My mind cracked, like a crystal under geologic pressure, for the first time late in the Spring of 1994 when I was learning my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) at Fort Gordon, Georgia. I have never known exactly what had happened to me, nor do the missing details matter anymore. It wasn’t always that way. For the longest time, I was determined to solve this mystery, and every stone I though I had uncovered was nothing more than an illusion tailor made to satiate that desire. It took decades, two decades, to come to accept they events without the whole picture, for it was the effect that was of true importance, not the cause.
So, let me explain.
The Jersey Giant, Kailoni, George, and Lee weren’t the only ones who I would have called friend while I was stationed at Fort Gordon. There had been another young man, whose name and where he hailed from have been lost to me. He had been the only other one who had heard of Vampire the Masquerade and LARPing (Live Action Role Playing). All I can remember is his short, widow’s peak black hair, very pale skin (even more so than mine), and stormy blue eyes that rested above sharp cheek bones and prominent chin. He was of average height and rail thin. So, I shall call him Louis.
There had been several times that year when the six of us would purchase a couple of adjoining motel rooms for a Friday through to Sunday morning stay in Augusta to party hard. Most of the time it was about putting a few drinks back, but every now and then, we’d have a
weekend long gaming session.
This was to have been one of those times.
Louis and I had purchased a couple rooms, brought all of the d10s (ten-sided dice), and several books to get the others to do a bit of vampire LARPing. We had been so excited. As was my usual back then, I was going to play a 12th Generation Toreador. Not to get all dorky on here, well, it is my blog. Anyway, Toreadors are the wounded artists of high society vampires apart of the Camarilla. Think of it this way, the Cullen Family from Twilight, they’d all be Toreadors. Louis loved his Brujahs, the more bestial bruisers and thugs. They haven’t given into the Beast as much as their kin, the Gangrels, who have much in common with Werewolves, but they aren’t always the sharpest stake in the bunch.
With everything set that night, I found George and Lee, just as they were about to get into Lee’s car. They had looked way to serious, so when I approached them, I asked:
“What’s going on? We’re still gaming tonight, right?”
Lee remained silent, and his face looked tight.
“John, there’s something we have to do,” George began. “There’s a friend of Lee that’s in trouble in Fayetteville, and we have to get him out.”
“Out of what?”
“Some kind of cult,” Lee finally spoke.
“We don’t know really what kind, but he, Lee’s friend –“
Lee spoke his friend’s name, but I don’t recall what it was.
“Right,” George continued, “and we need to go get him because they won’t let him out. We’ll
bring him back up to the hotel and figure out what to do next. Cool?”
“Yeah, totally cool. Do you need me to go with?” I had asked and had felt a bit left out.
“Naw, we need you to stay here so we have somewhere to come back to, okay?”
With that, George climbed into the passenger seat, and just before they drove off, Lee said:
“Thanks, John. Really.”
When Louis brought his car around to pick me up, I filled him in.
“Wow, well, that’s kind of crazy.” He spoke as he drove. “Well, one more person for the
Later that evening, as we waited for George and Lee to return, I stepped outside of the hotel rooms, out onto the third floor balcony with a Marlboro in one hand and a liter of Mountain Dew in the other. I watched the sunset behind a forest, with beams or orange and yellow rays fanning through the trees, and I had wondered what that weekend was to have brought.
The blaring alarms for morning PT rousted me from the darkness of sleep. Reflexively, I launched myself from my top bunk to turn off the alarm and get dressed. My bottom bunk roomie was slow to follow.
“Fuck Mondays,” mumbled my roomie.
“Totally.” It was Monday? My thoughts felt sluggish, and dumb. How could it be Monday? It was just Friday night, wasn’t it?
Ignoring all that in the moment, I hurried down the flights of stairs to formation, lined up with everyone, and minutes later, we had marched out. All throughout PT, I kept trying to remember something, anything, from the weekend, but nothing was there, aside from the last memory of standing out on the porch, smoking and drinking Mountain Dew as I had waited for my friends to return. At one point, as I was on my back doing scissor-kicks and watching could stream overhead so fast it looked impossible, panic built up on my chest so heavy I began to cry.
The tears didn’t stop for a long time.
All I said was that I can’t remember anything. Quickly, my Drill Sergeants noticed my panicked state, though really, I was nearly in hysterics and I had felt like I was going insane. Eventually they calmed me down so I can explain what had happened, and after I got ready for class, one of my Drill took me to see a psychologist. Here’s another strange part. I never talked to the psychologist. I sat in the waiting room, where no one else was, and watched The Days of Our Lives on TV. Not by choice, but it was what was on when we had arrived. After about an hour, my Drill came out, picked me up, and from that moment on until I had graduated and left for my first duty assignment, all of the Drill Sergeants spoke to me with a subtle and almost imperceptible softness, and from time to time, would call me by my first name. That was odd for sure, but the whole thing was odd.
Unfortunately, this had begun a practice of pretending nothing happened. And this wasn’t the worst part. When I went up to George later that day and told him what had happened, he couldn’t look a me for a bit, and when he did, he said:
“John, you’re not ready to know what happened. You couldn’t handle it.”
I broke down in sobs as he walked me to my room and helped me in bed.
Things only got worse.