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Silent Hill Will Always Help Me Remember A Remarkable Friend

Illustration for article titled iSilent Hill/i Will Always Help Me Remember A Remarkable Friendem/em

My friend Kit Reed died on Sunday. She was a prolific, award-winning writer of speculative fiction. Her cluttered yellow house is now empty. I will no longer stop by for tea or make dumplings in her kitchen for Thanksgiving. Kit insisted on no memorials, finding even the prospect of friends meeting for a drink after her death too depressing. There is only one place I can go to mourn her: a street in Silent Hill.

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On Facebook, Kit’s son John wrote that she was a “world-class interrupter,” and that is how I remember her. She was a woman who refused to not be seen or listened to, who laughed the loudest and made sure you were laughing too. When I was in town, she’d invite me out to the movies for a matinee, and her judgement on every movie was instantaneous and absolute. Tree of Life? Malick made precisely one good film in her estimation, and she didn’t need to see any of the others. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes? Weird and funny, but when are they gonna get to the part where the apes wear pants?

In 2012, I read on a fansite for Silent Hill that there was a street, Craig St., named after the pseudonym she used to write thrillers, Kit Craig. All the other streets in Silent Hill are named after horror writers and filmmakers—Craven Ave., Levin St., Shelley Rd. When I told her this, she gave me her usual no-nonsense response. She thought it was cool—she hadn’t played the game but liked games quite a bit. But she said the fansite that reported on the street used her birthname when explaining the reference, which she’d legally changed to Kit. She said she wasn’t going to show anyone until they fixed their error.

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Yesterday, between texting my mom and reading obituaries, I tried to trace this bit of trivia to its origin. The name “Craig” is so common that it could probably reference a lot of different authors, but Silent Hill fans are resolute in their belief that it references Kit. The earliest reference to her I could find came from a 2005 fansite, The Book of Lost Memories. This factoid has has been repeated for so long now that it’s more or less accepted as fact by fans that Craig St. is named for Kit. It’s been reproduced on wikis, on fansites, and YouTube videos, referencing her incorrect name almost every time.

The only things I know for sure about Craig St. are what’s in the game itself. It’s in the resort area of Silent Hill, intersecting with Bachmann Rd. and Weaver St. On it you’ll find Mec Burger, Annie’s Bar and the Indian Runner, a general store. In the videos I looked up, it’s foggy, dark and sharply polygonal. It’s bleak and sparse. It is as far from Kit’s bright red hair, bon mots and booming voice as you can get.

Before she died, Kit stopped speaking. She had a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer, and it seemed like overnight she went from someone who was pointedly alive to someone who was dying. A mute Kit was something I’d tried not to think about, and even before she died she wasn’t the woman I knew. The yellow house she’d lived in for as long as I could remember has already been emptied of her belongings. She’d had a concave mirror sculpture, and if you stood in a certain spot in her dining room, she’d shown me, your voice would echo. Every inch of wallspace on her first floor bathroom had a tiny, framed painting of ants recreating historical events. She’d always have a plate of cookies or something just baked to nosh on while she asked you about school, work, your love life and offered unsolicited advice on all three. Kit published her last book on the same day she had a biopsy on the tumor that eventually killed her, and her last short story in the final week of her life. She wasn’t the kind of person who stopped, not even when her body started giving up on her.

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In the Silent Hill series, people are drawn to the town because their grief gets twisted into obsession. These people can’t let go, and their desire to hang onto the things that simply won’t come back consumes them. Yesterday, lying in bed, I was struck with a desire to go to Craig St., just to see. But Kit is dead. She hated the euphemism “passed,” and I’m grateful I can just be blunt about it. She died in her sleep on Sunday, and there isn’t anywhere I can go to see her again. Instead I will, like her, write every day from nine am to noon. I will invite my friends over for tea. I will be a world-class interrupter. I won’t let death stop me.

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DISCUSSION

Everyone processes grief differently, but I think what you’ve hit on here is very important: often (not always, but often) the best way to remember those who’ve gone before us is to live our lives as best we can—to be the best versions of ourselves, and not lose who we are to a morass of grief, longing for a yesterday that will never come again.

That’s often easier said than done. In my time, I’ve lost friends—and mostly older family members. My parents are still around, but I’m not sure for how long (one never can be, as life is fragile, but they’re getting into their seventies, so it’s not like we’re talking another forty or fifty years here).

...I’m not sure how I’ll process that. I’ll almost certainly take a long hike in remembrance of my dad (we used to go on Volksmarches when I was growing up in Germany), and probably try to figure out a good red wine to drink in remembrance of my mother—but outside of that, I’ll do my best to be the man they raised me to—and hoped I would—be.

Losing grandparents—that sucked, but I wasn’t ever terribly close with them (not for lack of trying on their part; I was seventeen when my papaw passed, and by the time my paternal grandmother died, she’d been suffering from dementia for years, and couldn’t tell my dad apart from his brother—the woman I knew had been gone for years), so dealing with it was simpler.

Losing friends—that’s never easy, particularly because they tend to be around our age, and though I’m in my mid-30s, that’s still way too goddamned early for most people to be kicking off.

TL;DR: Grief is a complicated thing, and processing our own mortality is a weird counterweight to accepting that other people will have to deal with the same thing when we go.

Thank you for sharing, Gita. May Kit be remembered as she lived; that’s the best we can ask for ourselves, I think.