The pupa asks you another question.\n\n{{{Do you know me?}}}\n\n[[Yes, and I hate you.|Know]]\n\n[[Yes, and I love you.|Know]]
One unsold item in a stained banker's box catches your eye: a [[GraphiQuest video game system|GQ]], complete with A/V cables and a controller.\n\nYou remember all the afternoons you spent playing GQ games with Evan, poring over gaming magazines, drawing level maps...[[there was one game in particular|SpaceTemple]]. Legendarily difficult. You and Evan took turns playing it and you always swore you'd finish it together, but you never did. You could never find the entrance to that last dungeon, and by the time you reached that point you were already beginning to drift apart.\n\nYou [[still have the game cartridge|Birthday]], buried in a box of keepsakes in your closet. With the $27 in cash you have on you, you buy the GraphiQuest and [[take it home.|Home]]
You take out your phone and type the following search terms into your web browser:\n\n//space temple 2 last dungeon location//\n\nPlenty of search results pop up. You tap the first one. It's a Yahoo! Answers question from 2005.\n\n{{{Hey can anyone tell me the location of the last dungeon in Space Temple 2? I could never find it and this has been haunting me since I was a kid lol! Like to finally finish the game!\n\nposted by EvMan0330}}}\n\nYou blink. It's a coincidence. It has to be.\n\nThe best answer (chosen by Asker) says the entrance is in the Gorham Castle basement. You have to push the pots around until they match the pattern on the painting in the Judge of Hell's private chamber.\n\nHow the developers expected anyone to figure that out on their own, you'll never know. It's certainly nothing that would have occurred to the younger you to try. But there you go. You open up your inventory, equip the Tome of Teleportation, and select the page that takes you to [[Gorham Castle.|Castle]]
You stand before the final gate. You can press the action button to seal the gate.\n\n[[Do it.|Seal]]
He made some wiseacre comment after you'd blown up the alien heart and finished the game, and you laughed and laughed. You can't remember what he said, now. You just remember it was perfect, and you couldn't even breathe, and you thought to yourself //oh yeah, this is why I like being around him, why can't he be like this more often,// but a joke's a joke and eventually you stopped laughing and Evan went home and even though it had been a good time [[you were kind of relieved.|Fin]]
[[Nothing Happens.|NowWhat]]
The graphic tiles themselves are the next to glitch out; you start seeing wall and floor tiles from earlier dungeons. A few screens later there's a big section of wall that's just repetitions of the letter "A" in the GraphiQuest system font.\n\n[[You keep going.|Sound]]
You set down your phone and pick up the controller. Evan may have finished //Space Temple II// without you, but now it's your turn. And he's still playing it with you, in a way. He left you the knowledge to find the path to the end in a place where you could find it.\n\nYou can do this. Final stretch, finish line.\n\nThe "cocoon" he mentioned has to be that pupa you found past the demon knight and the maze. Selecting the Tome of Teleportation from your inventory, you warp back to the dungeon entrance and cross the sturdy bridge. Driven by the promise of a resolution near at hand, you effortlessly cut down the respawned furies and trace your path back through the labyrinth.\n\nBefore long you stand before the pupa again. You approach it, confident it won't be silent this time. You press the action button to talk to it.\n\n[[Nothing happens.|Gospel]]
The protagonist of //Space Temple II// was a little blank-faced, blue-haired fellow chosen by fate to follow in his ancestor's footsteps (a reference to the original game, you always assumed) and seal the seven gates of the Devil Fathers. Along the way the princess who'd been helping you got kidnapped, and in the seventh dungeon you find not the final Devil Father, but his henchman, who spits out some badly-translated exposition about his master escaping to a hidden dimension to undergo a transformation that will make him invincible for all time. The henchman, a corpulent, Jabba-the-Hutt-like creature with absurd little wings that he'd flit around upon, proved to be one of the nastiest in a long series of nasty bosses. You can remember Evan throwing his controller across the room in frustration after numerous failed attempts to beat him, how it hit the VCR under the television, and how suddenly stricken with panic he'd been, stopping the game and making sure every button and function on the VCR still worked before he could calm down.\n\nYou took over from there and beat the henchman on your third try, and [[Evan called it dumb luck.|Game]]
You [[found out Evan was dead|Facebook]] about two hours ago. From fifth to seventh grade he was your best friend, but you hadn't spoken to him in years.\n\nA few blocks from your apartment you pass [[the remnants of a garage sale|Console]] being packed in.
The intensity of the fight brings to mind your battle with one of the optional overworld bosses, the green djinn who dropped the not-required but exceptionally-useful Orichalcum Armor. By prior agreement with Evan you'd been assigned to handle this fight, and it was one hell of a hairy one. The djinn had an abrupt and unpredictable way of launching into its tornado spin attack, and you kept involuntarily yelping whenever it happened. At one point your mom came in and told you to calm down or do something else if the game was stressing you out so much.\n\n"Mom!" you'd said. "I'm //fine,// do you not know me well enough to tell the difference between stressed and excited? Leave us alone!"\n\nGod, you could be a jerk to your mom back then. And most of the time, she just took it.\n\n"Sometimes I wish I was more like you," Evan muttered [[as she slunk away.|Evade]]
Space Temple
You unpause the game and wait, on the off chance the pupa might decide to hatch while you're watching it.\n\nWhatever's in there, you think to yourself, it's been trying to metamorphosize for the last twenty-four years. Frozen in time. Anything could be in there. The chief of the Devil Fathers could transform into a butterfly.\n\nYour best friend can transform into a dead stranger.\n\nYour eyes drop to the glowing green power light on the front of the GraphiQuest. You haven't saved the game since you started playing.\n\n[[You reach out and turn it off.|Off]]
The music freezes, hanging on a low, droning note. You keep marching on. The status bar at the top of the screen disappears. The walls of the passage, now composed entirely of visual garbage, scroll off the screen. You are walking up through nothing, towards nothing. You do not stop.\n\n[[Some time later you reach a door.|Archon]]
The GraphiQuest was one of those also-ran consoles that had better specs than the Nintendo Entertainment System but just couldn't compete in terms of the variety and quality of games available. It was one of those systems a kid ended up with if their parents were either rich enough to buy them every new console that showed up at The Good Guys, or clueless enough that they'd let some salesperson talk them into buying it instead of a NES. You and Evan fell into that latter category. The fact that you two were the only two kids in your fifth grade class who had the damn thing was one of the main reasons you bonded [[the way you did.|Console]]
Halfway across the sturdy bridge, winged furies start spawning on either side, converging on you. After an intense battle that costs you more than half your life points, you manage to kill them all. Pausing the game, you set the controller down. You're sweating. None of the Xbox or smartphone games you dabble in these days demand quite so much from you. But you rose to the challenge. You've still got it.\n\nYou and Evan used to get into debates -- occasionally mock-serious, occasionally genuinely contentious -- about which of you was the more skilled gamer. You would acknowledge his superiority at shooters; he would recognize your knack for platformers. RPGs, you both agreed, were no test of skill.\n\nYou were better at //Space Temple II//, the game one //GamePro// editor had said made him break down and cry. But this fact was never cited in these debates. //Space Temple II// was a thing you played together, collaboratively; using it as a measuring stick would have been inappropriate.\n\n[[You cross to the other side of the bridge.|Garden]]
Your sword pings off the statue of the third boss, Samaal. The statue flashes. Knowing what this means in the visual language of video games, you move your hero a few steps back. Samaal, having swapped his statue-purple for a lively red color palette, leaps off his pedestal. A dialogue box pops up.\n\n{{{We made this for you...!}}}\n\nThe dialogue box closes and Samaal disintegrates in a shower of white pixels.\n\n[[Try another.|Yao]]\n\n[[Approach Altaboth's empty pedestal.|Altaboth]]
It always seemed off to you that the game referred the the sole female dungeon boss as one of the Devil Fathers rather than a Devil Mother, but in retrospect it was probably just [[one of the many localization errors.|Statues]]
You were going to finish season 2 of //[[House of Cards.|Lost]]//
Beyond the garden, you traverse a narrow hallway to a circular room that seems empty until you step a few feet into it. The screen flashes and a lightning bolt strikes the ground.\n\nIt's hard to tell exactly what the thing that appears where the lightning struck is supposed to be. You get the sense that the visual ambitions of the graphic artists exceeded the technical capabilities of the GraphiQuest here, but you know that the inchoate thing represented here is a [[Demon Knight|Meme]], the hardest non-boss enemy in the game. You'd only encountered one before this, back in the seventh dungeon, and Evan fought it -- he'd insisted on being the one to take it down, and you never got a chance to try your skill against it.\n\nWell. This one is all yours.\n\n[[Try a direct attack with your sword.|Sword]]\n\n[[Hang back and use your Centaur's Crossbow|Crossbow]].\n\n[[Use one of your two Final Heartbreak Nuke Medallions.|Nuke]]
The doorway leads to a twisting labyrinth of narrow corridors. Every so often, giant worms burrow out of the ground to attack you -- the first few times this happens, you're genuinely startled. But soon enough, you can anticipate when they're going to appear, and they do little more than delay you for a moment or two.\n\nThe maze itself is the bigger problem. After your fourth dead-end, you start wishing you'd had the foresight to [[draw yourself a map.|Map]]\n\nEventually, subtle changes in the floor tiles let you know that you've reached a new section of the maze, and from there it isn't long before you encounter a [[strange new mini-boss.|Wheel]]
While the GraphiQuest remains somewhat obscure even in retro-gaming circles and //Space Temple II// never got recognition as much more than a game with a small but devoted cult following, the Demon Knight achieved immortality as an internet meme. Some anonymous 4channer uploaded a Photoshopped picture of a Demon Knight looking smug as a reaction image to some other 4channer making a dubiously self-aggrandizing claim, and it took off from there as an iconographic shorthand for "you are making bold assertions that you are unlikely to be able to back up in reality." Most people still preferred to use Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka to convey that particular concept, but there is a certain nuance to the Demon Knight that [[no other meme quite captures.|DemonKnight]]
You should have asked him if he'd remembered what it was he said that made you crack up so hard. That's the conversation you should have had on Facebook. You should have asked him that.\n\nToo late for that now. And what if you had?\n\nThen what?\n\nYou glance back at the screen. The final "special thanks to..." part of the credits scroll up, ending on:\n\n{{{and you, BUTTMNCH}}}\n\nWhich was so perfect you just had to smile.\n\n''The End''
The seventh dungeon was on the Lunar Planet, a translation error you found endlessly amusing, such that it became an in-joke between you and Evan. He even went and referenced it in that damn letter he wrote ("It feels like you're a million miles away. Like on the Lunar Planet or something").\n\nThe dungeon entrance was hidden behind a nondescript section of cliff that you had to tap with your sword. The only clue to its location was the X on the map on the table in the Tower of Scholars, if you recognized that it more or less matched an area on the Lunar Planet. That was a tricky one, but the size and detail of the map was a big tip-off.\n\nAnd then it hits you. After all these years, it jumps right out at you. That other weirdly detailed decorative feature in the game, that tapestry or whatever in the Judge's office. And with the clarity that only years of distance can bring, you realize exactly what it was showing you.\n\nYou teleport your hero to Gorham Castle, [[where the game began.|Castle]]
You hurry across the rotting bridge, half expecting it to collapse from under you, but it holds up. You are greeted on the other side by wizards in pointed hats who hurl spells and mock you in the atonal trill of the GraphiQuest's best approximation of an evil cackle.\n\nBeyond the wizards you find a pool fed by a waterfall, but something about it doesn't lool right. You watch it for a moment and realize the water is animated to appear as though it is flowing backwards, upwards. A ladder is set beside it.\n\n[[Ascend.|Crabs]]
You load the file, and there he is: [[your character|Hero]], standing alone and brave on the Tundra of Terror, the so-called hidden area where you and Evan finally gave up the search for the last dungeon. You suggested calling one of those game counseling hotlines, but Evan wouldn't have it. He said that was cheating.\n\nWell, you still don't know where to find the damn dungeon.\n\n[[Look it up on the internet.|Internet]]\n\n[[Try to figure it out on your own.|HardMode]]
You found out on Facebook, of course. A terse "RIP, bro" from a mutual friend that you almost scrolled right past. You and Evan had been Facebook friends for a long time, although you never interacted much besides clicking "Like" on the occasional post.\n\nHe was never very active on social media. [[Especially not lately.|Evan]]
Nothing happens.\n\n[[Try setting off a Faerie Bomb.|Nope]]\n\n[[Slash it with the Glaive of Bitterness.|Nope]]\n\n[[Use the Wand of Thunder.|Nope]]
The pupa bursts open. The screen flashes white and stays white for a long time. You're starting to worry that the game has crashed when it finally fades back to normal. There is now a stairwell behind the remnants of the pupa.\n\n[[Descend the stairs.|Descend]]
The link takes you to a thread titled "Princess missing?? WTF" where some hapless player described being stymied just as you are. You skim the replies. The first two aren't helpful. The third stops you cold.\n\n//I thought this was a rumor, but it happened on my last playthrough! If the princess isn't in her cell, go back to where you found the empty cocoon and try talking to it. That's all I'm gonna say! :)\n\nposted by LunarEvan on 1/5/2011 9:45PM//\n\nIt was him. It had to be. He played through it without you, after all. You snort ruefully. Not only that, he turned into some kind of //expert// on the game. And here you were, thinking you were carrying the flag home for the both of you, in his memory.\n\n[[The magic is lost. What's the point of continuing now?|Lost]]\n\n<<if $pupa eq "yes">>[[You're going to see this through to the end regardless.|Finish]]<<endif>>
You thrust your sword at the tree. Not entirely unexpectedly, four black bats spill out of it, circle the screen, and dart in to attack you.\n\nPoking at things best left undisturbed...that's you. It wasn't always, though. You cut the bats down one by one and are rewarded with health-refilling items.\n\n[[Continue onward.|DemonKnight]]
Stepping up onto the empty pedestal, the screen flashes and your character starts blinking. [[The sound effect denoting teleportation magic plays.|Corridor]]
You toggle through the various items at your disposal. Their icons are all reassuringly familiar to you even after all these years, but you can't recall their specific functions in every case. The Glaive of Bitterness...the Crystal Hemisphere...the Mask of Vytor...\n\nAt the submenu of potions you stop. Potion of Haste. Perfect. It describes itself as giving your character superhuman speed, but what it actually does in the game is slow all the other sprites down. You swill it down and take a leisurely, well-aimed shot at the wheel creature with your Centaur's Crossbow, skewering it dead center. [[Its face contorts in anguish|Died]] and then it breaks apart into pieces that fly offscreen. A glowing key drops to the ground in its place. You take it and advance down the last long corridor of the maze to a locked door. [[The key opens it.|Pupa]]
Okay. Last dungeon. You can figure this out. You're a college-educated adult, you can solve this little mystery that eluded you as a child. Right? Besides, you don't want [[Evan's ghost|Ghost]] haunting you for cheating.\n\nSo, where would it be. You can remember the storyline fairly well. The last boss, Altaboth, is off in some hidden dimension shapeshifting into his final form. You have to find him and stop him, seal the last gate, and rescue the princess he kidnapped. The first four dungeons were all located in plain sight, the [[fifth|Fifth]] was hidden but with big obvious clues pointing to it, and the [[sixth|Sixth]] and [[seventh|Seventh]] you kind of had to do some legwork and puzzle-solving to find...
A large spiny shell half-emerges from the water, then fully reveals itself as a crab with massive claws. He snaps them and picks up his legs in a threatening boss-introduction dance, then splashes menacingly towards your character.\n\n[[Stand your ground and stab him in the face when he closes in.|Stab]]\n\n[[Try to evade him.|Evade]]
{{{What guilt do you bear?}}}\n\n[[I am sinless.|Guilt]]\n\n[[I am the root of sin.|Guilt]]
The boss music isn't playing. There's a door on the far wall, but it isn't shut -- it's hanging open, like it's been busted through. And in the middle of the room is a shape you can't quite make out at first, a boss-sized sprite, but it's lying on the ground, a dull golden half-lion, half-dragon beast, sprawled as if dead. You approach it, attack it, try to talk to it. Nothing happens.\n\nIf this is the final boss, somebody already killed it.\n\n[[Go through the open door.|Princess]]
You awaken the sixth and final Devil Father statue, Elon, the only one who looks human, albeit twice as large as your character. You try to think of an Elon Musk joke. "I'll send you into //space//, bitch," you tell the sprite. Not much, but it was the kind of joke Evan would have pity-laughed at, coming from you. If he was here and alive. You watch to see what Elon has to say:\n\n{{{What did you think to find here??}}}\n\nYou press the button to close the box and trigger Elon's death animation, but another dialogue box pops up.\n\n{{{You have asked the wrong question. That is why you do not understand the answer.}}}\n\nLeaving you to ponder that, Elon disintegrates.\n\n[[Approach Altaboth's empty pedestal.|Altaboth]]
Back at home, you plug the GraphiQuest into your television while a frozen Chicken Methi Malai heats up in the microwave. You dig that old box out of the closet and find the cartridge. Almost by reflex, you blow on the connectors. The microwave beeps.\n\nA few minutes later, you slide the cartridge into its slot and power on the console.\n\nYou hadn't counted on the battery backup surviving all these long years, but against all odds, your saved game is still there. BUTTMNCH. Evan named it.\n\nYou're going to find the last dungeon. You're going to finish this. [[For Evan.|Game]]
It's getting late. You're tired. You want to see this through to the end, but your brain is in no shape for late-stage video game puzzles from a bygone era. Cheating or not, you're taking this matter to the internet.\n\nYou pick up your phone and search for the following:\n\n//space temple 2 princess missing now what//\n\nOne of the search results is a link to a forum post on a site called [["GQ Hive,"|Hive]] which seems fairly promising. [[You click on it.|Forum]]
<<silently>>\n<<set $pupa = "no">>\n<<endsilently>>It's Saturday evening. You just got off work and [[you're walking home from the bus stop.|Evan]]
You strike Yao, the first Devil Father. He, too, comes to life and springs off his pedestal to deliver a single line of dialogue before dying again:\n\n{{{You are mistaken if you think this is not real!}}}\n\n[[Try another.|Zabbath]]\n\n[[Approach Altaboth's empty pedestal.|Altaboth]]
The teleporter takes you to a long wide corridor. You follow it a few screens up, where it ends in a huge door shaped like a skull. You remember these doors. When you see one, you can be assured there's a Devil Father behind it. The final boss awaits you.\n\nYou take a deep breath. The end is near.\n\n[[Go through the boss door.|Father]]
Walking up, you find an open doorway that leads to another, smaller flooded chamber. A whirlpool spins in the center of it.\n\n[[Enter the whirlpool.|Statues]]
Summer of 1991, Evan got you the game for your birthday. A $60 game cartridge was an extravagant gift from a twelve year old back then. [[You felt a little awkward about it at the time.|Console]]
With cold precision and perfect timing, you stab at the crab boss just as it comes within pincering range, knocking it back a few tiles. Then, as it bounces back toward you, you do it again. And again. It's almost like one of those rhythm games from the '00s where you had to press the button in time to dance or rap or whatever. Well, you're the master of crab-hop tonight, as you smack the boss back again and again, never taking a hit. You lose count of how many perfectly-timed blows you land before the shell finally cracks, sending up a fountain of slimy ejecta that splashes down into the water [[as the boss sprite flickers and fades.|Victory]] You hear the "ka-chunk" sound effect of a door opening somewhere offscreen.\n\n[[Look for the door.|Whirlpool]]
You withdraw and try your projectile weapons against the Demon Knight, hoping to whittle down its health before you have to close in and engage it in hand-to-hand combat.\n\nAs you plink crossbow bolt after crossbow bolt into the malformed creature, it makes an odd flexing animation and begins to emit swirling crescent shapes that orbit its body. This whirling barrier of blades shields the Demon Knight from your missiles as it hurls massive fireballs at you. You dodge to the left and right, realizing that neither sword nor crossbow will help you here. The game gave you two Final Heartbreak Nuke Medallions to use in times of utter desperation; this would seem to be one of those times.\n\n[[Use one of your Final Heartbreak Nuke Medallions.|Nuke]]\n\n[[Look up strategies for fighting the Demon Knight on the internet.|FAQ]]
The room beyond the boss's chamber is small, containing only two braziers and an empty cell. The barred door to the cell hangs open.\n\nThis looks like the room where you would have rescued the princess. But the princess isn't here.\n\n[[You're at a bit of a loss as to what to do now.|Decision]]
This little flash of crude pathos brings you back to reality for a second. Evan used to make exaggerated tragic faces when his character in a game would die. Is it strange that you haven't much wondered how he died? There was nothing on Facebook to indicate what had happened.\n\nHe was in his thirties. Childless. No partner. [[It doesn't feel like much of a mystery to you.|Potion]]
The chamber above is flooded with water. Your character's movement is slowed as you wade through it.\n\nThe music changes. [[A mini-boss is approaching.|Claw]]
Returning to the Demon Knight's room, you know that you'll have to try a different approach.\n\n[[Hang back and use your Centaur's Crossbow|Crossbow]].\n\n[[Use one of your two Final Heartbreak Nuke Medallions.|Nuke]]
You run away from the crab's first approach, and end up in a frantic, fifteen minute game of cat-and-mouse, chipping away at the crab with desperate sword strikes and various hail mary shots with your exotic secondary weapons, until finally, after what has to be an exhausting, fifteen to twenty minute battle that leaves you with only a tiny scrap of health remaining, [[the crab dies a satisfyingly explosive death.|Mom]] You hear the "ka-chunk" sound effect of a door opening somewhere offscreen.\n\nYour heart is pounding. You're //sweating.// If you have to endure another boss fight like this you're going to need anxiety meds.\n\n[[Look for the door.|Whirlpool]]
{{{Who am I?}}}\n\n[[You are the first and the last.|Stairs]]
{{{Whence do you come?}}}\n\n[[From within.|Whence]]\n\n[[From without.|Whence]]
This is the first time you've really felt "in the zone" since you fired up //Space Temple II// again, and it's a nice feeling. You didn't realize, but maybe you've missed it. The timekilling free-to-play phone games and turgid, talky sandbox RPGs you occasionally play nowadays [[never give you anything resembling that rush.|Stab]]
In the basement of Gorham Castle, you find the room with the blue pots and push them into the pattern depicted in the Judge's chamber.\n\nWith an ominous, moaning sound effect, a pulsing elliptical portal materializes in the center of the room. You grin. Closure is within your sight at last. This is an exciting moment, even if it makes no sense that the entrance to the final dungeon was located in the basement of the castle where your hero begins his quest.\n\nOr did it? Maybe there's some [[in-game lore|Manga]] that justifies it. You can hardly remember all the trivia the game's NPCs dump on you. There was obviously quite a bit of fleshed-out backstory underpinning what was, on the surface, a pretty bog-standard kill-the-big-bad, rescue-the-princess plot. But you always had the sense that, even before it was poorly translated into English, a lot of it was murky and esoteric. There's probably some reason Altaboth hid the portal to his secret dimensional hideaway here. Whatever. [[It's time to kill him now.|Dungeon]]
<<set $pupa = "yes">>You try various means of attacking or otherwise interacting with the pupa. Nothing happens. You check your inventory; all the slots are full. As far as you can tell there's no secret item or key you're missing. But no matter what you do, the pupa remains silent and implacable.\n\nYou pause the game. You must have missed something, somewhere. Something elsewhere in the dungeon that would trigger the event that would allow you to proceed.\n\n[[Backtrack to the rotting bridge and try another path.|Rotting]]\n\n[[Wait a minute and see if something happens.|Wait]]
You keep walking. The color palettes start glitching on some of the wall tiles. [[All you can do is keep going.|Tiles]]
{{{What is it that you bring?}}}\n\n[[Union.|Bring]]\n\n[[Dissolution.|Bring]]
//Space Temple II: The Transformation of Altaboth//. That was the game.\n\nSpace Temple I never saw distribution in the US. Too cryptic, too unforgiving for American gamers, the magazines said. But the sequel was too big a hit to be denied. The mechanics had been given a user-friendly upgrade, but the challenge was just as steep, maybe moreso. This was the game you played when you could do //Legend of Zelda//'s second quest with three hearts and a wooden sword, when you could do a full clear of //Metroid// blindfolded, when you finished //Castlevania// and wondered [[where the hard mode was.|Console]]
You open the door and step through it. The game goes silent.\n\nYour character enters a diamond-shaped room made of plain white tiles. The last gate is in the center of the room, a blue nebula, glowing and pulsating.\n\n[[Approach the gate.|Gate]]
You could never figure out what Zabbath was supposed to be. Three elephant heads mushed together? You strike his statue and he hops down to say:\n\n{{{It could not be another way than this!}}}\n\n[[Try another.|Astafuss]]\n\n[[Approach Altaboth's empty pedestal.|Altaboth]]
The color scheme of the final dungeon is bruise purple and smoke gray. You cut down two of those tall skeleton enemies with the weirdly elongated skulls (like second nature, your //Space Temple II// combat skills come back to you) before reaching a fork in the path: two bridges, one broad and sturdy, the other decrepit and rotting.\n\n[[Take the sturdy bridge.|Sturdy]]\n\n[[Take the rotting bridge.|Rotting]]
You select and use the Final Heartbreak Nuke Medallion. The screen glows red, then fills with bursting bubbles of pixelated fire. Even that, overkill for any other non-boss enemy in the game, is only enough to take away about three quarters of the Demon Knight's health. But with the confidence that a strong lead gives you, you manage to dart in and chip away at him with your sword until he crumbles into a heap of bones.\n\n[[At the other side of the room, a door appears.|Maze]]
The door opens to let you through, then slams shut behind you.\n\nYou're in a black room with burning braziers in the four corners. A horned skull design is etched into the floor. [[But something isn't right.|Lion]]
The stairs take you down to a long hallway. There is nowhere to go but up. [[You start walking.|Hallway]]
Going in for the direct melee attack, you find that your thirtysomething reflexes aren't quite on par with the twitchy, spastic combat moves of the Demon Knight. Your sword makes a tellingly ineffectual //ding// sound at it connects with what must be his armored flanks, then it knocks you back with some kind of spinning attack and vomits homing projectiles at you. Within seconds your life meter is reduced to a tiny sliver.\n\nHow did Evan do this before? You can't remember. He was giving you an enthusiastic running commentary at the time, but you weren't really paying attention. His mom and brother were arguing in her bedroom. Evan kept turning up the volume.\n\nYou pause the game, drink a health potion, and go in for another exchange of blows. The Demon Knight pulses out some kind of shockwave, and before you know it the screen goes black, your little hero slumps over dead, and the Game Over screen is taunting you. You hit "continue" and start again at the beginning of the dungeon.\n\n[[Return to face the Demon Knight a second time.|DemonTwo]]\n\n[[See what's beyond that other bridge.|Rotting]]
Beyond the locked door lies a floor of featureless black. Only the standing pillars to the left and right suggest that this is a walkable floor, not an empty void. You walk your character up, past the pillars, until a large strange object scrolls into view. A hovering brown oval with curious features. You stop and look at it for a long moment.\n\nIt's a pupa, a chrysalis. This must be Altaboth, in the midst of his transformation. The last Devil Father. The final boss.\n\n[[Shoot it with a bolt.|Nothing]]\n\n[[Strike it with your sword.|Nothing]]\n\n[[Walk up to it and press the talk button.|Nothing]]
The mini-boss looks like a wheel with a grotesque face at its hub, and it rolls swiftly through the corridors trying to crush you. The damn thing is too fast to hit, and every time you try it slams into you.\n\n[[Maybe there's something in your inventory that will help.|Potion]]
Evan always drew prettier maps, but yours were more accurate. And organized. You kept a big binder full of all the video game maps you'd worked on together. He'd asked for them back, once. In...ninth grade? But your mom had thrown them away. It had seemed [[such a bizarre request at the time.|Maze]]
You strike the statue of Sakras, Evan's favorite boss. It's funny the effect a few pixels representing breasts can have on a boy on the cusp of adolescence. She flickers to life, leaps down, and speaks her piece:\n\n{{{This is the false way. Can you see that now?}}}\n\nYou frown at the game. There'd better not be another dungeon, or some artificial game-lengthening shenanigans like in //Ghosts & Goblins//. You came to finish this, and you want to see it end. Tonight.\n\n"Don't give me that shit, Sakras," you mutter at the screen.\n\n[[Try another.|Elon]]\n\n[[Approach Altaboth's empty pedestal.|Altaboth]]
You walk up to a mushroom and press the action button. Nothing happens. You try hitting it with your sword. Again, nothing. They're just there for decoration, it seems.\n\nEvan would have tried to pick the mushrooms. Right? Or maybe you're just projecting later knowledge onto the boy he was. Evan, your best friend, was the kind of kid who'd wear a D.A.R.E. shirt unironically and rat out the kids he saw smoking weed after school to a counselor. But there was a subsequent Evan, a high school Evan, who hung with the burnout crowd and did shrooms and LSD and who the hell knew what else. An Evan you hardly ever talked to. But he was happier then. Or at least, more relaxed. Less fearful. You could see it in his face, in the way he walked. You remember the day you first noticed it, the day he stopped you to tell you his mom had finally kicked his brother out of the house. There was nothing needy or pathetic about it, not like when he used to try to ambush you into a conversation in junior high. You gave him a hug after he told you. That was the first and only time you ever gave him a hug.\n\n[[Continue onward.|DemonKnight]]
The sixth dungeon was hidden under the dry grass on the Infinite Plain. You could burn it all down square by square until you found it, or you could trade an item that had a 1 in 64 chance of dropping from a rare enemy to some stupid townsperson who'd tell you where it was. The game magazines couldn't even help you with this one; the location on the plain was randomly determined.\n\nYou and Evan spent a long Sunday afernoon doing this one via the brute force method. You were so excited when you finally found it you both whooped and hollered and his brother banged on his bedroom wall and told you to shut the fuck up.\n\n"Evan," you whispered, "why is your brother such an asshole?"\n\nIt wasn't the first time you'd asked that. [[Evan never really had an answer.|HardMode]]
Pausing the game, you grab your phone, bypassing Google and going straight to GameFAQs. There's not much on //Space Temple II//, just one incomplete walkthrough and a general tips and strategy document, dated 2007, from a user by the name of LunarPlanetary. You click on it and search for "Demon Knight." You are rewarded with a paragraph about exploiting his rather crude AI by using certain attack patterns that will cause him to lower his defenses and deploy his less-dangerous offensive maneuvers.\n\nThese tactics prove quite effective. A few minutes later, the Demon Knight is dead, and a door appears [[in the back of his room.|Maze]]
Your character turns around to face you, the player. A few lines of text slowly materialize on the screen.\n\n{{{Congratulation!}}}\n\n{{{This is the good ending.}}}\n\n{{{You are the hero of Space Temple!}}}\n\nThe screen fades to black. [[The credits start rolling.|Credits]]
You sit up. Your neck is stiff; you were sitting hunched over, leaning intently towards the screen, for a long time.\n\nYou remember the last time you played a video game with Evan. It wasn't //Space Temple II,// it was the system's buggy but gorgeous port of //Contra.// It was one of those games you could play through together on two-player cooperative mode without thinking too much about it. The two of you blasted through wave after wave of robots and aliens, making liberal use of cheat codes, munching on Tostitos without dip in between levels. Evan wasn't the least bit anxious that day. [[It was at your house.|Bye]]
{{{In what attitude do you stand here before me?}}}\n\n[[I am shameless.|Attitude]]\n\n[[I am ashamed.|Attitude]]
Would he even care? He'd never really made any attempt to reach out to you after you "reconnected" on Facebook.\n\nBut the fact was, as much as you'd choose to characterize it as "drifting apart," you terminated the friendship. You did what they'd call the slow fade nowadays, making excuses for not being able to hang out, "forgetting" to return his phone calls, pretending not to see him when he'd wave to you at school while you were talking to other, newer friends. He was too hyper, you told yourself, too easily upset, too fragile, too clingy. And then your friends started telling you //you know, he's in LOVE with you//, and, well, you had to make sure everybody knew //that// was ridiculous and one-sided, didn't you?\n\nThen he went and did it. He sent a letter. By mail. Certified mail, //fucking certified mail//, your mom had to take you down to the post office to sign for it, this big long letter that made you want to die of embarrassment for him, wistfully itemizing all the good times you had and asking why you couldn't be friends anymore. You avoided him at school for about a week, then gave him some boilerplate about getting older and growing apart when he finally cornered you.\n\nSo, yeah. Maybe his ghost wouldn't want anything to do with you. Or maybe it would [[never leave you alone.|HardMode]]
You don't want to know how long your little twin-souled avatar, your BUTTMNCH, will survive in the fragile, dying battery-backed memory cells of the game cartridge. But you know now he was never meant to get this far, never meant to stand before Altaboth's pupa, never meant to rescue the princess and seal the last gate. The pupa's refusal to yield its secrets to you has made this clear in your mind. The Tundra of Terror was as far as he was ever meant to go. This cartridge was a record of two kids' adventures in unreality, and whatever you were trying to accomplish by finishing what you abandoned so many years ago, it was too late for that now.\n\nYou take the cartridge out and put it back in its plastic sleeve. Scrounging in your kitchen drawers for a Post-It note, you label it:\n\n//Evan & Me on the Tundra\nSummer 1992//\n\nBack in the keepsake box it goes, back in the closet. You feel tired and drained, as you often did after long days with Evan, and your eyes and hands don't have the same tolerance for 8-bit games as they used to. No meaningless digital tribute can set right whatever went wrong for Evan, anyway. You don't really even know the man you're mourning. Only the boy you once decided you'd had enough of.\n\n''The End...?''
Enough is enough. Evan doesn't need you to finish this, and this wasn't [[how you intended to spend your Saturday night.|Cards]] You turn off the game, get up, walk into the kitchen, and open up the fridge. You take out a beer, hesitate, then take out a second.\n\nYou open the sliding door to your deck and step outside. There's a planter box there with nothing in it but dirt and the bare brown stems of whatever plant you last tried to grow. You open both beers, take a sip of one. You tap a few search terms into your phone, find a video, hit play.\n\n//It's so haaaard to say goodbyyyye//\n\nYou start pouring the second beer out into the planter box.\n\n"Bye, Evan," you say. "You're the hero. I gave up. Good luck in the next life."\n\n//To yesterdaaaaay//\n\nHe never liked Boyz II Men, but maybe, like with you, his musical judgements mellowed over time.\n\n''The End...?''
For screen after screen you walk. No enemies jump out to attack you, nothing changes. [[The hallway seems endless.|Glitch]]
Astafuss, the fourth dungeon boss, the chicken-octopus thing, comes to life at the touch of your sword and tells you:\n\n{{{Who brought you to this place?? Think!!}}}\n\n[[Try another.|Sakras]]\n\n[[Approach Altaboth's empty pedestal.|Altaboth]]
"Hive" is almost certainly a reference to Buzzley Bumblebee, the GraphiQuest's mascot and star of the console's most Super Marioesque platformer. Like most mascots of that era, Buzzley was heavy on "attitude." You can still remember the commercial where Buzzley raps, and [[it still makes you want to cringe.|Decision]]
prize bull octorok\n(@BullOctorok)
You try again. Nothing. What the hell?\n\nYou're about to pick up your phone and consult the forum again, but you move your character a few steps away from the pupa out of habit.\n\nA dialogue box appears.\n\n{{{Who are you?}}}\n\nTwo choices of reply are given to you:\n\n[[I am the first.|Who]]\n\n[[I am the last.|Who]]
The game came with a thick instruction booklet that had dense small-print paragraphs of flavor text about almost every item and enemy, but you never did more than skim it. Evan, however, found it fascinating, to the point where you finally gave him the booklet so he could take it home and read it to his heart's content.\n\nYou're pretty sure you heard about a tie-in manga a [[few years back, too.|Castle]]
You come to what seems to be a garden. Stark white mushrooms, leafless trees, and creeping vines fill the screen.\n\n[[Cut down a tree.|Tree]]\n\n[[Try to pick a mushroom.|Mushroom]]\n\n[[Press onward.|DemonKnight]]
The whirlpool drops you into a large chamber. Statues of the six vanquished [[Devil Fathers|Mother]] stand lined up against the back wall. An empty pedestal held a place for the seventh: Altaboth, the final boss hidden somewhere in this dungeon, transforming into whatever he was supposed to become.\n\nEvan once made a joke about how you and he both had devil fathers, but that had seemed like a reach to you. Evan had barely known his own father, who died when he was a toddler, and your father was no devil, just a common garden-variety deadbeat.\n\n[[Approach the empty pedestal.|Altaboth]]\n\n[[Swing your sword at one of the statues.|Samaal]]
[[The gate shrinks into a small sphere, turns gray, and vanishes.|TheEnd]]
The fifth dungeon was the lair of the serpent queen Sakras. It just so happened that there was a serpent carved into the ground up on the Plateau of Doom; was it any surprise that if you played the seemingly-useless Snake Charmer Flute you picked up in the fourth dungeon there, a dungeon entrance would open up at the serpent's head? Especially with all the obvious hints the NPCs were dropping?\n\nFinding the dungeon had been fun, completing it less so. Evan kept saying how hot Sakras was for a video game character and he'd always make weird sex grunts and say "oh yeah, this is what you want, just fucking take it," and stuff like that when he was in combat with her. You told him to knock it off but he'd just say you were being uptight and he was just joking and [[keep doing it.|HardMode]]