Carnegie Mellon University

Good Bones

Solo pervasive game
Avery Alder

The First Rite

You know the ancient magic. We all do. It’s a convenient
story that ours is an age abandoned by the gods, the
spirits, and the invisible forces. But you know that this
convenience is a trap.
You’ve been ensnared by the forces of lethargy,
depression, weariness... and yes, convenience. Your home
is a tired and sore place. Your body is a tired and sore
place. But there is another path forward, and reaching
back through lifetimes you remember its way.
Go to your bed. Lie down in total darkness, lights off and
blinds shuttered. Open all of your eyes and remember the
ancient magic that brought bones to life. If you remember
words, whisper them. If you remember gestures, articulate
them. Feel the surge of power as it enters you.
Your bones will come to life. You will share this body.
A sentience of the mind, housed within your brain, now
joined by a sentience of bones, housed within marrow.
Your mind weighs heavy these days, but your bones are
strong. They can support you.
Complete this rite before continuing. As you lay in bed,
feel your bones waking up, one by one. Whisper to them,
from mind to marrow: rise.

Asking For Help

Now that there is another consciousness inside you, you’re
embarrassed about all the things it will learn. But your
bones have been with you all along. They already know.
They already know about every time you struggled to
get out of bed, every time you gave up on a task halfway
through completing it. The bones know, and they care not.
Bone sentience has no judgment, and it offers no guilt.
Bone sentience seeks only to support, to remain strong, to
offer and receive easement.
The first rite brought your bones to life. The next step
forward in this path is more challenging: you must learn
to ask them for help.
The sentience of the mind is rich but troubled. Everything
hinges upon justification and doubt. The logics produced
in your brain find no landing in marrow. You will need
to learn to communicate with the bones in ways they can
understand. They feel your groaning uncertainties. They
want to help. How will you give them an opportunity?
Remember the ancient magic of talking to bones. I cannot
teach it to you, for the same reason that I cannot teach
you to breathe, or to sleep. You must simply remember.
Does it involve humming, a deep rumble that echoes
through your body? Does it involve closing your eyes and
visualizing the path forward? Begin to experiment.
Whenever you encounter a task that weighs heavy upon
you, that feels in some way impossible, talk to your bones
and ask them for help.
Each time you ask for help, allow your remembering
of the ancient magic to grow deeper, and for your
communication with your bones to grow stronger.

Gratitude for Bones

As your communication grows rich, and the bones come
to your support time and again, you must begin to ask
yourself what gratitude looks like. Are they not your
friends, after all?
Listen to your bones speak. What easement do they crave?
What work are they longing to do? Are they being forced
to sit, uncomfortable and compressed, for hours at a time
until they ache?
Bring the bones easement, and show them gratitude. Take
care of them, rest them, learn their names and thank
them individually. You have woken them up and given
them consciousness - while they might be your guardian
supporters, they are also your uncanny children.
Stretch them toward the sky, walk them through the deep
woods, and lay them comfortably for rest. Give the bones
yoga. Lay them down in hot baths. Go to wild places
and take off your shoes, so that your bones can feel the
ground where you walk.
Bones do not conceive of debt. None of this is
scrutinized against a register of obligations. The bones
offer their support and strength freely, and it is your
choice what you give to them in return. But know that the
ancient magic thrives on balance, and gratitude to service
is an act of balance.

Forgotten Dreams

You have been doing deep and ancient magic. Your body
is now home to two intelligences working in symphony
to make more things possible every day. You are built of
hundreds of bones, hundreds of muscles, vast networks of
tendons, neurons, and so, so much blood. You are a com-
plex and majestic entity. Why are you here in this world?

Without purpose, you are vulnerable. Lethargy works
its way into inflamed joints. Weariness gets into your
system and goes bone deep. Despair infiltrates your mind
and stages a mutiny. But when you woke your bones up,
infusing them with sentience, you started to push back
against these forces of darkness. You learned to ask for
help, and to return it with gratitude. You are getting
stronger. But those forces are always looking for a way
back in. You must develop a warm light to push them
back, blind them, and expunge them.
Go to your bed. Lie down in total darkness, lights off and
blinds shuttered. Close all of your eyes and fall into deep
slumber. Let forgotten dreams return to you, whether
forged of reason or chaos. Sleep for a very long time, and
wake up nourished by these powerful visions.
If you cannot yet slumber, if your mind is restless, if your
bones are restless, seek relief. Move until tired. Talk until
quiet. Work yourself into slumber.

As you go about your day, today and every day after,
contemplate these once-forgotten dreams. Talk to yourself
about them, transferring them between brain and bone,
mind and marrow. Do they bring warmth and light into
your body? Do they name your purpose? As if compelled
by once-forgotten gods, follow them.
Every night, when you lay down to slumber, fall deep into
the ancient place of forgotten dreams. Emerge at dawn
each morning with new answers. Fill your body with light.


As your twin consciousnesses continue to deepen their
relationship, of giving and gratitude, of strength and
support, a new language will emerge between them. Your
mind and your bones will overcome their estrangement,
now able to listen to one another and fully comprehend.
The asking will become easier, until eventually they are in
such harmony that there is no asking needed: the bones
are already in motion, the mind is already giving thanks.
There is still a final rite to be honoured. You must
welcome the confluence, merging these two sentiences
within you, synthesizing a new wholeness for yourself.
You will emerge from this final rite a rare being indeed
- a hybrid creature of thought and action, of need and
capacity, of vulnerability and strength.
Complete this rite in open air - under the light of the sun
or the shine of the moon. Be witnessed by trees, rivers,
foxes, whatever forces of nature you love most.

For the rest of your life, know and reflect on this
wholeness. Feel the wakefulness of your bones, and
begin to find it in your blood and musculature. Find the
sentience in your breath, in and out of the world, in and
out of your body. Grow to fill every inch of yourself.
There will be dark times, when your consciousness will
try to crawl fearfully back up into your skull, where it can
wall itself off from belonging to your body. It may even
succeed. The ancient magic doesn’t provide any answers
here; you must decipher your own path forward. Maybe
you start over, bringing your bones back to life and again
learning to communicate with them. Maybe you isolate
and suspend that fear in a magic containment field, before
coaxing yourself back into your body. Maybe all you need
is a little rest. Now that you have felt a sentience that
radiates throughout the body, you know what you are
striving to return to.

Bring your whole body to life.
Do spectacular things with it.