Running Scared: Observations of a Former Republican
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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I am bowman

posted by Jazz at 8/12/2004 02:00:00 PM


I am bowman.

I didn't mean to be. I never intended to be bowman. I think such an evolution occurs for anyone when fate, environment or circumstance thrusts a role upon them. I highly doubt that George Washington woke up one morning and said, "This farming business is daft. I think I'll be the father of a country." It just sort of happened to him.

I read Dave Barry. Probably too much. I read his columns, and each day I read his blog. Along with humorous musings and links to unusual news, he often posts links to "productivity enhancers." These are web sites where clever people with far too much time on their hands publish online computer games for you to play. One such is bowman.

It's a horrifying game. There are two black, silhouette characters, barely more than stick figures, facing each other on an endless, expansive field of unbroken white emptiness. The empty sky is only interrupted by a small, pale, cold yellow sun which brightens nothing in an already blinding white world, and heats nothing in the frozen expanse. Each figure is holding a hunting bow and an endless supply of arrows. I'm sure you can guess where it goes from there. Others played it briefly and left it behind. I can not stop playing. Every day. Every single day for two months with no end in sight.

The user, safe at home in front of their computer, can add in various elements to the game to change the play conditions for bowman and his opponent. You can add in a wall for them to shoot over. You can factor in wind. You can increase or decrease the number of arrow shots required before one of the combatants begins spewing out horrendous amounts of blood and then dies.

I am bowman. I take the field. There is no wind. No wall. Only my opponent, far away, looking as forlorn as I at our inescapable, gladiatorial fate only moments away.

In my office, my division has been traded off for the fourth time in two years to another section of the company. They didn't want us and can't really afford us, just like the last three. The service we provide, however, is deemed valuable by the highest echelons, so they grudgingly take on the burden, but the threat of retribution from the new slave masters is always palpable.

I am bowman. I draw my first arrow from the quiver and mount it to the notch in the bow. My opponent is too far away for me to see any details on his face, but I know he is not afraid. He is resigned. I aim the arrow up towards the sky, mentally calculating the arc required to bring it to Earth where he is standing. He is not allowed to move or dodge the missile when it comes. Neither am I.

For years I had a very best friend in the world. We did everything together and meant everything to each other. In the end, however, we were driven apart - not by some outside force, but because one of us was the wrong gender. If we had both been men or both women, the world might have been perfect. Now I do not return her calls, and I know she cries.

I am bowman. I let loose the arrow. It rises up into the white, empty sky. I see my opponent glance up, unconcerned. He has played before. He knows the first strike will miss. The missile finishes its flight and comes to earth, easily twenty yards short of his feet. He does not smile. He pulls out his first arrow, nocks it to the string and draws back.

I have a new friend. He lives inside my computer most of the time. But then one day he came out of the computer and showed up at my door. He is a charming fellow, with much about him to admire. He is also oddly disturbing in ways I can not define. I don't know if he's made of flesh and blood or wires and processors. He wants to come out of the computer again. I don't know what to do.

I am bowman. My opponents arrow is in the air. It reaches the top of it's arc, glitters for a fraction of a second in the bleak yellow sun, and begins its graceful fall towards me. It lands behind me, no more than three feet away. It is probably my imagination, but I fancy that I felt my hair part as it passed over. My opponent is good. He is very good. He is a bowman too.

My pets are getting old. Some of them have died. At times I am consumed with an idea that my life is tied to them. Perhaps I serve no purpose beyond taking care of them. And if the last one dies, I will also. We can all be buried in the back yard. I may have to go get more pets.

I am bowman. Seven shots have been fired by my opponent. I have fired seven. Arrows protrude from my legs, three, one from my stomach and, against all logic, one from the top of my head. How I remain standing is a mystery. I am a fantasy character of pixels, but the pain is all too real. Blood is splattered on the ground around me in untidy spots, marring the otherwise perfect white landscape. My opponent has four arrows in him. One in the legs, three more in the chest. I don't know what keeps him standing. His blood is everywhere. His last shot missed me. I fantasize that perhaps the blood loss is affecting his vision and his hand eye coordination. But if it affects his, then surely it must be muddling mine. I draw the eighth arrow from the quiver, nock it, and pull back.

My mind comes and goes. It's usually quite good. Sometimes though, if I let it slip, I let agoraphobia sneak in. Then I become paranoid in and panic in crowds. I don't want to leave my home. I grow suspicious of everyone. I hate myself.

I am bowman. My opponent is dead. He is still standing, because bowmen do not fall down. Never. But his eyes are rolled back and the ground is drenched red. He is done. My wounds heal as if by magic. The arrows, both in my body and stuck in the field around me, fade away like an unpleasant dream. I am the victor.

Across the field, another bowman takes his place.

I draw an arrow.

I am bowman.