Or Al, if I can call you Betty.
[This episode contains some descriptions of violence. Listener discretion is advised.]
There are so many ways to support the show. You can leave a 5 star review on Apple Podcasts. You can support me on Patreon at patreon.com/woe_begone and get early access to episodes, instrumentals, and more. You can get the album WOE.BEGONE: Music From the Podcast Season 1 on Bandcamp at woebegonepod.bandcamp.com or for free if you’re a $5/mo patron. You can find the antidote.
Thanks to Risky Coffee, Plumule, Edith Wharton, Cooper Dukes, Jason Li, Mira, Austin Sleeper, Ashley Moo, Justin Clavet, Shannon M, Harrison Minnix, Mathew Robertson, Brendon Liner, Jenny Enciso, Elizabeth Kirkman, Paul S, Sophie, Weiing, Aaron Richardson, Sean McGettrick, Paul Harvey, S.R. Jenkins, Daniel Jenkins, Toasty Warm Hamster, goodoledev, Catherine Draper, Clever Hobo, and Kevin Berry for supporting the show.
REDDIT: /r/DOGCATCHER & /r/WOEBEGONE
[Hey guys, it’s midseason finale time again, so expect an intermission next week. This is also the last week that I’ll read every patron’s name at the top of the show. I’m brainstorming egalitarian ways to choose names each week in the future. That’s patreon.com/woe_begone by the way. Early episodes, transcripts, music, and a special discord channel, etc.
Thanks to: Risky Coffee, Plumule, Edith Wharton, Cooper Dukes, Jason Li, Mira, Austin Sleeper, Ashley Moo, Justin Clavet, Shannon M, Harrison Minnix, Mathew Robertson, Brendon Liner, Jenny Enciso, Elizabeth Kirkman, Paul S, Sophie, Weiing, Aaron Richardson, Sean McGettrick, Paul Harvey, S.R. Jenkins, Daniel Jenkins, Toasty Warm Hamster, goodoledev, Catherine Draper, Clever Hobo, and Kevin Berry for supporting the show. Enjoy.]
[Sigh] I’m tired. I feel like I used to do a lot of cold opens talking about brains and how they worked, so I stopped when I realized that there was a trend going on there. I’m not actually an expert on the human brain, as you might already be intricately familiar with. I get by through using my intuition to describe a phenomenon the way I see it, and then I say that the way that I see it is the way that it is. Metaphorically “seeing” things this way is myopic, that’s literally what “myopic” means. It doesn’t lead to the truth, it just leads to you hearing my perspective. You get pulled in by my unrivaled charisma and intelligence and perfect eyebrows and you give weight to my perspective because how could the eyebrows be wrong?
The phenomenon that I want to expound upon in this particular cold open is the brain’s– excuse me, my– my tendency to believe that once something is revealed it means that it is the truth that has been revealed. There is a mystery and some digging and discovery later, I come to find that the way things are is actually some other way. End of story. We can all pack up and go home. We can all pack up and move to Oldbrush Valley for the next part of the story, more truth to uncover. It’s sort of a contrarian sequel to the “first option bias,” the phenomenon where the first way that something is presented is more likely to be believed to be true, a “second option bias” if you will. But this only works if the people in my life are the only people that exist. What if there’s someone out there that is pulling strings on the people pulling strings on the people pulling strings? What if it’s turtles all the way down and what I’ve been doing all this time is finding the first turtle and saying “yep, that’s the turtle that is holding up the earth. We found the turtle, guys.”
I think WOE.BEGONE enables this way of thinking in the way that it is structured. Firstly, something really is going on so it makes it easier to believe whatever someone is saying about it. Secondly, there is a progressive structure to the game, so that with each new twist and turn you can see yourself further along the path. It’s clearly going somewhere, so why not the way that you were told that it was going to go? Thirdly, they seem both capable and willing to alter brains in order to make them behave in the ways that the gamerunners deem necessary. Sort of unfair, if you ask me. Who knows what I would know if I had a full recollection of everything that happened at CANNONBALL’s house, for instance?
I’m increasingly discovering that the day I spent at CANNONBALL’s house shaped things to a degree that I am still yet to fully realize. This is WOE.BEGONE.
[Intro theme plays.]
[The story of WOE.BEGONE is told in order. If this is your first time listening, start at episode one. This episode in particular deals with events that happened near the end of season 1.]
I didn’t expect to say this when I started, but the work environment at O.V.E.R. is a fairly healthy one. I was surprised because the intersection between government, military, and contract jobs that this role inhabits is prone to mismanagement and treating workers like replaceable parts. However, at O.V.E.R., it doesn’t feel like I am replaceable. I am given my space and my time to work through the things that are happening in my life. I am still on the mend, after having been mauled nearly to death by a bear. Remember that? I won’t shut up about it. I think that most workplaces would do a strict calculation of how much time they would allow me to be off before forcing me back to work, but not O.V.E.R. I received a very nice phone call from someone who I guess is my boss telling me to take all of the time that I need and that I would be compensated during my time off. This is either a progressive management style or a way to keep me from suing them, since I was inside the gates when it happened. They probably know much more about the attack than I do and want me to be happy and healthy as soon as possible.
That said, I am still appreciative. I love living alone with lots of space between me and everybody else, while still being provided with opportunities to mingle with a small group of people. It’s a dynamic that prevents me from having my energy depleted so easily. My job consists entirely of walking around and not seeing anyone or anything interesting. It’s honestly great. There are no drawbacks at all, in my opinion. Except the disappearing bear thing. And the WOE.BEGONE part of it. Other than that, it’s peaceful out here. You can see the stars at night. And when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s a moon pie. I think that’s how the song goes.
WOE.BEGONE and its gamerunners, of course, are not so deferential to my needs when laying out their plans for me. Strength and mobility are still something of an issue. Nothing dire, but also something that could potentially make me vulnerable if they put me in the position to do something violent or something where I might have to quickly flee– you know, WOE.BEGONE stuff. That did not stop them from delivering a new challenge to me while I was still healing. They didn’t have to say that they expect a fast turnaround time on the challenge, it goes without saying. I got to my current position by acting quickly and without regard for my own body. Whoops! Maybe not such a great expectation to set. If I could turn back time…
Ever the type to turn an interaction into some inane bullshit, I received an envelope from WOE.BEGONE with a letter inside. This could have been an email. They’re lucky that I thought to check my mail, because often I will leave it for days at a time. Who would send me mail? No one even knows that I am out here. Inside the envelope was a note, written on stationary with WOE.BEGONE letterhead. [Sigh] Why is this necessary? I’ll tell you: it’s not necessary. Someone had too much fun with their arts and crafts idea. Not surprising, it seems like CANNONBALL’s whole role in the game is to make fun arts and crafts for the challenges. Behind the note was a spiral-bound set of pages. The note read:
First of all, congrats on making it this far in WOE.BEGONE. It is a truly commendable feat that only those with the strongest willpower and courage–”
I think that’s an overly flowery way of putting it, but you do flatter me–
“with the strongest willpower and courage could ever hope to achieve. Many applicants have dropped out or died in attempts to find themselves on the path that you are currently on. You should be proud of your accomplishments.”
Why is this letter written like I’m about to get denied entrance into my first pick university?
“These strengths are why we feel comfortable letting you proceed with the next challenge. It is one that has close ties to WOE.BEGONE’s efforts to perpetuate itself, so any applicant must undergo extreme scrutiny, even more-so than the scrutiny presented by the challenges that you finished.”
… Am I an “Applicant” now?
“Attached is the material that you will need to complete the challenge. It includes the player’s address, a unique codename, as well as a guide to the WOE.BEGONE gamerunner position, complete with a vocabulary guide that drives home the authenticity of the character and makes it all the more engaging. The challenge goals are outlined there too, but you will be easily able to draw on your own experiences starting the game to get a good idea of what is expected of you.
That was all pretty much useless. This could have been an email. This could have been a text message. “You’re going to play dress up as a gamerunner this time, here’s a .pdf on how to do it.” A tree did not have to die in order to provide this packet to me.
I sat the note aside and moved on to the packet. It was titled “WOE.BEGONE: Gamerunner’s Guide” on the front page. The next page laid out character notes for the character that I was supposed to embody. Codename: VOLUNTEER, in all caps, it said. Ah, so now I get given a codename. I wonder if this is how CANNONBALL got his, too. This first page encouraged me to “incorporate as much real-life experience as possible into your character. The more reality that you inject into your performance, the less acting you have to do to be believable. The only things that are fake about your character are the story notes that we have given you on the following page, as well as emails sent on your behalf as VOLUNTEER, the text of which is provided at the end of this packet.”
The next page was a rundown of what I was supposed to convey to the new player. I was to say that I was one of the WOE.BEGONE gamerunners, someone who won remote access to a supercomputer in a contest hosted by a hacker named Flinch, |=|_1/\/(|-| spelled [sigh] vertical bar, equal sign, one, forward slash, back slash, forward slash, open parenthesis, vertical bar, hyphen, vertical bar. Truly exhausting.
It went on to describe the type of program that I had written in order to win this contest: an SMB worm like WannaCry or EternalRocks, with a brief definition of what each of those things meant. Made using ETERNALBLUE and DOUBLEPULSAR, also with vocabulary definitions for each of them. I was promised a dubious “access to a remote quantum computer, one-of-its-kind” with “unrivaled deep learning capabilities.” That sounded too good to be true until he demonstrated the WOE.BEGONE technology in real time to me, at which point I was on-board and I created the game. “You want to stress that the player is exceedingly close to the levers of power and that if they power through with the fourth challenge, then they will be closer than they have ever been. Practice all of this many times over before engaging with the player. It needs to come from you as though you actually believe what you’re saying. We encourage you to look up these vocabulary terms online in their normal usage to ensure that you have some level of comprehension of what you are saying.” Whoever sent the packet sure has a lot of acting notes for me. Why didn’t you do it yourself if you have so many opinions about acting?
All of this should be ringing alarm bells for anyone who has listened to the show from the beginning, because all of that stuff is exactly what Ryan told me. This document was prepping me to become Ryan in the eyes of another player. Which begs the question: was Ryan an actual gamerunner or was he a “volunteer” sent to sort out the mess that I was making? Yes, I know that that’s not what “beg the question” means. But I bet you felt good about yourself while you were thinking “well, actually, begging the question is a logical fallacy where blah blah blah” and you weren’t paying attention to the fact that Ryan might have been an actor this whole time. Was RYAN a codename? Was I supposed to be saying it in all-caps this whole time?
I had made no attempt to contact Ryan or CANNONBALL directly since the move to Oldbrush Valley. I left my main cellphone turned off in storage and was using a burner that I had set up to only talk to “W.BG” whoever that means, in suspicion that Ryan wasn’t the only one involved. This kept them from meddling in the way that they were used to, though I suspect if they really wanted to contact me as Ryan and CANNONBALL then they wouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out how to do so. I treated everyone in my old life as either a threat or a liability and I don’t think that I was incorrect to do so. All of this is to say that I haven’t talked to them, or anyone else from season 1 except for Anne, since I got here. I have no idea if they are still doing what they were doing before or if what they were doing before was constructed around me and my participation in the game.
So I don’t know if Ryan is out there doing gamerunner stuff. He could be a gamerunner or even the gamerunner, who sent these documents so that I could pretend to be him for this challenge. But he could also have been someone who got to where I was in the game and was told to pretend to be a gamerunner like I have just been.
More importantly than who the gamerunner really is– because I don’t really care unless it helps me achieve my goals– there is a possibility that nothing in this document regarding the nature of the technology is true. It could all be a lie, including the stuff about Flinch and the supercomputer and the WOE.BEGONE gamerunners only having remote access. All of it could have been totally fabricated for this challenge and to lead the new players in question further into a trap. If you remember, that conversation that I had with Ryan directly led to me going to Vancouver and killing Matt. I would not have done it if Ryan hadn’t show up at CANNONBALL’s door when I asked him to. Up until the point where I had actually taken CANNONBALL hostage, I thought that what I was doing was going to lead to the end of the game. I thought that I had put enough of it together to manipulate the people involved as I saw fit. It was my time to strike. And then when I actually struck, it turned out that it was me that hit by / I was hit by / a smooth criminal, Ryan. Except Ryan might not have been a smooth criminal at all, just a… rough miscreant like me. Anne, are you okay? Are you okay, Anne? And that’s enough of that. Too much, even.
I knew that it going to be fruitless, but I was mad and a little bit panicky that I had wasted a lot of time out here for what might be no reason, so I pulled out my phone and texted the WOE.BEGONE phone number. “Are you serious? Is Ryan not the real deal? He’s just a player like me?” I asked.
“For the sake of expedience, please follow orders without asking questions. -W.BG” was the reply. So much for a less formal relationship between myself and the gamerunners. You know what? I’m starting to think that we were never really friends. They’re just a bunch of phonies! Literally, I’m starting to suspect that they’re just a bunch of phonies, everyone that I’ve talked to so far at least. This whole operation goes much higher than some guy that I met on Scruff on time. Actually, now that I say that out loud, of course it does.
The thought did occur to me that I don’t have to do this. The prize had already been revoked. Things were back to how they were before WOE.BEGONE started in most ways. I might pop out of existence suddenly one day or be killed by someone’s fourth challenge or whatever, however the stars aligned to make sure that I’m still here. But I could live out a normal life with that thought ticking away in the back of my head. I could give up, stop letting them jerk me around, stop letting them trick me into believing that I was close to something and then have it ripped away from me. Or I could run straight ahead and make another attempt to kick the football. If I know that they are going to pull it away from me, the least I can do is ignore the ball and kick Lucy in the face. I guess the main difference would be that Charlie Brown knew what the football was, where the football was, who Lucy was, and whether or not she had a face.
The next section was titled “The Proving Event.” “In order to prove your authenticity as a gamerunner, the end of this encounter will culminate is some sort of “proving event” in which you demonstrate control over WOE.BEGONE. Of course, as an actor, you won’t be given any control whatsoever. This is not necessary. Due to the nature of the technology, the end of this encounter can be improvised and put together over time, long after the event. We suggest something that is personal to the player involved and makes a grandiose statement. The player will have familiarity with the technology and will likely have a firm grasp on what is happening. This familiarity will allow you to devise something intricate and thoughtful. As a star WOE.BEGONE player, we entrust you with these decisions.” Aww, you really think I’m a star?
Again, more stuff that Ryan– or RYAN, can you tell that I’m saying it in all caps now?– did during our encounter. No way to know whether or not this is him toying with me again or whether he was doing this exact same challenge. Nowhere else to go but forward. Turning the page. “Player Credentials.” Everything I need to know about the player I am encountering.
[beat] Of course it’s Hunter Jeremiah Hartley. Hunter Jeremiah Hartley, I swear to God. Of course he’s playing WOE.BEGONE. I don’t have any other way to explain him. It doesn’t explain everything, but this isn’t the Explain Hunter Hartley Game, it’s the time travel murder game. I’m sure the Explain Hunter Hartley Game is coming to Qcode in 2023.
Listed were his name, address, and phone number, things that I obviously already knew. I had never called him because I was scared that I didn’t understand how the cabin phone numbers work, but there was actually an explainer here: dialing the number gives you a small directory and then you push 1, 2, or 3, depending on whether you want cabin A, B, or C. I guess I could have found that out if I had ever bothered to call him. There was also some personal backstory, but I knew a lot of that, too. Hunter had given me the important broad strokes of his life story the day that we met and according to the document he was telling the truth.
Under his personal history was his WOE.BEGONE history. His start date was after he began working here, so his position at O.V.E.R. did not seem to be a result of him playing the game. I wonder if he was recruited because he already had a job here. He was at the same stage that I was when I first met RYAN, having already completed the third challenge.
There were brief summaries of all of his challenges, how long they took, who else if anyone was involved, and a small outline of events. Most of these didn’t hold any interesting information, just Hunter’s own pile of limbs and corpses, just like mine in all but name. However, I did immediately linger on the name listed as his prize. It was…
Some woman who I don’t know, not me. Damn. As soon as they confirmed to me that Hunter was playing, my mind immediately went to whether or not he is the one who brought me back to life. I knew that it didn’t line up with the dates of his challenges, but I was still holding out hope until I read the name. I go back and forth on whether or not I want to know who did it. At least if it were Hunter I could sorta trust him to do the right thing, maybe.
That’s the whole plan, then? Go to Hunter’s cabin, tell him that I’m VOLUNTEER, the gamerunner that he’s been talking to, convince him that he has to do challenge 4 and then prove that I’m really a gamerunner by ??? I guess I have to decide that when I get there? I mean, it worked for me when that happened, so what could go wrong? “What could go wrong?” Mike Walters said, setting up the chain of events for the final act of a podcast episode.
Nothing went too wrong at first. I called Hunter and asked if I could come over, that it was something that I really needed to talk to him about and something that he would want to hear in person. Sounding a bit confused he said “sure, buddy,” and I made my way over there. So far so good. None of that sounds like a situation where something could go wrong, but knowing how this all works I would say that I probably narrowly avoided a catastrophe in one way or another just walking to Cabin 44C. I brought my gun and the button just in case things went south or got hellish to a WOE.BEGONE degree. I knew how I had treated RYAN and CANNONBALL and I wouldn’t blame Hunter for acting the same way if he had the same thought process about what was going on as I did. I could be a valuable captive.
Not knowing what I was there for, Hunter ushered me into his cabin with a smile on his face. “I put tea on when you called. It’s just about ready now,” he said and grabbed two cups for us. “What is it that you wanted to talk about?”
“I’m not going to tiptoe around it because that will just result in even more trouble. I’m VOLUNTEER,” I said.
Hunter was raising the cup of tea to his lips but returned it to the table in front of us. “No way,” he said. “It’s you? It’s been you this whole time?”
“Yep,” I said. “This whole time.”
“Are you here to talk about…?” he trailed off.
“Yeah, the fourth challenge. We know that most players are extremely reluctant to go through with it, but it’s the final trial to prove–”
He cut me off, “oh, no, it’s not like that. It’s no problem, really,” he said.
“No problem, how do you mean?” I was stunned.
“I made the right choice right off the bat,” he said. “Stuff like that is always too good to be true. You get what you pay for and all that. And I didn’t pay anything, so I didn’t set my hopes too high, you know? Nothing that good has ever happened in my life and I doubt it ever will. That’s why I picked her in the first place.”
“You picked her because you thought she would be easy to kill?” I asked. I was trying to thread the needle on getting answers while also making it sound like I knew exactly what I was talking about.
“Well, it sounds cruel when you say it like that, Mike. But yeah. Should I call you Mike or VOLUNTEER?”
“Mike is fine. VOLUNTEER was just to keep you from knowing you were talking to a gamerunner all this time,” I said.
“Mike it is. Yeah, I picked my mom because I missed her so badly. I was a bad kid, Mike. I got into a lot of trouble in my time. But she was always in my corner, even when I hadn’t earned it. When you brought her back, she was still sick, on death’s door, so I knew that I only had a limited time with her anyway. I didn’t know what the prize was going to be, obviously, so I was hedging a bet based on a prediction. I figured if she went on her own there was nothing the game could do about it. You gave me the challenge what, 3 weeks ago? I’ve just been waiting until the time was right. She’s in palliative care at home as of a couple days ago. I got a phone call telling me that if I wanted to come home and say goodbye, the time is now. It’s her time to go no matter what I do, so now is my chance to say goodbye and move on with WOE.BEGONE.”
Damn, I wish I had thought of that. But I guess thinking of that would require assuming that the game would seek to undercut me at every turn. Which I also could have thought of, but didn’t. I was at least 3 thoughts behind Hunter going into this whole thing. I envied his prescience. “Well then, that settles that. You understand that doing this will inch you closer to the technology itself, right? The technology is run by a guy named Flinch, spelled– nevermind about how it’s spelled. I won access to it by winning a contest that he was running for the best SMB worm. It’s just a really nasty virus, no need to go into it. I can only access it remotely through Flinch. That’s what the driving force of WOE.BEGONE is all about. To get to the machine itself.”
“And that makes it all worth it?” Hunter asked.
“That’s the idea,” I said.
“It could fix a lot of things if you’re telling the truth,” he said.
“Also the idea,” I said. “Speaking of telling the truth, you don’t know that I’m not just a player making some sort of power move on you,” I said. “That’s the last reason that I’m here. I can prove to you that I am a gamerunner. Just tell me how you want me to prove it and I’ll make it happen. Consider it a bonus reward for a job well done.”
Hunter sipped his tea and sat quietly in thought for a moment. “I’ve got one,” he said. “Something that you can’t take away from me either, or at least something that you really won’t want to. How about you come to me the night before you got mauled by that bear… that was real right?”
“Come to my cabin the night before and warn me that the next night that you will be mauled by a bear and that I am the only one who can come to your rescue. Tell me the number 32179. I will know what that number means and it will prove to me that you are who you say you are.”
“Of course I can do that,” I said, not missing a beat. I had no idea if I could actually do that. Maybe that was what I had already done, seeing as how Hunter did indeed rescue me after the bear attack. Timelines are difficult like that.
“I’m glad this went so smoothly. I’ve been taken hostage by players in the past who thought that they could get one over on me,” I said. “It never works out. I have a backup that reverts to a past time if I don’t put in a password every couple of weeks, so there’s no real way to keep me contained,” I said, remembering RYAN’s explanation. “So, no funny business.”
“I’m sure that their prizes are much different than mine,” Hunter said.
“Dead lovers and friends, mostly,” I said.
“Bad choice. Lots of dangling possibilities,” Hunter said. I didn’t know what he meant by that exactly but I didn’t press him on it.
By this part of the conversation I had finished my tea and was more than ready to get out of there. “Well, I’m glad we had this chat, even though it seems like I didn’t really need to.”
“You probably did need to,” Hunter said. “If I save your life in the bear attack, who knows what happens if you don’t prove to me that you’re a gamerunner,” he said and winked.
“Noted,” I said. “See you later. And earlier to.” Neither of us laughed. We said our goodbyes and I headed back to my cabin.
On the walk home to my cabin, I texted the gamerunners that I needed to go back in time and meet with Hunter at cabin 44C and specified which night. About a minute later, I got a text back that just read “ok,” in lowercase letters. One minute after that, I was standing outside the cafeteria and it was night out.
My head was spinning. I don’t know if it was a biological or psychological reaction to being chucked abruptly back in time, but it was a potent reaction nonetheless. I was expecting to get some time to prepare or to be able to designate my own travel plans or something. I was not expecting it to happen before I could do so much as walk home. I just stood there for a second, still, in the dark, getting a grasp on the new situation. It sort of feels like when you’re really sick on flu medicine or hungover and it feels like there’s a screen between yourself and the world, like you aren’t fully the agent of your own actions even though you are purposefully taking them. A special type of zoning out. It’s an experience that I don’t recommend if you can avoid it.
The crisp air chilled me slightly and made me more alert as I started walking to Hunter’s cabin. It was pitch black outside, which I remembered from the first time I was out on this night because it was easier to sneak around to get the documents that I was stealing. This time, it just made it hard to see. None of the cabins or other buildings have lights on the outside, something that always struck me as odd but was clearly a deliberate decision because every building was like that. I suppose it’s not like a strip of businesses that put lights on the front because they want you to know that you are being watched. It’s dark because this is a private facility and you aren’t supposed to be here. There are guards that are patrolling that will make sure that you understand that.
I knew the paths decently well at this point and could manage only being able to see a few steps in front of me. I knew what Hunter’s cabin looked like in the dark and where the paths turned. It wasn’t going to be a big deal. Not a big deal at all. This is what I said to myself.
It became apparent that it was going to be at least a medium deal. I was on the opposite side of a split path that I wasn’t too familiar with. It was a dirt path with little in the way of borders on either side, so I had to be careful that I wasn’t wandering off the path into the valley or the bordering forest, at which point I would almost certainly get lost.
Despite the caution that I thought that I was exercising, I was not careful enough about wandering off the path. About halfway to my destination, I tripped and fell over something metal. It was aluminum and came up to my chest and it was loud. I’m sure everybody in the valley heard that. And it smelled bad, too. It was a trashcan. I groaned, now being coated in everybody’s discarded food and soda cans that weren’t fully emptied yet. It was a repugnant smell. I hurt my knees and my elbows falling to the ground with it, too. Being 30 sucks, man.
Sluggishly, still feeling not-all-there from the time traveling, I sat the can upright and began to put as much of the trash as I could see back into the can. I had nearly accomplished this when I saw a bright light and heard a motor right in front of me.
“Get out of here you fucking bear!” a familiar voice yelled. Familiar words, too.
My heart sank. An instinctual thought told me to step into the light and tell Marissa that it was me. A smarter instinctual thought told me that I should probably run. I started to run toward the treeline when I heard a shot ring out and felt a sharp pain along the edge of my shoulder. I had been grazed by a bullet on my left shoulder– my saw shoulder, as I like to call it. Not deep enough to hit anything but skin, but it got all the skin that it could manage.
“Fuck,” I yelled as I retreated. “Fuck, I’m the bear, I’m the bear,” I kept muttering under my breath. I kept running, into the forest, smacking hard into tress that I could not see, repeatedly, which probably did more damage to my body than the initial bullet. After what was maybe 30 seconds of running, tripping, and smacking into trees, I was suddenly in my cabin. To use Aliza Schultz’s terminology, my “retrocausal pocket” was retracted back into it’s own sequence of events.
Well, shit. That explains a lot of things, doesn’t it? I’m the bear. I’m the bear. Hi, my name is Mike Walters and I’m the bear. And here I thought I would return to a timeline where the bear didn’t attack me at all, but here I am. Still on the mend from a bear attack. And being shot in the arm. And running headfirst into a tree and bloodying my nose. I look awful. I feel like if I were someone’s pet, the veterinarian would put me down out of mercy. Shit. The bear!
I texted the gamerunners to tell them what they surely already knew, that I had failed my “proof event” and that I didn’t know if Hunter would believe me that I was a gamerunner. They responded immediately. “Of course he doesn’t believe you, dumbass. He was never going to, even if things had gone according to your plan. It doesn’t matter, though. We got what we wanted. You did what we wanted you to do. -W.BG”
I did what they wanted me to do? Of course I did. I wonder what that was. I don’t think that it matters. This whole thing was demoralizing. They just wanted to prove to me that I don’t actually know as much as I think that I do. A little information is a dangerous thing. I just proved that by actively putting myself in danger, thinking that I was proving that I was in control of the situation. Foolhardy. That’s a better word than “hubristic,” because it’s definitely an actual word. I’ve been foolhardy this whole time and every time I move forward in the game I convince myself that I’m done being foolhardy for real this time. Well, from here on out I swear: no foolhardiness. For real, for real. Who’s foolhardy? Mike Walters? Nah, couldn’t be me.
This has been WOE.BEGONE. Next time: I don’t know, man. I’m the bear. I’m the bear. Maybe I’ll be over that by next time, but I don’t think so. Thanks for playing.