Media: Black ball pen on paper
Date of start: 16.3.2009
Date of finish: 17.3.2009

One of the most interesting characters I have ever came across. You'll learn to love him. He is simply the funniest floating, talking skull ever. But then again, he's probably the only floating, talking skull you'll ever meet.

Morte is a talking skull. His sole weapon seems to be his mouth, whether by taunting or biting. He seems to be along for the ride, whether you want him around or not.

You are somewhat curious as to how he is able to float around.

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PST: The Mortuary (1-1)

Original text by Chris Avellone and Colin McComb
Original novelisation by Rhyss Hess

Chapter 1-1

 I had a vague but strangely familiar sensation as if I am lying on a cold hard slab and that someone is slowly pushing it towards a detested destination. Then a series of peculiar dreams filled my mind: A black pillar covered with white inscriptions. Rows upon rows of skulls on shelves. A symbol burned in flames. A woman smiling at me and yet seeming so sad. A petty thug slashing his knife at me. An ethereal ghost.
     I awoke to find myself on a slab, made of carved stone lined with rusty metal along the edges. Briefly glancing around, I realised that I was in a middle of a large room of bizarre qualities. As I levered myself up, I caught movement from the corner of my eye. A floating white-grey skull with a perfect  pair of eyeballs in the eye sockets. No, I realized as it spoke: a floating, talking, skull.
     “Hey, chief. You okay? You playing corpse or you putting the blinds on the Dusties? I thought you were a deader for sure.” I was confused, and had trouble focusing on what the skull was saying.
     “Wh…? Who are you?”
     “Uh… who am I? How about you start? Who’re you?”
     “I… don’t know. I can’t remember.” It was an overwhelming experience to discover that my memory was a blank slate.
     “You can’t remember your name? Heh. Well, NEXT time you spend a night in this berg, go easy on the bub. Name’s Morte. I'm trapped in here, too.”
     “Yeah, since you haven’t had time to get your legs yet, here’s the chant: I've tried all the doors, and this room is locked tighter than a chastity belt.” I needed to orient myself and find out from the skull where I was.
     “We’re locked in… where? What is this place?”
     “It’s called the ‘Mortuary'… it’s a big black structure with all the architectural charm of a pregnant spider.”
     “ ‘The Mortuary?’ What… am I dead?” I did not think this was all still a dream.
     “Not from where I'm standing. You got scars a-plenty, though… looks like some berk painted you with a knife. All the more reason to give this place the laugh before whoever carved you up comes back to finish the job.”
     “Scars? How bad are they?”
     “Well… the carvings on your chest aren’t TOO bad… but the ones on your back…” Morte paused. “Say, looks like you got a whole tattoo gallery on your back, chief. Spells out something…”
     I looked down at myself, and realized the truth about the scars Morte mentioned. They covered nearly every visible bit of my skin. There was a tattoo on my arm as well, the same one I saw from my dream. I wondered what was on my back, though.
     “Tattoos on my back? What do they say?”
     “Heh! Looks like you come with directions…” Morte cleared his throat. “Let’s see… it starts with… ‘I know you feel like you've been drinking a few kegs of Styx wash, but you need to CENTRE yourself. Among your possessions is a JOURNAL that'll shed some light on the dark of the matter. PHAROD can fill you in on the rest of the chant, if he’s not in the dead-book already.’ ”
     “Pharod…? Does it say anything else?”
     “Yeah, there’s a bit more…” Morte paused. “Let’s see… it goes on…”
     “ ‘Don’t lose the journal or we'll be up the Styx again. And whatever you do, DO NOT tell anyone WHO you are or WHAT happens to you, or they'll put you on a quick pilgrimage to the crematorium. Do what I tell you: READ the journal, then FIND Pharod.’ ” Morte sounded very serious.
     “No wonder my back hurts; there’s a damn novel written there. As for that journal I'm supposed to have with me… was there one with me while I was lying here?”
     “No… you were stripped to the skins when you arrived here. ‘Sides, looks like you got enough of a journal penned on your body.”
     “What about Pharod? Do you know him?” I was curious as to how this person’s name got on my back. Was he a friend? Someone important, perhaps?
     “Nobody I know… but then again, I don’t know many people. Still, SOME berk’s got to know where to find Pharod… uh, once we get out of here, that is.”
     “How do we get out of here?” I looked more intently around the dimly lit room. It was shaped, interestingly enough, like a slice of a cake. The floor was constructed of tiles of uneven shape with shades of grey, green and blue. Occasional railway tracks ran across the room. I was still wondering what those tracks were for until I realised that they were for the seven or so slabs in the room, seeing a railway track crossed underneath the slab I was on.
     “Well, all the doors are locked, so we'll need the key. Chances are, one of the walking corpses in this room has it.”
     “Walking corpses?” I queried.
     “Yeah, the Mortuary keepers use dead bodies as cheap labour. The corpses are dumb as stones, but they’re harmless, and won’t attack you unless you attack first.” Morte was suggesting that I kill these corpses. How ironic.
     “Is there some other way? I don’t want to kill them just for a key.”
     “What, you think it’s going to hurt their feelings? They’re DEAD. But if you want a bright side to this: if you kill them, at least they'll have a rest before their keepers raise them up to work again.”
     “Well, all right… I'll take one of them down and get the key.”
     I surveyed the room again and saw some zombies at the far right side of the room beside several slabs, almost hidden in the dark shadows. They appeared to shuffle around slowly, attending to whatever work they were assigned to, presumably. I was about to approach one of them before Morte interrupted me.
     “Well, before you do that, arm yourself first. I think there’s a scalpel on one of the shelves around here.”
     “All right, I’ll look for one.”
     “One last thing: Those corpses are as slow as molasses, but getting punched by one of them is like being kissed by a battering ram. If they start getting an edge on you, remember you can RUN, and they can’t.”
     “All right. Thanks for the advice.” I sheepishly replied.
     I spotted a cupboard against a wall behind me and started to walk towards it. I passed by another slab, then briefly stopped to examine it. This slab was covered with dried blood and other remains. A device sat at the end of the slab, looking like some sort of sewing machine… arms with hooks, tubes, and metallic thread hang from it. Beside the slab, just on the floor, were barrels containing a murky liquid. It smelled like a cross between vinegar and formaldehyde.
     I finally reached the wooden cupboard to find it almost as disgusting as the slab I just encountered. Bandages, jars of fluids of various colours, and some rags covered with blood line the shelves. On the counter lie several dirty surgical tools and a pool of red blood awaiting evaporation.
     I searched the drawers until I came up with a scalpel. The simple surgical cutting tool looked like it has seen a lot of use. Morte, who was floating and following my every move, chimed in.
     “All right, you found a scalpel! Now, go get those corpses… and don’t worry, I'll stay back and provide valuable tactical advice.”
     “Maybe you could help me, Morte.”
     “I WILL be helping you. Good advice is hard to come by.” The jabbering skull could be annoying.
     “I meant help in attacking the corpse.
     “Me? I'm a romantic, not a soldier. I'd just get in the way.”
     “When I attack this corpse, you better be right there with me or you'll be the next thing that I plunge this scalpel in.”
     “Eh… all right. I'll help you.” Morte tilted up and down in a nod.
     “I’m glad we understand each other.” I smiled sarcastically.
     “Time to introduce these corpses to the second death, then…”
     “Let’s go.”
     I approached one of the zombies mindlessly moving about the room. This shambling male corpse looked like it has been dead for several years. The skin along its forehead had peeled back, revealing its chalk-white skull. Someone had chiselled the number “569” into the exposed bone.
     “I’m looking for a key… do you happen to have one?” I asked the corpse.
     “Uh, chief… they can’t hear you, all right? They’re dead.” Morte swished from behind me.
     “But you’re dead. And you’re talking to me.”
     “Yeah, but I’m special. Death couldn’t kill my zest for life. These corpses here…” Morte rolled his eyes. “They probably didn’t have much personality to begin with.”
     “I… see.” The first few minutes of my lucidity was getting increasingly weird.
     I examined the corpse, but it did not appear to be carrying a key… and it did not look like it would be able to use one if it did. Its fingers were broken, as if someone smashed them with a hammer.
     Behind the zombie was a body supine on a slab. It looked like someone was in the middle of dissecting the corpse. It was turned in inside out; a machine at the head of the table has peeled the skin off the forehead to give direct access to the skull. I doubt it was the zombie’s work, however.
     I left the walking corpse in peace and went closer to another zombie nearby. Again, I was distracted by a dead body on a slab beside the zombie. A bloody cloth covered the remains of the cadaver. The stench rising from the body is almost unbearable.
     It puzzled me how I did not feel disturbed with the state of this room: multiple slabs covered in blood, cadavers dissected open just waiting for the dissector to complete the job, bodily remains kept in jars while some spread over tables, and the odor of embalming fluid mixed with the smell of decay wafting in the cold air. I imagined any other person would drown in fear.
     The corpse stopped and stared blankly at me as I approach. The number “782” was carved into his forehead, and his lips were stitched closed. The faint smell of formaldehyde emanated from the body.
     “This looks like the lucky petitioner here, chief. Look… he’s got the key there in his hand.” I didn’t need Morte’s help to see that. It was holding the key tightly in its left hand, its thumb and forefinger locked around it in a death grip. I probably needed to hack the corpse’s hand off to free the key.
     “I need that key, corpse… looks like you’re not long for this world.” I muttered to myself.  Several calculated thrusts with the scalpel and a couple of bites from Morte killed the creature swiftly that it barely was able to retaliate. I forced the key out from its dead hand.
     The key was tied with a dirty cloth labelled “Preparation Room Key”. The head of this bronze key had been twisted around itself several times, so that it resembles a screw. If Morte was to be believed, it would unlock one of the doors in this room.
     There were three door; two on the wall with the cupboard and another on the opposite wall. At random, I chose the door nearest to me, which coincidentally was the farthest from the cupboard.
     The metal door was double-hinged and large enough to be a gate, with a dull design of vertical stripes but oddly menacing, as if the designer intended that anyone wishing to pass through this door to have second thoughts.  I used the key nervously, not knowing what would lie beyond this room.

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Geek for Games

I don't think I've ever explicitly mentioned it before, but I play games. Like PC games. And PS2 games (used to, at least). And PSP games. And PS3 games. And (recently) XBox 360 games.

And I play a lot.

Well, not as much as I used to. But still I'm sort of like a geek when it comes to video games.

And I know what you're thinking... "You're wasting a lot of time playing games. You don't get anything out of it! Blah blah blah..." I could write down more examples but I figured I should stop right there since I have been hearing those comments since I was a foetus. Trust me, I could endlessly list down those comments and overload Blogger's servers until they crash.

No kidding.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that the thing about "wasting your time playing games" is not entirely true. If it was true, then by extension watching movies and your favourite TV series are also considered wasting your time. Heck, even reading novels is a massive time-wasting then.

Games, like TV series and books, come with different genres. Some, like Tetris and Pac-man, are designed for you have to have fun (and possibly a significant degree of frustration when your T-shaped block got stuck in an awkward position on level 9 or when a red ghost eats your hero Pac-man just when he's about to chomp the big fat power ball) while sapping your time like there's no tomorrow. I don't play these kind of games simply because they're BORING and POINTLESS. (Tetris and Pac-man big fans, yeah, you heard me.)

What I do play is games that tell stories. You take control of the protagonist and follow his or her adventure as the story unravel before you. Instead of you watching a story or reading a tale, you drive the story forward at your own pace. Some games even allow you to alter the course of the story. See, it's almost like watching a movie of sort. Or reading a novel.


I grew up playing a lot of story-driven games, and I can tell you that they contribute about 20% of my current English vocabulary. Not to sound like a kindergarten teacher, but it is kinda like learning English the fun way. And I do mean LOTS of fun. Now that I think about it, playing games can actually be great alternative for those people who claim that they just can't read books at all yet wanting to upgrade their English proficiency.

If you read The Five People You Meet in Heaven, improving your English isn't the only thing you get out of it. You also gain knowledge and insights, as well as values and lessons. And guess what? Games can give you that, too. Certainly not all games, but great ones are certainly capable of sucking you into their world, simply because your mind craves for those rare knowledge, insights, values and lessons. One particular game I've played was set in a world very much unlike ours, but the main theme and other messages were ironically applicable in human lives and they surprisingly bordered on the philisophical territory. Not all games are as shallow as you might think.

I'm not advocating for the world to start going frenzy on games, even if I sounded like I am. All I'm saying is that games can be a incredibly amazing experience, in some ways much more than movies, TV series and novels. If you are enticed into playing games now, then by all means go ahead and play. Of course, you have to know your limits. You just don't do movie marathons of LOTR, Star Wars, and Superman on weekdays when you have to go to work or class. Or read all seven Harry Potter novels in one go without eating and showering (urghh...). Do things, do everything in moderation. Maybe you watch The Fellowship of the Ring today, and The Two Tower the next day. You finish a chapter today, and read the next chapter of The Deathly Hallows tomorrow (Note: from experience, this is NOT an easy thing to do). Similarly, you play your games for a couple of hours at a time.

And of course, as with everything, things in practice is a lot harder than what you know in theory. But if you can manage to do that, then great! Give yourself a pat on the shoulder and stand proud in the knowledge that you are very strong-willed and much in control of your life by not letting the games take control over your life instead. If I can do it, there's no reason why you can't!

(Oh, I just hate it when I start to get all mushy. Not to mention, waaaaaay off track, which I hate even more.)

Anyway, I fondly recall a PC game that I played way back in 1999. It had such an immersive story, following the personal journey of a man to literally know his own self when he had no recollection of his past memories and discovered that he would not die, ever. Ten years later, now in 2009, you can just imagine the number of games that I had played and completed, and I can still say with absolute confidence that it was a game with one of the greatest stories I've ever indulged in my entire life. All gamers that I've met who had finished that game also enthusiastically agreed. I even did a bit of a read up on forums to find that simply everyone who has played that game fell in the deepest love with the story.

I think it's a complete waste that non-gamers (and most gamers who somehow missed the game) weren't able to enjoy the story as I and the others did. So I started on a project to novelise the game, adhering as faithfully as I can to the storyline. Mind you, I'm not going to actually publish the novel and sell it. There exists two novelisation attempts by two different authors out there, but the novels are doing injustice to the game (speaking from a die-hard-fan point of view). Besides, the novels are pretty rare in bookstores nowadays.

So I'm taking the better novel of the two, editing it HEAVILY and adding a lot more of the game content into the novel to give readers immersion closest to the one that you can only experience by playing the game. So yeah, I'm playing the game again very slowly, transcribing some of the text from the game and weaving them into the novel. It's certainly not an easy task, and it's certainly very time-consuming. It doesn't sound like a very pleasant job, but I'm actually enjoying very much.

I hope you'll enjoy the story.

Oh, and the title is "Planescape: Torment". Ponder upon that for a second.
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