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Distilled Spirits: Ch. 17 — Sidney

December 24, 2013

What is Distilled Spirits?

Episode 5:  “You Know I Cannot Lie”

Sidney

Sid pressed pause and checked how long he’d been playing Sins of Our Fathers—3 hours, 23 minutes, and 17 seconds.  Mrs. Robinson had said game testers took around 45 hours to finish the main story of the RPG, and Sid had nine days to do that and write up a critique of the game.  He flipped through the settings of the pause menu while recallin the conversation he last had with Mrs. Robinson.


“This is your shot,”
she had said, sliding a game disc in a paper envelope across the table.  “I mentioned you to some friends of mine.”

Sid remembered staring at the XBOX disc—‘Sins of our Fathers’ written in Sharpie on one side of the beta version.

“The game launches in three months,” Mrs. Robinson had told him.  “If you can get me your response by the end of the year, I can get you an interview with the developer.”

Sid heard a wracking cough behind him and watched Cait roll over in his bed.  Her pillow was soaked with sweat, only a thin sheet laying over her.  She had promised to keep Sid company while he marathon’d the game, but she had been clean for forty eight hours and asleep for the last three.  Yesterday she flushed the last of her morphine, saying she had tapered long enough but Sid had no way to know.

It was nearly 2:00 in the afternoon and Sid got up to stretch.  He was far enough into the game that the intro was almost done with the real adventure about to begin.  Sid grabbed some ice from the kitchen and refreshed the glass beside his bed before sitting on the floor to play.

Set up like a traditional Japanese RPG, Sins of Our Fathers was modeled after Super Nintendo games like Zelda: Link to the Past, but streamlined with modern graphics.  Taking place in a small village in late medieval times, the hero had learned that his father was not the good man who had raised him, but someone else—someone mysterious and, judging by the title, someone probably evil.  The hero had just met his first potential companion—a young, boisterous woman—when someone knocked quietly on Sid’s door.

Geno let himself in and glanced around the room, eyes adjusting to the dim sunlight coming through the blinds.

“Hey,” Geno said.  “How’s the game?  Caitlyn texted me about your maybe-interview and I thought I’d check it out.  Glenn might come by later.”

“It’s fine,” Sid said.  “Kinda typical so far.  I’m not sure what the selling point is.”

Geno sat on the hardwood floor just inside the door and nodded toward the bed.  “She’s okay?”

“Just tired, I hope,” Sid said. “Where’s Scar?”

Geno frowned at the nickname.  “She’s practicing.  Next week Scarlett performs for the application committee, or whatever.  The smug assholes who sit there and judge her while she plays piano.  They like her application on paper, but—you don’t really care about this, do you?”

Sid had unpaused the game to read more lines of dialogue—the female character was explaining her back story.  It was exposition without any attempt to hide it.

“I hope she gets in.  She’s fun, you know,” Sid said, glancing sideways at his friend.  “You two, uh, get along well.”

“Scarlett throws herself at everything,” Geno said, shaking his head.  “Everything she does.  And she doesn’t care when she fails.”

Sid was pretty sure he knew what was going on, but he had to be careful.  Memories of Geno’s heartbroken high school self and how annoying he was quickly came to mind.

“You seeing her tonight?” Sid asked.

“No, tomorrow,” Geno said.  “Glenn mentioned having dinner later, by the way.  Some new Thai place on the water.”

Sid stared at the blinking cursor next to a box of dialogue on the screen that he had read three times.  Press ‘A’ to continue.

“Why—why don’t you just ask her out already?” Sid said.  “I mean, dude, you haven’t been with anyone since you met, right?  You’re practically dating.”

Geno was quiet for a moment.

“I’m thinking about it,” he admitted.  “Maybe—”

Whatever Geno was about to say was never said—his phone vibrated and he stood up.  He slipped out of the room, saying that he had to take the call, and Sid resumed the game.

After the dialogue was finished, Sid was struck with a choice, and for the first time the game departed from what he expected.  Instead of forcing the hero to journey with this new character, the player decided whether to take the girl along or leave her behind.  The girl was an orphan who was full of energy and was looking for help on her own quest: finding her real parents.

Sid wondered how long it would be before another person would ask to join the hero’s party—how much more of the game he’d have to play alone.  He chose to travel with her and played for a few more hours before another hesitant knock sounded on his door.  It was dark outside.

When Glenn came in and Sid paused the game, the hero was in a new village with another decision to make.

Glenn gestured at Cait’s motionless form on the bed.

“Sleeping,” Sid said.  Or maybe she was faking it—her breathing was quiet and uneven.

Glenn sat and leaned against the bed.  “Going to dinner in a bit.  You in?”

“Pass,” Sid said.

“That good of a game?”  Glenn squinted at the screen.

“Just starting to get into it,” Sid said.  “Have you booked your flight yet?”

“No.”

“Don’t you leave for Uraguay after New Years?”

“Suriname,” Glenn said, frowning.  “And yeah.  But, did you hear the news in Colombia?”

“I doubt it,” Sid said.

“The housing I helped coordinate,” Glenn said, patting his pockets for cigarettes, “all the construction we did last time—the village was taken over by the traffickers.”

“And the locals?”

Glenn shook his head.  “I’m not sure what I really accomplish when I go down there.”

“You don’t think you help?” Sid asked.

“I mean,” Glenn said, “did you know that New Portsmouth has the highest rate of homelessness per capita?  In this whole stupid country?”

“You can’t fix everything, everywhere.”

The two of them sat quietly for a moment—an unlit cigarette hanging from Glenn’s mouth—until his phone vibrated with a text.

“Well,” Glenn said, guessing who it was and standing up, “I gotta meet Geno.  I’ll bring back a box of panang for Caitlyn.”

“I’ll walk to you out,” Sid said.

When he sat back down again in front of the TV, Sid recalled the decision that the hero had to make: his party could continue on their quest, or they could stay in this village and help the locals defend themselves.  He chose to stay.

After a few more hours and several slices of cold pizza, Sid went into the kitchen for fresh ice.  Cait was sitting up in bed when Sid came back.  Clumpy hair hid half of Cait’s face and the loose sheet covered her legs.  She wore one of Sid’s t-shirts, too large on her thin frame.

“How long have you been awake?” Sid asked.

“Was fading in and out,” she said, yawning.  “Glenn was here?”

Sid nodded and sat down on the bed, dropping the ice into the glass.

“And Geno earlier,” he said.

Cait held the glass to her forehead before taking a long drink.  She smiled her ‘thanks’.  “How’s the game?  Have you been playing—what time is it?”

“Almost midnight,” Sid said.

“Jesus.”

“You hungry?” Sid asked.  “There’s a take-out box with your name on it in the fridge—smells like curry.  I mean, Glenn literally wrote your name on it.”

“I think I can eat a little.”  Cait held the glass halfway to her lips.  “Sorry.  I was supposed to keep you company.”

Sid shrugged.  After a moment, he turned off the TV.  “Are you still thinking about getting high?”

“Do you want me to lie?”

“No,” Sid said.

“Less,” Cait said.  “I still—I still want it.”

“But—”

“I’m an addict.”  Cait let a small laugh free, her smile staying a little longer.  “It doesn’t just go away.  That’s what normals—sober people don’t get.  It’s always there.”

“You still think about Drew?”

“Want me to lie?”

“Yes,” Sid said.

“No,” Cait answered.  “I don’t think about him at all.”

The humming fan of the old game console was the only sound in the room.

“I hope you get the interview,” Cait said.  “Isn’t this the chance you’ve wanted?”

The TV was off, but the hero and his party were waiting in front of a door that would lead to the first major boss fight.  The last save point was two hours back—if he lost this fight, he’d have to do it all over again.

Sid made a mental note to remind someone of this bad design.

_____________________________________________________________________________

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Distilled Spirits: Ch. 16 — Glenn | Devon Claytor
  2. Distilled Spirits: Ch. 18 — Geno | Devon Claytor

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