“Keep pulling the sweater…Eventually the whole thing will unravel.”
– J.P. Prewitt
A thriller about a few hours in the life of an archival researcher is somehow one of the most compelling experiences I’ve had in a long time.
I had no idea what to expect from A Hand With Many Fingers by Colestia, except that I’d be drawing red strings in uncovering a CIA conspiracy. A real one.
The experience is deceptively simple. You start out with a few documents with certain details highlighted and then you use some pretty straight forward deduction to pull more boxes of documents out of storage. Once you have documents you can pin them to your conspiracy board and connect the conspiracy pins with conspiracy string.
What isn’t straightforward is how things unfold from there. There’s no hand holding except the cold comfort that everything you need is in front of you. There’s always a path forward if you can put the clues together.
But then things get weird. The ever-present radio starts to play tricks on you. Audio cues tickle the edges of your mind. This is a CIA conspiracy you’re digging into, after all. Lights flicker. Bugs buzz. Your heart rate ticks up as you start to find clues and information. The web of red string unfurls further and further.
I’ve fallen into “search-holes” before this. I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time tracking dates and times of things while doing research on sometimes absolutely inane topics. I’ve spent hours lost in the annals of the internet trying to track down a specific something but only able to do so for the edges.
The thing about pulling threads is that you just end up with threads. A pile of them. You have to use logic and reason to order them. Nothing reinforces that reading is writing and that writing is reading more than this act.
You begin with something ordered. A banker’s death. And you tug at it. It leads you to his business, his associates, their associates. But then you must construct a narrative. You must begin to tell a story by connecting these threads. Putting people in places at certain times. Tracking their movements and contacts. It’s not enough to tug at a sweater, you must weave those threads into a scarf.
In this way A Hand With Many Fingers is a tutorial on the horror that lies beneath the surface level. It’s not Lovecraftian but it manages to be diabolical all the same. In this world, our world, it’s shadowy organizations like the CIA that exist as infinitely armed cephalopods. The first box that lies waiting in your research room is an invitation to pierce the veil. A open letter to any who might seek to know what lives but one step further than their comfortable lives.
Colestia works wonders here in brazenly simple form. There’s just you, the files, the boards and the string.
Somehow, someway, the game feels high stakes. As soon as you begin the process of piecing together you push faster and faster. You want to know more.
The voice inside your head is your own and it compels you to dig. You scribble down names and dates and desperately search through the card catalog to find what you need. But there’s only you.
Until it isn’t. There’s more. On the other end of the phone. Perhaps lurking around a corner. Maybe just beyond the aisle you’re searching. A world of secrets and lies is one step away.