** Bring me your tired, derivative, overwrought dead manuscripts, yearning to be erased from memory… This is the first in what I intend on becoming an ongoing series where authors get to share a piece of a novel/writing project that died long before it ever could have proven its worth to its parent, its master: the author. Instead of letting the maybe-horrible, maybe-unbearable Word doc remain untouched in some far off and forgotten file folder, why not let the readers at ENCLAVE have a look? Think of it as closure. They won’t laugh, I swear. Starting things off, here’s an excerpt from my SimCity novelization attempt-gone-awry. If you are interested in having an excerpt featured in the “From the Grave” series, be sure to email me at michael @ coping mechanisms dot net. **
It’s not just a game. It’s an escape, a diversion, an exercise in principle. As in, you want something to do that doesn’t involve the same run-around, the same workday, the same frustrations. The frustrations are neck-deep. These days you can’t seem to sit still. Anxious all hours of the day and night, you are one clock tick away from giving into the frustration. Every single decision is momentous, no matter how insignificant they really are. What to eat for dinner? What brand of shampoo? A,B,C,or D? Should you call the parents or should you call in sick? Will she be voted off the show or not? Why can’t you sleep? Should you take sleeping pills? Aren’t they addictive? Do you smoke too much? Do you drink too much? Did you really buy those pills from that one dealer-guy at that party the other weekend? Where are they? You can’t find them. Did you really take them? Did you really say those things to that one colleague? Will you be fired? Why haven’t you had a date in months? Are you getting fat? Are you a couple blinks away from getting eye cancer from staring at screens all day?
Tune it out. You walk the streets back to the apartment. You can’t face the smoldering body heat, the crammed spaces of a subway train. You’ll take the long walk. You tell yourself that you could use a long walk. You hit every green light, forcing you to wait until it’s safe to cross the street.
Above you hear the rumble of thunder. It’s one of those days, weeks, months, years…
You keep your gaze trained to the dirty sidewalk.
There is nothing to see that you haven’t already seen. You don’t hate the city. It’s more like you’ve never enjoyed living anywhere. You have no “home” and yet you don’t believe there is a town, a city, that’ll fit your personality.
Ill-fitting, you occasionally glance around at the street signs, making sure you’re going the right direction.
When it starts to drizzle, you duck into the nearest store.
It’s one of those videogame stores. What’s with videogame stores and smelling like a mixture of potato chips, grease, and body odor? You avoid eye contact with the store clerks, walking the aisles, looking at the overwhelming wall of game cases, cover art all trying to grab your attention.
You almost didn’t go with a game because there were so many to choose and yet none of them stood out. You looked up and down the aisle but really –
How many times do you need to kill an enemy before you’re satisfied? But you find one. You’ve seen it before. You’ve even played one of the older versions of the game back in high school.
Your heart skips a beat when read the back cover, all the improvements, the promise of it being the perfect simulation of city planning and development to-date.
Is it worth facing the lax gaze of the store clerks?
You do something you normally never do:
You buy something on a whim.
Impulse buy. $50 you had planned to spend on something else. However, you leave the store uplifted. You walk right into the storm, no umbrella. You worry more about not getting the game wet than getting wet yourself. You grasp the plastic bag against your chest and make the remainder of the trek home in the splish-splash downer that is a thunderstorm in the city.
Back home and in dry clothes, you prepare for the game like it’s so much more than that. You gather food, beverage around the computer. You put your phone on silent. You plug in headphones. Everything but the game is rendered distraction.
This isn’t just a game.
You are about to take on a role:
You are about to simulate life.
A game simulation based on creating and maintaining a city. There have been plenty of iterations before the current one, and there are likely to be plenty more to follow.
As many as there are cities in this world.
You like the idea of a mock-city, active in all of its immaculate ingredients and culture. The business of the city is the matter of your life – your every decision.
You mull over the small details as much as you begin to contemplate what the perfect city might be. Your city.
It’s exciting and, more importantly, it makes you forget who you are, the life that pulls you along, ball and chain, caged and bound. The perfect distraction.
Life in the game travels at cheetah speed.
Your decisions mean everything to the citizens of your city. They look up to you like they look up to the sky. You sit in as mayor, you keep watch like you can make a difference. Really make a difference. You spend each hour cultivating a city the city where you’d love to live. A city among cities. Green and progressive, a culture hotspot. A place of bustling business.
You build expectations, become invested in the game.
Because it’s far more than a game.
It’s a simulation.