Playing With Strangers

I'm at a live-action role-playing game with the usual crowd of friends. We're playing in a large generic meeting space - a slightly dingy banquet hall. It's big, but it has no ambiance whatsoever. I am playing Mercy, and Lisa is playing Zoe, our characters from C.A. 2005 - Rob's futuristic Mage game - and we are having a fine time.

We encounter a new player, a thin pale man with straggling black hair and pockmarked skin. There is something about him that is slightly odd, but I can't define it. He is playing a character that - for some reason - is really annoying Mercy and Zoe. He is withholding some information that we need. While I apologize as a player, Mercy roughs this other character up a bit, trying to get what she wants. The player, fortunately, is a good sport, and the three of us have a good scene, but I can't shake the sense that there is something a little odd, perhaps a little wrong, with this guy.

The game comes to a close shortly after this encounter, and the stranger suggests that we - about a dozen players, including all of us from C.A. 2005 - go over to his house to chat and tie up some loose ends. We're always willing to meet new friends, so we agree. Maybe only I find this man odd, I decide.

The stranger - who's name I still don't know - takes us to a non-descript apartment complex, and leads us into his nondescript apartment. We all settle down quickly, and set to heating up pizza rolls, doing a bit of pick-up gaming, chatting with our host, etc. It's just past 1AM, but no-one is feeling tired, yet.

I hear some noise coming from outside the back door, so I step outside to look around. On the large wooden patio that extends from the back of the house, there are a half-dozen young men, all body builders, apparently rehearsing routines for an upcoming competition. I find this vast selection of well-built manflesh rather distracting and just barely avoid drooling on my shoes. One of them notices me, laughs, and tells me that he is a neighbor to our host. He introduces his friends - who are obviously used to receiving bug-eyed-stares - and I decide that I had better head back inside before I make a complete fool of myself.

Back inside the apartment, I can't see our host. Somebody mentions that he had gone to his room - they indicate a door next to the kitchen - but if anyone wants to talk to him, they're welcome go in there. I want to learn more about this off-putting stranger, and I enter the room that had been indicated.

Rather than a bedroom, I step into a large wherehouse-sized space that is crammed with boxes, shipping palates and steamer trunks, all thickly covered with dust. This doesn't strike me as strange at all. The boxes, etc., have been arranged to create one corridor that leads along a wall of this space, so I follow it.

A few yards down, I pass a door being locked by a middle aged man, accompanied by a small boy. He looks at me and says angrily "You tell him that if he doesn't take care of my problem by the end of the week, there's going to be trouble." I try to tell the man that I don't know 'him' very well - although I assume he means our host - but the man shouts "Just tell him!" and storms off, taking the boy with him.

Still going furthur into the warehouse, I come to another door. This door is open and there are a few of my friends hanging around, chatting with somebody in the unseen room. Not wanting to interrupt, I join the edge of the group, and finally take a look at some of the things that are filling up this warehouse. My attention is particularly taken by a bright green snake in a glass tank. In another tank, next to it, is a small turtle swimming in a pond, but my eye is drawn back to the bright - florescent - snake next to it.

The host reappears - he was in that other room that my friends were standing by - and makes some small talk about looking after the snake for a friend, but I can barely pay attention to him.

Past

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