Prodigia Games

I: Sisyphe Moderne

Three were the fates. Poverty that chains; gray drudgery that grinds the hope away, and gaping ignorance that starves the soul.

-Edwin Markham

The words cut through me with the careless ease that only the unintentionally hurtful can. She was three, after all, and lacking the practiced sophistication of accomplished manipulators. The kind of person whose thought reveals stark truths about the state of things.

"Where do you live, Daddy?"

The soundwaves seemed to linger in the air for a long time, the hum of the phone line probably only a few seconds but seeming to stretch agonizingly on.

How did it come to this?

Sitting on my lunch break under the balmy coastal California sun, I couldn’t feel anything but a chill down my back. I was trying to do things right, to be the provider…but inevitably it always came down to things like this, being almost 100 miles away and facing the fact that I’m gone so often that my own child doesn’t think I actually live in the same home as them.

The status quo needs to be flexible, but twist it sharply enough and you will without doubt see fractures begin to appear from the pressure.

Carrying the Boulder, Ad Infinitum

By all the usual standards, I was doing it “right”. Gainfully employed in a technical field for more than a decade, I was able to hit all the milestones: get married, qualify to buy a home, be able to have a couple kids…it’s the American dream, right? Heck, I even had a happy marriage, which meant that clearly I wasn’t making those same mistakes that other people were. You know, the ones doing it wrong.

But something still wasn’t adding up. I knew there were times where things seemed a little…hollow. Life plodded on, we made enough to pay the bills and barely more, and we were well aware that our feet were inches from the precipice; one wrong move, one setback, and our entire structure was in jeopardy.

But habits die hard. You try so hard to walk the path, yet you find that you never have the chance to see where it’s leading, much less if you actually like the destination. Earn your stripes, they say. Sacrifice now so that you can have comfort later. And for the first couple years, that’s okay. But then it turns into five years. Five turns to ten. Ten to fifteen.

Novelty fades, enthusiasm dries up, and you become relegated to the routine because “it’s what you do”. Get up, drive two hours, carry the boulder up the hill for eight hours, drive two hours, live two hours, sleep, and repeat. If you’re very, very lucky, the boulder might actually wait until you leave for the day before rolling back down to the bottom.

In the mythology, Sisyphus was relegated to his drudging task as a punishment for his offenses against the gods. We, on the other hand, are punished for our ignorance and trust in a system designed to keep people subservient and unambitious. I have known for some time that there was a better path, and I fully accept my responsibility for delaying in the hopes that I could learn my way out of my situation.

And knowledge is important, but there is something even more important: action.

Objective Added: Find the exit.

© 2021 Prodigia Games/Gareth Hewes