Saturday, October 24, 2009

Monster Chiller Horror

Over at Zeros2Heroes, Richard Pulfer asked "What's the best scare you've had in your life? ... The kind of scare which leaves your heart racing and your lungs gasping for air . . . but also the kind of scare which leaves you laughing much, much later."

Which was all the invitation I needed to write the following:

Many years ago, before I ever heard the term "LARP", there was a live action fantasy roleplaying game run out of Edmonton called DreamQuest. It took place 2-5 times a year, usually over long weekends at various tree-filled locations about an hour outside of Edmonton--30-100 players would dress up in costume, hop on a bus, and go out and interact with 20+ paid actors. Each weekend was built as its own story with a beginning, middle and end, generally with the last weekend being a culmination of the preceding year's storylines. (Interesting "I knew them when" aside: World Fantasy Award winning author Sean Stewart actually wrote a couple of Dreamquest "seasons", before going on to make his mark.)

One of the Big Bads of a particular year was the Karkadann, which was billed as a Black Unicorn. When you saw the Karkadann in daylight, it appeared as a fairly silly-looking guy in a baggy, padded costume that was capped off by what appeared to be a horse skull with a black horn in it. The character was played by then-local magician Sean Smith.

But the first time I saw the Karkadann wasn't in daylight.

I've never been good at sleeping anywhere but my own bed. As a result, I generally spent the first night or two of a DreamQuest weekend being wide awake, then would crash out immediately after the quest concluded and thoroughly miss the debauched party that took place afterward.

So there we are, maybe six of us, at two o'clock in the morning in the clearing where a bunch of my friends are camping for the weekend (I shelled out the extra fifty bucks or whatever to have a cabin room with a real bed). We're sitting around a roaring fire, with nothing but clearing for a solid twenty+ feet in any direction. I've got a clear view of the only clear path to the campsite.

It being two in the morning, we were all out of character, just sitting around shooting the breeze about The Cult ("The Cult of The Spidergod?" someone asked me later when I told the story, that cult being a part of the game. "No, The Cult the rock band," said I.)

Someone was making some good point about "Love Removal Machine" when I catch a flutter of movement in the corner of my eye. I turn to look at whatever it was...

...and I'm looking at a horse skull with a black horn hovering in the darkness a foot away from my face.

I fell backwards off my log and scrambled back, away from the thing. Four other people did the same. My friend Matt, who wasn't wearing his glasses at the time, was confused, mostly because he was looking at us beat a hasty retreat instead of what we were hastily retreating from. Matt says, "What's the matter?" I nod at the Karkadann, which in the meantime has moved to within arm's reach of him. He turns, sees the thing, swears, and starts running away.

I guess he got chased around the firepit a few times before making his escape, but I didn't see it--I almost killed a referee as I ran blindly out of the clearing. Stopped, said, "That's the scariest #*&%ing thing I've ever seen," and ran straight for the safety of the cabin. Which was unfortunate, as there was no straight path to the cabin available and I had no light to speak of. Whenever I hit a tree, I adjusted my path, but I didn't stop running till I had four walls around me.


Literally years later, I heard Sean Smith tell this story to other people, completely unaware that I was the guy on the other end of it. Apparently it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a brilliant piece of misdirection, and he was quite proud of the fact that he'd managed to walk into a clearing, lugging a heavy, clumsy costume along with him, and get within a foot of one of six people present without anyone noticing him doing so. I wouldn't be surprised if he still tells the story; I know I sure do.


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