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Classic OtherSpace Log – “The Question”

This real-time collaborative storytelling scene took place online on OtherSpace about 11 years ago. I played the various roles of the “guides” Fulton encountered during his vision quest on the planet Quaquan:

Vision Cavern
The centerpiece of this round chamber with its low ceiling and walls carved with stick-figure heiroglyphs is a gurgling blue spring surrounded by a rough ring of yellow stones and lit from below by luminescent moss growing on rocks within the spring. That glow gives this chamber its only illumination. The echo of the water dances off the walls.

A young Qua boy walks into the cave, without a word, bearing a basket of cloth-wrapped dry white bread – a small loaf. He sets the basket on the edge of the spring.

Fulton glances at the boy. “Thank you.”

The boy ponders the offworlder for a moment. He seems about to speak, a question on the tip of his tongue, but he stops himself, turns and walks away.

Fulton watches after the boy, as he leaves, then looks towards the basket.

With a small nod to himself, he turns his gaze towards the spring. Spirits? Nonsense. Thoughts cruise up and down his mind, but he quickly shakes them off, deciding its best to focus on that which needs to be thought upon.

A sweet-smelling mist begins to roll into the cave through vents low on the rock walls.

Fulton sniffs the air, quickly looking around. “What in the-?”

The mist smells like orange blossoms – and it tends to put you at ease. It does not harm you, or render you unconscious. It simply makes you feel…content to be.

Fulton turns his gaze back at the spring. Tilting his head slightly back, he closes his eyes, and feels calmness sweep him over.

You hear the sound of feet padding into the cave through the entrance, and rapid, raspy breathing.

Fulton opens his eyes quite slowly, not at all startled, and glances towards the entrance, looking for the source of the sounds.

Opposite the spring from you stands a wolf with gray fur, strong haunches and bright blue eyes that study you with brilliant intensity. Thanks to the effects of the mist, it doesn’t seem to surprise you at all, really, when the creature speaks: “You seek the wisdom of the guides?”

“I do.” Fulton replied simply, staring at the wolf.

The wolf’s tongue lolls out, a look that might almost be mistaken as mirth on its face. “What is your question?”

Fulton says, “Can you tell me what I need to do about Fagin? Grim? I mean, this whole thing. It’s… too much. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know if what I’m asking is even a proper question, but it is what drove me here.”

The wolf begins to pad around the spring, approaching to within about four feet of Fulton – close, but still out of reach and, presumably, in a position of unthreatening demeanor. “Such questions are of the material world, and not of much use to the spirits. They are transient things. Your troubles…are deeper than that. Ask the true question.”

Fulton shakes his head. “What… true question? I know nothing more than that which bothers me, and that’s…” Pauses, seeming to think for a few moments. “Fagin, and Grim, both of them and their goonies. Me being here is probably a mistake…”

The wolf breathes in silence for a few moments before speaking again. “You being here is a good thing. You are confused. You are harried. You must take time to breathe and know yourself, your thoughts, and find your question. I will return…when you know the question.” The wolf turns and pads out of the chamber – fading into invisibility as he goes.

Fulton stares after the wolf, until it dissapears. He moves back, until reaching the curved-wall, and leans against it. He closes his eyes. True question? What can that be? Think, Joe, think!

Your own voice seems to echo back in the cave, through the caverns: “Think, Joe, think!”

Fulton tilts his head back, feeling the hard stone agaisnt his scalp. What can there be? There is nothing! What do this spirits know, anyway? Fagin is the problem! Messer and Jest need help, because of Fagin, therein lies the problem. What question? Think!

Think! Think! think…think…

Fulton’s mind wanders off, in his memory, to all that has occurred in his life, until now. The look on his father’s eyes when he told him he was leaving to become an adventurer. All his small jobs, meeting Jest, meeting Messer, and so on and forth. What is the question? There has to be one…

Think…

Another figure walks into the cavern, vaguely Fulton-shaped, but wrapped in shadows.

Fulton feels the presence and opens his eyes, looking at the shadowy figure.

The Fulton-shade drops to one knee on the other side of the spring. “Jesus, what a mess.”

Fulton watches quietly, confusedly.

The Fulton-shade stares across at Fulton. “Oh, great, you’ve gone mute on me.”

Fulton swallows. “Who- Who are you?” He says, unaware of how low his voice is.

The Fulton-shade replies, “You, I guess.”

Fulton stands up, slowly, staring at the shadow-covered figure. “Me? What are you talking about? I am-” Pauses, reminding himself of what this place is. “Ah, of course. So you are me. And why are you here? To tell me what the supposed question is?”

The Fulton-shade tilts its head. “You know the question. Look inside your heart. Into your mind. It is there.”

Fulton shakes his head stubbornly. “No. I tried looking, but found nothing. I am telling you, there is nothing. And if you are me, you know that. Absolutely no question. All problems are material, the world is material. No offensse to the spirits, but they’ve got me confused with normal people.” Folds his arms.

The Fulton-shade laughs. “Yeah. Right. You’re more normal than you know. The only difference is superficial. You seem to get chased around and shot at more than the usual mortal.”

Fulton says, “So I do. Which happens to be the problem. See? You yourself have found the true question. Material question.”

The Fulton-shade asks, “You were staring up at the sky. Why?”

Fulton squints, slightly amazed at this. “Well, uhm..” Pauses, actually lacking of an answer. “What kind of question is that? I look at the sky because I’d rather look at that, than the ground. Bah, that’s a real dumb question. The sky is calming, soothing, while the ground reminds me of those material things I wanna forget.”

The Fulton-shade rises to his feet. “You are closer to the true question than you believe.”

Fulton shakes his head, absent-mindedly stepping back. “Stop trying to confuse me, cuz’ it won’t work. I just answered you, and proved to you how the material holds questions, only.”

The Fulton-shade asks, “If that which is material holds questions, then what does the sky contain?”

Fulton says, “Well, it certainly is not the answers, if that’s what you want me to say. If the sky had the answers, I would not have felt the need to come here.”

The Fulton-shade says, “Nah, I was just being pithy.”

Fulton lets his arms drop to his sides, shaking his head. “Look, I think I’d know more about myself than spirits would. So, I tell you, there is no question. At least, no spiritual question. I mean, really, what are spiritual questions? I don’t even know what a spiritual question could be. Like, ‘Is there a god?’ or something? Gimme a break.”

The shade chuckles, shaking his head in a facsimile of his originator. “Gimme a break. Don’t tell me you never wonder if it’s worth it to run. If it’s worth it to fight. What it all means. Where it all leads.”

Fulton clenches his hands into tight fists. “No, I have not. I don’t care about that either. It’s worth fighting to stay alive, yes. It’s worth running for the same reason. And the meaning of it all, well… That I do not know, and do no care to know, for I have the answer to the other two.”

The shade shrugs insubstantially. “That’s a rationalization if I ever heard one. You do care. It is the question. A simple question: Why bother?”

Fulton says, “You know, for someone who is supossed to be me, you sure are stubborn. I already told you, to stay alive, and there ain’t no better answer than that.”

The Fulton-shade says, “If that ain’t the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is. If it’s just about staying alive, why the hell do you care what happens to Jest? What happens to Messer? If all you cared about was staying alive, why would you sign on with those people in the first place? It is, in fact, a really dangerous line of work.”

Fulton says, “Because I wanted to live an adventerous /life/. My life. I don’t care about anyone else’s. Jest and Messer are allies, and companions. If I have to choose between them and I, I choose myself!””

The Fulton-shade raises his hands as if to defend himself. “Whoa, Joey boy, no one’s asking whether you’d pick them over yourself. But…funny thing is, you put yourself in harm’s way on Demaria. Didn’t you?”

Fulton says, “What are you implying? Of course I did. Why would I not? It was… adventerous.”

The Fulton-shade chuckles. “It was suicide. But you bought Messer and Jest time.”

Fulton shrugs. “So what? That wasn’t the actual purpose…” Pauses. “…The reason I stayed! Man, you really are dumb. Come on, if you are me, then you know this.” Chuckles nervously. “Keep ’em coming, boy, I have an answer to one and all.”

The Fulton-shade nods. “Those aren’t answers. Those are pat, practiced excuses. You and I know the truth.”

Fulton says, “Yes, I know the truth. I only care for myself. Why in the world would I care if this people, who I hardly know, make it or not?”

The Fulton-shade claps his insubstantial hands. “Hallelujah! We come full circle! Why bother, he asks!”

The shadow fades. Suddenly, a foot-long iguana materializes on the rock ledge of the spring, flicking its forked tongue at Fulton.

Fulton glares. “Wha- You tricked me!” Watches it dissapear, immediately feeling the Iguana’s presence. He glances at it, shaking his head. “This is ridiculous.”

The lizard rolls its eyes at Fulton. “Are you really doing them any good, hiding on this planet?

Fulton ponders the answer, then speaks. “Probably not. So… so what?”

The lizard twists its head to the left. “Real adventurous, skulking around in the spaceport, yeah?”

Fulton shrugs. “I am… waiting.”

The lizard chuffs a laugh. “For what?”

Fulton says, “For the right time to leave.”

The lizard asks: “When is that?

Fulton says, “When I feel it’s safe.”

The lizard chuckles. “Safe? Mr. Adventure?”

Fulton says, “I may like adventure, but am no fool. I treasure life dearly.

And if you must know, the right time was a few day, until that hunter lost trail, or calmed down, or something.”

The lizard fixes its orb-like eyes on Fulton. “The time has come. You must go and seek your comrades – friends – whatever you choose to call them. The future awaits.”

Fulton says, “What future? Death?”

Slowly, the mist fades – taking the lizard along with it.

Fulton says, “Dammit! Don’t you dare leave! I want an anwer!”

The word echoes: Answer…answer…answer…

Fulton shouts quite loudly. “Come back!”

Back…back…back…

Stargazer arrives from Twisting Passage.

Fulton lets his fists open, calming down. “Very well, spirits. I will go. I have no idea where, but I will.” Walks over to the basket with bread.

Picking it up, he turns to the exit, noticing Star. “Oh, hello.”

Stargazer strides into the chamber, glancing around. He brings his attention back to Fulton. “Are you all right?”

Fulton gives Stargazer a small smile. “Yes…” Nods. “I am. Thank you, Mister Stargazer. I think I’m done here.”

Stargazer nods. “I am curious. What animal is your guide?”

Fulton says, “Well, first there was a wolf, then a lizard.”

Stargazer clasps his hands behind his back. “Which one advised you on your path?”

Fulton says, “The lizard. I don’t see what that has to do with anything, though. Does it matter what my guide was?”

Stargazer nods. “Yes, if you wish to know the significance of the creature.”

Fulton nods. “Yeah, I guess I do.”

Stargazer says, “You say it was a lizard, yes?”

Fulton nods. “Yes. An…” Thinks back on the many animal books he read. “An Iguana, I believe.”

Stargazer begins to pace slowly around the cavern, tracing the markings on the wall with his fingers. “The lizard’s medicine is the medicine of dreamers. He can help you see the shadows of your dreams, which can be your fears, your hopes – even that which you are resisting with every fiber of your being. But always, it follows. The lizard teaches us to pay heed to our dreams, for they may guide us.”

Fulton sighs. “Of course..” He says relunctantly.

Stargazer smiles, coming to a stop and glancing toward Fulton. “Did you find your answer?”

Fulton says, “I’m not sure. That remains to be seen, still.”

Stargazer nods. “Good luck in your journey.”

Fulton nods as well, smiling. “Thank you, for everything.”

Stargazer says, “Of course.”

Fulton turns and walks over to the exit, stopping and glancing back. “Have a good day, Mister Stargazer.”

Stargazer nods, going back to study the markings on the walls.

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