October 1st, 2006 12:18 PM
Monday Morning, 18th of September, 4am. I was in the shower watching blue and yellow body paint draining away from my exhausted figure. Four hours earlier i had been dancing the night away in the thames mayor festival parade, i had only just arrived back, in one hour i was off to the airport to do one of the most impulsive things ive ever attempted, and all i wanted was to curl up under a duvet somewhere and hibernate.
One transatlantic flight, two bloody marys, and no hours sleep later I was wandering through central park dazed and confused as to why it was still morning.
I wasted away the week pottering around manhattan, gathering supplies for my Journey to the end of the Night, which i felt i had already started when i chose to board the flight on monday. To tell the truth i was petrified about turning up to the game. I was alone, in an unfamiliar city, i was about to chose to run away from random strangers in the middle of the night, and possibly more scary, this was going to be the first time i met anyone else playing sf0.
And that first person i met was Sam Lavigne, outside the festival hq, two hours before the journey started (I say met, when actually it was more ambushed). I shook his hand, introduced myself and explained how i had come on impulse all the way from London to play Journey to the End of the Night, while thinking all the time that i was sounding just a bit too much like an insane stalker.
At the start of the Journey, feverishly figuring out safe zones on the map supplied and attaching my brand new orange ribbon around my arm, I heard another British accent in the night. His name was Alex and he too was alone in new york, here to experience the festival. Time was short, and we decided to band together as the foolhardy british duo.
When Sam had finished explaining the rules to the 140 orange ribboned people standing before him in the street, looking somewhat like a bizarre dictator rally, the whistle was blown, and suddenly the mass turned into a riot of screaming and pushing. A herd of cattle trying to escape from invisible chasers that everything assumed were behind us.
Almost immediately we broke away from the rest of the herd and headed off in the wrong direction along the west coast of manhattan, finding on our travels a random parked helicopter. Having decided that the helicopter proper didnt count as public transport we decided to hook round and approach the first checkpoint in Korea Town from the north to avoid the humiliation of being caught so early on in the chase. By the time we found the stranger (An asian looking girl with a purple scarf... in Korea Town... thanks Sam) i had already somehow managed to lose my map, and so had to spend the rest of the night hoping i wouldnt be seperated from Alex as i would become pretty much stranded.
After making the first checkpoint safely we backtracked north to the subway, getting lost temporarily on the way, and took it down south to the second checkpoint to find two girls in red playing cards.
At the second location we got our first taste of being chased after a small situation where the two girls had been thrown out of the bar they were meant to be in, and we had foolishly left the safe zone to try and find them. We cleared half a block, pursued and screaming all the way, and dashed round the corner back into safety.
From there we found ourselves back on a subway train going south again, to find a man with a lantern in Battery Park. This time we had been thrown together with three girls from Minnesota (Possibly called Rachel, Jess and Jenny?), and also in the carriage next to us were three chasers, who fortunately had not spotted us on the platform, thanks to our sneaky hiding skills, so we were free to spy on them throw the carriage window, waiting for them to get off.
Approaching Battery Park, Team Foolhardy Brit had somehow picked up atleast 6 other people so now we were a rather obvious target of paranoid individuals, so it was not surprising that on approaching the fence of the park, we were spotted and charged by one of the professional chasers (you can tell because they get bicycles and tend to laugh evilly). Cue a blair witchesque run through battery park, with everyone turning into panicked rabbits. It took us about 15 minutes to regroup but by now with our nerves shot, and standing in the middle of a dark park, we were all unable to even understand a simple map. It was pretty much blind luck that we stumbled across Sean with his lantern and fell with glee into another safe zone. Sean briefly explained the changes to the checkpoints as the police were now starting to bug out and shut things down.
Creeping back out of battery park, we had somehow formed into a delta force like team, stealthing our way through the financial district, when two people wearing orange ribbons burst out from a side street ahead of us, screaming their heads off, it only took half a second for us to become hidden behind cars and in shop doorways, communicating in hand gestures as to our next course of action. Unfortunately as a group we chose to go the now obviously silly route of up the ramp/road the people being chased had just come from. By the time we had almost reached the top of the road, suddenly our way was blocked by the silhouette of a grinning chaser, one of the minnesota girls fell over while trying to turn and run and seemingly hurt herself quite badly. Being the gentleman i called on the honour code and shouted "Pause!" but this was answered by the chaser breaking into a run towards us "Ill leave the girls but im still going to catch you!". Bastard.
Mad run down the street, exhausted by the time it opened into the road which suddenly seemed filled with yellow caution taped chasers. Alex was gaining distance from me and a girl chaser was on his tail, checking my options i spotted a subway across the road and knew it was my only hope of survival. I attempted a (id like to think) heroic leap over a row of binbags into the road, trying to put an obstance between me and the original chaser i could sense closing in behind me, unfortunately i had judged things wrongly, the girl was no longer after Alex as he sped off into the night, and instead of my leap to freedom, i leapt into her waiting arms. Caught. Bugger.
Attaching my caution tape over my arm just a tad miffed, i caught an orange ribboned couple, apologised, and then found myself in conversation with one of the original chasers, who explained the full extent of the night, six people had already completed the race, people had been caught too early and things were falling into chaos as the final checkpoint had been moved aswell. He advised me to either chase people a little but not catch them or to gather together some people and just head to point 6, a bar in avenue C.
This lead to one of the most bizarre experiences of the night, i somehow found myself standing in the middle of 17 orange ribboned racers by wall street, offering a message of friendship between chased and chasers, and suggesting that we put aside our differences and instead all go and have a pint, even more strangely, many people were happy to go along with my scheme. I broke the game.
An hour later, having said goodbye to the Minnesota girls who had no form of ID to get into the bar with, I was sharing a drink with various players of the race in a dark basement of some surreal chinese bar.
Three or so more hours later, I was standing outside a restaurant which sold pizza and cigarettes, with Sam, Sean, the white bread cancer, figuring out what to do with Sean's lantern. (The exploits of which is recorded on video but i have no access to a way to reduce its file size from 110megs.)
Then it was back to a short stay in a warm bed, half a day to regain my bearings on life, and another transatlantic flight back to London, arriving just a few hours before my first class in a new term at college started.
I apologise for going on for so long, but considering the distance i travelled to complete this task i felt i had to go into a bit of detail. Truely one of the most amazing, bizarre and surreal nights ive ever experienced. Thank you sf0!