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.
Nula comes down to the sitting room and sinks back into the sofa with a sigh.
Her phone rings, it's from a private number, she ignores it.
Switch on the radio?
Alex is in the kitchen washing up and is visible through the serving hole. He’s fun, charismatic, and her best friend.
He sweeps in, passing her a bowl of porridge, ‘Morning, Smelly, you have to finish this, I had a spoonful and nearly chundered. Still feel rough as toast’.
Nula looks down at the bowl. A chorus of voices shout ‘CUM’, ‘SHIT’, ‘HIV’, ‘AIDS’, you’ll get AIDS, you deserve it you faggot ...’ but they’re silenced as she thrusts the first spoonful in her mouth.
‘Must you embrace every day?’, says Nula, ‘you’re making me look bad’.
Alex comes over and puts his arm around her, ‘You can be a trusted lieutenant in my positivity cult.
‘You’ll be driving the limo as we pass my followers for the daily ‘recognition’ (a drive-by hand gesture, you understand, just to keep them wanting more).
‘We’ll do that for a few months before the long-awaited ‘Unveiling of Celestial Truth’.
‘Is that when we Kool-Aid them all?’ says Nula giggling.
‘I was thinking something a bit more dignified, cordial, perhaps. And only when we’ve raised enough cash for an island, and a one way ticket there!’.
‘And some treats for the ride!’.
‘Okay, but only if you’re good …will you be coming to the libations on Friday?’
‘I may do’.
‘Well Asif’s going to be there, so you have to …’
Alex mimes a passionate snog and disappears upstairs with a cheeky grin.
The health bars fade up.
As Nula eats porridge, the room dims and a faint memory is projected upon the wall above her head.
She’s driving home, it’s late.
Turning down a quiet street and she sees an urban fox on the corner, staring at her, unperturbed.
His eyes glint. She’s distracted and the car shudders to a halt between gears.
She looks in the rearview mirror and there’s no-one around.
The fox is gone.
She restarts the car and returns home.
But when she reaches the drive she doesn’t go in. ‘What was that?’ she thinks. ‘I was just distracted, didn’t use the clutch properly. Alex’s voice in her head jeers ‘clutch clutz!’
‘But it was a jolt. Like I hit something or ...someone. It must have been something small.
‘Maybe a child was out. But it’s late, that’s very unlikely.
‘There wasn’t anything on the road, I would have seen it, or heard something.
‘But I might have just missed it. It is dark after all, no harm in checking’, the Butterflies bar is rising.