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Andrew Wade


William vs The World

Lights up on WILLIAM.

AUDIO: Serene music from Day of the Tentacle, turns into the sounds of bats

William enters in a frantic state, carrying CHUCK THE CACTUS. William is

scratching, trying to calm himself. As he almost gets calm, the bat sounds start.
They cause further scratching.

When Bruce Wayne fell into the well, he was terrified. He was just a little boy, exploring
his backyard. He leaned on the wood, a rotting board splintered, and down went Bruce,
a stark plunge into darkness, down, down, down, landing in a seemingly endless cave.
But it wasn't the cave that terrified him. The cave excited him. It drew him in, this place
of wonder, this place where for all he knew, no one else had ever been. A place of
mystery. A place where he could be on his own, be whomever he wanted to be without
anyone telling him otherwise.

But in that cave under that well, young Bruce Wayne wasn't as alone as he may have
wished to be, and he hadn't taken more than a few small steps before bats, endless,
endless bats, flew out of every crevasse, launched themselves at him, cried at him,
berated him, battered him with their wings, came at him from every direction at once!

AUDIO: Batman – intro snippet

And he was afraid.

When I was a kid, my life was like constantly falling into that cave, over and over again,

day after day after day, every time I left my bedroom door. It was the age of discovery –
discovering the ranger Aragorn, son of Arathorn, leading the hobbits toward Mount
Doom, or Luke Skywalker learning the ways of the force, or Guybrush Threepwood,
pirate-to-be, sojourning off to Monkey Island. And I would want to share these amazing
discoveries with people, but my words wouldn't always come out right, and nobody
understood. Nobody got it. Or they didn't find it interesting. Or they just thought I was

Dweeb, dork, nerd, geek, get back to work, stop slacking off, get your head out of that
book, enjoy the sunshine, learn how to throw a ball, go talk to girls, stop talking to me,
why do you talk to me so much, why don't you mellow out, look at me when I'm talking
to you, why are you so weird, why are you always looking at me, why don't you ever get
invited to parties? Bats. Bats. Bats. Definitely, definitely bats.

I get this itch when I'm nervous, like I desperately need to shed my skin or something.
The placement of it varies, but there are a few usual spots. You can see how I tore up
my leg pretty bad. I think of it like the part that's itching is like the glowing red body
section you see on bosses in final battles, you know, the vulnerable part of them like
their eye or their stomach or their mouth, that you have to attack to finish them off.
And if I get nervous enough to get the itch, it's like a body part of mine is glowing,
vwooomp, vwooomp, vwooomp, vwooomp... and then I know I need leave, I need to
get out of there, because I can't handle this fight, because I'm one hit away from being
defeated. And then I go. But I won't leave you, or this room, promise. Cause I'm trying to
learn not to do that anymore, and because I'm not sure I have anywhere else to go.

I hit that glowing red point a lot in school. Someone would pass me a note calling me a
retard or threaten to cut the mole off the back of my neck, or actually steal my lunch
which is a pretty unimaginative way to be a bully, right? Way to be the cliché, huh? And
then when those things happened I'd just flip into safety mode, stand up out of my desk,
neatly collect my things, like my protractor and my pencil box, and I'd walk out the door,
regardless of what the teacher was saying or of what we were doing that day. I'd just go.
Because I needed to. A part of me was glowing red, right? It's self-preservation. Often
where I would go is I would just sit in a janitor's closet for half an hour or so until my
hitpoints came back. I failed a group assignment or two that way.

Getting older, it wasn't any different, with bosses who wouldn't acknowledge that this
deformed hamburger patty, with these fry morsels in a row, don't they look amazingly
like Pac-Man chomping his way across the grill? No? You don't think so? You don't care?

Yes sir.

AUDIO: Pacman Game Over Noise

I tried to work an office job for a while – IT stuff, but they kept bringing me in for these
mandatory meetings which would turn into planning sessions which would turn into
corporate politics and they kept asking for my input and anyway the second time I
walked out of one of those meetings, they told me that I didn't fit the exciting, go-
getting corporate culture they wanted to achieve.

AUDIO: Yoda Quote

“Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.” That's my favourite Yoda quote.

With nothing working out, I decided I needed to make a life plan, one with no
adventure, no IRL excitement, no reason to ever find myself caught in a torrent of
metaphorical zubats, the most annoying of all pokemon, them biting at my life meter,
causing me to run away or faint like a useless Magicarp.

Here was the plan: Build a perfect life and crystallize it as my very own fortress of
solitude. A simple three-pronged life. Like a trident. A traditional trident – not that weird
five pronged one the Jason Momoa Aquaman was holding. Three prongs. Anyway. One:
I needed a homespace without roommates – a completely controlled environment.
Two: to fulfill that meager 'socialization' meter that all of us have, I would go to Abe and
Maurie's house once a week for a games night. They are predictable. And Three: I would
find a way to pay for my accommodations and groceries in a way that required a strictly
minimal amount of unapproved human interaction. I knew what I had to do.

AUDIO: GI Joe - knowing

Step one: This here is Vault 42. That's the name I give to the basement suite I rent. No
one else goes down here but me.

In case you're wondering, yes, I named Vault 42 after the vaults in the Fallout series.
And yes, I realize that those vaults weren't just there to shelter people from the nuclear
apocalypse, but were also a series of secret experiments orchestrated by the Unites
States government. That said, life is like a series of secret experiments anyway, right? It
sure feels like something out there is tinkering and mucking everything about.

Anyway. Here in the Vault, my comic books take up the entire back wall of shelving,
each one carefully enclosed in plastic, organized by year, and then alphabetically . Over
on that side, I've stacked three coffee tables on top of each other, each level housing an
in-package complete series of transformers action figures. And over here, the
entertainment system, a deluxe set-up with surround sound, every video game console
from Atari to X-bone, and a Steam gaming machine with 32 gigs of RAM that roars like a
beast. Who's got two sore thumbs and has conquered every non-infinite side-quest in
Skyrim? This Dragonborn. I've saved digital worlds more times than you've got days on

your calendar. Minimum wage can go a long way when you don't travel or go out or
have a family. Yeah.

And if I ever want to share my excitement for Pillars of Eternity or FTL or Mass Effect –
Yes, even with the controversial ending – I've got Chuck to share it with.

Meet Chuck. As a cactus, he accepts all enthusiasm calmly. He allows it, but doesn't
need it. Chuck is a paragon for who I want to be. He knows how to survive. He knows
how to keep the bats at bay. He's always here when I need him. I've been writing him a

This is the epic ballad of a cactus named Chuck.

Without this tiny plant, my life would just suck.
No matter what happens to me anywhere,
By my side ol' Chuck will always be there.

Some say a desert plant can't be a friend,

Can't hug no one who'd stab you from end to end,
but Chuck here's my companion through all time and space,
no need to connect with a physical embrace...

That's enough for now.

Cacti are simple. People aren't. That's why I don't play multiplayer games; you never
know what other people are going to do. Teamkill, AFK, cheat, being the most racist
nine-year-old that Alabama has to offer... You don't know if you'll enjoy the experience.
Even the least social social thing – playing Pokemon GO – can lead to home-owners
yelling at you for standing on the sidewalk outside of their houses or, heaven forbid, for
using public parks. No, for me to be the very best, like no one ever was, all I need are
Abe and Maurie. No surprises with them. I go to their house on Saturday nights, we play
Magic the Gathering, and I leave. Socialization meter filled.

So those were prong one and prong two on the trident of the perfect life.

Step three was trickier.

I figured if I worked online to pay the bills, I wouldn't need to leave the Vault unless I
wanted to. Get paid to answer some online surveys, order groceries to arrive at my
door, and then play games and watch old cartoons for as long as I wanted.

Unfortunately, making enough money on the internet, filling out surveys, is surprisingly
hard when trying to cover a North American cost of living. People don't value my
opinion that much. Also, staying home all day kinda made me feel like Yoda on Dagobah.
My place didn't turn into a swamp – I'm a very clean person – but the only reason Yoda

chose that spot on Dagobah for his voluntary exile was because there was a cave nearby
that had been infused with the dark side of the force, which shielded him from
detection by Emperor Palpatine. But that meant there was this negative force energy
around, right, and after a few weeks of my own voluntary exile, I was starting to feel
those dark forces infusing me as well. 'Fear was leading to anger, anger leading to hate,
and hate, to suffering'. It got so bad, I was responding to commenters on YouTube.

Chuck don't need a princess that he's got to save,

No demon lich he needs to put back in his grave,
just a drop of water and a patch of dirt,
Chuck knows how to live without gettin' hurt.

Chuck can sit alone in his pot all day,

he don't need to work and he don't need to play,
while people need each other or they'll go insane,
Chuck meets other cacti with a sense of disdain.

Where I live really pisses off my dad. It has been a couple years since I spoke to him. Our
last chat, he told me all how he wished had made me into a 'real man'.

When I was your age, I already had you, a career, bought a house. Look at you! You hide
in someone else's basement with your video games. When are you going to grow up? I
should have been harder on you.

My dad doesn't understand that my perfect life isn't the same as his perfect life. He's
upset that I'm not some beer-swigging motorhead with stock options like him who goes
trolling around bars every night in search of his second wife. He doesn't own a single
book. And he's proud of that.

Dad never really raised me anyway. Nope, I was raised by Saturday morning cartoons
and comic book superheroes, and I don't want to move on to anything more 'adult'. I
don't want to watch procedurals about people getting murdered, or of natural disasters
tearing apart families, or dramas about divorces. I grew up just fine. I turn my lights off,
I'm a winner who doesn't do drugs, and I never let the water run.

AUDIO: Captain Planet – edit.

Now there is a father figure. Sure, I like a good cartoon, but what's wrong about loving
and rewatching old stories? Spider-Man may never get to grow up, but that doesn't stop
him from being a compelling tale of the bullied kid who stands up against bullies, be he
Tobey Macguire, Andrew Garfield, or Tom Holland; Peter Parker or Miles Morales. I like
that story.

But we're still one prong short of the perfect life. I realized that if I wanted to keep Vault
42, I needed to stop being such an NPC, and go out and get myself a job selling things in
a store!

I'm not actually allowed back in the store anymore, so I'll have to take you there using
the power of Imagination.

AUDIO: Magic School Bus with SILENCE IN MIDDLE. (note – I talk in the silence –
don't stop the track!)

WILLIAM (mid-track)
Okay, we don't really need THAT much imagination. I mean, we're not shrinking down to
the size of a blood vessel. Eh, but you know what, I like the song.

The song continues - with William thoroughly enjoying it.

Was that entirely unnecessary? Sure! But you have to understand, entirely unnecessary
is how you know you have entered the realm of a geek store. Welcome to Regal

AUDIO – Kiril Pokrovsky – Divinity II Main Theme (until William tells you to cut
the music.)

Owned by the honourable King Ernie, Regal Collectibles is a calm place, a soul-restoring
place, a completely bat-free environment (aside from all the Batman memorabilia). This
is my church. This is a place revered by all of geekdom. Take this kid, for example.
Maybe ten years old, entering the store. This is a moment of discovery. Watch as this
boy breathes in the musk of freshly printed, newly molded hobbies. He’s home. His
sneakered feet slowly, surely, take him through the store, his eyes glued to every
miniature, every model car, every space age soldier he sees. His fingers marionette
themselves from zipper pockets to drift along the edges of Serenity’s role-playing

Entranced, like an spore-controlled minion of Starro, the kid drifts towards the rear, to
the comics. A Wolverine. The all new female one - Logan's clone, X-23. Intriguing.
Progressive. He picks it up. He leafs through the comic, page, page, page… Reads the
entire thing. Puts it down. Picks up a Thor. Reads the entire thing. Puts it down. Picks up
a Superman. Reads the entire thing. And the entire next comic . And the next one. And
the next one. Okay, cut the music.

AUDIO: Cut the music.

I don't mind so much interacting with people like me. Enthusiasts. But this kid was no
enthusiast. He was a grifter, reading our entire stock like we're a library. He didn't know
how to treat these comics with respect. His filthy fingers were creasing the pages, he
was folding corners, airing out that incredible, factory-crisp smell... You can't buy that
smell on eBay. I would have told him to stop, but I don't like confrontation. And even
though he may only be ten-years-old, he looked like a mean ten-years-old. I bet he has a
curfew. He could even be, like, twelve.

When I started at Regal Collectibles, we had two people working every shift, so I could
always get Rick or Gary to deal with problems like this kid. Geek stores are universally
staffed by undersized, affable men with four letter names who dislike confrontation. Hi,
I'm Will. Sadly, geek stores are a dying business. Almost every single item within these
walls can be bought online, and often for cheaper. So there were cutbacks. So I started
getting scheduled to work alone.

Usually, not having another employee was fine, because for me, being alone in this
place is like being Augustus Gloop stuck in the Chocolate Factory. It's like being the
Twilight Zone guy from that episode who only ever wanted to be left alone to read his
books, who then got stuck in a library, only to have his glasses fall off his head and
break, so he couldn't read anything anymore except in this case, it's like HIS GLASSES

Anyway, after reading half the rack, this kid strode on over to the counter – empty-
handed – to the bins of dice. So does this kid appreciate our veritable Smaug's hoard ?
No. He casually manhandles every single one of the hundred-or-so twenty-sided dice in
the bin with his pestilenced fingers, and he buys twelve. Twelve twenty-sided dice.
There is no game in the history of man that needs twelve twenty-sided dice. And he
pays in quarters. A Ziploc baggie of some sixty-or-so quarters which I have to count, one
by one by one by one as he's glaring at me, and I'm wondering why this gremlin has so
many quarters, I mean, what did he do, pickpocket a pinball machine?

Hurry up. What are you, a retard?

AUDIO: bats at the store 01

It was like every quarter I counted was another blow to my hitpoint counter, this snot-
faced kid hayookening me twenty-five cents at a time, quarter by quarter by oddly
damp quarter, insult by insult, and I just needed the count to be correct so the till would
balance, and I just needed to get out of there I just needed to get away and so I gave up
on the count and told him it was fine even though it wasn't and he left.

And with that, the encounter was over. I survived. Tranquility restored. Back to the
perfect life stocking shelves with Warhammer figurines, arranging models of world war

two airplanes, reading Wheel of Time behind the counter, watching the clock tick, tick,
tick, to 5pm, then home to the Vault. Perfection. A pristine, better than gem-mint
condition life.

AUDIO: Doug Theme – edited.

No, better than that.

AUDIO: Ren and Stimpy – Happy Happy Joy Joy Edit

But it didn't last. The next day, people kept paying with coins, and it was like I had PTSD
from the kid the day before, the coins were really freaking me out? So I made a sign:

William pulls out a sign that says: “DEBIT or VISA ONLY.”

The regular customers complained of course, even though I told them it wouldn't be the
permanent company policy. Did they understand? Did they have compassion? Of course
not. “What’s the problem?”, “This is absurd.” “Boo hoo, I only carry cash because I was
born in the 16th century…” Get over it. Besides, it's not like you need that five hundred
and seventy-sixth version of Optimus Prime that transforms into yet another red truck.
Your bedroom has become a convoy!

Then there was this guy who looked like an emaciated trucker, complete with a
backwards baseball cap and a distinct need to shower. I rung up his purchase of some
model paint. That'll be 7.78 after tax, I tell him.

No no no, it says right there, 6.95.

Yes, that's before tax. It's 7.78 after tax.

You're lying to me. That's false advertising.

Well, it's common for price tags to not include taxes, I-

It shouldn't have tax anyway! You don't put taxes on necessities! That's illegal!

What? It's not a... you're in a collectibles store. Nothing in this entire store is a necessity.
This store is a monument to disposable income.

I ain't never been taxed on paint in my life.

Achievement Unlocked?

AUDIO: Xbox 360 Achievement Sound

And then there was a woman who tried to pay in Indian rupees. Even if I DIDN'T have
the sign, that would be just wrong. And then there was the guy who told me how he
time-travels because of the weight of trains.

And did I mention that the kid came back? He did, with a baggie full of dimes. Saw the

Man, what the 'F'?

Except he didn't say 'F'. And then I met the sweater guy. It was really hot outside, and he
was in a full on Christmas sweater, so he was dripping. I suppose that makes the term
'sweater' quite accurate, but why he was wearing it, I don't know.

I need four dollars to get to the Skytrain. My wife and I are fighting. I need to see her.

I am sorry to hear that. I wish I could help.

Then give me four bucks.

Sorry, but I don't think I have that on me.

Bullshit, you're behind a till, just take it from there!

That's the store's money. Not mine. I don't want to rob my own store. Did you notice
the security camera looking at us?

So you're telling me I can't see my wife and save my marriage because of you?

WILLIAM (itching)
Only because you have decided your marriage relies on me opening this till and robbing
my own store, yes.

Thought you were a nice guy man, thought you were a nice guy, but you-
(sidewise points at William. Spits.)
You're just an asshole.

WILLIAM (after seeing the guy leave, while itching)

All the crazies on the same frellin' day, and more were going to come I just knew it more
were going to come and then I had tobacco spit to clean up and I needed to count the
till if I want to close and I just need to get out of there, I need to get out of there, I'm
glowing, I'm glowing, I-

So I left. Went for a walk. Step by step, step by step. Deep breaths. To help me calm
down, I stopped back at my place and picked up Chuck. Figured I'd give the desert plant
a field trip to the store. Even made him a little costume.

William puts the Groot costume onto Chuck.

And as I made my way back to the store, life was good again. Of course it was good! It’s
my life! My near-gem-mint life! Why wouldn’t it be good?

AUDIO – Firefly Theme

WILLIAM (singing along)

Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand. I don't care, I'm still free, you
can't take the sky from me. Take me out to the black. Tell'em I ain't coming back. Burn
the land, boil the sea, you can't take the sky from me. There's no place I can't be, since
I've found Serenity. You can't take the sky from me...

William walks back into the store.

Fresh air and the open sky, that's all I need, yep, I am captain of my own ship, I am good,
I am great, and... and...

And items from the store were gone. Missing. Taken.

AUDIO – bats at the store 02.
William scratches.

I had just walked away. I never locked the door. The till looked like it had been
tampered with, but they weren't able to get it open. A display had been knocked over.
Certain miniatures were missing. Not much, certainly not a CRIME SCENE, but this was
theft, real, IRL theft, and this was bad, this was really bad, I had left King Ernie's treasury
unguarded, looted and plundered by a common rogue! I bet it was that kid.

Think, William, think. You are a logical, rational, Sid Meier civilized human being. You
don't need to throw a tantrum. Someone just sent a direct message that nowhere is
safe. Nowhere but the vault. If only the store were spiky like you, little fella.

Chuck can grow a flower that no one will pluck,

more than one moronic thief has tried his luck.
The moment that Chuck feels like he's been grabbed,
that's when his assailant has found herself stabbed.

I phoned the police. They took the security footage and said they'd get back to me. And
then they were asking about insurance and about what happened and alarms and stuff
and I could see that they were training their officer-glare right on my weak points, on
my lack of eye contact, and my fidgeting, so I hurried them out the door and locked up
and went straight to Abe and Maurie's.

No need to freak out, William. No need to freak out.

Going to Abe and Maurie's place is like visiting a healer. Every week, Abe, Maurie, and
myself eat a potluck dinner and play Magic. Last week, I made lasagna. This week,
delectable peanut brittle. Which shows that I am a rational person living a good life –
because crazy and depressed people, they can’t cook; that’s why they have all that
spare tinfoil.

Slight pause.

To make their hats. Nevermind.

William stands up and walks over to the 'door'. He knocks.

Abe and Maurie live in one of those town home sandwiches, brown and black paint and
paper-thin walls.

William looks at the ‘door’ impatiently, and knocks again.

Every week, I knock, and Maurie instantly shouts out-

I’m coming!

-and Abe and Maurie step outside and bear hug me right on the doormat. What can I
say; they like me.

William knocks again.

They were taking too long. Finally. But it's just Maurie; no Abe. Oh, I could see Abe,
down the hall, in the kitchen, pouring wine. I can see you, Abe. You know, over there,
and not here, not giving me a hug on the one day I need you the most.

MAURIE (shorter than William)

Oh, don’t mind Abe. He’s having a rough night; he had to turn down a job offer. Oh, and
I hope you don't mind, but we invited Krista to play with us again this week.

WILLIAM (eye-twitching)

William sits. He mimes swatting spoonfuls of potato salad onto a plate.

Hey Krista.

KRISTA (tiny and shy)

Hi William.

Krista is a friend of Abe’s… she teaches Statistics at their community college. They've
invited her to play with us a half-dozen times or so, so this unexpected development is
not a game breaker. She's kinda strange, likes to tuck her long hair inside the collar of
her t-shirts. Some people would probably call her cute, I guess.

ABE (he is imposingly huge, like a Viking)

Wine, William?

Abe, on the other hand, is three hundred and forty pounds of beard, like a Norse Deity
offering godly nectar to little ole’ me, even though I apparently am not even worthy of a

hug at the doormat. Jerk. But clearly, something was wrong. Abe and Maurie weren't
talking. And I’m a nice person, so…

So Maurie said you couldn’t… work somewhere?

ABE (his mouth half full of mashed potatoes)

New York University. They wanted me to run a sessional there, only for a few months,
but Maurie’s entrenched with her diploma. It wouldn’t have made sense.

Why not?

ABE (slouches in a defeated manner)

It’s not a big deal, William.

Maurie put a hand on his shoulder; he shrugs her off.

A big deal? Of course it’s a big deal! Abe, New York City is the cultural capital of North
America! Of the world, maybe! Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, Friends, Taxi, Gargoyles,
Seinfeld… Ghostbusters! Slimer-lovin' Ghostbusters! I would give my left arm to work in
New York City.

William, sometimes you need to make sacrifices for love.

I don’t.

That's the problem with getting attached to people. They force you to compromise on
your vision of what would make your life perfect. I'm too attached to Abe and Maurie,
really. But not you, Chuck. Never you.

He looks over at Krista, who dips her head down into her food, timidly cutting
tiny pieces and lifting them to her mouth. She looks up at William and giggles.

Did she just giggle at me?

William exaggeratedly mocks how Krista eats.

Look at how she eats... She's like a kitten, hovering over her plate. And that smile.
What’s she up to. Seriously, has she always eaten like that? She’s like a burrowing
animal. And she keeps looking at me!

AUDIO: bats at the store 02
William scratches his neck.

Stop looking at me!

William turns his chair around so that he’s sitting on it backwards, still facing the
audience. He mimes playing turns of Magic throughout the next few lines.

We moved to the games table and to my masterfully prepared peanut brittle.

Good peanut brittle, William.

William grits his teeth and scratches his neck.

Thank you, Krista.

Maurie was particularly adamant that we play two-headed giant that evening. That's a
game style where we pair up and each team takes their moves as if they are one player,
sharing blockers, even a life total. In regular one on one games, players have twenty
health each, but when you're playing two-headed giant, you only get 30 health
combined, because even in Magic two people together are more fragile than two
players competing independently.

Maurie insisted on being paired up with Abe, which left me with Krista. Abe and Maurie,
and William and Krista. Which come to think of it is what she always does. Always those

That was when it hit me: Maurie was trying to set us up! Me and Krista! That's what
these nights have been! Double dates! The couple, and the soon to be! Abe and Maurie;
William and Krista. Krista HAS frequently complimented my deck-building strategies,
now that I think about it.

Look, I know that people are social creatures with certain needs, but right then, Krista
was licking the crumbs from her lips and reaching for another wedge of my magnificent
peanut cooking, and I just needed friends to console me in my blackest day, my darkest
night. I didn’t need some lip-smacking, card-complimenting, wide-blinking, saproling
token producing temptation!

So when Abe and Maurie went to the kitchen for a 'talk', I asked Krista, “Could you refill
the pitcher of water?”, and then when she was gone, I salted every damn piece of
peanut brittle on her plate. No one was ruining my life by falling in love with me.

He mimes playing a turn.

For the rest of the evening, I made sure not to do anything to impress Krista. I played
terribly. I counterspelled weenies, chump-blocked unnecessarily, forgot to untap
creatures... As such, we were going to lose, thank the All-Spark. And this game would be
undisputed, though erroneous, proof that I am not the intelligent man Krista thinks I am.

Unfortunately, it was at that point that Abe and Maurie decided to call it an early night,
so Krista and I won by default. Gee, thanks, friends.

Somehow, by the grace of Odin, I made it through the rest of that night without being
proposed to by the chipmunk woman, and I got home. Seriously, Chuck, what was I
supposed to do? I don't want a relationship. I don't want to fight seven evil ex-
boyfriends; I wouldn't know what to do with her if...

The last date I went on was a couple of years ago, before I figured out the celestial path
to the perfect life. That whole date, it was like, no matter what words I clicked on, my
character would say something else. I made some joke about how she was having a
Mass Effect on me – cause in that game you picked dialogue choices, but your character
might actually say something different, but she took that Mass Effect comment to mean
something else. It didn't work out.

The next morning, at the store, a pastor walked in. This is not a set-up to a joke. He said
he'd moved here from rural Alberta. Built like a Qunari. The fella had at least a foot of
height on me.

Sorry, I’m out of my comfort zone. Tell me, do you have religiously themed games? It’s
for my youth group.

Uh... religious. Sure. Kinda.

Me, my dad never raised me to be religious. I believe in heroes and villains, in good
prevailing over evil, unless it's the first half of a two-part episode. I believe that a mere
pair of glasses are a thoroughly effective disguise. But I don't know about God. Mostly,
gods hurt storytelling, because where's the danger for a character who can never die?
There's no Horcrux, Highlander, or Lazarus Pit; gods are just invulnerable forces pushing
people around.

“One thousand years ago, superstition and the sword ruled. It was a time of darkness. It
was a world of fear. It was the age, of GARGOYLES.”

AUDIO: Gargoyles Theme. William plays along to the entirety of the theme.

Hello? Are you alright?

Oh! Right. Yeah, fine. Religious game. Right. How about... these? Tarot cards. They’re

Well, they are. But this guy, he... he did not take them well. He stared at the tarot cards
like… like he had just seen his puppy hop into a wood chipper. Yarp, yarp, yarp, yarp…
Thuuuum. The pastor guy just stared for a good thirty seconds. Kinda like a gargoyle

William becomes The Pastor, with exactly that ‘what has the world come to’
expression on his face, holding the pack of tarot cards. He reaches into his pocket
and pulls out a lighter, and lights the pack of tarot cards on fire. He drops the
deck and smothers the flame with his shoe. William is completely aghast, his
mouth hanging open, speechless… itching.

See, this. What do I do in this situation? Do I... agree? “Why yes, torch these pagan
idols, and let God’s Mighty Smoke speak to the people!” No. Do I kick him out? I don’t
want to start a confrontation and get burned at the stake because I once rolled stats for
a Warlock. Burning things in public not socially acceptable behavior. I know socially
acceptable behavior. I have studied socially acceptable behavior and this is not it! I
guess in the pastor's perfect world, tarot cards don't exist. But burning one pack of cards
won't do anything. Mr. Preacher, if you want a perfect world for yourself, you need to
set your sights low. Like, Ant-Man size low. Not Giant-Man size high. Yes I know they're
the same character.

And then in walked King Ernie, ruler of Regal Collectibles. He's a short, stout fellow who
talks and looks like an Italian L. Ron Hubbard. Except L. Ron Hubbard is crazier.

AUDIO: L Ron Hubbard snippet.

Actual quote from L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. But Ernie? He just calls
himself a king. Sometimes wears a cape.

King! I’m glad you’re here. Listen-


William, William, William. The security company, they uh, they showed me the footage
from the robbery.

They find that kid?

No. Listen, William, I like you, but you-a, you left the store unattended in the middle of
the day… I can’t just let that go, so, I'm afraid, I'm going to have to let you go. You're

AUDIO: bats at the store 01.

William scratches.

No. No no no, you don't understand, my life doesn't work without this place, the three
pronged plan, it has all been built up around being able to be here. I need this. I need
this I need this I need this. I need… I need everything to be alright. I need... I need Abe
and Maurie; they’ll help; they’ve got to help. I just need to get through this day.

But when I got to Abe and Maurie's house, Abe’s truck was pulling out of the driveway,
with Maurie standing at the front door, crying.

MAURIE (crying)
Abe left me.

William stares at Maurie. Pause. For a few seconds, we think he's going to
console her and reach out to give her a hug. Instead, he freaks out.

Be calm be calm be calm be calm be calm... channel your season two Power Ranger, find
your ninjetti calm.

AUDIO: Day of the Tentacle to BATS BATS BATS

So now I'm hiding Vault 42, only safe until it's time to pay rent. And then it'll all be gone.
The perfect life. My job, my friends, my isolation... soon there will be nothing but bats,
another broken marriage, a peanut brittle siren, TYRANT ERNIE AND MY SHATTERED

Picks up the cactus. Shakes it as he speaks.

What is going on, Chuck? Why is everything so Wackyland this week, so Bizarro World,
so... so... wrong?

Tries to sing.

Cactus called Chuck knew how to set it all right!

He told William he had to----
He said boy you----

Come on! Help me Chuck the Cactus; you're my only hope! Help me Chuck the Cactus;
you're my only hope! HELP ME CHUCK THE CACTUS, YOU'RE MY ONLY-

William shakes the cactus so hard it falls out of the planter. Dirt gets everywhere.

NO! NO! NOOOOO! Chuck! You're okay, you're okay! Without you I've got nothing, I-

He tries to pick up the cactus several times, stabbing himself with the needles
every time. Pain.


Why? Why all this? Why to me? None of it had to happen, and it didn't all have to
happen at once! No universal random number generator is this cruel!

But if not to chaos, then then the universe must be aligned to order... pressing my
buttons... toying with me.

Almost every standard RPG begins when the hero's village, all that they know, burns.
With no way back, the hero is forced out into the world. My village just burned. But I'm
no adventurer. All I've ever wanted is to be an NPC.

So if this is all some great scripted event, then you know what? No. Screw your quests. I
say no. I SAY NO SIR!

Instead, I am going to do what any North American does when they give up on life – I
am going to turn on the TV.

AUDIO: Home Shopping to DK Country final song

Better yet – The Shopping Network. You hear me! I am not going back out there! I will
not be a hero on a journey! No, I am going to lose myself in purses, in household
cleaners, in sequins. No one gives a frell about sequins.

William nods off. Suddenly lurches to consciousness.

LIGHT: The lights raise suddenly, brighter and whiter and whiter.

William stands up.

What? Suddenly, the vault is gone. Where did- and I am standing on the rooftop of a
skyscraper, high above the city, and it’s dawn, the sun cresting up over the horizon. No
wind. And right in front of me is Sean Astin's Samwise Gamgee. He's staring at me. He’s
got this look that's so sad, so resigned… like I’ve lost The One Ring and let him down.

William blinks.

And then I'm in the cave, Bruce Wayne's cave, but he's all grown up, making peace with
the bats, sketching out plans for a new suit of armor. Using his fear of bats to become
the Batman.

William blinks. Picks up the cactus.

Did you know that cacti are often pollinated by bats?

William blinks. Picks up the cactus.

Back on the rooftop, Samwise Gamgee, the ultimate friend, the companion who
followed Frodo into the fires of Mount Doom, he cradles in his arms a little baby boy in a
blanket. A boy that looks a little like me, and a little like Krista. A baby boy in better than
gem-mint condition.

William blinks.

I'm visiting Abe. Back home, I'd been keeping an eye on Maurie and making sure she
was okay. Here in New York, Abe's grateful for the company. I've never travelled this far

William blinks.

I'm in a hospital room, holding my kid. He has a birthmark that slightly resembles the
Triforce. If you squint.

William blinks.

I walk through an office. My office. Full of people who are happy to see me. And I'm
happy to see them. On my desk is a cactus with a plaque. Chuck The Second. A darn
good sequel, certainly more Spider-Man 2 than Batman and Robin.

William blinks.

I'm in my house, teaching my kid how to move the thumbsticks on an xbox controller. It
is enormous in his lap. He's so young. But he's learning.

William blinks.

And I'm back on the rooftop. Samwise stares at me, tears in his eyes. A large yellow
exclamation mark hovers over his head. He's a quest-giver.

I nod to him. He smiles. He pulls down the exclamation mark and raises up a grey
question mark in its place. Quests accepted.

AUDIO: Angels Flapping.

LIGHT: A glow of light shines on William’s face from above.

And while I know I may not achieve these quests either, I do want to try. Bring on the
bats, if that's the worst they can do. Seems it's up to me to be my own hero. No perfect
world. No perfect life. But maybe it's time I do more exploring.

This is the epic ballad of William Brown...

Lights and audio fade down.

AUDIO: POST-show music on quietly during bows/talking.

- Thank Tyler James Nicol at Gamedeals in New Westminster.

AUDIOS: After thank-you talking, boost back up the volume on the post-show


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