Signs of Strength and Frailty
During our senior year of high school, GWJ member DrunkenSleipnir and I took it upon ourselves to determine just how long we could remain awake. We set our respective alarms for 6:00 AM on Wednesday morning, and when we awoke we held a chat over ICQ prior to departing for school. While at school we kept a vigil on one another, but between school hours we used phone calls and ICQ messages as a means to ensure and document our waking status. I did not sleep again until 1:00 AM Saturday, for a grand total of 67 hours. By the time I went to bed I was an absolute wreck, but I was warmed by my triumph over my own mortal limits in the way that only a youth of 17 years can be.
When I got to college I made the mistake of bragging to my roommate about this great feat of endurance. He then proceeded to stay up for exactly 67 hours, 45 minutes. The blow to my ego was exquisite.
Four days ago I decided to reclaim my rightful title. With the staff of GWJ functioning as my online witnesses and with plenty of games on hand to keep me awake, I began counting the minutes and the hours. What follows is a retrospective account of how it all went down.
Hours 1-6: Sanjuro commented that "This thing is going to be the equivalent of Phil Zimbardo locking himself into a jail cell. This is gonna be fun." I have no idea what he was talking about; all I know is that he was eagerly anticipating taking delight in my pain. Sanjuro may seem a nice guy -- or not, depending -- but behind the mask he's just as brutal as the most egregious villains in all of history... or even Certis for that matter.
Certis suggested that I "have sex in the heat of the day with a lamb on a hiking trail!" Not sure what that was all about, but I'll keep it in mind.
Games played: Apprentice with DrunkenSleipnir
Hours 7-12: Elysium cautioned me about alcohol, and how the merest sip of it could prove to be my undoing. Sounded like he was speaking from hard experience!
Fletcher uttered the first of what would prove to be a long series of attempts to exacerbate my pain:
Oh boy, I just got home from grocery shopping! Wow that was exhausting! And then I popped into Wal-Mart and there were crying babies and the fluorescent lighting was so bright it gave me a headache. I think I'll go lie down and rest a bit. Or take a hot bath. Or fall asleep in front of the TV. Maybe have some red wine? Dare I? Oh why not. Splurge a little.
Good luck Lobo!
Meanwhile I steeped some tea for my first of many infusions of caffeine. I did some database work and watched some poor-quality boxing matches on HBO to compensate for the fact that the Tyson fight was Pay-Per-View only. Fletcher, keen as ever, observed, "Man don't those fighters look tired? I bet they'd kill for a nap."
Games played: None
Hours 13-18: Elysium attempted to trick me into playing an Electronic Arts game. Good thing I was on my guard! It will take me years to plot commensurate revenge for this savage and unprovoked attack upon my dignity.
I began to grow tired. Spunior sent me messages from Europe to keep me company while the rest of my continent slumbered.
Games played: More Apprentice with DrunkenSleipnir
Hours 19-24: I played with some of my old Diablo 2 characters for a bit. On previous occasions when I had attempted to stay awake, Diablo 2 was my game of choice, since it requires a minimum of mental expenditure and a maximum of physical exertion (i.e., constant clicking of the mouse). This time though, I decided to try a different method, and so I abandoned Diablo 2 before it could fully sink its venomous, irresistible fangs into my flesh.
From there I moved into Serious Sam territory. At one point I wrote,
Serious Sam has always sort of been dismissed as some sort of "throwback" to a long-dead style of FPS. I think this view is seriously in error. There is so much new stuff, so many original and playful ideas, that to describe Serious Sam in this manner would be awfully shortsighted.
Toward the end of this interval I moved on to some Unreal Tournament botmatches. Certis claimed that since I failed to sleep at all, he was able to rest easier at night. I think that seeing me in pain puts him at ease somehow.
Games played: D2, Serious Sam, UT
Hours 25-30: I played some more UT. I normally play on Adept difficulty, but when I'm in the mood for some one-on-one dueling against a bot, I turn the difficulty up to Masterful. Well, this time around the Masterful bot wiped the floor with me, outscoring me 20-7 and 20-11. My lack of performance may have been due to fatigue, but I just couldn't shake the nagging feeling that the skill and fortitude of my teenage years had disappeared forever.
I switched to Contra for the NES. Up up down down left right left right B A start. As I fought the final boss -- a colossal alien heart, for those of you without gamer cred -- I noticed that its increasingly rapid palpitations mirrored my own sleep-deprived heart rate.
Some interesting quotes:
Remember the boss in the color-shifting blue jeans who skips like a woman? Yeah. I'd like to get drunk with whoever designed that.
Earlier Sanjuro scared me into thinking my fingers were falling off. Don't ask how; just be aware that he has such power!
Games played: UT, Contra
Hours 31-36: As my mental faculties began to deteriorate Certis decided to play with my mind by showing me this:
I'm not sure what Certis stands to gain from my death, but clearly that's what he was hoping to achieve.
Games played: None
I hallucinated wildly to an episode of Nature on PBS narrated by James Earl Jones. It was like I was in the TV. Whoa.
Sanjuro asked me to evaluate the plot of the original Super Mario Bros. while in my deranged state. I came back with this:
Mario is a hero in the classic archetypal style. Bowser is clearly Mario's estranged father, against whom Mario must struggle for his own atonement, in order that he may eventually transcend his father's greatness and embark upon the apotheosis to godhood. Since we're dealing with classic archetypes, wherein only the males are worth a damn, the Princess clearly should have known better than to go out into the world with a vagina unprotected by a husband. Her folly distracts Mario from his true goal of sitting around all day, eating magic mushrooms, and having sex with Toad.
Games played: Super Mario Bros. 2
Hours 43-48: This interval began on a high point, as I played through the shareware episode of the classic Apogee first-person shooter Rise of the Triad. The gore and the absurdity of it all served to revive me for a couple of hours, but I could feel my failure fast encroaching. Pyro and I reminisced about the glory days of PC gaming for a while, and then I moved on to the NES title Guerilla War, which served to preoccupy me for another hour. But it was not to be enough.
In spite of some inspired, last-minute efforts at intervention by Reaper, I decided to throw in the towel. I made it to the 48-hour mark, at which time I promptly went to sleep. My revenge must needs wait till some more distant day. I offered the following parting words:
I think that when I sleep, you all (and the rest of the external world) disappear. So get ready for that, because here it comes.
As my head hit the pillow and my eyelids closed fast upon bloodshot orbs, I couldn't help but feel, again, that the skill and fortitude of my teenage years had disappeared forever. I do not recall my subsequent dreams, but I suspect that they were primarily concerned with ruined monuments, fallen empires, and glorious standards long faded. My hopes lay shattered; my efforts soundly thwarted.
Until next time.