Sand-dancer — 5 of 48

Aaron Reed and Alexei Othenin-Girard

Release 7

Chapter - Ending the Story

Instead of going when player holds freedom: say "You go, with a strange, kinda tingly feeling in the backs of your hands and inside your eyes. You feel powerful[if player holds strength], stronger than wind now[otherwise if player holds courage], braver than the sun now[end if] and free, most of all free. You walk backwards across the sand to your truck, sucking up your footprints as you go, and slip behind the wheel. There's this crazy wrenching bang and you jerk backwards as the engine starts, uncrashing your pickup off the cactus and juddering back onto the highway, and you smile. You're going back, back to a second chance, back to make it all right.

You speed up, drive backwards at a thousand miles an hour to work, and unfix junkers and repack parts in a flash, faster and faster. The days rewind like videotape, unwork, unsleep, giving back kisses from Ocean one by one[if player holds scent], and the smell of the past unfurling is like wine and ozone[end if]. And then it's that night, the night you made the Big Mistake[if player holds luck] before your luck started turning around, yeah, cause[otherwise], but[end if] this time you unmake love. And the moment unpasses and your future is safe and uncomplicated, no kid, no nightmares, no arguments, no lectures, and you just have to get this thing out of reverse now and do it right this time (or mebbe not at all, it's too hot anyway ya know babe?) and this time you'll make everything perfecto.

But you don't turn around. You try, but it's kinda like trying to stop falling, and you suddenly get that you [italic type]are[roman type] falling, plummeting back faster and faster like you got pushed off the cliff of now. You're unmeeting Ocean and unditching school and unsmoking for the first time behind the dumpsters, faster and faster, stomach in your throat, memories blowing back your hair as they rocket past. You're a kid again unskateboarding and unlearning video game combos, screaming backwards faster and faster and you get it now, you get the lizard's joke. He's making you free by unmaking you, fixing the burden by erasing the guy who's bearing it, and you're unlearning to read and unlearning to walk and uncrawling and uncrying and then some brilliant moment of light and noise and chaos comes shrieking towards you hella fast, fast, faster than anything and it's too late, you're crashing, you're crashing, you crash..."; end the story.

Instead of going when player holds honor: say "You go, and the clouds are gone and the stars are so bright you squint. You patch the fuel line and refill the tank and she starts like a beauty, and then you're back on the highway again, headed for Ocean, [if player holds luck]and you've never felt luckier[otherwise if player holds scent]and the urge to breathe the same air as her leads you on like a bloodhound[end if].

You shut off the headlights as you pull up to the trailer, and climb in through her window for old times sake[if player holds courage], crazy courage her sister at least appreciated if not her old man[otherwise if player holds strength] even though you think you're finally strong enough to take her old man[end if]. She's awake of course, always no matter how quiet you are, and she holds out a hand from somewhere under the blankets. And as she's doing it you're suddenly exhausted, beyond exhausted but also safe, warm even before you slip under the covers. She half turns to kiss you as you fumble with the blankets but you're so tired all you can do is push your face against her neck and slip an arm around her warm skin, and she starts to ask you something but it's too late, you're crashing, you're crashing, you crash..."; end the story.

Instead of going when player holds spirit: say "You go, and the night collapses in on you so hard you barely remember curling up in a corner with the blanket[if player holds courage], not afraid any more[otherwise if player holds strength], strong enough now to wait out the night[end if].

In the morning some highway patrol dude shakes you awake with a lecture and a ride back to town. Oro Oeste? he asks but you tell him no, take a left instead, and you end up on a street corner in Pobre Vista and keep going. Seven Sticks and then Gallup and then Flagstaff, hitching west. The cash in your wallet runs out but a trucker buys you a value meal and [if player holds luck]with a little more luck you keep from being hungry[otherwise if player holds scent]you seem to have a knack for sniffing out enough to stay fed[end if] and your blanket keeps you warm and you keep going.

When you hit the Pacific you roll up your jeans and wade into the surf for the first time in your life. And it's warm on the top and cool underneath and this is all you want, this moment, this here and now. You'll find work and you'll find love but you'll never find home and that's okay. It's okay. You wade deeper and the waves lap higher and then a big one rolls in, blue and white, and you feel [if player holds strength] strong, strong[otherwise]crazy brave[end if] as it crests and smashes into you with the force of all the water in the world, and you laugh and try to stay on your feet but it's too late, you're crashing, you're crashing, you crash..."; end the story.

[Exercise 8.1]

[When play ends:

say "Are you unhappy with this ending? ";

if the player consents:

now player is in Roof;

resume the story.]