Tremendous Silence

Creative Writing, Short story

Tremendous Silence.
A short story by James O’Brien.

I sat there, by the old great oak, picnic basket on my lap. I gazed out at the pink candy floss clouds swirling around an orange spotlight sun. Dark blackbirds glided overhead, standing out like shadows on a mellow flowerbed. The sturdy tree’s rough, crisp bark supported my sleepy head as I slipped into a state of utter relaxation. The peachy glow peeked out from behind a grassy hill damp with dew. Surrounded by a spectrum of sunset hued leaves, my back slid down the trunk as my eyelids became increasingly heavier.

I simply lay on the soft bed of ember tinted foliage. I didn’t want to fall asleep as I would miss out on this temporary haven of colour, blossom and calm. I listened to my surroundings. A tremendous silence welcomed me. But then I focused on other presences. I heard the slow beat of my thumping heart, steadily drumming in tune to my deep, relieved breaths. The air hissed from my nostrils gently and caught onto the cooling whistle of an August breeze. I discerned the sound of wild songbirds nestling up in their sophisticatedly structured nests, held high by branches above. The rustling and tearing of leaves that tumbled from the heavens down to Earth signified the coming of awakening owls preparing for the long night ahead. Tentative footsteps and the crunching of leaves announced the arrival of an array of timid hedgehogs. This proved to me that there is no such thing as silence, for there is always something to hear. With that final thought, I drifted into a peaceful slumber.

I opened my eyes. It was seven years later. It was a different scene entirely. I looked around. The sky was a vortex of black storm clouds that spat torrents down upon us. The clouds blotched out the remains of a blinding, white sun. Lightning struck, pointing towards the ground. My eyes followed the streak. My stomach turned at what I saw next. I could only gaze around in horror. Instead of being surrounded by beautiful colours of Autumn, I was fenced in by the scattered, gruesome, mutilated bodies of my childhood friends. Smoking craters made by explosive projectiles speckled the grassy hill, that was a sickening shade of crimson from the blood spilled. Large shards of shrapnel and steel protruded from the soil like makeshift tombstones. I caught a glimpse of men in military attire retreating into the distance. My eyes were then drawn to something. I discovered that I was bleeding. Jagged shrapnel was embedded in my now reddened torso. My filthy army clothing was full of holes. A rifle sat on my lap. My helmet was nowhere to be seen. I leaned my head back, expecting the much needed headrest of the oak tree. I landed flat on my back to no avail. Lying beside me was the now crackling and burning trunk (or at least most of it).

I was weak and dizzy. My mind was hazy. I once again lay in the same spot I did before, in the exact same place. Though to me, I was on unfamiliar ground. To keep my consciousness, I tried to concentrate on something else. I listened. Just like seven years prior, the mysterious stranger known as silence greeted me. But I knew better. I wasn’t going to be fooled by a petty guise. I tried again. Only then did I notice the loud ringing in my ears. Any other sound was muffled, but came through. I listened to my speeding heartbeat and shallow breathing. I heard the pounding of the rain splashing down onto the wet muck. I jumped at the crack of lightning and booming of thunder. I made out the howl of chilling gales that froze my face and made my eyes water. I listened to the buzzing of flies feasting on the dead. I could hear none of the friendly wildlife who offered me company before. Then I heard them. The shouting of medics. The thumping of footsteps. The jingling of equipment. The last thing I remembered before blacking out was being put on a stretcher and being told I’m going to be alright. I felt guilty.

I opened my eyes. Fifty years had passed. I was in bed. I looked down at my battle-scarred chest. What sleep I did get was always in fits. I still saw them. The bodies. I still felt ashamed. I still asked why I survived. What made my life more important than theirs? I should’ve died. They should’ve lived. But things didn’t happen that way. On my return home, I was treated like a hero. But I did nothing worth praising. I just got out alive. That was nothing important. The true heroes were the ones who paid the ultimate price and gave up their lives for King and Country. They deserved the praise. I tried to think back to that beautiful moment when the sun was setting. But I couldn’t think of that place again without seeing the horrors of war. Silence never visited me again. I missed silence. For all I could hear was the distant crackle of gunfire. The bangs of explosions. The pleading helves of screaming heroes about to die. There is no such thing as silence.

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Bastion- The Beauty of A Masterful Calamity (‘Blank In Review’).

Bastion, Review, RPG, Supergiant Games, Video game

My favourite type of video games are the ones made by small independent game developers. This genre is known as ‘indie games’. The reason I like indie games so much is because of their originality. There is no formula to making an indie game. You don’t need your game to fit the mould of every other game out there. You can express yourself and make something the way you want to. Indie game developers don’t make games for a profit alone. They have no board room of corporate heads that they need to please by having ways to leech more money out of consumers. They don’t have the near unlimited resources and large development teams of triple A game companies. An indie game is usually developed by a very small team of just a few people, and may just be made in a house, not an office/studio. They make games because it is their passion. They want to make something people can enjoy. They put their heart and soul into their work. This allows them to make unique experiences. Even if they aren’t guaranteed to sell well, they still are able to create the games they envisioned. Bastion was my first indie game. This was the one that made me fall in love with the genre.

Bastion was the first game to be released by independent developer Supergiant Games (comprised of only 7 PEOPLE at the time), and came out on July 20th, 2011. It was some first impression to give. It was released to the acclaim of both critics and players, getting near perfect review scores and winning several awards. I first found the game in 2015 while browsing deals on the PlayStation digital store. I picked it up on a whim, as it was only a fiver in the sale. That was a very good use of €5 as I would soon find out. I finished Bastion in around 2 days. It was by no means a long experience, but it was clear that Supergiant was going for quality over quantity. Let me explain.

The basic premise of the game is that an unknown ‘Calamity’ has destroyed civilisation and the world as a whole. You play as ‘The Kid’, a silent protagonist who has woken up to this new world comprised of floating pieces of land and a newfound bottomless abyss. He knew to go to the Bastion. That was where they all agreed to go if disaster struck. Shame no one besides him and an old stranger named Rucks arrived. It is The Kid’s task to find energy cores to rebuild the battered Bastion to its former glory, so it may reverse the damage that the Calamity had caused.

Bastion has 3 main features that make it my favourite game. First, is its art design. Bastion is straight up beautiful. It looks like a watercolour painting and has an astounding amount of detail. Its vibrant colours are very impressive and make it hard to look away. The game’s world is designed to be extremely memorable. One thing I love is the fact that the world builds up around you. Pieces of the environment rise from the pit to make a pathway for you as you forge ahead on your quest. It is so atmospheric and makes you forget about the fact that it is meant to be post apocalyptic. You can see the painstaking effort that has been put into making this game look like a work of art.

Second, is its sound design. Bastion’s sound is at the same level as its stunning visuals. It has by far one of the gaming’s greatest soundtracks. It immerses you, changing in response to your situation. It is fast paced when there is a lot of action on screen, yet it’s calming in between. Some of its songs are still stuck in my head and I still constantly hum the game’s score during my daily routine. It has so much variety. Some of my personal favourite tracks include ‘Build That Wall’ and ‘Terminal March’. However, one of the game’s most defining aspects is the Narrator. The stranger, Rucks, narrates what you do during the game. He has a voice to rival Morgan Freeman, and it’s as smooth as melted butter. He narrates literally everything you do as you play and even makes fun of you when you mess up. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen…I mean heard…in a game before.

Finally, there’s the gameplay. It is so masterfully done. The game is an ‘isometric, hack and slash, role playing game’. It has a lot of excellent combat that’s both fast and fluid. You are always on the move. This sounds like it could get repetitive over time, but the developers obviously took this into account. There is a large arsenal of weapons, that are all completely different from one another, at your disposal. For example, the Cael Hammer is a large melee weapon that is a very heavy hitter to multiple enemies up close. The Breaker’s Bow however, is a long range weapon that can do massive damage to single enemies from a safe distance. This keeps the game fresh, as trying different combinations of weapons in battle leads to varying scenarios. The well designed ‘Distillery System’ gives you access to various tonics and potions that give you an advantage while playing, such as increased health etc. The main plot of rebuilding the Bastion is made into an interesting gameplay element as well. You end up caring about repairing it, because with each core you return to heal the Bastion, a new tool is opened to you. For example, if you progress enough, you can unlock the Forge and gain the ability to improve weapons to give you an edge in combat. There is even an option to unlock a ‘Shrine to The Gods’, which allows you to make the game harder and more challenging in multiple ways. This includes things like making enemies stronger etc. Speaking of the enemies, they are very distinctive. They all have different attacks and weaknesses. While a ‘Scumbag’ is a large enemy that needs to be attacked by a constant wave of quick damage, a ‘Gas Fella’ can be taken out with slower, heavier attacks. This variety always keeps me interested.

Bastion is proof that video games can be works of art. It is so inspiring to see how it originated from such small beginnings, and yet it went on to become a phenomenal experience beloved by both critics and players alike. I recommend Bastion to anyone who wants to try something different compared to other games. You won’t regret it.

 

Who on Earth is This Fella?!

Uncategorized

Greetings to anyone currently reading this post (that’s you by the way),

My name is James. I’m just your average Irish 16 year old Transition Year Student, but then again, what is ‘average’? We all have our differences. For example, you may be wondering why I have titled myself ‘The Quiet Guy Who Won’t Shut Up’. To put it into simple terms, if I don’t know you well, I seem quite timid, silent and socially awkward, and if I do know you well, I’m……not.

Now comes the part of this blog post (that I’m currently writing and you’re currently reading) where I inexplicably explain to you, dear reader, what exactly I’m planning to do on this blog.

It’s probably not the best thing to start off with, but I don’t really know what I’m going to write about. Do I really look like a guy with a plan? Wait, scratch that. You can’t see me. Oops. My bad. But then again, nobody’s perfect. Here, I’ve got an idea. Let’s figure this out right here, right now. I guess we should look at my interestingly interesting interests for inspiration. Are you interested? I’ll take that reaction that I am predicting you made as a yes.

Believe it or not, I love to write. I enjoy writing stories, and my speciality is poetry. I am indeed a poet, and I certainly know it. See? Anyways, I am very passionate about writing. I will try to post some of my work onto this very page. It would be great to be able to share it to a wider audience. I also enjoy reading novels like ‘It’ and ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. I really love a good story. They are relaxing to read and can provide me with some escapism from reality. They also help me to improve my vocabulary, pacing and structuring when it comes to writing.

My favourite subjects in school are English, History, Spanish and Science. I love English because, as you know, I love to read and write. I enjoy history because it is really interesting to see how we evolved as a society. I like Spanish because I want to be able to communicate with more people from around the world easier and learn more about the people behind the language. I find science fun because I want to know more about how the world works, so topics like physics are very enjoyable.

I am a gamer and a geek. Go ahead. Call me an N-E-R-D. Did you know that it means ‘an expert in a particular field’? If you did know that, I salute you (take it seriously. It’s hard to both hold an iPad and type with the one hand, as I’m using the other to physically salute you to show respect). Back to the point, my favourite thing to do is to play video games (on PS4 for those of you who are wondering). My favourite type of games are indie games from small developers. A lot of these games are unique and very original, as well as having a story behind them and a lot of character. My favourite game is ‘Bastion’, as it is a game that shows that video games can be pieces of art. It has beautiful visuals and an amazing soundtrack. I also am into everything geeky. I love shows like ‘Rick and Morty’, as I get a lot of enjoyment out of finding all the references and using quotes from shows in everyday life (‘Ooh Wee!’). I am a collector. I like to have merchandise of my favourite properties and even just things like full film/game/book series. I now have a worrying habit of collecting Funko Pops, which are bobble head vinyl figures of icons and characters from films, TV shows and video games. To put my ‘habit’ into perspective, I’ve got 13. Don’t judge. Moving on…swiftly….

I’m an avid film watcher. I really enjoy intricate storylines, clever humour and strong characters. My favourite movie is ‘Hot Fuzz’ (as well as pretty much anything director Edgar Wright touches). It has all the criteria I just listed and is a perfect example of what a film should be like. It has a brilliant mystery with a lot of sneaky foreshadowing and an unexpected twist (well actually now you will expect a twist. Apologies). It has a really smart, witty sense of humour that had me in smirking one minute and in tears laughing the next. It also has an excellent protagonist that you can root for, who is extremely memorable and very relatable (even though I’m not a fictional police man in a comedic action movie like he is). I strongly recommend this film to anyone reading this post…and no, I’m not obsessed.

Right. After listing those out, I think I might have some sort of basic idea for the premise of this blog page. I plan to write about things that interest me, whether it be games, movies, TV or books. If I write a poem, essay or story that I want to share, I’ll  also post them. I think I’ll write about my random day-to-day thoughts and experiences as an adolescent of the 21st century. I might even share my opinions on current affairs that intrigue me. One last thing, since one reason why I started this blog was because of an English assignment, there will be some school stuff too. Sound good?

I hope to get more things up on this page soon. Thanks for reading. All that’s left is to wish you farewell with a firm handshake….oh wait.