The Secret Origins of TriaDCon,
By Ben Trovaro
II. THE FIRST SPIRIT.
The night was dark– it usually is.
I had gone home, put the lamp in the cupboard and sat down to watch some TV and await the coming of the first of my unbidden guests who the Jeanie of the Lamp promised to send a-calling. Well it was just getting on to 12 and I had dozed off during Wheel of Torture just as before Vampa flipped the letter on Supercalifragalisticexpialadocious, and I woke up as the show was going off. I I rubbed my sleepy eyes to clear them and I noticed next to the host was this figure – not Vampa, but someone else.
She was of moderate height and somewhat elfin appearance, with a neat brunette bob in her hair, a pair of demure glasses, and she fluttered in mid-air with two pairs of filmy gossamer wings– like a large Dragon Lady fly. She wore only a short shift of shimmering white, which looked nothing so much as a large XXXL T-shirt with the awesome runes of great magical power inscribed upon it. They read WBC, PREZCON, HISTORICON, COLDWARS, FALL-IN, GENCON, ATLANTICON, ORIGINS, and so forth. There was a silk flower in her hair, and on her feet, a pair of bunny slippers. In her one hand she carried a wand of arcane power and mickle might — and in the other- a super-sized refillable Coke container. I struggled to extract myself from the clutches of morpheus and it was only after almost a minute of struggle that I realized that she was not on the screen, but hovering in front of my face, a diminutive figure actually only a few inches high.
”Tinkerbell!!!!” I gasped, my jaw dropping to my chest!
“In your dreams Lead-Head!” she said, and though her words were tart and terse, she had a lilt, a quality to her voice, a way of saying things that was beautiful and mellifluous, like billows of blue velvet rippling in the dark at midnight, like the gentle lapping on the shore at eventide, like sweet maple syrup flowing over warm, lusciously aromatic pancakes, like the special sauce oozing out of between the two all beef patties, pickles lettuce chese onions on the sesame seed bun and onto your best tie.
“Are you the first of the spirits the Genie had foretold I would meet on this night?”
The diminutive waif’s sparkling complexion darkened a bit and her eyes darted to the side and I thought I heard her mutter under he breath “that tart!” but she shook her head and wrinkled her nose and smacked me on the forehead with her wand, and immediately the world turned rosy and bright, shower of lucky stars fell over my eyes and from my breast pocket overflowed with the Coco-Puffs I had been munching as a snack.
“Yes– Mini Maven, I am the ghost of Conventions Past. I will take
you on a magical mystery tour — You are going to be entering another
dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind…”
She paused for a moment and thought “Hmmm – no– that’s not right. “ Then her face brightened and she smiled and waved her wand, and the wilted flowers in the vase sprang into bloom again.
“Let me take you down cause I’m goin’ to Strawberry
She stopped abruptly and a look of concerted consternation beclouded her sunny complexion. She muttered “Wait a minute – that’s not right– either “
Then from one of the secret pockets of holding in her gown she pulled out a small deck of index cards and read…
“A long time ago – in a universe far far away…”
She shook her head and threw the card over her shoulder and went on to the next one.
“When in the course of human events…”
Again the card fluttered to earth.
“It was a Dark and Stormy Night…” It suffered the same fate as its brothers.
“When you wish upon a star…”
“All Gaul is divided into three parts…”
“It is a far far better thing…”
“A bunch of the boys were whooping it up at the Malemute Saloon…”
“Call me Ishmael…”
Finally in exasperation she tossed all the remaining cards over her shoulder to fall like a shower of confetti over the couch and floor and I couldn’t help but thinking at this magical moment of the grand verities of the universe, the vicissitued of fate, and eternal imponderables, and that the housekeeper was going to be pissed.
“Come on Toy Boy, you’ve seen the story– you know the drill– I haven’t got all night!.” She muttered.
“Do I have to take your hand? Or mutter some incantation? Or be enchanted to fly with you through time and space, to see things long past, people long gone?”
She gave me a look people usually reserve for impromptu encounters with the village idiot and a whack on the noggin with the wand again. She intoned the magic formula “Whatever blows yer hair back!” and intoned the secret words of ensorcelment “Just a spoonfull of sugar
helps the medicine go down.” And held out in her hand a large pile of what I took to be magic beans.. Each of them in bright colors of red, green, blue, yellow and brown. Each had a small mystik rune on them of obvious great power that looked like the letter “m” in white,
times roman bold 12 pt, . I swallowed them speedily, barely pausing to munch
them- they had a distinctly chocolate like taste.
“Are these magical?” I asked. “Will they allow me to fly?”
“No not really” she said, “but they’ll tighten you up like a large wheel of Wisconsin cheddar so that I don’t have to stop the tour every 10 minutes so you have to go to the
Almost immediately I felt a strange feeling of well being course through me– a distinct tingling in every extremity of my being, and in my mind, new vistas being open- the bonds of the physical universe were being undone- the blending of the real with the imaginary– I could think outside the box!
I realized what was happening– my lips formed the word which came out as a large comic balloon to float over my head…
“Magic!” Said I
“Prozac” Said She.
I was transported in an instant to a large gymnasium-like room in what appeared to be a college campus, with several small meeting rooms beside it. In the large room I was in there were many stands of dealers and vendors selling games and a great crowd of people coursing through it. In the small side rooms there were almost as many people, sitting, hunched over tables, their faces betraying the intense concentration of their minds, and in front of them large paper and cardboard boards with piles of counters over them. In other rooms people were standing or sitting around tables of toy soldiers and terrain, and yet in others people were again sitting, but all focused on one leader half-sequestered behind his game-master screen, rolling dice and hacking out a narrative about mugging monsters for their loose change.
“I recognize this– Spirit!! This is the old PEACHYKEENCON – the first one I ever went to as a young boy! “
“Yes” she said “happier times indeed—“ and I noticed that my once diminutive guide had now become perfectly human sized, of regular stature, and I also noticed that except for the bunny shippers she had a nice pair of legs! And looked somewhat hot. I wondered what she was wearing under the now quite skimpy extra large T-shrt!
This brought a whack on the noggin and a tart ‘I can read thoughts too drain brain!”
“Ummm… OK…my bad.– But tell me spirit are these things real?” I asked.
They are as real as they exist in our memories, as we have experienced them- they are but shadows of the past, but the past that lives in vivid colors and tones in our memories. They are gone but linger on in that strange afterglow of reality that is present with us always.”
I broke in with a shocked “You don’t mean to say…”
“Yes” she said
I shook my head ”Where are they now shows…”
“But look Spirit there am I” and I pointed to a small plump boy with coke-bottle glasses pushing some counters across the board and beaming in all the innocent joy of youth, the delight of existence for existence sake, the sweet, endearing, charm of adolescent goodness and candor permeating the words of this the apparition of my former days
“12 to 1 – automatic victory! –You Lose!”
I triumphed in my joy, even more so as I saw my crestfallen oponent slink away from the table, fated to die in misery and bleak hopelessness in a Bowery doorway. As I watched this there was a slight pang in my eye as I felt a welling up of emotion and slight liquification forming at the corner of my eye-lids.
“Ah those were simpler times, happier times– before the dark time– before the….”
She whacked my head with her wand again. “Do not speak that name, even here– the name of the Dark Lord himself is not to be bandied about lightly– nor the name of the Evil Empire itself to be casually thrown about. The spies of the Dark Coterie are everywhere and even the walls have ears, the bathrooms listening devices and my dog has fleas.”
I turned to see the people bustling around in the dealer hall, laughing, joking — their eyes eagerly fastened on the wares and merchandise being offered. I suddenly espied an old familiar face, small, a child really, of years not much younger than my own, watching me from a table nearby. Intent, silent, worshipful. She had a loving look, a longing look a look of sweet tenderness and love, not unlike that on a cat about to pounce on a mouse.
”Why bless me– if it isn’t Ginger!” I gasped, recalling an old gaming buddy from those days. “Why it IS Ginger! Yes.”
The spirit nodded. “Yes it is– “the spirit agreed “ Miss Vitus loved you even then.”
“REALLY!” I gasped. “I had no idea, I did not know she was even at this convention! I had not known until I saw her just now.” I said this wistfully– regretfully, pondering for a moment the possibilites that might have been– Ginger was a top notch miniature painter and worked fast too!”
“Yes,” the spirit said, with no little ruefulness, tempered with an undertone of caustic understatement that would have lifted grease stains from the driveway.
”But in those days you were only interested in sequences of action, phased movement, zones of control, paradigmatic representations of combat, theories of game simulation, averaged dice, random modifiers and character alignments, stats and bound-phased movements- never giving a thought to the feelings of a poor young girl who had fears and hopes and dreams of her own, who struggled with the emptyness of her heart, with the aching lonliness that comes with unselfishly making someone else the center of her life, of sacrificing everything for him, just to be near him, to see him, to hear him, to perhaps touch – – his counters– to fondle his miniatures. But what was a young girl to you just entering the first trials of womanhood? Did you care for a bright young girl giving you her heart and soul and never being appreciated, or cared for or noticed, of being spurned ignored, forgotten, of having her needs unfulfilled, her heart broken, her self-respect spurned and trodden upon as if she meant nothing at all and was simply something to be used for a game and tossed away like a used kleenex, a toy, a plaything, like one of your “f*****g toy soldiers who had no feelings – to be ignored at the very moment of her budding womanhood when she was most alone, bewildered, afraid, and vulnerable…”
The spirits tone had become demanding, harsh, and accusatory, even
vehement and histerical.
I looked at the spirit with astonishment and shock. She shook her head as if to clear it and then whacked herself on the crown and a shower of glittering pearl drops drifted down and suffused everything with with a warm cozy glow and made her look as clean scrubbed as the Orbitz girl.
“Ummm– never mind” she said.
Again the spirit waved here wand again, but this time not onto my bean.
She did it again and again nothing happened.
With her jaw hard set and her teeth clenched and drew up the curtain of reality to touch the REBOOT buitton on the Windows of Life – Godmaster’s Deluxe Edition that she had opened and we were transported again.
I saw myself now as a bit older, in my late teens, cavorting around a whole room of tables filled with all sorts of wonderful things, and around the tables people laughed and shouted and cursed and joked. They capered and stood and postured and gestured.. There were smiles on every face and a song in every heart and in the center of it sat this large jovial fellow posessed in great abundance of the milk of human kindness, but not, as some said, a lot of smarts, and he seemed to rule it all as a king on a throne. My mouth dropped and said:
“Why it’s Dennis, Dennis Largesse! Why Bless me spirit, nomen est omen- a man more aptly named could not be found in all of creation. A man of infinite Jests. Often he would carry me on his back… He ran the game store nearby, now long gone, and I spent many happy hours here as a boy. But tell me spirit this does not seem to be his store? It’s much bigger and larger than I remember it, and he did not have so many grand tables or so many things.”
“We see things as our mind sees them. Dennis’ store may have been small and ordinary, but when you were in it and gaming the walls flew out and it expanded to whatever size you needed, and the few companions you had into a vast multitude, as some large game convention, the mother of all game conventions at which you always had fun.”
“Ah, spirit,–I understand– we are seeing things as our mind sees them, we see them through the filter of our joys and high spirits. It is the imagination working”
“And the Prozac”
I watched myself playing grand games, At one table advanced Squad Leader, at another some large ungainly Napoleonic action, again I saw me role-playing as Exxon the wizard and others too, laughing and enjoying the pure joy of existence, and all of us shoveling down McBurgers and KFC, Chinese food and Pizza quaffed down with foaming tankards (well cans) of beer and coke and all with a gusto and speed that exceeded by far the ability of the most hunger starved hobbits running feeding frenzy race with the starving natives of Ethiopia Win- Lose- we were all having a good time.
“I see you had great fun those days my friend.”
“Yes, I did” and my feet felt light, so light I shifted back and forth as if I were to break into a little jig, my eyes were a glitter and there was a rosy glow in my cheeks. “Oh– can we join them spirit, – can we be part of them?”
“Nay” she said “Remember these are but shadows of the past – mere specters of things that once were.”
“Look there’s Solly Wymon and Ron Craptray- the old crank- look at him enjoying himself– and look Hal Jadely and Gig Boblio and Bif Donk and old “Cob Noggins” all having a great time together– all my friends having a good time- Oh it was a wonderful time- one would not imagine they all turned into deadly enemies later on– in the dark time.”
I looked around and saw such merriment and fun and all of it presided over by Dennis .
“Ah there weren’t many who could give a game like good old Largesse!”
Off in the corner I saw a familiar face. She had lost a much of the baby-fat from the previous vision, and she was indeed turning into a charming and precocius woman, I remember that I had had a feeling for her now and then back then, and I meditated upon memories of things not seen, of paths not taken The spirit, reading my mind asked.
“Whatever happened, between thee and she?” the spirit inquired.
A dark cloud passed over my eyes and my heart as memories of decisions taken in earnest then but regretted forever came back to nag at me.
“It was hard – Spirit- back then, I was so young, and foolish.”
“Speak–“ She demanded.
“Well you see– she did DBA and I was a confirmed WRG – and it
just couldn’t have ever worked.”
“Izzat’ So tin twister? Or was there more?”
Again the dark regrets welled up in my soul, but I fought them back. I replied with a half truth that even I knew was stretching it by far.
“She did 30mm and I liked 25’s”
She whacked me on the noggin with her wand again and I was covered in a pale pink mist of glittering droplets of dandruff and Vitalis.
“Fess up, Shake-n-Bake Gamer!”
I could fight it no more, I felt the truth being wrenched from my very soul. I felt my mouth forming the words I dreaded to say.
I gasped, tyring to force the wrods back down. Again a whack on the head.
“She was so… sooo…”
I struggled not to say it with all the frantic desperation that a person would use in trying not to fart at high mass. Again a whack on the head.
“Bad Gamer, Bad Gamer- Very Bad gamer!” the spirit intoned.
At last I could take it no more and with a last shriek of my soul the words were torn from the inner reces of my heart where I had buried them for so long…
“She was so – ..so – SO BEER AND PRETZELS!”
Tears welled up in my eyes and the spirit offered a delicate lacy embroidered pink handkerchief with little pink bunnies embroidered on them for me to dry my tears, and she also offered me a nice long nip from her pocket flask. I dried my tears and blew an enormous honk into the handkerchief and handed it back to her. She dropped it like it was a hot turd. I took rather a long swig but the spirit did not mind. My eyes bulged form my head as the potent stuff flowed down my gullet, felling all the time like a sublte mixture of Muriatic acid and Drano, and it set my stomach afire and could have cauterized gangrenous wounds. I opened my mouth to speak.
“Smooth!” I gasped.
The spirit was silent and I watched the scene for a while as I daubed my eyes and thought.
The spirit at last spoke “What ever happened to her ?”
I thought for a moment and when I felt able, I told her.
“She moved on to LARP and later changed her name to Zima or Zivo or Zena or Zerutan or something and became a Morticia (from the Adams family) Impersonator. She married a bruite of a man Derek Draino, a lawn maintenance guy who didn’t care for gaming at all but was into Nascar, Railgate Parties and the Spike channel and who wasted his money on lottery tickets. She made appearences at small time fan conventions and birthday parties.”
I sighed. Thinking what might of been. I imagined her in long leather boots with latex bustier and black shoulder-length gloves, a shade of bright red lipstick on her pouting lustrous lps.
No the memories were too painful. I shook them free.
“But she died spirit, she was never a strong person and with the passing of SPI, Avalon Hill and Ral Partha the light seemed to go out of the world for her… and she shuffled off this mortal coil– and joined the legions of the undead.”
“Do you mean?” the Spirit asked in shock”
“Yes, she became a soccer mom and ran a catering business specializing in nouvelle cuisine!”
Again I felt the tears welling up.
Again the spirit spoke “There was a child …”
“Yes, a small boy, his name was Dondi – Dondi Draino.”
I brought the handkerchief to my nose and blew out a huge honk.
“Need a mop?” the spirit asked in kind soliciation.
“Come friend, our time here is short.” she said in that calm tone I had come to fall asleep by.
“Oh but spirit, can we not linger here for a while! It is so
“Nay friend, we cannot, we must move on!”
“Is it because the sands are running out? Time and tide wait for no
He who snoozes loses? A door is closing and another is opening? The spirit looked at me with that kind benevolence which I had come to know was her particular nature in this short time we had been together and she whacked me with her wand on the head one last time.
A loud “crack” like a small ladyfinger fire cracker was heard” and her mouth opened to speak.
“Nay– but if we tarry at this convention any longer we shall have
to pay for a second day.”