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Much like my first time playing Dear Esther I spent the first night after beating it laying in bed trying to piece it all together. By the time I got around to playing it again to confirm my theories, I could kiss Dan Pinchbeck - I miss that era of games like Silent Hill 2 that left me wondering and thinking for days. Bravo, Chinese Room.

This thread has been fun, but there's a three big things people still seem pretty puzzled about so I'd like to share the conclusions I reached:

When are the twins killed?
Spoiler below!
So did Mandus go insane upon seeing the vision caused by the Orb and sacrifice his children in the ruins in Mexico back in February 1899? Or were they killed in December 1899 to bring life to The Machine? There's good evidence in the game for both...

The answer is yes. To both. The truth is that the twins were killed multiple times...

The February journal entries indicate that Mandus takes the twins with him the ruins in Mexico. In Mexico we know there was an "appalling tragedy" as referenced in Father Jeremiah's Journal. The Professor also mentions this in a phonograph early on claiming "a lesser man would have crumbled" with what Mandus has been through.

Furthermore, when Mandus arrives back home in March 1899 he buried "tiny shattered skulls under the weeping bulges of the rhododendrons" - this refers to the twins.

Why just the heads? Again in March 1899, Mandus mentions "headless ribcages" with flowers planted in them to "hold the sky from falling", which is what the inhabitants of the Mexican ruins were attempting. So the rest of their bodies were left behind in Mexico. This is also an important detail for proving the twins die multiple times...

As further evidence that the twins originally died in Mexico, the Machine tells Mandus that he killed his children "on the steps of the temple". There are some in this thread who have interpreted this as being the temple at the end of the game down in the heart of The Machine, however The Machine also mentions that Mandus killed the twins alone before either of them killed anyone else. They were the first to die. This means the twins died before Mandus had ManPigs to assemble the vast underground network that lead to the underground temple.

Finally, in The Engine VO called vo_engine_intro_flashback, Mandus states that "cradling a stone egg in my jacket, I kissed my children farewell, and I crawled my way home."

So this all indicates that yes, the twins died in Mexico. But there are two big problems with leaving it at that - the twins' journal entries marked October 1899 (six months after they died in Mexico), and their intact bodies hooked up to the core of The Machine at the end of the game.

So how do we get reanimated twins from simply severed heads? You will recall the August 1899 journal entry details an experiment successfully resurrecting a man's severed head. This same journal entry is also the one where he mentions saving his children... Hmm.

Upon bringing them back, there are a few things indicating that these twins were something less than human... notably their journal entries detail their adventures around the house at a time when the house would be in full swing of murderous orgies and staffed entirely with ManPigs.

How could he be so cruel to his resurrected children? Mandus seems to be describing them in the Cellar VO named vo_cellar_trigger_mandus_02: "Bandaged feet and eyes, small bones in the orchard, I have carried this world on my back with its legs about me. Damn this wretched soul, I am given birth to nothing but machinery." This hearkens back the Clockwork and the Soul Journal entry that details an attempt at bringing someone to life that ends with the line "Damn, damn it. Damn this wretched soul. If only it were clockwork."

This is mentioned again in the December 1st journal entry where the boys' clockwork souls are referenced, as well as their spines. The boys' spines are mentioned again in the next day's journal entry in December 2nd where Mandus finds "a toy spine, clockwork intricate, like a child's spine, but clockwork. How could that be? How could a child's spine be made like clockwork? I washed it carefully and placed it on the mantelpiece, by the egg I laid myself, under the garden where the childrens' skulls are buried. I call it my Mexico."

So these new boys are more machine and monster than Mandus wanted. The December 2nd journal entry is also a good indicator on their exact time of death and the birth of the repentant Mandus... "Walking away from those temples, that small pile of stones under the rhododendrons. The skulls of innocence under the loose clod. Headless ribcages in the cool stone behind the altars, three thousand miles apart." The last line in particular seems to indicate that the boys were murdered again, in a temple, much like last time, with their rib cages sporting the "flowers" that will hold up the sky. When you see the corpses of the boys, behind the altar within the second temple at the end of the game you see their ribcages pierced by the machine.

Thus, it is extremely likely that Mandus kills the resurrected twins to give sentience to The Machine on or before December 1st. This is why "there won't be any Christmas" for the twins as they describe in October. The shock of this ritual also causes him to spiral downwards into grief and doubt, eventually causing him to split in two... but more on that below.

Who is the man in the iron lung?
Spoiler below!
The answer is in the name of that chapter - Enoch, Edwin, Oswald, and I. The man in the machine is Oswald Mandus' Orb-tainted darker half.

That isn't to say he's simply a split personality. He is a very seperate entity. This man speaks directly to Mandus, but not within Mandus. Early on the March 15th Journal entry he writes that he "can only hear the voice from within that gentlest of stones. It sings to me and I dream of a great machine" ... The gentlest of stones being the Orb. Again while speaking to the Professor when asked if his engineer agrees with Mandus' philosophy, Mandus responds: "Indeed he does. Indeed he does. The poor fellow has seen it all before. Now, this is not the first great civilization he has wept for." This indicates that there was some consciousness within the Orb that simply melded parasitically to Mandus for its own goals. The cut second ending and the references to hatching iron eggs also indicate that this entity was using The Machine to free itself and "hatch", to live beyond its nest within Mandus.

When this entity leaves the Orb and joins The Machine by hooking directly into it via the body in the iron lung, it can only communicate with Mandus via machinery - hence the phones and speakers.

Furthermore in a phone call in the Alley (vo_alley_tele_machine_01) he claims that he "has such visions to share with thee, if my jaw be unshackled and you harvest the crust from my eyes". This seems to accurately depict his current state within the iron lung with the wires coming from his mouth and eyes into the machine.

There are some in the thread who believe this man is the Professor, but there is simply no evidence for that at all aside from some people thinking the voices sound similar. But in fact, when entering the Sewers you hear Mandus speaking to the same voice you hear over the phone and speakers about utilizing the methane to power pumps, well before The Machine is finished, which is certainly before the Professor ever arrives. This proves that the voice couldn't be the Professor, and that likely the Professor was killed and turned into a pig, just like all the others.

There is a reason this man is immersed in Compound X, but that is better answered within the big question...

... who the hell am I playing?
Spoiler below!
This is something I am 100% confident Dan Pinchbeck went out of his way to leave open for interpretation, though there are some pretty strong hints at to what is most likely.

Most people understand that something happened that split Oswald Mandus into two entities - hence the differentiation between Oswald and I in the title of the last chapter. There are numerous journal entries in both My Journal and Found Documents that tell the story well enough, notably the last (chronologically) document on December 29th 1899:

"Can a man construct himself anew? Can a man, on realising who he is, on what he has become, tear himself apart down to the bricks and begin again? Are our souls just this, tiny cogwheels and clockwork, and intricate machines to serve a function that, upon reflection, we might set to a new task?"

How he accomplishes this is somewhat mysterious. Some think he simply shocked himself due to the line: "As I reach my hands to the exposed wires I ask myself this - is redemption possible for such a creature as I?" But if this is the case, how did he continue writing the next sentence? Was he writing in a journal with one hand and reaching his hand out with the other? Seems to me this is speaking more to the sabotage of The Machine than the method of his split.

Others think it is the jungle fever simply causing him to lose his mind, but he has been sick with that disease for almost EIGHT MONTHS by the time we get to December when the game begins. It's unlikely to have flared to that degree, yet kept him completely mobile just prior to the beginning of the game enough to sabotage The Machine, and keep him completely mobile and alert for entire rest of the game.

His sickness seems to be more involved. He refers to it as a "plague" and something he suffered from for a long time after returning. In one instance in the August 20th document he speaks of the ManPigs: "I have children once again, and your froms imperfect will be the engines to make my own blood flow again."

Further on June 3rd he writes: "I realise now that my fear of dirt stems from the disease I contracted climbing those lost jungle temples. It is as if those clean places, so free of humanity's filth, imprinted upon my soul and left it fragile to what I find here. Fear is what keeps us all in our places, and the fear of the flesh, the ruin of the flesh is the greatest of them all. I am sickened, I am ruined, but I will build such machines to contain this plague and heal us all."

It sounds as though Mandus was dying, likely due to the parasitic nature of the entity from the Orb. This is likely the cause of his body's immersion in Compound X in the heart of The Machine (the man in the iron lung). This is to preserve his body and keep him alive long enough to destroy the world.

My conclusion is that Mandus had enough control of The Machine to split part of his consciousness off into another body - namely that of a ManPig (though a potentially advanced model, similar to how meticulously recrafted the boys were). The reason for this split is likely his body's full integration into The Machine. The removal of his heart to power the machines (which we later find).

This is hinted at when you ride the pigline at the end of the game that leads directly to the temple - you see Enoch and Edwin standing with a ManPig directly behind them, arms held out like a proud father holding his sons. This is also why you wake up in a caged bed where the ManPigs slept. This is why people run from you and slam their doors when London is burning as if they do not recognize you as the rich industrialist philanthropist who treats them all so well.

The Machine, the man in the iron lung, is Oswald Mandus' body. But you... you are Oswald Mandus' clockwork soul remade into a new body to carry out his last wishes. This is why it refers to you as Mandus, and why Mandus via the Chapter title refers to it as Oswald (leaving himself described as "I" to remain vague). In all actuality, Oswald Mandus's original personality, his original soul, was completely dead and replaced by the entity who had assumed full control of his body by the time we play the game.

You are a duplicate. A reconstruction of what Oswald Mandus was before Mexico - a caring father whose only concern is in protecting his sons. This is why you have no memories of anything The Machine tells you - you never did those things. You don't have amnesia... you were born on December 29th.
The Engineer was a type of pig monster. Search in sounds/music/npc, also in sounds/npc...
Yeah, second and third points - totally agree, even posted some of those thoughts here.

As for the first - don't really know. How could he resurrect his children, if their ribcages are in Mexico and all he has are their skulls buried in the garden?
Then, if they are machines and monsters, why doesn't it bother anyone? Their diary mentions some Cook (probably a servant) who interdicts them to play in the animal room, and nanny who says not to disturb their father.
"The tragedy in Mexico" may have been the tropical fever.
(09-15-2013, 10:52 AM)Victor Kade Wrote: [ -> ]The Engineer was a type of pig monster. Search in sounds/music/npc, also in sounds/npc...
The Engineer was both a character and a monster. It's sort of like how the Grunt, Brute, Wretch are all names that were adapted just from excerpts of dialogue and notes, as far as I remember.
(09-15-2013, 11:30 AM)rotten Wrote: [ -> ]randeh,
Yeah, second and third points - totally agree, even posted some of those thoughts here.

As for the first - don't really know. How could he resurrect his children, if their ribcages are in Mexico and all he has are their skulls buried in the garden?
Then, if they are machines and monsters, why doesn't it bother anyone? Their diary mentions some Cook (probably a servant) who interdicts them to play in the animal room, and nanny who says not to disturb their father.
"The tragedy in Mexico" may have been the tropical fever.

There's some indirect mentions of servants being turned into pigs as well. The question would be: when. The pig sleeping in a bedroom cage could then bring us more understanding as to the relationships between Mandus and turned.
The kids' diary says they heard a pig in the garden on 11 October. That wouldn't make sense if their nanny was also a pig.
(09-15-2013, 01:52 PM)rotten Wrote: [ -> ]Vertical,
The kids' diary says they heard a pig in the garden on 11 October. That wouldn't make sense if their nanny was also a pig.

There's something really bizarre with all those dates, but anyway:

"March 15th 1899,

Curled into my bunk, all sick and sweat ridden. They clean my room about me, but I can only hear the voice from within that gentlest of stones. It sings to me and I dream of a great machine.
We will build a new world from the ruins of the old. We will plant flowers in the rotten ribcage and let them grow to hold the sky from falling. I remember how it whispered to me, as we rolled sick and heaving. And I remember when we pulled into Southampton and we both wept, for it was every bit as much a desecration as had been sung to me.

And then we came to London and I set it upon the mantelpiece, and went into the house and gathered the servants and set on re-crafting them, and then I went into the garden and buried those tiny shattered skulls under the weeping bulges of the rhododendrons."
Wat about comeandplay.ogg?

is that relevant to the plot?
(09-15-2013, 06:01 AM)jakoob26 Wrote: [ -> ]This is by far a better story than a man who sees a vision of the future and decides to kill everyone.I just felt like the idea of killing everyone wasn't justified enough. Daniels reason for torturing people made sense. He was scared of the shadow. Mandus should have been given more motivation. Maybe instead of his wife dying after childbirth, she could have been killed by some hobo or begger. Maybe his kids could have been kidnapped by hobos too or something idk. This may sound dumb but at least his hate of the poor and others would have been more justified.
He didn't want to kill everyone, he wanted to make change to upcoming century and stop all of this with smaller -- compare to upcoming -- sacrifice:

Quote:I have stood knee deep in mud and bone and filled my lungs with mustard gas. I have seen two brothers fall. I have lain with holy wars and copulated with the autumnal fallout.
I have dug trenches for the refugees; I have murdered dissidents where the ground never thaws and starved the masses into faith.A child's shadow burnt into the brickwork. A house of skulls in the jungle.
The innocent, the innocent, Mandus, trod and bled and gassed and starved and beaten and murdered and enslaved. This is your coming century!
They will eat them Mandus, they will make pigs of you all and they will bury their snouts into your ribs and they will eat your hearts!
The servants were all 're-crafted' once Mandus returned from Mexico. I don't think this necessarily means they were all turned into pigs, as I'm sure that would have raised suspicion from Ozzie's guests. (Then again, remember that Daniel and Agrippa both complained about Alexander's servants smelling bad and wearing cloaks...)

If we follow the theory that Mandus' children are indeed zombies, that would explain who opened your bed's door in the beginning. Still, are they really acting under their own will or are they just hallucinations created by the Machine?