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by Sam Martone


It starts with you, with your awakening. You should know this by now, after all the times you have begun in times before this beginning. After you wake, check the dresser drawers. Break every pot and barrel in every room. You might find something. You do find something, some things: medicine you know you’ll need, someday soon; seeds you’ll never plant on anything but your tongue; clothing that some unseen force will not allow you to wear. There are bookshelves next to each dresser—check those, too, even though you are too young yet to read these heavy tomes, their gilded pages. Your father has a distant look in his eyes when he speaks to you, as though he does not yet realize what has almost but not yet begun, with this, your awakening, this one day. Things began for him long before this beginning. Something else is different, this time, too: when you leave that comfortable space you and your father share, you find you are not in a house in a small, inconsequential village in some corner of the continent, waiting to be discovered, nor are you a subject in a powerful kingdom, the son of his majesty’s most trusted soldier, training to begin your quest. You are on a ship, which is on an ocean. You are going home, with no memory of home in tow. You open the suitcase of your mind and reach in elbow deep. You scratch at your arm, a phantom memory of bug bites and muggy summers. A former home, maybe, or a home you dreamed up. You don’t remember climbing aboard this ship, or waiting for its sails to come into view on the horizon. All you can remember doing before this now, before this this, is dreaming. The ocean is undisturbed by the ship’s presence. There is no wake streaming from the sides, no sign that you were ever where you just were, only endless primary blue, the color a child—a child like you—might choose for a crayon sea. In your dreams, you are in a castle. In your dreams, you remember being born. Your father is searching for something, searching for that same feeling he felt when he found you for the first time, swaddled in blankets, crying loud beside your mother. You wonder if you can affect anything at all, or if, after this story is over, more darkness will arise in the world and somewhere else, someone else, someone like you, will wake up, with only memories of dreams and the knowledge of a few certain certainties, thus beginning the circle again. Sometimes you feel as though you are being controlled by something avian, looking down on you from above. A tapping tangled in your hair that pushes you forward. Maybe that’s God. Maybe that’s fate. There is another dream, needling at your thoughts, one where you, an older you, travels through shimmering cities and spike-edged deserts with a man who, in your dream, you know to be your father. You try to push this from your mind, but it will not disappear. There are some objects, out there in the world, that you cannot lose, no matter how hard you try, and maybe this dream is one of those, you think. Maybe it will come in handy later. Check the dresser drawers. Break every pot and barrel, even though you know they will reappear repaired the next time you look. Break them in spite of this. Break them because of it. You might find something. Talk to everyone. If you miss what they say, talk to them again: they will repeat it all, word for word for word, just to make sure you hear it. Hear it. Look in the mirror hanging on the wall. Watch the gulls streak by above your head. Wave goodbye to the way things were before you woke.



Sam Martone is at the final boss, a demon lord called Nimzo, in Dragon Quest V, but Sam Martone's party cannot defeat Nimzo's final form, no matter what attacks or spells they use. Sam Martone wonders if he must change himself, reveal his true form, if there is to be any hope of winning.

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