It was 2012. I had just finished high school and I wasn’t going to university or college because I was bad at math, and I didn’t want to spend 40k of my parents’ hard-earned money getting some bullshit degree in a field I didn’t like so I could be stuck in some bullshit cubicle job for the rest of my life wondering when I was going to just put a gun in my mouth and end it all.
I decided I was going to move to Toronto, live with my aunt and uncle, and work at whatever minimum wage job I could find so that I could figure out what the fuck I was going to do with my life.
I also needed to get away from my parents, out of my home town, and have a fresh start so I could learn to stop being the jaded asshole I was growing up. I’m still working on that part, if you haven’t noticed.
Luckily for me, I was called for an interview at a store I didn’t think I would ever hear from. The place sold electronics and computer parts, and while I liked computers, I didn’t know shit about them, so going into the interview, I was a little unprepared.
Thanks to the fact that I was on my school’s improv team back in high school, I was able to bluff my way into a seasonal position. I found out later that they’d really only hired me because they were desperate for people, but at the time it didn’t matter.
The job was full commission, which meant that if I didn’t sell, I didn’t make money. So I had to learn hard, and learn fast. I did, and at the same time I managed to mature a little, since I knew that if I fucked up, I would be losing out on the best job I will ever have.
I worked my way up to be one of the top five salespeople at the store, and at eighteen I was also the youngest employee they’d ever had.
I was feeling pretty good. On slow weeks I made $20 an hour, with the good weeks ranging from $30 to $50 an hour. It was the best time of my life, and it was only going to get better.
You see, I had a manager at the store by the name of Dave. He was fourteen years older than I was, but that didn’t stop us from becoming good friends. I never told him, but he became a role model for me.
Not only did he become a role model, but he also introduced me to something that helped me become who I am today.
It was something that made me realize who I was, by becoming someone else.
That something was LARP, Live Action Role Play. It’s best described as a bunch of nerdy people dressing up as knights and wizards and running around in a forest pretending to be someone else for a weekend.
I’d heard of it before, and had always wanted to try it, but the stories Dave told made it sound so much better. Something more, something that I could truly lose myself in. Dave’s stories gave me a strange sense of faith. A true sense of escapism that has stuck with me since.
With his help, I created a character named Jack Crimson. He was, to me, an alter-ego. The person I strived to be someday. He was confident, smart, knew what he wanted, and could get shit done.
My favourite part about him was that he was fearless, something that I very rarely admit to struggling with.
After Dave’s recruitment, I joined his LARP group, and I had never had so much fun in my life. I recall a moment where I left the world I knew behind. It was transcendent, humbling, and unreal.
This is that moment:
The air was cool as I ran through the dark forest. I was keeping up with Master Vlad as we snaked through the trees. Ghost ran ahead of us, with Sin by his side and Mouse close behind. I quickly looked back and saw the two stone elves behind us, with Rastislav the Listani, struggling to keep up. I stifled a smile and kept running.
Our small group was on an important mission. We were tasked with finding a large group of people being held captive by werewolves, and set them free, while a larger group of adventurers charged the werewolves, in hopes of keeping the attention on them. This was my first time being given an important mission like this, as I had only arrived in Thrush Peake a few months earlier, just in time to begin aiding the town with the werewolf attacks.
The full moon was shining bright, helping us see as we advanced through the thick forest. Sacrificing stealth for speed, we couldn't afford to let the werewolves start infecting people, and we were counting on the larger group to make enough noise so that we wouldn't have any werewolves to deal with ourselves.
I was excited. Our mission was important, and I was anxious to prove myself to the other adventurers of Thrush Peake. I had just been accepted into the Celestial guild, and started apprenticing under Master Vlad. I rather enjoyed Master Vlad—he was almost as crazy as I was.
We kept running, the only sounds being our steady footfalls and the rustling of the bushes we strode through them. I was breathing steadily, my excitement growing. The full moon and its light were both a welcome sight and a chilling reminder. I hadn’t fought werewolves before arriving in Thrush Peake, but I knew full well how strong they would be during a full moon.
My mind quickly snapped back to the situation at hand when Ghost stopped. He motioned for us to get down, and we all complied. I held my breath, my heart beating quickly in my chest. Master Vlad crept forward, and signaled for me to follow. We came up to Ghost and Sin, they were crouching under a large tree. Ghost spoke in a quiet voice. He told us of the werewolves, waiting for us just ahead. He then pointed to the building, just behind a wall of bushes.
That was our target.
The people we needed to save were in that building. My fists clenched as I began channeling underneath my cloak. A confident smirk appeared on my face in anticipation. Master Vlad put a hand on my shoulder. He told me that he and I were to deal with the wolves on the left, while Ghost and Sin dealt with the ones on the right.
Master Vlad and I stood up, and began walking to the left. We knew that, at this point, stealth was not going to help us anymore. We needed to act, and act fast.
A bush rustled in front of us, and a menacing growl broke the eerie silence of the night. I almost growled back as I grinned at the location of the noise, my hands glowing with magical energy. I glanced over at Master Vlad. His hands were glowing as well, and he had a calm and determined look on his face. The bush rustled again.
I quickly locked eyes with the two hulking werewolves that crept forward, their silver fur almost shining in the moonlight. One for each of us, I thought. They looked at both Master Vlad and myself, sizing us up. The one on the left headed in Master Vlad's direction, while the other snarled at me, bearing its fangs. I chuckled to myself. This werewolf wasn't very smart.
He was taking on the legendary Jack Crimson, after all.
The werewolf roared and charged forward, but it was already too late for him. I finished my incant and raised my hands, almost giggling when the blazing fire magic erupted forward and engulfed the fast-approaching werewolf. The werewolf let out a pained whimper as his seared body crashed to the ground in front of me. I grinned as smoke began to rise from his corpse. I dusted my hands off sarcastically and looked over to Master Vlad. I knew that he could easily deal with the single werewolf.
Which is why I almost cheered when I saw what he did.
Master Vlad raised his hand, and a bolt of ice magic shot forth and hit his werewolf square in the chest. The werewolf didn't have time to take a breath as his body began to freeze. Master Vlad then finished another incantation, and raised his other hand. A large stone flew forward and crashed into the frozen werewolf, shattering his body into various frozen pieces.
Another reason why I respected Master Vlad. He may not share my love of fire, but he knew how to put on a good show.
Master Vlad kicked a frozen chunk of werewolf out of his way and looked at me. I nodded, and we headed forward, towards the wall of bushes. I began to hear the clang of steel and the twang of bows as we moved through the dark foliage. I could also faintly hear the incants of earth casters keeping my friends alive.
We broke through the wall of bushes, and I gasped at the sight. It seems we had arrived a bit late to the battle, as the large group of adventurers that were sent to push the frontline had already arrived at the building. I watched as our friends battled werewolves left and right. I couldn't help but gaze in awe as I saw Saito cut down a very large wolf, his polearm whistling through the air as he cut down another one. I then saw Xuelien keeping Lord Velso healthy as he fought off what looked like four werewolves at once. I chuckled a little as I saw Kittrick calmly walking through the battle, sipping hooch and occasionally tossing out spells.
Master Vlad and I looked at each other and shrugged. He then strode forward, going to join the battle. I looked out once again, grinning as I inhaled, the smell of blood and magic in the air. My hands began to glow as I prepared myself.
A werewolf turned to look at me, and then broke off from the fight. He ran close and then jumped, roaring as he flew through the air. His roar was cut short as his flaming body fell to the ground behind me and rolled off to the side. I almost cackled, my hands beginning to glow once more. As I began to walk towards the battle, adrenaline pumping through my veins, I whispered to myself and smiled.
"Welcome to Thrush Peake..."
This seems like fantasy, right? Well, that’s just it.
It was fantasy.
The closest you could ever get, and it was with that experience that I learned to take a good hard look at myself, and move forward with my life.
I’m glad I went to Toronto, as it’s where I learned to be me.
A 22-year-old college student with a passion for nerdy things, John is currently attending Algonquin College for Professional Writing and dreams of one day being a novelist. He enjoys reading, writing, playing video games, and LARPing. He also occasionally streams his shenanigans on his Twitch channel.