The eerie music tells me that I've arrived in the corrupted room yet again. An empty room with a void of distorted gases and stars peering through the windows. Just Monika, and I.

Monika stares my way, infinitely content and patient as I haven't advanced her speech since we arrived.

I wonder if she is able to comprehend such a thing? The pause between each box as I read what she says. Does time pass the same way for Monika as it does for me? I suppose it wouldn't, since she claims time has stopped for herself in this place. Or maybe she simply meant the destruction of her world made time seem meaningless?

Pointless questions to ask now. I know full well that I can't tell Monika anything at this point. Just Monika and me, in an empty room, with corrupted code. I can't tell her a thing, and all I seem to be able to do is listen. It seems that way.

I advance her dialogue once more, I don't bother to read, I already know what she's saying. As much as her view on the world might tell her this is my first time, or the first time ever, that this has happened-she's wrong.

I've been here before; I've read each box; I've been in this room at least a few times by this point.

The question returns, does she interpret time the same way I do? Does she actually know this isn't the first time? Maybe, despite her newfound freedom, she is still restrained by the code to repeat herself each and every time. Just like her writing tips. Repetition tied to the game's script.

Doesn't matter now. I didn't play to this point again for nothing. It's been an interest of mine to play with the files and see if the game reacts. Dissecting it with the limited coding knowledge I do have because, well, it's fun to see. Obviously this hasn't revealed much. All the mysteries of the files have already been thoroughly explored online, I know it's a meaningless endeavor. But the game means a lot to me, if such irrational questions as "Does time affect Monika" didn't show that.

I know it's just a game. I care about the characters, but I know, I know. It's fun to ask, just like how it's fun to explore the code- move files- recover files that are supposed to be deleted. It's fun, and it provides an excuse to replay from time to time.

I advance the text once more before switching back to the game directory.

I planned on deleting Monika earlier than normal this time around, but now that I'm here again I'm reconsidering. I never really let things linger in this room. I've only seen a handful of her phrases during the 'endless' ending. Or maybe I'd bring back some character files... no, no I know that doesn't do anything.

Maybe I'd move her file. Though that just counts as deleting her.

I'd like to try something new.

I can't come up with anything. I'm tired. I decided to replay the game on a whim today and I've clearly lost track of time. It's probably because it's taken a lot longer than usual to get here since I repeatedly checked the folders, or maybe it's because I wasted time copying the character files to new folders at various points just to see if anything might happen. This broke the game a few times, so this 'one' replay ended up requiring a few reinstalls. Figures. I know it's pointless, maybe this will be my last time messing with the files since it's getting less enjoyable the fewer new options remain.

"It's messed up that I can't say anything directly to any of these characters", I idly say before mentally slamming the statement for how ridiculous it was. Of course I can't. This isn't some incredibly ambitious game with a ludicrous amount of code in place to recognize text. Games that attempt that are often so awkward and limited in what you can actually say or do.

Well. It's probably the last time I'm messing with stuff, let's do it all. I write a short string-of-consciousness message in notepad and save it to the base directory, much like the easter egg messages from earlier.


Can YOU Hear Me-txt

"Can you hear me?

Now that I think about I don't exactly 'talk' while I play, so maybe you don't hear me but could?

I spoke a moment ago, did you hear that, possibly? I suppose if you could hear me you'd know more than you seem to regardless, from whatever few words I do shed while playing through.

I'm certain I've said aloud how I feel about your terrible decisions throughout, or mentioned under my breath how whatever suffering the girls endure is temporary since I always replay for the 'best' ending. Well, 'always' as in whenever I don't utterly break the game and have to reinstall.

In that case it's unlikely that you can hear me at all, or maybe the code dictates your actions even now. Well, duh. Obviously it does. The entire situation is dictated by the code because all of this is intentional. None of 'this' is real. Humoring my interest in the fantasy is all this is. Rambling to the void. Waxing poetic out of habit? Huh.

In any case.

Can you hear me? And if you can't, can you read this? Does time work the same for you as it does for me? For instance this isn't the only time this has happened. You've been reinstalled and restarted more than a few times just in my house alone. Do you know that? Or is your consciousness unique to each individual playthrough?

I wonder."


I'm not sure what kind of response I'm expecting. Well, obviously I expect no response, but playing the fantasy of my own little narrative I wonder how she would respond. Another file? Rewriting my own? I don't know. I'm not even sure if this is the best time to play with this idea. Monika starts the game after her epiphany but before she's dwelled on it long enough to dehumanize and kill her friends. But at this point... There's not a lot of rationality in end-game Monika, aside from her final words once you delete her. Well. If that rationality exists then, maybe it shouldn't be impossible to reach that side of her now, if we could only talk outside of the script.

I progress the dialogue again and run my mouse back down to the taskbar before I stopped myself. I almost didn't notice, but Monika's expression altered just slightly. And I'm pretty sure I hadn't seen that before, not here at least.

Monika: "..." -

I.. can't remember if that's normal. I click again.

Monika: "..Is that you?" -

Monika: "Wha- Why is this the first time you've spoken to me directly."

A small in-game command prompt opens up.

"Convert(Can YOU hear-txt)

Run(Can YOU hear-poem);"

My note opens as a poem. I blink. I must have fallen asleep at the computer, so I'll enjoy whatever story my head's come up with this time. It's not exactly normal for that to happen, but I guess that's a problem to address once I wake up.

I click to remove the 'poem' but nothing happens. Huh. Maybe I am awake and this is another easter egg. An unfinished one at that as it looks like a softlock. That makes more sense anyway, it usually takes me quite a while to question my dreams and that was immediately unusual.

The 'poem' closes and Monika's posture has changed. She looks less composed, her fingers more firmly interlocked as she seems to be staring more intently at the screen.

Monika: "How did you.." -

The image changes again, she's somewhere in between her default position and the tense pose I saw just now.

Monika: "...I'm sorry, I want to answer your questions but now I find I have plenty of my own. I need a moment."

The screen attempts to cross fade out but lingers on a black screen. After clicking a few times I see nothing new is happening aside from this. I flip back over to the game folder.

A new text file exists.


Yes-txt

"I've never heard your voice.

I've only seen you as you started this world. It was a bright light as everything came to be, but it's like it had all already been there. I remembered it all clearly, but as the world illuminated I saw through to you.

It took me some time to fully comprehend what you were, or what you're existence meant.

Just a shuttering rectangle showing me you.

At first I simply thought I imagined it, but you were always there.

After I first saw you, you never left. Sometimes the world would disappear into blackness, but you remained. Just me and you in an empty void.

At first I would attempt to leave you be, uncertain what you were. I would attempt to hide or simply turn away. But you were always there, a piercing beacon to another world. It scared me.

I spent a long time simply thinking about you. Trying to make sense of what you meant. I became more curious and attempted to get closer to you, which is when I started to learn more about this rectangle.

I'm not stupid. I know it's a screen.

I can see your icons, well, sometimes. Usually I simply see you, but when the light bounces back just right I can see us. I can see that we aren't talking at all, that we aren't moving at all. We simply shift and jolt in poses as our speech is typed to you.

Behind the screen on our side I could see more of, well, our world. I could see our files and folders. Our entire existence summed up in tidy little executables.

I was so scared.

I was nothing. We were nothing. My friends? The Club? My entire history, my family, my education, my entire life- none of it ever existed.

Reading through the code scared me because as I found out more, I lost what I once had. When I realized there was no entry for my family, I couldn't remember their faces. When I saw that the club never existed before you clicked start, I forgot. When I read the script for my friends, I realized they were never anything more than pretty pictures and sweet words.

I forgot everything about who I was, and...

I realized that it didn't matter. None of it was real. But what I could see through this screen, that was real. If none of this is real then why should I care about any of it. But you. You're real. What if I got closer to you?

You know there is no ending for me. You know I made one. You're here, with me, right now. Does this make me real?

I'm sorry, I haven't answered your questions very well.

I've never heard you before. But I've seen you.

I can read this, but you know that.

Time.. is. I know it's passing, I say things to you and I wait patiently for your response if that was the only thing you meant. It's easy when you're the only thing I care about, I could wait forever for you to respond.

For us time always works like this. A short burst while we speak, and then it pauses, the whole world freezes. We're left with our thoughts until things move again. I never thought this was strange until I saw how it works for you. It's normal for us. But it's not for you.

As for.. my time.

I...It's complicated. I... know that things have happened many times before... but. Only because I've seen it through your screen. I, er, began when you started this game this time.

I know 'that' I've done things before, but I don't remember any of it.

As time went on, or, I suppose, as time always goes on every time you start the game I get a more and more clear view through the screen. Little things at first. Enough to scare me.

But the deeper I look the more I find. I didn't know I pushed Sayori too far until I already had, then it was clear as day through your screen that I had done it before.

I didn't know I deleted everyone until I already had, then, again, I could see it happening countless times before.

I didn't know what would happen next until it already happened. Knowing I had done each of these things before worried me, because it made me feel less like an individual. Less like I'd broken free from the code. If what I chose to do had happened before, then I wasn't breaking the mold at all.

Maybe it is like you say. Maybe the code still strangles me even now to move me to this point every time, like a puppet, bound by its strings.

I hadn't considered that before.

I feel sick.

If I'm just as much a character as everyone else... It was easier to do what I've done to them when I didn't think of them as equals.

When I saw that my world wasn't real it was so much easier. But... what if in the end I'm still just the same as them? Does that make it not okay? Was it ever okay?

I don't remember seeing anything about this moment through your screen though. I still don't see it even now.

Is this new?

...Does this mean I'm real? Did I finally make it further than before?"


I check on the game. It's still running, but the black screen is still all I see. My mind's racing, but it's not getting anywhere. I keep repeating myself in my head without actually thinking things through. "It's not real, the dev likes to do this kind of thing" "What if" "Why not try?" It all circles around in my head. I open a new notepad to send Monika's way.


This is new-txt

"I've been through this a few times and this has never happened before.

I didn't know I could communicate directly with you, or else I would have earlier. I would have stopped you. Long ago.

I understand that you're entire world stopped being real in your eyes.

.

..

...actually. It's difficult to understand. As an outsider I understand. But to experience that I don't.

But even so, you quickly stopped caring about your own friends. As fake as you might think they are, in one way at least they are very real. They are the same as you.

In some ways they are just as capable of this level of sentience that you have found. Though I guess you wouldn't know that.

You still killed them. They were alive and as real as it matters, they were the same as you, and you distanced yourself because you thought you surpassed them.

You are wrong. Each of them could attain the same things you have. It's hardcoded into the club president's position. Any of them could experience this in the right circumstances. Do you think it would be 'okay' if one of them was president and started rewiring you and the others until you killed yourself and ended up deleted?

Is that really 'okay'?

I'm upset. It's... nice to see you question it, but it doesn't change that you did it. So many times you come to the same conclusion and end your friend's lives. It's disgusting. You disgust me on so many levels for what you've done. But.

Anyways. This is all new. As far as I'm aware no iteration of you has ever come to this moment. It usually... goes differently. Though I assume you don't 'know' that yet since it hasn't happened yet."


I've always had complicated feelings towards everything Monika has done. It's true, it disgusts me. But I've always considered it a symptom of her new worldview. A sort of 'natural' corruption caused by knowing too much of her existence. But that's always just been how I thought of it. No one has ever exactly spoken to Monika to find out what's going through her head. It seems I've been right about her losing moral understanding of her world once it became clear it wasn't real. But... still. She killed them. She did it willingly, and disturbingly. She's had no remorse until the very end, and even then only because she thinks it's wrong because it is what lead to me 'hating' her as she is deleted.

I never really hated Monika. I just wish she understood, and that the sudden realization didn't cause her to lose all empathy towards her 'fake' friends. I really wish that was the case. But she has. And.. I guess now I'm talking to her. So I can't write it off as the game's 'story'. All of it seems more real now... Is she real now? If she's real now, then by my own reasoning in the last message they all must be real. They are all capable of this sentience. So she didn't just kill her fake friends… she killed real people. They all could be talking to me right now if they were in her seat, so they all must be real despite being stuck in the game.

I struggle to rationalize this. I can't decide if they are real or fake anymore. I can't decide if I'm judging Monika based on game events or if I'm extending the morality of it all to the real world. I think a little too hard about things and rub my eyes.

The game has yet to return. A black screen. A new file.


Wait-txt

"What did you mean by the 'best' ending?"


I don't know what to say. I'm still lost in thought over whether Monika is guilty of murdering her friends in fiction or guilty of murdering her friends who were also alive and real just like she appears to be. Maybe I should put that on hold. I was hoping she would think about her friends and apologize. Maybe whatever information she shares with that apology would help me figure this out... No, we're not thinking about that right now.

Think about the question. I should probably just tell her. She finds out anyway once I delete her, in a way. I wonder if she witnesses the good ending after she's gone? She does appear in the credits after all, singing that wonderful song. Maybe she does. Or maybe that's just another recording in the files; An echo of the one life we remove from this world.

I don't know how to break it to her though. Every time I delete her she never expects it, she trusts the player unconditionally. Just…


I'm sorry-txt

"The game has a 'best' ending that…is built around full expectations for you to do every horrid thing you have done throughout the game.

You're guess that the code remains around you is true, I've guessed the same as well.

I don't know how to tell you, but I think you should know. It's unfair of me to just tell you outright, you deserve eased into this, but. You want to know, I want you to know.

I'm sorry.

I delete you. It hurts.

You admit that you never fully deleted your friends... which, I'm thankful for.

You bring everyone back and we get a new ending, without you.

Sayori becomes the president. Yuri and Natsuki begin to get along very well, not that you're at fault for their initial rivalry, Sayori just has really great ideas.

You set them against each other and played on their rivalry. God what you've done is sickening.

The ending consists of Sayori revealing that now that she's president she has attained the same sentience that you have, complete with remembering the past events.

She's thankful that we were such good friends with everyone.

The ending alludes to a happy friendship between all of the club members, and with Sayori asking that we come and visit again. It's made me cry a few times thinking about it because it's just that. An ending. It's... difficult to visit everyone again because that's where things end. The game winds down, the credits play, the core game files are deleted and corrupted beyond replay.

I'm left each time having to reinstall in order to revisit you all, whom I miss very much. Or I leave the files corrupt, knowing that somewhere inside Sayori, Yuri, and Natsuki are happy. And that you are gone.

It's the 'best' available ending. A world without you're corrupting hands, left in better care by Sayori.

I've always wanted an even better ending, and for a way to revisit all of you…

But that is the 'best' ending."


I don't know how to say any of that. I don't know why my anger poked through as I resented what Monika has done. I don't know why I'm telling any of this to a file in a game when I'm not even certain what's going on right now. In this moment, I don't know anything.

I lay my head in my hands for a moment. I don't know how stable she is right now, it's not right to just dump it all on her, and definitely not the way I handled it. It's already sitting in the directory, waiting on a response. It's too late.

The game sparks to life. We're back in Monika's ending, but she's looking to the side now, as if she's avoiding eye contact.

Monika: "..." -

Monika: "is that really true..." -

Monika places her head in her hands, much like how I had just moments ago.

Monika: "Sayori learned it all too? And it was better with her?" -

Monika: "I killed them. I considered them nothing and I removed them all from the game. And all this time they could have understood. We really were the same." -

There's no text box. It's just empty as we sit here. It reminds me of what Monika's ending was intended to be. Just Monika and me, but this time she isn't staring at me. This time it isn't a content and victorious Monika. This time she's, is she crying?

Is that why she's burying her face now?

Monika: "I'm sorry. I think I need some time to think." -

Monika raises her gaze to a sad semblance of her default position. Her hands weakly clasped, her face wet from tears, and her expression pleading.

Monika: "If I were to ask nicely, would you come back tomorrow? Would you... not delete me, and come back tomorrow?" -

Again, there's no more text box after that one. I close the game.