Today's monster is one you can encounter well before some of the others we've seen, but as the game's first elder-itchity cosmical boogymonster boss and also a precious lovely beautiful angel, it's one I chose to save up for the latter half of these reviews...

On a balcony at Byrgenwerth college, you can find none other than the mastermind intellectual genius himself, Professor Science Willem, looking pretty snazzy with those cordyceps things erupting from his back! He's eerily got his eyes completely covered - his visible ones, anyway, oohh, what do I mean by that?! - and he doesn't speak in the final version of the game, but he keeps pointing quietly out over a lake. What you have to do here is take a flying leap off the balcony into the water, and that will transport you to Moonside Lake, a pocket dimension containing only two things: an endless plane of shining water, and a single mom just trying to get by.

ROM, Vacuous Spider does not look like a spider. What she looks like is a huge, bulbous, segmented grub or maggot with dozens of thin, jointed little black legs and a pale blue, boulder-like head with a perfectly round, gaping mouth full of sharp teeth and an abundance of inky black, spherical eyes scattered all over her craggy meteorite of a face. If you look closely, you'll find even more of these eyes all over her body as well, smaller and more densely packed, but they're difficult to see against her blackish exoskeleton. She has also has two long tails that trail behind her, and her back is covered in fuzzy flower-like growths that glow intensely white.

She is adorable...and she is not your enemy. Not really. You can hang out with her for as long as you like, and she'll do nothing but stare blankly, little mouth eternally agape with what always read to me as an expression of awe and wonder. You could, if you were so inclined, choose your own happy ending by shutting the game off at this point and never playing it again, leaving Rom and the Hunter to peacefully hang out in her pretty lake forever and ever, staring at nothing in particular together.

Unfortunately, you cannot get any of the game's "intended" endings or otherwise progress it at all without hurting Rom, at which point she will be forced to retaliate, or rather, her little family will.

Rom will initially do nothing at all about your attacks, except roll onto her back and kick her little leggies in frustration, but her babies will keep coming, and those do look a bit like spiders. They have heads like their mother, but their bodies are more compact, and their dozen-some gangly legs are a whole lot longer. Continue bullying her, and she'll begin to conjure magical crystal attacks, then finally, in her very last phase, actually "fight back" by sort of aimlessly flailing whenever you're too close.

When I say Rom is innocent, it's not just me being sympathetic to a nonhuman creature with no natural morality. Rom's animations are very intentionally "cute," her face is designed to seem as pitiful as it is ominous and you are fully supposed to feel like you're the aggressor here, at least more like you're euthanizing something that isn't supposed to exist than slaying a dangerous monstrosity. As a Kin, Rom is not herself a Great One, but actually a former human being who ascended to a higher form through Byrgenwerth's experiments with Insight. Little else is known of who she once was, except that she was a willing participant in those experiments, she was eventually able to see further beyond the known boundaries of reality than anyone before her...and then she just apparently refused to share. She abandoned her colleagues and pissed off to her own secluded reality and never let anyone else in on what she'd discovered.

As a note from the college puts it, "The Spider hides all manner of rituals, certain to reveal nothing, for true enlightenment need not be shared."

At a chapel devoted to one of the Great Ones, on the other hand, you'll find a note that words this a bit differently: "The Byrgenwerth spider hides all manner of rituals, and keeps our lost master from us. A terrible shame. It makes my head shudder uncontrollably."

Rom actually seems to be maintaining some sort of barrier or veil between realities, and her death triggers the game's Blood Moon Phase. This event heralds the coming of the Great Ones, it's the entire reason the Old Blood is beginning to turn people into monsters, it allows the player to see some very alarming things that humans aren't supposed to perceive and it just makes the entire situation in Yharnam all-around worse. Both factions that acknowledge Rom believe she was blessed with the secrets of the universe and kept them all to herself out of sheer selfishness, but that sure isn't how it looks in retrospect.

Rom was a person, once, who supported Willem's efforts to evolve humanity beyond its natural limitations. She, like her fellow researchers, may have come to believe we had a destiny to join the god-like forces that govern the universe, or at least that the expansion of our minds would answer our deepest questions about the nature of existence. She was willing to suffer and sacrifice everything to that end, submitting to the sort of grisly medical procedures, alien blood transfusions and parasite infestations we've already seen this entail. And she was a success. She became something so much more than human that there was no longer any trace of our species left, something brand new and unique in all the universe that could perceive more of it than anyone could have imagined.

Maybe they're right that she simply didn't deem anyone else worthy of her amazing discoveries, but that feels narratively unlikely. What looks a whole lot more likely is that whatever it was she saw, whatever it was she learned about the universe, she couldn't communicate anymore on terms that we would understand, and didn't think there was anything to do but put herself in between the Great Ones and the rest of us, devoting all of her strength to holding back the Blood Moon as long as she possibly could.

For her ultimately futile sacrifice, she would only be remembered as "vacuous."