Non Player Character is a work-in-progress but I wanted to share it while I work on the first draft. Please bear in mind that this is an unedited work, but hopefully you will still enjoy it!
Chapter Five: Missing Dialogue Options
‘Welcome to the Elfred Bevin Museum, commemorating Goosey’s most famous mayor, Elfred Hywel Ieuan Bevin. Please, allow me to guide you on a journey into Goosey’s past.’ I bared my teeth at the small huddle of poncho-wearing tourists waiting at reception. I hated this moment, when I had to introduce myself to the unsuspecting customers and give them the most boring tour of their lives. They were sure to feel disappointed, and it was incredibly awkward the way I had to just walk up to them and begin my spiel. But I wore my uniform of khaki trousers and Bevin-Museum blue polo like armour, and my script was my shield. All I had to do was drag them after me, recite my lines, and wait for the next gaggle of Goosey-visitors to arrive.
They looked, to me, like any other tourists — just as frazzled and windswept, with that classic Welsh summer look of rained-on and sweaty. I kept up a smile that made my cheeks hurt and guided them through Bevin’s life of inane and sometimes odd achievement.
‘In 1936, Elfred Bevin was the first mayor of Goosey ever elected who hadn’t been born in Goosey. In fact, Bevin was born in Cardin y Wold, a full ten miles outside of Goosey. This caused a controversy that would change Goosey council politics for years to come …’
‘As well as a baker, Bevin was a savvy businessman. Cornish pasties were growing in popularity at the time, and he seized his opportunity. He saw a key niche in the market and seized it, modifying the Cornish recipe by replacing onion with radish and selling his pasties with a mustard relish. The Goosey Pastie is now local legend and no longer sold in bakeries, but you can try one here at the Bevin Museum’s on-site historical café …’
‘In 1972, Bevin wanted to put Goosey on the map by investing in Welsh space travel. The resulting fire in the engine shed spread across 5 acres of land, but the ashy soil proved to be the perfect environment for the rare Goosey-blue thistle, which had gone nearly extinct but in the aftermath of the fire exploded in numbers …’
The tourists ahhed and yawned by turn as I showed them Bevin’s characteristic ‘Bore Da’ tea pot which he’d hand-turned himself, and let them see Bevin’s bright-feathered fishing lure collection, notable because he’d entered every fishing competition for ten years and never caught a single fish. I showed them a diaorama of Bevin’s space engine shed and let them each take a clipping from the museum’s Goosey-blue thistle greenhouse. It felt like I and they were animatronics moving along on rails and reciting our pre-scripted lines, as did the next group, and the next group. Nobody was ever unexpected: even when small children were added to the mix, all that changed was that there was sniffling and tears from them and hissed warnings and mumbled reassurances from the parents.
When I got home after my four-hour shift, it felt like twenty. My brain was full of unfamiliar faces and the strain of being seen by so many eyes. My face hurt from hours of my mummer’s grin. All I wanted was to play ARO and forget the day had ever existed.
And I did, for a while, racking up XP on solo missions and killing monsters in the everglades in the hope of getting some useful loot. Arries wasn’t online — probably at his knitting group — and it struck me that I wanted to talk to someone. I was exhausted from a day at work, but I didn’t think I’d said a single non-scripted thing all day. And ARO, as much as I loved it, was very repetitive — taking the same actions over and over again in the attempt to level up.
I rubbed my eyes and flopped back on my bed, disturbing the hoodies I’d left strewn across it. The last time I felt like I’d had anything new to say had been Dungeons & Dragons. Was that pathetic?
But it had been so creative and so vivid. In those few hours, I had somehow shaped myself into an entirely different person. To be honest, it had been a relief not to be me, however briefly.
And I still had most of a week before the next one.
I picked up my phone and let my thumb hover over the link in his text, as I had done so many times over the last few days. It seemed ridiculous that I should seek these people out. They were already friends: I was an outsider. I was there to make up the numbers on a Friday night.
I remembered Arries thanking me for coming and Pauline inviting me to say for games. I thought about Rex talking to me with eyes lowered, as casually as if all conversations were held that way. ‘I like these guys,’ he’d said. ‘But I find it easier when I’m not … I find it easier online.’
Me too, I thought.
I opened the link.
5 minutes and a frustrating login process later, and I had a username and a fuzzy spider to finish it off.
And the chat, as I scrolled down to catch up, was not at all what I had been expecting.
Hanna: I’ve locked myself into this bathroom and I’m not coming out until I’m sure she’s gone.
Hanna: This is a fucking nightmare
Hanna: I can’t believe you let me do this.
Ellis: It’s not that bad.
Hanna: It is that bad! She’s MARRIED. To a MAN.
Hanna: God, she was so nice about it too. Hot AND nice. And straight. Ugh. I could die right now.
Arries: You don’t know she’s straight.
Hanna: Who would marry a man if they had a choice?
Ellis: I’m trying my best.
Hanna: You’re allergic to commitment, Ellis, you’re not trying anything.
Hanna: AND MY SKIRT WAS TUCKED INTO MY LEGGINGS
Hanna: You’re all a load of filthy enablers, every one of you.
Arries: You asked us to encourage you!
Hanna: Except for Rex, my only true friend
Rex♛: Pass through this world like a ghost, Hanna
Hanna: That is exactly the kind of freaky antisocial advice I should have taken, Rex.
I decided to jump in. It felt like the kind of private thing that would be prying for me to join, but at the same time, Hanna seemed to be holding court.
Tar🕷: I have a lot of experience dodging people in cafes and restaurants
Ellis: Oh man, I really thought we’d scared you off.
Rex♛: You. You thought YOU had scared her off.
Ellis: I’m not taking full credit for scariness
Ellis: I mean, look at Hanna
Hanna: Ellis: go fuck yourself. Tar, I welcome your wisdom.
Tar🕷: If she isn’t sitting by the bathroom, just get out as quickly as possible. Walk straight out of the building.
Hanna: YES. I will do that. Wisdom accepted: the rest of you are still on my shitlist.
Ellis: Is there a prize for being number one on that list?
Rex♛: I wouldn’t know. I’M not on it.
Hanna: OK, I’m out
Pauline: Perhaps now we can go back on-topic?
Hanna: God, you were here, too?
Hanna: Is there anyone I know who wasn’t present for my brutal rejection?
Rex♛: Just the Ninth Rain and God. If God wasn’t busy.
Ellis: Tar, I don’t know if you saw the chat, but we were choosing a date for the next session. Any dates you can’t do?
Tar🕷: No, my life is an empty void
Arries: Tar! :((
Pauline: Perfect. Then it sounds like it’ll be the 10th at 7pm. See you all then.
I smiled a little at the screen. It had felt like a safe distance. And it was nice that Hanna felt like she could go to the Ninth Rain for advice and to vent. I made sure my settings would notify me every time there was a new message in the chat.
Somehow, it made me feel less isolated in my bedroom. And it made the next D&D session feel a lot closer.