Equal Parts Whimsy And Folly

I maintain a list of tentative article ideas in a notepad file on my desktop. When Tuesday evening rolls around, I am obligated -- apparently under penalty of death -- to choose a topic from this list and expound upon it for anywhere from ~1000 to ~2000 words. On this particular Tuesday evening of 07 June 2005, I am forced to admit that none of the topics in that file hold any immediate appeal for me. 101 Reasons to Boycott Electronic Arts. Blah. 101 Reasons Why Camping in an FPS is A-OK With Me. Rubbish. 101 Reasons to Stalk Fletcher. Senseless! Are you detecting a pattern, here? What I need is something new, something different... something not directly related to games (or to Fletcher). Writing about games is all fun and good, but surely there are other types of fun to be had! It's not for lack of games-related topics that I'm unable to set fingers to keyboard; there's plenty to write about, but I lack the motivation to write at all. Time for a change, of sorts.

Gamers With Jobs has a storied history of mysterious boxes lurking in darkened attics. I feel it's time I contributed to that legacy, in whatever meager way that I can.

However, unlike Sway, I have no sense for drama or anticipation (as you will certainly agree once you have finished reading the story that follows). So I'll just come right out and tell you that I was digging through some crap in my attic in order to find some junk worth pawning off in a yard sale when I happened upon... the box! A nondescript cardboard box with a bunch of my old schoolwork stuffed inside it, that is.

After finding the box I spent several hours paging through stories and assignments I had written for my seventh grade English class, and laughing uproariously the whole time. Sandwiched between gory sketches I had made of buildings exploding and human bodies being devastated by weaponry of all kinds were some of the most jubilantly violent stories I've ever read... or written, for that matter. Nor did I write about violence done to purely fictional characters; most of my stories involved the brutal slayings of my own teachers and classmates! Try to imagine just how quickly a twelve year-old student would be expelled from their school today for writing the things that came so naturally to me ten years ago.

Also, try to forgive me for selecting one of these stories and foisting it upon you, as follows:


"Trapped... At School!" (09 December 1994)

Dramatis Personae:

Phillip Scuderi: Lobo; Narrator Extraordinaire
Ms. Dufresne: Super Cool English Teacher
Mr. Boe: Evil Pre-Algebra Teacher
Ms. Stringer: Life Sciences Teacher
Mr. Colston: Gym Teacher
Mr. Schaff: Super Evil School Principal; The Archenemy Incarnate

I was walking out of my seventh-period class, smiling and happy, because today was Friday! The Red Hall was crowded, everybody eager to board the buses.

Someone unzipped my schoolbag, which was on my back, and all of my books fell on the floor. Cursing aloud, I bent down to pick them up. People began laughing, and someone else picked up my Pre-Algebra book and ran off.

After five more minutes, I finally gathered all of my stuff -- other than my Pre-Algebra book. Now the teachers were leaving, and that meant the buses would leave any minute. I raced down the hall, but I slipped and fell.

When I got up, something was different. I realized that the double-doors at the end of the hall had vanished, and the light from outside was no longer shining through them. The lights on the ceiling were still on, however. I walked to Ms. Dufresne's room, and there was a machine gun -- or what looked like one -- and a case of clips on the table. There was a large electric screen where the blackboard should have been, and strange machinery was everywhere.

I picked up the gun, slapped in a clip, and fired at the wall. A loud bang rang out, but surprisingly, there was no kick! I didn't know where I was, or what had happened, but this wasn't school, and probably not even on earth!

I walked back into the hallway and suddenly Mr. Boe popped out from his room. He was drooling, and his eyes were red. He whipped out a pistol and fired just above my head. I raised my gun, fired, and his head blew up and scattered everywhere. Bits of it flew all down the Red Hall.

After a while I began to get hungry. I went to the teachers' lounge and found that there was already fifty cents in both the Pepsi machine and the snack machine. I got some chips and Pepsi, finished those, and went to sleep in the lounge.

I woke up and went into the hall. I decided to go to the front office to see what was there. Upon passing the student commons area Ms. Stringer popped out with a knife, but I fired my gun three times and her stomach emptied out onto the floor with a wet slop.

Mr. Colston popped out and I shot him, too. He had been guarding the front office. I walked through the door and Mr. Schaff walked out of his office. He looked at me and smiled an evil smile. He was going insane. I shot him in the face, and he dropped dead. Then another Mr. Schaff walked out of his office, and another, and another! Mr. Schaffs were everywhere, all going nuts and breaking stuff. They backed me into a corner and I held the trigger on my gun down and mowed down every one of them. The tile floor ran slippery with Schaff blood.

Suddenly I was in a strange room. I had been transported there. A large voice boomed out at me from some unseen speaker.

"Hello," it said.
"Who are you?" I asked. "What do you want?"
"I am an alien being, testing the reactions of a human in a strange situation. Good job."

Then I was back at school on Monday. Mr. Boe, Ms. Stringer, and Mr. Colston all had substitutes. Mr. Schaff called in sick, but on Tuesday they all felt better.

-finis- (Final Score: 98/100, A)


Fragmentary Analysis:

  • The story begins with me being tormented and taunted by other students in one of my school's hallways. I don't have any particular memories of being abused or socially outcast in seventh grade, but maybe there are some terrible and traumatic events that have long been buried in my psyche and which precipitated the later violence in the story. After all, it's entirely possible that a young KrazyTaco attended the same school, and I've just erected a defensive mental barrier to block out the memories.

    (Actually, there's no scientific evidence to suggest that we're even capable of unconsciously repressing bad memories; we sometimes simply ignore them or forget about them. I mention this fact at the expense of the joke, but in service to science, which I feel to be more important. Sorry, Taco; I just don't love you that much.)

  • In retrospect, I am disappointed with the "It was all an illusion!" ending. I feel the story would have been stronger had it fully embraced the insane, ghastly world of the parallel-dimension school.
  • The entire premise of waking up in an upside-down world of sterile hallways filled with normal-folk-turned-evil reminds me a bit of the beginning of Half-Life (released later, in 1998). It also bears some resemblance to Stephen King's book The Stand, in which Stuart Redmond is forced to traverse a darkened hospital under similar circumstances. I had first read that book a year earlier, at age 11.
  • Pepsi is nasty. Eww.
  • The line, "Who are you?" I asked. "What do you want?" will have peculiar resonance for fans of Babylon 5. I didn't begin watching that show in earnest until 2000.
  • The violent content of this story was heavily influenced by video games. Inspired by them, one might even say. The attack pattern of the teachers and administrators bears a clear resemblance to the way enemies are staggered in a video game, with the boss fight saved for the end. The gun and its accompanying "case of clips" are like video game power-ups, and wandering through hallways in search of food, enemies, etc. reminds me of id Software's Wolfenstein 3D, which I owned and played on a regular basis at that age. The final encounter with the curious space alien seems vaguely to have been ripped from an old Fantastic Four comic book of mine. His system of illusions is little more than an elaborate video game.

    Anyone who has read more than one of my previous articles will already know that I am habitually critical of the gaming industry. I've devoted most of my efforts to exposing what I perceive to be serious flaws endemic to the industry, and on the rare occasions when I've chosen to talk about games done right, I've always implied, at the very least, that the gaming industry isn't doing nearly enough things the right way. My frustrations sometimes bring me to the point that I toy with the idea of abandoning gaming as a hobby. Sad, but true.

    "Trapped... At School!" and the many stories just like it that were stashed in the box in my attic have helped to restore a little of my faith in the gaming industry. For I now realize that it is games that give form and expression to my most vivid imaginations, and my reveries are in turn greatly shaped and informed by the games that I play. For this reason, I think I would cease to be quite so interesting a person (for whatever that's worth) if I were to give up gaming.

    If any of you have had similar crises of faith in recent times, then hopefully this simple and silly story will serve to snap you out of your gloomy languor, like it did for me.



Very interesting story Lobo. Stumbling onto those old stories is always fun to try and interpret things. Here's my little story about my find.

I had totally put 6-8 grade behind as soon as I walked out the door after my 8th grade graduation. Not good times for me, and I seemed to have made a concious decision to not remember it at all. Not long ago my parents were moving furniture around in the now vacant bedrooms at their house. What did they find between the mattress and boxspring in my old bedroom? Nope, not nudie mags. But folders and sketch books containing late night forrays into my imagination. Old sketches I had drawn, inspired by Myst. Old short stories, maps, and histories I had created for a fantasy world of my own design(Moebia....in fact, I think there's a published fantasy world out there with that name, not sure if it was before or after my time in it.) It was great going through some of my old stuff, that I had left forgotten, and to realise that my imagination is still nearly as active as it used to be(I'm not that old, so it will take a few more years to really decide things). These were things that kept me happy in what were the hardest years, mentally(yes, not even college, relationship troubles, or work have matched it. Waiting for the whole Kid factor yet), of my life. Thanks in part to my musings, I'm doing the whole "follow your dream" thing currently.

So, I'm keeping on gaming, reading fantasy, and longing for people to RPG with. And I'll be all the happier doing it, especially after my discovery.

When redecorating my room (yeah, still live with my parents) and cleaning out my closets I found a story I wrote on an old typewriter when we were 8 years old. Tigerman! I honestly have no clue where we got the inspiration (comics? Mario Bros?) but it was great nostalgic stuff...

I remember the incentive for writing was being able to use that typewriter, with it's great sound effects: Rekketekketek -pling- bzzzzzt rekketek. Beats any soundblaster!

After that I only wrote stories about happy fluffy bunnies...

Awesome, Bo. Both the analysis and the story itself.

I had a simlar resolution the other day when, stressed to the max (child of the 80's), I popped Serious Sam into the Cube and spent an hour blowing sh*t up with abandon. Afterwards I felt better, and resolved to never question gaming's purpose in my life again. Until the next time. For the last time.

I, too, keep a bok of paper in the closet. Some of the stories and story fragments date back to the mid-eighties. One of which is a comic strip I wrote and drew (with the help of my friends) depicting the violent deaths of the entire staff of our school - by chainsaw. That the tone of this strip consistently turned to the humorous is what convinced me that my future might possibly invovle a career in comedy.

Try to imagine just how quickly a twelve year-old student would be expelled from their school today for writing the things that came so naturally to me ten years ago.

Yikes, no kidding.

In grade school, my friends and I went through reams of paper drawing grisly battle scenes, complete with all sorts of impalings, decapitations, etc. My friend Mike enhanced his images of death and destruction with little comic-book speech balloons; his dying soldiers shouted "hell" and "damn!" as they met their grisly ends. My third grade teacher actually hung them on the classroom wall.

I still have stacks of poetry I wrote in h.s., and some of it is disturbingly violent...to other people. Didn't seem to bother me at the time.

One of the coolest things I came across were tapes that my best friend and I used to make of our late night conversations or gaming. I know one of them would be really boring to anyone else, but with patience I found many gems in it. He and I are playing Gauntlet on the C-64 (multiplayer! woo! we were so geeked) and alot of the dialogue, "no, no go up there" punctuated now and then with "f***ing lobbers!" and other witty Gauntlet commentary. But for me it brought back that time, when he used to bring his c-64 over to my house, put it next to my c-64, and we'd play Pools of Radiance, wishing in our heart of hearts that we could somehow connect our computers to the same game. The other tapes are great. He and I formed our senses of humor together, our outlook on life, morality, all that stuff. And of course roamed rural streets late at night shooting off bottle rockets and other fireworks.

While I don't have great memories of school during the day, i have awesome memories of after school. Staying up friday nights til 8am playing D&D with my friends, drinking mountain dew and eat cheap little caesar's pizza. Hard plastic dart gun fights, with our many complex rules. And then stuff that was only funny to us, or made sense to us, at 4am. I know the stuff I described doing in late night D&D sessions was violent and all of that. But I have to say that one and all, my friends at the time are probably some of the nicest guys you'd ever meet. But we're guys. You know. We dressed up in black late at night, and played a variation on capture the flag that would sometimes involve holding so still on the ground in a little ditch, that people from the other team would sometimes walk over me.

I guess I use my imagination in other ways now. And I still play D&D when I get the chance. I do miss the days of "all imagination, all the time" after school, though.

Wow, that story is eerily similar to a story I wrote in 7th grade english class. I remember it because I found it in a notebook tucked away in my old bedroom closet at my parents house last year. If I recall, it was a story about aliens taking over my teacher and, yep, you guessed it, I had to kill her. Seriously Lobo, reading your story kinda freaked me out because it was so similar to the story I wrote.

I distictly remember thinking the following after reading the story:

1. I was taken aback by how violent the story was.
2. I can't believe I was so stupid as to turn in a story in which I murder the teacher whom I am turning it in to.
3. If a kid were to write that story today, they would probably be expelled from school and you would see exerpts from it on the Today Show.

I'm old enough that the only video games out at the time had to be played on an Atari 2600 so violence and video games couldn't have been blamed. If I can scrounge it up, maybe I'll write the story down.

Those photos of "The Box" from Sway's old thread are broken links. Anyone save them?

Here is the link Draco, it didn't get lost, just moved.

Copingsaw wrote:

Wow, that story is eerily similar to a story I wrote in 7th grade english class. I remember it because I found it in a notebook tucked away in my old bedroom closet at my parents house last year. If I recall, it was a story about aliens taking over my teacher and, yep, you guessed it, I had to kill her. Seriously Lobo, reading your story kinda freaked me out because it was so similar to the story I wrote.

Interesting. I suppose that violence done toward teachers may be a more common theme in the fictions of children that age than I had previously suspected.

Copingsaw wrote:

If I can scrounge it up, maybe I'll write the story down.

I hope that you do. I'd love to read it. That goes for all the other former teacher-killing fantasizers out there, too!

Draco wrote:

Those photos of "The Box" from Sway's old thread are broken links. Anyone save them?

Heh. Everyone needs to post pictures of their box.

I hear ya. In 4th grade, my friends and I started doing drawings (with colored pencils) of various branches of the military attacking the school. Tanks, bombers, fighters, riflemen, grenadiers, bazookamen. For one show-n-tell, my show was a book I had written and illustrated about how the school got attacked and reduced to rubble. In 7th grade, I was writing stories of middle school revolution, where students and teachers take up arms against each other (students won, naturally). Nowadays, we'd get thrown in jail (or at the very least expelled) for this sort of thing. But it's hard to blame the administrators. sh*t that happens today just wasn't going on back then.

EDIT: It's unlikely that I've saved any stuff that old, but I'll look.

Phew, at first glance, I thought I was going to have to do another road trip when the "box" was mentioned...

Now I see it's just a story of your repressed personal rage. Good to know. Cheers Lobo!

is fantasyzing about teacher massacres an American thing? Cause all WE dreamed about was the school being burned down, and we preferred an EMPTY school :s Well, maybe couple of exceptions
We thought that was pretty cool too...