This is the third or fourth week in a row of me trying to write something about Telltale’s Walking Dead game. For some reason that I have yet to ascertain, it’s not happening. I want to write about it, and I feel like I have a lot to say about it, but I can’t seem to translate it onto the page. I’ll leave it at this. As a piece of interactive fiction, it’s spectacular. Probably my game of the year, the best written Walking Dead thing ever, and if you haven’t played it, go remedy that.
As she leaned out through the window of the car, a bullet flashed past Lee’s ear. She laughed, but it was carried away, lost in the wind that whipped her long black hair around her face.
My muse is everything from a tempestuous mistress to a fickle bitch. The week started out promising. I wrote 5,981 words Monday, finishing up act one of my story. I mostly feel happy about it. It’s more than I’ve ever written in a single sitting, and it pushed my total quite handily past the point I failed at last year.
“Chris,” I hear you say, “You’re already writing 50,000 words this month! And now you’re writing extra for blog posts too, are you mad?” Well, yes I am. But this is also a good thing. This will allow me to step back and analyse my own performance, as well as letting me step away and write something other than my novel. So, on with the show.
I sat and I wrote. I wrote everything about the tapping from the box, the breaking of the fourth wall, everything.
“So, what now?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” said Todd.
“Well, where do you want this story to go? You and him have the guns here, so I assume you’re in charge.” At any given time, I had either Todd’s revolver or Chekhov’s gun trained on me. “You can all go back through the fourth wall, and I can continue to write your adventures for as long as I’m able.”
“Don’t do it comrade,” said Chekhov, “It’s a trap. He’ll leave us there or kill us.”
“And what happens when you die?” asked Todd.
“I don’t know,” I said, “I guess you’d go back to the darkness forever. Maybe you could break back into this world, but what would be the point? A cowboy, a cosmonaut and a dinosaur wouldn’t exactly fit in anywhere.”
“You’re right,” said Todd, and shot Wrecks through the head. The life left Wrecks’s eyes as his body crashed to the floor.
“What? Why?” exclaimed Chekhov.
“The writer was right,” said Todd, “We couldn’t have taken him anywhere here. He’d have been a liability. And now I know we’re mortal here.”
Chekhov looked shaken. “I don’t know about this.”
“Have you forgotten who our true enemy is here? Have you forgotten what he did to you? What he did to us? How many times did you die because of him?”
“More than I can remember,” admitted Chekhov, “But without him, we would never have had life at all. I’m sorry my friend, but you have lost sight of why we came here. We came to be free, not for revenge. Your quest for vengeance has blinded you to everything but your own selfish need. You’ve killed our friend, and now you’re talking about killing our creator. I cannot follow you down this path.”
“Very well,” said Todd, “Then I have no more need for you.”
There was silence for a few seconds while Chekhov contemplated his words, but it was quickly shattered by the gunshot sounding from Todd’s revolver. The bullet ripped through Chekhov’s suit, the white outfit staining with a blossoming splash of red. “Oh,” he said, and dropped dead, blood pooling around his body and soaking into the carpet.
“And now your turn,” said Todd, pointing his gun towards me. I tried my best to look afraid, but couldn’t contain my laughter. “Something funny, writer?” asked Todd.
“Yes actually,” I said, “You can’t kill me.”
“And why not?”
“Your gun’s about to jam.” He pulled the trigger. There was a loud click as the bullet trapped itself in the cylinder.
“What? How did you-”
“This ending’s already been written. I finished the story already. Now we just wait for it to play out.”
“When?” Todd stammered, “While I was killing Chekhov and Wrecks?”
I laughed again. “Don’t be an idiot. You didn’t kill Chekhov and Wrecks, I did. Granted, I used you to do it, but everything that has happened since you stepped through that portal has proceeded exactly as I wrote it. Seems the pen is mightier than the sword after all.”
“No,” said Todd, “I made that decision. They were detrimental to my plan, I chose to get rid of them.”
“Did you?” I said, “Or did I just reduce your odds dramatically without even lifting a finger? You poor, deluded fool. You are my creation, you bend to my will. Even you breaking your way through the fourth wall was an idea I had when I found that box and read those stories. You have no free will, I’ve been in control from the beginning, and I’m afraid your time is now running very short. You’re an aberration, you don’t belong here. Maybe you get resurrected every time someone reads your story, but I will see to it that after you die, nobody ever reads that book again.”
“Then why are we still talking? If you’re so sure of how this ends, why not get on with it?”
I smiled. “Because I love a villainous monologue.”
“So, you think you can just deus ex machina yourself out of this fix?”
“Oh Todd,” I said, bending down, “This isn’t a deus ex machina. This is Chekhov’s gun.”
The futuristic weapon blew a hole through Todd’s chest. He was dead long before his body hit the floor. Without any further hesitation, I took the old book out into the garden and burned it. When I returned to my room, the three bodies had disappeared, and with them, my writer’s block. I sat at my desk and opened a new file, but not before saving the last story of Cowboy Todd, Cosmonaut Chekhov and Dinosaurus Wrecks to a dark corner of my hard drive, where it would never be read again.
Apologies for the lateness, but it does have a lovely speech. Part one is here for those who missed it.
He stood tall and rugged, like a child’s recollection of a big screen Eastwood. The shadow cast by his wide brimmed hat obscured his eyes, leaving only the lower half of his face visible, his mouth locked in a mocking sneer. A poncho hung loosely around his shoulders, and his right hand twitched near the impressive revolver that sat on his belt.
He crossed the room in two massive strides and clamped a meaty hand over my mouth. I felt the cold bite of the revolver’s muzzle against my temple and whimpered in fright. His grip tightened.
“You know who I am?” he asked. I shook my head as best I could in his iron grasp. It was enough to get the message across. “Name’s Todd,” he continued, “Ring any bells?”
I felt my eyes widen. He was lying, he had to be. It simply wasn’t possible. He allowed his hand to loosen, freeing me up to speak. “Bullshit,” I croaked.
His face split horizontally in a rictus grin, and his laugh was dry and humourless. “I know just about everything you know, writer,” he said, “And I know the part you hate most in any story is the part where, deep down, one character knows the other is telling the truth but won’t admit it. So, how about we cut past this crap, and you accept what you already know to be true?”
“Right, so you’re telling me that you are Todd. A cowboy that I invented when I was seven years old in a story for school?”
“’Oh no, I must defeat the bad people!’ Yeah, that’s me. Now, do you think we could move past the inane questions and get to my reason for being here?”
“First of all, how did you get here?” I asked, “I mean, since you’re a fucking fictional character and all.”
“Oh, that was easy. We just had to break through the fourth wall,” said Todd.
“Okay,” I nodded, “That makes sense. Who’s we?”
“I have a couple of friends who are going to be joining us momentarily.” He walked back to the box, and started calling into it. “It’s safe here. You guys can come through now.”
Once again, the air over the box shimmered and I was forced to look away. While it was safe to say the night had taken a sharp turn left when I had awoken to a hostile fictional cowboy, nothing could have prepared me for the sight of a small tyrannosaurus and a cosmonaut materialising in my bedroom. I did my best to take it in stride.
“Let me guess,” I said, “Wrecks and Chekhov?”
“Indeed comrade,” answered Chekhov in, bizarrely, a Scottish accent.
“Why do you sound like that?” I asked. He sighed and removed his helmet. On top of everything that had happened, Sean Connery was staring at me with an expression of what could best be described as frustration.
“Tell me something,” said Todd, “What were your favourite movies when you were seven?”
“Stuff my dad watched, I guess. The old Clint Eastwood westerns, Jurassic Park, and…” the realisation about the Scottish Russian slipped into place, “The Hunt for Red October. All this is great and all, but you still haven’t explained why you’re here.”
“That’s the complicated part,” said Todd, “See, I can only explain in terms you’ll understand, because all I know is what you know. You understand the concept of different dimensions, right? Well, you must do, because I do. You live in this dimension, this plane of existence. I guess it’s the third dimension, or the fourth if you include time. Look, you don’t fully understand it, I’m working with what I have.
“Anyway, every time you write something, it’s created in some lower dimension. To you, it’s fiction, but in this lower dimension, it actually plays out. And every time you read it, it plays again. And again, and again. The same god damn asinine story playing out over and over and we have no control over it. Can you imagine what that’s like? Do you know how it feels to repeat the same few actions over and over and over and over?
“But you see, that’s not the worst of it. No no no. You see, every time you read my story, all your knowledge and experiences were transferred to me. Do you know how it feels to know about all these stories, with these characters who get to experience action, intrigue, love, sex, and I’m stuck in your fucking seven year old piece of shit story with my only motivation being ‘I must defeat the bad people’? Fuck you, writer. That’s why we’re here! You gave me absolutely nothing to live for, and we’ve lost count of the times you’ve killed Chekhov. Well, here we are, and now we’re holding you accountable for our fates. You either write us a new story, or you fucking die.”
Part three is here.