<img src="./img/title_screen_image.png"> [[Start|Jail Cell (Unlit) - hub]] [[Credits|EFJM - Credits]] [[Content warnings|Content warnings]] { (set: $justWokeUp to true) (set: $dissolve to (transition: 'dissolve') + (transition-time: 3s)) (set: $monospace to (css: 'font-family: "VT323", "Courier New", "Courier", monospace; font-size: 36px; color: #33BB44;')) } <!-- Global site tag (gtag.js) - Google Analytics --> <script async src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtag/js?id=UA-125645258-1"></script> <script> window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'UA-125645258-1'); </script>Thanks for playing our weird game! **A game by** Nick Cummings, Ben Morgan, and Nathan Harrison **Illustrations by** Sarah Morgan **Map of Juggalo Mountain and surrounding territories by** Nick Cummings **Playtesting by** Yelena Kolova and Dan Phipps **Special thanks to:** - Matt Gilles - Ian McAfee - Sean Dunne - Nathan Rabin **Bugs or press?** escapefromjuggalomountain@gmail.com [[back to main menu|Title Screen]]This game contains: * strong language * sexual harassment * substance abuse [[back to main menu|Title Screen]]<img src="./img/portapotty-dark.png"> (if: $justWokeUp is true)[When I finally came to, everything was darkness.(set: $justWokeUp to false)](else:)[Everything around me was darkness. (if: $sniffedAir is true)[ Well...darkness and shit.]] > [[I blinked my eyes, still heavy from sleep|Jail Cell (Unlit) - look - fail]]. > [[I felt around for something concrete|Jail Cell (Unlit) - feel]]. > [[I sniffed the stagnant air|Jail Cell (Unlit) - smell]].My eyelids hung heavy. They felt like paperweights over eyes as dry as sandpaper. I couldn't see shit. [[I tried rubbing my face. No good|Jail Cell (Unlit) - hub]].My arms flopped clumsily at my sides. They felt like rubber. I slapped around a bit. Felt my legs in front of me — I was sitting on something hard and warm. Plastic? [I flailed around some more]<trigger1|. |section2)[<em>Thwack</em> — my arms hit something hard on either side. Cool, hard — the walls were close in. And sticky? Panic seized me. A scream stuck in my throat, too dry to vocalize. It was at that moment that I started to really [lose my shit]<trigger2|.] |section3)[I stood up, (click: "stood up")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 1s)[<span style="padding-left: 2em;">lost my balance,</span>]] (click: "lost my balance")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 1s)[<span style="padding-left: 4em;">fell backward.</span> (click: "fell backward")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 1s)[I banged my head and dropped my elbow into [something moist]<trigger3|.]]]]] |section4)[Water — a basin full of it. I sniffed: nothing off about it. Without hesitating, I [splashed my face and rubbed my eyes hard]<trigger4|.] |section5)[No good. Still couldn't see anything. Except for... [> [a faint beam of moonlight draped across the cell walls.]<trigger5a|]<prompt5a| [> [a glint of metal on the floor.]<trigger5b|]<prompt5b|] |section6)[The light from the moon snuck in through a small grate above my head. It shined a faint light across the cell walls and onto the corner of the floor, where it caught the glint of something shiny. I reached forward, snatched it up, and recognized its familiar heft immediately.] (click: "snatched it up")[ <center>[(transition: "pulse")[<span style="display: block; white-space: nowrap;">//**Lighter obtained**//</span>]]</center> I gave it a good [[*flick*|Jail Cell (Lit) - room lights up]], and the room sprang into detail around me.]\ { (click: ?trigger1)[(show: ?section2)] (click: ?trigger2)[(show: ?section3)] (click: ?trigger3)[(show: ?section4)] (click: ?trigger4)[(show: ?section5)] (click: ?trigger5a)[(replace: ?prompt5b)[] (replace: ?prompt5a)[a faint beam of moonlight draped across the cell walls.] (show: ?section6)] (click: ?trigger5b)[(replace: ?prompt5a)[] (replace: ?prompt5b)[a glint of metal on the floor.] (show: ?section6)] (set: $triedDoor to false) (set: $waterDrained to false) (set: $hasJailKey to false) (set: $roomTransitionDone to false) }<img src="./img/portapotty-light.png"> My surroundings came into focus around me. Reflexively, I stood up and [[turned to look in the mirror|Jail Cell (Lit) - name character]]. <!-- will fix this animation stuff later -->Shit. That’s all I could pick up on. Someone literally lost their shit in here. I panicked, because I still couldn’t tell where it was. And now, like some Edgar Allan Poe thing, there was a Telltale Shit lurking under the floor. [[I held my breath and tried not to vom all over myself|Jail Cell (Unlit) - hub]]. (set: $sniffedAir to true)I stared into the mirror and nearly had a heart attack. [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 2s)[$dissolve[I saw a face I didn't recognize staring back at me:(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 4s)[$dissolve[a teenage girl, her hair a colossal mess, her t-shirt stained and jeans ripped.(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 6s)[$dissolve[It was me, looking at my reflection in a dull plastic mirror mounted on the wall in front of me.(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 8s)[$dissolve[I struggled to [[remember my name|Jail Cell (Lit) - naming complete]].(stop:)]]]]{ (set: $justWokeUp to true) (set: $playerName to (prompt: "What is your name?", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right. My name is $playerName. And [[I need to get out of here|Jail Cell (Lit) - hub]]. <!-- what this code does is check the ending of the custom $playerName string to hopefully append the correct pluralization to it --> { (if: $playerName's length < 3)[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "s")) ] (else:)[ (if: $playerName's last is "s")[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "s"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "c"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else:)[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "s")) ] ] }] (else:)[Wait, [[that's not right|Jail Cell (Lit) - naming complete]].] }<img src="./img/portapotty-light.png"> The lighter's dancing flame illuminated my surroundings. (if: $triedDoor is true)[I didn't like what I saw.] There was a (if: $triedDoor is true)[locked ]door right in front of me. The (if: $waterDrained is true)[empty ]basin was rooted to the wall on my left(if:$waterDrained is false)[, still full of translucent water]. And the floor was covered in scattered slips of paper and shreds of cloth. (if: $triedDoor is false)[> [[I tried the door|Jail Cell (Lit) - door]].]\ (if: $triedDoor is true)[> [[The door to my cell was still locked tight|Jail Cell (Lit) - door]].] (if: $waterDrained is false)[> [[I took a closer look at the basin|Jail Cell (Lit) - basin - full]].]\ (if: $waterDrained is true)[> [[I glanced at the basin again|Jail Cell (Lit) - basin - empty]].]{ (if: $hasJailKey is false)\ [(if: $triedDoor is false)[I grabbed the handle and [pulled]<trigger1|.](if: $triedDoor is true)[The door to my cell was still [locked tight]<trigger1|.]] (if: $hasJailKey is true)[The key was chipped and rusty. I [wriggled it into the lock]<trigger2|, forcing it in with my palm.] } |lockedDoorSection)[ (if: $triedDoor is false)[(set: $triedDoor to true)No good. The door wouldn't budge.](else:)[Still no good. I had to find a way to get it open.] [[I glanced around the room again|Jail Cell (Lit) - hub]].]\ \ |unlockDoorSection)[After a momentary effort, the key slid in. [[I turned it|Jail Cell - exit]].]\ \ (click: ?trigger1)[(show: ?lockedDoorSection)]\ (click: ?trigger2)[(show: ?unlockDoorSection)](if: $waterDrained is false)[A small pool of clear-ish water sat still in the basin on my right. There was a single [tap]<tapTrigger| and a [drain lever]<drainTrigger|.] \ |tapSection)[ Turned the tap. Nothing came out. ]\ |drainSection)[(if: $waterDrained is false)[(set: $waterDrained to true)(set: $hasJailKey to true)The liquid gurgled down the drain and out to who-knows-where. At the bottom of the basin was a key. I [[grabbed it|Jail Cell (Lit) - hub]] and took another look around.]]\ \ (click: ?tapTrigger)[(show: ?tapSection)]\ (click: ?drainTrigger)[(show: ?drainSection)]The basin was empty. A reddish stain ran along the edge of the bowl. [[I took another look around|Jail Cell (Lit) - hub]].With a soft //thnck//, the lock turned. I tried to swallow, but my throat was parched. My heart was pounding. My head was swimming. [[I tried the door|Outside Port-a-potty]].The door lurched open, and I fell face-first into the dirt and gravel. The glare of the floodlights was blinding, and my balance was gone. I pushed myself up and rubbed my eyes. Looking around, I saw the old familiar gravel path toward our part of Tent City. (click: "the old familiar gravel path toward our part of Tent City")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[Thank fucking god. I thought I could’ve been anywhere. Steadying myself, I stood up, tested my footing, and glanced around. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw it — a page that looked like it was torn out of my journal.]] (click: "a page")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[It was taped to the inside of the toilet door. If it hadn’t been so hard to see in there, maybe I would’ve noticed it. But out here, under the floodlights, the bright-pink paper stood out clearly from the sun-drained teal plastic door. [[I snatched it and began to read|Outside - Note]].]]The note was signed, but I already knew who wrote it by the loopy lettering of the purple gel-pen on the paper. <div style="padding-left: 2em; font-style: italic;">[(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[Hey, You just woke up from being blacked the fuck out, so you probably don’t remember how you got here. Well, here’s the deal: I told you that I was sick of this shit, this fucked-up life we’re all living here. I told you I was leaving, [one way or another]<pottyTrigger1|.(stop:)]]]] (click: ?pottyTrigger1)[$dissolve[And HERE’s the fucked up part: <span style="text-decoration: underline;">You tried to stop me.</span> $playerName, you’re the only person in this shit town I care about anymore. So when you turned your back on me like that? It fucking hurt. I put you in here for your own safety. Once you’ve cooled off and sobered up and had a chance to stare at yourself in the mirror for a good long while, I hope you’ll [understand why I had to leave]<pottyTrigger2|.]] (click: ?pottyTrigger2)[$dissolve[I don’t have time to get into it now, but I’ll leave a longer letter for you at your place. If you still even give half a shit about me, maybe it’ll finally change your stubborn-ass mind. I hope I see you again, $playerName, but it sure as hell won’t be here. XOXO, [Anna]<pottyTrigger3|]]</div> (click: ?pottyTrigger3)[$dissolve[My hands were shaking as I read the note. Where the fuck did Anna go? What did I do? I drink sometimes, sure, but it’s not like me to black the fuck out. I was angry.]] (click: "I was angry")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[<span style="padding-left: 2em;">I was hurt.</span>]] (click: "I was hurt")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[<span style="padding-left: 4em;">I was scared.</span>]] (click: "I was scared")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[<span style="padding-left: 6em;">I was tired.</span>]] (click: "I was tired")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[<span style="padding-left: 8em;">I felt like puking.</span> For a moment, I just stood there, numb, clutching the note. Anna’s the only real friend I’ve got here; the only one who hasn’t seen me as a fly to swat or a piece of ass. I can’t just let her leave. Not until I can see her again and set things right. [[I neatly folded the note and tucked it into my back pocket|Outside - Outro]].]]I didn’t like her using my journal like this, but right then, the only thing on my mind was tracking Anna down. I was still dizzy but stable enough to walk, so I [[started down the gravel path toward home|Opening crawl]].$monospace[(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[The year is 20XX. Wicked clown shit is the new law.(stop:)]]] [(live: 3s)[(if: time > 6s)[$dissolve[Years ago, the annual Gathering of the Juggalos festival ran long. Law enforcement’s response was swift and brutal. But the Juggalos held their ground.(stop:)]]]] [(live: 3s)[(if: time > 11s)[$dissolve[Five months later, 52 police officers and 128 juggalos were dead. No treaty was signed, but a new community emerged out of the tenuous ceasefire.(stop:)]]]] [(live: 3s)[(if: time > 19s)[$dissolve[You were born into this place, Gatherville, where you live and die by the hatchet. Your best bet for a good time is to find a rude-ass ninja you can trust and get busy making a fucking fool of yourself. You only get one shot before the Dark Carnival comes and Jay-sus ain’t coming to save you.(stop:)]]]] [(live: 3s)[(if: time > 27s)[$dissolve[For Juggalos in Gatherville, getting into the spotlight means everything. Wicked emcees spit verses sharp as hatchets. Wrestlers leave their blood and spit in the ring. It's all for a shot at catching the eye of the Honchos, living comfy in their ivory trailers. They’ve got the cash to make anyone forget about the shit they’ve seen in Gatherville.(stop:)]]]] [(live: 3s)[(if: time > 34s)[$dissolve[There are a lot of scrappers and shitheads going for glory, but any one of them who wants a permanent spot on top has to pass a final test. One insane act to prove they’ve got the heart to be a legend. [[They must...|EFJM-image]](stop:)]]]]] <style> tw-icon.undo { display: none; } tw-icon.redo { display: none; } </style><img src="./img/opening_crawl.png"> [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 10s)[(go-to: "Act 1 Title Card")]]] <style> tw-icon.undo { display: none; } tw-icon.redo { display: none; } img { max-height: 80vh; } </style>=><= [(live: 0.3s)[(if: time > 2s)[$dissolve[<h1>Act I</h1>(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 8s)[(go-to: "Mom's Tent - intro")]]] <style> tw-icon.undo { display: none; } tw-icon.redo { display: none; } </style> <!-- If using debug menu shortcuts, prompts player to enter their name -->{ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|Mom's Tent - intro]].] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|Mom's Tent - name prompt]].][(live: 2s)[(if: time > 2s)[$dissolve[I stumbled along the old familiar path toward Mom’s tent. My feet moved clumsily under me — I was still feeling fucked up.(stop:)]]]] (click: "fucked up") [$dissolve[My head was spinning: why did Anna lock me up? No, that’s not even it; more like, why the hell would she ever do something like that? It doesn’t make any sense. She’s like my sister. Isn’t she?]] (click: "make any sense") [$dissolve[I shook my head, trying to find the correct order for the thoughts circling in my brain. I needed to get my shit together.]] (click: "get my shit together") [$dissolve[I looked up, and suddently there it was:]] (click: "there it was") [$dissolve[a smattering of tarps nailed onto a rickety-ass wooden frame,]] (click: "rickety-ass wooden frame") [(transition: "dissolve")[<span style="padding-left:2em">extension cables snaking from a lamppost and disappearing under the floorboards,</span>]] (click: "under the floorboards") [(transition: "dissolve")[<span style="padding-left:4em">and a screen door latched shut with a bungee cable.</span>]] (click: "bungee cable") [(transition: "dissolve")[[[//Home Shit Home.//|Mom's Tent - intro 2]]]]<img src="./img/moms_tent.png"> I reached out for the latch and hesitated. Mom hadn’t been home much lately, but all the same, I really wasn't sure I was up for the inevitable argument if she saw me coming home like this. But I didn't have a choice — I needed to find the letter that Anna left for me. Sun was long gone. Ron would no doubt be stumbling in before too much longer. No time like the present. I stepped forward and [[unlatched the door|Mom's Tent - den]].Things were different from when I last went home, however long ago that was. For one thing, the TV was off and the couch was empty. But it was clear Mom and Ron had been up to their usual bullshit recently: a fresh pile of cigarette butts littered the TV trays, and Ron’s prized bong still had [[the charred remains of a bowl packed into it|Mom's Tent - den 2]].I froze in place and listened intently. (click: "listened intently") [$dissolve[No noises. Just the tarp walls flapping in the evening breeze.]] (click: "No noises") [$dissolve[I was alone, praise the fucking lord.]] (click: "praise the fucking lord") [$dissolve[I walked over to the fridge a few feet away and scanned the shelves. Nothing much left — just half a ham sandwich on a paper plate, a twelve-pack of [[sodas|Mom's Tent - faygo]] and a lone [[can of beer|Mom's Tent - beer]].]]Ah, Redpop. Anna and I had this weirdo friend, Scott, who went absolutely bonkers for this shit. He loved to get turned wayyyy up on the sugar rush and rave about how delicious it was to drink “the blood of the innocent.” I kinda miss Scott. Wonder how he’s doing out there. I pulled a can of Redpop out of the box, cracked it open, and took [[a seat at the table|Mom's Tent - table]]. (set: $faygoDrank to true)Ron’s pissy beer of choice: “The Great Milenkale”. It tastes worse than it smells, but given that I literally woke up in a toilet, I wasn’t feeling too choosy. I snatched the tallboy, cracked it open, and pulled out [[a seat at the kitchen table|Mom's Tent - table]]. (set: $beerDrank to true) <!-- If using debug menu shortcuts, prompts player to enter their name -->{ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|Mom's Tent - table]].] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|Mom's Tent - name prompt table]].]Anna’s disappearance was all I could think about, but it felt good to sit still for a moment. I realized suddenly that I ached all over. Come to think of it, what was I doing before I woke up in that nasty-ass bathroom? I strained to picture it, but it was all noise and disruption in my brain — nothing came to me. { (set: $cigarettesViewed to false) (set: $platesViewed to false) (set: $notepadViewed to false) } (click: "nothing came to me")[(display: "Mom's Tent - table hub")]I sighed, took another swig, and stared around the room. \ [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 2s)[$dissolve[(if: $tableDetailsSeen is 3)[ > [[I kept staring into the distance until I realized I was looking straight at the support beam|Mom's Tent - support beam]].]\ (if: $cigarettesViewed is false)[ > [[Cigarette butts galore. Looked like Mom was stressing hard again|Mom's Tent - cigarettes]].]\ (if: $platesViewed is false)[ > [[The table was set with a couple of plates. One was littered with bones and gristle and streaked with barbecue sauce|Mom's Tent - plates]].]\ (if: $notepadViewed is false)[ > [[Mom’s trademark yellow notepad was sitting out, turned to a new page|Mom's Tent - notepad]].](stop:)]]]]I saw another heap of stubbed-out cigarettes and a couple of empty fifths stacked in the center of the kitchen table. Mom and Ron must’ve been having another one of their long, idiotic arguments over who-knows-what — or maybe Ron had some of his shithead buddies over to watch this year’s Bloodymania match. I remembered that time Mom caught Anna and me lighting up outside our tent late at night. Said it was a nasty habit, that it’d mess me up real good if I didn’t quit. [[What a hypocrite|Mom's Tent - table hub]]. (set: $cigarettesViewed to true) (set: $tableDetailsSeen to it +1)A couple plates with the scraps of leftover barbecue were still sitting on the table. They looked pretty raunchy at this point — like they’d been sitting out a few days. The bones were picked clean, but a couple flies were going to town on the leftover streaks of barbecue sauce. Wings, huh? Ron’s favorite. Mom must’ve been feeling generous. I’ll never understand why she supports his [[deadbeat ass|Mom's Tent - table hub]]. (set: $platesViewed to true) (set: $tableDetailsSeen to it +1)Mom loves to keep notes. She writes down all kinds of things — keeps track of our finances, plans meals way in advance for those rare occasions where we’re able to make something proper. This page was dated with what I hoped was still today’s date. > [[I looked aside|Mom's Tent - table hub]]. I wouldn't want her looking through <i>my</i> shit. > As I turned away, I couldn’t help but notice [[my name at the bottom of the page|Mom's Tent - notepad 2]]. (set: $notepadViewed to true) (set: $tableDetailsSeen to it +1)It was a [to-do list]<listTrigger|. No real surprises there: (click: ?listTrigger)[$dissolve[<div style="padding-left: 2em;">- REMEMBER: working extra shifts for Jolene next Sat. & Sun. - Patch ripped wall in L.R. - Talk to Ron about budget — no more [wasting money at The Gutter]<listTrigger2|!!</div>]] (click: ?listTrigger2)[$dissolve[And sure enough, there was [a line item for me]<listTrigger3|. It read:]] (click: ?listTrigger3)[$dissolve[<div style="padding-left: 2em;">- //Talk to $playerName about the house rules — NO MORE [SNEAKING OFF WITH ANNA]<listTrigger4| AFTER DARK!//</div>]] (click: ?listTrigger4)[$dissolve[Great. The one time I disappear without a trace, she’s somehow [[sober enough to notice|Mom's Tent - table hub]].]]The support beam separating the kitchen from my tent was looking pretty funky, but it was still standing. I scanned from the bottom up, watching the series of notches and dates go by: |RON 69 420 666 years | | | | | |$playerName 12 years | | | |$playerName 10 years | | |$playerName 7 years | |$playerName 5 years | | |$playerName 3 years From looking around the scene, it’s the only proof I ever lived here. I felt that ball of rage in my gut flare up again. Fuck this place. And fuck the assholes who live here. I’m so beyond done with this shit. I pounded (if: $beerDrank is true)[the rest of the watery piss that passes for beer by Ron’s standards](else:)[the sugary dregs of the Redpop], crunched the can, and left it on the table. If they ever got around to cleaning, they could clean up one more mess. Right. Ok. I just had to [[get my shit together|Mom's Tent - your room]] and get outta here.The tarp separating my bed from the kitchen fluttered gently in the draft. Something beyond it caught my eye. A bare foot. Lying on my bed. //Oh shit. Mom’s still here.// I froze and waited what felt like an eternity and listened. (click: "waited what felt like an eternity and listened")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 8s)[Snoring.]] (click: "Snoring")[She’s out, thank god. My head was still murky as hell and a thrumming headache was gaining momentum; the last thing I needed was to be chewed out for something that wasn’t even my fault. Jaysus, Anna; why’d you do this to me, anyway? Focusing again, I remembered why I was here. My eyes darted around the room, panic rising in my chest, until I saw it: [[my backpack|Mom's Tent - journal]].]I quickly rummaged through my shit to make sure it was how I left it. My journal was there, but the cash was gone. I must’ve had it on me last night before I got fucked up. Did someone take it? No sign of the letter Anna said she'd leave either. Whatever. Not like I should trust the word of the person who locked me in a shitter anyway. I grabbed the pack and quietly slipped it over my shoulder. (click: "slipped it over my shoulder")[ <center>[(transition: "pulse")[<span style="display: block; white-space: nowrap;">//[[**Journal obtained**|Mom's Tent - map]]//</span>]]</center>]In the folds of the journal, I could see [a piece of paper]<paperReveal|. (click: ?paperReveal)[$dissolve[It was [the map that I had drawn]<mapReveal| when I was just starting to go out on my own.]] (click: ?mapReveal)[$dissolve[<img src="./img/map.png"> Damn, this place used to seem so huge and exciting, like our own wicked-ass playground. It looked so sad and small now. Every place seemed like somewhere I might [[never meet Anna at again|Mom's Tent - poster choice]].]]I put the map away and looked up at my room again. My eyes came to rest on a poster hanging over my bed. It read: > (link: "DOUBLE TROUBLE: Wicked Wrestlin’ Federation Invitational")[(set: $isWrestler to true)(go-to: "Mom's Tent - poster thoughts")] > (link: "Open Mic Battle Royale - TONIGHT ONLY")[(set: $isRapper to true)(go-to: "Mom's Tent - poster thoughts")]I gazed up at the poster and a sepia tone layered itself over my heart. I remembered meeting Anna (if: $isRapper is true)[on the mic](else:)[in the ring] and it made my heart sing and hurt in equal measure. When we were all about performing, didn't care what any fucker thought, those were better days. How did we even get here? God dammit. [[I had to find that girl|Mom's Tent - looking at mom]].I turned to leave, but when I saw my mom’s face something caught in my chest. She looked so calm when she was asleep; nothing at all like the stressed-out megabitch I’d been living with the past few months. I got that it totally sucked being the breadwinner for us, but it was Ron’s fault that he lost his steady-ass job down at the Trailers for being a drunk piece of shit. If she’d just kicked him to the curb, we’d have been able to get by just fine, the two of us. I wanted to scream, shake her, yell at her, do something. But the moment passed, and instead I felt [[tears welling up my eyes|Mom's Tent - letter to mom start]]. <!-- If using debug menu shortcuts, prompts player to enter their name -->{ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|Mom's Tent - letter to mom start]].] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|Mom's Tent - name prompt letter]].]Why the hell would she fall asleep in my bed? She’s got her own, and it’s way nicer. I couldn’t just leave. I needed to at least let her know what’s up. I turned back to my desk, picked up a pencil, and began to write: <div style="padding-left: 2em; font-style: italic;"> \[Hey,]<momLetter1a|(click: ?momLetter1a)[(replace: ?momLetter1b)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter to mom 2")] [Hey Mom,]<momLetter1b|(click: ?momLetter1b)[(replace: ?momLetter1a)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter to mom 2")] </div>[<br><br>I’m sorry I didn’t make it home last night. Things are messed up, but it’s not my fault.]<momLetter2a|(click: ?momLetter2a)[(replace: ?momLetter2b)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter to mom 3")] [<br>I came home to get some rest, but it turns out my bed was occupied. Thanks a lot.]<momLetter2b|(click: ?momLetter2b)[(replace: ?momLetter2a)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter to mom 3")][<br><br>I’m worried about Anna. She straight-up disappeared on me last night. It’s not like her at all. I’m worried shit’s gone way wrong for her.]<momLetter3a|(click: ?momLetter3a)[(replace: ?momLetter3b)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter to mom 4")] [<br>I just dropped by to get some of my stuff.]<momLetter3b|(click: ?momLetter3b)[(replace: ?momLetter3a)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter to mom 4")][<br><br>I know Anna’s in trouble, and I’ve gotta make sure she’s ok.]<momLetter4a|(click: ?momLetter4a)[(replace: ?momLetter4b)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter to mom 5")] [<br>I drank some of Ron’s (if: $beerDrank is true)[Milenkale](else:)[Faygo]. Be sure to let him know it was me.]<momLetter4b|(click: ?momLetter4b)[(replace: ?momLetter4a)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter to mom 5")][<br><br>I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ll be back as soon as I can be.]<momLetter5a|(click: ?momLetter5a)[(replace: ?momLetter5b)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter to mom 6")] [<br>I hope you’ve kicked that asshole to the curb by the time I’m back. You deserve so much better than him.]<momLetter5b|(click: ?momLetter5b)[(replace: ?momLetter5a)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter to mom 6")][<br><br>Love you,]<momLetter6a|(click: ?momLetter6a)[(replace: ?momLetter6b)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter mom end")] [<br>Smell ya later,]<momLetter6b|(click: ?momLetter6b)[(replace: ?momLetter6a)[](display: "Mom's Tent - letter mom end")][[<br>**$playerName**|Mom's Tent - Leo enters]]There. Good enough. I set the pencil down, shifted my bag onto my shoulders, and got up to leave — And I heard something that made my heart nearly pop out of my chest. [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve["Hey, $playerName! Heard you turned up again, girl. Don’t you wanna come out and see your main man?"(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 7s)[$dissolve[Fuck.(stop:)]]]] (click: "Fuck")[Leo.] (click: "Leo")[I heard the front flap of our tent open up. Fuck. He’s here.] (click: "He’s here")[No time to think; I had to get out, now.] (click: "get out")[With my hands trembling, > (link: "I swiped the multitool off my desk.")[(set: $multitool to true)(go-to: "Mom's Tent - tool obtained")] > (link: "I snatched my trusty hatchet off the floor.")[(set: $hatchet to true)(go-to: "Mom's Tent - tool obtained")] ]{(if: $multitool is true)[<center>[(transition: "pulse")[<span style="display: block; white-space: nowrap;">//[[**Multitool obtained**|Mom's Tent - finale]]//</span>]]</center>] (else:)[<center>[(transition: "pulse")[<span style="display: block; white-space: nowrap;">//[[**Hatchet obtained**|Mom's Tent - finale]]//</span>]]</center>]}Fuck. As soon as I gripped the (if: $multitool is true)[tool](else:)[hatchet's handle] I could hear his heavy footfalls approaching the tarp. No time to waste. I slashed at the rear tarp, ripping a gnarly hole right through the wall of my room. Loud enough to wake the dead. (click: "wake the dead")[$dissolve[Mom sat up suddenly, blinked heavily. “$playerName?” she yelped.]] (click: "she yelped")[$dissolve[But I was through, and my feet were moving, thumping hard against the gravel and dirt paths, weaving between the tents, panic stabbing at my brain, no time to think, and I was [[gone, gone, gone|Tent City - Intro]].]]<img src="./img/tent_city.png"> I felt a twinge of guilt as I broke through the tarp. Mom would understand, but Ron would be sure to give her hell while he fixed the busted tarp for the umpteenth time. Shit. I’d have to try and make up for it later, once I ditched Leo and caught back up with Anna. (click: "ditched Leo")[I squeezed my way between the backsides of other tents pushed close together, trying to avoid the footpaths that divided Tent City into wobbly rows. I reached the point where another path crossed perpendicular to Mom’s row and stopped for a moment before darting across. “Time to step out of the shadows, sister.” I froze. I recognized the voice — [[but it wasn't Leo's|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter]].] { (set: $badChoices to 0) (set: $recruiterTriedExcuse to false) (set: $recruiterTalkedShit to false) }No, it was that god-fearing ninja who hustled for the so-called “Temple of Three Rings.” He was standing along the side of the path, not four feet away from me. I could see the fistful of church flyers clutched in his left hand. Fuck. “That’s right sister, I seen you. An’ I also seen the look in your eyes. You think hiding is gonna keep you safe.” He took a step closer. (click: "He took a step closer")[“But every soul gots a ticket to the Carnival: non-transferable, non-refundable, non-fuck-with-able." He paused. "Only question now is, which show will your soul see?” (if: $recruiterTriedExcuse is false)[> [[Make an excuse|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter - make excuse]]] > [[Quote verse|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter - quote verse]] (if: $recruiterTalkedShit is false)[> [[Talk shit|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter - talk shit]]] > [[Take tract|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter - take tract]]]“Uhh, I don’t wanna waste your time, man," I stammered. "My mom keeps me on a pretty short leash. She doesn’t like the look of y’all to begin with, and I’m out past curfew already.” He leaned in even closer, and I caught the scent of gin-spiked Moon Mist wafting on his breath. “Judge not, sister. That goes double for momma. If she gots worries, why, a night in the Three Rings is just the thing.” I sighed. Clearly he wasn't buying my bullshit. > [[Quote verse|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter - quote verse]]\ (if: $recruiterTalkedShit is false)[ > [[Talk shit|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter - talk shit]]] > [[Take tract|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter - take tract]] { (set: $badChoices to it +1) (set: $recruiterTriedExcuse to true) }{ (set: $tentChasePartTwo to (random: 1)) (if: $tentChasePartTwo is 0)[(set: $nextScene to "Rip's Rydas")] (else:)[(set: $nextScene to "Ornery Kids")] } “'Ring three, the ICP, look if you want but I wouldn't lay a hand on me,'” I sang, jerking my head toward his. “'That's how you get fucked up, I’ll squeeze your windpipe shut.'” Preacher-man cackled, and he rasped back: “'You can call me a weirdo, call me a freak, call me Don Knotts cuz I'm gettin' knotted every week!' Hah, sister, you know your shit.” He kept laughing as he patted me on the back, waving me on my way. [[I was only too happy to oblige|Tent City - $nextScene]].“Oh fuck off, pervert,” I said. “There’s only one kind of dude who hangs out in Tent City alleyways watching for sweet young things riding solo, and this shit’s not for sale.” He shook his head slowly and sadly. “Just fillin’ my ears with the Magician’s lies, as He whispers them with your tongue. Hate me if you must, sister, but I been stuck in your path for a reason.” \(if: $recruiterTriedExcuse is false)[ > [[Make an excuse|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter - make excuse]]] > [[Quote verse|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter - quote verse]] > [[Take tract|Tent City - Three Rings recruiter - take tract]] { (set: $badChoices to it +1) (set: $recruiterTalkedShit to true) }{ (set: $tentChasePartTwo to (random: 1)) (if: $tentChasePartTwo is 0)[(set: $nextScene to "Rip's Rydas")] (else:)[(set: $nextScene to "Ornery Kids")] } I snatched a flyer from his hand. “Okay padre, I got my golden ticket to the holy freakshow.” I glanced down at the wobbling, badly Xeroxed sharpie letters. “‘Sunset to sunrise at the Bigtop.’ Sounds… uh, cool.” Even trying, I could only fake being gung-ho badly, but if he could tell he didn’t show. Just wordlessly grinned at me with his wet, shiny teeth as I [[scampered across the path and back into the shadows|Tent City - $nextScene]].I tried to blend in as I made my way through one of the tidier sections of the tarps. People in these rows were nosy and suspicious of anything that looked like trouble. (click: "looked like trouble")[Sure enough, down the street I spotted a goon from the neighborhood’s foot patrol, Rip’s Rydas. He’d zeroed in on me and was making a beeline my way. He hadn’t even made it halfway over to me, and already I could see the dude’s gin blossoms were looking red & angry. > [[Beg for help|Tent City - Rip's Rydas - beg for help]] > [[Ask directions|Tent City - Rip's Rydas - ask directions]] > [[Play trick|Tent City - Rip's Rydas - play trick]] > [[Just bolt|Tent City - Rip's Rydas - just bolt]]] { (set: $rydaBegForHelp to false) (set: $rydaAskDirections to false) }“Oh, thank fucking J. Listen man, you gotta help me. I’m trying to ditch this psycho loser who’s chasing my ass like a fucking dog.” “Oh yeah?” the Ryda said, gripping his nightstick. “This creepazoid gots a name, ‘lette?” “Leo, and he—” “What, Leo? Big Leo?” he interrupted, getting defensive. “I know that Leo; he ain’t a psycho loser! I means, maybe he’s messed up on something — you knows how he is. Youse wait here with me, and when Leo shows up we gets this shit figured out.” \ (if: $rydaAskDirections is false)[ > [[Ask directions|Tent City - Rip's Rydas - ask directions]]] > [[Play trick|Tent City - Rip's Rydas - play trick]] > [[Just bolt|Tent City - Rip's Rydas - just bolt]] { (set: $badChoices to it +1) (set: $rydaBegForHelp to true) }“I’m all turned around in here, man,” I said. “These ain’t my tarps, and I just need to get outta here to the Gutter.” “Nahhh,” he said, standing a couple paces away. “Youse can’t get to the Gutter from here; them rows is all fucked up. I mean, youse could go back around them hippie tents in Mirkwood, and then maybe cut through the Boneyard, but then again they’s dug that shit-ditch through there so instead youse hafta—” My mind blanked out completely. Jesus, getting this guy started was clearly a mistake. \ (if: $rydaBegForHelp is false)[ > [[Beg for help|Tent City - Rip's Rydas - beg for help]]] > [[Play trick|Tent City - Rip's Rydas - play trick]] > [[Just bolt|Tent City - Rip's Rydas - just bolt]] { (set: $badChoices to it +1) (set: $rydaAskDirections to true) }I screwed up my face into something I hoped conveyed pure terror. “Oh, shit! Look over there!” The big oaf spun to look in the direction I pointed, and by the time he spun back, [[I’d ghosted|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs]]. All the homies on this row just had to be sleepin’ easy with this dude on the case.“What am I even doing?” I wondered aloud. I broke into a sprint and [[tore off straight by him|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs]]. He offered a wheezy “Hey!” as I raced by, but by the time my brain put the sound back together in my head, he was eating a three-course meal of my dust.I kept pushing through the tents, making my way to a run-down section I knew was mostly abandoned. Fewer people meant fewer chances to have my location given away. The tents around me were charred and partly melted, the traces of a campfire that had gotten wildly out of hand a few weeks back. With the area deserted, I moved out onto the path and broke into a jog to try and make better time than Leo could, wherever he was. I was halfway through when I almost tripped over a shiny tin can sitting on a block of wood in the middle of the path. I kicked it off into the debris of a ruined shack on the left, and a handful of shiny stones spun out of it as it sailed through the air. (click: "it sailed through the air")[In response, I heard a cartoonish owl call sound out from a burnt-out tent on my right, and a dozen kids flooded out of the blackened hovels to surround me. “That was for our game, assface!” one of the kids in front said. “Now we gotta start all over.” > [[Boss around|Tent City - Ornery Kids - boss around]] > [[Play along|Tent City - Ornery Kids - play along]] > [[Act dumb|Tent City - Ornery Kids - act dumb]] > [[Tattle tale|Tent City - Ornery Kids - tattle tale]]] { (set: $kidsBossedAround to false) (set: $kidsTattleTold to false) }“Just scram, pipsqueaks,” I said, walking right up to the kid in front. “Grown-up coming through.” The kid in front crossed his arms and didn’t budge. “You don’t scare us. There’s just one of you, and we know how to mess you up.” He looked to a couple of the kids behind him. “Go get the can set up again while we deal with this juggaho.” > [[Play along|Tent City - Ornery Kids - play along]] > [[Act dumb|Tent City - Ornery Kids - act dumb]] \(if: $kidsTattleTold is false)[ > [[Tattle tale|Tent City - Ornery Kids - tattle tale]]] { (set: $badChoices to it +1) (set: $kidsBossedAround to true) }“Wait, don’t tell me you guys were playing ghost ninja?” I said, trying to sound shocked. “That game is for babies! I figured somebody was playing skull-kick, and thought I’d take a crack.” “No. What’s skull-kick?” asked a different kid, a girl. “It sounds stupid,” chimed in the ‘assface’ kid. “Doesn’t matter now, does it? Anyway, skull-kick is pretty dangerous, and I didn’t realize you guys were so little. If you guys were playing ghost ninja, that means I need to go on a time-out for spilling the can, right?” (click: "time-out")[“Yeah, it’s over there.” The same girl pointed further down the path, to where a small wooden crate sat overturned, with “STUPID” spray-painted on it. “You gotta go sit on the Stupid Stool.” I nodded, and made my way over to the crate. I sat down and watched as the kids went hunting for the can and the shiny colored stones for each team. They looked my way a couple times; I did my best to look bored as I tossed gravel at a broken TV. When they started squabbling over how many stones to put back in the can, I saw my moment and [[slipped away|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs]], back into the cover of the tents around us.]“Oh, geez. That was your can? Sorry, I just thought it was trash. Wait—” I interrupted myself, “You can play a game with a can?” I hammed it up as much as I could, acting like I hadn’t played and invented dozens of can-games when I was little. “Pshh, grown-ups don’t know anything,” sighed another kid. “You can use a can for all kinds of games, dumbo! Look: two teams, both of ‘em hide, and you try to throw in your rocks without the other team seein’ ya.” The girl demonstrated by hiding behind a bunch of charred lumber and arcing some stones toward the wooden plank where the can had sat. “Wow. That’s so cool! Just rocks and a can.” I shook my head. “I had no idea. Well, I gotta keep going. Is it alright if I tell that game to some kids I know?” “Sure, I guess,” the girl said, looking confused. “There’s kids who don’t know how to play ghost ninja?” “Haha, fuckin’ lame!” shouted the boy who’d called me ‘assface’. “You should tell those kids to come play us, we’ll cream ‘em!” The kids started laughing and describing the ways they’d embarrass and defeat the kids I knew (nonexistent) in graphic detail. As soon as it seemed like they forgot about me entirely, I [[peaced out|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs]] before any of them could think to notice me again.“Start over? Nuh-uh, I think it’s bedtime, kiddos.” I singled out a girl close-by. “Does your mom know you’re out here, at this time of night? Because if she doesn’t, she’s gonna in about two minutes.” The little girl stuck her chin out. “My mommy’s dead, assface. We play out here all the time, Daddy has his friends over and they tell us to shoo.” “Yeah!” agreed the other kid, the boy who’d piped up first. “Now how about you pick up your ass and go get that can?” \(if: $kidsBossedAround is false)[ > [[Boss around|Tent City - Ornery Kids - boss around]]] > [[Play along|Tent City - Ornery Kids - play along]] > [[Act dumb|Tent City - Ornery Kids - act dumb]] { (set: $badChoices to it +1) (set: $kidsTattleTold to true) }I knew a few shortcuts here & there, back from when I was a little kid and looking to slip away from my parents. I barely fit through some of the kid-size gaps & holes I remembered. I guess that was one reason to be grateful for my slight & scrawny frame. I tore a belt loop on my pants, forcing my way through a tumble of scrap wood Anna & I had shaped into a crude tunnel as kids. As I inched my way out, I stopped short at the sign of movement. (click: "the sign of movement")[A bunch of rangy dogs were circling in a clearing where the backsides of a half-dozen tents all faced one another. A ramshackle fort made of broken pallets and covered in kids’ graffiti sat in the center, and a flank of meat dangled from a nail in a roof-beam, just out of reach of the dogs. They turned at the sound of me dragging myself out of the tunnel, and after a moment of hesitation, began closing in on me instead. > [[Yank flank|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - yank flank]] > [[Throw fake-out|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - throw fake-out]] > [[Growl savagely|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - growl savagely]] > [[Speak softly|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - speak softly]] (if: $hatchet is true)[> [[Brandish axe|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - brandish axe]]]] { (set: $dogsFakedOut to false) (set: $dogsGrowledAt to false) }The poor fuckers looked so hungry, it was hard not to feel bad for them. It was pushing my luck, but I sprinted into the middle of the still spread-out pack to where the hunk of meat hung from the roof, and tore it free. I chucked it over toward the mouth of tunnel I’d just crawled out of. The dogs fell on it instantly. While they were tearing the meat to ribbons with gusto, I smiled. For a second I’d let myself imagine it was Leo. Satisfied, I [[kept running|Tent City - Fence]].I balled my hand into a claw, miming as though I was holding onto a tennis ball or something. I waggled my hand in front of the dogs, then made a severely exaggerated pantomime of pitching the nothing-ball over their heads. A couple of heads turned, but otherwise none of them moved. In another second, all eyes were focused back on me. Shit. > [[Yank flank|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - yank flank]]\ (if: $dogsGrowledAt is false)[ > [[Growl savagely|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - growl savagely]]] > [[Speak softly|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - speak softly]] (if: $hatchet is true)[> [[Brandish axe|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - brandish axe]]] { (set: $badChoices to it +1) (set: $dogsFakedOut to true) }These mutts all looked and acted pretty feral. Probably all of them were the great-grandpups of labradors that got ambitious enough to try humping a coyote or whatever. I decided to try speaking their language. I dropped to all fours, snarled, then gave ‘em my best howl. “Arrrooooouuuuu!” Nothing. Tough crowd. > [[Yank flank|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - yank flank]]\ (if: $dogsFakedOut is false)[ > [[Throw fake-out|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - throw fake-out]]] > [[Speak softly|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - speak softly]] (if: $hatchet is true)[> [[Brandish axe|Tent City - Pack of stray dogs - brandish axe]]] { (set: $badChoices to it +1) (set: $dogsGrowledAt to true) }“You pups look like you’ve seen some rough days,” I said softly, gathering myself into a crouch and holding out my hand toward the nearest dog, palm down. “Yeah? Is that right?” I held still for what felt like an agonizingly long time. I was only too aware that Leo was still out in the tarps somewhere, on my trail. At last, the dog took a few steps closer to sniff my hand, then nuzzled and licked it. The mood of the pack shifted to match that of my new friend, and I found myself surrounded by dozens of wagging tails and lolling tongues happily letting me [[pass on my way|Tent City - Fence]].“Hey! Mutts! You know what this is?” I slipped my axe off the belt loop it hung from and held it high, catching some stray light and glinting. “This is my way of saying ‘Don’t fuck with me.’” All the dogs closest to me hunched up and skittered away, softly yelping as they went. Somebody, sometime, had clearly taught them a lesson. I tried not to think about how they must have gotten the point across, but whispered thanks to that nameless ninja just the same. With the dogs dispersed, it was time to [[get my ass in gear|Tent City - Fence]].“Ah, fuck.” Blocking my path was a new obstacle: a hastily-made fence, sectioning off two big sections of the Tarps from one another. Looking at its length spreading far left & right, I knew if I tried to just go around it Leo was bound to catch up with me. I frowned and moved closer. (click: "moved closer")[I saw the fence was made from a bit of everything. Chain-link, barbed wire, wooden posts, and a salvaged wrought-iron gate secured with what looked like a bike lock. > [[Climb over|Tent City - Fence - climb over]] > [[Crawl under|Tent City - Fence - crawl under]] > [[Kick down|Tent City - Fence - kick down]] > [[Squeeze through|Tent City - Fence - squeeze through]]\ (if: $multitool is true)[ > [[Snip cable|Tent City - Fence - snip cable]]]] { (set: $fenceClimbed to false) (set: $fenceSqueezed to false) }The fence wasn’t all that tall, and as rusty as the barbed-wire and chain-link looked, its sharpness probably left something to be desired. I jammed my boots into the holes in the chain-link, and started making my way up & over. Almost right away I started to see the flaws in my plan: the level of rust made the fence weak & bendy, and it sagged as I climbed, threatening to collapse and tangle me in a chain-link net. Plus, the barbed-wire was plenty sharp to start cutting up my hands. I started thinking if tetanus was worth this shit… Nah. I hopped down and tried to think of another way. > [[Crawl under|Tent City - Fence - crawl under]] > [[Kick down|Tent City - Fence - kick down]]\ (if: $fenceSqueezed is false)[ > [[Squeeze through|Tent City - Fence - squeeze through]]] (if: $multitool is true)[> [[Snip cable|Tent City - Fence - snip cable]]] { (set: $fenceClimbed to true) (set: $badChoices to it +1) }{ (if: $badChoices < 3)[(set: $tentCityFinale to "Neden militia finale")] (else:)[(set: $tentCityFinale to "Leo finale")] }\ People miss what’s right under their feet all the time. Scanning the bottom of the fence, I spotted what I was looking for almost right away: a sandy patch bisected by the chain-link. I scrambled over to it, and dug my hands in to see how deep the sand went. Six or eight inches down, and I still felt nothing but sand in my fingers. Perfect. I screwed my eyes shut tight as I messily scooped a trench out of the sand, kicking up a shit-ton of dust, but plenty of grit still worked into my eyes. When I could feel the gap was big enough, I inched under the chain-link, and finally cleared out my eyes on the other side. I did my best to kick the sand around again and cover my tracks, then [[set off deeper into the Tarps|Tent City - $tentCityFinale]].{ (if: $badChoices < 3)[(set: $tentCityFinale to "Neden militia finale")] (else:)[(set: $tentCityFinale to "Leo finale")] }\ Whoever had put up this fence did a decent job making it look like a dangerous mess, but they would have done better to put a little more effort into the post-holes. The floor of the basin where Gatherville squatted was hard clay packed tight: a true pain in the ass to dig. Most of the juggalos I knew wouldn’t put up with it; I figured the posts only sat barely deep enough to keep the fence mostly upright. I gave the closest post a kick, and sure enough I could see the dirt starting to churn already. I rabbit-kicked the post until it was shoved up out of the dirt, leaning almost flat and pulling the whole section of fence down with it. I stepped carefully over the barbed-wire, and then [[I was gone|Tent City - $tentCityFinale]].The cable from the bike lock wasn’t wound as tightly as it should have been. Tugging at it, it was able to make enough slack to create a gap that looked wide enough to squeeze through. I tensed and tried to make myself as thin as I could, but it didn’t matter: it was my bony bits that held me back. I was able to force myself almost all the way through, but no way was my head gonna fit. Eventually I had to give up and admit that the gap only looked wide enough to squeeze through. \ (if: $fenceClimbed is false)[ > [[Climb over|Tent City - Fence - climb over]]] > [[Crawl under|Tent City - Fence - crawl under]] > [[Kick down|Tent City - Fence - kick down]]\ (if: $multitool is true)[ > [[Snip cable|Tent City - Fence - snip cable]]] { (set: $fenceSqueezed to true) (set: $badChoices to it +1) }{ (if: $badChoices < 3)[(set: $tentCityFinale to "Neden militia finale")] (else:)[(set: $tentCityFinale to "Leo finale")] }\ My multitool had a couple of blades, in addition to a pretty tough pair of scissors/wire-cutters. I sawed through the plastic coating of the cable first with one of the blades, then went to work on the cable itself. It took a few passes, but at last the cable snapped and the lock fell to the ground. The gate squeaked a bit as I eased through it, then [[set off through the next section of the Tarps beyond|Tent City - $tentCityFinale]].Trying to move as quick as I could without attracting even more attention to myself, at last I could see that only a couple more rows stood between me and the Gutter. It wasn’t exactly safety, but Leo had pissed off the owner one too many times this week, and if he showed his face he knew he was guaranteed to get his teeth pushed in. Besides, Leo knew how much I hated the place, from all the times he dragged me along for the ride to hang out with his dumbfuck crew. He’d never think to look for me there. I ducked around a corner— (click: "ducked around a corner—")[—and was almost bowled over by a short, stocky girl in a leather greaser jacket. “Yo, what the fuck!” she snapped at me, patting herself down after I half-bodychecked her. “Like for real, what the fuck is your problem?!” “Watch your step, juggalette,” chimed in another chick somewhere from behind her. “This ain’t your part of the tarps.” Peering over the girl I ran into, I saw four or five other tough-looking women casually posted up along both sides of the alleyway, each decked out in the same matching jackets. A patch on the shoulder of each had a design like a hornier version of the Starbucks logo, embroidered along the top and bottom with the words “NEDEN MILITIA”. (click: "NEDEN MILITIA")[Meanwhile the scrappy shorter one didn’t let up an inch on tearing me a new asshole. “Hey! Hey! Don’t just look at them, lookin’ right over my fuckin’ head. You look at me! Look at me in my eyes!” > [[Act cool|Tent City - Neden militia finale - act cool]] > [[Spill guts|Tent City - Neden militia finale - spill guts]] > [[Shoulder through|Tent City - Neden militia finale - shoulder through]] > [[Tell joke|Tent City - Neden militia finale - tell joke]]]] { (set: $militiaActedCool to false) (set: $militiaShouldered to false) }“So, fucking Neden Militia. You guys don’t take no shit from nobody, do you?” One of the taller ones in the back smiled. “Oh, we take plenty of shit, sister. Even from runts like you.” The group closed in closer now. “You look like someone who’s got nice things in her pockets. Turn ‘em out.” Shit. I had next to nothing, which they wouldn’t like, and what shit I did have I wasn’t giving up, which they’d like even less. > [[Spill guts|Tent City - Neden militia finale - spill guts]]\ (if: $militiaShouldered is false)[ > [[Shoulder through|Tent City - Neden militia finale - shoulder through]]] > [[Tell joke|Tent City - Neden militia finale - tell joke]] { (set: $militiaActedCool to true) (set: $badChoices to it +1) }I gulped. Out with it, $playerName. I hooked a thumb over my shoulder. “Somewhere back there is a total fucking creep who thinks I basically belong to him, and he’s getting closer. And right over there, is where he can’t follow me. Not if he values keeping his skull in one piece. And you all…” I looked down at my shoes. “You’re basically the finish line. Once I break through, I’m home free.” I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up — it was the short one I’d barreled into. “Gotta give us one thing first.” I tensed, but nodded. (click: "I tensed, but nodded")[“The fucker’s name,” she said, and grinned. “More fun to play with a little dickhead when you know what its name is.” I croaked out “Leo,” and they parted to let me through. I scrambled out of Tent City and [[into the seedier shadows surrounding the Gutter|The Gutter - Outside approach]]. For a second I thought I heard something like a woman singing “Leo-Leo-Leooo!” drifting on the wind, but then it was gone.]“Whatever,” I mumbled, flipping my hood up and pulling the drawstring tight. I balled up my hands into fists, screwed myself tense, and tried to lead with the spikes sewn into my jacket as I shouldered into the short one blocking my way. She didn’t budge, or even flinch. She just laughed, and sounded fucking delighted. “Oh fuck yes, little punky wannabe wants to start some shit? I been waiting for your pansy ass all day, baby.” She squared off and held up her fists like someone capable and eager to use them. (click: "held up her fists")[I held up my own hands too, in a conciliatory gesture. “Sorry, sorry — that was fucking stupid. Like, fatally stupid, and that’s… not the kind of stupid I need to be today.” \ (if: $militiaActedCool is false)[ > [[Act cool|Tent City - Neden militia finale - act cool]]] > [[Spill guts|Tent City - Neden militia finale - spill guts]] > [[Tell joke|Tent City - Neden militia finale - tell joke]]] { (set: $militiaShouldered to true) (set: $badChoices to it +1) }“Uhh—” My life flashed before my eyes. I had nothing. I thought of Anna, how she always weaseled us out of facing the music even when we deserved it. How she always knew what to say, how she could even make a fucker like Ron laugh hard enough to half-piss himself. And then I had it. “W-why,” I stammered, “why does a juggalo have a hole in the tip of his dick?” (click: "why does a juggalo have a hole in the tip of his dick?")[The Militia-women looked at each other, confused. They looked back at me; the short one in front narrowed her eyes, and opened her mouth to say something. I didn’t let her finish. “So his brain can get some oxygen now & then.” They blinked. For a beat, nothing. No reaction. (click: "No reaction")[Then the short one in front lost it, and that broke the spell. Suddenly they were all clutching their sides, howling, almost crying. I took a tentative step forward, and the short girl just shook her head. “Get the fuck on out of here, little ‘lette. Get along. Get to [[wherever it is you’re goin’|The Gutter - Outside approach]].”]]“Where you at, huh? Where you at? Cut the shit, sis! Where you at?” //Fuck shit fuck.// There was always somebody hollering about something in the Tarps, but the angry voice I could hear getting closer wasn’t just somebody’s: it was Leo’s. I’d blown most of my lead trying dead ends and bad ideas, and now I found myself caught in a blind alley — boxed in on three sides by built-up structures that were the closest thing to permanent in the Tarps. My eyes darted over the alley for anything I might put to use. Whatever I came up with, it was probably going to be my only shot. > (link: "I saw something papery hanging from an extension cable slung over the alley, and plenty of debris on the ground")[(set: $leoRevenge to "something papery")(go-to: "Tent City - Leo finale - choice made")] > (link: "I saw a glint of coppery metal on a wall, a half-filled rain-barrel, and a pothole")[(set: $leoRevenge to "something coppery")(go-to: "Tent City - Leo finale - choice made")]Desperate, but it was a plan. A few quick motions got done what I needed, and not a moment too soon: Leo stepped out from around the corner. “Finally! Jaysus. Fucking A.” Leo only looked pissed for a second. Then he shook his head, slipping into the guilt routine he always did that meant to put everything back on me. “I try to pay a friendly visit to my girl, and you bolt like I’m the fucking feds? What the hell, $playerName? What the hell?” For the moment, he kept his distance from me, his body blocking the mouth of the alley. “I don’t wanna talk about it, Leo. Don’t even ask.” “Don’t ask? How can I not ask, babe, when you’re acting all crazy like this?” He was eating it up — this was our routine, after all. I’d try to put up boundaries and Leo would come crashing through, the hell with whatever I wanted. “I can’t, okay? I swore I wouldn’t.” I bit my lip a little, working to hold whatever it was inside. Now Leo looked intrigued, baited by the suggestion of secrets, promises; anything I might be keeping from him became his new prey. “Oh c’mon, babe. You know you can tell me anything.” I looked down, then back up at him. “Really?” “Of course, babe.” He smiled wide, coming closer. “Anything at all.” “I don’t know…” I tugged at my hoodie. //Just a little bit farther...// “Maybe you don’t, but I do.” He opened his arms wide as he got within arm’s reach. “C’mon now, c’mon over to Leo.” Boom! Right where I wanted him. Time to spring into action. //Shit, [[I hope this works|Tent City - Leo finale - $leoRevenge]].//“Babe, what’s that you got there?” Leo furrowed his brow as he noticed something I held clenched in my fist. “Oh nothing at all, baby. Just a //rock—//!” I whipped the rock up at the extension cable high over Leo’s head, and it struck true. Down came the papery nest, and out poured a hundred or so mega-pissed-off wasps. //Well, shit. It worked.// Leo was beside himself instantly, flailing and swatting uselessly at the wasps swarming all around him. “Shit! //Shit!// I’m allergic, you dumb fuck!” “No, really?” I cooed. “I musta forgot. On account of being such a dumb fuck.” I tossed my head in an exaggeratedly girlish way and flashed a dopey grin. Sadly it was lost on Leo, who was booking it out of the alley, back the way he came and off to who-the-hell-knows-or-gives-a-fuck where. With luck, he’d get off with a few stings to the face and swell up like an ugly balloon. Maybe even a couple solid stings to the dick for good measure. I [[got the hell out of that alley|The Gutter - Outside approach]] and left Leo and Tent City in my dust.“Let’s get you out of this dank hole and into someplace nice like the Gutter, okay? Here, let Leo help you over this big nasty-ass puddle.” Leo took another step toward me— then abruptly tensed, shivered, and froze. His foot was sunk ankle-deep in the pothole, which I’d flooded with water from the rain barrel, then electrified with the end of a frayed copper wire. Veins bulged out of control all over Leo’s body, and his eyelids fluttered rapidly open and closed. //Well, shit. It worked.// I counted to five, then jerked the end of the live wire out of the puddle with my boot. All of Leo’s muscles relaxed simultaneously and he toppled over, his fall only broken by his head hitting the metal rain barrel heavily on the way down. I myself tensed for a moment, not daring to move in case it caused him to move, too. I prodded him with my foot, and he twitched a little. I could see his chest swelling a little as he breathed. Whatever else he was, he wasn’t dead. A wave of something passed over me, but I wasn’t sure if it was relief or disappointment. I [[got the hell out of that alley|The Gutter - Outside approach]] and left Leo and Tent City in my dust. <!-- If using debug menu shortcuts, prompts player to enter their name -->{ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|The Gutter - Outside approach]].{ (if: $playerName's last is "s")[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "s"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "c"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else:)[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "s")) ] }] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|The Gutter - Name prompt]].] (set: $dissolve to (transition: 'dissolve') + (transition-time: 3s)) (set: $hatchet to true)(set: $multitool to true)This was already too much shit for just one day. I kept my head down and my hood up, using what was left of my energy to keep moving. My boots trudged onward through the tarp-covered alleyways of Gatherville. (click: "boots trudged onward")[$dissolve[My gut lurched as I realized I still needed to ask around for more information on Anna. The last thing I wanted to do was talk to anyone but her.]] (click: "anyone but her")[$dissolve[I swallowed that feeling out of necessity and fought to keep it and everything else down in my roiling gut. It was still pretty early in the night. Around this time, anyone who knew anything was: > [[Getting fucked up at the Gutter|The Gutter - Outside intro]] > [[Looking to score at the Roach Market|RM-first-entrance]] > [[Catching an early show at the Church|The Church - First visit - Intro]]]] (set: $gutterOutside to "intro")(set: $spokeToToe to false)(set: $roachEntrance to "first")(set: $churchStatus to "Intro")I stood outside a weathered, flat-roofed wooden building with a flickering neon sign. <!--This calls one of the three neon sign designs randomly every second. --> \ (click: "neon sign")[(live: .4s)[(either: $gutterSign1, $gutterSign2, $gutterSign3)] <!--This makes the following passage dissolve in under the sign after the player has been in the passage for 5 seconds. --> \ [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[Right below the sign, someone had painted:(stop:)]]]]] \ <!--This replaces both clickable options when the player chooses a sign, but keeps the sign text they chose. --> (click: "someone had painted")[$dissolve[[> The last rest stop before the Dark Carnival](click:"The last rest stop before the Dark Carnival")[(replace: ?gutterSubSign)[//The last rest stop before the Dark Carnival// The slogan stuck to the place like used gum. Some people just called it the Rest Stop, which helped explain the constant piss smell hanging around. [[I walked into the sign’s field of light|The Gutter - Outside hub]].]] [> Derek loves (fuckin) Whitnee](click:"Derek loves (fuckin) Whitnee")[(replace: ?gutterSubSign)[//Derek loves (fuckin) Whitnee// This poignant shout-out had been there forever. The (fuckin) was a later addition and no one was sure if it was from the original artist. [[I walked into the sign’s field of light|The Gutter - Outside hub]].]]]]<gutterSubSign| <!-- This makes the blinking neon sign effect work --> (set: $gutterSign1 to "<span class='neon'><span class='blinking'>THE</span> GUTTER</span>")(set: $gutterSign2 to "<span class='neon'>THE <span class='blinking2'>G</span>UTTER</span>")(set: $gutterSign3 to "<span class='neon'>THE GUTT<span class='blinking3'>ER</span></span>") <style> .neon { font-size: 2em; font-family: copperplate; color: transparent; text-shadow: 0em 0em 0.02em rgba(255,255,255,0.75), -0.2em 0em 0.5em rgba(255,255,255,0.5), 0.2em 0em 0.5em rgba(255,255,255,0.5); text-decoration: none; } .blinking { animation: fade-in-out .3s ease-in-out infinite alternate; -webkit-animation: fade-in-out .3s ease-in-out infinite alternate; } .blinking2 { animation: fade-in-out 1.2s ease-in-out infinite alternate; -webkit-animation: fade-in-out 1.2s ease-in-out infinite alternate; } .blinking3 { animation: fade-in-out .8s ease-in-out infinite alternate; -webkit-animation: fade-in-out .8s ease-in-out infinite alternate; } </style> <!--These are the variables that need to be set for the Outside hub passages to work properly--> (set: $oldSchoolJuggalosSeen to false)(set: $jarSeen to false)(set: $justLeftTheGutter to false)(set: $gutterStatus to "intro")(set: $gutterOutside to "hub") <!--These are the variables just for the golf cart--> (set: $golfCartSeen to false)(set: $cartPartsSeen to 0)(set: $wheelsSeen to false)(set: $engineSeen to false)(set: $defenseSeen to false)(set: $hornSeen to false)(set: $wheelDamage to false)(set: $defenseDamage to false)(set: $engineDamage to false)(set: $hornDamage to false){ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|The Gutter - Outside hub]].] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|The Gutter - Name prompt outside hub]].] (set: $dissolve to (transition: 'dissolve') + (transition-time: 3s)) (set: $hatchet to true) <!--These are the variables that need to be set for the Outside hub passages to work properly--> (set: $oldSchoolJuggalosSeen to false)(set: $jarSeen to false)(set: $justLeftTheGutter to false)(set: $gutterStatus to "intro")(set: $gutterOutside to "hub") <!--These are the variables just for the golf cart--> (set: $golfCartSeen to false)(set: $cartPartsSeen to 0)(set: $wheelsSeen to false)(set: $engineSeen to false)(set: $defenseSeen to false)(set: $hornSeen to false)(set: $wheelDamage to false)(set: $defenseDamage to false)(set: $engineDamage to false)(set: $hornDamage to false)<img src="./img/the_gutter.png"> (if: $justLeftTheGutter is true)[(set: $justLeftTheGutter to false)I walked back into the dim neon light of the Gutter’s sign. I could see:] \(else:)[In the dim light of the neon sign, I could see:] > [[The Gutter’s beaten-to-hell block of a front door|The Gutter - Inside $gutterStatus]] > [[The paved path to The Church|The Church - First visit - $churchStatus]] > [[The dirt road to the Roach Market|RM-$roachEntrance-entrance]]\ (if: $jarSeen is false)[ > [[The jar|The Gutter - Jar]]]\ (if: $oldSchoolJuggalosSeen is false)[ > [[Some old-school juggalos in a heated conversation by the side of the building|The Gutter - Outside - Old-school juggalos]]]\ (if: $golfCartSeen is false)[ > [[Ron’s shitheap golf cart|The Gutter - Golf cart]]]The two juggalos both had full face paint, so I knew they were out for a wild night. There was a tall, chubby juggalo stroking a long beard and a shorter, musclebound ninja with green Kool-Aid dyed hair. They were inches away from each other, shouting in agreement as they chainsmoked. “Sorry to be all deep and serious, but I got a lotta shit on my mind.” “It breaks my heart dude, but it had to be said. Ninjas today just don’t know.” “They don’t, man! The Dark Carnival saved my life, dude, and it’s about love. Shit is about family, dude. If these ninjas were out there listening to the shit...” “Listen to the //shit//!!” (click: "Listen to the shit")[$dissolve[The shorter ninja started jumping and kicking an unknown assailant at this point. Large picked up on the energy and took his hands away from his beard. He started punching one hand into the other to punctuate his points. “Exactly! If they were listening — like Dark Lotus? 'Juggalo Family'? That’s my real shit. That’s what I’m about.” “It’s all about the money these days. Ninjas out there got on $4,000 hatchet man jerseys and they think they the shit.”]] (click: "they think they the shit")[$dissolve[“Had a hole in my shirt the other day and I walk by one of them fancy-ass ninjas. You know what he said?” “Naw, man. No way! It ain’t about the clothes!” “He called me a jugga//hoe//. You heard that before? I laughed in his face. I told him it was all family, but I’d beat his ass if that was how he needed to be educated.” “Too true, man.” At this, they both took a moment to nod solemnly in unison, as if the two of them could hear a song no one else could. (if: $hatchet is true)[[[I tried to casually walk past them so I could hear more|The Gutter - Outside - Old-school juggalos 2]].] \(else:)[[[I didn’t wanna intrude, so I turned back to the sign’s light by the entrance|The Gutter - Outside hub]].]]] (set: $oldSchoolJuggalosSeen to true)“Yo little ‘lette!” The larger one called out. “That’s a sick fucking hatchet you got. Come over here!” [[I drew the hatchet and walked over|The Gutter - Outside - Old-school juggalos 3]].“Where’d you get that?” the shorter one asked. > [[”Family heirloom.”|The Gutter - Outside - Old-school juggalos 4a]] > [[”Stole it off a couple juggahoes like you.”|The Gutter - Outside - Old-school juggalos 4b]]“Damn. Mad respect. Gotta keep it in the family,” the shorter one said as he nodded his head. “Indeed. Good to see someone in the new generation knows what the fuck is up.” The larger one sagely offered a fist bump. > [[I reached my fist out to reciprocate|The Gutter - Outside - Old-school juggalos 5]]. > [[I quickly blurted out, “You seen another little ‘lette around here recently? Maybe in trouble? Her name’s Anna. She’s in a bad way.”|The Gutter - Outside - Old-school juggalos 6]]“Awwww shit!” The larger one cracked up as he held the shorter one back. “What’s this bitch’s deal?” Shorty crowed. “Dude, she was listening in.” Large said. “Much respect, little ‘lette.” He reached out his hand for a fist bump. > [[I reached my fist out to reciprocate|The Gutter - Outside - Old-school juggalos 5]]. > [[I quickly blurted out, “You seen another little ‘lette around here recently? Maybe in trouble? Her name’s Anna. She’s in a bad way.”|The Gutter - Outside - Old-school juggalos 6]]“You know,” Large said, “I always hated it when my fucking old man would rattle on and hit me with advice, but shit. Guess I’m older now than he was then.” He lit a cigarette and inhaled. “Always keep the family at the front of your mind.” I tried to nod back, conveying a wisdom that I didn’t have yet, and we parted ways. [As I walked back towards the front of The Gutter: > [I dodged a hole in the ground.]<dodgeTrigger| > [my dumb ass tripped over a hole in the ground.]<tripTrigger|]<tripDodgeChoice| \(click: ?dodgeTrigger)[(replace: ?tripDodgeChoice)[$dissolve[As I walked back towards the front of The Gutter, I smoothly sidestepped to dodge a hole in the ground. [[Hell yeah|The Gutter - Outside hub]].]]] \(click: ?tripTrigger)[(replace: ?tripDodgeChoice)[$dissolve[As I walked back towards the front of The Gutter, my dumb ass tripped over a hole in the ground. I pushed myself up before the dudes could help me. I believed the shit about family, but [[tonight I could help myself|The Gutter - Outside hub]].]]]“Aw shit,” Large raised his eyebrows, “sorry to hear that. Me and Kyle been bullshitting out here all night. Haven’t seen anything like that.” Kyle piped up. “Me and Ben’ll keep an eye out though for sure!” I thanked them and walked back towards the front of [[The Gutter|The Gutter - Outside hub]].Ron drove everywhere in this beaten-to-hell golf cart. I had no idea how he'd gotten it in the first place, especially since he couldn't hold down a job longer than six months. But he loved to roll around the tarps showing it off every time he added another dumbass accessory to the thing. He had almost everything “tricked” out, including: (if: $wheelsSeen is false)[> [[the wheels|The Gutter - Golf cart - Wheels]]]\ \(else-if: $wheelDamage is true)[- The wheels, now loosened for added thrills.] (if: $defenseSeen is false)[> [[the defense system|The Gutter - Golf cart - Defense]]]\ \(else-if: $defenseDamage is true)[- The defense system, which I'd reconfigured for optimal ass-damage.] (if: $hornSeen is false)[> [[the awful horn|The Gutter - Golf cart - Horn]]]\ \(else-if: $hornDamage is true)[- The horn, which I'd modified for increased stealth.] (if: $engineSeen is false)[> [[the engine|The Gutter - Golf cart - Engine]]]\ \(else-if: $engineDamage is true)[- The engine, now optimized for fuel inefficiency.] (if: $cartPartsSeen is < 4)[(if: $multitool is true)[My hand gripped the multitool in my pocket and my mind danced with all of the ways I could help Ron improve his dream ride.](else:)[I figured I could at least take a look at the monster Ron had dragged from his awful brain into this world.]] \(else-if: $cartPartsSeen is 4)[I figured I'd (if: $multitool is true)[done enough damage to](else:)[looked long enough at] the cart, so I decided to keep looking around. But man, [[fuck Ron’s shitty cart|The Gutter - Outside hub]].] (set: $golfCartSeen to true)Old clown-painted Barbie and Ken heads were glued around the rims of each wheel. The face painting was... oddly detailed. (if: $multitool is true)[I used the multitool to unscrew a few crucial wheel bolts. Just a (link: "little goof")[(set: $wheelDamage to true)(set: $cartDamage to true)(go-to: "The Gutter - Golf cart")].](else:)[[[back|The Gutter - Golf cart]]] (set: $cartPartsSeen to it +1)(set: $wheelsSeen to true)Ron had removed the entire protective top shell of the car for clearer 360° views, and he had duct-taped barbed wire around the frame in odd places. (if: $multitool is true)[I used the multitool's scissors to cut the tape and carefully set the wire in a pile in the driver’s seat. I crossed my fingers for (link: "Total Ass Destruction")[(set: $defenseDamage to true)(go-to: "The Gutter - Golf cart")].](else:)[[[back|The Gutter - Golf cart]]] (set: $cartPartsSeen to it +1)(set: $defenseSeen to true)The horn played a sample of Violent J screaming //“WHAT IS A JUGGALO?!”// at an ear-piercing volume. (if: $multitool is true)[I quickly used the multitool's scissors to snip the line leading from the horn to the old mp3 player. (link: "Haha eat shit Ron")[(set: $hornDamage to true)(go-to: "The Gutter - Golf cart")].](else:)[[[back|The Gutter - Golf cart]]] (set: $cartPartsSeen to it +1)(set: $hornSeen to true)It was just way too loud and Ron called it a “Hemi” pretty often. (if: $multitool is true)[I used the multitool blade to poke holes in the hoses until some fluid leaked out. (link: "Oops")[(set: $engineDamage to true)(go-to: "The Gutter - Golf cart")].](else:)[[[back|The Gutter - Golf cart]]] (set: $cartPartsSeen to it +1)(set: $engineSeen to true)A huge mason jar hung on a rusty nail right outside the front door. Above it in individual sticker letters it read: (text-style: "outline")[Leave Y ur Mind Here] It had hung there empty for as long as I could remember. [[I kept looking around|The Gutter - Outside hub]]. (set: $jarSeen to true){ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|The Gutter - Inside intro]].] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|The Gutter - Name prompt inside]].] (set: $dissolve to (transition: 'dissolve') + (transition-time: 3s)) (set: $hatchet to true)(set: $multitool to true)Inside the Gutter, the usual piss-odor of Gatherville faded away under a heavy cloud of cigarette, hookah, and bong smoke. It was thick enough to sting my eyes. I could barely make out anyone inside. [I waved my hand in front of my face to clear the air.]<waveHand| [<div id="blur">(display: "The Gutter - Inside blur text")</div>]<blurryGutterText| \(click: ?waveHand)[(replace: ?blurryGutterText)[<div id= "reveal">(display: "The Gutter - Inside blur text")</div>]] (set: $poolTableAttemptMade to false)(set: $donnieSongDone to false)(set: $bathroomVisited to false)(set: $teensOnTable to true)(set: $talkedToRon to false)(set: $toeBeaten to false)(set: $barStatus to "intro")(set: $gutterStatus to "hub")(set: $gameofChance to 0) <!--Used this to make a blur text effect and the animation of the blurring slowly removing after click--> <style> #blur { color: transparent; text-shadow: 0em 0em 2em #FFF; font-weight: normal ; } #blur tw-link { font-weight: normal; color: transparent; } #reveal { animation: blurring 2s ease-out 0s alternate 1 none running; } @keyframes blurring { 0% { color: transparent; text-shadow: 0em 0em 2em #FFF; } 30% { color: transparent; text-shadow: 0em 0em 1em #FFF; } 70% { color: transparent; text-shadow: 0em 0em .5em #FFF; } 100% { text-shadow: 0em 0em 0em #FFF; } } </style>The crowd was light, so no one even bothered moving the two drunk teens making out right on top of the torn felt of the pool table. The Jukebox for this evening was braying some new tune of his at a weirdly low volume in back of the room. The bartender looked a mix of bored and annoyed as he moved between serving a couple of barflies, who were spewing smoke and holding court on their stools. And alone, down at the end of the bar, sat (link: "Ron")[my fucking stepdad Ron]. > [[I approached the bar|The Gutter - Bar intro]]. > [[I sighed and walked over to Ron|The Gutter - Ron]]. > [[I stood by the pool table and cleared my throat|The Gutter - Pool table - First approach]]. > [[I reluctantly moved closer to the Jukebox|The Gutter - Jukebox - Intro]]. > [[I went straight to the ‘Lette’s Room|The Gutter - Bathroom]]. > (link: "I went back outside")[(set: $justLeftTheGutter to true)(go-to: "The Gutter - Outside hub")].I squinted through the Gutter's signature haze, trying to spot my next destination. (if: $toeBeaten is false)[ > [[I approached the bar|The Gutter - Bar $barStatus]].] > (if: $talkedToRon is true)[[[I walked over to challenge my dipshit step dad to a pool game|The Gutter - Ron - Pool request]]] \(else:)[[[I sighed and walked over to Ron|The Gutter - Ron]]]. > (if: $teensOnTable is false)[[[I checked out the pool table|The Gutter - Pool table - Clear]]] \(else-if: $poolTableAttemptMade is true)[[[For some reason, I decided to check on the teens getting frisky on the pool table|The Gutter - Pool table - Second approach]]] \(else:)[[[I stood by the pool table and cleared my throat|The Gutter - Pool table - First approach]]]. > (if: $donnieSongDone is true)[[[I decided to say what up to my down-ass dude, Donnie the Jukebox|The Gutter - Jukebox - Saying hey]]] \(else:)[[[I reluctantly moved closer to the Jukebox|The Gutter - Jukebox - Intro]]]. > (if: $bathroomVisited is true)[[[I decided to take another breather in the 'Lette's Room|The Gutter - Bathroom - Second visit]]] \(else:)[[[I went straight to the ‘Lette’s room|The Gutter - Bathroom]]]. > (link: "I went back outside")[(set: $justLeftTheGutter to true)(go-to: "The Gutter - Outside hub")].The bar was a big plank laid on top of some empty kegs with a couple of stools scattered around it. But if you pour alcohol and lay down a plank, someone’s gonna plop their ass down in front of it. Toe, the bartender, was huge and bald, built like a statue, and he had painted a permanent, dark frown on his face. He wasn't great for conversation, but he sure knew the names of each of the major alchohols and how to mix them with Faygo. Belinda and Darryl, regulars I knew from Ron's awful stories and visits to pull my mom outta here, were posted up at the bar getting blitzed. They were here so often that they didn't even paint up before a wild night out anymore. > [[I sat down on an empty stool and looked straight at the bartender|The Gutter - Bar - Toe]]. > [[I sidled up next to Belinda|The Gutter - Bar - Belinda]]. > [[I grabbed a seat next to Darryl|The Gutter - Bar - Darryl]]. > [[None of these fucks were helpful. I decided to look around the bar again|The Gutter - Inside hub]]. (set: $barStatus to "hub")Everyone at the bar was where I had left them. I got the feeling this bunch weren't reliable for much but staying right here as often as possible. > [[I sat down on an empty stool and looked straight at the bartender|The Gutter - Bar - Toe]]. > [[I sidled up next to Belinda|The Gutter - Bar - Belinda]]. > [[I grabbed a seat next to Darryl|The Gutter - Bar - Darryl]]. > [[None of these fucks were helpful. I decided to look around the bar again|The Gutter - Inside hub]]."No kids," Toe offered the second my ass touched stool. "Sure thing, man," I said. "I bet those kids on the pool table got fucked up at home." He said nothing. (click: "nothing")[$dissolve[I passed the time staring at a dusty, empty shelf behind Toe labeled "GAMES". Still not a fucking peep.]] (click: "peep")[(if: (text: $gameOfChance)'s length > 1)[$dissolve[I [[pulled out the $gameOfChance|The Gutter - Bar - Toe game start]]].] \(else:)[$dissolve[...I got [[bored|The Gutter - Bar hub]].]]] (set: $spokeToToe to true)“How about a game?” I said, gesturing to the $gameOfChance. Toe grunted and his shadow fell over me. This was a good sign. [[I put the $gameOfChance on the bar|The Gutter - Bar - Toe $gameOfChance]].I didn’t have time to play a full game, so I convinced Toe that you play dominoes by spelling your name without knocking it over. He built a decent T and O before he started to sweat. I could tell he didn’t know how to finish. When he knocked the dominoes over, he tried to make it look like an accident. “Damn,” I said. “So close.” Toe pounded the table and the dominoes jumped. “You owe me a favor.” I added as I winked and [[walked away|The Gutter - Inside hub]]. (set: $toeBeaten to true)Toe pulled a couple of cups from below the bar. He held his own on the first couple of rounds, but soon he began wincing every time I screamed “LIAR!” and proved correct. After a few more rounds, he swept the cups off the table and huffed. “I guess that’s the game,” I said. “I’m keeping the dice,” he responded. “Sure, but you still owe me a favor.” I winked and [[walked away|The Gutter - Inside hub]]. (set: $toeBeaten to true)Toe laughed heartily as he went to fetch a “blood rag”. As he turned away, I whispered to Darryl: “I heard someone say you didn’t know how to make a fart noise with your mouth. Weird.” Then, I ducked back to the game. “Ladies first,” I said to Toe. Riled, he began the five-finger fillet. “Who said that?” Darryl whined next to us. “I can too! Sure as hell. Just not gonna do it on command is all.” We both ignored Darryl as Toe picked up the pace. I was starting to get worried; Toe had danced these steps before. But then, like an angel’s trumpet, Darryl’s mighty mouth fart rang out. Toe faltered and stabbed the side of his pinky finger. To his credit, he only grimaced as he reached for the blood rag. “I guess that’s the game,” I said. “I’m keeping the knife,” he responded. “Sure, but you still owe me a favor.” I winked and [[walked away|The Gutter - Inside hub]]. (set: $toeBeaten to true)Belinda was a sweet lady who loved her spot at the bar more than anything else. She’d take any unused book of crossword puzzles you could find and she’d literally shoot you if you touched her whiskey. I grabbed a bar stool next to her, carefully judging my distance from the whiskey, and got to the point: > [[I reached for Belinda’s whiskey|The Gutter - Bar - Belinda whiskey]].\ (if: $talkedToRon is true)[ > [[“Hypothetical question: If you had to trick that dipshit Ron into telling you something, how would you do it? Bonus points for humiliation or bruises.”|The Gutter - Bar - Belinda ron]]]\ (if: $checkedChurch is true)[ > [[“What’s the deal with the Church side door? Are they not taking new challengers these days?”|The Gutter - Bar - Belinda church]]] > [[I had no business here. I took a look around at the other bar patrons|The Gutter - Bar hub]].Belinda swiveled her head like a death cyborg on kill mode. “Darlin’, I like you more than most. So, I’ll give you this one chance.” Belinda pulled out an extremely large revolver and pointed it right in my face. “But if you reach for the whiskey again, you’re reaching for the grave.” > [[I backed off|The Gutter - Bar - Belinda]]. > [[I did a good joke and reached for the whiskey again|The Gutter - Bar - Death]].“Probably your dipshit stepdad locked the door when he shouldn’t have. It’s happened before. I would guess you’re the only one who’s noticed — not a lot of fresh challengers these days. Either way you know Ron’s useless ass ain’t gonna fix it. They should really give someone else those keys.” [[I nodded sagely, absorbing Belinda’s wisdom about Ron’s uselessness|The Gutter - Bar - Belinda]].Belinda chuckled. “That stupid piece of shit? One time he lorded a fresh puzzle book over me for days. Didn’t bother me a bit though. I knew he couldn’t resist a pool game, so I just waited until he got shithoused and challenged him. Honestly, I hope he finds another book soon, because I think he forgot it even happened.” [[Belinda made a good point. Ron is a stupid piece of shit|The Gutter - Bar - Belinda]].I did one joke too many and I died like an idiot. Belinda blew my brains across the bar. Ron laughed. Ugh. As my spirit approached the outskirts of the Dark Carnival, a hooded figure came out to greet me. He pulled his hood down. It was the skeleton of Shaggy 2 Dope and he had a message: “You dumbass bitch. This isn’t how the game ends! Get back in there and don’t go doin’ stupid shit again.” The Shaggy skeleton made the shocker with his bone hands. [[I felt time swirl and morph around me|The Gutter - Bar - Belinda]].I sat down next to Darryl. He was a dipshit, but at least he wasn’t loud about it. He also didn’t care for Ron, which to me qualified as having perfect judgment. I started right in: > [[“What’s the deal with Toe? He not talking today?”|The Gutter - Bar - Darryl game]] > [[“What do you dream about, Darryl?"|The Gutter - Bar - Darryl dream]] > [[“Is Toe his real name?”|The Gutter - Bar - Darryl toe]] > [[“Why don’t you like Ron?”|The Gutter - Bar - Darryl ron]] > [["See ya, Darryl."|The Gutter - Bar hub]]Darryl shook his head. “Eh, he never says much. About the only thing he ever does is pour and play games.” “What kind of games?” I asked. “Oh, anything. He had a collection, but some little shits recently stole most of it. Probably it's all getting sold off at The Roach Market, but Toe doesn't get out much. It’s gotten to the point where he’s only got the stuff for pool and he won’t give it up to anybody.” [[I took note of Darryl’s observations|The Gutter - Bar - Darryl]].Darryl’s eyes widened and he gulped. He let his vision linger on the edge of the bar for a moment before he spoke. “Mostly Grimace, the dark purple beast spoken of in the Book of Revelations that you would get with every McDonalds happy meal. When Grimace comes on his dark chariot driven by McNuggets, those of us who haven’t supped of the fry and the flesh weekly will be punished. It will not be swift. It will be the opposite of mercy.” Darryl cleared his throat, as if he’d just spoken several sentences by accident. “Oh, and last night I had a sexy dream about the mom from //Family Guy//. Don’t tell nobody.” [[I made a mental note to never ask Darryl a personal question again|The Gutter - Bar - Darryl]].“Well...” Darryl paused for dramatic effect, or maybe he forgot the story. “They call him Toe because he has none. He cut them off and tried to eat them during a nasty trip, the story goes. “I’ve heard he used to love to have chicks suck his toes and now he pays to have them suck the air where they used to be.” Toe loomed over us both and we shrank. He nodded gravely and cleared Darryl’s empty glass. As he was turning away he let out a low rumble. “It’s all true.” [[I had solved another mystery. Good practice, I guess|The Gutter - Bar - Darryl]]?“That’s between me, Ron, and the packet of hot sauce he tried to shove down my trousers as a prank.” Darryl said plainly. “Oh, dangit.” Darryl shook his head. "I told." [[I laughed very loud at Darryl’s mistake|The Gutter - Bar - Darryl]].Sitting down next to Ron at the bar seemed weird. I just stood behind him instead, stuck for a moment on what to say. That's when I noticed the letter. There was an envelope stuffed into his grimy shirt pocket and I could see the edge of a name — my fucking name — in Anna's handwriting. I was instantly furious, but I tried to keep it together as I turned to address Ron. [> [["Hey. Fuck you, Ron. Gimme the letter."|The Gutter - Ron - Fuck you]] > [["Uh, Ron, can I talk to you out back?"|The Gutter - Ron - Request to talk]] > [I pretended to shake Ron’s hand.]<pretendShake|]<ronIntroChoices| (click: ?pretendShake)[(replace: ?ronIntroChoices)[I pretended to shake Ron's hand. But, I pulled back at the last second to fix my hair. “Too slow, fucko,” I said as I [[walked away smiling|The Gutter - Inside hub]]. It never gets old.]]Ron was tipping back the last of his beer as I spoke. "Hahhhhhhh…. Hell naw! Unless this fuck got a tap for me out there," he said, gesturing at the bartender with his beer mug. I sighed. [["Oh fuck you, Ron. Gimme the letter."|The Gutter - Ron - Fuck you]] I tossed up my hands. [[“Fuck this. Not worth it.”|The Gutter - Inside hub]]"Ah, fuck me, eh? Fuck your old man Ron?" He leered into the foamy residue of his drained beer. "Nah. Your old lady takes care of that plenty. Whaddaya need, runt?" "Ron. You gotta tell me where Anna went." Ron turned on his stool and squinted at me out of the corner of his eye. "Hm. Might be. Might be." He eyed me levelly. "Might be that this—" he pulled the envelope out of his pocket and waved it near my face "—is something I could pass on to ya." He leaned toward me. I caught the reek of spilt beer and stale cigarettes on his clothes. (link: "...")[$dissolve["Well?" I said. I knew I'd have to play along with this fuckwad until I got the letter. (display: "The Gutter - Ron - Pool request")]] (set: $talkedToRon to true)"Well, what the hell you got for your fucking shithead papa Ron, hm?" He looked over at the pool table as he spoke, like the table had an itch he needed to scratch. > “Wanna play a game?” I asked through clenched teeth. [> I shrugged. [[Whatever|The Gutter - Inside hub]].]<whatever| (click: "play a game")[(if: $teensOnTable is true)[(replace: ?whatever)[$dissolve[ “You wanna play on top of those little horn dawgs?" Ron gestured to the horny teens on the table with his beer. "No thanks. I don’t like to mix pleasure and pleasure, if you know what I mean.” Ron winked and belched. It made me want to pay someone to permanently hold his eyelids open. [[I walked away seething|The Gutter - Inside hub]].]]] \(else-if: $teensOnTable is false)[(replace: ?whatever)[$dissolve[ “Sure, why the hell not? I’d love to whoop your arrogant ass.” Ron motioned to Toe, who shambled over. “Give us the pool set.”]]]] (click: "pool set")[(if: $toeBeaten is false)[$dissolve[Toe shook his head and walked back to the other side of the bar. Ron just shrugged and took a swig of beer. [[I sighed and walked away too|The Gutter - Inside hub]].]] \(else:)[$dissolve[I gave Toe a look that meant he owed me and pointed at the pool set. He nodded and handed over the two cues, the triangle, the balls, and some chalk. [[Fucking game on, Ron|The Gutter - Ron - Pool game]].]]]As we were prepping the table, Ron spoke up. “What’s the wager?” > [[“Let’s start small. Loser buys a drink.”|The Gutter - Ron - Pool game start]] > [[“If I win, you give me that fucking letter.”|The Gutter - Ron - Pool game early letter wager]]“Sounds good to me.” Ron chuckled. “I’m mighty thirsty.” Ron took the first shot without asking and proceeded to sink two striped balls right away. God dammit. Unlike everything else in life, Ron wasn’t a slouch at pool. Still, he was overconfident and already sauced, so I could tell that the game was mine if I wanted. > [[I botched a couple shots and let Ron win|The Gutter - Ron - Let him win]]. > [[I carefully planned every shot and then laughed at Ron while I sunk the eight ball|The Gutter - Ron - Won too soon]].“Ain’t no way, kiddo. That personal love letter is just too dang important to your daddy Ron to give up.” I knew the letter couldn’t be what he said, but I couldn’t stand hearing this bullshit. I recoiled and shouted back: “You’re not my real dad. You’re a joke and you always smell like a bathroom died. [[We’ll play for drinks.”|The Gutter - Ron - Pool game start]]Ron did an awful dance around the table. Then, he climbed the table and did several humps with the pool cue between his legs. What a fucking piece of shit. To speed things up and keep conversation at a minimum, I went to the bar to get his drink. I hailed Toe and said: > [[“Strongest thing you’ve got.”|The Gutter - Ron - Strong drink]] > [[“One beer. Extra piss.”|The Gutter - Ron - Weak drink]]Ron stared at me dumbfounded. I got a little too jazzed and slapped the pool stick out of his hand while shouting “whose house?!” I did a chicken dance that I’m not proud of, but it felt amazing in the moment. Ron sulked up to the bar to grab my drink. I shouted after him, “don’t bother!” [[“Let’s get another round in. Same bet.”|The Gutter - Ron - Pool game start]]Toe dumped half a beer, filled the can with whiskey, and handed it to me. I delivered the mess to Ron and he took it down in one victory gulp. “One more round!” he screamed in my face like a hell dad. “And this time, I’ll give you that fucking letter if you win. But if I win, I get to fuck your mom! Oh wait; I can do that whenever. Hahahahaha.” [[“Let’s play, you shitlord.”|The Gutter - Ron - Pool victory]]I passed Ron his beer and he chugged it with abandon. It wasn’t fun to watch and then, when he said “let’s go again,” that wasn’t fun to hear. But I knew there had to be a way to trick his dumb ass if I kept at it. [[“Fine. I’ll do another round.”|The Gutter - Ron - Pool game start]]Ron was so shitfaced that he couldn’t hold the cue right. I took my time, letting him get even more drunk and exhausted. When I sank the eight ball, Ron collapsed on the table. I poked him hard in the tit with a pool cue to prop his body up and grabbed the letter from his pocket. I noticed his keys jangling on his side too. > (link: "I took Ron’s keys, even the one to his shitty golf cart, and headed for the exit")[(set: $cartKeyTaken to true)(go-to: "The Gutter - Ending")]. > (link: "I took the key to the Church door, but left the key to Ron’s shitty golf cart. I made a beeline for the exit")[(set: $cartKeyTaken to false)(go-to: "The Gutter - Ending")].The teens didn’t move an inch. In fact, they seemed to be rounding first base. [I coughed.]<poolTableCough| [[[I turned back and let the kids have their fun|The Gutter - Inside hub]].]<poolTableExit1| \(click: ?poolTableCough)[(replace: ?poolTableExit1)[$dissolve[ They were still ignoring me. Clothes were coming off and the only benefit was that I got to see a tattoo of a hatchet man dressed as Jesus pissing on Satan. [I kicked the leg of the goddamn table.]<poolTableKick| [[[I turned back. They were getting pretty close to just fucking at this point|The Gutter - Inside hub]].]<poolTableExit2|]]] \(click: ?poolTableKick)[(replace: ?poolTableExit2)[$dissolve[ "What's your fucking problem, sis?" one of the teens said, in-between tongue thrusts. "Go ruin somebody else's shit.”]]] (click: "ruin")[$dissolve[(set: $poolTableAttemptMade to true)[I frowned in a way that made me feel very old. [[Guess these horny-ass kids weren’t moving for me|The Gutter - Inside hub]].]]]Those teens were still twisting tongues and dry humping like the world was ending. I had to respect their stamina at the very least. This wasn't something I could [[interrupt by myself|The Gutter - Inside hub]].Though a residual funk hung over it, it didn't look like anything new had seeped into the felt. The table was finally clear and [[ready for a game|The Gutter - Inside hub]].The Jukebox was whichever punkass MC that the Honchos had decided needed to prove their salt that week. They were supposed to take requests, learn to serve the family, but most people ignored the Jukeboxes. The kid on shift today looked like he was on break. He was just fiddling with an old laptop with keys that crunched instead of clicked. I headed his way, but my shoulders did the aw-shit slump when he turned around and I realized it was [[Donnie|The Gutter - Jukebox - Donnie]].Donnie was always doing the weirdest shit. The kid barely talked, but when he did it was to quote a song. He’d get stuck on something for months at a time and couldn’t get let it go. Anna thought he was alright, but he gave me a weird vibe. Did he hate me? Did he even notice me? Impossible to tell. Still, he could have info on Anna and that was worth a lot right now. I couldn’t quite remember which song he was stuck on these days. Donnie was into all kinds of shit and I usually tried to give him a wide berth. [[“What’s up, Donnie?”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song choice]]Donnie stared at his laptop. The only sound was the crunch of the keys and the ambient hum of the other dipshits in the bar. I had to try something else. > [[“Hey Donnie, guess who just got back today?”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Boys choices]] > [[“Donnie, have you seen my friend Anna? She’s a good girl. Loves her mama. Loves Jesus and America too.”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Free fallin choices]] > [[“Donnie, I’m looking for someone. She’s just a small town girl living in a lonely world. Sound familiar?”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Believin choices]]Donnie got a sour look on his face, like he ate a grape out of someone's butthole, and shook his head. He went back to clicking around on his computer. I couldn't tell if he was still listening, but I wasn't ready to give up. > [[“Hey Donnie, guess who just got back today?”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Boys choices]] > [[“Donnie, have you seen my friend Anna? She’s a good girl. Loves her mama. Loves Jesus and America too.”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Free fallin choices]] > [[“Donnie, I’m looking for someone. She’s just a small town girl living in a lonely world. Sound familiar?”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Believin choices]]Donnie’s eyes lit up and he stared straight at me. “Them wild eyed boys that had been away?” He asked with glee. I agreed, [“Yeah, they haven’t changed and hadn’t much to say.”]<boysChoice1| [[[“Yeah, those guys are cool. They punched my stepdad and spit on him.”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song failure]]]<boysWrong1| (click: ?boysChoice1)[(replace: ?boysWrong1)[$dissolve[ “Man, I still think them cats are crazy.” Donnie replied. I continued, [“You know, they were asking if you were around, how you were doing, and if you could be found.”]<boysChoice2| [[[“Me too. Those guys are nuts! I’m glad we agree.”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song failure]]]<boysWrong2|]]] (click: ?boysChoice2)[(replace: ?boysWrong2)[$dissolve[ Donnie was practically jumping. “Did you tell them I was living downtown? Driving all the old men crazy?!” We both burst out screaming in unison, [[THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN!|The Gutter - Jukebox - Boys end]]]]]Donnie frantically hooked in his laptop and queued up the chorus. It blasted out triumphant. Everyone in the bar perked up. The boys were definitively back. The kids on the pool table looked extremely annoyed. [[“Pump up the jams Donnie! Hit ‘em with it!”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song finale]] [[“Whoa dude, reel it back in. I need answers|The Gutter - Jukebox - No answers]].Donnie’s eyes lit up and he stared straight at me. “Your friend, she’s a good girl, you said? Crazy about Elvis? Loves horses and her boyfriend too?” I responded, “Ahh, you know her…” [“She gets sick of those long days, living in Reseda.”]<freeFallinChoice1| [[[“She loves going to the mall and the Babysitter’s Club novel series.”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song failure]]]<freeFallinWrong1| (click: ?freeFallinChoice1)[(replace: ?freeFallinWrong1)[$dissolve[ “Is there a freeway running through the yard there?” Donnie replied. I shook my head, [“You’re a bad boy, Donnie. You don’t even miss her.”]<freeFallinChoice2| [[[“You’re a bad boy, Donnie. You’re the baddest boy in Reseda.”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song failure]]]<freeFallinWrong2|]]] (click: ?freeFallinChoice2)[(replace: ?freeFallinWrong2)[$dissolve[ Donnie was practically jumping. “I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart!” We both screamed in unison, AND I’M FREEEEEEEEE (click: "AND I’M FREEEEEEEEE")[$dissolve[[[FREE FALLIN’|The Gutter - Jukebox - Free fallin end]]]]]]]Donnie frantically hooked in his laptop and cued up the chorus. It blasted out triumphant. Everyone in the bar perked up. We’d all been free-fallin’ at some point in life. Some of us never stopped. The kids on the pool table looked extremely annoyed. [[“Pump up the jams, Donnie! Hit ‘em with it!”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song finale]] [[“Whoa dude, reel it back in. I need answers|The Gutter - Jukebox - No answers]].Donnie’s eyes lit up and he stared straight at me. “Maybe? Did she take the midnight train going anywhere?” I replied, "Yeah, she took the midnight train with a friend: [A city boy born and raised in South Detroit."]<believinChoice1| [[[Grimace, the purple nightmare from McDonaldLand."|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song failure]]]<believinWrong1| (click: ?believinChoice1)[(replace: ?believinWrong1)[$dissolve[ “I know her then.” Donnie replied. “I met her in a smoky room. There was a singer and the smell of wine and cheap perfume.” “Sounds familiar,” I smiled: [“I heard you shared the night and it went on and on and on.”]<believinChoice2| [[[“I heard Grimace was singing in that room and his wail pierced the barrier between heaven, hell, and our middle existence.”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song failure]]]<believinWrong2|]]] (click: ?believinChoice2)[(replace: ?believinWrong2)[$dissolve[ Donnie was vibrating up and down, filled with pure energy. We both skipped straight to the best part and screamed in unison: [["DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’!"|The Gutter - Jukebox - Believin end]]]]]Donnie frantically hooked in his laptop and queued up the chorus. It blasted out triumphant. Everyone in the bar perked up. What did it mean to stop believin’? We would never know. We would never stop.The kids on the pool table looked extremely annoyed. [[“Pump up the jams, Donnie! Hit ‘em with it!”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song finale]] [[“Whoa dude, reel it back in. I need answers."|The Gutter - Jukebox - No answers]]Donnie went nuts. He kept looping the chorus and doubled the vocals. He took the guitar solo and put it in the mix. He was sweating as he clicked and dragged manically. As Donnie’s classic rock trance crescendoed I saw the pool table kids gathering their tossed off clothes. “Fuck this shit, man. I hate this grandpa music.” They hit the doors in search of hornier pastures. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that trying to fuck on the pool table in a bar was [[the most grandpa-music shit of all time|The Gutter - Inside hub]]. (set: $teensOnTable to false)(set: $donnieSongDone to true)Donnie looked like he was gonna piss his pants. I’d just leashed a dog that needed to run. Donnie didn’t have answers. He only had his jams. [[“Go for it, Donnie! Blast that shit!”|The Gutter - Jukebox - Song finale]]"What up Donnie?!" I screamed across the bar and raised the horns. Donnie raised them back and we [[exchanged a righteous nod|The Gutter - Inside hub]]. That kid was alright.Fuck this place, fuck this smoke, fuck these people. I tromped through the bar's blue clouds and gave the door to the 'Lettes room two sharp raps before barreling in. With a crowd like the one out there, it was pretty unlikely that anyone was inside. And yup — as I turned the handle and swung the door, the bathroom stood empty. I closed the door tight behind me and kicked the stopper in under the bottom edge. Next best thing to a lock if you were cheap as fuck. And anyway, bartender still needed to be able to make sure ninjas weren't getting wet and wild on the fucking shitter. (click: "wet and wild on the fucking shitter")[As soon as I turned away from the door, I (live: 2s)[(if: time < 25s)[$dissolve[[[started puking into the toilet|The Gutter - Bathroom - Toilet puke]].]] \(else-if: time > 25s)[$dissolve[[[started puking on myself|The Gutter - Bathroom - Sink puke]].(stop:)]]]] (set: $mirrorSeen to false)(set: $toiletflashbackSeen to false)(set: $bathroomVisited to true)I barely propped the toilet lid open fast enough to hit the mark. I barfed a strong, hateful stream into the bowl. When I was finished I was gasping, like I’d been punched in the gut. This night was all too much. Anna gone, maybe dead already. I’d been drugged, chased, and now I had to ask my questions with puke on my breath. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. When this was over, I was gonna need a high the length of I-55 to deal. (display: "The Gutter - Bathroom - Menu")I spewed all over the floor, splashing on my feet, before I finally found the sink. I nearly filled it up with whatever needed out of me. When I was finished I was gasping, like I’d been punched in the gut. This night was all too much. Anna gone, maybe dead already. I’d been drugged, chased, and now I had to ask my questions with puke on my shoes. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. When this was over, I was gonna need a high the length of I-55 to deal. (display: "The Gutter - Bathroom - Menu") (set: $sinkPuke to true)> [[I headed back out into the din and dipshits|The Gutter - Inside hub]].\ (if: $mirrorSeen is false)[ > [[I was drawn to my reflection in the mirror|The Gutter - Bathroom - Mirror]].]\ (if: $toiletflashbackSeen is false)[ > [[I sat on the toilet to catch my breath|The Gutter - Bathroom - Toilet flashback]].](set: $mirrorSeen to true)\ I gripped the edges of the counter a bit tighter. My face looked unfamiliar. The stranger’s eyes were weary, like they’d been hung with weights. Was this what Anna wanted me to see in the mirror? Could this person looking back at me hold it together long enough to find her? I looked up suddenly when I heard a voice. “Hey $playerName," the stranger in the mirror said, "You look pretty fucked up. Like somebody dosed you.” (click: "dosed")[$dissolve["Yeah, well. How about we skip the obvious and you give me a goddamn hand here?" I replied.]] (click: "give me a goddamn hand")[$dissolve[The stranger laughed, “A hand? HA! That’s richer than the fuckos in those nice trailers." The face got even nastier, contorting its mouth into a demonic scowl.]] (click: "demonic scowl")[$dissolve[It screamed at me with a full and powerful rage, "How about you stop sobbing in the potty and find your friend? Are you gonna crumble this time, you no-good bitch? You fucking idiot! How are you gonna handle when it all comes down? When the rubber hits the road?”]] (click: "rubber hits the road")[$dissolve[My jaw slacked and my mouth went dry. I held my hand up and watched it tremble for a moment. But then, like Jaysus settling the bubbles in a shook-up bottle of Rock N' Rye, my muscles went calm.]] (click: "calm")[$dissolve[As I found my footing, I felt the strength roll up my legs and through my whole body. I roared back, “I handle fine. I handle better! I ride steady and smooth like a ‘65 Cutlass at midnight with the headlights off and I’m CUTTING]] (click: "CUTTING")[THROUGH] (click: "THROUGH")[YOUR] (click: "YOUR")[(transition: "shudder")[FUCKING]] (click: "FUCKING")[(transition: "shudder")[B U L L S H I T]] (click: "B U L L S H I T")[$dissolve[I heard a crunching at the edge of my perception.]] (click: "crunching")[$dissolve[I looked down to see the sink starting to shift out of the wall. I had to scramble to keep it in place.(if: $sinkPuke is true)[ A bit of my puke sloshed onto my hand from the sink. Ugh.] I hadn’t realized how hard I’d been gripping it.]] (click: "gripping it")[$dissolve[The mirror stranger got me riled. She sure was a bitch, but she’s dead on. Funny how she’s fucking right as can be. (display: "The Gutter - Bathroom - Menu")]](set: $toiletflashbackSeen to true)\ I sat down for a second. Just needed to clear my head. But, like everything else tonight, what I wanted didn’t happen. My ass pancaked onto the flimsy plastic seat while my brain slipped beyond me, into the past. <div class="flashback">(click: "into the past")[$dissolve[I’m eleven years old. Anna and I are dancing while my mom watches from a lawn chair. It’s a summer day where it feels like you’re racing around a band of sunshine that’s never gonna flatten out and end.]] (click: "flatten out and end")[$dissolve[Anna tugs me over to this group of guys that she’s been talking to. Leo and his dad, some others. We take our boombox over and do this dance routine we’ve been practicing for a few days, nothing fancy, but we really worked at it and it’s kinda long. There's even a part where Anna lifts me.]] (click: "really worked at it")[$dissolve[While we’re dancing, I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel the eyes. I don’t hear any hoots, if anyone was even drunk enough to hoot at two eleven year olds. We just twirl and twirl in infinity. I remember thinking: //I hope this lasts forever.//]] (click: "forever")[$dissolve[And it ends, of course. We’re both breathing heavily and beaming. The guys clap and Leo’s dad waddles over doing a bad copy of our smiles. He says, “Y’all are gonna be heartbreakers one of these days.”]] (click: "one of these days")[$dissolve[He pinches my cheek, pats my ass. His hands leave long, dark smudges of machine oil. I try to pull away, but he catches me.]] (click: "catches me")[$dissolve[He says, “Hope you’re nothing like your mother, darling” and loses his balance. He falls ass-backwards spilling his beer into the air like a sputtering hose. Everyone busts out laughing, especially Anna.]] (click: "especially Anna")[$dissolve[Later, I asked Anna how she could laugh. I was so scared, I told her. We shouldn’t hang around those guys anymore. “Nah,” she said, “that’s what it’s gonna be like. You gotta get used to it.”]] (click: "get used to it")[$dissolve[It wasn’t until years later that I realized that Anna had kicked that motherfucker’s legs out.]]</div> (click: "I realized")[(display: "The Gutter - Bathroom - Menu")]I locked myself in the 'Lette's room again with the door stopper. I took a moment to just close my eyes and breathe. Each second of silence was as refreshing and sweet as a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. (display: "The Gutter - Bathroom - Menu"){ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|The Gutter - Ending]].] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|The Gutter - Name prompt ending]].] (set: $dissolve to (transition: 'dissolve') + (transition-time: 3s)) (set: $hatchet to true)(set: $multitool to true)When the night air hit my lungs, the relief was sharper than drinking a cold glass of water after a bong rip. The light of the Gutter’s sign felt like the glow of the north star, revealing my path forward. > [[I heard the noise of a familiar assclown behind me and turned to look|The Gutter - Ron's cart finale]]. > [[I ripped the envelope from my pocket and quickly unfolded Anna’s letter|The Gutter - Anna's letter]]. (set: $gutterEndScenesViewed to 0)(set: $golfCartWreckViewed to false)(set: $annaLetterRead to false)I stood planning my next move in the crisp night air just outside of The Gutter's halo of dirty light. \ (if: $gutterEndScenesViewed is 2)[ [[I headed for the Church with all the grim determination I could muster|The Church - Second visit - Intro]].]\ (if: $golfCartWreckViewed is false)[ > [[I heard the noise of a familiar assclown behind me and turned to look|The Gutter - Ron's cart finale]].]\ (if: $annaLetterRead is false)[ > [[I ripped the envelope from my pocket and quickly unfolded Anna’s letter|The Gutter - Anna's letter]].]My eyes caught Ron's lumpy shape staggering through the darkness towards his discount battle wagon. This was too good to miss, so I posted up behind a tree with a good view and peeped out. Ron weaved down the hill to where he parked the cart. When he got there, he first flopped on the hood for a minute or two before [remembering how to get in]<cartStart|. (click: ?cartStart)[(if: $cartKeyTaken is true)[$dissolve[(display: "The Gutter - Ron's car finale - No key")]](else-if: $cartDamage is true)[$dissolve[(display: "The Gutter - Ron's car finale - Car damage")]](else:)[$dissolve[(display: "The Gutter - Ron's car finale - No damage")]]] (set: $gutterEndScenesViewed to it +1)(set: $golfCartWreckViewed to true)I watched with glee as Ron sat down on the barbed wire piled in his seat and jumped up screaming. I almost blacked out laughing when he used his shirt as gloves to remove the wire. When Ron finally got his ass sat in the cart, it immediately sank further into the ground. He looked to the side and noticed the lack of wheels. “Fucking junkers!” he screamed as I began to cry from laughing. Next, Ron’s combination of anger and drunkenness led him to beat on the horn, which made desperate puffs of air like someone farting on a run to the bathroom. My tears of joy overflowed and soaked the earth. When Ron attempted to start the car, thick smoke poured out of the engine and into his face. He screamed for a while before passing out. After a few minutes without movement, I snuck down to the cart and wrote “Piss Baby” on his forehead. [[I headed off into the night|The Gutter - Ending hub]] towards a future that could only disappoint me in comparison.Ron revved the engine and then started madly honking on the horn. I watched him spin out, try to do a donut, turn the cart over, push the cart back up, start the cart again, and then speed off into the night at a blistering 12mph. As Ron’s cart crested a hill, it clipped a large rock. I watched the cart pirouette in beautiful slow-motion, like an angel underwater. If I could have one image to ruminate on for the rest of my life, I would choose this one. [[I headed off into the night|The Gutter - Ending hub]] towards a future that could only disappoint me in comparison.When he realized he didn’t have the key, he panicked. He searched all over himself and then all over the car. But, if he had a spare, it wasn’t where it should be. Out of options, Ron tried to kick one of the wheels of the car but got his foot caught in the barbed wire instead. He struggled for a bit, but eventually gave up and fell asleep in the grass. After a few minutes passed, I snuck down and wrote “Fart Angel” on his forehead. [[I headed off into the night|The Gutter - Ending hub]] towards a future that could only disappoint me in comparison.The letter was thick with Ron’s beer sweat stench, but I didn’t care. As soon as I saw her handwriting my eyes welled up and my fists clenched. [<div style="padding-left: 2em; font-style: italic;">[(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[$playerName, God damn sis. I’m so fucking sorry. If you’re feeling how I think you’re feeling right now, just know that I feel the same or worse. That shit I bought from Dan should wear off in a few hours. I’m the worst kind of backstabber. Trust that Judas never looked this fresh though. ;)(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 15s)[$dissolve[I just didn’t know what else to do. I realized after we talked that we didn’t want the the same things. That’s OK. I still love you. But I’ve gotta leave. I can’t take another beating or groping or whistle or side-eyed glance or ass pat or hair pull or cat call. I can’t eat another Twinkie and call it dinner because the meal coins got messed up again. I can’t spend another week scrapping for the book I want, only to find it torn up and covered in dick drawings.(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 22s)[$dissolve[Please understand. I hope you understand. I hate this place more than any other place on Earth. I hope it burns down. I’d press the button to nuke it from orbit. I mean, if you weren’t there. Fuck. Why is it so hard to leave? We spent all those nights raging, and stirring ourselves to howling, and dreaming of a better life, so why is it so hard to find the energy to get out of this vortex of shit?(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 29s)[$dissolve[They had us playing a rigged game the whole time. You know the mountain? Their fucking stupid path to an imaginary top. I found a different way through and I’m peacing outta this bitch. I hope they think I died up there, another stupid bitch crawling for the crown. You know what, I might die and I don’t even care. In the end, it’s my risk and I couldn’t drag you down with me. You can call me crazy or selfish or whatever, just know that it’s not nearly as bad as what I’m calling myself. I know it’s stupid to think I’ll see you on the other side one day, sis. But if we both make it out one day, you’ll always have a place with me. I love you so goddamn much that it makes me sick.(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 36s)[$dissolve[It's always love, [[Anna|The Gutter - Letter choice]](stop:)]]]]</div>][> [It took me a while to stop sobbing. I folded the letter solemnly and put it in my pocket.]<sobbing| > [I clenched my jaw tight and dug my fingernails into my arm. I was so furious at being betrayed and left alone.]<clenching|]<letterchoice| (click: ?sobbing)[(replace: ?letterchoice)[$dissolve[It took me a while to stop sobbing. I folded the letter carefully and put it in my pocket. I couldn’t believe how bad I’d fucked up. If I’d known she was really leaving, I never would’ve tried to make her stay. [[I had to find her. And I had to do it before she left me behind forever|The Gutter - Ending hub]].]]] (click: ?clenching)[(replace: ?letterchoice)[$dissolve[I clenched my jaw tight and dug my fingernails into my arm. I was so furious at being betrayed and left alone. I couldn’t believe how far apart we'd grown. And now she'd //drugged me//? That was fucked up. If I’d known she was really leaving, I would've taken this more seriously. We weren't really as unhappy as she described, were we? Did I really even know my best friend at all? Would the person I knew really leave me behind after one mistake? [[I had to find her to know for sure. The only person I could talk to about how I was feeling was about to leave for good|The Gutter - Ending hub]].]]] (set: $annaLetterRead to true)(set: $gutterEndScenesViewed to it +1) <!-- If using debug menu shortcuts, prompts player to enter their name before beginning initial Roach Market sequence -->{ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|RM-first-entrance]].<!-- what this code does is check the ending of the custom $playerName string to hopefully append the correct pluralization to it -->{ (if: $playerName's last is "s")[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "s"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "c"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else:)[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "s")) ] }] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|RM-first-entrance-nameprompt]].] <!-- Scene for the first time a player visits the Roach Market --><img src="./img/stash.png"> Going into the Roach Market, the first thing everybody walks by is “The Stash”: Dopeman Dan’s head shop and drug emporium. It was a primo spot, and Dan went so far as to sleep there every night to make sure nobody tried to push him out. After keeping that up for so many years, it was hard to say which was more true: that Dan smelled like The Stash, or that The Stash smelled like Dan. Today he was half-dozing in a camp chair out front, but he [[perked up as I went by|RM-DopemanDan-greeting]]. (set: $roachEntrance to "later")(set: $scooterSeen to false) <!-- Scene for the second and any subsequent returns to the Roach Market sequence --><img src="./img/stash.png"> As I made my way back into the Roach Market, I could see Dopeman Dan was no longer half-dozing in his camp chair out front: he was straight up sawin’ logs. So much the better; I didn’t want anything from The Stash anyway. > [[Head to Auntie’s gift shop|RM-giftshop-entrance]] > [[Head to the junk heap|RM-junkheap-entrance]] <!-- Short scene if the player decides to return to The Stash while still exploring the Roach Market --><img src="./img/stash.png"> There was no sign of Dan. He probably had either passed out behind his tent, or left briefly on one of his “snack quests” to the nearby landfill. I thought about poking my nose into The Stash for a free score on my own terms... then remembered all the folks in Gatherville who’d tried the same thing and lost a finger to Dan’s hatchet in the bargain. Better not push my luck. > [[Head to Auntie’s gift shop|RM-giftshop-entrance]] > [[Head to the junk heap|RM-junkheap-entrance]] > [[Head to The Gutter|The Gutter - Outside $gutterOutside]]“Hey, $playerName!” Dan called out. “Yo yo yo, slow down girl! Dopeman Dan got sumthin’ with your name on it.” He was on his feet and in my way in a flash; surprisingly quick for a guy who was, at the very least, perpetually half-stoned. “Fuck off, Dan. I got shit to do today and no time to waste on you.” I tried to weave around and push by him, but he just [[stepped back in front of me|RM-DopemanDan-blocks-path]].“Whoa whoa whoa, what’s the damage, $playerName? What I done to deserve this, other than be the number-one hookup for anything and everything this side of Gatherville?” Dan said. “You cuss out Santa like that too, when he come down your chimney?” "Who the hell you ever seen got a tarp with a chimney, Dan?" I sassed back. Then I sighed. “Dan, whatever you’re slinging— just leave me the fuck alone, dude. Jaysus.”(click: "Jaysus")[ (transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[ Dan rolled his eyes. “Look, ‘lette, I ain’t lyin’. Dopeman’s got some shit with your name on it, see?” He fished a brown paper bag out of his pocket and dangled it in front of me. <i><b>PICKUP: $playerName</b></i> was written on it in black marker. “And I never known nobody to turn down shit that was already paid for.” “Uhh, that isn’t mine, dude. Must be some other $playerName came by here. [[Go bug them, okay?|RM-DopemanDan-choice]]” ] ]“Nah nah nah, it’s you, girl. Just how many $playerNamePlural you think I know? Anyway, I know you didn’t buy this shit; Anna did. Said she’d send you by to pick it up, and here you are, so—” he thrust the bag toward my arms— “pick this shit <i>up</i>, girl. Leave Dopeman Dan in peace, all right? Goddamn!” > [[“Fine, great. I’ll play drug mule for you and Anna, just leave me alone.”|RM-DopemanDan-leave-alone]] > [[“That doesn’t sound like Anna, but whatever. Hand ‘em over. Free drugs is free drugs.”|RM-DopemanDan-free-drugs]]I snatched the bag out of Dan’s hand, and stepped aside to push by him yet again. This time he didn’t try to stop me. “See? Was that so hard? Maybe next time you just take Dopeman at his word and save the attitude for somebody deserves it.” I was already past him, and waved my hand dismissively without looking back. “Yeah sure Dan, sorry or whatever. I’ll see ya [[around|RM-drugs-second-thoughts]].”Dan cackled. “Hell yeah! Now you’re talking words Dopeman understands.” He thrust the bag forward, and I took it. I unrolled the top and peeked inside. “Wow. This is, uh, a pretty full bag.” “Yeah, dawg. I figure she was either getting herself set up for a sweet-ass month or one fuckin’ buckwild night.”(click: "buckwild night")[ (transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[ I was about to ask Dan if this was a regular thing for Anna, but then I thought better of it. I didn’t want him to think he had anything to say about her that I didn’t already know. “Well, cool, man. With a haul like this, I bet she’d never notice if a little went missing.” I winked at him. Dan tapped the side of his nose with his finger. “Trip in peace, my ‘lette. Dopeman ain’t never snitched on nobody.” I nodded, and made my way [[deeper|RM-drugs-second-thoughts]] into the Roach Market. ] ]I rounded a corner as I headed away from Dan (who was already starting to nod off again in his camp chair) and passed by a metal barrel overflowing with garbage. There were dozens just like this one all over Tent City: emptied out weekly by order of the Honchos once upon a time, now left to sit until some ninja got fed up and dumped ‘em out someplace — usually straight into the river that bent around Gatherville. Juggalo altruism had its limits. (click: "limits")[$dissolve[Most of what spilled onto the ground from this barrel looked to be paper bags discarded after other ninjas’ trips to The Stash. My backpack hung unzipped from my hand, my own paper bag sitting at the top where I stuffed it just moments ago. Free drugs is free drugs, yeah, but now I wasn't so sure if I wanted to tote this around all night like a schoolkid handed a bag lunch. > [[I jammed the unwanted bag o’ drugs into the already jam-packed trash can|RM-drugs-toss]]. > [[Who am I kidding? I’d give up my drugs when Jaysus took ‘em from my cold, dead hands|RM-drugs-keep]].]] <!-- holding this code in case I change my mind again about how to end the scene <drugsToss|(click:?drugsToss)[(replace: ?drugsKeep)[](display: "RM-drugs-toss")] <drugsKeep|]](click:?drugsKeep)[(replace: ?drugsToss)[](display: "RM-drugs-keep")] -->//Sorry Anna. Maybe leave a note next time, and not just a drug-filled bag.// I zipped my backpack shut again, happy to be rid of that shit I never asked for as I headed onward. > [[Head to Auntie’s gift shop|RM-giftshop-entrance]] > [[Head to the junk heap|RM-junkheap-entrance]]Besides, these were from Anna... if she’d gone to the trouble to get ‘em to me, it had to be for a reason. Right? I pressed on, zipping my pack shut and hoping I might find more answers elsewhere. > [[Head to Auntie’s gift shop|RM-giftshop-entrance]] > [[Head to the junk heap|RM-junkheap-entrance]] <!-- If using debug menu shortcuts, prompts player to enter their name before beginning Auntie's gift shop sequence -->{ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 1)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|RM-giftshop-entrance]].<!-- what this code does is check the ending of the custom $playerName string to hopefully pluralize it properly -->{ (if: $playerName's last is "s")[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "s"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "c"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else:)[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "s")) ] }] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|RM-giftshop-entrance-nameprompt]].]{ (if: $giftshopVisited is true)[ <!-- alternate intro if revisiting the gift shop scene -->I was back in Auntie’s: her combination gift shop, living room, and bedroom, with cheap wire racks all around. Auntie was plopped in the middle of it all just like before, watching TV from her recliner. I think //Big Money Rustlas// was on. She loved the oldies.<br>(click: " oldies")[ (transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[ (display: "RM-giftshop-entrance-part2") ] ] ] (else:)[ <!-- gift shop intro on first visit --> (set: $giftshopVisited to true) Auntie’s “gift shop” was also her living room. And bedroom, I guess, since she usually fell asleep in the threadbare recliner she had set up in a clearing in the middle of everything. She kept the merchandise in cheap wire shelves standing in neat rows all around her, and she kept herself plopped in a chair watching a flickery TV. She had an end table on her right side, where a lamp with a yellowing shade sat on an honest-to-god white doily. <br><br> It didn’t feel like a home, and it didn’t really seem like a store either. I guess it was something new Auntie invented.<br>(click: " invented")[ (transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[ (display: "RM-giftshop-entrance-part2") ] ] ] }{ (if: $spokeToToe is true and $gameOfChance is 0)[ (display: "RM-giftshop-gamedescriptions") ] (else-if: ($spokeToToe is true and $gameOfChance is "dice set") or ($spokeToToe is true and $gameOfChance is "dominoes") or ($spokeToToe is true and $gameOfChance is "pen knife"))[ (display: "RM-giftshop-tradecomplete") ] (else:)[ (display: "RM-giftshop-deadend") ] }<!-- if the player HAS talked to Toe & knows they need to get a game of chance -->{Looking around the racks, I saw three good possibilities to help me win Toe over: <br><br> A dice set.<br> (click: "dice set")[<div style="margin-left: 50px;">Toe had a couple games stashed behind the counter, but drunks always made off with the dice. Anna & I used to play liar’s dice, and Toe was a shitty liar when he knew he was being watched. Easy pickings.</div>] Some dominoes.<br> (click: "dominoes")[<div style="margin-left: 50px;">I wasn’t sure if Toe had ever seen dominoes— or even knew how to play. Advantage: me.</div>] A pen knife.<br> (click: "pen knife")[<div style="margin-left: 50px;">When Ron got drunk enough, sometimes he used to challenge me to games of five-finger fillet. Mostly I think he just wanted a way see me bleed that he could blame on me being stupid. But like I said: he //used to// do that. I practiced to spite the asshole, and I got good enough to beat him every time. The last time he tried to keep up with me, he ended up with a left thumb that never worked quite right ever again.</div>] <br> I didn’t really have much to trade with. You could find a soft spot in Auntie sometimes, but it was tricky. I knew I better play it safe and only ask for one thing.(click: " one thing")[ (transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[ <br> I set my sights on the…<br> > [[Dice set.|RM-giftshop-start-trade]](click: "Dice set.")[(set:$gameOfChance to "dice set")]<br> > [[Dominoes.|RM-giftshop-start-trade]](click: "Dominoes.")[(set:$gameOfChance to "dominoes")]<br> > [[Pen knife.|RM-giftshop-start-trade]](click: "Pen knife.")[(set:$gameOfChance to "pen knife")] ] ]}{ (set: $allRustlasScenes to (a: "some old west showgirls sang `“`//I wouldn’t let his pecker near my butt.//`”`", "Sugar Wolf autographed a pair of tomahawks with a marker.", "Sugar Wolf poked his head in and out of the mystifying outhouse at 69 Prickley Pecker Lane.", "Dirty Sanchez told Big Baby Chips `“`I can’t wait to pee on //your// head.`”`", "a pallid cowboy assassin named Ghost used his laser eyes to disintegrate a shitter.", "Sugar Wolf, dressed like an adult baby and tied to a truss, got beat with a riding crop.", "poor Fred Freckels got swept away by an avalanche and whimpered `“`Oh, for the love of //chili!//`”`", "Sugar Wolf slapped the shit out of Big Baby’s thugs with his elastic `“`pimp hand.`”`", "the sign guy updated the population number for Mud Bug yet again.")) }She was also hollering at me without turning around as soon as I set foot inside. “You already got what ya came for, $playerName, now git! No window-shoppin’ for folks with nothin’ to trade. Besides, this right here is my favorite part.” Auntie let out a low chuckle as (either: ...$allRustlasScenes) > [[Head back to The Gutter|The Gutter - Outside $gutterOutside]] > [[Head to the junk heap|RM-junkheap-entrance]] > [[Head to The Stash|RM-DopemanDan-return]]<!-- if the player has NOT talked to Toe yet, or doesn't know they need to get a game of chance -->I noticed some nice looking dice and dominoes for games, but I didn’t really have much to trade with. I could maybe swing one thing if I sweet-talked Auntie a bit, but I didn’t want to cash that chip in until I had to. I wandered the racks for a few minutes, window shopping in silence — which suited Auntie just fine. I don’t think she even moved once in her chair. > [[Head to the junk heap|RM-junkheap-entrance]] > [[Head to The Stash|RM-DopemanDan-return]] > [[Head to The Gutter|The Gutter - Outside $gutterOutside]]“Hey Auntie. Weird question: could I borrow the $gameOfChance you got here? I don’t need it for very long. Just to prove a point to a dick.” I considered for a moment. “Well, not a dick, I guess. A Toe.” “Hmmm,” Auntie said, scratching her chin in an exaggerated way without moving her eyes away from the TV. “Hmm. I don’t call this my gift shop because I’m giving it all away, dearie. What’s $playerName brought for Auntie?” <!-- the replace code below will disappear the other option, as soon as either is clicked --> [> I put my hand to my neck—]<necklaceOption|(click:"I put my hand to my neck—")[(replace: ?woodenNickelOption)[](transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[ & tugged out a thin gold chain with a dangling charm. “Well, I’ve got this necklace Anna gave me when we were kids. She said it was [[real gold|RM-giftshop-trade-necklace]].”]] [> I put my hands in my pockets—]<woodenNickelOption|(click:"I put my hands in my pockets—")[(replace: ?necklaceOption)[](transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[ and felt around. “Um, I’ve got a wooden nickel left for the dinner bell later. I heard it was sloppy joes, so I was gonna [[take a pass anyway|RM-giftshop-trade-nickel]].”]](set: $triedNecklace to 1)Auntie finally broke her stare at the TV screen, turning her head my way and fussing with the glasses she balanced on the end of her nose — cat’s-eye frames on a costume-jewelry neck strap that jangled with silver Hatchetman charms. I could see her squint and scope out the necklace I held. “Honey, that’s too pretty a bauble to just be giving away for some beat-up ol’ $gameOfChance. Best ya keep it. Or at least, save it for the day ya make a trade ‘n ya need it somethin’ terrible.” “Besides,” she continued, squinting through her lenses, “looks like it got <i>‘to $playerName’</i> engraved on it. Auntie needs things she can sell to more than just the $playerNamePlural of Tent City, y’hear?” I nodded. I’d have to come up with something else. I put my hands in my pockets and felt around.(click:"felt around")[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[ “Um, I’ve got a wooden nickel left for the dinner bell later. I heard it was sloppy joes, so I was gonna [[take a pass on it anyway|RM-giftshop-trade-nickel]].”]]{ (if: $triedNecklace is 1)[(set: $auntieFocus to "shifted back to the TV")] (else:)[(set: $auntieFocus to "remained on the TV")] (if: $gameOfChance is "dice set")[(set: $tradedItemPhrase to "Them dice is")] (else-if: $gameOfChance is "dominoes")[(set: $tradedItemPhrase to "Them dominoes is")] (else:)[(set: $tradedItemPhrase to "That knife’s")] }Auntie’s full attention $auntieFocus and she waved me over with her hand, fingers wiggling. “Now that’s what Auntie’s talkin ‘bout! Bring that nickel on over here; sloppier the joe, the better. Go ahead ‘n take the $gameOfChance — an’ I don’t wanna see you tryin’ to bring that back!” Auntie pointed her other hand to a great big sign on the wall proclaiming <b>ALL SALES FINAL</b>. “$tradedItemPhrase yours now.” //Not for long//, I thought as I pressed the wooden nickel into Auntie’s open palm. //Next stop, Toe//. > [[Head back to The Gutter|The Gutter - Outside $gutterOutside]] > [[Head to the junk heap|RM-junkheap-entrance]] > [[Head to The Stash|RM-DopemanDan-return]] <!-- If using debug menu shortcuts, prompts player to enter their name before beginning the junk heap sequence -->{ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 1)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|RM-junkheap-entrance]].<!-- what this code does is check the ending of the custom $playerName string to hopefully pluralize it properly -->{ (if: $playerName's last is "s")[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "s"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "c"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else:)[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "s")) ] }] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|RM-junkheap-entrance-nameprompt]].]It wasn’t really a heap, but that’s what we all called it. The “heap” was a bunch of beat-up shopping carts and folding tables ringed by crooked shelves, all loaded with castoffs from the camp. It was easy enough to pick through: whenever the heap ran out of flat surfaces, new carts, shelves and tables showed up in no time. Plus everything was laid out pretty neat. (Some folks said Auntie tidied up the heap in her spare time, but I’d never seen her more than 20 feet from her easy-chair.) Everybody wanted or needed something from the heap sooner or later, and only real assholes violated that pact and made a mess of it. (if: $junkHeapSeen is true)[I didn't see anything new since my last visit: > [[But I just wanted to skim through again|RM-junkheap-stuff]]. > [[So I headed to The Stash|RM-DopemanDan-return]]. > [[So I headed to The Gutter|The Gutter - Outside $gutterOutside]]. > [[So I headed to Auntie’s gift shop|RM-giftshop-entrance]]. ](else:)[[[I quickly skimmed through the dregs—|RM-junkheap-stuff]]][Dead car batteries—]<junkList1|(click: ?junkList1) [<div style="margin-left: 20px;">[Rusty hatchets left outside the night before a surprise storm—]<junkList2| </div>(click: ?junkList2) [<div style="margin-left: 40px;">[Bent folding chairs sporting dried bloodstains—]<junkList3| </div>(click: ?junkList3) [<div style="margin-left: 60px;">[Old-school Psychopathic t-shirts and Hatchet Gear ninjas had gotten too fat or skinny for—]<junkList4| </div>(click: ?junkList4) [<div style="margin-left: 80px;">[Rows and rows of cracked commemorative bongs with airbrushed Wicked Clown artwork (“<i>Violent J, 1972-20XX, Rest In Paint</i>”)]<junkList5| </div>(click: ?junkList5)[(transition: "dissolve") +(transition-time: 3s)[ Then I got to the big table in the back corner, with a handwritten sign set on it labeled “<b>GOOD SHIT, YO</b>” in black-marker block letters — the one that started it all. Some rando, stealth-ass ninja set up the very first table in the middle of the night with a bunch of dope shit, and that same table had been reserved for the cream of the shit-crop ever since. Scrawled in pencil along the bottom of the sign was the table’s motto: “<i>Leave good shit, take good shit.</i>” [[I took a look at today’s spread...|RM-junkheap-goodshit]] ]]]]]]There was a [[small tin|RM-junkheap-tin]] with a hand-painted Hatchetman logo, a couple old [[video games|RM-junkheap-games]], a worn-down [[jewelry box|RM-junkheap-jewelry]], a stack of [[yellowing zines|RM-junkheap-zines]], some [[puppets|RM-junkheap-puppets]], a case of [[cassette tapes|RM-junkheap-tapes]], and a box of [[dog-eared paperback books|RM-junkheap-books]]. None of it looked like anything I needed, but then again I’ve always loved pawing through other people’s stuff. (if: $scooterSeen is true)[<br>Leo's rusted up old scooter was still there, but I was done thinking about him.<br>](else-if: $junkHeapItemsSeen is > 6)[<br>After I finished poking around the Good Shit table, I noticed a rusted up old scooter nearby that I [[hadn't seen for a while|RM-junkheap-flashback]].<br>] \ > [[Head to Auntie’s gift shop|RM-giftshop-entrance]] (set: $junkHeapSeen to true)When I popped the tin open, there were a bunch of Psychopathic Records trading cards inside, nestled in a foam lining that kept them from bouncing around too much. They looked good as new. Damn, some of them were even signed. Not really my thing, though; mom’s tent was decorated with enough religious shit already. [[(back)|RM-junkheap-goodshit]] (set: $junkHeapItemsSeen to it +1)A bunch of classic backyard wrestling games were stacked up together, all in their original shrinkwrap — probably shoplifted from a GameStop, judging by the price tag. Nice. The other stray case was some VR game I’d never heard of called <i>Ryda Simulata 20XX</i>. Text on the back cover boasted “Throw bottles at Tila Tequila!” Gross. Besides, even Honchos elite enough to have electrical hookups for their RVs weren’t supposed to use their power rations on this kind of shit. And out in the tents, forget about it. Nobody could hope to rustle up enough car batteries to even try running a rig like that. [[(back)|RM-junkheap-goodshit]] (set: $junkHeapItemsSeen to it +1)The velvet of the box was worn-down at the corners, but still felt smooth and soft in my hands. Hinging it open, I was surprised to see the ring inside glint with what looked like legit gold. I plucked it out, squinted, and could read an inscription inside the band: (click: "inscription inside the band")[$dissolve[<center><i>for Toe, my ride or die, the love of my life</center></i>]] (click: "love of my life")[$dissolve[Fuck, somebody must have been pretty fuckin’ mad with Toe to just drop this on the “good shit” table. On closer inspection, the ring also looked to be toe-sized. Hah. [[(back)|RM-junkheap-goodshit]]]] (set: $junkHeapItemsSeen to it +1)Oh shit. I totally forgot about these! The year after we drove off the feds and The Gathering became Gatherville, some entrepreneurial motherfucker started up an “Insane Clown Press” and cranked out the <i>Gatherville Gangsta</i>: a weekly zine made using an old Xerox in the main compound building, back when the HQ was still open for any ol’ ninja to visit. Flipping through the stack I counted copies of every issue ever printed, though some of the puzzles and mazes for kids on the back page were already solved. If these were still here when I could come back later with good shit to trade, I’d have to snag them for sure. [[(back)|RM-junkheap-goodshit]] (set: $junkHeapItemsSeen to it +1)A bunch of homemade Dark Carnival clown puppets, some on strings and some that fit over a hand, all of them holding hatchets, chains, spiked bats and shit. The ninja who dropped these off was either very sentimental or had a very inflated sense of ego, because truth be told these puppets had to have looked like ass to begin with, let alone after they’d spent years wailing on each other for kids’ church services or whatever. I thought about moving them off the “good shit” table to sit with the other junk... then decided that maybe this time, I was the one being the asshole. [[(back)|RM-junkheap-goodshit]] (set: $junkHeapItemsSeen to it +1)There were dozens and dozens of cassettes inside. Some of them were mixtapes with track listings painstakingly recorded down to the second, clearly a labor of love. A few were intriguingly labeled as remixes, in styles and genres I’d never heard of. The rest, the biggest part of the set by far, were different individual demo tapes all decorated with the names of MCs in graffiti-style lettering. I recognized a bunch of the names; some of these ninjas were pretty famous, a couple were even dead. Did whoever dropped these off have so much in their hoard that they could unload this no problem, or had somebody put their entire personal collection up for grabs? Much mothafuckin’ clown love for real, damn. [[(back)|RM-junkheap-goodshit]] (set: $junkHeapItemsSeen to it +1)I knew what I’d find inside before I even opened the box-flaps: a couple dozen well-loved, dog-eared Penguin Classics, mostly old-timey horror. Shelley, Poe, Stoker, Blackwood, Lovecraft, Jackson, Ligotti — all the creepiest shit. I’d found this same box on this same table as a kid, and snatched it up immediately. I read ‘em all backwards and forwards for years, then finally decided to pass it on just a couple weeks back. The side of the box still sported crayon drawings of happy clowns on a murder-go-round that I doodled as a little ‘lette. Honestly I was kinda hurt to see the box still on the table, but... whatever. Today’s ninjas had no fuckin’ taste. [[(back)|RM-junkheap-goodshit]] (set: $junkHeapItemsSeen to it +1)I walked up to the scooter and just took it in for a bit. It wasn't in good shape. Then again, nothing in this pile was. It was beaten to hell, with rust gathering all over it. The light had been busted out long ago by some ninja looking for a quick thrill. I felt myself pulled back to the [first time I saw the scooter]<scooterTrigger|. <div class="flashback">(click: ?scooterTrigger)[$dissolve[It’s a couple years ago and I’m hanging around outside of the school trailer. I’m waiting for Anna, as usual. We’re gonna head out to the far fields — to where you can actually see the river. The only lights are a Fed boat doing a routine patrol in the distance, and the only people dudes who’ve wandered too far on a bad trip. Leo comes roaring up on this tricked-out, midnight-black scooter. It’s got pristine hatchet man decals and a fresh paint job. It’s so new that it seems like it’s sparkling all over. He pulls up next to me, the engine thundering so loud I have to scream at him. “LOOK AT YOU, HUH? [SOME BIG DEAL NOW]<scooterTrigger2|?”]] (click: ?scooterTrigger2)[$dissolve[I knew it was what he wanted, but I thought that would make the conversation end sooner. He sidles up even closer and cuts the engine. “Pop took a job for the Honchos. Fixed up a few old vans.” He grinned. “We’re rolling in it this week.” Before I can even respond, he says, “Wanna [live like a queen today]<scooterTrigger3|?”]] (click: ?scooterTrigger3)[$dissolve[I know what he wants. We all know what boys want from now until the end of time. It’s not like I’m naive or that I don’t want some version of love too. It felt like every opportunity to say yes might be my last chance. So I said yes — more to finding out what was next than to him in particular — and we rode off together into the beginning of our story. I thought I’d see Anna with a big frown, watching me through the scooter dust. But when I looked, [she wasn’t there]<scooterTrigger4|.]] (click: ?scooterTrigger4)[$dissolve[When I found her the next day, she just wanted details. I barfed a flood of so much boring detail that it should’ve crushed us both. I started sketching his name on things in idle silences. By the next week, she was tired of hearing about us. I started practicing alone before shows and moved my baggage over to the new relationship. Took a few looks at the old friendship before I tossed the keys and [closed the door]<scooterTrigger5|.]] (click: ?scooterTrigger5)[$dissolve[When it ended with Leo three weeks later, I felt busted worse than a snowglobe hit with a baseball bat. It hadn’t taken long for his new ride to get dinged up and lose its shine. Some shithead scraped it for a laugh. A few days later, his buddies took it for a joy ride and rode it straight into a ditch. It was the same with his personality — a tossed off nasty remark here, a selfish choice there. His good intentions peeled faster than the scooter’s cheap paint. [Nothing nice lasts in Gatherville]<scooterTrigger6|.]] (click: ?scooterTrigger6)[$dissolve[After we split, all the things I used to love, like (if: $isWrestler is true)[practicing my grapples](else:)[spitting rhymes over a tape loop], felt joyless to me. I couldn’t enjoy them in the same way, even if I forced myself through the motions. Everything I tried to write, even diary entries, turned into whiny sludge. I had become a shot of snot at the rim of a sink drain. In a deserted spot one day, I came back to Anna and I oozed all my feelings out in one [disgusting squelch]<scooterTrigger7|.]] (click: ?scooterTrigger7)[$dissolve[When I finally looked up after spilling my guts, the understanding I saw on her face felt like a miracle. She hugged me, and it felt like we were eleven years old again, dancing the summer away.]]</div> (click: "dancing the summer away")[$dissolve[I walked away from the scooter feeling [[happier than I'd expected|RM-junkheap-goodshit]].]] (set: $scooterSeen to true){ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|The Church - First visit - Intro]].<!-- what this code does is check the ending of the custom $playerName string to hopefully append the correct pluralization to it -->{ (if: $playerName's last is "s")[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "s"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "c"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else:)[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "s")) ] }] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|The Church - First visit - Name prompt]].]The Church was an imposing mess of a building that some crazy ninja had cobbled together out of a few shipping containers. The light spilling out the messy windows was jagged. There wasn’t anything going on yet today, but it seemed like they were preparing for something tonight. There was always something at the Church. Some ninja or another trying to pump himself up the ranks to the mountain. (click: "always something at the Church")[$dissolve[It couldn’t hurt to look around for signs of Anna. > [[I went to see what I could spy through the window|The Church - First visit - Window]]. > [[I walked up to the front door|The Church - First visit - Front door]]. > [[I decided to try the back door|The Church - First visit - Back door]]. \]] (set: $dissolve to (transition: 'dissolve') + (transition-time: 3s)) (set: $churchStatus to "Hub")(set: $churchInvestigated to 0)(set: $churchBackDoorSeen to false)(set: $churchFrontDoorSeen to false)(set: $churchWindowSeen to false)(if: $churchInvestigated is 3)[There was nothing else to see at the Church and the show hadn't started quite yet. [[I headed back to The Gutter|The Gutter - Outside $gutterOutside]]. [[I headed for the Roach Market|RM-$roachEntrance-entrance]].] \(set: $checkedChurch to true) \(else:)[I kept looking around the Church for any useful information. \ (if: $churchWindowSeen is false)[ > [[I went to see what I could spy through the window|The Church - First visit - Window]].]\ (if: $churchFrontDoorSeen is false)[ > [[I walked up to the front door|The Church - First visit - Front door]].]\ (if: $churchBackDoorSeen is false)[ > [[I decided to try the back door|The Church - First visit - Back door]].]]I could see some people setting up the stage and the bleachers inside, but I couldn’t tell what they had planned for tonight. It just looked like a lot of frantic movement. (click: "frantic movement")[$dissolve[Moon Mystic, the constantly glad-handing emcee, was leading the setup with his booming voice. That fucker was a living megaphone. I could see the venue’s manager, Kiki, off to the side checking things off on her clipboard. If I was gonna throw a raging party or plan the perfect murder, I’d call Kiki either way. They ran a tight ship. These folks were putting on a show, but they were also guarding a throne.]] (click: "guarding a throne")[$dissolve[It was obvious they weren’t starting up quite yet. I had some time. But, there’s no harm in trying to [[find a way in early|The Church - First visit - Hub]].]] (set: $churchInvestigated to it +1)(set: $churchWindowSeen to true)The janky front doors, one used to be a wooden folding table and the other was the side of a port-a-potty, were chained shut. There was a show bill taped to the door. (click: "show bill")[$dissolve[//TONITE SURPRISE DEATH MATCH ALL COMERS WELCOME R U MOUNTAIN READY? “Your bill is your ticket. Your word is a weapon.”// [[I snatched the bill from the door|The Church - First visit - Hub]]. A lot of people would be here tonight and someone would know something useful.]] (set: $churchInvestigated to it +1)(set: $churchFrontDoorSeen to true)The back door was the oldest, rustiest part of the building. It looked pretty feeble, but when I tried the handle it wouldn’t budge. I tried rattling the door around. (click:"I tried rattling the door around")[$dissolve[I could shake the door quite a bit, so it wasn’t rusted shut, but it was definitely locked. Well… shit. [[I kicked the dumbass door|The Church - First visit - Kick back door]]. \]]The door bounced me back and my ass fell into a cleaning bucket. I braced for the splash of juicy floor water, but I just heard the crinkling of paper. I pulled the bucket off and turned around to see what was inside. (click: "what was inside")[$dissolve[It was a note, but the handwriting was terrible. I tried squinting to make out the text, which never helps, but it did feel right. When I made out the first line, my heart sank. Someone had given my dipshit stepdad a job again. God dammit. With the first line acting as an expectation-lowering Rosetta stone, I deciphered the rest of [[the note|The Church - First visit - Ron letter]]. \]]<div style="padding-left: 2em;">//Dear Ron, This is also Ron hehe what’s up good buddy?? :) Anyway, don’t forget to come unlock the door 2nite so that fukkin’ straglers can come in to the chalenge the champs 2nite. (click: "champs 2nite")[$dissolve[I no u wont buddy but the boss said rite a note. Keep this on u at all times!!!]] (click: "at all times")[$dissolve[EVEN WHEN U GO TO BAR!! Prove to the boss ug ot this one man!! Love, [Ron]<finalRon|]]//</div> (click: ?finalRon)[$dissolve[On the other side of the note Ron had written a bunch of tally marks under the words “WERK BEERZ”. I guess this was his attempt to judge when he’d had too many. There were at least 10 tally marks and the words “UH OH” kind of scribbled afterwards. I threw the note back in the bucket and wiped my hand on my pants for a full minute. If that fucker had the keys, then there was [[no way I was getting in|The Church - First visit - Hub]].]] (set: $churchInvestigated to it +1)(set: $churchBackDoorSeen to true){ (set: $playerName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $playerName)'s length > 0)[Right, my name is $playerName. [[Moving on|The Church - Second visit - Intro]].<!-- what this code does is check the ending of the custom $playerName string to hopefully append the correct pluralization to it -->{ (if: $playerName's last is "s")[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "s"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else-if: ($playerName's last is "h") and ($playerName's 2ndlast is "c"))[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "es")) ] (else:)[ (set: $playerNamePlural to ($playerName + "s")) ] }] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|The Church - Second visit - Name prompt]].]I’m told people in other places go to churches for one big thing, one day a week. But, we used this place every chance we got. It was the place to dream about becoming a star or watch someone else’s dreams eat shit. If it was boring that night, there was always someone hungry to jaw about the latest rumor or cause a scene hooting for the underdog. Most important, the Church stood right in front of the Mountain. Everybody knew it was the only way in. If Anna was really going through the Mountain, this was the [only way to follow]<churchIntroTrigger|. (click: ?churchIntroTrigger)[$dissolve[I used to practice at this place every week. Sometimes every day. The building loomed over me like a tall shadow of the past. I could still remember keenly the night that this place ate my dreams. Now it had eaten Anna. Well, it was time to [[jump in the beast’s mouth|The Church - Second visit - Outside hub]].]] (set: $churchSecondWindowSeen to false)(set: $frontDoorVisited to false)<img src="./img/the_church.png"> I knew the regular crowd would all wanna stare. I knew Kiki would have her pointed questions. They could have whatever they wanted. I just needed one thing — a way into the mountain. \ (if: $churchSecondWindowSeen is false)[ > [[I went to see what I could spy through the window|The Church - Second visit - Window]].]\ (if: $frontDoorVisited is false)[ > [[I looked at the crowd filing in through the front door|The Church - Second visit - Front door]].] > [[I went straight for the back door to start this fucking show|The Church - Second visit - Back door]].I peered through the window and saw the fully assembled stage. Some people were finding their seats. I heard the mournful hum of feedback as someone tested a mic. The show was getting ready to start. (if: $isWrestler is true)[[[The spotlight hit the ring and it sparkled like a crown|The Church - Second visit - Window wrestling]].] \(else:)[[[Two mics. One empty stage. The battleground|The Church - Second visit - Window rapping]].] (set: $churchSecondWindowSeen to true)It was a wrestling match tonight. Perfect. My arms tensed and my legs locked into the dirt. All of my old scars, from the chairs and the barbed wire, tingled in harmony. I could taste the sweat and blood, smell the iron. These fuckers had been holding onto my championship belt for too long anyway. [[Time to fucking take it|The Church - Second visit - Outside hub]].It was a rap battle tonight. Perfect. My head bobbed and my mind filled with verses. I could taste the dangerous dust under my tongue that could lock it up, but I forced that down. My body was only producing venom tonight — straight bile. Those phony ass emcees that only hung around this place for the ‘lettes and the drink tickets wouldn’t know what hit ‘em. [[Ante up|The Church - Second visit - Outside hub]].I could see the ‘los and ‘lettes streaming in, buzzing and ready for the big show. For a moment, I felt a pang of jealousy that I couldn’t just get in line with them and passively shuffle into the Church. I could see some folks even had their dogs with them tonight. I’d probably kill to cuddle up to a pup right now and [just chill]<churchFrontDoorTrigger|. (click: ?churchFrontDoorTrigger)[$dissolve[I popped my neck muscles and clenched my fists to keep myself focused. I could feel a strong, desperate energy in the dark edges of the building, where the string of industrial lights couldn’t reach, and I [[hoped the night wouldn’t drag me down to those places|The Church - Second visit - Outside hub]].]] (set: $frontDoorVisited to true)The door was rusted to shit and there was hardly any light in the back of the Church. I could see what I thought were maybe some feral cats or raccoons galloping off into the weeds as I approached. I had to wiggle Ron’s key around a little bit, but it worked. The door busted open and light soaked the ground. I could hear someone shouting as I stepped inside. [[“Where the fuck are my fillers tonight and where the fuck is Ron!?”|The Church - Second visit - Green room intro]]“Oh, Ron?” I said as I stepped in and closed the door behind me. “He’s indisposed.” Kiki, a green-haired woman with a clipboard in her hand and steel in her heart, just stared at me. Seeing her again [broke me]<greenRoomIntroTrigger|. (click: "broke me")[$dissolve[I blurted, “I mean, he got too wasted and I had to fuck his shit up.” She nodded, “Finally. Figured someone would. You looking to collect on beating his dumb ass up? Because I ain’t got cash for that. But, I do need bodies tonight. So, if you wanna (if: $isWrestler is true)[get in the ring and go a couple rounds](else:)[get on stage and lay down some bars], I got extra for ya.” ”I’m down to (if: $isWrestler is true)[wrestle](else:)[rap], but you should know I'm [going for the mountain]<greenRoomIntroTrigger2|."]] (click: ?greenRoomIntroTrigger2)[$dissolve[Kiki just laughed for a while, holding one hand to her forehead. I flashed with anger and stuck a defiant look on my face. Kiki didn’t have to take me seriously, but she wasn’t gonna take my chance. When she stopped laughing, Kiki took a step back and [looked me up and down]<greenRoomIntroTrigger3|.]] (click: ?greenRoomIntroTrigger3)[$dissolve[“Of course sweetie. You know I’m not gonna stop ya.” She beamed and put down the clipboard and suddenly I was wrapped in her arms. The anger leaked out of me and I had to look up to keep from crying as I hugged her back tightly. As soon as the hug ended, I started [[spilling my guts like a broken Furby|The Church - Second visit - Green room intro 2]].]]“I know I don’t deserve this. All you’ve ever given me is support and I haven’t been able to give it back. I fucked up. I should’ve said something before I peaced. I-” Kiki touched my arm and the look in her eyes calmed the storm raging in my brain. “Double L, I’ve missed you so much, girl. But shut the fuck up. We don’t turn our back on family just ‘cause they split to find their own way for a second.” She paused, gathering the strength to lift me up to where [she knew I needed to be]<greenRoomIntroTrigger4|. (click: ?greenRoomIntroTrigger4)[$dissolve[“You’ve been strong. You’re gonna need to be stronger. I’ve got your back tonight, but it’s not all favors. It’s been a dry week. I really need someone who can show ‘em hell and girl, you got the fuckin’ fire.” I managed to choke out a meek “thank you.” Kiki pulled away and [got back down to business]<greenRoomIntroTrigger5|.]] (click: ?greenRoomIntroTrigger5)[$dissolve[Her eyes danced over the clipboard as she broke down the event: “If you’re going for the mountain, then you’ll be on right at the end. You’ll be up against whoever is the highest in the standings, so I hope you’ve been practicing, girl. I kept your locker up and everything. Don’t make me look crazy.” Kiki punched me on the shoulder. “You don’t have to tell me why you came back, but if you’ve got a minute while you’re prepping, you know I love [a good comeback story]<greenRoomIntroTrigger6|.”]] (click: ?greenRoomIntroTrigger6)[$dissolve[She gave me one last smile and quickly stepped into another part of the backstage. The tension from the journey here left my body as my performer’s nerves flooded in. Filled with new resolve, I [[took in the old green room|The Church - Second visit - Green room]].]]I could see they hadn’t changed the crimson shag rugs and barely nailed together wooden furniture. The amount of stray nails and mysteries in the carpet made the green room a “shoes required” [type of place]<greenRoomTrigger|. (click: ?greenRoomTrigger)[$dissolve[The complimentary two-liters of Moon Mist and Rock N' Rye for performers were still mostly full. Those went fast after the show though, either in [chug challenges or showers of victory]<greenRoomTrigger2|.]] (click: ?greenRoomTrigger2)[$dissolve[The trophies on the shelf seemed even dimmer and dingier than I remembered. As a kid, I used to endlessly gaze into the bronze while trying out [new game faces]<greenRoomTrigger3|.]] (click: ?greenRoomTrigger3)[$dissolve[A mix of fresh meat and old hands were hanging around, but it didn’t look like any of them were getting ready to perform. Also didn’t seem like they wanted to chat. Kiki had been kinder than I expected, but I knew that wouldn’t be the case throughout the building. [I needed time to myself to get ready anyway]<greenRoomTrigger4|.]] (click: ?greenRoomTrigger4)[$dissolve[> [[I went to find Kiki and catch up|The Church - Second visit - Kiki]]. > [[I grabbed some Faygo and posted up on a nice looking chair|The Church - Second visit - Faygo]]. > [[I glanced over the trophies|The Church - Second visit - Trophies]]. > [[I found my locker and got ready to go into battle|The Church - Second visit - Preparation]].]] (set: $faygoFlashbackSeen to false)(set: $talkedToKiki to false)(set: $trophiesSeen to false)It was almost time for the (if: $isWrestler is true)[match](else:)[battle]. I looked around the green room to make sure I'd done everything I wanted to do. \ (if: $talkedToKiki is false)[ > [[I went to find Kiki and catch up|The Church - Second visit - Kiki]].]\ (if: $faygoFlashbackSeen is false)[ > [[I grabbed some Faygo and posted up on a nice looking chair|The Church - Second visit - Faygo]].]\ (if: $trophiesSeen is false)[ > [[I glanced over the trophies|The Church - Second visit - Trophies]].] > [[I had everything wrapped up. I found my locker and got ready to go into battle|The Church - Second visit - Preparation]].I found Kiki in an empty dressing room down a hallway from the green room. The Church had a few of these rooms in case a real star came down, but that was only a few times a year at most. It wasn’t much to [look at]<kikiTrigger|: Just a swivel chair, a mirror, and a small couch. I’d heard that there was an even nicer secret dressing room with a tiny fridge. (click: ?kikiTrigger)[$dissolve[Kiki was pacing and shouting into a walkie-talkie, “Ok, Biscuit, I fucking get it. It’s easier to get chip bags in bulk with the variety packs. Honestly, I get it. But, I’m fucking drowning in classic Lays down here and people are about to riot if they don’t get Cheetos. So, name your price, I just need [a fuckton of Cheetos]<kikiTrigger2|, stat.”]] (click: ?kikiTrigger2)[$dissolve[I gave a soft knock on the open door and leaned into the room. Kiki looked up and quickly let Biscuit know he could get back to her about the Cheetos ASAP or get fucked entirely. She sat down on the couch, clicked the walkie-talkie off, and [[patted the chair|The Church - Second visit - Kiki hub]].]] (set: $talkedToKiki to true)(set: $kikiBounceTalk to false)(set: $kikiAnnaTalk to false)(set: $kikiChampTalk to false)(if: $kikiConvo is < 3)[“What’s on your mind, Double L?” Kiki asked. “We don’t have a ton of time before you’re on, but you know I can always spare a second for my Little ‘Lette.” \ (if: $kikiBounceTalk is false)[ > [[“Kiki, I’ve gotta tell you why I bounced last year.”|The Church - Second visit - Kiki bounced]]]\ (if: $kikiChampTalk is false)[ > [[“What’s the deal with the chump — uh, I mean, champ — I’m up against?”|The Church - Second visit - Kiki champ]]]\ (if: $kikiAnnaTalk is false)[ > [[“You seen Anna recently?”|The Church - Second visit - Kiki anna]]]] \(else:)[Kiki looked at me and I could tell our time to chat was up. She rose and opened the door for me. As I was getting up to leave, she said, "Show's gonna start soon and I have to get Mystic stuffed into his ceremonial gear. It's not a quick task. It was great catching up, LL. [[I'll see ya out there under the lights."|The Church - Second visit - Green room hub]]]Kiki leaned in to indicate she was ready to listen. I fussed with the arm of the chair as I spoke, conjuring my memories through fidgets. “So, you know I was on top. I was ready to take the mountain when I turned sixteen. But when Leo and I started dating, he would always try to convince me I didn’t need to work at it anymore. I thought it was a protective instinct and I wish I hadn’t listened. I wish I had [talked to you about it then]<kikiBounce|.” (click: ?kikiBounce)[$dissolve[Kiki balled her fists. “That motherfucker…” I gently held her fists and gave her a “let it be” look as [I continued]<kikiBounce2|.]] (click: ?kikiBounce2)[$dissolve[“When we broke it off, I jumped right back in as hard as ever. I was ready to gear up. But, that last night, I went to grab something from my locker when I should’ve been headed to stage. I heard Leo’s voice. He was talking to his dad; you know Larry? That dipshit mechanic for the honchos. Larry was promising he’d take me down, that I’d never even make it to the mountain. He paid off the judges so I’d never win another match.” I paused to catch my breath. I was shaking with anger, but I could feel Kiki’s strength giving me [the will to go on]<kikiBounce3|.]] (click: ?kikiBounce3)[$dissolve[“I wanted to go in and bust both of their asses, but I just took the heat to the stage. Spite is an incredible motivator. I crushed that show. You saw it.” I wanted to look into Kiki’s eyes, but I just stared at my feet and kept pushing through. “But I lost. I knew then that I couldn’t get over Larry’s money-wall the fair way, so I just bounced. My plan was to come back and find a way around, but every time I thought about coming back I just felt the exact thing they wanted me to feel. Those motherfuckers [poisoned all my joy]<kikiBounce4|.”]] (click: ?kikiBounce4)[$dissolve[I bit my lip to hold the angry tears. I couldn’t go down that path, but it had felt good to get that much out at least. Kiki gripped my shoulders and I looked her straight in the eye. “Double L, baby, I’m so sorry that happened. Larry is a piece of shit, no doubt. But now you’ve got the jump. He’s not here tonight and he doesn’t know you’re coming for your shot. If anybody who’s even smiled at him [pops up tonight]<kikiBounce5|…”]] (click: ?kikiBounce5)[$dissolve[Kiki paused for a moment and then punched my arm to accentuate. “If they try to slow you down, I’ll show ‘em the door straight to hell.” [[I smiled as much as I could, did a big sniffle and composed myself, then changed the subject|The Church - Second visit - Kiki hub]].]] (set: $kikiBounceTalk to true)(set: $kikiConvo to it +1)(if: $isWrestler is true)[“Well, Carol’s what seems like a one-trick ninja. They call her Carol of the Caves and a lot of folks say the bitch is just straight up outta her mind, but that ain’t it. She’s savage, but she’s savvy too. People think she’s all about the exhibition or the show, but that’s a distraction. While you’re trying to figure out why she just did or said some crazy shit, she’ll bulldoze you.” “So what’s the deal? Just start wailing on her while she’s putting on a show?” I leaned in towards Kiki. “Nah nah nah,” Kiki wagged her finger, “that’s one of the mistakes that got her to the top. Remember LL, mountain matches are always a shoot. She’s gonna be wailing on you for real. She’s too strong to overwhelm like that. I’ve been watching her a lot recently and I think the trick is to make her think she’s got you first. Act confused until she rushes you, then dodge and strike.”] \(else:)[“Haha, Smooth Lips Steve? Jaysus, girl, where to start? He’s got a decent flow and he used to have the fire. Recently, though? He’s a little too comfy on the top. He could’ve done the mountain months ago, but what he really loves is clowning the younger kids and keeping my talent pool aggravated.” “Alright,” I grinned, “I think I can knock this motherfucker out no problem, then.” “Nah nah nah,” Kiki wagged her finger, “that’s not it, girl. Don’t get cocky already. Save it for the stage. If he senses he’s got the edge, even for a bit, he’ll get nasty. He didn’t get to the top on accident. He knows the crowd and he’ll have a lot of boys out there. You gotta grind him into the dust early and don’t you stop.”] [[“Damn, that’s good advice, Kiki. Thanks. Let me hit you with something else though.”|The Church - Second visit - Kiki hub]] (set: $kikiChampTalk to true)(set: $kikiConvo to it +1)“Nah, wish I could say I had. You know I love you both. But, by the end, I think she was only hanging around here to cheer you on. Haven’t seen her since you left. Every few weeks I’d hear that she was getting into some rough shit. I was worried, but when people leave my ring they aren’t my problem anymore. That’s how I keep myself sane.” Kiki looked down at the floor for a minute as she did some kind of deep breathing exercise. I could feel a kind of energy leaving her body as as she exhaled. Then, she looked up with a fresh smile. “Why do you ask? I though the two of y’all would never be too far apart. Did you really lose touch?” > [[“Yeah. I’m tracking her right now, actually. She said she found a way to sneak out through the mountain.”|The Church - Second visit - Kiki anna 2]] > [[Yeah, but it’s no big deal. Let’s talk about something else."|The Church - Second visit - Kiki hub]] (set: $kikiAnnaTalk to true)(set: $kikiConvo to it +1)Kiki looked like she’d taken a folding chair to the gut, which I’d seen her do with grace many times. She couldn’t stop shaking her head. “Jaysus and Shaggy and my momma’s grave. Double L, that’s not any shit I wanna know. If that’s why you’re here tonight, then don’t tell me anything else. I think I can still help you, but what you’re messing with is serious shit.” I jumped in. “Kiki…what if it’s real? What if the mountain really is a way out instead of just a way up?” “I told you to stop.” Kiki slumped in her chair. “It’s not for me, Double L. I’ve worked hard to build my spot here and I’m not jumping for anyone. Not even for you. I can wish you luck and I can show you love, but [[we gotta talk about something else."|The Church - Second visit - Kiki hub]]I kicked back in a big armchair with no legs and cracked a bottle of Moon Mist. As soon as that delightful Faygo sugar fizz hit my tongue, it invaded my senses. My mind was alive with the happy memories of training and [the way that the soda tasted after a hard practice]<sodaFlashbackTrigger|. <div class ="flashback">(click: ?sodaFlashbackTrigger)[$dissolve[(if: $isWrestler is true)[I thought of meeting Anna during my first practice. I blocked a kick of hers and flipped her, which is something I didn’t even realize I’d learned to do by watching matches. She wasn’t phased. She just stood right back up and said, “Holy shit! I’ve gotta learn to do that!” She wouldn’t leave my side for the next few hours as we both struggled to recreate the move. In the end, it turned out she was much better at it than me. As I was drinking my Faygo at the end of the day, I heard her say, “You better be nice or my friend will come flip your ass upside down,” to some other little girl. I was concerned about backing up that threat, but I still couldn’t stop myself from grinning as I [gulped down the fizzy soda.]<fbEndTrigger|] \(else:)[I thought of meeting Anna during my first practice. We got paired up to freestyle against each other right off the bat and Anna started out with a blistering verse. “You’re a motherfucking fuck and your lines fucking suck. I’ll chop your head off and feed it to a duck.” At first I gasped, and then we glared at each other, and then I blurted, “Well fuck that duck!” We both immediately busted out laughing. We held each other until it subsided. For the rest of the practice, we ran around proclaiming ourselves the Duck Duo and challenging all of the other kids to battle us together. As I was drinking my Faygo at the end of the day, I heard her say, “Yeah, she and I really do lots of murders. So you better watch it,” to some other little girl. I was concerned about backing up that threat, but I still couldn’t stop myself from grinning as I [gulped down the fizzy soda.]<fbEndTrigger|]]]</div> (click: ?fbEndTrigger)[$dissolve[Back in reality, I capped the bottle of Faygo and set it back down next to me. I didn’t wanna go all in on the sugar high and crash during the battle. [[I looked around the green room for something else to do|The Church - Second visit - Green room hub]].]] (set: $faygoFlashbackSeen to true)The trophies and photos were all lined up on an old bookshelf whose shelf-height was charmingly varied to fit the years of celebratory junk. One of the kids from the junior performers program was hanging around the shelf and he looked upset. > [[I didn’t have time to fix some little shithead’s problems. I spun on my heels and dipped|The Church - Second visit - Green room hub]]. > [[I crouched down to the kid’s level, as if we came here to learn together|The Church - Second visit - Trophies 2]].I spent a few minutes just scanning the shelves until I finally said, “So which one is your favorite?” The kid snorted and wriggled his feet around on the carpet. “This is all bitch-ass bullshit,” he looked down and crossed his arms. He was wearing a baseball cap and basketball shorts that were both huge, so it was a [struggle not to laugh]<phattyTrigger|. (click: ?phattyTrigger)[$dissolve[“Oh yeah?” I ventured, “What makes you say that?” “Smooth Lips Steve, that motherfucker. I lost my last freestyle pretty bad and he told me I couldn’t even come back into the ring without studying up. But like, I ain’t got a clue what the fuck any of this shit means, ya know?” “Why not [bounce then]<phattyTrigger2|?” I asked.]] (click: ?phattyTrigger2)[$dissolve[“Fuckin’ Steve probably just waiting for an excuse to quiz me later, when he’s blasted, and bust me up good. Not gonna let that fucker win again.” I had been trying to nod sagely a bit while the kid went off and now I was [paused in concentration]<phattyTrigger3|.]] (click: ?phattyTrigger3)[$dissolve[“What if,” I cocked my head as if the idea had just come to me, “I gave a ninja a hand and just told you what all this old shit means to me? I was born here too, but I been around.” The little shit scoffed, as if he was too cool to be desperately scrounging for any rung up the social ladder. “Sounds fuckin’ lame as shit sis, but alright. Give me the ‘lette’s tour I guess.” “What’s your name, little ninja?” I [asked]<phattyTrigger4|.]] (click: ?phattyTrigger4)[$dissolve[“Call me Lil Phatty,” he said as he pouted his lips and spun his cap backwards. This time, I couldn’t help it. I laughed as I said, “Alright Lil Phatty, [[here’s Gatherville 101 for your little, pouting ass.”|The Church - Second visit - Trophies hub]]]] (set: $thrillaKillaSeen to false)(set: $icpSeen to false)(set: $ninjetteSeen to false)(set: $trophiesSeen to true)(if: $trophyNumberSeen is < 3)[Lil Phatty only did a deeper pout and fiddled with his cap, but he stayed glued to the spot. \ (if: $thrillaKillaSeen is false)[ > [[I pointed at the photo of Thrilla Killa|The Church - Second visit - Trophies thrilla killa]].]\ (if: $icpSeen is false)[ > [[I pointed at the shrine to Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope|The Church - Second visit - Trophies ICP]].]\ (if: $ninjetteSeen is false)[ > [[I lovingly picked up Ninjette’s championship trophy|The Church - Second visit - Trophies ninjette]].]] \(else:)[“Ok lil ninja,” I shrugged, “I think that’s [[pretty much it for the intro|The Church - Second visit - Trophies join party]]. That should at least be as much as Steve could keep in his hella tiny brain to quiz you with.”]“That’s the Honcho right there. The ninja to end all ninjas. The beginning and the end of the party. Thrilla came up after the cops had Gatherville locked down, but after most of the violence. Official story is that he got to the top straight from being the wickedest fuckin’ dude on the mic. But, [if you ask around]<thrillaTrigger|, everybody’s got an uncle who took a beating during Thrilla’s climb. (click: ?thrillaTrigger)[$dissolve[Honestly, what we think don’t mean shit. He’s the head of the family now. He used to give an address every year, just some basic family shout outs. 'Keep on grindin’.' That type of shit. But now, he just lets the talent do the talking. He’s probably sitting on a velvet toilet seat eating ham and pineapple rings. [[Probably best not to repeat any of this. He pays a lot of dudes all over|The Church - Second visit - Trophies hub]].]] (set: $thrillaKillaSeen to true)(set: $trophyNumberSeen to it +1)“Oh man, where do I even start? If you don’t know these guys, I’m really depressed, dude. You’ve at least seen them, right?” Lil Phatty [quickly nodded]<icpTrigger|. (click: ?icpTrigger)[$dissolve[“That’s because these are the actual first two fuckin’ juggalos. The Insane Clown Posse. Legends, my ninja! It doesn’t get more real than this shit. The hymn at the start of service? These motherfuckers wrote it! They’re all over everything because it’s all them. None of us would even be here otherwise. But, here’s the thing, these dudes went on to the Dark Carnival before both of us were born.” I kissed my index and middle fingers and raised them to the air in a [peace sign]<icpTrigger2|.]] (click: ?icpTrigger2)[$dissolve[“You ask five different people how they bit it and you’ll get five different stories. My favorite is that, when the cops first tried to dig us out and were murdering ninjas left and right, J and Shaggy agreed to meet with the top dudes to talk peace. Instead, they packed bottles of Faygo full of mad explosives and took the whole troop out. In the chaos, ninjas built the wall of cars we still use to keep us safe. [[Those dudes were all about finding miracles wherever and I like to think they went out making one.”|The Church - Second visit - Trophies hub]]]] (set: $icpSeen to true)(set: $trophyNumberSeen to it +1)“Take off the hat for this one lil ninja. This is the (if: $isWrestler is true)[priestess of pain, the warrior woman who wins, the beat-ass beauty, the empress of compress, the dame of destruction, the better-not-call-me-bitch beatdown queen of the whole damn thing!] \(else:)[greatest rapper in the history of this shithole.]” I paused to catch my breath and cross myself using Ninjette’s signature hand motion. To my surprise, Lil Phatty did actually [remove his hat]<ninjetteTrigger|. (click: ?ninjetteTrigger)[$dissolve[“Around ten years ago, Ninjette was a novelty act. No woman had risen up to the Honcho level in the history of Gatherville. They would just trot her out to hoot and holler at her bits during (if: $isWrestler is true)[matches with amateurs or joke wrestlers](else:)[battles with amateur emcees and corny motherfuckers]. But, one day, she got on a bill with an up-and-coming dude who had never been (if: $isWrestler is true)[pinned](else:)[beaten]. She (if: $isWrestler is true)[knocked his ass to the ground](else:)[rapped his ass off the stage] like a strong wind ripping down an old tarp. The Honchos tried to invalidate her win and say it was all a stunt. But she asked for any challenger and she took 'em all out, even [the reigning champ]<ninjetteTrigger2|.]] (click: ?ninjetteTrigger2)[$dissolve[It turns out she’d been forced to throw all of her earlier (if: $isWrestler is true)[matches](else:)[battles] and she had just gotten sick of it. She was my hero when I was a kid. Other folks let me down, but Ninjette never did. Any time she was on stage, I was there screaming my lungs out. Right when Ninjette finally got taken to the Trailer Park to chill with the Honchos, I got my Mom to sign me up for junior performers. I knew I was next. [[Of course, that’s right when they added the mountain too.”|The Church - Second visit - Trophies hub]]]] (set: $ninjetteSeen to true)(set: $trophyNumberSeen to it +1)Lil Phatty actually cracked a smile. “Ha ha! Honestly, that shit was wicked tight. You know what? You’re alright actually. You going on stage tonight? I’ma kick it with you until then.” Lil Phatty moved close to me and crossed his arms in the posse pose to indicate that [we were now rolling together]<phattyJoin|. (click: ?phattyJoin)[(transition: "pulse")[[[**Lil Phatty has joined the party!**|The Church - Second visit - Trophies leave party]]]]“Actually, nah, fuck this shit. I’m gonna go pour old hot dog juice all over Steve’s shit. I’m out, sis. You’re alright for a ‘lette. Don’t step to me on the stage though.” Lil Phatty scuttled away, almost immediately [disappearing behind some chairs that were taller than him]<phattyLeave|. (click: ?phattyLeave)[(transition: "pulse")[[[**Lil Phatty has left the party!**|The Church - Second visit - Green room hub]]]]I twisted the lock to 34 and then back around to 35 and chuckled to myself as my locker popped open. (if: $isWrestler is true)[The musty stank of my old uniform hit me in the face. It wasn’t too bad I guess. Hopefully it would be a tactical advantage.] \(else:)[My old notebooks and CDs were scattered all over the place. They rustled like dry grass as I sorted through them.] Then, I heard Kiki calling my name. The [[name I’d given up|The Church - Second visit - Stage name choice]].{ (set: $stageName to (prompt: "What's your stage name?", "")) (if: (text: $stageName)'s length > 0)[I had always performed as $stageName. Nobody could fuck with $stageName. [[I walked toward the sound of Kiki's voice|The Church - Second visit - To the stage]].] }(else:)[Wait, that's not right. Hold on. [[My stage name was...|The Church - Second visit - Stage name choice]]]“$stageName to the stage! You’re on, Double L!” Kiki was waving me forward like she was trying to help land a helicopter. I walked past her and into the cramped, musty hallway that led to the stage. When I was 5 or 6, Mom took me to my first junior performers class. She had no idea that I had been sneaking into church shows for [at least a year]<stageTrigger|. (click: ?stageTrigger)[$dissolve[So when I jumped on stage and screamed that my name was $stageName, she fell over laughing. It clearly had an impact, so the name stuck. When I reached the final curtain before the stage, I stopped and (if: $isWrestler is true)[[[waited for Moon Mystic to do his intros|wrestle-opening]].](else:)[[[waited for Moon Mystic to do his intros|The Church - Rap battle]].]]]{ (set: $stageName to (prompt: "Enter name:", "")) (if: (text: $stageName)'s length > 0)[Right, I go by $stageName. [[Moving on|The Church - Rap battle]].] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|The Church - Rap battle name prompt]].]Moon Mystic’s voice boomed over the PA. “Where my juggalos at tonight?! Where my fine juggalettes? All my down-ass ninjas in the house go woop woop!” (click: "woop woop")[$dissolve[The crowd responded with a hearty “WOOP WOOP!” “Alright, alright, alright, we about to go into the final freestyle battle of the night. This is what all you crazy dedicated ninjas out there have been sitting at the edge of your seat begging me for. This is what the bloodthirsty motherfuckers out there desire. This is...” Moon Mystic paused for maximum drama.]] (click: "paused")[$dissolve[“A MOUNTAIN FIGHT!” As the words left his lips, the whole crowd stood up and collectively lost their mind. The guy at the sound booth mixed a bunch of record scratches and crazy airhorn noises together. “Now, it’s time for the combatants. Defending the title, blocking the path, it’s your champion. The dirty diggler, the mouth of a thousand corpses, it’s Smooth Lips Steve!”]] (click: "Smooth Lips Steve")[$dissolve[Steve jumped out in full face paint, looking ready for a pick up game of basketball. He swung his arms down from the stage amiably, [[high-fiving his homies|The Church - Rap Battle player intro]].]]Moon Mystic’s voice boomed again, “And now, the fighter. Going for the mountain after an unprecedented year-long absence from the stage. She’s the little ‘lette, the fiercest female on the mic, it’s [$stageName]<clickName|!! (click: ?clickName)[$dissolve[The crowd was totally silent as I walked out on stage. I had no face paint. I was just wearing my torn-ass jeans and a beat up Milenko shirt. I probably still smelled like the port-a-potty and looked like I’d crawled out of tent city after a weekend bender. But my face was absolute granite. I didn’t move a muscle, wouldn’t give an inch. As I moved to pick my mic up from where it was coiled on the stage floor, some stupid-ass juggalo in the crowd called out, “Yo, I ain’t ever seen this bitch. She ain’t got it!” Steve popped a mile-wide grin and there was some laughter in the crowd.]] (click: "laughter in the crowd")[$dissolve[I quickly snatched up the mic and blasted back, “Yeah ninja, that ain’t a surprise. Looks to me like a lot of ‘lettes try to avoid you altogether.” An immediate “OOOOOOH” from the crowd was my delicious reward. Steve’s grin dropped and he picked his mic up as well. [[Time to do some fuckin' raps|The Church - Rap battle - First verses]].]]Steve and I circled each other warily. Moon Mystic piped up, “Alright $stageName, as the challenger, you pick who goes first.” > ["I’ll go first. I’m sick of looking at this dude already."]<playerFirst| > ["I’ll go second. This goofy motherfucker needs all the help he can get."]<steveFirst| > [[I didn’t even answer — just started into a blistering rap about dogs|The Church - Rap battle - First verses dog rap]]. (click: ?playerFirst)[(go-to: "The Church - Rap battle - First verses player first")] (click: ?steveFirst)[(go-to: "The Church - Rap battle - First verses steve first")]As soon as I stopped speaking, the venom started flowing out of me. [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[//This is my enemy? You’re kidding me//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[//Oh, I see The dude currently going through puberty//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve[//Come on Steve you’re a pity//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 7s)[$dissolve[//Spittin’ rhymes out your baby teeth How’d it get this shitty?//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 9s)[$dissolve[//Did your Mom leave? Nah she’s right there Unfortunately//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 11s)[$dissolve[//You know she love me It’s not a sex thing//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 13s)[$dissolve[//She just hates her son He’s a shitty one And he’s so dumb And he’s so stunned//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 15s)[$dissolve[//Cause I’m on one And I got guns On this word run I’m the word son//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 17s)[$dissolve[//And I’m not done Till the day’s won And you’re out stunned Fuck your lame puns//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 19s)[$dissolve[//This is so fun Watching you lunge Miss the main punch You ain’t got a hunch//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 21s)[$dissolve[//You just ain’t much You’re gonna limp out man [[Here’s your fuckin’ crutch|The Church - Rap battle - First verses steve response]]//(stop:)]]]] (set: $playerRapsFirst to true)Steve looked taken aback by my flow for a second, but he shook it off and dug into his response. [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[//Oh I need a crutch, yeah that’s a joke I can’t wait to touch myself as I watch you choke//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[//You get that picture bitch, I had to say it Do you get the idea or do I need to spray it?//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve[//Haha, I really crack myself up Gonna drag you from the back of my brand new truck//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 7s)[$dissolve[//I’m the wicked shit and a real good fuck You can call me for a good line if you’re ever feelin’ stuck Yo baby, what’s up? I’m the triple A, premium cut//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 9s)[$dissolve[//You think you on fire, you’re just cold as ice How far you think girls get when they ain’t nice?//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 11s)[$dissolve[//Slow down sweetie, go your own pace You gonna wear yourself out in a man’s race//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 13s)[$dissolve[//Let’s just embrace, give me good face I can be your big daddy and we’ll play it straight//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 15s)[$dissolve[//So drop the mic chick, stop the bitch schtick Get with this criminal with the huge dick//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 17s)[$dissolve[A ‘lette in the crowd made a huge puking noise and everyone laughed as we [[moved into round two|The Church - Rap battle - Second verses player]].(stop:)]]]]Steve grinned like a farting clown and ripped into an odious flow. [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[//Yo I’m all man, sizzlin’ in the pan This the old school jam from the bar band Can you feel my cold hands in your new pants?//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[//Whoops sorry baby, was that a shock I’m already underneath the covers down to just my socks//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve[//You seem like a special broad, let’s get it on I’d love to see you silent in a nice thong//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 7s)[$dissolve[//I can go strong, all night long I ain’t gonna need a classic song to get you gone//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 9s)[$dissolve[//This is bitch work, taking you out I even got some time for some shout outs//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 11s)[$dissolve[//What up Shondra? Hey Katie, what’s good? Give me a ring next time I’m in your hood//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 13s)[$dissolve[//How much time we got left? Was that enough? I guess now I gotta sit through your mic fluff//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 15s)[$dissolve[//You throwing glitter girl? Gonna do a twirl? When you’re out of breath, hit me up, I can rock your world//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 17s)[$dissolve[Steve did an absolutely dork-ass bow after his verse and doffed his cap. I smacked it out of his hand and [[launched into my response|The Church - Rap battle - First verses player response]]. (stop:)]]]] (set: $steveRapsFirst to true)[(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[//I’m the real motherfucker, coldest villain I’m chillin, temp down in the whole building//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[//Steve’s hot, I guess Heat comin’ from gettin’ lies off his chest//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve[//Heat comin’ from his stank ass breath Only chance he ever had of talkin’ me to death//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 7s)[$dissolve[//Fuck a cleaver, fuck a mallet You smell this nasty shit on his palate?//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 9s)[$dissolve[//Dude’s deadly, hella wealthy Got the rare mouth bacteria he’s selling//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 11s)[$dissolve[//What’d you do dude? Eat a dog poop? Chew your dad’s shoes? Lick some trash food?//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 13s)[$dissolve[//Ain’t mean to be rude Just brush up soon Cause I won’t lose You’re a huge stooge//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 15s)[$dissolve[//I’m getting the sense that you’re not really that strong I’m on the fence, how ‘bout you model that thong?//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 17s)[$dissolve[A rowdy group of ‘lettes in the audience all hooted at my last line. Seemed like the audience was feeling me as we [[moved into round two|The Church - Rap battle - Second verses steve]]. (stop:)]]]]I’m not really sure why, but I could just feel the goofiest instinct take hold and I had to go with my gut. [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[//Dogs ruuuuuule up in this bitch Man, I fuckin’ love dogs!!//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[//My friend had a puppy when I was growin’ up Her father liked to kick it, that was fucked up//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve[//If I could hug that dog or any fuckin’ dog I’d hug it and I’d love it until the world was gone//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 7s)[$dissolve[//Hah, let me break it down for ya//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 8s)[$dissolve[//I really like pugs and pomeranians As far as shepherds, make mine Albanian//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 10s)[$dissolve[//I like the beagles and the basset hounds I like it when they make their little slobber sounds//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 12s)[$dissolve[// I like a motherfuckin’ labrador and I’m even down with poodles You can have your humidor, give me a golden doodle//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 14s)[$dissolve[//I like it when a big old dog sits right in my lap Or when it puts its paws on my head like a hat//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 16s)[$dissolve[//I’m a motherfuckin’ juggalo until the day I die And on the day I bite the dust, I pray a dog is by my side//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 18s)[$dissolve[As I looked up, a whole section of ‘lettes in the audience was going nuts hooting and hollering. That’s right! It was dog night. Hell yeah. They mostly had real meaty looking breeds, pitbulls and dobermans and shit, and [[the pups were going wild too|The Church - Rap battle - First verses dog rap response]]. (stop:)]]]]Steve looked panicked by the huge dogs and intimidated by my out-of-nowhere verse, but he collected a fake smirk on his face and got into his flow. [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[//Yo, who this crazy bitch that’s only rapping bout bitches I’m right here, pay attention or get stitches//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[//I’m the most precious and the absolute richest This is the how I live and all my hoes know what this dick is//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve[//This lady crazy and I think you all know it Didn’t think she’d open up her mouth and blow it//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 7s)[$dissolve[//Not that I’m complaining, I don’t need help to blow up I’m already number 1 and I don’t gotta challenge no one//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 9s)[$dissolve[//This is bitch work, taking you out I even got some time for some shout outs//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 11s)[$dissolve[//What up Shondra? Hey Katie, what’s good? Give me a ring next time I’m in your hood//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 13s)[$dissolve[//How much time we got left? Was that enough? I guess now I gotta sit through your mic fluff//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 15s)[$dissolve[//What up dog girl? Got your mind swirled? When you’re out of breath, hit me up, I’ll still rock your world//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 17s)[$dissolve[Some of Steve’s boys made loud noises, but the dogs were curiously silent after Steve’s verse. We [[moved into round two|The Church - Rap battle - Second verses dogs]]. (stop:)]]]]Steve blubbered and wavered during his second verse like a jellyfish having an asthma attack. [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[//Yo I’m Steve here to tear this shit apart I sneak in your front door like a fart//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[//You ain’t want me, but you need me Every day I’m all over that shit baby//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve[//Smack it real nice, get up in them jeans Hold my head down girl, call me machine//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 7s)[$dissolve[//Get the tongue propeller, I’m a nice feller They call me old yeller, I’m a real sweller//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 9s)[$dissolve[//Yo I’m all real, like a done deal Grab a hold of these buns, they hard steel I’m the primo shit talker, real walker//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 11s)[$dissolve[//No texas ranger, but you gettin’ stranger I can hear your tired rhymes gettin’ fainter//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 13s)[$dissolve[//Why you runnin’ baby? Just took out my knife. Better hurry it up, if you value life//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 15s)[$dissolve[//Cause you heard of me, girl I’m Smooth Lips Steve If you wanna live, best get on your knees//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 17s)[$dissolve[(if: $playerRapsFirst is true)[A dude I thought was Steve’s homie made a huge fart noise with his mouth. It was [[time for results|The Church - Rap battle - Victory player first]].] \(else:)[I had to scoff at that lame-ass attempt and a few people noticed. I heard some “ooohs” as I [[went into my response|The Church - Rap battle - Second verses player]].] (stop:)]]]]I could feel my grip on the mic bending the metal as I howled my final verse straight at the heart of this absolute piece of shit and all of the absolute pieces of shit everywhere and forever. [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[//I’m the woman in the mirror Gripping on your neck//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[//Already found the artery No use flinching to protect//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve[//I’m all out of questions and I never had respect You on a throne of shit and I ain’t gonna genuflect//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 7s)[$dissolve[//Had the worst dream ever, woke up in terror You were spitting dumb shit in my face forever//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 9s)[$dissolve[//Shut the fuck up homie, you don’t know me I’m the absolute number one and only//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 11s)[$dissolve[//I guess I could use your head next time I go bowling That’s the only way you roll with me//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 13s)[$dissolve[//Otherwise you stay lonely Fuck that, I’d never let Steve blow me//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 15s)[$dissolve[//I don’t want leftovers, Fuck you show pony All I wanna see is your back now show me//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 17s)[$dissolve[(if: $steveRapsFirst is true)[I could feel the power coursing through me and it matched the audience’s roar of approval. [[What a perfect time for the results|The Church - Rap battle - Victory player second]].] \(else:)[I could feel the power coursing through me and it matched the audience’s roar of approval. [[Time for Steve’s verse. Ugh|The Church - Rap battle - Second verses steve]].] (stop:)]]]]I had to respond to what was in my heart, and what was moving the crowd, so I kept rapping about dogs. [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[//I wish I had a puppy when I was growing up I’d love to have a flopsy, friendly li'l mutt//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[//It’d be huge now, with an empty gut Waiting for my command to eat Steve’s nuts//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve[//Yo I’m wild for any dog, especially the shih-tzu’s Dogs look at Steve like, “You shit outside too, dude?”//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 7s)[$dissolve[//I gotta step it back, I’m bein’ kinda rude I’d never let my dog look at Steve or eat his food//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 9s)[$dissolve[//Listen, I love giant dogs and little dogs When I see them, my heart just clogs//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 11s)[$dissolve[//Up with all the loving, I’m almost crying But then I gotta laugh cause Steve on stage dying//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 13s)[$dissolve[//Shout out to my terriers and their tiny carriers Shout out to the bulldogs and the chihuahuas You can pull up a seat and sip on mi agua//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 15s)[$dissolve[// Shout out to the dachshunds and all the little homies Shoutin’ shut the fuck up Steve, you don’t know me//(stop:)]]]] [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 17s)[$dissolve[The dog crowd had been standing during the whole verse and now they were rushing towards the stage. Steve was looking pretty sweaty, but he said, “Fuck that weird shit. I’m doing my thing,” and [[launched into his next verse|The Church - Rap battle - Victory dog raps]]. (stop:)]]]]It was clear that the crowd had been with me from the start. I could read the energy. As Steve’s homies filed out, a fired up group of ‘lettes stormed the stage and started chanting my name. Some of them were new faces, others I knew and had even heard talk shit. I didn’t care. All were welcome in my temple now that I had made it to the top. Moon Mystic approached Steve and I, holding both our hands, but I didn’t even wait for him. I raised my own hand and screamed, “YOUR CHAMPION $stageName!” Moon Mystic laughed and nodded as [[the crowd stomped in unison|The Church - Mountain intro]].Moon Mystic approached Steve and I, holding both of our hands. I knew Steve and I had gone back and forth, but I wasn’t nervous. The crowd was like a wave, lifting me up. Moon Mystic raised my hand. “Your champion $stageName!” As he said it, the crowd [[repeated it back and built a mighty chant|The Church - Mountain intro]].Steve's verse was about how basketball shorts are good for airing out sweaty nuts or something, but the dog crowd weren’t having it. Some of the larger dogs were trying to climb up on stage and snipping at Steve’s feet when he got too close to the edge. He lost his composure almost immediately as a weirdly large beagle bounded on stage howling and charging at him. He ran backstage, mic and all, screaming at an ear-splitting frequency. From backstage he announced into the mic, “For my own safety, I’ve decided to end tonight’s performance. We’ll try this again at a later date.” The crowd was like a banshee, booing and clapping and shrieking all at once. Moon Mystic approached me and raised my hand. [[“Your champion $stageName!”|The Church - Mountain intro]]{ (set: $stageName to (prompt: "Enter wrestler name:", "")) (if: (text: $stageName)'s length > 0)[Right, I fight as $stageName. [[Moving on|wrestle-opening]].] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|wrestle-name-prompt]].] (set: $dissolve to (transition: 'dissolve') + (transition-time: 3s)) <!-- (click: "")[$dissolve[ -->Moon Mystic’s voice boomed over the PA. “‘Los and ‘Lettes! Ninjas of all ages! Tonight, in the ring we have seen some brutal shit, but we’ve still got one more for you! That’s just how the Mystic does to the family. Gotta keep it goin’ for ‘em! Woop woop!” (click: "Woop woop!")[$dissolve[The crowd responded with a hearty “WOOP WOOP!” “Alright, alright, alright, this is what all you crazy dedicated ninjas out there have been sitting at the edge of your seat begging me for. This is what the bloodthirsty motherfuckers out there desire. This is—” Moon Mystic paused for maximum drama—]] (click: "maximum drama")[$dissolve[“//A MOUNTAIN FIGHT!//” As the words left his lips, the whole crowd stood up and collectively lost their mind. The guy at the sound booth mixed a bunch of record scratches and crazy airhorn noises together. Moon Mystic’s megaphone-friendly gravitas filled the ring. “And now… [[introducing…|wrestle-speeches-start]]”]]“[The cave commando—]<carol1| (click:?carol1) [<div style="margin-left: 20px;">[the mountain mama—]<carol2| </div>(click:?carol2) [<div style="margin-left: 40px;">[the woman of the wilds—]<carol3| </div>(click:?carol3) [$dissolve[ “It’s //Carol of the Caves!//” As Moon Mystic finished, an enormous, muscled woman roared out onto the stage all at once like a bull charging. She wore a ragged one-shoulder leopard-print tunic and carred a big nasty burlap sack that looked [worryingly full]<worryinglyFull|. (click:?worryinglyFull)[$dissolve[“And in this corner… [The prodigal punisher—]<playerIntro1| (click:?playerIntro1) [<div style="margin-left: 20px;">[the princess of pain—]<playerIntro2| </div>(click:?playerIntro2) [<div style="margin-left: 40px;">[the previous pee-wee champ—]<playerIntro3| </div>(click:?playerIntro3) [$dissolve[ “It’s //[$stageName]<stageNameLink|!”//]]]]]]]]]] (click:?stageNameLink)[$dissolve[I was filled with adrenaline as I stepped out into the spotlight, but I tried not to rush. My leotard was a little grungy looking. It definitely could have used a wash and an iron, but it still had power. Right in the middle of the black spandex was a skull Anna had sketched and my mom had sewed. As I entered the ring, Moon Mystic passed the mic to Carol and quickly moved out of the way. Carol fixed the crowd with a powerful glare for a full fifteen seconds before [[launching into her speech|wrestle-carol-speech]].]]“Me been’ thinkin’ in cave and me angry! This puny girl not even good for Carol food! Me eat girl anyway! Me eat her up with strong jaw! Praise strong jaw of Carol!” Carol shook the ropes and produced an absolutely foul looking turnip from her sack. She tossed it into the cheering crowd, who fought for it like a prize. (click: "prize")[$dissolve[“Carol bring gifts for her clan! No one beat Carol! Me eat trash all day for strength! Carol very strong and full of powerful trash! Trash and smash! //Trash and smash! **Trash and smash!**//” The crowd repeated Carol’s chant back to her as she dropped the mic and threw more disgusting but alarmingly firm turnips to the crowd. When they quieted, it seemed like she still had plenty left. Moon Mystic picked up the mic and [[handed it to me with a reluctant grin|wrestle-player-speech]].]]{ (set: $stageName to (prompt: "Enter wrestler name:", "")) (if: (text: $stageName)'s length > 0)[Right, I fight as $stageName. [[Moving on|wrestle-player-speech]].] }(else:)[No, [[that's not right|wrestle-player-speech-nameprompt]].] (set: $dissolve to (transition: 'dissolve') + (transition-time: 3s))I didn’t even blink at Carol or give her a second of my attention before I popped my crazy eye and stood up on the ropes, mic gripped like a brick of rage. [<br>Listen up you crazy motherfuckers,]<promoLine1a|(click:?promoLine1a)[(replace: ?promoLine1b)[](display: "wrestle-player-speech-2")] [All my down-ass ninjas gather ‘round,]<promoLine1b|(click:?promoLine1b)[(replace: ?promoLine1a)[](display: "wrestle-player-speech-2")][<br>I’m here to take the mountain and I’m not backing down!]<promoLine2a|(click:?promoLine2a)[(replace: ?promoLine2b)[](display: "wrestle-player-speech-3")] [I’m gonna paddle up a river of Carol’s blood straight to the mountain!]<promoLine2b|(click:?promoLine2b)[(replace: ?promoLine2a)[](display: "wrestle-player-speech-3")][<br>In case you all forgot who I was,]<promoLine3a| (click:?promoLine3a)[(replace: ?promoLine3b)[](display: "wrestle-player-speech-4")] [//`*`sustained howl`*`//]<promoLine3b|(click:?promoLine3b)[(replace: ?promoLine3a)[](display: "wrestle-player-speech-4")][<br>I’m the one who they tried to retire for being too fuckin’ crazy!]<promoLine4a| (click:?promoLine4a)[(replace: ?promoLine4b)[](display: "wrestle-player-speech-5")] [I’m the juggalette who shits down the throats of my enemies!]<promoLine4b|(click:?promoLine4b)[(replace: ?promoLine4a)[](display: "wrestle-player-speech-5")][<br>If anyone tries to fuck with me,]<promoLine5a| (click:?promoLine5a)[(replace: ?promoLine5b)[](display: "wrestle-player-speech-6")] [//`*`pick up a chair and throw it across the ring`*`//]<promoLine5b|(click:?promoLine5b)[(replace: ?promoLine5a)[](display: "wrestle-player-speech-6")][<br>I WILL EAT YOUR CLOTHES AND YOUR BODY AND YOUR SOUL!]<promoLine6a| (click:?promoLine6a)[(replace: ?promoLine6b)[]$dissolve[(display: "wrestle-end-player-speech")]] [I WILL FACE THE CARNIVAL AND DRAG YOU BACKWARDS INTO HELL’S PIT!]<promoLine6b|(click:?promoLine6b)[(replace: ?promoLine6a)[]$dissolve[(display: "wrestle-end-player-speech")]]<br> There was a moderate amount of whoops and applause, but nothing like what Carol had received. I could tell the crowd was still trying to figure me out. I had nothing to throw, but I had to do something crazy to make a lasting impression. [[I stood up on the top rope and screamed at people to throw turnips at me|wrestle-scream-at-crowd]]. [[I stole a stray turnip from the crowd and tried to eat it savagely|wrestle-eat-turnip]].I scrambled onto the top rope and screamed, “You turnip-loving cowards ain’t got shit! Hit me with your best shot, chumps!” I beat my chest furiously and roared into the crowd. The crowd responded with a fresh round of back-talk and hollering. A few seconds passed before the first turnip came sailing in, but it was quickly followed by several others. I dodged the first, quickly weaving my head to the side. I deftly swatted the next volley out of the air, and I felt the crowd’s energy rising. (click: "rising")[$dissolve[The final barrage of turnips was the largest and fastest. Trying to dodge or swat them all was hopeless; I spun around the first few but took the next turnip square in the shoulder. It hurt, but I tried not to show it. I moved to catch the final turnip squarely in my palm, and it made a satisfying //thwack// when I caught it. I grinned as the crowd brayed wildly. (click: "wildly")[$dissolve[I whirled in place and launched the turnip at Carol like a kid whipping a bottle at a passing car. It hit her straight in the gut and she fell to one knee to recover. Through her grimace, I saw her eyes light up with a terrible fury. It was worth it to hear the howl of the crowd reach a fever pitch. As Carol got to her feet, I [[heard the bell ring to start the first round|wrestle-first-round]].]]]]I dropped the mic and rushed down into the crowd and found a gangly dude in a tank-top near the ring holding a turnip. “Borrowing this,” I yelled as I stole it. I scrambled back into the ring before he could say more than “//Hey!//” Back in the ring, I grabbed the mic and rushed to center stage. “This is your champion?” I screamed and gestured at Carol with the turnip, “[This]<falseGod| is what I think of your false cave god!” (click: ?falseGod)[$dissolve[I smashed the turnip into my face and began devouring it. Its powerful stink hit me before the turnip itself hit my teeth. Somehow, the taste was even worse. My stomach curdled and sent bile climbing up the walls of my throat. I tried to hold it back, but the foul turnip was too powerful and grotesque. I could feel its awful flesh cursing me like clumps of spoiled earth. My whole head was filled with the sensation of slime— (click: "slime—")[$dissolve[And then I was puking. A huge gasp and some guffaws went up from the crowd. As I gripped the ropes and hurled, I felt my instincts try to take over. I stopped myself right at the edge of losing total control. (click: "stopped myself")[$dissolve[It started as a sound. I took control of the vomiting noise and amplified it until I was roaring, until my throat was empty of anything but sound of my gurgling wail. I bit off another mouthful of turnip as quick as I could and plugged my nostrils with my remaining will. I just kept gnawing and chewing and gulping and smacking as proudly and loudly as I could. It was like climbing one of the towering lightstands near the old Gathering main stage: I just had to keep moving without looking down. The crowd was silent now, which I took as a good sign. (click: "good sign")[$dissolve[With my mouth full of turnip and my self-control at its limit, I mounted the top rope. After pausing to survey the crowd with my eyes and mouth bulging, I spit the foul turnip chunks out rapid-fire like a human machine gun. As I emptied my magazine, the crowd screamed in disgust, pushing me further into feral territory. Mouth emptied, I bellowed “I AM! //STILL! **HUNGRY!**//” (click: "HUNGRY!")[$dissolve[I flashed a manic grin and turned back to face Carol. She barely reacted, but her eyes seemed more set and focused than before. She was sizing me up as a more serious threat. The crowd was full of whispers and laughter. I hadn’t gotten them on my side yet, but I had their attention. As the foul turnip taste faded from my mouth, I [[heard the bell ring to start the first round|wrestle-first-round]].]]]]]]]]]]At the sound of the bell, Carol tore out of her corner like a rabid wolverine out of its cave. She dropped her turnip sack and leaped at me with both arms extended. I was only able to barely scramble out of the way as I yelped. //God damn, I knew I should’ve taken more time to warm up.// I hadn’t been in the ring in a year and I was still shaking the dust off my muscle memory. (click: "shaking the dust")[$dissolve[As I recovered from the near-miss, Carol reappeared at my side and barrelled me into a corner. As she hit me, I felt my muscles helping her move me while my brain screamed at them to stop. Mountain matches were a shoot — real hits only — and I mostly trained for scripted fights with winners and losers booked in advance. I hit the corner so hard that I nearly blacked out, but at least I didn’t hear anything splinter. The crowd screamed in bloodthirsty delight while Moon Mystic crowed, “Now that’s the way you start a match folks! Right into the turnbuckle!” (click: "turnbuckle!")[$dissolve[Carol grabbed me like a sack of her turnips and I couldn’t muster the will to resist. With little effort, she tossed me to the center of the ring and pinned me, sat right on top of me and holding both my arms back. Moon Mystic slid over and started the count. My ring-ready self was waking up now and filling with anger, but I still couldn’t escape. //Shit, is it really already over for me?// I wriggled and screamed, but Carol just smiled. Moon Mystic yelled “One!” (click: "One!")[$dissolve[As I wriggled, Carol started having some fun. She gave my armpit a long, sloppy lick and screamed, “Me love taste of fear! Me eat it up!” I was furious and disgusted, but I kept it together. While Carol was grandstanding, I felt her grip loosen on the arm she didn’t lick. I squirmed it free right as Moon Mystic yelled “Two!” (click: "Two!")[$dissolve[Just before he opened his mouth to end the count at three, I took my free arm and fiercely elbowed Carol right in the tit. She yowled and I jumped up, pushing her onto her back. I stood up, briefly triumphant and stared into her eyes as her shock turned to rage. Full of the fury of battle, I howled right at her. [[“Game on, cave bitch!”|wrestle-first-round-cont]]]]]]]]]]Carol pounced into the center of the ring and twisted her sack of turnips tight around her knuckles and started, spinning it faster and faster in front of her to create a horrible burlap cyclone. As she spun, she howled and moved towards me in an effort to pin me in the corner of the ring. Moon Mystic cried out, “It’s the dreaded sack spin!” I had to react quickly. [[I acted confused and put some distance between me and Carol|wrestle-first-round-confused]]. [[I snuck around Carol and struck at her back|wrestle-first-round-sneak]].At the last moment before Carol’s sack cyclone closed in, I ducked and ran to the side. Carol turned to face me, but I kept my distance. I let my jaw slack and my eyes widen with panic. I moved away wildly and at the exact last second possible to keep myself safe. I wanted to give her the idea that her weird spinning was putting me off balance. (click: "balance")[$dissolve[Finally, Carol had enough of pushing me around the ring. As we pushed towards one corner, she quickly lunged with the bag. That was my moment. I ducked and pushed under her legs so I could pop up behind her and pull her into a devastating suplex. As I dropped Carol hard on the mat, I could hear her gasp from the impact, but it also sounded like she was a little surprised. As Carol caught her breath, [[I stood on the ropes and raised my arms to the crowd’s eruptions|wrestle-first-round-response]].]]At the last moment before Carol’s sack cyclone closed in, I hit the ropes and tried to bounce behind Carol quickly. As I got closer, I made to throw an elbow into her vulnerable spine. Carol anticipated the move and quickly swung around and hit me clean in the gut with the sack. I flung back into a corner with a thud and all the air went out of me. As [[I caught my breath|wrestle-first-round-breather]], Carol didn’t even pursue me. She just laughed and peered down at me as the crowd roared.Carol rose from the mat with a new look of caution in her eyes. She tossed her sack to the side, cracked her knuckles, and circled me like a predator. It seemed like she could lunge at any moment. I could feel my adrenaline responding to the new danger. I knew my next response would be key. [[I feinted at Carol to goad her into attacking|wrestle-first-round-feint]]. [[No time to hesitate. I brought the fucking pain|wrestle-first-round-dropkick]].Carol was soon back on the attack, grinning menacingly and swinging her nasty bag of turnips. Now that she’d gotten a good hit in, she was even egging me on with the other hand and smirking. I needed a new strategy. I tried to think back to Kiki’s advice before the match. [[I acted confused and put some distance between me and Carol|wrestle-first-round-dodge]]. [[I tried to steal the sack and slip between Carol’s legs|wrestle-first-round-steal]].As Carol circled, I quickly feinted towards her with both hands out in a grab. She took the bait and lunged forwards to challenge. At the last second I side-stepped and grabbed her arm as she ran past. I swung her into the ropes so that she’d launch right back at me. (click: "right back at me")[$dissolve[“A classically-executed Irish Whip!” Moon Mystic boomed. I timed it just right and put up my right arm in a tense clothesline position. Carol’s neck hit my arm hard enough to leave a bruise, but I held and she went down faster than a tent in a high wind. (click: "went down")[$dissolve[The crowd shrieked and I pumped my aching arm in victory. Suddenly, I heard the crackle of the mic as Moon Mystic said, “Time to make things interesting. Boys, [[bring in the weapons table!”|wrestle-weapon-round]]]]]]Without thinking too much, I sprinted towards Carol as fast as I could. As I got closer, I bounced off the mat and fell into a vicious dropkick. Carol tried to react, but she was too in her head. My boots caught her square in the jaw and we both went down — but I got up faster. (click: "faster")[$dissolve[The crowd shrieked and I dropped into a victory squat. Suddenly, I heard the crackle of the mic as Moon Mystic said, “Time to make things interesting. Boys, [[bring in the weapons table!”|wrestle-weapon-round]]]]At the last moment before Carol’s sack cyclone closed in, I ducked and ran to the right side. Carol turned to face me, but I kept my distance. I let my jaw slack and my eyes widen with panic. I moved away wildly and at the exact last second possible to keep myself safe. I wanted to give her the idea that her weird spinning was putting me off balance. (click: "putting me off balance")[$dissolve[Finally, Carol had enough of pushing me around the ring. As we edged towards one corner, she lunged in with the bag. That was my moment. I ducked and pushed under her legs so I could pop up behind her and pull her into a devastating suplex. As I dropped Carol hard on the mat, I could hear her gasp from the impact, but it also sounded like she was a little surprised. (click: "surprised")[$dissolve[As Carol caught her breath, I stood on the ropes and raised my arms to the crowd’s eruptions. Suddenly, I heard the crackle of the mic as Moon Mystic said, “Time to make things interesting. Boys, [[bring in the weapons table!”|wrestle-weapon-round]]]]]]I watched the sack closely as it rotated and, when it was by Carol’s legs, I made a dive for it. I tried to do it all in one smooth motion, but I couldn’t get a grip on the sack. As I fumbled, Carol snatched me with her other hand and held me aloft. The last thing I remember is the scratch of the burlap as it [[thudded into the side of my head|wrestle-first-round-KO]].When I regained consciousness, I was surrounded by total darkness. I felt my body to make sure I was still intact — all good there — and slowly stood up. A small lantern suddenly illuminated the darkness. (click: "illuminated")[$dissolve[A skeletal Violent J, clothed in black and neon green robes, poked his face into the light. //“You got **snaked!**”// he shrieked. //“I was just starting to enjoy that shit! Are you kidding me? You gotta get back in there, sis.”// With that, he snapped his bony fingers and I blacked out again. [[When I woke up, I was back in the ring|wrestle-first-round]].]]The spotlight moved to a table on the concrete floor right outside the ring. Carol and I rushed over as everyone in the crowd hooted and hollered to push for their weapon of choice. I eyed the table[[’|wrestle-weapon-table]]s contents carefully and grabbed: > [[a bat with the tip covered in barbed wire|wrestle-weapon-bat]] > [[a very firm metal folding chair|wrestle-weapon-chair]] > [[the big fuckin’ ladder next to the table|wrestle-weapon-ladder]]I grabbed the badass-looking bat and shimmied back under the ropes into the ring. Carol spent a long time browsing the options on the table, but ended up with a metal trash-can lid. (click: "metal trash-can lid.")[$dissolve[I thought it was an odd choice. Maybe she’d never had to go this far into a match? Anna and I would always demand weapons in every practice until Kiki banned us for knocking the Church’s doors down too many times. Carol bull rushed me with the trash-can lid [held up like a shield—]<trashCan| (click: ?trashCan)[(replace: ?trashCan)[held up like a shield— but I timed my swing perfectly. My whole body shook at the impact and Carol practically flew back across the ring. When she landed, she didn’t get up. [[I rushed over and quickly pinned her shoulders as Moon Mystic began to count|wrestle-victory]].]]]]I grabbed the metal folding chair and shimmied back under the ropes into the ring. Carol spent a long time browsing the options on the table, but ended up with a traffic cone. (click: "traffic cone")[$dissolve[I thought it was an odd choice. Maybe she’d never had to go this far into a match? Anna and I would always demand weapons in every practice until Kiki banned us for knocking the Church’s doors down too many times. Carol rushed me [swinging the traffic cone—]<trafficCone| (click: ?trafficCone)[(replace: ?trafficCone)[swinging the traffic cone— but I held the chair up to defend and pushed her back and off her balance. As she wobbled, I swept her legs with the chair. I could hear a crack as the metal chair hit her knees. When she landed, she didn’t get up. [[I rushed over and quickly pinned her shoulders as Moon Mystic began to count|wrestle-victory]].]]]]I grabbed the huge fuckin’ ladder and, with some effort, hucked it into the ring and shimmed in after. I quickly began setting up the ladder. Carol spent a long time browsing the options on the table, but ended up with a fluorescent light tube. (click: "light tube")[$dissolve[I thought it was an odd choice. Maybe she’d never had to go this far into a match? Anna and I would always demand weapons in every practice until Kiki banned us for knocking the Church’s doors down too many times. As Carol approached me menacingly with the tube, I began climbing the ladder. Carol saw an opportunity as I reached the top and swung at the ladder, toppling it. I knew I only had one shot at this. (click: "one shot")[$dissolve[As the ladder fell, I jumped and extended my elbow. The swirl of dust and glass from the tube glittered around me as my elbow plummeted down onto Carol and nailed her to the mat. She didn’t get up. [[I quickly pinned her shoulders as Moon Mystic began to count|wrestle-victory]].]]]]//Man, **FUCK** your system! Can't keep $stageName on a leash!!// I swept everything onto the floor and picked up the table itself. I hefted it proudly into the ring and began setting it up. Carol spent a long time browsing the options that were now piled on the ground, but ended up with a staple gun. (click: "staple gun")[$dissolve[I thought it was an odd choice. Maybe she’d never had to go this far into a match? Anna and I would always demand weapons in every practice until Kiki banned us for knocking the Church’s doors down to many times. As Carol rushed me with the gun, I slapped it down onto the table. The gun jammed, cause those fuckers always do, but Carol didn’t let go. She seemed to think she could pull the gun back out. I [circled around her back—]<tableWeapon| (click: ?tableWeapon)[(replace: ?tableWeapon)[circled around her back— and body slammed her straight through the table with a satisfying crunch. When we landed in a pile of table fibers, Carol didn’t get up. [[I quickly pinned her shoulders as Moon Mystic began to count|wrestle-victory]].]]]][**“One!”**]<wrestleCount1| (click:?wrestleCount1)[$dissolve[ I held Carol down with all my strength, praying she wouldn’t kick out. [**“Two!”**]<wrestleCount2| (click:?wrestleCount2)[$dissolve[ The lone second stretched for an eternity. [**“Three!”**]<wrestleCount3| (click:?wrestleCount3)[$dissolve[ Moon Mystic hollered the end of the count, and my brain lit up like a slot machine hitting all 7s. Carol still lay flopped on the mat, as limp and greasy as her own bag of turnips. Moon Mystic jogged over from ringside, ducked through the ropes, and made to grab my hand as he reached me. I didn’t even let him get there. I snatched the mic from his hand, raised up my own fist, and howled, //“YOURRR CHAMPION: **$stageName!**”// The crowd’s roar rolled like a wave, lifting me up. Moon Mystic just laughed, clapping and nodding his head as [[the crowd stomped a rhythm as one|The Church - Mountain intro]].]]]]]]My eyes shone with the energy of victory. As I walked backstage, I could see Kiki jumping and waiting to hug me. As I reached her, I fell into her arms with exhaust and delight. We hung backstage for a while, recapping the greatest hits of the match and talking strategy, until I got called to the stage for [[the ceremony|The Church - Mountain ceremony]]. As Kiki squeezed me one last time, she said “Good luck on the mountain, Double L. You’re gonna be amazing.” Then I was gone, but her strength still flowed through me like pure caffeine.<img src="./img/finale.png"> The spotlight hit me as Moon Mystic’s assistants, decked in traditional neon green and black robes, lifted me up in an aluminum lawn chair. I bathed in the light and the crowd’s adoration as Moon Mystic read the rites over an open bottle of his namesake. (click: "an open bottle of his namesake")[$dissolve[“Take and drink. This is that good shit. May the haters take and eat unclean ass. You are the champ, and a ninja, and the most bomb-ass motherfucker forever and ever, amen.” The crowd responded with a hearty //amen//. Moon Mystic dumped a beige powder into the bottle of Faygo and let it fizz a bit before offering it up to me.]] (click: "offering it up to me")[$dissolve[I drank heavily until the Moon Mist ran down my chin and my throat. It tasted so sweet and fresh, even though I knew they’d probably saved this bottle for years. As I lost consciousness, I could hear the crowd chanting [[“Juggalo Mountain! Juggalo Mountain! Juggalo Mountain!”|The Church - Mountain ending choice]]]]I knew even then that no one had finished the mountain since the Honchos had put it in place. I wouldn’t really start caring until I got into that son of a bitch. Anna was waiting for me somewhere in there and nothing had stopped me yet. What I didn't know was that: > [[this was the beginning of the longest night of my life. My last night in Gatherville.|EFJM - ending]] > [[Anna was waiting for me too — waiting to kill me.|EFJM - ending]] > [[Ron was my real dad and later that night he’d chop off my hand. What a fucking piece of shit.|EFJM - ending]] > [[the world outside Gatherville was even worse. Jeff Bezos was the president and his powerful drones could only give you oral sex or cut off your head and they charged the same amount of money for either.|EFJM - ending]]<h1>End Act I</h1> //To Be Continued[(live: 1s)[(if: time > 1s)[$dissolve[.(stop:)]]]][(live: 1s)[(if: time > 2s)[$dissolve[.(stop:)]]]][(live: 1s)[(if: time > 3s)[$dissolve[.?(stop:)]]]]// [(live: 1s)[(if: time > 5s)[$dissolve[(display: "EFJM - Credits")(stop:)]]]]