User:Jetfire/Holes in the Veil

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Paradise story universe

Works by Jetfire on Shifti
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This is the first story of Joey's life in the Paradise setting.

Holes in the Veil

Author: Jetfire

I first noticed something different with some people in the Summer of '05. It wasn't a full scale RDF break down like we are beginning to see nowadays; it was a more limited sort of failure that let me glimpse beyond the Veil and left me wondering if I was going crazy, or going sane. I began a journal soon after that first event, and have tried to maintain it regularly ever since. What I am putting up in the Archive are excerpts from that journal, outlining my own experiences with the RDF, and my life since the Change.

It all starts in June of '05, when there was only about a hundred thousand of us world wide, give or take a few. Assuming an even distribution as we usually do, it would mean my home city of Fredericton might have 1 Changed, if it was lucky. And in a city like Vegas, where I first lifted a corner of the Veil, there would be 35 or so Changed residents; maybe 50 or so if you count visitors. So it wasn't like you would regularly bump into Changed back then, and even if you did, the RDF seemed more than capable to hide it. Still, I don't know if it was the change of scenery, fatigue, or my own upcoming Change that did it, but on that trip in June, the RDF seemed to have a damn hard time keeping me 'protected'.

I'll let these excerpts explain as best as I could at the time....

June 8, 2005, Las Vegas

I think, I am going crazy. Of course it may just be from being awake for nearly 24 hours. Still, I want to get this down now while it is still relatively fresh in my mind.

Anyways, 'Long Day' doesn't begin to describe the day I've had. I tried to go to sleep early last night, but between gathering information from message boards, and packing and making sure I had everything, I didn't crash until around midnight. And I was up bright and early at 0400 to finish and get the taxi to the airport.

The flights went fine, traveling from Fredericton to Boston, then changing terminals and airlines to get the flight to Vegas. I managed to doze a little on the longer flight so I wasn't totally exhausted when I arrived. The only other time I had been to Vegas, we had driven in from California, so I hadn't realized the airport was literally in spitting distance from the Strip. The airport itself left me more than a little stunned. Luckily it wasn't too difficult to get around in so I managed to find my luggage, Fal (Editor's note: Fal is a friend of mine whom I knew on IRC and who had also been invited to this “Community Summit” before the Fan Faire.) and the shuttles. We caught the shuttle to the Hilton, registered in our rooms, activated the Internet Access and relaxed a bit before the get together at Quark's later that evening. (Ed Note: Quark's is the Star Trek themed bar at the Vegas Hilton, which is known for it's Star Trek exhibits and attractions)

By then, I was in that strange zone where sleep is nearly impossible. Or maybe I was just too excited at being in Vegas again, this time on my own. Or maybe it was the nervousness about meeting a pile of people whom I only knew from their on-line presence. Or maybe it was some weird combination of all three of those, and some other things thrown in for good measure. It would certainly explain what I saw, but I'm getting slightly ahead of myself.

Finally, 1900 rolled around. I pocketed mom's digital camera, and headed down to meet Fal in the lobby. Together we wandered over to the Star Trek area, and the Trekkie in me was thrilled and I immediately made plans to go back when we had some downtime. As we approached the stairs leading down to Quark's, the first hiccup occurred.

“Closed to the Public for Private Wedding Party?” I read the sign in surprise. “So where are we going now? Did you get any change of plans emails?”

Fal shook his head, “Not a one, maybe they canceled it or something?”

We were starting to try and think of what to do next, when a woman touched my arm and got our attention.

“Are you two here for the Community Summit?” she shouted over the music and machines.

“Yeah... I'm Saroc, this is Fal, he's an EQIIer,” I shouted back, hesitating a moment about whether to use my first name or my game handle. As I said, it was my first major conference and I wasn't sure what was expected.

“Saroc, Fal? Good to meet you two. I'm Kythirea.” She held out her hand for me to shake, and I noticed the game company and Fan Faire logo on her T-shirt. I shook her hand and she used it to turn me around to face the smaller generic sci-fi themed bar set up outside of Quarks and started leading us up to its seating area. “We didn't expect, or think that Quark's could be booked, so we're scrambling a bit tonight. We're set up over there, and I've been keeping my eye open for lost looking gamers who might be here for the Summit.”

(Ed Note: Before I go further, I should probably describe myself a bit. Don't let my on-line presence fool you; in real life, among strangers, I'm as shy and skittish as a newborn colt as anyone who's met me at the gatherings can attest to. Plus I have a horrible head for matching faces with names or even noticing descriptions. At the time I only knew the people I was meeting by their online presences, so I was more than a little lost going down there. )

“We're set up over there, but I'm sure we'll expand to more tables as the night goes on,” Kythirea shouted, pointing to a table at one end of the bar, and that was when things began to fall apart.

It must have been the flashing lights, the cigarette smoke, the loud noises, my own jet lag and who knows what else, but I saw something impossible in that first look. Sitting at the end of the table, chatting nonchalantly, was a huge bull-man, a minotaur it seemed. I froze there a moment, blinked and the bull-man disappeared, replaced by a regular looking man.

My hesitation went by unnoticed, and soon Kythirea was running a boat load of nick names past us, most familiar to me but too fast to maintain the links. The only one that really clicked was the Minotaur's name, Absur.

Fal and I chatted with them a bit, and I didn't notice anything else amiss, at first. He acted completely normally, and I began to try and put the vision I had out of my mind. Of course, if that was all it was, I wouldn't be thinking I was going crazy.

As the night wore on, more and more people showed up, some caught by Kythirea and Ashline, others noticing the mob or recognizing people. I hooked up with a few other groups through the night, but I think by the end they thought I had a twitch. It didn't happen all the time, only when I wasn't focusing on it, but every time I unexpectedly caught a glimpse of Absur, I saw that bull-man instead of him until I actually looked at him. Then he was back to human again. If I drank, I would have blamed my visions on alcohol, but I never touch that sort of stuff.

Finally, I excused myself from the groups and bade everyone good night. A long day traveling, the flashing lights, pounding music, smoke and those strange visions were all culminating in a pounding headache. I typed up a quick write up for the cleric's boards, logged onto IRC to say hi to friends there, and wrote this journal entry. Only this entry mentions the bullman though. I hope it is just fatigue and in the morning he will only look human. If that happens, I will probably delete this, or maybe not. It does serve a good example of what the mind can make up.

June 9, 2005, Las Vegas, Everquest Community Summit

Well, another day has come and gone, and I'm still not sure if I'm going crazy or not. I did get a good nights rest, but my body is still on Atlantic Time, which meant I got up a good couple hours before the Breakfast was scheduled. It was just as well that I did get up that early, since I discovered my printer's ink cartridges had dried up, forcing me to hand write all of the questions I had gathered for the summit.

Breakfast itself was a semi-chaotic affair. The CSR's (Community Service Representatives) handed out Fan Faire badges, loot bags and schedules for the Summit and Fan Faire, and then we were off.

The official sessions, and unofficial chit chats in the halls outside the sessions all went well. I wrote pages after pages of notes that I still have to compress into a write up for the boards. And a decent sleep also helped a lot, at least at first. Every time I saw Absur he looked 100% human... until the last session.

By the time of the last session, we had been in the ill-ventilated conference rooms for hours, less the breaks. So needless to say, things were beginning to ripen in those rooms, and I swear I began to have smell hallucinations. Now, even though I am an urbanite through and through, I grew up outside of a town with a heavy agriculture base. I couldn't go to school without passing at least one farm with cows on it, and the way my school bus route went, I actually passed three farms with decent sized herds of cows. So even though I live in the city, and never worked on a farm in my life, I do know what cows smell like, and towards the end of those meetings, I was beginning to smell something very familiar.

What was even stranger though, was Absur's reaction. No I didn't confront him or anything (confront a possible minotaur? I'm not THAT crazy), but I did start sniffing the air a lot more, and staring his way. A couple of other people began sniffing the air soon after I did, and wrinkling their noses in confusion, but I was the only one who, I admit, stared at him. He grew increasingly nervous, and finally excused himself from the rest of the discussion, literally ducking out of the door.

Now, I don't know if the scent REALLY came from him. For all we know, there may have been some sort of cowboy or rancher convention going on in another room nearby and we were getting their ventilation. (I never checked) But combined with my visions from last night, it certainly seems suspicious, or it certainly seems that I'm going coo-coo.

(Editor's Summary: The rest of the entry described the rest of the day, but I never encountered Absur or anyone else who may have been Changed, so it has been clipped out. There was Karaoke that evening however, and let it be known that Smedley does a fantastic 'Thuderstruck')

June 10, 2005, Las Vegas, Everquest Fan Faire

There was another one today, some sort of feline, maybe a lioness or something. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Technically, Fan Faire started last night, with the karaoke party in the ball room. But today was when things really got going. The hundred or so of us from the Summit ballooned into a thousands of fans and family of SOE's games, and once again, I was lost. Somehow in that mob of people, I managed to find some of my guildmates (there were four of us down there in total it turned out), and wonder of wonders, I managed to remember what they looked like to find them again later.

I attended as many of the sessions as I could, expanding on my pages of notes, and in the down time between sessions, I hung out with my guild mates. It was during one of those breaks, while we were waiting for a round of the Best of the Best tournament to end, when I saw her.

“Damn, that's a good Vah Shir costume,” I mumbled, seeing a tawny lioness morph walk by in a faire T-shirt. I snapped a picture in her general direction without thinking much of it.

My guildmates heard me and started looking around as well. “Where is he?” Breako, my guildmate who also played a Vah Shir character, asked.

“SHE is over.... Where'd she go?” I looked around, trying to figure out where she went. I could see a woman with light brown hair and in a similar t-shirt near where she was, but not the costumed character. I even checked my camera, but the picture I thought I had snapped of the costumed feline wasn't there, just the same brown haired girl. “Damn, must have missed her. Oh well, no one would go to that much effort on a costume and NOT be in the contest tonight right?” I covered, trying to ignore the cow bells ringing in my head.

“If you say so Sar, you may just have been seeing things.”

I decided the best idea at that point would be to move on. I excused myself from the group and headed off to the next session. The rest of the day passed quickly, moving from session to session. In the break we had before dinner and the costume contest, I hooked up with Fal and we did a side trip to satisfy my inner geek, namely the 'Star Trek Experience' set up near Quark's. It nearly made me forget about my cracking sanity in any case.

(Note: In hindsight, I do remember seeing her and Absur talking in an isolated hallway, but I didn't have any flashes of fur or anything like that at that particular time.)

Dinner was great, considering they were feeing a few thousand people and all that. Then there was the costume contest. For the size of group we had, there were surprisingly few costumes. Afterwards I realized there were even fewer actual contestants in the contest. Some of the people were only displaying costumes from a company set up in the Bazaar that specialized in fantasy and sci-fi costumes. I did see the brown haired girl again on stage, this time dressed in a decent enough looking suit of chain armor, but it wasn't good enough to win the contest.

We headed to Quark's, now open to the public and full of Fan Faire people, to finish off the night with a few warp core breaches. Well, my guildmates and servermates (we came across some others from Luclin at the dinner) had the Breaches. As a teetotaler, I just enjoyed the company and made sure to get a lot of blackmail photos. *G*. I do wonder a bit if the fumes may have been affecting me nonetheless. A group of EQ Dev's set up at a table near ours, and as the night wore on, I began to see those bull horns out of the corner of my eyes again. It seriously made me consider having a sip from one of those breach's.

June 12, 2005, Fredericton

Well I'm home, but my luggage decided it wanted to stay on vacation. Hopefully it won't be too long in finding its way home.

Anyways, today and yesterday have been a blur, and I'm still not sure what all I saw. Now that I'm home, back in a quiet city where rush hour is five cars waiting at the traffic lights, it all seems so surreal. But at the same time, I had some inadvertent confirmation that what I saw may actually be real. I just don't know what to make of it.

Saturday during the day was much like the day before, a lot of sessions, a few contests, and various finals. We entered the Live Quest and did well enough I think, but we didn't win it. Prizes were awarded, and we all met up at Quark's for a bite to eat (pub grub) before the final party at a nearby party bar. Not once did I see anyone who didn't look human, or at worst, a human in a costume, and I was beginning to convince myself that it was all just fatigue hallucinations.

The party was at a bar that had a beach theme. Smedley and the CSR's gave their closing words about the Fan Faire, thanking us all for coming out and to have a great time, blah, blah, blah. Then the taps opened and the party started.

One bit of entertainment the bar offered, was some flare bartending at the central bar. One of the performers in particular was incredible. He pulled off moves that should not have been possible with only two hands. Narina, another guildmate of mine, and I watched him perform from the second floor of the bar and shook our heads in amazement. With a final flourish of flipping bottles, he finished making a drink, slid it to the customer, put everything back in its place and did a bow to the applauding audience. He wiped his forehead with a towel and backed away to take a break.

I unfocused my eyes and just let my gaze wander over the crowd below us, not looking for anyone in particular. I was simply enjoying the ebb and flow of the crowd as the music changed and conversations shouted around us. So I wasn't expecting Narina to grab my hand suddenly.

“Saroc, I'm seeing things I think,” she said, her voice slurred from too many drinks.

“What is it Nar?” I asked, looking at her, then following her gaze. If I hadn't subconsciously suspected what she had seen, I would probably have missed it. But there they were, plain as day. The minotaur and the lioness, chatting with a man-sized chimpanzee. I tried to keep my eyes open as long as I could, to not let the vision fade, but finally I blinked, and they were gone, replaced by Absur, the brown haired girl and the flare bartender.

“Ah thought Ah saw a big bull anna big cat talkin' to a big monkey,” she slurred out, looking down at her drink. “Maybe Ah've had too much.”

“Chimpanzee, not monkey,” I mumbled to myself, watching the trio, showing no signs of being different, breaking up and fading into the crowd. “Come on, lets go find the rest of the Heroes.” I said louder, pulling her arm and leading her to where we had last seen the Guild. Her confirmation, even though she probably would never remember it, rattled me more than anything else I saw on that trip.

As a group, we left the party a short while after the free booze turned to pay booze. We had to carefully escort Narina back to her room, and Shealin stayed with her through the night to make sure she was OK. Since I had an earlyish flight the next morning, I bade my farewells and went back to my room to pack. I made a trip downstairs to toss a few bucks into the machines, and to pick up some souvenirs and was ready to go.

Today, it was uneventful. Before checking out, I wandered around the Fan Faire area, to see if there might be anyone I recognized, but most people were still zonked out from the party, or were busy packing up. I checked out, headed to the airport, and started my trip home. I had a wonderful time, but what I had seen has formed a seed of unease that I'm not sure what to do with. I used the motto “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas,” as a mantra through most of the flight to try and set myself at ease, but it didn't quite work. That drunken confirmation of my visions is too much to easily ignore.

Boston was a blur as I was forced to change terminals and airlines in too short of a time, and as we landed in Fredericton, I finally began to relax. Until I discovered my luggage was missing. It was late, I was tired, and my mind started leaping in weird directions. I briefly worried that somehow the Furres knew I knew about them, and they had confiscated my luggage to search it to see how much I knew. Then sanity, and the rushed transfer in Boston returned to my mind, and I knew what happened to my luggage. (Ed Note: No I didn't; my luggage took a vacation to Portugal apparently. Took them a week to get it back to me.)

Besides which, the only place I even mentioned what I saw is in these journal entries on my laptop, which I carried on with me.

Anyways, I caught a cab back into the city and tried to unwind. It's a huge culture shock going from a 24/7/365 city of millions like Vegas, to a small city of thousands that rolls up the sidewalks at midnight and still has Sunday shopping limitations in effect. It was nearly midnight local time, and it seemed incredibly dark as the cab drove through nearly deserted streets.

I got back home, unpacked what I had, made sure I had something to wear for work tomorrow, and made this entry. Just gonna do a quick trip through the boards and the IRC channels to let people know I'm back and mostly intact, then hitting the sack.

Post Note

This has to be a coincidence. That's all it is. The minotaur is a common fantasy creature after all.

While skimming over the boards before bed, I found someone had photoshopped a picture taken during the Summit meetings, adding in jokes in word bubbles and laser eyebeams and similar tweaks, joking it was what the Summit attendees faced against the Dev's. What caught my eye though, was Absur's edit. Whoever had made the edit had added a pair of big bull horns, and snort clouds near his mouth.

It has to be a coincidence. There are no such things as real life furres. Just fatigue visions is all.

No. Such. Thing.

Preceded by:
The Veil (A Paradise Series) Succeeded by:
Lifting the Veil