By Artur Sadlos

It was dark, cold, scuttling and strange in the comic book shop that night.

Not that the place was unfamiliar to me. It was that same comic book store my mother took me to a few weeks before this paticular night I speak of. She thought, after the colostrum of the Hobbit, read to me before the winter of my birthtime came again, that the store would appeal to me. It was so that I welcomed the store into my heart, Heroes and Fantasies was its name (it is no more now...). 

I was surrounded by those same gray drywall panels with posters of anime tooadult for my teenage mind taped and nailed to walls, the same box of throw-away Magic the Gathering Cards lay in a corner behind a bookself corner. That box a gold mine for me, with Common cards from every edition, but mere detritus for the M:tG lords that devoured me each time I dared to place my sham-shod decks before them. The same overpriced but overbuilt figurines of movie franchises leered from their plexglass perchees, Keanu, not yet sad, in his Neo morph, standing boldy in Matrix poster hanging from the ceiling. 
Perhaps the only picture of Heroes and Fantasies...

A sea change was coming that night; perhaps I felt that dread, and I sheilded my nervous core from that unknown future with the brown book, its front cover image including a gold book in the center and a gold sword laying between its pages, and perhaps one of the most familar aliterated titles bestowing on honor on it top-center. 

It wasn't like I was unprepared either. I knew exactly what to do when I got to the table under the Batman: Hush poster , the table where people were playing pretend (yet to my outside ears, I could have mistook for demon-summoning, or even more sinsiter, disscussing fianance.) 

I read through my most of shield that I held to my fat-engorged body. I had built my character, I had used stolen Yathzee dice for the six attribute rolls, all glimmering gold with glitter frozen in their resin, their white divets determining the build of that forgotten animation. I had played Baldur's Gate, and in fact that very Player's Guide was included with Ubisoft's 2001 Pool of Radiance PC game (the only good I got out of the game, personally). I even knew how to imagine, and how to "roleplay" before I knew the word, having fought my own battles against invisible opponents when manual labors did not call for my right brain's attention, or when school work became banal to a soul corrupted by fancy.

Blame SSI for my addiction...

Yet I knew I did not know how to play these anceint games of escape with others. Others could be filled with judgement, contempt, even hate for a single careless word, and I had no knowledge of what turns of phrases were delightful or deadly. What would they despise about me? My inexperience or my skin color, my voice or my style, all of me or none of me?

Yet my father's words, my favorite easily refuted falsim, rang in my ears then as they do now, when my mind rebels: "Can't is not a word."

I knew, lockjawed at my fate, that the only way out was by sitting my jiggly ass on the plastic seat, saying hello, and asking to play.

So I did, barely audible my friend later told me, years later. The players looked up, not angry but not rushing to lay prostrate before me. There were four play at the D&D table (the only table that was not buried in M:tG or the nascent Yugi-Oh, with a few tables glowing with shiny Dragonball Z cards). One was my cherised friend to be, the others I can no better recall than the amatuerish creation I brought to the campaign en media res.

That friend, soon to be a man, bade me to sit and be welcome. He was running the game, but not for much longer. 

After reviewing my character, we went about our way. I can recall only that I may have lusted too much for an invisibility ring, and that I swallowed an ambush of anxiety when our DM, used a Tarot deck, a quite real Rider-Waite, as a prop and plot device. That first day was catalytic though. I made my mind to see this through, and come back the next time, to defeat or success regardless.

So I did, and I did again. On that third session, my friend experienced some frustration of unknown origin, and stormed out of the shop. I went outside to talk with him, wanting the game to continue. His frustration was inextiguishable, borne from a darker source grounded in our real, painful world, but later down the years it would eventually disapeer. All I knew know is that we lacked a vital organ in our group: a DM.

If you had a time-machine, you may be able to go back to right then and see that I lied, but the next session, I boldy stated (perhaps with a tenor less than bold though) that I would be the DM, since we needed one, and I did not want the game to go south without a fight.

I read the dungeon masters guide about a quarter of the way before the next session. It went well anyway. When that game folded, I had another. When that venue folded, we found other places. When the group became just I and my friend, we played duets, ignoring dice and rules a like in pursuit of story. When I found my wife, I played with her. Before I went to bed last night, I continued our latest story before she went to work.
Making it happen. "Creation" by turborider

Fourteen years of gaming, of worldbuilding, excitment, frustration, emotion, burn-out and renewal began when one stranger said to another "Have a seat, my friend."

May the gods have mercy on me...

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