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The Blind House Redux, or, I Still Have No Idea What Was Going On

November 10, 2010

Man, The Blind House must have been effective on some level, because I sure have been thinking about it a lot.  I guess if someone dressed in a bear suit rode up to me on a tiny trick bike and thrust a pot of clam chowder into my arms, then rode away screaming “fuck the librarians!”, I would be thinking about that a lot too.

Anyway, this is what I’ve been thinking.  (It is incredibly spoilery, so go play the game before you read it.)

[spoilers begin here]

Mainly, I keep coming back to the business with the mirrors.  Any time you try to make Helena look in one, her vision goes all black.  This suggests that either we’re dealing with a question of identity, or the author knows we will suspect we’re dealing with a question of identity, and is being coy about it.  Normally, I would suspect the latter, but when Estelle appears later on, she makes a point of asking Helena if she can recognize herself in the mirror.  While it’s not impossible that Estelle would materialize in the living room to taunt herself for not knowing who she was, it strikes me as unlikely.  Marissa is a much more likely suspect.

If Helena is really Marissa, though, logistical questions arise.  How do their interactions work?  When Helena sees Marissa run past her sobbing, is this Marissa standing in the hallway hallucinating herself running by?  When Marissa “goes to work,” is Helena unable to see her handbag for the same reason she can’t look in mirrors?  Marissa as Marissa keeps a diary throughout Helena’s stay, so it is impossible for her to always be Helena.  When Marissa knows she is Marissa, where does she think Helena is?  More hallucinations?  It’s possible, sure.  If Helena can’t tell the difference between a mirror and her own arms, she’s definitely got some problems.

Marissa is also, to my mind, the most likely culprit where the creepy paintings are concerned.  She is, after all, the painter, and as far as I know, any time you’ve got a painting of a blonde giantess and a smaller woman trapped inside her screaming to get out, it is not the blonde giantess who is trying to work out some issues.  (Although I will admit to having zero training in art therapy, so who knows.)  Yet, in her diary, she attributes the paintings to Helena, along with every other insane, horrifying thing.

I think this is where the Matisse video, the bit about maintaining one’s innocence, along with Marissa’s favorite quote, comes in.  “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter.”  It’s very important to Marissa that the sweet, sheltered, innocent Marissa persona remain unsullied, so when shit starts waving goodbye to the handle, she needs Helena to take the blame.

How much blame are we talking here, though?  Helena thinks she’s killed somebody, although it’s hinted that the defensive wounds on her arms were actually self-inflicted.  In stories like these, I believe it is customary for Marissa to have murdered the real Helena, but as the classmate finder turned up zero results for Helena Jevne, she was likely a figment of Marissa’s imagination the whole time.  (Unless that was not the intended implication of the classmate finder results, in which case I have no idea about pretty much anything.)

There is a puzzling bit in the bedroom when the mirrors suddenly start working again — Marissa’s bedroom being full of tiny mirrors in different frames can be seen as a metaphor for her fragmented personality, if you like that sort of thing — and are full of “the woman I killed,” who is a blonde.  (Granted, this could be any of the three women in the story, if you count Marissa, who dyes her hair auburn.  I do know more about hair dye than art therapy, though, and if she’s only been batshit insane for a week, she would not yet have reverted to blondness.)  Did Marissa kill Estelle?  I personally find it hard to imagine that the cops would not have investigated Estelle’s cleaning woman, found her wandering around gibbering with a knife in her pocket, and hauled her off to pokey, but I have no idea whether or not the game agrees with me there.

Did she want to kill Estelle, in any case?  Maybe.  If we assume that Helena is the repository for all the impurities Marissa refuses to have in herself, then Helena’s thoughts are what Marissa does not dare admit to thinking, and Helena does not like Estelle at all.  The painting of the drowned woman, too, is a loose end;  Helena carries a knife.  Her dreams are of knives.  Her wounds are scratches.  Water does not enter into the picture, and when the painting shows up, it’s a little surprising, like a false note.  The cuts on Helena’s arms, though, are more consistent with what you’d get if you held someone’s head underwater than if you stabbed them (at least, I would imagine.)  Did Marissa drown Estelle, then tell herself Helena did it?  Did she imagine that she’d drowned Estelle?  Does the distinction even matter as far as she’s concerned?

And what is up with the sequence of emails between Marissa and Helena?  Did Marissa create an email account for Helena, or is she simply hallucinating them into her inbox?  How long did the classmate finder take to get back to her?  This is my guess as to the chronology:
Marissa, desperate for — what, someone to free her from Estelle’s tyranny?  To tell her what to do in general?  Simply to keep her from being alone?  Man, I don’t know — “runs into” Helena.  Hoping to keep in touch, she fires off a request to the classmate finder.  Before it has time to respond, Marissa “receives an email” (ah, good old sarcastoquotes) from Helena saying how lovely it was to see her again, and the two engage in light correspondence, during which it is established that Marissa does not need low-class people in her life, or, in fact, anyone but Helena, is the subtext.  By the time the friend finder replies that *ghasp!* there never was a Helena Jevne (the call is coming from inside the house!), Marissa is far too batshit to pay attention.

What is the connection between Helena and Estelle?  They’re both blonde, both, in Marissa’s eyes at least, sophisticated and worldly.  Was Helena meant to be, before she got stuck pulling double duty as Marissa’s crazy, the idealized version of Estelle, one who would stay with Marissa and need Marissa and only be domineering in a codependent way?  Man, I have no idea.  Still, the parallels between the two seem deliberately drawn.

Estelle, for her part, I think is just a normal woman with a veddy proper accent who needed cleaning services, and the reason I think this is because she appears to be Marissa’s only client, and Marissa is able to afford things like food and hair dye (well, assuming we trust Helena about that… she really is Unreliable Narrator City), so nothing too weird can be going on.

What is up, then, with that scene where she shows up in Marissa’s living room and tells Helena she was waiting behind the mirror, just as Helena was?  I mean, one thing that I am sure was up with that scene was, you know, whoo, batshit, but I’m going to play through to that bit again.  One sec.

Huh.  So, playing through this again, I try looking in the mirror at the very beginning, before I’ve covered it with a blanket, and Helena totally sees her own reflection, which means there will be six more weeks of winter.  Wait, no, I don’t know what that means.  Her self-description is far more precise in the beginning, too, mentioning clothes and hair, before changing simply to “Helena.  I’m holding together.”  This could be a point for the Marissa-killed-real-Helena theory, although in that case, I’m not sure what the classmate finder result is supposed to mean.

Oh, wait, duh, I’d only been trying to look at the mirror after crazy Helena stuck plasters all over it.  No wonder it was all black!  Well, shit, I hope that doesn’t invalidate all those paragraphs I just typed.  I don’t think that it does?

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.
Hmm.  Helena definitely seems to think she’s stabbed somebody.  The knife in her pocket is clean, though, but of course she could have cleaned it.  Then again, Helena thinks a lot of things.  Still, replaying this is making me question my drowning theory.  And all my other theories.  Damn.

Oh, dude, I almost want to go back and knock a point off the game for this:
>unlock east door
With what key?
>mortice
I don’t understand.
>unlock east door with key
Which do I mean, the mortice key, the yale key or my bedroom door key?
>mortice
I unlock the east door.
That is obnoxious.

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.
So, okay, definitely a knife.  Maybe it is Marissa who was drowning?

Hmm.  Man.  I don’t know from these endings.  I mean, it’s possible I am just plain wrong about the significance of the classmate finder email?

Argh!  I don’t know!  Things were going so well there for a minute, too!

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