A finite end to failure

December 3, 2012
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A finite end to failure: Long fiction project: draft 2
The dagger hits Cyrus Matheus straight in his middle. With a dramatic woozy sway he falls to the ground. A triumphant eight legged beast called an aracman dominates the background. With this, the underground scene is replaced with black and then the words GAME OVER flash on the screen. Dammit, he thought he had the monster cornered that time. Cyrus was a good hero, athletic with a high tolerance for pain and an abundance of courage; he could fire a grenade straight to the back of the screen into the heart of a wild beast with one swift command of a button.
He shoves himself away from the computer screen. Something is wrong with his game. He hates seeing those words; game over, they spell out a finite end to his failure. It is not the mechanics of the game that give him a sense of unease, but the invisible fibres that make it whole, not the lungs that give it breath or the heart that pumps life through it but the voice; the thing that makes it speak.
He tries to physically shake the fuzziness out of his head; but still it feels like a thousand dots of TV static starting a mob within his brain. He stares blankly at a wall claimed by posters, lost in the game that still plays on inside his head. If he looks on front of him he can see the blurred words; ‘Call of Duty’ ‘World of Warcraft’ ‘Slender.’ All his inspiration laid out on front of him to see. Surrounding him are shelves, endless supports on every wall, crammed full of neatly arranged game cases, or stacks of frayed notebooks. The only space free of shelves is the window which takes up a square of wall. Moonlight illuminates parts of the small room; he always keeps the curtains open at night, it helps with inspiration to stare out the window and not know what is going to appear the other side.
He started designing the game two years ago as a recreational project. He calls it Paralysis; an alternate universe of horror with a fast paced plot. Cyrus is the hero; he lives in a world where there no sun, only harsh man made lights that leave colossal areas of darkness. This is where Tim lives; in the dark. It is safer there. (more description of place) His thoughts tumble over and over in his head, trying to pinpoint what the game lacks. The horror, perhaps, is not quite right. But this is his genre. He has been nourished by the images of mutants coming towards him, has fed on the chill of scary movies. He longs to create the lingering effect of fright that cloaks those who experience it; he wants a permanent icy grip on his players’ hearts.
Four hours of his life have just passed in a blur of gameplay. He was supposed to be studying. What did it matter? What was important to him was how Tim looked on the screen, the shape and form of his storyline, his life. He wrote it all, controlled every detail, there was no part of it that was unfamiliar to him. What else did he have control over? He scribbles down ideas in his notebook, cursing the flash of inspiration that avoids him. In cases like this there’s only one thing that can help him, one thing that gets ideas pumping and improvements started. He walks downstairs to the rhythm of the ringing in his ears. His mother is curled up, rosy-cheeked and reading in the stuffy heat of the kitchen.
‘Hello Ryan dear, how did the study go?’
‘Oh it was fine mam.’ After a pause: ‘Where’s Lucy?’
‘Gone to Jayne’s house for a sleepover, remember?’
‘Oh yeah.’ His sister had endless circles of friends, gaggles of dainty little ten- year- old girls. It seemed that she had inherited the gene for popularity. He saw the effect that her companions had on her. Every day she bounced home from school, an unstoppable whirlwind of chatter. He didn’t understand how the company of others could make someone so happy, even though he wanted to.
‘Ryan, we’re giving your brother a lift to town tomorrow because he has some errands to do before work. Would you like to join us? We can give you a lift to anywhere you want.’
What would he want to do in the city? He felt so vulnerable wandering the crowded streets, it was a horrible place to be. Terrified that he may see someone he recognized, he started keeping his head down and watching people’s feet instead. His older brother was a ponce. Just because he had a girlfriend and a job and oh-so-important errands to run. And of course his mother would have to rub it in. Their favourite pastime seemed to be making him feel inadequate with details of their exciting lives.
‘No thanks.’
‘Are you sure honey? It would be nice for all of us to go out for a while.’
‘No mam, I hate the city. I’m going for a walk.’
‘Well will you come with us to Lucy’s school play next week? I know you’re busy with schoolwork but you need to take breaks as well.’
He sees the anxiety on her face and tries to calm himself. (add more description)
‘Yeah, okay. I don’t mind.’
She beams. ‘Brilliant, she’ll be delighted that you’re coming to see her.’
‘Mm hmm.’ He makes towards the door.
‘Anyway, please be careful on your walk honey. You know the town’s been a bit on edge recently what with all the strikes.’
‘Ok. I have my phone. I won’t be long.’
When his dad first heard of Paralysis, he asked him what he could do with that sort of game that hadn’t been done before. He hadn’t even intended his parents to know about it, but his dad barged into his room that day and caught him playing it like a guilty teenager caught masturbating. He had told his father that his imagination was working on it. But as he soon discovered his imagination was running on borrowed fuel, tired tattered grey storylines of Japanese twins, zombies and wild creatures that had all been travelled before. He needed something new, he needed real fear. And what a better way of finding it than searching for it whilst dragging himself round town in the black emptiness of a wintry night.
And so he steps outside into the abyss of Kinsbrook. It’s one of Ireland’s oldest rural towns, or so the tourist brochures brag. He thinks that his hometown is knee-deep and sinking fast in a disgusting, sludgy bog of its own history and folklore. The pious population don’t talk to each other but shoot knowing glances instead. The only communication was in the frost after mass, where they stand in tightly knitted groups, whispering into the fog all the secrets they’ve been hugging to themselves for the past while:
‘Did you hear about Mr. Mc Entaggart’s son? Caught by the priest down under the docks drinking alcohol with some other miscreants. Apparently the father hasn’t been paying much attention to him lately.’
‘Oh and have you heard about Mrs. Doherty? All tucked up in bed and not a soul to visit her. The daughter’s been away for a while now, and she doesn’t show any signs of coming back.’
He wasn’t sure how he felt about all this gossip. Maybe he would have engaged in it, if he ever got the chance. The youth formed their own gangs as well, huddling by the wall and talking about all sorts of things that he didn’t understand. He hated this ritual, and usually stood off to the side of a group that his parents joined, scuffing his shoes off the ground and imagining new ways to better his game.
He meanders down the streets. They are empty. In fact, where the hell are all the people? There aren’t many of them, sure, but the place is like a ghost town. He trips in a pothole on the footpath, and curses into the silence (of the night? Terrible sentence). These streets have seen better days, then again, so have the inhabitants. A recent announcement has added a ripple of unrest to all the post-mass gossip (slander). The company which provides twenty per cent of the town’s jobs is imminently upping and moving to Bulgaria. A week after this, his father told him with a conspiratorial look that the people of Kinsbrook were like a dam ready to burst. He had no reply, he could never get a job with them anyway; the thought of interviews was enough for the hand of fear to clasp his heart give a squeeze that made it hard to breath.
As usual, he imagines the world of the virtual as he walks through town. It has become and he must check around every corner for what horror may lunge out at him. He has a whole stash of weapons at his disposal of course, sophisticated guns and machetes, but it doesn’t extinguish the rush of fear that he feels. Under the streetlights is the most dangerous, that’s where aracmans are rife. With a mist plaguing the night, even the slightest escape of breath hangs in the air like an unanswered question. He can hear nothing but the whizz and hum of distant machinery, and in his head, the warmth of a laugh that cannot penetrate this impermeable sight before him. Yes, that laugh is a speck of golden inspiration against the blackness/darkness, he can add such a sound to the background for effect.
The fear is quick to infect him as he experiences it chip a jagged line to his core, like a crack in a pane of glass or on a computer screen. Every streetlight looks like a stranger ravenous for his blood. On hearing a hiss he lunges around to check what beast awaits him. But there is no one there. Alone, he is so unbearably alone, there is no escape from it. He almost wishes for the monsters and ghosts of (place name) to attack him.
He passes the river, not the still tranquil part but its angry foamy brother with a tendency for violence. The waves gurgle as they lip and curl their way to the sea. What a wondrous entity it is. A mesh of black and white; a hungry monster. Every rush of water makes his muscles twitch. What genius this is! His hands tremble their way out of his pockets and find his notebook. He leans against a wall and scrawls down the idea of a river in the game. Maybe Tim should have to face a battle in it with water demons? Maybe it runs through the city and delivers all sorts of foul, unwanted things. Maybe it gives Tim a path out of the city? To another level perhaps? Satisfied with this, he stumbles on towards the main street, sensing some sort of commotion up ahead. All of a sudden there is noise. He hurries around the corner, steeling himself.
There is a riot on the main street of Kinsbrook.
It is something he has never witnessed himself. He could tell you that gaming had taught him a lot. He knew of the shape and speed of a blood spatter on the screen, but he didn’t know of the sight before him; people yelping and screeching, whether in exhilaration or pain he couldn’t tell. He was an expert, a first class master, of shooting bastard mutations through the heart to save all of humanity, but he couldn’t tackle the fire that now spits on front of the statue of the town founder. He knows of letting all his anger out into a spacebar, a button that can so easily destroy, but he cannot take in what is happening before him, cannot even comprehend it.
He guesses that his father was right; the real people have revolted against their situation and let loose a torrent of rage. Snarling dogs, shop alarms whining, cars overturned and broken glass carpeting the ground; he sees that this is the form their rebellion takes. Who are they even rebelling against anyway? The company’s headquarters are far from here, on the outskirts of town.
‘What’s going on?’ He croaks to a man panting past him. The man wears a fitted black shirt, jeans and loafers with cracks down the sides. Everything about him is normal, except for his eyes. They look like the eyes of a feral cat, or of a computer generated avatar, there is no spark in them. The man doesn’t answer him, but he is used to not receiving answers, as if people somehow think that he isn’t worth a reply. Despite this, the emotional sting is as smart as ever.
Now he sees what’s gone wrong, the people have gone mad. Surely it’s the most exciting thing to ever happen here. The town has come alive, roaring and shaking its head like a dragon incited by the jabs of weaponry. Shadowy shapes dance in the light flung from the fire as figures scamper like rats in different directions. The tiny street is pounding with the threat of possibility, of this unearthly happening.
It is just like his game.
(New scene)
He sees a group that he recognises; they lounge by a shop window, beer bottles in their hands. Some kids from school that wear Hollister like it’s their birth right and make polite conversation with teachers in the corridors. Tim would never do this; he was an unlikely hero; he was an outcast, a quiet man, friendless. There are other human beings in the game, but they don’t make contact with him. They form a group without him and kill in teams. You’d think that it would be more effective, but they’re dependence on each other makes them weak. One of Tim’s first missions is to kill the other humans when he encounters them on his territory. There are no other options. They think he is a weirdo, that he will never survive the attacks. They don’t want him on their team. He embodies Tim now as he shuffles up to them.
‘What do you want?’ One of the guys turns on him.
I want someone to like me, he thinks. I want not to be alone all the time. I want to feel part of your group. I want you to look at me like you all look at Chris, your leader, the wittiest, most socially inept of you all. But no, he mustn’t show such weakness. He needs to be casual and aloof. He summons Tim from somewhere inside himself; he is the creator after all. Every trait of Tim’s is also within him.
‘Hey guys, what’s going on?’ Wearing confidence like it’s his favourite pair of jeans.
By the looks they give him he can tell exactly how stupid he sounds. He is so sick of this.
‘Why are you standing beside this window? You want all the CD’s in this shop? You guys want to get your hands on them, is that it?’
He has never spoken so many words to all of them combined it his life.
‘Well I can get them for you if you want.’
The anger bubbles over inside his head to become real action. Stretching out his leg he brings it down in one swift motion through the glass of the window.
‘Holy f***.’ One of them mutters. ‘He’s insane.’
The girls gasp, the guys wince, as his foot shatters it into pieces. The sharp twinge of pain in his knee is nothing compared to the looks of shock on their faces. It feels like the exhilaration of getting through to the next level; of seeing the final enemy flash and blink off the screen. Yes, he can make people feel anything but disdain. He can frighten, amaze, is there an end to what he can do? In the chaos of the night it doesn’t seem so.
She is also with them, the girl he wants the most. Confident and deathly beautiful, she never rises to the boy’s taunts. Not that she gets much stick from them; they’re far too in awe of her to slag her much. She looks scared of the riot, of what he has just done.
‘Guys I’m outta here, this is getting too dangerous’ She ---
‘Yeah me too.’ Her friend looks more nervous than she does.
He opens his mouth to ask her to stay, to go to the cinema with him next week, to look at him. He needs something from her. But the words stick in his throat, never make it out past his clenched jaw. It is risky, what would she say to him? He is insignificant to her, has no right to talk to her. Why would she bother with him anyway? He has no idea. In the game he can programme every action, every scene, there are never any surprises. But here he can control conversations only in his head. Once they begin he really has no power over them. So perhaps it’s better not to start them. As she turns he feels the swish of her soft dark chocolate hair in his face. The bursts of fragrance from it. He aches to reach out and touch her. To hold her. To feel her warmth pressed up against him. He would settle even for playful conversation, just to know that she wants to talk to him, doesn’t find him a bore. His heart is rising out of his chest to meet her, instructing him to reach out and make contact. But she is gone; half jogging off into the darkness with her friend. He wants to warn her not to go, there are monsters lurking in the dark. But surely it is safer than the mayhem of the riot?
Just at that moment, a rock whooshes past his head, (something about the other people’s reactions?) and he bolts several feet to the right (instinctive thing, reaction, shock). The group beside him laugh collectively and then move off swiftly, swinging their beer bottle like a lazy demonstration of their freedom. Perhaps he is not the hero that he made? Tim would have shattered that rock with an arrow, would have crushed it into dust, or caught it with one hand and flung it back at the monster who dared throw it at him.
He looks around him, the people have stopped running. They are convening by the fire. They turn on him with feral eyes glinting. The familiar burn of fear is in his chest, sweat prickles in the grooves of his knees, his lungs are heaving in order to breath. Suddenly the danger is not of supernatural beings, but of people, real and enraged. They stagger towards him one by one, like zombies coming for him, like this was meant to happen all along. There is an endless trail of them. He doesn’t recognize a single face. Why doesn’t he recognize anyone?
There is no happy resolution to the game.
This is what he thinks as the crowd heads towards him. He made it so. Tim will always die a violent death at the hands of sadistic monsters, and the world will carry on as if he never tried to play the hero. He made it this way in the hope that his players will start over again and again at the beginning, always believing that they can change the outcome; sure that if they play better, gain more points, unlock more weapons, that they can be victorious. They don’t know that they will never alter anything, can never prevent what will happen. They are stuck in a universe where no matter the efforts they make; the end will always be, fated, written in the stars, whatever way you wanted to put it, it was inevitable.
He sees the mob swirl around him; he is trapped in the centre of the hurricane. GAME OVER flashes across his landscape. And as the angry shouts guide him towards the river he wonders wildly if Chris and his beautiful friends might finally remember who he is. And as his heartbeat roars in his ears he thinks frantically about where he can find the restart button, so that he can begin again.

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Def_Leppard_fan120 said...
Dec. 8, 2012 at 10:45 pm
That was Pretty good. The way you described the characters was good. Keep at it. i enjoyed this piece a lot
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