“Name was my mother’s idea.” Gryffin leaned forward and poked at the still-glowing embers of the campfire. The morning air was growing warmer. “She has this old shield with a griffin on it.”
“The mythical creature with the head of an eagle and body of a lion?” Ileana asked.
“Right.” Gryffin nodded. “To her, the name means something heroic. Something that has strength and courage. I guess that’s what she wanted me to have.” He frowned. “It was important, where I grew up. Protecting our families was a priority.”
“Your family…” Ileana asked carefully, “Are they dissidents?”
Gryffin shook his head. “No. They went outside to join a survivalist group.”
“There are still some of those out there?” Ileana cried, surprised.
Chess was hearing most of this for the second time that day, but Gryffin’s story still engaged his attention. Sariel, on the other hand, seemed disinterested in the entire conversation, even though she appeared content to sit with them. Maybe they all just needed a rest, Chess decided.
“Yeah,” Gryffin answered, without a trace of sarcasm. “They thought the civilized world was going to collapse due to some war or disease or whatever. I grew up with the idea of that… disaster, always looming on the horizon: the S.H.T.F.”
Ileana seemed to understand the reference, although Chess did not. “Except that it didn’t hit,” she countered with a grin. “It just kind of seeped under the fan.” She rolled her eyes at Chess. “And nobody’s too sure when the seepage actually started or how big of a pile we’ll end up with.”
Gryffin shrugged. “They wanted to make sure their families survived, that’s all.”
“My family moved behind walls to try and do that,” Chess said. “Your family moved out.”
“You’re sure about this?” Ileana asked. “You feel like we can trust him?”
“You don’t?” Chess asked, with some concern. He had come to rely on Ileana’s -- and Sariel’s -- assessments of people. And it did seem like he dived into friendships awfully fast since he had come outside. “I know the… whole ‘following us’ thing is a little weird, but he seems sincere. It’s not as if he’s… gotten out much.” Then, another thought came to Chess’s mind. “Hey, think of how fast I came to trust you -- with secrets that could have gotten me killed,” he reminded her with a rueful grin.
“Point taken,” Ileana answered. She glanced behind them.
They had gone off by themselves a little way to hold this whispered conference. Gryffin was still sitting beside the cold campfire, ostensibly checking over the gear in his backpack. And Sariel, as Chess had expected, had finally become restless and muttered something about gathering greens for dinner before she disappeared into the woods.
Chess had still not gotten over the shock of learning that Ileana and Sariel had a relationship. He thought perhaps knowing that might make it easier for him to view Ileana as a sister. But, then again… He tried to focus on what Ileana was saying, but his thoughts were running off in another direction.
“Chess,” Ileana said, bringing him right back with that one syllable. He blinked at her in surprise.
“I still can’t get used to you guys calling me that,” he breathed. As if it was real. As if that was really who he was. And they didn’t question it; they didn’t seem to think he wasn’t cool enough for the name. And Gryff, of course, never thought to call him anything other than Chess. “It’s great.”
“Well, why didn’t you ever say --” Ileana cocked her head. “What did Sariel call you, before?”
“I don’t think she ever asked my name,” Chess muttered. “Uh, you and Sariel…” He gave a shaky laugh. “I had no idea you two were, uh, getting so close. No wonder I’ve been feeling left out.”
“Left out?” Ileana echoed, looking confused. “Really?”
Just then, Gryff walked up to them. He was wearing his backpack, and his rifle, and carrying a fishing pole. “There’s a pond a short way off, here,” he announced. “Chess and I should go catch some fish for dinner. C’mon, man!”
Chess felt surprised and gratified at the invitation. He grinned at Ileana, and off they went.
Continued next page...
DM: Remember, you’ve never met this guy before. The last guy you met tried to kill you. Just act appropriately...
Rogar the Barbarian (to the new guy): You seem trustworthy. Would you care to join us in our noble quest?
Magellan, the traveling mage: Yes. Yes, I would.
- The Gamers, Part 4 of 5
SHTF: I don’t remember when I first encountered the idea that people were actually preparing for the eventuality of a disaster so terrible that it destroys our way of life. It was probably sometime back in the 1980’s when nuclear war with the Soviet Union seemed like a possibility, and movies and television began to explore what might happen to survivors of that “nuclear holocaust.” Of course, the inspiration for building a survival bunker goes back at least to the 1950’s, after the shocking detonation of the first atomic bomb. And the practice of building heavily-defended compounds in remote areas of the country in order to facilitate a lifestyle independent of the government has always been in existence, I think. With those known as preppers, these seem to be two great ideas that go great together.
What is our fascination with “prepping” and with post-apocalyptic survival stories? Perhaps it’s the idea that the world has gone terribly wrong in too many ways and it needs to start again from nearly scratch, as Marty and Dana conclude in the movie Cabin in the Woods (2012): Maybe it's time for a change. It's time to give someone else a chance. Perhaps it’s the idea that the power-brokers of the world can be pulled down and replaced with ordinary people: us. Are our aspirations similar to the budding warlord in the movie The Postman (1997), who sold Xerox machines... before? (By the way, that movie is set in 2013!)
Of course, the question - the elephant in the room -- is always: would you want to survive and go on to live in a world that is so changed and that requires skills that are so different from those that we have developed in the course of our current lives? Perhaps the answer is yes. This is a question that every revolutionary-minded person must also ask themselves.
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