“So, what do you do for a living?”

Um,” you start. “I work from home.”  This is always a really embarrassing question. You don’t do much – enough to get by, but you don’t know how to make that sound interesting. You can talk for hours about what you’re interested in, but making yourself the topic of conversation isn’t one of your strong suits. Plus, your nervosity isn’t conducive to optimal dating parameters. Why did they have to be so hot, why did they have to wear a bartender outfit, yells the panic in your head. You already want out – why’d you choose the seat with the back to the door? Why even date at all, oh god oh god oh god

They raise an eyebrow, genuinely interested. “Really? Like web design or something? Oh, are you an artist? That’s so cool!” They make it obscenely obvious that you’re super bad at this so you throw some scalding hot, subpar-yet-too-expensive coffee down your gullet to ward off the anxiety, at least until after it’s over. “I, um, write user reviews. A lot of them. Fake ones. On websites. Sorry that’s not any of the things you said.” Their expression softens from inquisitiveness into a reassurance that they haven’t given up hope yet. “Someone’s gotta do it, right?” is their response and also a sign the conversation is diving headfirst into becoming unsalvagable. Two seconds… A brief smile. Five seconds… they check their phone real quick. Eight seconds… NO! You sit up straight, force a more enervating voice, and go “Haha yep, I’m the one to blame for all those 5-star ratings on stuff that isn’t 5 stars!” Somehow, they start laughing. Well, a chuckle. Still: nice job. “Oh yeah, you’re a real villain, for sure.”

“So, um, what do you do, then?” They’re stirring some sugar into their macchiato but don’t break eye-contact. “I guess I’m sort of an office clerk, a bureaucrat. Basically every problem ends up with me and I have to deal with it. Day in, day out, naive and starry-eyed folks claiming they could do things better come to my stage and I have to remind them that that isn’t how the world works.” “Oh, that sounds super tiresome. Still, it must be very important work.” They sigh, and you know that sigh: it’s the sigh people give when the validity of their complaint has been shoved aside. The end results can be as triumphant and progressive as can be, a shitty job is still a shitty job. “I guess,” the stirring continues, longer than centrifugal forces need to achieve maximum solution. You take another sad sip and give the café a quick scan: it’s nice and rustic. Looks like a cabin. The floor and tables are made of wood and the wallpaper has this neat, red brocade design. There are a few other patrons, who you hope are having an even less successful date than you are, and in this six-second break you take from making things more awkward for yourself, you overhear someone saying “oh that’s a fantastic hobby!”

HOBBIES. “What are some of your hobbies.” They look at you, finally stopping that awful stirring motion. “What?” “Sorry. I mean, what are some of your hobbies?” At this question, they light up. Oh thank god. “I’m interested in a lot of things, but mainly acting. I’m very interested in theatre and love writing plays and scripts. This is kind of dumb, but I kind of really love doing evil speeches when I’m in the shower. Oh, and I design costumes! I’m not wearing one now, but most of the outfits I own are super  colourful and lavish and provocative. I do a lot with all kinds of fabric. I sow and knit, too. It’s something to keep me from going crazy, you know?” You were barely able to nod along to the rapid pace with which that was delivered. “That’s so cool. Are you into cosplay?” “Sometimes, but I like making original designs more than just recreating stuff, you know. Do you have any hobbies?” “I like…cough, anime, video games, and memes.” Did you just say cough out loud? They didn’t catch on, though: “No kidding! I get most of my design inspiration from video games. Suikoden, Final Fantasy, their villains always have such fantastic outfits.” You nod along with a passion.

“Yeah yeah yeah, I love video games. Especially the ones with corny and quasi-deep plots. Evil kingdom invades the world, the church was bad all along, that sort of thing.” They smile, oh my god this is going sort of well isn’t it? “I like it when stuff is a bit more mythical, if that makes sense? Like the world has to go through some kind of trial for salvation and if humanity fails everything is reset.” “That sounds familiar.” “Haha, I’m sure. Eschatology is a common trope,” they shift a bit, lean forward, “and a source of inspiration for me.” A blush takes over your face, why did that sound so cool and attractive? You break eye-contact and notice the other patrons are gone and you can’t see any staff. Weird. The café’s wallpaper also appears to be pulsating but that’s probably just nerves.

“Inspiration? Like, you’re into mythology?” They chuckle again. “What? What’d I say?” “Nothing, it’s just funny. Nah, it’s not mythology, it’s more work-related. Even though it’s fiction, video games help me do my job.” “Huh. How’s that work?” “They chronicle exactly what not to do, is all. The hero always takes down the villain because it’s good versus evil, and good is, well, good, so they win. It’s a bit more complex in real life.” Abort. Abort. They’re a creep. Quickly finishing your coffee because this is not how normal people talk, you glance down to check where your bag is, then you can make a run for it. “Haha, I mean. Sure?” You look back up and he is not wearing the bartender outfit he was before. It’s, sleeves. He’s wearing two black, purple-glowing sleeves and the rest of his chest is bare. “Like the heroes, my clients expect that everything will go their way. I remind them that’s not how the world works.” He stands up, and immediately so do you. You turn around to rush out the door but, the door has gone. In its place there is a fog wall.

“Because to change the world, you have to go through me first!”

You slowly turn back again, scared but filled with determination. You can see a health bar floating above their head. Intense and heroic music begins to play out of nowhere. You’re about to finish this.





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