Never Look Back (An Epilogue)

(Cover photo by Elias Gubbles. I don’t put a lot of character fiction on the blog, as I save it for important design writings, between game thoughts, and more professional things. However, when there is a piece which I find important to both character and game development, I like to share it here. This epilogue not only serves as a wrap to the intense game that I did in Belgium last week, but as a good reminder of where Simone’s headspace is, should I end up playing her again next year. It’s a wrapping piece, and a bookmark at the same time. This piece of fiction pulls together a lot of threads from the game, but also from the pre-written background the organizers assigned me, and it weaves them together with hopes for the future both in and out of character. I find pieces like this to be important to one shot LARPs, to help prevent bleed but also to complete the narrative.
Themesong for the Epilogue: “Thrash Unreal” by Against Me! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzJ21OpFnZ0. Thank you to every single one of the players and staff for the wonderful story told at Myrrdin Emrys College. This is Simone’s epilogue and wraps her time as a student, but is also a harder look into the actual life, and unlife, of a very angry young woman. Trigger/cut warnings for graphic descriptive content, heavy drug use, and implied sex. Please don’t read on if any of those things bother you.)
The drug house in Amsterdam smelled of urine, weed, and the tell-tale burnt-sugar heroin singe. A half naked man lay turned over on the couch, vomit pooling beneath him, but someone had been kind enough to put him on his side so he didn’t choke on his own sick. No one was bothering to check on him otherwise. Simone’s boots carefully stepped around the mess as she wound her way through the place, looking for whoever seemed sober enough to probably be in charge of the operation. Or, more likely, working for the man at the top. None of the owners actually spent time in their own dens. Not even in Amsterdam. Not in a back-alley operation like this. They liked to keep their hands clean, upper management. To pretend their work didn’t kill people, or destroy their lives, or smell like vomit and piss. There was nothing clean about this place. It felt all too familiar for the vampire. In truth, Simone knew there never would be clean for her.
Nothing so nice and clean as those “coffee shops” everyone at school had joked about. Yes, of course, she’d get to Amsterdam and open her very own coffee shop for weed and other delicate edibles. Like life was ever that easy or nice. It was easier to joke about it — to pretend it was going to happen that way, that she’d really get out of the illegal side of things, that she’d get off the streets, that things could be better. No one wanted to talk about the reality — the reality that “coffee shops” required money, business permits, immigration papers, a hundred other things Simone didn’t have, and never would. The reality was that illegal drugs made the world go ’round. The opiate epidemic wasn’t near so fucking crazy here as it was in the US, but there was still money to be made on a lot of desperate people chasing that high. She used to be one of those people. Hell, she still was, she just needed to find some sweet little dope-fiend to drink from now. Shooting up just didn’t have the same kick these days.
So, Simone made her way to Amsterdam, to dive back into what she knew best: dirty couches, vans in alleyways, illegal drugs, and life on the street. She cut her way through a hallway towards some pounding music and used her vampiric strength to shoulder open a door at the end of the hall. The couple she caught fucking was none-too-pleased about it, but she didn’t care. She held up a silver wrapper with the most precious, most pure heroin that magic could make. Sure as hell better than anything from a mortal chemist.
Alchemists are just educated drug dealers. Celaena didn’t know just how right she was. Heroin wasn’t that much harder to whip up for an alchemist like her than that pure Gray Goose. It was just her talent, it seemed. She simply had to convince the man in bed that her talent would be worth buying.
“Look, before you draw that fuckin’ knife, Georg told me to find you so you can verify the goods. You want better shit than you’re getting anywhere in this shit country, then get one of your dope heads you trust to try this, or let your girl do it, or yourself, and make yourself the fuckin’ deal of a century, or get back to fuckin’ like bunny rabbits and I’ll go two doors down because they sure as shit are buying.” She spoke her biggest game, hoping they wouldn’t question her story. She didn’t know if the usual bullshit song and dance would work here the way it did back home. She had to try.
The man sniffed hard, annoyed eyes taking her in for a long moment before he shoved the woman off of him and prowled across the room. Predator to predator. His bedmate was too high to do much more than fuck or paw at herself as she waited for him to come back. Hungry, vampiric eyes looked away, not caring to watch the show as her contact grabbed the little foil from her hands and went to try the goods. Simone felt sick.
She never wanted to come back here. She never wanted to be in this situation again. She promised Rachel she’d try and she had failed. Well, maybe not failed, but had been too damn scared to try to succeed.
You want them to kick you out. Then you don’t have to make the decision. Then it’s easy. Then you get to be the victim. But if they don’t kick you out, then you maybe actually have to stay and work for something for the first time in your life. You stay and have a chance of messing it up yourself, then it really will be your fault, instead of life just shitting on you. So, are you going to stay and take the chance that you could really make a difference for once, or are you going to be a coward and leave?
Rachel had almost gotten her there. Simone would never call herself a coward. But, the woman was right. Staying in school, working hard, trying to set things right and help all the younger ones, the innocent ones, that was hard. That was way harder than getting pissed and yelling at someone who was just stuck in the same system that was beating everyone up. It was way harder than reminding a bunch of bright eyed, bushy tailed teenagers that they might actually just have the world in front of them if they stood up and fought for it. It was harder than seeing her best friend get shit on for something she didn’t do and pointing out just how shitty that was. All that stuff could happen in a day — and it did — while the anger and the hurt were fresh and Simone didn’t have to think too hard about it. But sticking around after that? Doing the work that followed? Sticking to it in the quiet hours when the anger had died down and all the doubts invaded?
That was a hell of a lot harder. Because if she stayed and fucked it up, she had no one to blame but herself. So, it was better not to stay. Even if she couldn’t look at the tears in Rachel’s eyes, or the disappointment in Einarr’s face, or the sighing acceptance of Quillonem. The place would be better off without her. Single bag packed, tie and robe abandoned, she took what pity money Rachel gave her with betrayal in her eyes and ran.
And now she was here again. Back in a shit house, waiting to see if the stuff she could peddle would pass muster and if they wouldn’t ask too many questions about where she got it. Was it too pure? Would it kill someone? Did she care?
Yeah. She cared. If someone else died by her hands, it’d be just as shitty as if she let Eirik die out on that field. Ten times worse, really, and she was back to being complicit in the damn system. The whole place made her skin crawl after her time at the school. After she thought she got out of this.
When her contact came back, she knew the alchemy had been effective. It wasn’t just the way he walked, but the slowed beat of his heart, sluggish breath. Dilation of the eyes and the faintest of burnt-sugar sour to his sweat. He smelled like an addict on the freshest, happiest, pure heroin high around. She should be dancing — the ability to make it pure as this would make her a small fortune in any city around the globe. Instead, she pulled slightly away from him, swallowing back the sharpening of her teeth as the predator in her recognized easy prey laced with her favourite drug.
“Eeey… baby, yeah, guess… Georg was right. S’good shit there. Where’d a girl like you get it across the border… don’t get many Americans ‘round these parts…” He started to ramble, stumbling forward, closer to Simone the pawing, hungry way of a man who’d been interrupted in the middle of sex, was now high, and didn’t really care where he got either. Her teeth slipped out against tongue, hunger near irresistible at this distance. She pushed him back a bit too violently, strength betraying her anger as he stumbled against the end of the bed. “Fuck, baby, don’t gotta be like that… shit.”
“You buying or not? I’ve got a kilo of the stuff for five hundred. If you clear that this week, I can get you more next, no questions asked.” She didn’t know if the dollar signs or the sex lit up his eyes more, but she hadn’t seen a man that happy in a long time. Persistent and too high to take no, the man reached for her once more.
Simone’s hunger took over. Teeth in neck, his opiate-weak body shoved back into the bed, she drank with the same insistent hunger he’d shown in reaching for her. She couldn’t tell if the blood or the heroin in it tasted better. For those few minutes, she didn’t care. She drank deep enough to let the world go black…
***
There is some basic instinct in the back of every vampire’s head that knows when dawn is coming. Simone woke up on top of a dead man with that tell-tale tingle at the base of her skull. She felt saited and distantly happy, the lingering fingers of heroin sitting warm and content in the back of her skull. Somehow, his girlfriend still was sleeping it off across the bed. She didn’t even know if the woman woke up while she was feeding and, if the woman had, she didn’t care. The vampire slowly pulled herself off of her contact, wiping his blood from her mouth with memories of lecturing Tilde and Slovomir. Clean up after you feed! What? Do you want to look like a monster? You look like a fucking monster, blood like that all over your fuckin’ mouth…
But wasn’t that what they were? Monsters?
She stared at his body, uncertain if her feeding or the drugs killed him. In truth, it was probably a bit of both. She never wanted to be a monster. Somehow over the last few weeks, she kept telling herself she wasn’t anything but a good kid who got a bad deal in most of life. But if she stayed here, now, that wouldn’t be true. She’d be the monster and she’d have no one but herself to blame.
Simone used every last bit of blood left in her to run out of that house faster than she’d ever moved before. She couldn’t look back. She couldn’t stay there. She ran all the way to the edge of dawn, until she felt the true scorching sun at the back of her neck, when she ducked into a burnt out shack of a crumbling townhouse and buried herself in the basement. She still never looked back.
***
Two days later, having conned her way into some train tickets and a fresh set of clothing, Simone Odili stepped back onto the campus of Myrddin Emrys College. It was just after dusk, as she couldn’t travel in the sunlight when she was outside of those walls; she didn’t know who else would be awake. She stalked across campus, filling unnecessary breaths with the familiar scents of school. Family. Home. Her hands shook without the familiar press of that drug through her veins, but she hadn’t touched it again. Or, even, touched anyone who touched it. Not since that night. She hadn’t looked back since that night.
She finally scented the familiar musk of wolf and whiskey mixed with man. Einarr. She cut her way across the courtyard, marching right up to the familiar blond sitting on the bench. The man oddly looked unsurprised at seeing her.
“Einarr. Someone… well… Ya’ll need a fuckin’ ethics professor here. Salem told me you don’t need no special paper to teach, just life experience. I… sure as shit got that. How the hell do you apply to teach here?”
“Simone, you didn’t even graduate… you actually think you’re ready to teach?” The man’s voice held no emotion. Just that tired, testing, flat tone of someone who was rarely surprised by the world, but wouldn’t let it run him over either.
“I’m never gonna fuckin’ graduate. But, I promise you I know enough to teach. These kids don’t need another fuck-off makin’ smart remarks in class. They need someone who’s seen what shit is out there and isn’t going to let it run them over. Someone who’s… gonna make them think about the shitty choices they’re gonna make when they’re young and maybe… Just maybe, talk’em out of makin’em. If anyone knows things about shitty choices… well. It’s me. So… get me in front of the Head Mistress. Get me ten minutes with her. That’s all I need. I got things to teach and these kids need to hear it…”
He lifted a single brow, a slight crack of a smile across his lips at the young vampire’s Alcertis courage. Slowly, he stood and gave a single nod. Without another word, they walked into the castle together…
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