/Whois - Chapter 6 - Scuba Suits Make Great Forts
My days began to take on a familiar rhythm. Despite my IRC habits, I kept a firm reign on my priorities. Work was work and I never allowed my hobby to take precedence. If I called in sick...I was really sick. My husband couldn't really complain as dinner was always ready at the expected hour and if I came to bed late, or not at all, I figured he was unconscious anyway. What did it really matter to him?
Life was pretty darn good.
It was while I was sitting at my computer on one particular Saturday afternoon, half my attention on the screen...the other half on the book in my lap, when everything changed. Usually, in hindsight, a person can recognize the exact moment that the world went upside down on them. However, I'm sure Alice, upon seeing a funny white rabbit in a waistcoat, carrying a pocket watch while muttering, "I'm late, I'm late" suspected that things weren't quite normal...and probably wouldn't be for some time. Instead of a rabbit, my harbinger was an otter.
He blew into the room like a two year old on a sugar high.
Otter: Hmmm...hmmm...okay, okay...ready? I said...READY?! Pay attention...packed like lemmings into SHINY metal boxes...quick, quick. Bah! You are too slow...I'm otter here!
*Otter opens a window onto another dimension. Is that a trout farm he smells? Could be...could be*
And with that...he was gone.
And damn it...I knew that song. I was one seriously devoted fan of The Police. But never mind all that...who the hell was this Otter?
I leaned over the keyboard and sent a private message out to Kali.
Snobird: Kali....who is Otter?
Kali: LOL! You haven't met Otter yet? OMG! The men HATE him...the women LOVE him. He's the biggest pain in the ass this channel has ever known...well, except for you. Why?
Snobird: Nothing...I'd just never seen him before.
How can I explain without sounding somewhat insane? Otter disturbed me. It wasn't actually a pleasant feeling.
The book no longer held my interest, so I absentmindedly laid it on the desk and paid no attention as it slid off the top and landed with a dull thump onto the carpet. I scrolled the text back to those lines...it was just gibberish. This person was obviously demented and...and...just who the hell did he think he was coming in that way and disturbing all of us?!
But as the chat text caught up to the current conversation, I realized that Otter's interruption had not caused a single ripple in the room's activity. To them, it was just Otter being Otter...and since they didn't understand him, they dismissed him. But I couldn't. It was like dropping a ring down the drainpipe. I knew it was there...I knew I had to get it back...but I didn't know how to go about it without the very real possibility of accidentally flushing it completely away. It was annoying as hell...but without a doubt, I knew I had to catch an otter.
So how does one go about catching an otter? My first thought was to prove to him that I had seen him AND I knew the answer to his riddle. But I learned quickly that otters don't appreciate late-comers to their games. You either have to know it NOW...or forget about it.
There was only one solution...I had to make up a new game and lure the otter in.
Through careful questioning, I learned that Otter was from Melbourne...same as Male1. While I chatted in the evenings, Otter would lurk about the edges of IRC and participate occasionally while he worked, since his time zone was sixteen hours ahead of mine.
I hadn't really planned what I was going to do...I was much too nervous.
"Busy?" I asked him in a private message...
Otter: Nahhh...just sorta working. Why?
Snobird: You are working too hard...you need a break. I gotta surprise for you...wanna play?
*Otter's ears perk up wondering if it's something to do with trout*
*Snobird tosses a towel to Otter*
Snobird: You may need this...
*Snobird takes out her magic piece of chalk and draws a door on the wall. She smiles at Otter, opens the door and steps through...*
To be honest, I had no idea what was on the other side of that door when I drew it. It could have been anything. I just had to trust my imagination to lead the way...
Snobird: Ta-da! I hope you like it!
Otter: Err...what is it?
Snobird: Umm...it's a...Turkish Bath!!
And in my mind's eye it was beautiful. Tall pillars of white marble surrounded by cools shadow framed a pool of the most achingly gorgeous turquoise hue.
Otter: Last one in is a rotten trout!!!
*Otter races toward the pool*
*Snobird trips Otter and chortles with glee running for the pool*
*Otter reaches out a hand and grabs Sno's ankle, laughing as she drags him across the marble floor*
*Snobird winds up her towel and snaps it at Otter's butt*
Otter: OUCH! Damn it...that hurt!
We played like that for hours at the expense of his employer. Just a couple of thirty-something year old children who think that beating the crap out of each other is a fine way to say, "Hey, I sorta like you. Wanna be friends?" I didn't want to overstay my welcome, not when I'd experienced such idyllic joy, so reluctantly I made an excuse to go...long before I really wanted to.
Otter: Hey sno?
Otter: Can we like e-mail each other...you think?
Snobird: Ya...I think.
It was magic...a writer's wet dream. They weren't just ordinary e-mails, you see, they were pieces of stories...stories that he'd made up and invited me to participate in. The first series was a spy vs spy spoof involving a particularly nasty virus capable of killing piscavours. To make sense of that, you have to appreciate that snobird was the nasty virus...and of course, otters, being eaters of fish...are the piscavours. The scenarios were sublimely ridiculous and infectious. I would get out of bed in the morning, read my e-mail and take it with me to work so I could plan my retaliation...all with a smile on my face.
Meanwhile, in IRC, Otter and I continued our "getting to know you" phase. We still beat the snot out of each other, but there were also the cooties to consider. If you are beginning to understand that in our imaginary world, the two of us were nothing more than children...you'd be right. But as much fun as we were having...and as sure as I was that we were well on our way to becoming good friends, I hadn't passed the ultimate test yet...
*Otter decides he must protect himself from this virus called snobird. He pulls out a scuba suit and puts it on*
*Otter puts the helmet over his head...a bit tight. Otter breathes a little faster in panic because he's somewhat claustrophobic...and slowly begins to fasten all the fastenings and zip up all the zipperings*
*Snobird yells "NO!" and leaps into the scuba suit with Otter*
Now, you'd think that was a pretty silly thing to do. Looking back on that particular moment...I don't know why I felt compelled to do such a thing, but instinctively I knew that making that leap was what it was going to take to be Otter's friend. He would be the first to admit that he had been having fun, but at the same time...it made him uneasy.
Otter: Sno...why did you do that?
Snobird: I don't know Otter...I just had to. Does that make sense?
Otter: Ya...it does. I'm just...well what do we do now?
Of course, two creatures in a scuba suit is not a comfortable living arrangement, so something had to give. There was nothing to do but to allow our imagination to grow the scuba suit. It became our fort. We spent quite a few afternoons in there, talking about hopes and dreams when we weren't engaged in pillow wars, toothpaste fighting and generally making a shambles of our club house. We built a remote control that would open and close the face mask so that we could come and go as we pleased. But for all intents and purposes, we really didn't feel inclined to go anywhere else. Whatever we needed was near at hand...and what wasn't, we imagined into existence.
Like all childhood friendships, we had a simple faith that nothing could harm us as long as we were together. The rest of the world, both real and IRC, faded away for us...but unfortunately the world was about to let us know that it had not forgotten us.