Writing: The Tourist Trap

This was the last assignment of the writing class I had taken. It was based off the Finn McCool’s writing contest of 2013. The piece had to contain every word in a given list. This is the story:

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“You don’t want to go in there” warned the stranger on the other side of the street. “It is a real tourist trap”. David shrugged his shoulders at Mary and replied to her“It looks harmless enough”. Mary nodded her head in agreement. The door was ornately decorated. It looked as if it would whisk you away into another dimension. David grabbed the golden doorknob and twisted it with fake apprehension, hoping that the stranger would see it. “Are you ready to be trapped?” David asked as he pulled the door open.

He was surprised at the size of the room. He didn’t think it would be this large on the inside. “SLÀINTE!” shouted a crowd in the corner as they clanged their glasses of beer together. The group of men tussled the hair of the ginger looking one. Perhaps he was getting married. Hallways and staircases littered the exterior of the room in every direction. The couple sat down at the bar. The bartender walked by and quickly handed the pair a laminated drink menu. Mary pointed at the menu at the Bloody Mary and smiled. David ordered one for her and a rum and coke for himself. The bartender gave them both generous pours. David returned the favor with a generous tip. David noticed a woman sitting at the end of the bar playing one of those quarter quiz games. She looked as if she had been there for days. But maybe she had just had a long day herself.

Mary finished her drink and excused herself to go to the bathroom. She disappeared into the crowd as David ordered another drink. One drink became two, and then three. Several more people entered the bar. More cheers came from the Irish lads. He didn’t really know if they were Irish or not, but he and Mary loved to make up stories about the people they saw around them. “Where is she?” he muttered to himself. As his buzz turned into a haze his concern grew for her. He took for granted how easy they communicated now. She wouldn’t have much luck with strangers. He left his bar stool and approached the lads. “Have any of you see my girlfriend?”.

The ginger responded “Sure, she is fit!”.

“Yes, I am well aware” David responded, assuming fit meant something other than in shape. He assumed it was good. “She wandered off, did you see where she went?”. The group stared at each other for a moment and shook their heads no. Carrying his drink he ventured down the hallway he assumed she had walked down. He saw no bathroom, just another bar. “If only she had taken some breadcrumbs, she wouldn’t have gotten lost” he thought. The group in this bar looked stranger that the first, and a little more drunk as well. He opened up his wallet and approached the bartender. He showed her a picture of Mary and asked “have you seen anyone looking like this?”

She responded “Sure honey, I see people looking like that all the time. I am sure if you wait you could find one just like her”. Frustration welled up in him like a geyser. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw her climbing the left stairway and turning a corner. He felt like a salmon swimming upstream as he tried to make his way past the people on the stairway. “MARY!” he shouted in vain. As he reached the top he looked down the hallway. He couldn’t see anyone, just a few closed doors. He opened one of them and walked through the door. He couldn’t believe what he saw. It was yet another bar.

He passed several more halls, and bars, and stairways. Each time he found people stranger than the last. The situation left him discombobulated. Perhaps it was a bad idea to have left his initial seat. He doubted that he could find his way back through this maze. He needed to find her. As he opened another door he found a bar with dance music. Strobe lights flashed and the drunk people waved back and forth in a rhythmic trace, much like seaweed reacting to the ebb and flow of a current. He hopped up and down trying to catch a glimpse of her in the crowd. She did love to dance.

A drunk girl, no older than 21, approached him and asked “why are you hopping”.

He responded, “I am trying to see someone”.

“Shucks” she said. “I was hoping you were a frog. I need to find my prince. Maybe if I kiss you that will turn you into a frog?”. She grabbed him and drunkenly leaned in for a kiss.

He pushed her away and shouted “MARY!”. One by one, each dancer shouted Mary to the beat. “What a bunch of weirdos” he thought. Maybe they would be useful. If all of them started screaming, Mary she would find the room. He waived his arms up and down to try and get them to shout louder. “MARY MARY” came from the crowd.

The music suddenly stopped. The DJ shouted some profanities at him that would make a sailor blush and stormed off. With the music gone, the crowd dissipated quickly. The room emptied and a familiar figure sat at the bar sipping on a long island iced tea. It was Mary. She looked more lost than he. He grabbed her trembling hand and said “this was a bad idea”. They opened the door on the other side of the room and saw the ginger husband to be. He quickly made his way to first door. A picture of the stranger across the street was posted on the inside of the door. “I told you so” read the caption. As the door opened it was not a street he saw yet another bar, with a maze of halls and stairs. The tourist trap had claimed another two victims.

Initial Game Thoughts: 1846

I got to play a complete game of 1846 for the first time yesterday. It is a really good game.

For those not familiar with the particular genre, players in 18xx games will control one (or more) railroad companies in a particular geographic location. Each turn will contain stock market rounds and operating rounds.

In a stock market round you deal with issues like founding companies, setting their initial stock values, and dealing in stock transactions. If you started a company you might not end up with it at the end of the game. This can happen by you dumping stocks to make someone else the majority owner. It can also happen by someone else getting a majority share of the company.

In an operating round players use the capital available to each company owned to set up rail lines from one destination to another and purchasing new and improved engines capable of collecting funds from an increasing number of stops.

In 1846 each player starts with $400. There is an initial number of smaller companies that can be purchased via a secret draft. The cost of these smaller companies are paid out and then a stock market round happens. Players then take turns either starting their own larger rail companies or buying shares in the companies of others. A company is funded when 20% of the available stocks are purchased by the President. Those funds go into the treasury. Any stocks purchased by any player will put more funds into the treasury of the corporation.

I had a really good starting position in the game. I was able to get the best of the minor companies (one that operates its own train) along with a very good companion rail company (Grand Trunk Railroad). I was building a very attractive company. However, I neglected to purchase enough of my own shares. Because of this another player was able to get a majority share of the company and take it over. In the next stock market turn I was able to force him to protect that company and in doing so I was able to obtain enough shares to take over his company. It was a good saving move, but not enough to save the game for me. I basically grasped defeat out of the jaws of victory. I had seen some criticisms online of the Grand Trunk Railroad and how it doesn’t play well for the long haul. However, if you can start it with the Michigan Southern private company I believe that is a very strong position. M.S. starts earning money immediately and you wind up with a very easy path to make an “East/West” route (something that gives you bonuses). I haven’t played the game enough to determine what the “best” starting position might be. However, with the randomness that comes with drafting private companies and who gets to start bidding, it is unlikely that a player will get the “ideal” start if it does exist.

After playing this game and 1830 once before, I look forward to playing more of these games in the future. I am hooked.