Nula: Butterflies Rise is a decision-making game that explores the experience of living with anxiety.
Inspired by puzzle adventure games of the early 90s like Myst, the surreal comedy of Flann O'Brien, and the author's experience of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Nula creates an immersive textual experience, an insight into the daily struggle anxiety can be.
Claret & Blue Episode 2: Call it a Draw
There was a man at the end of my garden.
He was holding onto something. An A-framed advertising board or a teepee or two doors leaning against each other, or, something. It was hard to tell through the kitchen window; it was reflecting bright rectangles of lamplight over the dark mass outside.
But there was a man stood there, I was certain of that.
Every now and then he was underlit by his phone. It would catch his brow and his nose, and — was that? — yes, his gums and his teeth. As he looked down he would smile for a few seconds, then stop; draw back the cloak of his top lip.
I turned down Walter Geography on the stereo and returned to the window, the song title Love Chutney and Duress ticking backwards across the glass.
I had played this scenario out in my imagination a thousand times before: if an intruder were to approach the kitchen side with its floor-to-ceiling French doors — a fantastic vantage point over all the lots in the street — I would turn and escape through the pottery room, the front hall, the room where I washed my dog, the room with the shoes and hat-stand; I’d open the front door into the street, and, as a diversion, make a scene shouting names of men I knew — Ross! There’s someone in the house! — I’d quickly double back, up the stairs — treading on the quiet ones in sequence 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9 — barrel into the shitter, lock the door, out onto the ledge, the extension roof, down into the shrubs and wait quietly behind the Andrei Arshavin water feature. With water coming out of its skin.
He could see me, this man, where he was stood.
He could see me, and yet, unfazed, he stayed where he was.
Forty days had passed since the night I met David Moyes. It was an unassuming evening: lots of walking and laughing, telling tales of long-forgotten bars and karaoke songs and ill-advised cigarettes; cursing the fierce drizzle that soaked our clothes, but praising it for the immediacy it gave the East London landscape — in its erasing the distance, we could think only of the moment, of each other. He kissed me on my eyepatch.
Oh, David. I don’t want this to end.
I was conscious of the people passing, looking at us a little too long. Pretending to put something in the bin I was sitting on. Delaying their retreat to the promenade to take a look at David’s pinched complexion.
What I liked most about David was that his age didn’t close him off to the world, didn’t narrow his vision, sharpen his prejudices. He was like a knight with the open mind of a horse. He’d seen some things, big battles.
He knew that I was nervous, and he knew what to do.
Close your eye he whispered. And I did. I love you, I thought in the privacy of my mind.
And then he was gone.
For a moment the man in the garden seemed to fracture into seven silhouetted figures. My bare toes pressed white and bloodless, I could not move. The A-frame he leant on flexed, became scapulae, wings — large angular wings like meaty fans — and the seven pitched high into the roof of the Bura-Bura tree, which shook off its long fruit with the force of their landing.
I was rooted and I was staring, a little too long I thought — I’m an igloo, I’m a chunky igloo — but as I blinked the dryness from my lenses, the seven avian figures were dragged back into the singular silhouette stood underlit, the frame stationary as it presumably had always been. He was whistling my favourite KT Tunstall tune from her old stuff.
‘When I was at Sunderland’ came the voice between bars of the serenade, ‘Jack Rodwell and I used to enjoy drawing, brass-rubbings and that.
We made some really unique pictures, you know — aye, unique they were. He liked doing sycamores, manhole covers, ladder detailing. He said it was the alphabet of the Earth, you know. He was good like that’.
The man came closer, dragging his object behind him.
‘We made entire scrapbooks of the North East, you know, this is Alnick, Gateshead, Longbenton. We had a handshake, a clubhouse at the back of the daycare centre. We were so happy, making our pictures, you know. We called ourselves Wax Atlas. Then it all went to poo’.
He was five feet away from the window. He had Crayolas in an ammunition clip over his tummy.
‘They took my pictures — Niall Quinn, Paddy McNair — and they hung them in the changing room. Jack’s, too. Acted like sort of eel-people.
Imagine if the world could spell, they said. And all it could say was 'bark'. And all it could say was 'Stanton & Staveley'. All it could say was 'I’m a ladder'.
They laughed me out. They had wanted me out from the start.
The custard-coloured man, David Frances Moyes, appeared at the window.
‘I’m here now’.
I was happy to see him, but I had so many questions.
Why did he leave that day? How did he find me? Why do sea monkeys come in fucking packets?
Before I found the requisite power in my tongue to speak, David exhaled deeply onto the window that stood between us, and he drew some testicles and a penis with his finger.
‘I’ve made you a picture’, he said, turning the easel to face me. ‘I’ve made us a picture’.