Sunday, 13 October 2013

Press Start.

Take a minute, and let me tell you something about myself.

Let me tell you, fellow traveller, of the things I have seen. The things I have done. The many things I have witnessed.

Let me try to illuminate the things that shaped me, formed me, moulded me into the man you are connected to this very instant. The moments that sculpted the bare, formless rock of my existence into the character you see before you. For better or worse.

See, I have been to so many places that it is impossible for me to list them for you. I've been to all four corners of our globe, I've been to the deepest depths of the oceans and I've stood and admired the desert blending seamlessly with the horizon as the sun washes over me.

I've journeyed into the very heart of our planet, gazed awestruck into the blazing core of our mother. I've also admired her endless beauty unfold beneath me from the highest heights as I swept overhead, upwards and upwards until the utter silence of space quietly surrounded me, cold and empty yet with dignified beauty, like a flower in a grave. As I hung there I was scrutinized by the stars, masses of pure light turning their faces toward me, nameless and distant. So many, so far.

My travels have not only been in terms of distance, friend. I've strode through history, witnessing cultures rise and tyrants fall, civilisations flourish and decadent empires drown in the waves of their sins. I've been to the dawn of man, stood and watched as our ancestors made their laborious climb to the peak of the food chain, and I've been flung forward to our glorious future, scattered among the stars and isolated in distant systems, yet still connected to each other as only we can be.

Time and space have not yet restrained me. I have been its master since the beginning. It bends to my will and yields before me. I can travel to and fro with impunity, flicking through the pages of our lives and pausing as I please.

It is a freedom that comes with immense possibilities, a gift beyond value.

It will change you. Again, for better or worse. I know which applies to me, brother.

Now, along the way I have met people. Characters. Souls. Brilliant flares of existence that drift into your path, like leaves on the wind, dipping and swirling with their destinies unknown.

Once contact is made, as in life, you end up absorbing something. Something stays with you, gets imprinted onto you. Memories are forged, and tempered with proud recollections years down the line. Some of the briefest encounters have lived on in my mind, treasured and maintained like the rarest and most fragile of portraits. Names and faces may fade, but the impact remains. Always.

And what an impact some made. Some of these characters have started out as strangers, unproven and doubted. Some have caused unease from their very arrival, setting the senses on edge with the threat of betrayal. Or worse. Much worse.

Some have committed acts of such evil that the mere thought of them is a curse, some have shown that cruelty and malice are as constant and elemental as mercy and hope. They are truly the stuff of nightmares, completely devoid of redeeming traits. They have hearts of the deepest black.

But the role they play was as important, potentially even more so, than the glorious allies I have made along the way. Strangers became friends, friends became brothers, then those brothers parted ways as the great story demanded, leaving behind indelible memories, an essence which influences you as much as their departure saddens.

I've known great Generals, capable of shouldering the burden of war without complaint. I've known great scientists, bending the very fabric of the universe with their genius, and making weapons of mighty forces such as gravity itself. I've known Kings, Princes, faithful servants and noble thieves.

I've stood on battlefields, shoulder to shoulder with brothers, knowing the task ahead will claim our lives many times over. But there was no sadness, no melancholy. Only wonder. Would the plans we made result in total victory, sweeping aside our enemy? Or would the slightest mistake from one of us lead to panic, uncertainty and loss? I've tasted both hundreds of thousands of times.

That is to say, I have celebrated the honoured company I keep. I am honoured whichever way the fates fall, defeats and victories never diminishing the pride I feel to be alongside them.

To be with them at the end, as it returned to the beginning, was everything to me.

I don't only have tales of conflict from my travels. I have not lived for battle at the cost of everything else. Please, don't misunderstand. There is not only war in my soul.

I have loved, too. But the wounds suffered by the heart are the most painful to recollect.

However, not all loves are destined to be lost.

I have seen my faith repaid countless times. I have shared lives enriched by the certainty of destiny, knowing she would never forsake me as I struggled to find her. Knowing she wanted to be found.

It has always been, and will always be, a matter of when.

The prize? A kiss, a ceremony, a family? Or the fates of millions, held and bound inside something as deceptively delicate as her? It has always been different. The only constant was the wish to find her.

Not all endings are happy, friend. I've seen time stand still as she was cut down before my very eyes by the hungry steel of a bitter enemy, the pearls and ribbons falling silently from her hair, leaving me with nothing but impotent rage and fathomless despair.

I've seen her turn her back on me, manipulated by the poison of lies.

I've even seen her rise up to meet her fate head-on, sacrificing herself without thought, slipping out of my reach regardless of my selfish cries and reasons. Her bravery outweighing my own.

Enough of these stories of war and dreams of connections lost. There have been so many things I need you to know about.

I have had my body of flesh replaced with metal, and my heart hardened into an engine as I battled wheel-to-wheel with racers from across our planet. I have struggled joyfully against the most talented of drivers, all of us laying claim to fractions of seconds and inches of tarmac, but with a noble respect and a fierce friendship. A true spirit of competition with fairness to the fore. Always.

I've visited the historic circuits which have echoed throughout our lives to the sound of legends being made, and tested myself against the wheeled heroes from all eras. I've been side by side with my own racing idols at speeds that the eye can barely follow.

Yes, I've looked into their very souls and been staggered by their unquenchable will to win. And as the harsh metallic cry of their engines dissolved into the distance, I would close my eyes and wish for the start line once again. Just one more race. Just one more. Next time I will match them.

I have armed myself with swords, shields and spell-books, and rode mighty steeds across lands filled with mythical wonders and breathtaking vistas. I have stood atop snow-capped mountains, as the sun rose regally into the broad azure sky, giving me the clarity to gaze out onto the endless lands below.

I have lost myself in sprawling forests, green oceans of ancient trees standing sentinel as I journeyed amongst them. Within I have discovered long lost ruins, crumbled brick and stone as taciturn and lonely as a forgotten secret. What did I find inside? Sometimes treasure beyond my wildest dreams, sometimes horrors above my rawest nightmares, but the anticipation ahead of their exposure was the greatest prize. The bolt of expectation as the key turns in the lock was all that mattered.

I have spoken with necromancers, wizards and warlocks of all creeds. I have aided or disrupted the plans of eternal beings, creatures that have forced their way into our dimension uninvited have either been allowed to roam free, or banished back from whence they came.

I have even reasoned with dragons, scaled Gods of fire and greed, and been rewarded with the lavish gift of their very tongue, words of such potency they could be wielded as a devastating weapon.

What else is left to desire after a communion with such boundless power?

What about true tests of the reflexes, where the eyes and the hands must work as one like nowhere else? What of the unblinking duel of the arena?

What of the thrill of leader-board dominance, the chase for that match-winning kill in battles of high-speed skill and balletic movement? The knowledge that every kill was being matched by your rivals, the climb to the top of the table a neck-and-neck dead heat of focused intensity?

Frantic, breathless competition played out almost at the speed of light. The awareness that your aim had to be true, and the cold ache that the shot may have gone astray. I often prayed they would hit. Please, let them hit. They must. Because my rivals did. Somebody pulled clear. Somebody, and in rare instances I was that somebody, always pulled clear. It is another of the constants I have found.

But if it wasn't you? You were running out of time. Falling behind was unthinkable. Only the numbers mattered. The clock never looks over its shoulder at the ones to be left behind. It rushes to acclaim the gifted, leaving the failed resentful and forgotten, as scorned as the unfavoured son erased from the family tree.

Yes, I have proved myself against the best the world could offer, and found myself capable of great things. Things I will never forget. Things I feel a genuine pride at the reminiscing of.

How have I achieved all this?

How have I dethroned corrupt Kings, and crowned righteous Princes?

How have I slain horrors and cradled dreams?

How have I seen every corner of our world and thousands of others?

How have I sailed among the stars, travelled so far for so long?

How have I wrote myself into myth, and enjoyed the company of legend?

How have I worn so many faces, shared so many lives and chose the course of so many futures?

How have I died such a multitude of times, yet been reborn with ambition shining from my heart?

The exact same way you have, fellow traveller.

The games. Our games. The alternate lives we love.

Sometimes, you'll forget what brought you here. We all will. But there will be moments when the wonder returns, and you'll remember exactly why this is what you love. All the dark clouds of cynicism will clear, the sour taste of change will fade in your mouth as you are transported back to when you could wish for nothing else but just one more life. Just one more go.

Your passion will be renewed.

You will be back at the start.

Press Start.

Now, tell me what you've seen.

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