Content Warning: This story does contain a brief moment of violence.
My birthday falls in the summertime. As a child, that mostly meant no school to me, and specifically, on my eleventh birthday, my top priority was video games. Among the roster of games I was excited to play, the game I was looking forward too the most was The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. A birthday gift from my grandfather, it even came with the official strategy guide. I was poised to delve deep into this game’s world, but of course, you can’t just stay inside all summer and play video games, right?
Outside of town, just a couple miles, my best friend’s family owned a junkyard. Apparently, this was a place at which it was fun for children to play; I may never know. Part of the agenda for the day was for my friend , his younger siblings, and I to go hang out there for a couple of hours. Riding out to the junkyard was pretty ordinary. Even though I had never been, I had driven past it many times. The instant we pulled up, my friend’s mother said something deeply concerning to me: “If Rascal tries jumping up on you just tell him to get down.”
Rascal was the name of the literal junkyard dog who dwelled within. I had seen him many times in his cage at my friends house back in town. Not necessarily an inviting dog, he was notorious for violently howling at all passersby. This information did not mesh well with the concept of him “trying to jump up on me”, nor did I feel confident in my ability to simply tell him to get down. There was not much time to process this information though, as my friends younger siblings were anxious to escape the car and play. They shot out of the car in an instant, screaming as young children do when they play. The common theory proposed amongst the adults was that this screaming was misinterpreted by Rascal as a plea for help, as if I was causing them harm.
The dogs fury came in an instant, happened in a couple moments, but felt like minutes. Coincidentally, he did try to jump up on me. His paws knocked the glasses right off of my face, and sent me to the ground with them. He followed that up by snapping his jaws into the back of my leg. Instincts aren’t a thing of which I have many, but I did attempt to maneuver my body underneath a trailer for protection. The trailer did not provide much refuge. The dog made his final move towards my neck. In that moment, his owner was able to seize him. If he has only been a second later, I would most certainly not have made it.
My body was fished from under the trailer. I was thrown back into the car for protection, and was given some cloth to hold over the giant gash in the back of my leg. We rushed to the nearest hospital, a couple towns over. The younger sister was screaming in the back seat. The screaming along with the pain was unbearable. I turned to the back and demanded that she stop. To my surprise, the crimson mask I was wearing did not calm her down. The screaming persisted all the way to the hospital.
Twenty-five stitches later I was able to leave the hospital, though mostly immobile. I was able to walk okay, but for fear of breaking my stitches I could not do many of the summer activities kids my age would do. This curse, for me, was partially a gift. Like I was saying, Eleven-year-old me was mainly concerned with video games. I now had unrestricted access to Majora’s Mask! I was shocked at how much I connected with the game’s story and many of its deep roster of side characters.
If I were to guess, I would think most people do not play Zelda games to think about death. For a series filled with joyous moments of adventure and wonder, it is somewhat surprising how much the specter of death rears its head. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a game in which death plays a prominent role, even more so than other other entries. Many of the inhabitants of Termina are either dead or dying, and everyone else you encounter is fated to meet their end as the moon creeps closer every day. Much of the game shows you how the characters cope with death and it even asks you to help heal many of these people in their times of need.
Already thinking way too much about my own death at age eleven, I saw myself in many of the characters I was trying to save. Like the Terminian inhabitants cowering indoor from the collapsing moon, I felt what their futile struggle was like. For the many characters who are beyond rehabilitation, I also thought about what could have been. While watching the final moments of the Zora musician Mikau, after having fished him out of the Great Bay, I saw myself back below the trailer, life slowly fading.
This was not just a dark experience though. Relating to these characters was a therapeutic experience. Trying my best to save those characters, even if at times in vain, was a self healing process on its own. As a young person who loved dogs, at first I could not comprehend how such a wonderful animal could do such a horrendous thing. Through this game I had seen how various factors could turn otherwise docile creatures into monsters. I felt less anger towards Rascal after this, thought I still maintain a fear of dogs that are strangers to me.
The game also taught me to appreciate my life. In a desperate, dire moment like the final hours between Anju and Kafei, I learned that even when it feels like sky has come falling down, and the world has gone to ruin, there is still some beauty to be found within. Masked within this game of doom and gloom were also many fun and challenging puzzles that were a great escape from the discomfort I experienced while healing. It was appropriate to me that this game would be my very own “Song of Healing” when I had nearly met the ultimate terrible fate.