As James runs after the shadow from the street he passes a small area on his right that is behind a waist-high chainlink fence, and within there is a red save square, which can be seen from outside of the chainlink fence. To enter this area and use the save square, you have to pass through a loading screen — the screen fades to black then quickly fades back in, with James now on the opposite side of the fence. However, you can still see the street that you just came from, same as when you were in the street you could see into the area that was fenced-off. It seems perfectly possible that the makers of Silent Hill 2 could have removed the gate and by proxy the loading screen into the fenced-off area, and you could just run into it and save then run back out and carry on without interruption. If we go back though to the “groping around inside my skull” line from when James first “uses” a save point, and this idea that save games are a metaphor for memories — that when we save, we are somehow accessing something internal to James; making tangible, in the form of save data, his past experiences, as a symbol for his process of rendering and reconciling with his past actions, the creation of save data somehow symbolic of unearthing, solidifying and coming to terms with a repressed memory — it makes a similar kind of metaphorical sense that this action take place besides the game’s main action, that James retreats, through a loading screen, into this separate, specific area for a moment as we might retreat into ourselves or into a dream for introspection. Saving in Silent Hill 2 becomes, I think, reminiscent of — like James is doing in the game’s opening frame — taking a look at oneself and attempting to reconcile that this is what I have done; this is where I am. The fact that this particular save game area is placed and delineated from the main game so purposefully and artificially helps to punctuate this idea, that at some level, James is undergoing a process of personal reflection and rapprochment, that he is stopping to think about the past.

We leave the save game area and run along a short dirt path into what will eventually reveal itself as a dead end. There’s a small tunnel, beneath a bridge, partially boarded over with wooden planks. As we approach it, a short cutscene begins. We hear the sound of electrical white noise and James bends to pick up a small, portable radio. In the background, not yet noticed by James, is the game’s first true enemy, a humanoid figure whose upper body is wrapped in fleshy, membraney sack that covers its face and presses its arms together and tight against its torso like a straitjacket. In some Silent Hill 2 literature and criticism these creatures are referred to as “Patient Demons”. Elsewhere they are called the “Lying Figure”, a more abstract name that I think is credited to the game’s monster designer Masahiro Ito. The symbolism of these creatures has been discussed elsewhere at length — it’s argued that their confinement, within their own flesh, represents James’ own psychological pain and inability to escape from the things that he has done; an inability to escape from the “straitjacket” that is himself. More interesting to me is James’ reaction on first seeing the monster, whereby he winces slightly, but otherwise seems undisturbed — considering that he has just seen a monster James doesn’t behave with discernible surprise or fear. We get the impression that although he may not have seen a Patient Demon before, he intrinsically and acutely, recognises it. It is familiar to him as a manifestation of feelings that, although he is yet to fully comprehend or reconcile, he knows exist, and is beginning to comprehend before the game begins. When he sees the monster, it is the equivalent of a brief moment of disquieting imagination or rumination — what we might often call an intrusive thought. The monster embodies a part of James’ hidden desires, anxieties and complexes. His reaction tells us that these are not new to him, they just haven’t so far occured to him in a form so immediate and stark.

This interpretation is aided by the aforementioned radio, which is added to our inventory and becomes a key mechanical item for the rest of the game. When monsters are nearby, the quiet static of the radio is interrupted by louder, more discordant electronic noises, acting both as an early-warning system and part of the game’s frightening, panicking soundtrack. This idea that the monsters — and especially in this first encounter, this first ever monster — somehow “cut through noise”, somehow interrupt and invade the comparative stillness of the radio, reflects again how they represent something that is always there and occasionally bubbles, or rather transmits, to the surface. This first monster awakens James to something within him; as the game progresses and the monsters become more numerate, what has been awakaned within him and is pushing out from repressed memory into his conscious mind, becomes more difficult for him — and of course the player, who has to strategise to either avoid or fight the enemies — to ignore. Likewise, the constant, rhythmic stillness of the pocket radio’s white noise becomes less constant, less rhythmic and less still.

As well as see and begin to more deeply understand, we can hear whatever it is within James clawing its way to the top.

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