As recent posts may have suggested, I’ve got a lot of personal stuff to deal with right now, and haven’t had a lot of success writing interesting things about games. I will get back into it when I’m less crappy, but it’s been a few weeks now and I’d rather update with something than leave you with nothing, so.
A few months ago, the creators of Day Z asked for short story submissions, which they intended to add as collectible books a lá Morrowind in their upcoming standalone game based on the enormously popular Arma 2 mod. I didn’t hear back about my submission, so I assume they weren’t interested, but on the off-chance that anyone likes it, here it is.
We started to come apart when we trusted Jarvis. It was a long time before I admitted it to myself, let alone to anyone else. That’s exactly how people like him get away with it for so long – denial. Denial, and the knowledge that most people simply don’t consider the possibility that someone could be so conniving, so low, so pathetic.
I do find it pathetic. There’s no achievement in betraying people. It doesn’t mean you’re smart, or strong, or original. It works because everyone thinks you’re a human being, not some fucking parasite. They think more of you than that. You prove yourself their inferior the moment you start. You don’t even do the work yourself, see, because it’s they who are in denial. But deep down they know. It just takes time and courage to face it. I knew. I knew, in some vaguely glowing cluster of cells somewhere in my brain, but I didn’t want it to be true. It was easier to believe him. It was better.
I don’t feel guilty. Jarvis pulled the trigger, not any of us. We may have put it in his hands, but they were his hands nonetheless. But I do feel guilty about Shona.
There was a moment before the end where I realised why Shona was always so hostile, and why she’d spoken against Jarvis from day one. That may have been the first real crack in my dam.
She was smarter than me. She was smarter than everyone. Nobody every understood her. Wherever she went, it must have been like talking to some clueless schoolchildren, convinced they knew it all, inventing stupid excuses not to listen to her. And because of that, she was alone. All her life.
She was dead for a week before we even realised.
Jarvis came to us in February. He had already spoken with Lee, who told us about the hard time the guy’d had, and of course Shona was skeptical, insisting that Lee was a sucker for anyone with a sob story. That only made it worse, since everyone was sick of her sniping, and Lee always bore the brunt of it. I was half inclined to bring Jarvis in just to spite her.
Once we’d met him and talked it all over, she stood no chance. Everything he’d been through just made him better for the job. No paper trail, no dependents, no contact with his family. He was quick and well educated, healthy and strong, had no illusions. He talked the talk, and with just enough self-doubt to make it convincing rather than suspicious. We were unanimous, but for Shona.
It was six months later when it all broke down. Jarvis and Kate had their stupid fling, and she’d forgiven him, and even made excuses for his attitude since. He’d filled Lee’s head with the idea that it was her fault, and Shona was distancing herself from all of us, refusing to even talk about Jarvis anymore.
We should have called it a day then. The last job was simple, almost boring – by then even Jarvis was used to it. But when it was over, Lee refused to split the money until everyone was accounted for. Shona accused him of holding out, and that only made him worse. He went off on one about how much he’d suffered for us, and then there was Jarvis, all of a sudden playing the good guy, talking everyone down. She lost it with him then, called him a psychopath, said she was onto him and wanted no more of this. I confronted her and she started screaming at me like a banshee. I don’t think the others saw it, but she was trying not to cry then, too. She was one of those people who cry when they’re angry, not to manipulate but just because there’s so much bottled up inside them that it’s like a physical thing, a constant pain, this burning pressure that explodes out in words and bursts out in tears.
I realised then was why she could see it coming: it had happened to her before. And it wasn’t from someone she worked with.
Jarvis moved on when it was all over. Kate told me he followed her round for a while until she got rid of him. I think he was angry that she’d exposed his lies – so many lies, it would be easier to assume it they were all he ever told.
Lee still thinks he just wanted money, but if it was about the money he could have had it all, or just asked. He got nothing from us that he wouldn’t have got by being honest. Hell, if he’d done that he’d still have us. That’s what I never understood, but I think Shona did, and I think that’s what her letter meant. She’d spent so long refusing to trust anyone that she became a joke to us, this constant avatar of cynicism, and even I thought she was going to turn on us eventually.
It had simply never imagined that she only stuck around because she trusted me. Even when I found her and read the letter, I was in denial. Denial. Fucking denial. It had blinded me to Jarvis and it had cut me adrift from her, and now she was dead. He wasn’t even playing to win. He was just playing to make everyone else lose. I didn’t know what else to call it but ‘evil’. I still don’t.