Expand: Belonging

This is a companion piece to this month’s Game Club, a write-up on my experience with Expand by Chris Johnson. There are spoilers here, and it’s a great game, so I definitely recommend you play it before reading!


I don’t belong here.

This place is foreign, its edges wrong, moving me more than I can move myself. There are no corners for me to find, no crevaces in which I can hide, no opportunity to feel as if I am somewhere I am meant to be.

Before, I had barely stopped to consider my body. It was me, I was it, we existed in this balance where my thoughts and its actions were perfectly aligned. Now I could not be more aware of this thing, this thing that is me, this thing that doesn’t fit, that doesn’t work, that doesn’t change.

I need more space. I need air, I need time, I need to finally breathe once more. As I jerk forward, I feel the walls brush against me, reminding me of how close they are and will be, of how no matter how smooth I can trick myself into being, they will always be there waiting to catch me, to push me, to guide me along. I can see the exit closing ahead of me, I can see these walls have left me behind and I know, I know that it is too late –

Everything returns to how it was before. The world rotates not around me, but towards me, moving itself to accommodate my failure. I push forward, for the shifting walls allow no way to return, and this time they close behind me. I start to glide, shifting my weight from one side to the other, the walls keeping me on track, pushing me further and further into unfamiliar lands.

And then, I lose the walls. All around they start to turn red, no longer ambivalent, and they begin their attack. This place wants rid of me far more than I want rid of it, it wishes me broken, stuck and unable to take anymore. It wants this story to remain unfinished, it wants to prove for once and for all that it is strong enough to beat me, it wants me to admit it.

No. I refuse.

I ask my body to glide, my body agrees, and together we move through the gaps in the space that were built just for us. The world shifts, grows and shrinks, moves and stops, changes upon our command. Where once it closed the path on our approach, now it opens. Even now, as its anger grows, a tidal wave of blood red making relentless chase, doors reveal themselves before it can make contact.

Ahead, I see the final clearing. It comes closer and farther all at once, as I drive my body forward on this endless straight line, allowing myself to believe that maybe I will escape. I can feel the heat of the world behind me, I can feel the air ahead, and I know that whatever happens I can’t stop. I am on this road until the end, me and my body, my body and these walls, these walls and this anger; everything in conflict yet all guiding me towards one inevitable ending.

I’m tired. I haven’t stopped moving in so long, my body has done so much that it wasn’t designed for, we’ve done more than we ever thought we could. Just one more push, just one more push, one more…

Silence. I couldn’t remember what silence felt like, but it all comes rushing back as the walls slip away and I am once more free. I look around me, searching for some kind of sign as to what lies ahead, and find no indication that anything lies anywhere at all. I can move at will, my body at last in line with the axis of the world. Is there anything waiting for me outside the lines? Can’t I stay here, in the light, for a second longer?

Oh god.

I don’t belong here.

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