The aim is to trek eastwards through a sandstorm to reach a mountain. A simple pilgrimage, then, powered by a cart and a camel. Except your orientation keeps shifting, your footprints get blown away, the landscape has only a smattering of detail, your camel is a total jerk and wanders off given half a chance and there is sand EVERYWHERE.
As I type this I am on my third attempt to achieve “mountain” and frankly I have started to hate this stupid camel. You see, the action plays out over a series of days. Each day you trek in what you hope is the right direction, aided by your trusty compass, and then when night falls you apparently forget to put everything in a safe place and tether the camel so come morning you’ll spend the first few hours finding everything.
In this playthrough my possessions have been remarkably well-behaved. There are no trudges to find my watch or to yank the compass or my dragon charm out of the sand. I don’t really know what the dragon charm does but it is safely about my person so I feel like I have probably accomplished basic responsibilty.
The camel is another matter.
I don’t get why I can’t just tether him at night. That’s the sensible thing to do isn’t it, I mean given his proven track record of wandering off and being a jerk?
I have a set of flagpoles which I guess I’m supposed to use to try and mark where I’ve been but one evening, as night draws on, I try to use one to stab the camel in the foot and anchor it in place ready for the next day’s journeying. It doesn’t work and I just look like I’m throwing the camel a flag party.
“I hate you” I whisper to the camel as darkness falls.
The next morning the camel has wandered off – further than ever before.
I inch my way out into the desert near the cart following a pattern that reminds me of bicycle wheel spokes. None of the spokes hits “camel” and so I extend even further, trying to drop my flagpoles in such a way that I can find my way back. I am worse at flagpoles than I am at pet care and I become hopelessly lost.
I bump into the camel who is heading in the other direction.
“Oh. It’s you.”
The camel says nothing.
“Could you maybe have developed an ability to sniff out the cart,” I ask as I take his leash. You know. The one I can’t tether to anything.
Either he hasn’t or he doesn’t want to. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter anymore. Night is falling and without the cart we’re doomed. I glare at the camel as the darkness and the sand start to obscure him from view. I don’t have the patience to play again, even with the tantalising prospect of seeing a mountain that Alice hasn’t. The camel has ruined everything for everybody.
“Just know this,” I say – a parting shot before we disappear into the desert forever. “In my imaginary ending to this game I ate you before I died.”