I opened my eyes to a sea full of sea. Looking around, I spotted a faint outline of trees and made my way toward them. The island was lush, and I thought, full of life. Trombone-plants and horn-weasels dotted the landscape. Leaves fell, sun rose. Proteus is about many things, but for me, it was about life or the absence of it. It’s about making meaning because we must, because we can, because otherwise, we would close our eyes and stop.
In Proteus, life is all around you. Rushing down the hills, you find creatures who flit away, owls who fly off when they catch your glance, and dragonflies whirring and buzzing. The sounds of life are all around you. Creatures blow whistles and owls sing out their whoo in the night. The fireflies are bells and the lights a symphony. I saw gravestones and roses. Did I plant them? Had my family died here?
I found a house seemingly abandoned, but shut tight. Was it mine? I found broken trees that looked like castles, and totems of animals high on the hills. Had I built those?
I found drum-beetles marking the beat of their march through the muck. I found mushrooms who could jump further than I could. I couldn’t jump at all. In fact, I’m not sure how I moved. I moved through the water, but I didn’t swim. I moved over hills, but I didn’t walk. I came up to the house’s door, but I couldn’t knock. Surely there was something to find in this beautiful land. A path I had ignored or a side of the house I hadn’t tried. Perhaps there was some other island out to sea, and I was just on the wrong one.
My search for something ended in the realization that for all the goals I constructed, the names I created, and the stories I told, I was nothing. I made no sounds. Was I even alive? Why did I keep moving? Because there was nothing else for me to do. Why did I follow the stars? Because there was nothing else I prescribed enough meaning to. In an open world, waiting to be explored, I followed the signs. I needed the signs. The trombone-plants made their song and needed no signs. The horn-weasels hopped out their melodies and needed no signs. The stars, the stars, those malicious keepers of time, led me on to my eventual path into nowhere. Or so I could say. But really, I made meaning because I needed it. Because I lacked it. I made meaning because I wasn’t alive.