Secrets of Skyrim: Pairs

I've opened so many doors since I picked up this game.

Iron doors. Wooden doors. Locked doors that led to locked chests, doors opened by pictograph riddles and lever manipulation. Doors to cities and dungeons. Doors made out of rocks. Doors guarded by robots.

Nothing prepared me for this door, though. No, nothing prepared me for the shoes.

I bought Skyrim feverishly. Payday and an evening listening to hype forced my hand. This has happened before. I'm only so strong a person - I can only hear so many good reviews before I have to blow 60 dollars or so on some sequel to some game series I either have not played or have actively disliked. (I rented Oblivion a few months after its initial release; after escaping to the overworld from my near execution, I wandered into a city, opened the wooden door to a house, and accidentally stole a plate. This action threw me in jail. I removed the disc and promptly rented some manner of Star Wars game.)

But by God, Skyrim was something else. I decided to roll Bosmer and became immediately engrossed. I imagined myself as an orphan who'd spent his life grifting on the street, caught trying to immigrate to Skyrim. Though initially bewildered by the lack of a class system, I found that if I stopped trying to "game" it and just started making decisions that made sense, the game would unfold before me. I wasn't trying to figure out how to make my Rogue character more magick-y; I was leveling up in the skills that I actually used, the ones that came up naturally in my gameplay. It's the memory-foam-mattress approach versus something like the sleep-number system; the former moves around my natural motion, whereas the latter makes me choose ahead of time with some imagined vision of what I want to be.

So there I was, traveling somewhere in the southwest, completely ignoring the main questline. More than that, I had no idea what the main questline was, because I was just doing the quests that made sense to me, instead of feeling pressured by the whims of the world. Yes, I knew the Winged Death known as Alduin threatened to end the realm at any given moment, but that wasn't important to me. I was the dragon born, and I had to fuck up some beehives (or something, or something). Always in the mood for a new Dragon shout, I ventured down the nearest dungeon, hoping that the winged linguists had a way to translate hate into yelling.

The first few rooms were innocuous enough. Nothing unusual, save for the fact that the Conjurers had already been run through. No big - the mobs are dead. Still lootable? Still lootable.

I didn't notice the cages. A false floor almost killed me. Switches in every hallway threw out traps that threaten to take my last bit of health (or, they would, if I hadn't had my sneak-spec high enough so as to avoid triggering them, natch). I pulled one chain. A fire came out of the ground and into a cage, charring an already-charred corpse inside. Cute accoutrements, I'm sure, to make me feel like I was in a bad, mean place.

But I shouldn't have opened that door.

The room that made my 24 level Rogue-ish mage Bosmir stand still. More a closet than a room. A closet filled, to the brim, with shoes. Different shoes. Iron shoes, elvish shoes, hide boots. Commoner shoes of three different styles. There were easily thirty pairs here, unceremoniously thrown into this room, presumably pried off the feet of the poor souls who wandered here before.

According to the save timestamp, I stood there pondering exactly how horrifying this was for five actual minutes. Then, I saved, put down the controller, and called my mom. You know. Just to hear her voice.

Let me be clear: there is nothing inherently terrifying about the room of shoes. You have to go a level deeper. Somewhere at Bethesda Softworks, there is a human. This person brought up this idea in a meeting. "Let me fill a room with shoes." I wonder if the shoes came first, or if the dungeon did. At any rate, this idea got approved. A team presumably approved this. A room full of shoes to frighten a 23 year old man and a 24 year old Wood Elf. This was just a thing they decided. The room, full of shoes. Behind a door. In a dungeon. In the gorgeous, expansive world of Skyrim, full of dozens of dungeons, each with their own doors, each with their own potential for hundreds of shoes. A group of people crafted each one, down to the detail, down to the room full of nondescript footwear, for our entertainment.

These people exist in real life.

May God help us all.

Alex Jarvis is a typist. He has written for Wired's Geekdad, Profhacker, himself, and most recently, his own Comic Book review website, Spandexless. Yes, he does want to hear from you, but not right now. He's busy.

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