Sunday, August 21, 2016

When Shadows Fall

I went to a media preview of "When Shadows Fall." This groundbreaking interactive experience happens in a large innocuous warehouse south of Downtown Orlando. There is no signage on the building. A young woman in a black dress held her phone in front of her and spoke to it. I assumed she was skyping but she was actually recording a video blog. Inside was a waiting area where four clumps of press spoke amongst themselves. Ricky Brigante the producer and Technical Director welcomed me. I was issued a small bronze colored badge. It looked like a mechanical eye with sunlight radiating from behind it. It was attached to a note which read, "Welcome new Penumbra citizen! Please accept this symbol of our new society with my highest regards." ~K.C. Alexander

One of my favorite early computer games was "Myst." In that game, you wandered through a three dimensional world looking for clues about the now abandoned civilization. Penumbra offers all the mystery of "Myst" while being fully interactive. It is unlike anything I have experienced before. We entered the first fully functional, totally harmonious society in the history of mankind two at a time or, in my case, alone. I walked down a long dark narrow hallway approaching a woman who asked for my allegiance to the new society. I was directed to a series of glowing tablets on the wall. Here, new citizens are given their new roles in the society. I then had to wait for a office worker, Cain (Chris Brown), who was in charge of internal affairs and quality control. He interviewed me briefly. When he found out that I was a journalist and sketched, he seemed interested and advised me to keep me eyes open and report back if I found any, deviant behavior.

I was reunited with the group in a dark hallway. Then, Harlan (Brett Carson) began calling out names. I knew already knew that there were various classes in this society. Golds were intellectuals and artists, certainly that is where I belonged. Silvers were like the middle class, while bronzes were hard laborers and then there was another darker class, the nameless, that no one wanted to talk about. Harlan called out about five names and then he called for me. I met the woman in black, Mallory Vance, and we wondered what our new role in society might be. We were lead to an area near a large reinforced vault door. Harlan's kind welcoming demeanor changed. He announced that our antisocial behavior had earned us a spot in Penumbra's dark underbelly, the labyrinth. Dark sinister rooms were contained by iron bars. A red light blinked above the vault door. Harlan bolted the door closed as he left us behind. A large octagonal table offered a spot to rest and ask long-term residents questions. While they were all scarred and misshapen, the women were quite beautiful despite their scars.

Mallory and I were assigned to help Daedalus (Joe Hall), who was dressed in a dark leather trench coat with a sharp pointed collar. He had red scars on his face. He asked us if we would do anything to escape from the labyrinth. Mallory was all in. I hesitated, wondering if murder might be required. He asked us to help him mix a potion in his lab. The walls were burned as if there had been a chemical explosion. I warned Mallory, but she was already pouring the chemicals together in a flask. The mixture could be used to incapacitate someone and allow for our escape.

Mallory and I were each given armbands that made it look like we were under house arrest like Daedalus himself. We were then sent on a mission to recover documents from Nikolai's office. Nikolai was an ambassador, the son of K.C. Alexander. After his father's death, Nikolai took over control of Penumbra. Mallory and I rushed through the maze of hallways, and hid any time security came around. We hit the jackpot recovering plenty of aging documents from the office. I followed Mallory's lead. She seemed to know her way around the hallways better than I. It was fun having a co-conspirator. A secret panel got us back to the labyrinth. We were looking for information about a citizens project but many of the document were love letters. When Daedalus asked about what we found, Mallory snatched up the love letters and hid them behind her back. She later gave these letters to Odessa (Cassandra Heinrich). Mallory is a romantic at heart, and she wanted the romance to remain private. Daedalus might have used the information to forward his own devious agenda. . .

Tickets to this first person experience are $45.95-$74.84.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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