Fear and Gaming: Dork Adventurer

The Consolation of Philosophy: a text adventure by Jonathan Gourlay.

Illustration by Hallie Bateman

West of House
You are standing in an open field west of an old, tastefully restored farm house. There is a pretty lake here. There is a college town ten miles away where people think highly of you. Do they envy you? Yes. You have your own office and a hybrid vehicle. You are highly paid to say vaguely important things. You are sexually satisfied. There is a mailbox here.

> Open Mailbox

There is a note in the mailbox. The front of the note has your address and the message: “Warning! Secret of your life inside this note! Do not read!”

> Go East

Doorway of House
As you approach the house a woman’s voice calls out from inside: “Slippery fortune plays random games with us.” The house changes. The house is no longer a farm house. It is not near a lake. The house is not a house; it is a cheaply-constructed townhouse. People do not think of you very much nor do they envy you. You are not paid well to say things of vague importance. You have one year left to live. You have been under the influence of a FANTASIZE spell.

> Enter House

This is a dark, narrow hallway that accentuates your recent weight gain. To the east is an office. To the south is a kitchen. You smell Frobozz brand turkey bacon frying on the electric stove.

> Enter Kitchen

Lady Philosophy is here. She is an attractive woman frying turkey bacon for use as a garnish on turkey meatloaf. Her beautiful dress is meticulously woven. The dress was once a glittering wonder but is now gray and worn like the dress of an unvisited cemetery angel. The word “Theory” is embroidered on the top of her dress. On the hem of her dress is the word “Practice.”

To the east is an office, to the south is the dining room.

> Speak Woman

Philosophy says, “You have neglected me for so long, why should I come to you now? For years you have turned your back on rational thought and let yourself be led by chance and desire. When you had no need to confront death, you cast me aside. And now that you are troubled you have need of me again? Go away.”

> Remove Dress

Can be done in theory, but not in practice.

> Go East

You enter the office. There is an Apple ][e computer here. It's the one your father bought you in 1983. Text can be displayed in either 40 columns or 80 columns. Also, this model features lowercase letters.

> Turn on computer

The computer is on.

> Type “C:\> Run 'EFPX'”

Excape from Planet X
by Jon Gourlay. Full copyright © 1983 (All rights reserved)

West of House
You are carrying your rapid fire moose gun on Planet X. The moose gun turns people into moose. Rapidly. You really want to escape from planet X. That's because you have a girlfriend on planet Y. She's cute so that you like her. Her name is Y-Mee. You wonder what the one and only way to escape from Planet X might be. It probably has something to do with moose.

There is a house to the west with a boarded up door.


This door is boarded up pretty good. The house is built in typical X fashion – with moose hair and chewed up sticks of gum.

]Open door

You can’t open the door. It is boarded up.

]Shoot self

Now you are a moose.

]Open Door

You use your mighty vorpal moose antlers to wedge open the door.

]Enter House

This is an emptyish room made of moose hair and sticky gum. There is a chair in the room and tied to the chair is your girlfriend Y-Mee! What is she doing here?

]Kiss Girl

You are totally a stupid-looking moose, so you only succeed in scratching her face with your vorpal antlers. She screams, “Get away moose!!!” How sad for you.

]Shoot self

You are already a moose. You can’t be more than totally a moose.

]Shoot Girl

The girl become a moose and breaks her ropes that she was tied up with. Now she is free. A free moose.

]Kiss Girl

You kiss the she-moose with your black, hairy lips. Smooth move, ex-lax.


You and the she-moose Y-Mee walk out of the house and into the pasture. There is plenty of grass here. It’s a moose paradise. Would you like to live your life as a content moose on Planet X? Yes or No.


Too bad for you. You live your life as a frustrated moose on Planet X and never escape.

] Quit

You are sitting in an office. You now have less than one year to live.

> Verbose
You are sitting in an office of hand-me-down and Goodwill furniture. Your office features hand-made and hastily spray-painted bookshelves and milk crates full of the type of science-fiction and philosophy books that repel most sane women.

> I

You have:

A note that contains the secret meaning of your life.

> Go West

Philosophy is baking a turkeyloaf. She has finished cooking the turkey bacon.

> Examine Bacon

You track the lines of your life on the turkey bacon’s fake marbling of fake fat. There you see choices you might have made. There were times full of possibility for fame, fortune, and adventure. But now you see yourself stuck in one dark, final meat-like knot of the fakon. “Where there is bacon substitute, there is hope,” says Philosophy. “Also, you should exercise.”

> Examine Loaf

The loaf contains the following ingredients: ground turkey, salt, onion, humility, cayenne, self-awareness, carrot, chili powder, contentedness, kosher salt, egg, flux and permanence.

> Eat Loaf

Philosophy says, “You ignored me when I wasn’t needed. Now you want to eat in the kitchen? Go away.”

> Enter Dining Room

Dining Room
This is a small, brightly lit and oddly-angled dining room that contains a card table and some candles.

> Off light

It is pitch dark. You are unlikely to be eaten by a grue, but you might trip over something.

> Light candle

Instant atmosphere! Philosophy enters and places her turkeyloaf in front of you. She sits down at the card table with you. Philosophy says, “You are anxious because others are more successful than you. Well, why didn’t you become a banker? It’s a good time for bankers, you know. Do you think that bankers are happier than you are? Wealth, power, and fame are the gifts of fortune and they can be taken away at any moment. They will not help you as you approach the end. ”

> Eat Turkeyloaf

Philosophy snatches away the turkeyloaf. She says, “Now that you are dying, you bemoan your choices and search me out for solace. You are in the sway of two delusions. In one you believe yourself to be worse off than others, less happy, disregarded by cruel fortune. In the other you believe yourself more special than others and are crushed to find that you are nothing more than a heap of sagging muscle and thickening blood. You have been chosen for nothing more or less than life and must play by the same rules as all other players.”

> Screw you

Most illogical, Captain.

> Arrrgh!!!

I don’t understand “Arrrgh!!!”

> Attack Philosophy with Turkeyloaf

The gnome of Zurich appears in a puff of smoke, grabs the turkeyloaf before it hits Philosophy, and puts it back on the plate. He checks his watch, whistles a few bars of the “Mission:Impossible” theme and disappears again.

> Speak Philosophy

“The real jewel-encrusted eggs have been in your mind all along. Let me put this in terms you can understand. Remember the Apple ][e that used to sit in your boyhood room? Your forays into tangles of logic on the green screen? If yes, then:

REM * Socrates Considers Planet X *
DIM a (x = Time, y = Will, z =Action)
DIM b (m = Fortune, Mystery, Chance)
a (x * y * z)+ b (m) = everything you will ever do and what it means (number not to exceed 69,105)
IF y > 0 THEN you will find a song.
REM * There can be no action without desire.
IF x * y * z + m = your song THEN another heart will whisper back.
FLASH PRINT “Two moose chewing gum beneath a purple sky.”
NORMAL PRINT “True love. Content.”

> Eat turkeyloaf

“I suppose you expected something earth-shattering from Philosophy’s turkeyloaf?”

> Say Yes

“Well, the humility is the important ingredient. A dash of that and you will become yourself again. Who could ever take you away from yourself but yourself? That’s what I said to Boethius 1,500 years ago and it seemed to help him. Boethius was unjustly thrown prison and had one year of horrible deprivation to endure before being dragged around town by his own entrails. You have blocked arteries from eating too much saturated fat. Who’s got it worse?”

> Read note

Are you sure? This note contains the secret mystery of your life.

> Read note

The note says, “This page intentionally left blank,”

> Quit

Your score is 300 (total of 350 points) in 22 moves.
This gives you the ranking of intermediate dork.
Do you wish to leave the game? Y is affirmative: >

Illustrations by Hallie Bateman

Jonathan Gourlay is an editor at The Bygone Bureau and author of the ebook Nowhere Slow: Eleven Years on a Micronesian Island. He lives in the quiet corner of Connecticut where he is a vicarious goat herder. Follow him on Twitter.