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Dread, and Two Years' Passing

It's ridiculous how long you can keep "to do" items on your desktop. And by "you", I clearly mean me.

Just over two years ago, Tasha emailed me to say she had come up with a superhero-themed role playing game scenario she wanted to try out. (I'd replied to a post of hers several months prior to state interest if and when an RPG got off the ground.) So even though I hadn't seen her in about seven years (!), I said hey great! And Ryvre might be interested too. So the three of us gathered one evening at The Grafton for dinner/drinks, for Tasha & Ryvre to meet each other, and we talked about the game, life, etc.

It's so funny to think that was two years ago. On the one hand, I remember the storyline of that game pretty well. On the other, so much else has changed! I'd only hung out with Tasha a couple of times previous (most of our interactions to that point having been via LiveJournal & email), had met Bob at one of their Oscar parties years ago but only in passing, etc. On the other hand, in the two years since, we've gotten to hang out with Tasha much more - Ryvre more than me, as Tasha has not only run a couple of additional RPGs that Ryvre has participated in, but comes to G-Mart's Thursday board game night most weeks - and I've additionally had the opportunity to discover not only what a cool & interesting guy Bob is, but I first Kickstarted and then auditioned for and acted in his Hamlet webseries, as well as meeting and getting to know other new friends through them (such as Lisa).

Not to mention all the other people I've met over the past two years. Relationships formed. New interests, such as swing dancing, acquired.

(And in the meantime, Tasha - LiveJournal stalwart of so many years - seems the latest in the long line of people to have left their LJ blogging behind. A shame, that! Not that I can't relate...)

I'm reminded of all this as I looked at a text file called "dread" on my laptop's desktop. After that initial - and much enjoyed - superhero game, Tasha emailed us about another RPG she wanted to run: this time a horror-themed one by the name of Dread. (Appropriately, we would gather to play it on October 28, 2012, just a few days before Halloween.) To help get the roleplaying gears turning, she sent out brief, personalized questionnaire to all of us players to fill out - ideally in the week before we were to play, but life being as it was, I didn't get a chance to fill out mine until the hour-plus commute from our house to theirs, in Evanston.

Surprisingly, even though I was just coming up with ideas and character details as I typed away on my laptop while on the train, I felt I was able to come up with a fairly interesting character sketch pretty quickly. And I was pleased that (once I printed up my sheet) Tasha seemed to think so too. Her questionnaire mentioned that one of the bonus cards she was giving out would be for the one whose character profile she liked the most, and I ended up getting that one.

Anyway, I had enough fun coming up with the character - even if most of the background details went (understandably) unused, like the baby-snatching bit - that I saved the text file on my laptop ever since, planning to one day save a copy in my LiveJournal.

Well, nearly two years later - but here we are. Yes, I can procrastinate with the best of 'em. :P

Background: You are a small-town North Carolina high-school student and a member of your local 4-H Club, which brings together teenagers from all over the local area for “youth development projects” ranging from volunteering at hospitals and retirement homes to engaging in collaborative creative-arts projects to competing in local contests and events. Every year, the 4-H Club assembles a 4-acre “haunted corn maze” at Phillips Farm, a 1,200-acre family farm and orchard in rural North Carolina at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Normally, up to 50 adults and teenagers participate in preparing and designing the maze, but this year, a stomach-flu epidemic has sidelined most of the usual participants, either because they’re sick or because their parents have denied them permission to participate for fear of them getting sick. The 4-H leadership determined that the maze should be cancelled this year, but you were determined to make it happen anyway.

You are part of a group of die-hard Club members who don’t know each other particularly well—your really close friends are among the sick or grounded, or are back in your rural hometowns and aren’t in 4-H at all—but you’re each determined enough to make sure the maze happens this year that you’ve all agreed to camp out on the grounds and work around the clock to construct the admissions booth, the props, the signs, and especially the elaborate tableaux that make up the scary parts of the maze at night. It is three weeks until Halloween, and the maze isn’t ready yet. Since you have three days off school due to parent-teacher conferences and in-service days, you all came out to the farm on Wednesday morning, planning to work on the site together every waking hour you can until Saturday, when the farm has its Fall Festival grand opening.

Everyone will receive an individualized questionnaire with mostly different questions from everyone else. Filling these out promptly will let me consider your character’s personality when designing the game. As an added incentive, anyone who has their questionnaire in by Thursday, October 25, at midnight will get a one-use bonus card for gameplay—essentially, a competitive edge that will be useful in a pinch. Anyone who has their questionnaire in by noon THIS SUNDAY, October 21, will get the first bonus card plus a second, even better competitive edge card. And I will be awarding a third competitive edge card entirely subjectively, to whoever answers their questions best and most thoroughly before game day.

Any questions for me about the setup or situation, let me know, I’ll be happy to answer them. In the meantime, here’s your personalized questionnaire:

1. What’s your name, and how do you feel about that name? What do your friends call you?

Hey there! I'm Mac. Good to meet you. Well, my name's Trevor McCarthy. But nobody calls me that - well, except my dad. And my teachers, obviously. But everybody at school just calls me Mac.

2. What’s your best subject in school, and what do you wish you were good at instead?

I dunno. I guess my best subject is English - I've always enjoyed reading, and have also been pretty good at coming up with stories ever since I was a kid. (Well, writing them. Not nearly as great at making them up on the spot.) I don't know that I've got all that many subjects that I'm poor at and just can't get...? Mostly it's just a matter of whether or not it's something that's interesting, or bores me.

3. Which tableaux in the haunted maze did you dream up? What costumed character are you planning to play when the haunted maze opens?

Well, you know, my tastes don't run in the direction of trying to literally *terrorize* somebody. I guess I'm more along the lines of the classic Universal monster movies - you know, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, stuff like that. I've always enjoyed dressing up as the Dracula character; we'll have some other people be the Mummy, the Wolf Man, etc. Maybe have this tableaux start things off pretty early, before the creepier stuff some of the other people devise?

4. What one behavior of yours do people most often complain about?

I dunno. I guess some of my friends can get a little annoyed that I'm generally pretty "by-the-book". I try to do a good job at everything I do - why half-ass anything, right? - and I try to help others out when I can. I'm not what you'd call particularly religious, but I do think it's right to help other people out when they need it. My family sure went through hell five years ago, and a lot of people spent a lot of time and energy trying to help us. And, y'know, I appreciate that.

5. How did you feel when your parents moved here from a much larger city? Where do you want to live when you grow up?

Well, y'know ... it made me pretty upset and angry at the time. I mean, living in a city was pretty cool. There was always stuff to do! And moving to a backwater place like this just seemed so BORING! But I got used to it, in time, and eventually made friends and everything. But I sure wouldn't mind moving to someplace like New York when I'm older! Or even someplace exotic, like London or Glasgow. But that's pretty unlikely, I think.

6. What are you superstitious about even though you mostly think superstitions are ridiculous?

I don't joke about dying. A lot of people do: "My parents are gonna kill me for this." Or that party game where you guess how you're going to die, and people try to come up with the most ridiculous or convoluted methods, and try to top each other. I can't get into that. At all. I'll say it: The idea of death terrifies me. And yeah, I'm only in high school and I'm terrified of dying. I know how messed up that is. So I just try not to think about it.

7. You are the oldest member of this group. How do you feel about that, and how do you think it changes how the group relates to you?

I'm cool with that. Honestly, I've never really been close to the people in my grade level for some reason. When I was a Freshman, the people I was close to were the Juniors & Seniors - you know, the drama geeks, the goth girl who used to be a cheerleader, the leather-jacket guy who was always smoking and getting into trouble. The outsiders. Which meant, of course, that in the next couple of years I had to deal with my closest friends leaving, and me staying behind. Which sucked. I guess I've always had to deal with loss.

So now, anyway, I'M the Senior, and MY good friends are the Freshmen and Sophomores. And I guess they look up to me and follow my lead, in the same way that I looked up to those upperclassmen when I was a Freshmen. I've got no illusions about "popularity" - I'll never be one of the jocks or whatever - but I've got a place. So if I'm the oldest of the kids to get this maze up & running, that'll be just fine with me!

8. Why do you hate your boss at your afterschool job so much, and why do you keep working there?

He's just kind of a TOOL, man. He's one of those managers who thinks everybody who works under him is an incompetant schlub, and treats us all like children. I HATE that. News flash: I know what I'm doing, and I'm actually pretty good at it - when you're not interrupting me all the time for things that aren't important. Yes, getting the silverware bundled for the next shift is necessary. Pulling me away when I'm with a customer probably isn't the best time to go over it though.

9. Who are you most going to miss this weekend while you’re hanging out in the field, and why?

Um ... No, I think I'm good, actually. I mean, yeah, Mandy & I just started dating a couple of weeks ago, but we haven't even used the words "boyfriend"/"girlfriend" yet. And come on - it's just three days! I THINK I can handle *three days*, y'know? It's not the end of the world or anything.

10. What’s your planned college major, and what jobs will it get you?

Man, I've got NO idea. I mean, obviously I like to write stories. Even won a couple of "young author" awards. But good luck getting steady work from that! I suppose I could try journalism, but the news just bores the crap outta me...

11. You intermittently have nightmares terrifying enough that you wake up yelling. What are they about, and what event in your life do you suspect caused them?

Well, my nightmares revolve around the night my baby brother disappeared. Obviously. It was a Saturday night and he was fine. I even poked my head into the door of his room, which he'd only moved into a few months previously. (Before that, he was still in a crib in my parents' room.) It was storming pretty badly, but I sat on his bed and talked to him until he fell asleep. And the next morning, it was empty. It was a horrifying and traumatic time for all of us, and my mom never really recovered. I just visited her at the hospital last month and she's still not really "there". The doctors say she just suffered a traumatic break with reality. Which, y'know, anyone could understand.

So my dad and I just try to carry on. We don't really talk about it, and I try not to think about it. But not having any clue what happened with something like that is a thing that haunts you. And sometimes I dream. And it's ... not great.

12. What secret skill do you have that you suspect other people would laugh at?

Well, I don't know that you'd call it a "skill" really, 'cause it's not something I can control. Or is, y'know, reliable. But sometimes ... WEIRD stuff ... just happens around me. Coincidences. Small things nobody can explain. And the funny thing is, sometimes, right before this happens...? I'll sneeze. I dunno - it's not all the time, and it's not 100%. But it's something I noticed a long time ago. Which means that if I ever get that itching going on in my nose, I definitely start paying attention - y'know, that whole "heightened awareness" thing. But sometimes it's just a sneeze.

13. What are you most afraid of your parents discovering in your room while you’re away?

I dunno. A couple of girly mags? My dad and I may not talk about our feelings or anything, but we get along pretty well. I don't know if there's anything that I would feel like I CAN'T talk to him about, or would have to hide.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 11th, 2014 10:00 pm (UTC)
Having re-read this, I'm most amused at just how many of the details I cribbed from the recollection of my own high school persona. (Hey, when on a deadline, steal from wherever possible - right?) The social standing, the interest in writing, etc. All while trying to maintain a writing style more appropriate to a high school student's words, rather than how I might try to communicate today.

Also, I laughed a couple of days later when I realized that the stolen baby brother bit was snagged right out of Labyrinth. Oh, and the character name was taken from this comic book artist. I'm actually not all that familiar with his work - but I sure think he's got a great-sounding name!
Jul. 13th, 2014 02:18 am (UTC)
oh, i bet that was lots of fun!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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