Friday, June 08, 2007

A Cushy Ride to Somewhere, Pt. III

[Oh, start from the beginning: read Part One, then Part Two. Rock on completely.]

Dice. Dee-twenties, dee-twelves, dee-eights, dee-sixes. Dice. Dee-twenties, dee-twelves, dee-eights, dee-sixes. Dice... A handful of random sofas blinked past Jeremy's eyes before his vision stopped spinning and he was able to concentrate on a destination. ...dee-eights, dee-sixes. Dice...

Evening again. Clean-looking house. He stood up and walked into the other room, where five guys sat around a table messy with hex maps and painted figures. "Hey, whatcha playing?"

Someone answered "Call of Cthulhu"; a couple of the guys gave him a glance. The one who answered asked him "You vant to play, yes? Do you bring a character?"

Jeremy sat in one of the two empty chairs. "I've never played Call of Cthulhu. I didn't bring anything with me." The guys were all looking at him now. "You speak English?"

"Yah, we can to play in English if you do not speak German. This is Andre, Jorg, that is Fabian and Pittel, and I am Sven. Choose one of these guys to play." Sven handed Jeremy a stack of character sheets.

Jeremy flipped through the pages, checking out the stats and items written down. He turned to Jorg, sitting on his right, and asked, "Where's the experience level?" Andre, sitting on the other side of Jorg, leaned in and answered for Jorg. "No experience."

"But how do you—"

"Just choose one you like the looks of. The figures are there." Jeremy didn't see any fighters or wizards among the figures. Flapper? No. Accountant? No. Chubby guy in a turban? No. Is that a...chauffeur? No way. Soldier! Yes. The soldier character sheet at least had guns and grenades and, ooh, dynamite written down. That would do.

They played for several hours, and despite not knowing the game or the gamers or German—which they couldn't quite avoid using—Jeremy was enjoying himself. During a short break they sent him into the kitchen to fetch the soda from the fridge and the beer. "The flapper will wait to open the tome until the Captain is done with his important mission for the GM, hmm? There is beer, too, on the counter."

While Jeremy hunted around the kitchen for the refrigerator—Any appliance at all! Christ, don't they have a microwave? Where is the damn refrigerator?—Fabian came out to the kitchen, open what Jeremy took for a cupboard and pulled out a six-pack of tall cans. "Damn!"

Fabian turned. "What is the trouble? Do you want a coffee instead? There is a coffeepot on the stove." Jeremy didn't see the Mr. Coffee, just a very small kettle sitting on a burner. "No, I...have you used the sofa before?"

"Me? No." Fabian leaned against the counter. "I prefer to play with gamers I know. You have used it many times? Or...?"

"No, man, I never even knew about them my friends dragged one home. A friend of ours sat on it and disappeared—"

"Well, that is what they do, these teleportation sofas—"

"I don't think he knew it was that kind of sofa. We think he got lost and I went looking for him—"

"Who? Are you related?" Fabian open a can, passed it to Jeremy, opened another.

"No, Tony's in my D&D group. I went looking for him but I haven't found him, and I've been on a lot of sofas, man. A lot. Of. Sofas." He took a sip. Hm, not bad.

Andre came out and joined Jeremy and Fabian in the kitchen. Fabian said, "He is trying to find someone from his gaming group, but he cannot so far." Andre asked Fabian a question in German, took a fresh beer that Fabian passed to Jeremy and Jeremy passed to Andre, and asked Jeremy, "You know how to use the sofa, yes? To have it send you where you wish to be?"

"At first, no. But then someone"—he blushed—"told me to think about what I wanted in order to direct the sofa, and that seems to work. I've been popping into game groups pretty frequently now, but, well, I think there are a lot of these sofas out there. I haven't found Tony yet, or anyone who's seen him." He looked forlornly at his Converse.

"Mm, well, he is in your gaming group, yes?" Jeremy nodded. "Where are the rest of you?"

"I'm the only one who went." Andre and Fabian exchanged looks. "They play D&D." "Ah."


"We are players of Call of Cthulhu. We know that you never split up the party. Never! Bad things will happen. Oh, yes, bad things may happen even if you stay together, but at least you have company when you are devoured alive by a Great Old One, and that's a little good." Andre's chuckles dried up as he popped open another can. "D&D, you leave people behind all the time. No good."

"Sven! Jorg! Pittel! We have a mission!"

Soon Jeremy was sitting back on the blue plush sofa with a duffel bag on his lap. Fabian leaned down and put a new six-pack on top. "For the road." And he blinked out.


A basement rec room, the low ceiling and dusty mini-pool table dead givaways. Jeremy stood up, opened the duffel and pulled out a cell phone. He got Tony's voicemail, hung up and sat back down. He blinked out.


Another rec room, and a surge of nostalgia washed over Jeremy as he stood up and looked around. It was chilly in the early-morning air, and he pulled a sweater out of the duffel. Yeah, some things never change! Jeremy walked over to one end of the room with its long plastic tables and stacked folding chairs to stand under the Crucifix on the wall. He let his gaze drop to the half-height shelves under the cross. Family games, mostly, Toys R Us boardgames and umpteen Trivial Pursuit editions and checkers and chess...and on one shelf a small stack of books, game books. Just like back home. He picked up a pair of books, looked at the cell phone. Missed call! He dialed.

"Dude! Where the eff are you?"


"I said, where are you? What's that noise?"

"I can't hear you, J-dawg! This party's rockin'! Call me back in a few."

Jeremy stomped to the sofa and sat down. Blinked out.


"I'm at...I think it's somewhere in England. Yeah, the change has the queen on it."

"Can you describe the room you're in?"

"It really smells like cigarette smoke! And there's a tv, and..." This might take awhile. Jeremy pulled out a sandwich and one of the beers and waited for Tony to get it together.


He blinked in. Yeah, smelly room, alright. Yup, tv. It looked like Tony described it, except it was Tony-free. He dialed again.

"Tony. Look at the coins again. Are you sure it's the Queen of England?"

"Tsk, how many times have I played Britannica? Yes, it's QEII."

"Okay-y-y...what's on the back?"

"Uh, a moose? No! A reindeer."

You twat. "Hold on, ignoramus."


Finally, a crit! There he was, slouched over the table with two other guys and a large fold-out board covered in what looked like a million fiddly-bits.

"J-dawg! And you brought beer! Dude. We're almost at the point of no return; sit down! You can play Harold's hand if you want; he blinked out a couple of turns ago, but his set-up's still good." Jeremy passed out the last of the German beers and picked up Harold's cards.


"...and then these naked Swedes asked me if I party!"

Lee and Jen laughed. "In your dreams, monkey-boy. You probably just bopped around from one dank spare bedroom to another, smelling nothing but guy-farts and stale pizza crusts all week."

"Were they tall?" Remi leaned back in the chair. "Blonde and busty?"

"Well, I did see some fine-looking tracts of land. And yeah!" Jeremy laughed, "They were all blonde." He passed out blank character sheets. "But I don't know if they were tall or not. I never got off the sofa."

Richard turned the sheet over, looked on both sides. "Where do you write in what level they are?"

"You don't." Jeremy set out a shoebox lid of figures. "Remember, this is the 1921, so keep that in mind when you decide what you want your guy's profession to be."

"Or girl." Tracy leaned against Rob, sat back up. "I can choose anything, right?"

"Yeah, sure. You can be the Pope if you want."

Rob laughed. Tracy asked, "Can I be a jazz singer?"

Richard twisted up his mouth and said, "What kind of character is that, a quote jazz singer?"

Jeremy said, "No, no, anything's fine. You just have to choose something that fits within the group, something the other characters can work with. Because in this game, you don't want to wander off by yourself. The party stays together."

Tony high-fived Jeremy, their hands partially overlapping. "Amen to that."

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