Friday, August 24, 2018

Tales of a Guerrilla Roleplayer: Koan

Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water.

It sneaks up on him, the way it always does.  Nostalgia.  And it never hits in D.C. or New York.  Hell, it never even hits in Manassas even when he passes by the spot where this all began for him — that’s always where the Gemini used to live, a couple of universes ago.  He still searches for him, from time to time, but knows it’s a fruitless errand — how would you ever hope to find someone devoured whole by the cosmos?

No.  It’s always Fredericksburg.  Fredericksburg is where Aris died, it’s where Rutters happened, it’s where a lot of things happened.

He drifted away from the others, like you do when you reach the mountaintop and have nowhere else to go.  They all drifted apart to various degrees, really.  Sure, they maintain contact, swap stories and Christmas cards, but they’re not close the way they once were.  Accomplices, fighters, lovers.  All gone, all ground into dust the way the universe does.

He likes that.  (Then again, he always liked entropy, liked endings.  Things begin, but they’re meaningless if they don’t end.)  He remembers the old days, but he doesn’t necessarily miss them.  He hated living under the threat of constant war, that this cold war of theirs might suddenly turn hot.

More recently, he hated that they became the Watchers themselves, shepherding reality to their own ends.  He knew it was necessary, but it still didn’t rinse the foul taste out of his mouth.  He’s forgotten more than most mortals ever know, but he still recalls his own quiet resentment.  Some of the others felt similarly, but it had to be done.

So he left.  He heard that the others were undergoing some manner of divine trial, and he heard about that business in Colorado, but he still walked away.  Went to find his own path, finally free for the first time in forever.

He went to Tibet for a little while.  War found him there, this time in the form of the Red Army and their hierarchical sorcerers — having no mundane history has its perks, and espionage came naturally, but he still hated it.  He enjoyed the monastic life, but he didn’t like checking over his shoulder.  He didn’t like how they treated him, like he knew some grand secret.

Gravity pulls downward, and downward for him always means back, back to the origins.  Back to 0,0. 

Back home.

He avoided the supernatural community, instead turning to the quiet life.  Once you’ve seen the strange, Awakened to its possibilities, you can never leave, of course, but you can reduce your footprint, make yourself small.  Make yourself unobtrusive.  Make yourself so strange and so mysterious that nobody comes for you, lest you decide to flex.

Be secret, and if you cannot be secret, be the dragon no one wishes to wake.  War taught him that, at least.

He made friends, friends from old splinters, friends from shards and universes long ago — he knew how to talk to them, what they liked.  He fell into old patterns, returned to an old life in a reality that had forgotten.

But still, nostalgia burns.  His wife knew, of course — he made sure to initiate her into the secret, projected into her consciousness so that she recalled a life she never lived.  Manipulative?  Likely so — but we can’t help who we are.

So, nostalgia burns.  He happened to pass by the Creepy Church a little while ago, but it’s different now, changed as the turning of ages tends to do.  They have more money, became larger, exchanged the sickly, wan, pale yellow light for a bright, white one.  The turning of two universes made it prosper, and it no longer carries the resonance it once did.

But it was in Fredericksburg proper that nostalgia gripped him.  The conditions were perfect — the rain on the windows, riding in the backseat of cars as he did ages upon ages ago.  They could have been traveling to the streets with secret names, they could have had weapons and sigils in the trunk, they could have been hunting vampires or preparing for the Watchers, but these people didn’t know, didn’t interact with the shadowed world.  Even with the secret open, they still kept to their side.

It was the alley that caught his attention.  Memory came flooding back, go down, turn left, knock on the back door, but he looked.  There was no back door, swallowed by the turning of universes, forgotten.  A dim memory.

His companions queried, and he shook his head.  “Must’ve gotten turned around,” he said.  “Let’s go.”

Back into the night.  Back into a mundane life with secret eyes.

After Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.

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