Time travel, it turns out, is not fun.
Adelaida has a 15-minute head start on the rest of you, since the Searsgate is calibrated to keep the time tunnel a fixed length. She’s thrown out the other side into a grassy hill. Here and there are dark-green vines with blood-red flowers. Her nose is just a few inches from one of them, and she leans to look at it better. She remembers a house covered with these – the Wimbiscus flower, which grows nowhere else on Earth. Extinct in the ice age future, but alive and well here.
She sits up. Gray sky. Gray water. This must be the place.
At the top of the hill is a wheel-rut road, leading down into Neptune Shoals. It’s been a long, long time since she’s seen it like this, and she’s still staring when a little boy steering a barrel hoop with a stick runs right into her.
“Sorry,” he says, in that inimitably Canadian way. She knows his face.
“Where is your father?” she asks.
On the other side of the hill, near a small cemetery, a lone man is taking a ship apart. Its hulk lies in repose above the tide line, and he is tiny beside it, pulling the nails from the boards and saving both. The mast and superstructure have already been taken down, and they lie in neatly ordered piles near the longboat and the yawning, partially flooded hole that will soon become a basement.
Adelaida pauses on her way down, wondering that one man could do this by himself, but she knows how monomania feels.
The man looks up. He has the countenance of a broken-down lion, scraggly and severe. It’s cold out – if she did this right, it’s October, and he’s building against the seasons – but his dirty hair and ragged beard drip sweat. His pupils dance as he studies her. The heart attack will come soon.
“I ran into one of your children,” she says, and immediately wonders why she said it.
“Not causin’ trouble, I hope,” says Ephraim, as his mighty eyebrows collide.
“Not at all,” she says. This isn’t what she came here for. There isn’t much time. “I was wonder-”
“Be ye lost?”
“No, sir. I’ve been here before.”
“I’m building a house,” he says, “in case you hadn’t noticed. If you know yer way around, you know this is my property, and I’m right busy just now.”
The hell with this. She takes a step forward, holding his gaze. They’re an arm-length apart, now, and she’s taller than he is.
“Take me to the creatures you met in the sea.”
Chris Kirkman, Kitty Witless and Charles Montgomery Burns fly out the end of the time portal in a jumbled heap.
“Oww,” says Chris Kirkman.
“You ow,” says Kitty. “I’m on the bottom!”
“Hello!” says a child’s voice, and they look up. It’s a little boy with a barrel hoop and a stick. He’s sitting a bit above them on the hillside, as though he were expecting them.
“You, child,” says Mr. Burns, dusting himself off. “What year is this?”
“Gimme a penny!”
Burns turns to the other two. “Pay him!”
Kitty fishes around in her purse and comes up with a wheat penny from 1919, which she flips to the boy. He catches it and studies the picture of Abraham Lincoln with interest.
“Kid, I just do showbusiness,” says Kitty.
“Alright.” He pockets the coin. “It’s the-year-of-our-Lord eighteen hundred and fifty-eight.”
“Hot dog!” cries Kitty. “I’m almost back home!” She pauses to do some head math on how long it’ll be until the 1920s. “But not quite. Darn.”
“What’s your name?” asks Chris.
“Elias, did you see a woman here a few minutes ago? Dark hair? Very ominous?”
“Uh-huh! Gimme another penny and-”
“Kid, I’m not made of pennies,” interjects Kitty.
“Fine. She went over the hill to where Father is working.”
The three of you look at each other and sprint.
“Let me row,” says Adelaida, watching the shore recede from the longboat.
“This ain’t be woman’s work, marm.”
She gives him a withering stare. “I’m stronger than I look.”
They trade places. She is, indeed, a much faster rower, something he observes with consternation.
“Be ye one of them?” he asks, watching her work.
“I am.” Stroke. “In part.” Stroke. “And you.” Stroke. “Are you human?”
He takes ruinous affront to this, which cheers her just a little. “Madam! I’m as much a man as any man who ever was! Strong as an ox! Wise as an owl!”
Hungry like the wolf, she sings in her head. Then:
“And you always knew.” Stroke. “No doubt.” Stroke. “No sudden discovery.” Stroke. “When you’re eight.” She lays the oars down and lets all the hatred in her heart rise to her face. “How very nice for you.”
He leans back, almost falling over the stern. She rises half-upright and watches him cower.
“I thought I was human, once. I was wrong. I will be raised in a windowless room by your family, and I want to know what’s so goddamned good about being human that you made them do that to me.”
Realization consumes his face. “The girl-child,” he says, quietly. “You’re she.”
“I could row from here to Portugal,” she says, picking up the oars again. “I believe I may never die. Did you think you could control the unknown, by controlling me?”
He has no answer. She rows faster, plowing her anger into the sea.
“You’re petty and small, and you’ll die soon. Those things you made a deal with are just the same, but they don’t know it yet.”
You wander around on the docks and eventually work up the courage to steal a small sailboat. It’s the middle of the goddamn day.
“Hey!” yells a man on shore, immediately. “Thieves!”
“Are not!” yells Kitty Witless, furiously undoing the rope that holds the boat to the dock. “C’mon, guys, doesn’t one of us know how to set a sail?”
You end up paddling like motherfuckers. Rowing in a straight line with three people is tricky, but Mr. Burns succumbs to exhaustion after 30 seconds, which evens things out.
Clouds are building over the horizon and the sea turns choppy. Over the bobbing waves, you can just make out the shape of another boat, far, far ahead of you.
“Hey!” yells Chris Kirkman. “Adelaida! We just want to talk!” He pauses. “That’s what we’re doing, right? We’re not going to kill her? Right?”
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t,” says Mr. Burns, from the bottom of the boat.
“No, Chris is right,” says Kitty. “Let’s talk.”
Adelaida hears her name across the waves and is seized by fear. She rows faster, faster, faster, until the rotted-out longboat is skimming across the crests of the waves.
“Friends?” says Ephraim Wimbiscus, looking back over his shoulder. “Do ye have friends, woman of the sea?”
“I do not.” Pause. “Why did you name me Adelaida? None of your children were ever able to answer that question for me.”
“‘Twas the name of the first ship I served upon. Seemed fitting.”
“Of course it did.” She pauses to consider. “You know, I never met your ghost. Are you religious?”
“Oh aye, marm. I be entirely god-fearin’.”
“That tracks. Well, congratulations. I guess you cross over into the light when you die.”
“I fear all the gods,” he adds. “If you could just mention that with them that lie beneath-”
She slams the oar-handles to the bottom of the boat, causing the blades to pop out of the water like a pair of wooden wings.
“Those things are not gods. They are creatures from an ice world beyond Neptune. Has Neptune even been discovered yet? Fuck.”
He stares at her, eyes wide. Then: “We’re here.”
She drops the oars and listens. Yes. A familiar buzzing in her brain.
‘Sup, fuckers? she thinks angrily. Remember me?
“Okay,” says Chris Kirkman. “So we agree: If she doesn’t attack us, we let her live.”
“For now,” says Kitty.
“Fine,” says Mr. Burns, crossing his arms.
“I see them!” says Kitty. She puts her fingers in her mouth and whistles. “Hey! Ada! Ada’s friend! We’re here to talk! Non-violently!”
Your minds are suddenly overwhelmed with what feels like the sound of AM radio static layered over the sensation of being covered in grease. You fight the urge to collapse, and steady yourselves on the edge of the sailboat.
The longboat is a stone’s throw away. You can see Adelaida leaning over the bow, facing dark shapes beneath the waves. In your head, you suddenly hear her voice.
Go home. Go back to Iadolanth. One world should be enough. More sizzling. I have been to the future. I tell you that the victory you seek will elude you forever. The humans will destroy themselves to destroy you. Killing is all they know how to do.
It’s hard to sneak up on somebody in the open ocean, but you surreptitiously paddle around behind the longboat. Ephraim Wimbiscus sees you but says nothing as you step over. Adelaida has her head down and doesn’t seem to notice anything. The sizzling is an angry roar.
Mr. Burns pulls out a baseball bat and sneaks up behind her, but his noodle arms are too weak to lift it to head height.
“Rats,” he says, and she turns.
“You!” The look of surprise is total. “You shouldn’t be here!”
“Ada, sweetie, come on,” says Kitty. “Let’s just go home.”
“I’m afraid not, marm,” says Ephraim softly. You all turn, and discover an enormous wave rising up out of the horizon.
“It seems they won’t listen to reason,” sighs Adelaida, as it bears down upon you. “How very much you have in common.”
Elias Wimbiscus is fascinated by the portal. It’s been shimmering there in the air for almost an hour. Rocks he throws into it don’t come out the other side, which is neat. He wants to go find an adult, to tell them about it, but he’s worried it will disappear if he leaves. The portal is so captivating that he doesn’t even notice the wave until it hits.
Chris, Kitty, Mr. Burns, Ephraim Wimbiscus and both boats slam into the empty hillside at highway speed. None of you have ever been dashed upon the shore by the unmerciful sea before, and it is not a good experience.
“Owww,” says Chris, as Kitty coughs up a live fish.
“Enough of this!” cries Mr. Burns. “One of you is one of them. Which is it? The showgirl? The teen-ager?”
Chris and Kitty look at each other.
“I know I shouldn’t still be alive, but I know I’m human,” says Kitty.
“Kitty, I distrust you slightly less than this weird old man who didn’t even row,” says Chris.
“Oh, fine,” says Mr. Burns, as Chris and Kitty turn on him. “I see how it is.”
When your multitools puncture his skin, black smoke comes out. Inside, you can see an unwholesome, fleshy honeycomb begin to putrefy in the air.
“I was so close,” hisses Mr. Burns as he dies. “You would have liked being Iadolanthean. It’s not… so… different…”
Mr. Burns (Sic Humor) has died. He was the IADOLANTHEAN RECRUIT (Recruited Wolf). The Partisans (town forces) have won!
Further up the hillside, Adelaida picks herself up. Her gown is soaked and torn. Something inside feels broken. But she can stand.
Chris and Kitty look at each other as she approaches.
“Do you surrender?” Chris asks.
“I do,” says Adelaida, sadly.
“Did you get what you were after?” Kitty asks, as they approach the portal.
They hop into the circle of blue. A few moments later, it disappears.
Ephraim and Elias Wimbiscus, watching from a dozen yards away, spend the rest of their lives trying to forget they saw this.
There are a whole bunch more dead Iadolanthean guards on the floor when you get back to 2063. Dad is sitting at the Searsgate control console, completely soaked in white Iadolanthean blood.
“How’d it go, sluggers?” he asks.
“We won?” says Chris, tentatively. He and Kitty look around. This doesn’t feel like winning.
“You know,” says Kitty, “we have no way of knowing our timeline is the definitive one. If there are infinite possibilities then maybe all we can do is shunt between them, like freight cars in a railyard.” Pause. “I had a lot of time to think while I was frozen.”
“You’ll never stop them,” says Adelaida, kneeling down beside Elias’ deactivated MOSP. “They’re too dug in here.”
“Then we go back,” says Chris, confidently. “To 2020. We try again. Dad, we’ll leave info for the resistance with you in case this timeline persists after we’re gone.”
“Sure thing, sport.”
Adelaida strokes the broken glass of the helmet. “I wish you the best of luck. I really do.”
“Hey,” says Kitty, kneeling down beside Adelaida. “You could come with us.”
She looks up. “What? Why?”
“They’ll kill you if you stay,” says Kitty. “You don’t deserve that. Even if you feel like you do.”
Adelaida looks around, her gaze seeming to sweep through the walls to encompass the building, the island, the Earth.
“Alright,” she says, quietly. “Can I fix something, first?”
Just after midnight on April 15, 2020, a blue portal appears in the parking lot of the Neptune Shoals Petro-Canada station. Nobody is around to see it. There’s a sign on the inside of the locked door saying they’re closed until further notice because of the pandemic, but you can pay at the pump if you have a credit card.
A teen boy steps through, followed by a vaudevillian. Then a woman with long, black hair. And, finally, a MOSP.
“It’s weird being here, knowing I’m also frozen somewhere,” says Chris.
“It’s weird being here at all,” says Kitty.
Adelaida slowly spins around, taking in the shuttered gas station. “I forgot how beautiful things could be, without snow.”
Elias says nothing. He walks over to a gas pump, unholsters one of the nozzles, examines it, then hangs it back up and rejoins you.
“We have eighteen years until the main invasion force arrives,” he says, somberly. “I thought you’d have electric cars by now.”
“Some of us do!” says Kitty. “Like, what’s her name, the dead musician woman who was with us. Slimes. Her boyfriend makes electric cars.” You all pause to remember how many people died. “Shit,” she says, quietly.
“What do we do now?” says Kirk.
Adelaida looks out past the gas station, to the dark sea sparkling under the Moon.
“Let’s go for a walk,” she says. “Find a place that sells terrible food and then eat a lot of it. Perhaps steal a car. Human things.”
“And me?” says Elias.
“You,” says Adelaida, sticking him with an index finger, feeling a playfulness she didn’t know was in her, “are self-quarantining in an experimental new suit.”
She takes his hand, and together the four of you walk away into the darkness of the night. 2020 will be fun.
Thank you all so much for playing Werewolves 120: Adelaida’s Planet. Here are the links people always ask for, plus the short story I wrote:
- Wolf QT #1: Iadolanthean Telepathic Plane
- Wolf QT #2: Iadolanthean Telepathic Plane II
- Graveyard #1: The Great Beyond
- Graveyard #2: An Even Greater Beyond
- “Dark Outpost,” by Arthur Wimbiscus Sloane
Additionally, here is the journey PTA Sharon’s ghost went on, courtesy of the space drugs you were all too lame to buy:
You duck out of your screening of Cats and eat the weird flower. Huh, you don’t feel any
You wave your hand through the air, and you see it shimmer and streak. Your arm ages and grows young from sweep to sweep. You can feel yourself sweating, which isn’t something ghosts usually have to worry about. The PTA will know you did drugs. What kind of example are you setting for Jessica?! Reality is collapsing in on itself like a Shrinky Dink. Space and time twist around you, twist through you, and the songs from Cats are still playing somewhere.
You are in a desert. The sky is yellow.
You can’t really feel heat anymore, but you get the sense that, if you could, this place would be unpleasantly hot. There is nothing but shattered rock from your feet to the horizon. Where IS this place. Are you-?
You turn around. There is something else.
A bubble sits on the ground perhaps a hundred yards away. You can see trees inside, tended to by strange figures in hooded robes. You shrug and walk up to it. Your hand goes right through when you try to tap it. It’s cooler inside.
“I am Sharon Lastname, with the PTA,” you say, stepping inside. “If any of this is real, someone do something I wouldn’t expect.”
“Oh hey,” says a very drunk voice inside your brain. “Didn’t we meet before? Was that yesterday or a few hours ago?”
You look around, but the figures bow their heads and back away, leading the way to one of the trees. You sense this tree is talking to you.
“What?” you say, in your most authoritative voice.
“Gert Rafto, at your fuckin’ service. Were you with that group earlier, right? The Northern something? I thought I sent all you fuckers back.”
You mentally scan through her past lives.
“Oh! Yes. But I died before they got… wherever this is. Have you seen my geodes? And my microwave?”
“Sorry, no.” He burps. “I was a police inspector in 2017, blah blah blah, got killed, dark magic, came back, had my consciousness abducted, now I’m a tree. We’re at the end of the Earth, by the way. The fuckin’ oceans boiled off. Me and my new friends were just about to leave.”
You look at the figures again. Their hands have too many joints. “Who are these people?”
“The Future Ones. They scan history and kind of go through people’s underwear drawers. In your time, they were at war with the Iadolantheans. Those fuckheads. Shoulda stayed on Pluto, but nooooo, they had to wreck Earth.”
You decide not to tell him you were an Iadolanthean this most recent life. He seems prejudiced.
“Anyway, cosmic battle for control, forbidden knowledge, now I can synthesize my own alcohol in here and life is good. We’re going to start over among the stars. I guess you could come with us.”
“Thank you, but I think my drug trip is about to wear off.” You pause to consider. “What are you taking with you?”
“Not much, but they recorded as much human history as possible. And they brought some specimens along, like me. The other trees also have minds, but they can’t fuckin’, what’s the word, interface. They’re from the great races yet to become: After humanity it’s the lobster people, then the bird people, then a big come from behind win for the frog people, then a completely different bunch of lobster people, you get the idea.” Burp. “This keeps up until the Sun explodes, which I think is like two fuckin’ hours from now.”
“Knowledge.” You dig within yourself, looking for a fragment to pass to eternity. “Do you know what tricky trays are?”
“Fuck no. I’m a tree.”
You spend the next 15 minutes outlining tricky trays in theory and in practice. The hooded figures drag out a very large crystal, which is glowing. This looks like closing time.
“…and that’s why they’re so good for the community,” you conclude, as the Future Ones join hands in a ring around it. A loud hum begins to build.
“Huh,” says Gert Rafto – Inspector, Necromancer, Tree. “I’ll pass that along. I’m not fuckin’ great with goodbyes, but you seemed nice. Have fun doing whatever it is you do.”
The bubble begins the rise, and the glow from the crystal is too bright to look at. You’re left on the rocky ground as the bubble and everything in it ascend to the sulfurous clouds. You watch until it disappears. There are tears in your eyes as the drugs wear off, and you’re sucked backward through time again.
I’m not telling anyone else my favorite color, though. I might need that as leverage in future games.
The continuity across the Rafto-Hovnatanian Extended Universe wasn’t perfect – Berk Smøps’ assistant is sometimes named Blurp and sometimes Blurt, for instance, and Clive Gumm has a cameo at the beginning of Sears that doesn’t really line up with his backstory from Return to Zone Z – but I did my best. In the process of planning this final RHEU game, I put together a chart of the characters who have been in more than one game:
Also, it’s too big to screenshot, but that spreadsheet has a second tab that – I think – has every player who was in at least one of my games. (I didn’t count backups who were never brought into play.)
- Wasp participated in every single game, a feat unmatched by any other player. Runner up: Owen, who was in every game except WW89: Space Freighter.
- Jake was scum the most number of times, in four out of eight appearances.
- Owen was something other than vanilla town the most number of times: He was roled town five times (albeit counting the Zone Z games where everybody was), a wolf twice (once with a role), and the Replacement Serial Killer in this game.
I also put together a color-coded timeline of everything that happened in every game. This started off as a way for me to keep track of lore in WW74: The House of Wimbiscus, so that game is over-represented. It’s fun to imagine living through times like these:
All of this was good writing practice for me. I think I’ve written about two novels’ worth of header text, total, and I like to think I’m a better writer because of it. My modding skills have, sadly, lagged behind, but there may yet come a day where basic player management does not elude me. Thank you for the patience you’ve shown with the many bizarre mechanics I field-tested on you.
I’d never played werewolves before coming here, but I’ve had a blast ever since. I’ve loved playing in your games, and I hope you’ve loved playing in mine. This bizarre saga of elder beings, outer forces, doomed love and retail would not have been what it was without the kindness and goodwill of the players. Again, thank you so much.