SPOILERS AHEAD: YOU’VE BEEN WARNED
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture released on Tuesday to some much deserved praise. Its method of delivering six diverse, intertwined stories that manage to facilitate thinking as well as tug at the heartstrings of anyone watching is commendable. In creating these stories, The Chinese Room also injected a bit of mystery into the world and events that are difficult to grasp even if you play through the entirety of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
Each of the six main characters lead their lives with their own hopes and desires, and experiencing each story gives you the perfect insight into what those are. But, there is something that isn’t exactly easy to grasp by just listening to their stories. One particular element takes a lot of observation of the larger picture: the very Light at the center of everything.
Before the disappearances, before all of the bleeding and sadness, there was a pattern. Stephen Appleton discovered this pattern and saw what happened on that fateful night when the mysterious lights lit up the night sky as everyone looked on from the comfort of their quaint little village. That night, Stephen and his wife, Kate, caught something. They caught that light and it couldn’t be controlled nor contained. In an explosion of sorts, it marked the married couple with a butterfly. It is the mark you painted around the world of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
That is the first clue as to what this light is. The butterfly is a symbol of three critical things that make its presence make sense in the narrative of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. First, it is a series of change and acceptance of that change. Second, it is often considered a religious symbol of the soul (in Christianity, at least). And finally, in Greek mythology, the butterfly (often used to represent Psyche) is tied to love since Psyche was in love with Eros (Cupid) and he with her.
So we know what the light represents, but that still doesn’t tell us exactly what it is. As far as Stephen and Kate are concerned, in the beginning it was something scientific, like an alien. Something brought on by the mysterious events in the sky that they were able to find the pattern to. But Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture also gives off a more spiritual meaning to this thing. That it is alien in its foreign nature, but not necessarily alien in a “space invaders” kind of way.
To understand what the light does, we’ll have to take a look at the story. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is broken up between the six characters mentioned before, but players don’t necessarily encounter everything in order. The open nature of the game allows for things to be done in any order, or to be skipped altogether. Yet, you can figure out the light’s mission by looking at the commonalities between each of the six characters’ experiences.
Now, before we get into that, there are two stories that can be split up into two camps. There are the events that lead to each characters’ conclusion, and then there is the series of events that show how Stephen and, most importantly, Kate interact with the light.
Father Jeremy, Wendy, Frank, and Lizzie only ever have direct interaction with the light at the very end of their lives, but the light is influencing everything around them. Each of the four have some emotional baggage that they can’t seem to escape from. Faith, support, courage, love, self-value, these are all of the demons that haunt these individuals in Everybody’s gone to the Rapture.
For each one of these people, the light eliminates what is holding them back, not in the sense of keeping them tied to the earthly realm out of love, but as excuses for them to do what they do. For example, Lizzie uses her drunk husband and Stephen as excuses for why she stays in the village and why she won’t leave. If it isn’t those two, then she’s blaming her bum leg. So the light removes those elements. It makes it so that Stephen can no longer contact her, and so that her husband vanishes forever. But why? So that she can move on.
Throughout Everbody’s Gone to the Rapture, many characters just start bleeding and then vanish. They accept and then go. But the light needs acceptance, it requires it for people to be at peace. Father Jeremy could never face his god while he was still focused on his parish. Frank could never face himself while he was busy taking out his anger and grief on others. The light brought them to a place where they could finally accept and move on.
How? Well, that’s when you have to get back to Stephen and Kate. They were the ones with the initial interaction with the source of all of this change. At first, the light is just able to move through phones, televisions, radios, just electronic ways of communication, which is probably why Stephen thought he could stop it by cutting off technology. But the light evolves and adapts to the world around it.
Early in the game, during Father Jeremy’s “chapter,” there is a memory involving Stephen at the hardware store. He has a can of paint and he drops it revealing an intricate swirling pattern, just like the one you see surrounding the orbs of light in Everbody’s Gone to the Rapture. This shows that the light has the ability to enter pretty much anything and control it in some form. It is all powerful, in a sense.
The light has a method for getting to and into anywhere and anything. This is further proved when listening to the phone message from Dr. Wade which can be found in a car not far from his office in Yaughton. He states that the nosebleeds come out mostly as dark clots of blood, and upon closer examination of these clots, they have these orbs of “liquid light” within them. So the light doesn’t just guide, it is a catalyst for change, it forces that butterfly metamorphosis.
At first, the light and its effects on everyone and everything in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture seems passive. It appeared in this small area and is just reacting to everything around it, just like anything else that suddenly appears does. A tornado doesn’t want to tear down homes, storms don’t want to flood streets, but they do because that’s their nature. But, if you take the time to listen to Kate’s messages, which can be found in the radios scattered throughout the game, you find out that the light is alive and very much aware of everything.
While Stephen is out trying to kill whatever this thing is, Kate takes the time to try and understand it. From the very beginning, she believes that it is trying to communicate, and she actually ends up being right. The light is eliminating everyone on purpose. When Kate tells the light that what it is doing is wrong and hurting others, it communicates with her by showing her images of what happens after one vanishes. They find peace, happiness, acceptance, and they get to be with the ones they love.
The light is a catalyst for acceptance so that people can move on. That is its only purpose. It isn’t there to learn, or to inspect, only to push and guide so that the individuals it comes across in Everbody’s Gone to the Rapture can see everything clearly.
The light causes a change at the very depths of the soul so that true love can be felt. A love unafraid of fear or loneliness, a love that doesn’t consider things like shame and anger. The light takes all things in while making them pure. That still leaves the question of whether or not it is spiritual or something within the realm of science.
There a few hints that point more towards the light being spiritual, but two stand out the most. For one, children for some reason can see the orbs of light (like the ones you follow), while the adults can’t. Throughout the game, you find artwork from children illustrating orbs of light moving about and the butterfly symbol. Many people believe that children are more in tune with the realm of spirits due to their innocence and their stronger adherence to imagination.
Next is the final thing you see in the game. Kate’s soul is reaching up to meet the light pouring into the observatory similarly to the famous Michelangelo painting “Creation of Adam.” You know, the one where god himself is reaching down to humanity.
The light, then, is an agent of heaven. Its butterfly symbolism and its way of being all lend to the notion that this small village did in fact have some type of communion with a spirit. It came to change this village and to bring peace. It brought a metamorphosis to the people that allowed them to transcend their existence and be one with what truly mattered to them.