece of paper.

> x paper
(the piece of paper)
(first taking the memo)
It's a little memo, written in a stern hand. "Marissa. Kindly make the arrangements today as discussed. The white roses are appreciated. Everything else you'll need is in my room. Estelle."

> put memo in bag
I put Estelle's memo into Marissa's handbag.

> t memo
The cold words reek of superiority and exploitation. Why is it that the rarest and most fragile of people are the ones to fall victim to this sort of manipulative presence?

> save
Ok.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

I can hear the shower running.

> listen
I can hear the shower running.

> e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

> w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

I can hear the shower running.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

I can see a blanket here.

> look in mirror
I find myself unable to focus on the mirror. My vision fills with black when I try to look at it.

> x paintings
A stack of old paintings. They can't have been touched for years - even inside the drawer, they've somehow managed to accumulate a thin layer of dust. Their subjects all seem to be women relaxing together in various settings - under parasols in a scenic park, by a fireplace in a cosy living room, lazing on a drifting canal boat.

Here is another painting that I'm certain wasn't here before. A mattress lies in the centre of a bare wooden floor, covered in a mass of bloodstained bedsheets. Nested in the middle of the sheets is the body of a woman - she is asleep, or perhaps dead. Her skin is so pale and the brushstrokes so clumsy that it is difficult to tell limb from sheet.

> e
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> e
(first trying to open Marissa's bedroom door)
It seems to be locked.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

I can hear the shower running.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with a handbag placed on top and two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> sit in armchair
I sit down on the armchair, facing the television. A cardboard box on the floor nearby appears to be providing storage for a collection of video cassettes.

> x box
It's a plain cardboard box. Inside, there are some films on cassette tape, as well as a homemade tape labelled "Neverending Fantasia".

> l
Living Room (on the armchair)
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with a handbag placed on top and two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> n
(first leaving the armchair)
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

I can hear the shower running.

> e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

> w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

I can hear the shower running.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> n
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.

> w
Laundry
The laundry is tiny; there is scarcely room to move around the sink and washing machine that occupy most of the space in here, and I'm forced to hunch inelegantly to avoid being battered by the clothes hanging from a line across the ceiling. A crumpled blouse is on the lid of the washing machine.

In the west wall is a door leading outside.

> e
Hallway (north end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the south. In the west wall is a door leading to the laundry. A striking painting hangs on the north wall.

> s
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

I can hear the shower running.

> e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

> get brick
Taken.

> look in hole
I lean in towards the hole, close enough that the edges of the surrounding bricks feel sharp against my brow and cheekbone, and look through to the dimly-lit master bedroom. I can't make out much detail, but there seems to be something unusual about the walls. Perhaps it's only the shadows, but I feel as though I'm being watched.

I feel certain this loose brick can't have come about by chance. Marissa must have left that blouse and the co-ordinates out for me to find - maybe she wants me to keep an eye on her.

> t brick
How bizarre. Surely this couldn't have come about accidentally.

> t hole
How could this hole have come about unintentionally? I hesitate to guess at what Marissa might mean by it.

> put brick in hole
I replace the brick in the north wall.

> get brick
Taken.

> w
Well, no point in lugging this brick around the house. Dropped.

Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

I can hear the shower running.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with a handbag placed on top and two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> look in handbag
The contents of the handbag are neat and few. Estelle's memo, a purse and a keyring.

> x purse
The little cloth purse looks as though it has been hand-made by someone who specialises in felt crafts.

> look in it
There are a few notes and coins inside the purse. Nothing revealing.

> x keyring
A metal keyring, with an intricately plaited decoration of thread and beads trailing from it. On the ring are a well-used mortice key and a gold mortice key.

> get gold key
Taken.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

I can hear the shower running.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> unlock bedroom
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> e
(first trying to open Marissa's bedroom door)
It seems to be locked.

> unlock marissa's bedroom door
(with the gold mortice key)
That doesn't seem to fit the lock.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

I can hear the shower running.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with a handbag placed on top and two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

> put gold key in bag
I put the gold mortice key into Marissa's handbag.

> get mortice key
Taken.

> i
Feeling in my skirt pockets, my fingers brush against a well-used mortice key, a tube of superglue, a medicine cabinet key, a scrap of paper, my bedroom door key, a study door key and the cold, unnerving steel of a kitchen knife. I'm wearing my blouse and skirt.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

I can hear the shower running.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> unlock marissa's bedroom door
(with the well-used mortice key)
I unlock Marissa's bedroom door.

> e
(first opening Marissa's bedroom door)
Marissa's Bedroom
Marissa's bedroom is initially confusing to the eye; the walls are almost entirely covered in an eccentric display of unframed paintings and tiny mirrors in mismatched frames. Lace curtains drape over a window in the north wall, letting dappled light filter onto a white-framed bed. In the dimly-lit south side of the room is a bedside table, covered in a pale floral cloth and a reading lamp. A white wardrobe, far less intimidating than the one in the spare room, is here too. The door is to the west.

> save
Ok.

> x mirrors
There are dark eyes everywhere, blinking at me from every wall. The mirrors are framed in a whimsical assortment of frames, ranging from dark wrought iron, to embossed silver, to raw timber.

> t mirrors
The eyes boring down into me as I look at the walls set my teeth on edge, and those abhorrent words again worm their way into my thoughts. "Can't you even recognise yourself in the mirror?" Perhaps I simply don't care to. Perhaps some things are better seen the way I would like them to be seen.

> look in mirror
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> look in mirrors
I find nothing of interest.

> x paintings
The paintings are nearly all landscapes, with any human figures silhouetted or obscured by scenery. Every painting seems almost to glitter with creativity, and yet there is a sense of longing to all of them - each waterfall is not dramatically foregrounded, but lingers, hazy, behind a layer of mist; each sky seems to stretch endlessly, not quite delivering on the promise of a horizon.

> t paintings
Marissa must have painted all of these. They are quite overwhelming to look at, spread all over the walls as they are. Where do all the ideas come from?

> open curtains
It's stuck. It looks like Marissa has glued it shut.

> x bed
A very neatly-made single bed. The duvet has a pale rose pattern printed on it.

> t curtains
I don't know what to think about that.

> t bed
I don't know what to think about that.

> look under bed
I find nothing of interest.

> x duvet
A very neatly-made single bed. The duvet has a pale rose pattern printed on it.

> t duvet
I don't know what to think about that.

> x table
A little round table with a floral cloth draped over it. A drawer, its face rounded with the curve of the table, faces towards the bed.

> open drawer
Around me, all over the walls, blonde women lunge forward in reflective fragments. Dizzy, I focus on the drawer. There is a small diary inside, its cover hand painted.

> read diary
It is important that I know as much as possible about Marissa's situation in order to help her. Later, I am sure she will understand to thank me for my concern. I remove the diary from the drawer and spread it open on the bed.

There are several pages filled with text. I read the first entry.

"Life outside the studio window blurs on without me. Sometimes, when the loneliness is at its strongest, I move my easel close to the door and hide behind it, watching the neighbourhood's movements. There is a little old lady across the road who I often see struggling to carry her groceries inside from the bus. No-one is ever there to help her. I wonder what her name is, why she is alone."

> read diary
I continue reading.

"I'm trying to keep to my schedule. Cleaning, always cleaning. Nothing is ever clean enough. Nothing is ever essential enough. I look away from my canvas and everything seems without essence and covered in dirt."

> read diary
"Estelle is the kindest employer I could ever hope for. Today she told me a little more about her work at the opera theatre. I listened, spell-bound as a child. I think she knows I have no anecdotes of my own to contribute, so she just talks and smiles kindly. I guess what she is is a friend, though I retreat from the word with uncertainty."

> read diary
"I am sure the sunrise is influencing my palette - dear Matisse would not approve! - but oh, the studio is spectacular in the dawn light. I paint all night until I am too exhausted to think, and then I sleep and sleep and sometimes I can't get out of bed. The itch of tears is fresh in my eyes when I wake because I dream of such pretty things and then I wake, and I stare at my blank ceiling, blankness reflected in such blank eyes."

> read diary
"Oh Nan, how is it that I live like this? I dreamt of you and I hope I keep your house well enough for you because I do still miss you, every day. I hope you are in peace."

> read diary
"Coming back from Estelle's today, I ran into Helena Jevne. She is still as strikingly beautiful as she was back in school. And goodness, so tall. Nervous as I was, I could not escape from our conversation for over two hours... but in retrospect, I am glad. She seems such a strong-minded, sensible person. Better-adjusted than me, most likely. She has brought me back from this slumber of blankness, I think. I dare to hope that maybe I will see her again."

> read diary
"Alone. It bites at me over and over and over and I have forgotten my schedule, but it seems so meaningless so meaningless so"

> read diary
"I almost can't look at my paintings after they are painted. The loss of that moment of creation is painful. I dreamt of so many things, once. Now I hold onto a series of singular dreams, fluttering against my palms as I grasp them, almost too afraid to breathe for fear of crushing their delicacy, and I paint them with a mechanical concentration. And can't look back. I am beginning on the cliffside I saw in my dream. I hope it will be enough for now."

> read diary
"Emails. So nerve-wracking. Of course I am intimidated by her; her wisdom and her worldliness must see right through my meek existence. 'Purity' is what I value, I tell myself. In the face of another human being, though, my convictions waver... and even if I weren't so shy, I don't know if I could let a person into my life. Especially... well, oh. I don't know."

> read diary
This page is smeared with dark stains, rendering most of it illegible. "... phone call in the night ... ecked and the key wasn't there ... rror had been smashed in viole ..."

> read diary
The dark stains continue on this page, and the following. "... been here for over a week now ... re white roses from the garden, stained with hairdye! She must have tak ... aints, everywhere! ... drawer, found the most terrible thing but didn't dare ..."

> read diary
I flip through the pages, reading the few fragments I can, all written in a hand seemingly overcome by distress. "... ntire mirror covered in plasters! and I ... heart-stopping crashes ... scraping at the brickwork ... a knife, no less! and bloo ..."

> read diary
The rest of the pages are blank.

From somewhere to the west, I can hear Marissa calling for me. My clammy palms betray an inexplicable apprehension.

> w
I quickly return the diary.

Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

Marissa runs past in a tearful blur, almost crashing into me as she dashes into the bedroom.

> e
Marissa's Bedroom
Marissa's bedroom is initially confusing to the eye; the walls are almost entirely covered in an eccentric display of unframed paintings and tiny mirrors in mismatched frames. Lace curtains drape over a window in the north wall, letting dappled light filter onto a white-framed bed. In the dimly-lit south side of the room is a bedside table, covered in a pale floral cloth and a reading lamp. A white wardrobe, far less intimidating than the one in the spare room, is here too. The door is to the west.

Marissa is here. She glances up from crying and meets my eyes for the briefest of moments, her gaze watery and fearful.

> talk to marissa
Marissa looks at me with teary eyes, a startling red ringing the grey irises. I hesitate, sensing the likely gravity of this conversation. Should I talk to her now? n

"Never mind," I mutter. Marissa's eyes glaze over for a moment, and then - as though I had never disturbed her - she resumes her crying.

> save
Ok.

> n
There's nowhere to go in that direction. The only obvious exit is west (to hallway).

> talk to marissa
Marissa looks at me with teary eyes, a startling red ringing the grey irises. I hesitate, sensing the likely gravity of this conversation. Should I talk to her now? y

[1] "Why are you crying?"

> 1
Marissa swallows and just stares.

[1] "Is someone trying to hurt you? I might know who."

> 1
She looks disbelieving and glances around the room, as though looking for an exit.

I follow her gaze across the dozens of tiny mirrors on the walls. In each one, I see a different angle of the face of the woman I killed. My pocket feels suddenly heavy and I slip my hand in there, sweatily clutching the handle of my knife.

[1] "It's that woman, isn't it? The one you work for. Marissa, you deserve so much more. She came here today, you know. Just walked straight in the front door. I won't let her hurt you."
[2] "I won't hurt you, Marissa."
[3] "I know what it's like to be alone."

> 1

She shifts away from me a little, sliding across the duvet, and I feel a pang of irritation.

"I know there's something going on, Marissa. Please don't try to deceive me. Your tears are evidence enough." I brush her cheekbone gently with my thumb. She blinks and flinches. My right hand, still in my pocket, twitches.

I hesitate, moistening my lips. "I'm sure you're being exploited. You..." She isn't looking at me. I catch her by the chin and force her eyes to meet mine. "You make yourself an easy target, all alone here." I continue. Her breathing is lightly audible. It rings in my ears like the ocean. "I don't think you understand what people are like. They can't possibly understand how to appreciate you."

"What are you talking about." Her words fall flat; more of a statement than a question. It is obvious she knows exactly what I am talking about; the girl is addled by years of solitude. "But I am here to end that! Don't you see?" I smile, my heart almost leaping out my throat. She just stares.

I lean forward to smooth out the tear-clumped tangles in her hair. Frustratingly, she edges back further. "There was a girl before, you know," I explain, "But she and I used to argue now and then."

"Was there?" she asks. She is almost flat on the bed, now. I think I am leaning a little too heavily on her abdomen, but I feel I shouldn't draw away just yet. Her body is so warm against my hand. And there, she is crying again. Her eyes are wide. She looks shocked, but that will pass. "Just hush," I say, stroking her hair. "Hush." Her crying soon fades to silence.

I curl up close to her, burying my face in her still-warm neck. I lie with her, long after it goes cold.

*** End ***

Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game, QUIT or UNDO the last command?
>
undo
Marissa's Bedroom
[Previous turn undone.]

> talk to marissa
Marissa looks at me with teary eyes, a startling red ringing the grey irises. I hesitate, sensing the likely gravity of this conversation. Should I talk to her now? y

[1] "It's that woman, isn't it? The one you work for. Marissa, you deserve so much more. She came here today, you know. Just walked straight in the front door. I won't let her hurt you."
[2] "I won't hurt you, Marissa."
[3] "I know what it's like to be alone."

> 2

We look at each other quietly. Marissa's face is soft and open. 'Impressionable' seems the fitting word, as though I could mould her features with a gesture. The edge of a sunset filters in across the bed, softly meshed with the shadow of the lace curtain.

"I saw what you've written about me," I eventually confess. She looks afraid, lowering her eyelashes. "Sometimes," I explain, "fear can distort your perception of events. You needn't be afraid, though. Anything I have done is only to protect you. I'm here, now. You don't have to be alone anymore." She lifts her eyes to meet mine and slowly takes a breath, about to say something - but seems to choke on her words.

I lean forward and embrace her gently. Her little frame, at first so tense, eventually softens in my arms. "What I dream of," she murmurs, "is a life of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of trouble or depression." It sounds like a quote, but the sentiment is clear to me. I smile into her hair, holding her closer. She slumps into me, quiet and submissive.

With me, she will be safe. And I know she will not stray from me again.

*** End ***

Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game, QUIT or UNDO the last command?
>
undo
Marissa's Bedroom
[Previous turn undone.]

> talk to marissa
Marissa looks at me with teary eyes, a startling red ringing the grey irises. I hesitate, sensing the likely gravity of this conversation. Should I talk to her now? y

[1] "It's that woman, isn't it? The one you work for. Marissa, you deserve so much more. She came here today, you know. Just walked straight in the front door. I won't let her hurt you."
[2] "I won't hurt you, Marissa."
[3] "I know what it's like to be alone."

> 3

She shifts away from me a little, sliding across the duvet, and I feel a pang of irritation.

"I know there's something going on, Marissa. Please don't try to deceive me. Your tears are evidence enough." I brush her cheekbone gently with my thumb. She blinks and flinches. My right hand, still in my pocket, twitches.

I hesitate, moistening my lips. "I'm sure you're being exploited. You..." She isn't looking at me. I catch her by the chin and force her eyes to meet mine. "You make yourself an easy target, all alone here." I continue. Her breathing is lightly audible. It rings in my ears like the ocean. "I don't think you understand what people are like. They can't possibly understand how to appreciate you."

"What are you talking about." Her words fall flat; more of a statement than a question. It is obvious she knows exactly what I am talking about; the girl is addled by years of solitude. "But I am here to end that! Don't you see?" I smile, my heart almost leaping out my throat. She just stares.

I lean forward to smooth out the tear-clumped tangles in her hair. Frustratingly, she edges back further. "There was a girl before, you know," I explain, "But she and I used to argue now and then."

"Was there?" she asks. She is almost flat on the bed, now. I think I am leaning a little too heavily on her abdomen, but I feel I shouldn't draw away just yet. Her body is so warm against my hand. And there, she is crying again. Her eyes are wide. She looks shocked, but that will pass. "Just hush," I say, stroking her hair. "Hush." Her crying soon fades to silence.

I curl up close to her, burying my face in her still-warm neck. I lie with her, long after it goes cold.

*** End ***

Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game, QUIT or UNDO the last command?
>
undo
Marissa's Bedroom
[Previous turn undone.]

> w
[To respond in dialogue, enter a number, or enter "repeat" to reacquaint yourself with the options.]

>
Excuse me?

> w
[To respond in dialogue, enter a number, or enter "repeat" to reacquaint yourself with the options.]

> restore
Ok.

> w
Feeling particularly cautious, I lock the door behind me. There could be all manner of danger in this house, and I feel obliged to keep Marissa safe.

Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> e
Studio
Marissa's studio. The concrete-floored room gives the impression of spaciousness simply because of how empty it is: an artist's easel sits right in the centre of the space, with an expensive-looking chair facing it. A floor-length window on the east wall adds to the discomforting sense of open space. The north wall, bare-bricked, looks strangely out of character with the painted walls of the rest of the house. The door is set into the west wall.

I can see a brick here.

> look through hole
I lean in towards the hole and look through to the dimly-lit master bedroom. I can see the shadowy figure of Marissa hunched into herself on the bed, oddly silhouetted by the window behind her. Her face is flecked with reflected light from the mirrors on the bedroom walls, highlighting the tears on her cheeks.

> z
Time passes.

> z
Time passes.

> look through hole
I lean in towards the hole and look through to the dimly-lit master bedroom. I can see the shadowy figure of Marissa hunched into herself on the bed, oddly silhouetted by the window behind her. Her face is flecked with reflected light from the mirrors on the bedroom walls, highlighting the tears on her cheeks.

> x marissa
I'm not sure what that refers to.

> t me
Why should I be afraid of whatever is inside me? I have every right to companionship. I am the only one who could possibly appreciate someone like Marissa. She needs me.

> w
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> w
Helena's Bedroom
This is my room, at least for now. It is remarkably clean, the walls a warm off-white. The bed rests against the west wall, reflected in a portrait-sized mirror facing the foot of the bed. Right of the mirror, in the east wall, is an open door, and right of that is an imposing oak cupboard. A window in the north wall overlooks the bed.

I can see a blanket here.

> x paintings
A stack of old paintings. They can't have been touched for years - even inside the drawer, they've somehow managed to accumulate a thin layer of dust. Their subjects all seem to be women relaxing together in various settings - under parasols in a scenic park, by a fireplace in a cosy living room, lazing on a drifting canal boat.

Here is another painting that I'm certain wasn't here before. A mattress lies in the centre of a bare wooden floor, covered in a mass of bloodstained bedsheets. Nested in the middle of the sheets is the body of a woman - she is asleep, or perhaps dead. Her skin is so pale and the brushstrokes so clumsy that it is difficult to tell limb from sheet.

> e
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> e
(first unlocking Marissa's bedroom door with Marissa's bedroom door key, then opening Marissa's bedroom door)
Marissa's Bedroom
Marissa's bedroom is initially confusing to the eye; the walls are almost entirely covered in an eccentric display of unframed paintings and tiny mirrors in mismatched frames. Lace curtains drape over a window in the north wall, letting dappled light filter onto a white-framed bed. In the dimly-lit south side of the room is a bedside table, covered in a pale floral cloth and a reading lamp. A white wardrobe, far less intimidating than the one in the spare room, is here too. The door is to the west.

Marissa is here. Her small frame heaves with silent sobbing, her eyes unfocused.

> w
Feeling particularly cautious, I lock the door behind me. There could be all manner of danger in this house, and I feel obliged to keep Marissa safe.

Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> s
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> s
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with a handbag placed on top and two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

I can see a gold mortice key here.

> s
Entry Hall
A nondescript alcove separates the front door from the living area to the north. Two large windows here allow a little light to permeate the otherwise dull living room.

> s
(first trying to open the front door)
This is hardly the time to abandon Marissa!

> n
Living Room
It's a beige little living room; the offering of pale light filtering from the entry hall to the south somehow doesn't help to shake the sleepy, lifeless feeling here. An undersized dining table forms the centrepiece of the room, with a handbag placed on top and two chairs pushed beneath it. Wedged into the northwest corner of the room is a television, an old-fashioned armchair tucked up next to it. Against the north wall to the east is a display cabinet with a single shelf of ornaments visible through the glass.

A door to the north leads to the hallway, a door in the west wall leads to the kitchen and a door in the east wall leads to the study. The entry hall is to the south.

I can see a gold mortice key here.

> n
Hallway (south end)
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north. A door in the west wall leads to the bathroom and a door in the east wall leads to Marissa's studio. The living room is to the south.

> n
Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> e
(first unlocking Marissa's bedroom door with Marissa's bedroom door key, then opening Marissa's bedroom door)
Marissa's Bedroom
Marissa's bedroom is initially confusing to the eye; the walls are almost entirely covered in an eccentric display of unframed paintings and tiny mirrors in mismatched frames. Lace curtains drape over a window in the north wall, letting dappled light filter onto a white-framed bed. In the dimly-lit south side of the room is a bedside table, covered in a pale floral cloth and a reading lamp. A white wardrobe, far less intimidating than the one in the spare room, is here too. The door is to the west.

Marissa is here. She weeps steadily into one hand.

> talk to marissa
Marissa looks at me with teary eyes, a startling red ringing the grey irises. I hesitate, sensing the likely gravity of this conversation. Should I talk to her now? y

[1] "Why are you crying?"

> 1
Marissa swallows and just stares.

[1] "Is someone trying to hurt you? I might know who."

> 1
She looks disbelieving and glances around the room, as though looking for an exit.

I follow her gaze across the dozens of tiny mirrors on the walls. In each one, I see a different angle of the face of the woman I killed. My pocket feels suddenly heavy and I slip my hand in there, sweatily clutching the handle of my knife.

[1] "It's that woman, isn't it? The one you work for. Marissa, you deserve so much more. She came here today, you know. Just walked straight in the front door. I won't let her hurt you."
[2] "I won't hurt you, Marissa."
[3] "I know what it's like to be alone."

> 1

She shifts away from me a little, sliding across the duvet, and I feel a pang of irritation.

"I know there's something going on, Marissa. Please don't try to deceive me. Your tears are evidence enough." I brush her cheekbone gently with my thumb. She blinks and flinches. My right hand, still in my pocket, twitches.

I hesitate, moistening my lips. "I'm sure you're being exploited. You..." She isn't looking at me. I catch her by the chin and force her eyes to meet mine. "You make yourself an easy target, all alone here." I continue. Her breathing is lightly audible. It rings in my ears like the ocean. "I don't think you understand what people are like. They can't possibly understand how to appreciate you."

"What are you talking about." Her words fall flat; more of a statement than a question. It is obvious she knows exactly what I am talking about; the girl is addled by years of solitude. "But I am here to end that! Don't you see?" I smile, my heart almost leaping out my throat. She just stares.

I lean forward to smooth out the tear-clumped tangles in her hair. Frustratingly, she edges back further. "There was a girl before, you know," I explain, "But she and I used to argue now and then."

"Was there?" she asks. She is almost flat on the bed, now. I think I am leaning a little too heavily on her abdomen, but I feel I shouldn't draw away just yet. Her body is so warm against my hand. And there, she is crying again. Her eyes are wide. She looks shocked, but that will pass. "Just hush," I say, stroking her hair. "Hush." Her crying soon fades to silence.

I curl up close to her, burying my face in her still-warm neck. I lie with her, long after it goes cold.

*** End ***

Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game, QUIT or UNDO the last command?
>
undo
Marissa's Bedroom
[Previous turn undone.]

> w
[To respond in dialogue, enter a number, or enter "repeat" to reacquaint yourself with the options.]

> repeat
The available options are:

[1] "It's that woman, isn't it? The one you work for. Marissa, you deserve so much more. She came here today, you know. Just walked straight in the front door. I won't let her hurt you."
[2] "I won't hurt you, Marissa."
[3] "I know what it's like to be alone."

> 0
[Valid responses range from 1-3. Type "repeat" to relist the options.]

> undo
Marissa's Bedroom
[Previous turn undone.]

> undo
Marissa's Bedroom
[Previous turn undone.]

> w
[To respond in dialogue, enter a number, or enter "repeat" to reacquaint yourself with the options.]

> restore
Ok.

> w
Feeling particularly cautious, I lock the door behind me. There could be all manner of danger in this house, and I feel obliged to keep Marissa safe.

Hallway
The carpeted hallway extends away to the north and south. In the west wall is a door leading to the guest bedroom, and in the east wall is the door to Marissa's bedroom.

> drop knife
It's unlikely that I'll need to use it again, but I still feel more comfortable having it on my person.

> e
(first unlocking Marissa's bedroom door with Marissa's bedroom door key, then opening Marissa's bedroom door)
Marissa's Bedroom
Marissa's bedroom is initially confusing to the eye; the walls are almost entirely covered in an eccentric display of unframed paintings and tiny mirrors in mismatched frames. Lace curtains drape over a window in the north wall, letting dappled light filter onto a white-framed bed. In the dimly-lit south side of the room is a bedside table, covered in a pale floral cloth and a reading lamp. A white wardrobe, far less intimidating than the one in the spare room, is here too. The door is to the west.

Marissa is here. Her small frame heaves with silent sobbing, her eyes unfocused.

> talk to marissa
Marissa looks at me with teary eyes, a startling red ringing the grey irises. I hesitate, sensing the likely gravity of this conversation. Should I talk to her now? y

[1] "Why are you crying?"

> 1
Marissa swallows and just stares.

[1] "Is someone trying to hurt you? I might know who."

> 1
She looks disbelieving and glances around the room, as though looking for an exit.

I follow her gaze across the dozens of tiny mirrors on the walls. In each one, I see a different angle of the face of the woman I killed. My pocket feels suddenly heavy and I slip my hand in there, sweatily clutching the handle of my knife.

[1] "It's that woman, isn't it? The one you work for. Marissa, you deserve so much more. She came here today, you know. Just walked straight in the front door. I won't let her hurt you."
[2] "I won't hurt you, Marissa."
[3] "I know what it's like to be alone."

> 2

We look at each other quietly. Marissa's face is soft and open. 'Impressionable' seems the fitting word, as though I could mould her features with a gesture. The edge of a sunset filters in across the bed, softly meshed with the shadow of the lace curtain.

"I saw what you've written about me," I eventually confess. She looks afraid, lowering her eyelashes. "Sometimes," I explain, "fear can distort your perception of events. You needn't be afraid, though. Anything I have done is only to protect you. I'm here, now. You don't have to be alone anymore." She lifts her eyes to meet mine and slowly takes a breath, about to say something - but seems to choke on her words.

I lean forward and embrace her gently. Her little frame, at first so tense, eventually softens in my arms. "What I dream of," she murmurs, "is a life of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of trouble or depression." It sounds like a quote, but the sentiment is clear to me. I smile into her hair, holding her closer. She slumps into me, quiet and submissive.

With me, she will be safe. And I know she will not stray from me again.

*** End ***

Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game, QUIT or UNDO the last command?
>
restore
Ok.

> l
Kitchen
The kitchen has a dated feel to it; a laminate bench runs around two walls of the room, and white tiles line the wall above an aging sink and stove. An old fridge is tucked into the far corner of the room, and several potted plants decorate the bench around the spotless appliances.

A calendar and old-fashioned cordless phone hang on the wall near the door leading east.

A handwritten note has been placed near the middle of the bench.

> x note

Helena,
I hope you slept well. Sorry we didn't get a chance to talk much last night - it's just that I'm not used to company. I'll be back this evening. Please make yourself at home.
-M

> e
I replace the telephone handset on the base.

I flinch, startled, as I step into the living room: an elaborately-dressed woman is sitting at Marissa's dining table, bold as day. She looks to be in her late fifties and glares at me from beneath a permanently-wrinkled brow.

[1] "Who are you?"
[2] "What are you doing here?"

> 1
The woman meets my eyes with a steely gaze. "Surely, you've already read enough of my correspondence with Marissa to know." My vision wobbles threateningly, but I square my shoulders and glare back at her.

[1] "What are you doing here?"

> 1
She smirks. "Marissa wishes it. Can you honestly say the same for yourself?" I can begin to feel rage quietly building up beneath my ribcage.

[1] "I think you should leave, now."

> 1
"You utter imbecile. Can't you even recognise yourself in the mirror?"

[1] "Mirror? What would you know about that?"
[2] "Of course I can, you vile woman!"

> 1
"I was watching from behind the glass - as, obviously, were you."

I gasp, tiny fibres from the carpet floating into my mouth; somehow I am lying cheek-down on the floor. The woman is gone. Presumably, the old bitch struck me prone.

I raise myself to my feet, feeling angry for the intrusion. Who exactly is this woman that Marissa is dealing with?

> undo
Living Room
[Previous turn undone.]

> 2
"Just remember, Helena, that Marissa belongs to me."

I gasp, tiny fibres from the carpet floating into my mouth; somehow I am lying cheek-down on the floor. The woman is gone. Presumably, the old bitch struck me prone.

I raise myself to my feet, feeling angry for the intrusion. Who exactly is this woman that Marissa is dealing with?

> restore
Ok.

> e
I replace the telephone handset on the base.

I flinch, startled, as I step into the living room: an elaborately-dressed woman is sitting at Marissa's dining table, bold as day. She looks to be in her late fifties and glares at me from beneath a permanently-wrinkled brow.

[1] "Who are you?"
[2] "What are you doing here?"

> 2
She smirks. "Marissa wishes it. Can you honestly say the same for yourself?" I can begin to feel rage quietly building up beneath my ribcage.

[1] "Who are you?"

> 1
The woman meets my eyes with a steely gaze. "Surely, you've already read enough of my correspondence with Marissa to know." My vision wobbles threateningly, but I square my shoulders and glare back at her.

[1] "I think you should leave, now."

> 1
"You utter imbecile. Can't you even recognise yourself in the mirror?"

[1] "Mirror? What would you know about that?"
[2] "Of course I can, you vile woman!"

I still don't understand what the hell was going on, but this was a really good game.

> 1
"I was watching from behind the glass - as, obviously, were you."

I gasp, tiny fibres from the carpet floating into my mouth; somehow I am lying cheek-down on the floor. The woman is gone. Presumably, the old bitch struck me prone.

I raise myself to my feet, feeling angry for the intrusion. Who exactly is this woman that Marissa is dealing with?

> quit
Are you sure you want to quit? y