Session 9 – Flashback

This is a session recap for my current Kult: Divinity Lost roleplaying campaign. Jessy Button is played by my wife, who also does the art, and I am the game master.

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A warm summer day, window shutters clattering lightly in the breeze. MTV Cribs is playing on the TV, but Jessica is only half paying attention. She’s sat in her family’s old-looking but comfortable living room, flipping through a magazine her younger sister had brought home last week. It’s not particularly interesting to her, but it’s something to do. Marie, her mother, appears in the corner of her sight. She enters the living room, her glazed eyes slowly moving over all the details of the room, taking it all in with great, but sluggish, interest. Another one of her weird episodes. Jessica tries to get her attention, but she only half-responds with a dragged out nonsense sentence before finally snapping out of it and asking Jessica what she’s reading.

Jessica deigns to hold a half-hearted conversation with her mom. How’s school? How did your test go? Do you want anything specific for dinner? More than anything, Jessica would like her mom to go somewhere else, but she’s still sitting next to her blathering on. Marie knows Jessica is barely listening, so she finally reaches out and touches her daughter’s hand to alert her, as if she has something important to say. She tells Jessica to never let anyone else live inside her head. She seems serious.

What does she mean? Marie continues to talk, a little bit disoriented now, about how when someone leaves you, sometimes their thoughts and your memories of them make them continue to live in your head. If you let them, they might change you. Jessica feels as though some terrible news are coming, are her parents divorcing? Marie tries to quell her worries. It’s like with her mother, Jessica’s grandma. She’s not with them, but her memories and thoughts are still part of Marie. 

Jessica knows her mom’s smile. It’s warm, not entirely attractive but definitely welcoming. The smile that slowly spreads across her face is not that smile, and her eyes glaze over once more. It happens over the course of a few moments, slow enough that Jessica doesn’t immediately catch on. She snaps her fingers in front of her mom’s face. Hello, is she still in there?

“I will never leave you.” – Marie

It’s not her mom’s voice, and it’s not her eyes. The entire world seems to color correct, the room flickering into a mess of pinks, purples and dusty blues as Marie’s eyes turn from their bright green into a golden brown. Jessica is beset by a pounding headache, like a hole has opened up in the back of her skull with tendrils of pain shooting out to her temples. She tries to stand up and yell for her dad, working out in the garden, but she falls to the side and collapses on the couch. Her mother, shocked and worried, huddles close to make sure that Jessica is alright as the world fades to black.

Jessy wakes up to a protesting body, her headache as bad in real life as in her memory. Her shoulder is burning too, but it has been bandaged. So has her head, though it still feels like she has a gaping pit behind her ear. The bright hospital lights blind her for several minutes before she, very carefully and with great effort, can look around the room she is in. Heart monitor, an IV pumping some concoction of medicines into her, her wallet and busted phone, and a window to the outside. There’s a button to call a nurse, and Jessy reaches for it. Her ring is gone, and through the daze and pain a deep panic sets in. Her first question to the nurse is about where it is, but he knows nothing about a ring. He explains that Jessy has been badly hurt, that a man called Honey brought her in three days ago, but disappeared before they could ask him any questions. Jessy, furious that Honey must have stolen her ring, closes her eyes and goes back to sleep after demanding more drugs for the overwhelming pain.

She is woken up to a dinner plate that smells and tastes of nothing. Chewing hurts her head. Her doctor explains the situation, but hopes that Jessy can shed some light on what actually happened. The police will want a statement so that they can investigate the apparent assault. Her last memory, she claims, is of going to the store for steaks to cook for her boyfriend. The doctor notes with some concern that Jessy’s emergency contact is not a real person. She’d changed it after her last time at the hospital, when they’d called her father. She asks, sternly, for a phone, interrupting the doctor outlining her recovery process. She’ll be out of the hospital in four days, that’s all that matters and he can stop talking now.

Later in the evening, Jessy experiences several heartbreaking disappointments. First, that part of her hair has been shaved off for the stitching done. Second, the phone she is brought is an iPhone 2. She complains loudly about the latter to the nurse who helps set it up, moving the SIM card from her old, waterlogged phone to this one. It was all they had laying around. Still, at least it lets her read her messages. Everyone in her life has sent texts asking for her, wondering where she’s gone. Jessy explains to Andi that she’s been in an accident and is at the hospital. Andi offers her condolences, but also hints that the meetup with her contact who’d worked at Granger Fine Jewelry went well and that she has some juicy stories to share with Jessy.

Carl, in addition to multiple texts asking for her and exclaiming his worry, has also left several voicemails. Because he’s old, Jessy figures. He seems close to tears, explaining that he thinks his wife is finding out about Jessy. He’s been trying to contact her, but the University of Toronto says she doesn’t actually go there1. Carl’s wife must have started picking up on his distress, especially after he cancelled last minute what he claimed was a ‘business trip’, but was actually their weekend getaway. He’s also afraid that his wife has found the second phone, the one he uses to talk to Jessy. His life has clearly taken a turn for the worse. Jessy does not immediately respond to any of this, in large part due to the drugs and general disinterest in Carl’s life. 1 Liar Hold spent

Tan seems to have had a rough couple of days too. His messages indicate that police have contacted him, asking about Jessy. He doesn’t know why, and naturally provided them no answers. She texts him the hospital name and her room number, and Tan is soon on his way over. Their conversation is brief, but they come to an understanding that Jessy will stay with Tan once she’s out of the hospital. They will talk about all that’s happened in detail then. She complains to her favorite person in the world that they gave her the world’s shittiest phone, so Tan leaves the hospital and comes back just an hour later with a new one for her. She readily gives away all her login information to Tan as he sets the phone up for her, and the two part with an understanding that Tan will pick her up at the end of the week.

Several days pass in a blur. Headaches, the fuzzy reality of painkillers, her infected wound again and again cleaned and checked on. The doctor and nurses tell Jessy that she will be fine, but that the recovery process may be long. She’ll have to come in for weekly checkups, dress her own healing shoulder, take great care not to hurt herself anymore, and so on. Jessy barely listens. Instead, she buries herself into her new phone’s screen, obsessively scouring the internet for meaning to escape the confines of the hospital.

Evan, the college boy she stayed with for a few days and who still has her things, apparently made a public post on Instagram using all her professional hashtags. Her entire fanbase has seen him claiming to be Jessy’s boyfriend, and explaining that she’s disappeared. Hundreds of messages from worried fans can easily be ignored, but more troublesome are the messages both private and public that decry Jessy as a two faced whore. She has plenty of boyfriends and girlfriends, and they’re not supposed to know about each other2. Evan and her need to talk, and Jessy tells him as much after pointing out that she’s in a hospital and he’s a huge asshole. 2 Liar Hold spent

The police sergeant, a short and stocky woman with long brown hair pulled back into a simple ponytail, introduces herself on the day before Jessy leaves the hospital. Her name is Ellis O’Donovan, and she needs Jessy’s statement of what happened to her so that they can get to the bottom of who attacked her. At least, that’s what she says while the doctor is still present. Once Ellis asks him to leave, her demeanor changes. She may be short, but the woman dominates the entire hospital room with a presence that Jessy can’t escape from. Ellis moves from the door to the window and to the side of the bed, the bright hospital lights casting confusing shadows in every direction as her stern face moves from the feeble, bandaged girl to her notebook and back again.

She begins by asking several difficult to answer questions for Jessy. Her emergency contact was fake, why? Her publicly listed address is wrong, why? She knows the man who brought her in, but can’t remember meeting him. Explain3. Ellis questions every bit of Jessy’s story, and moves on to thoroughly explore any potential bad actors in the joke of an industry Jessy works in. With the way Ellis is treating her, Jessy realizes that she’s seen as a threat or a suspect rather than a victim4. Jessy acts frightened, near tears, but Ellis doesn’t relent. She can see through those crocodile tears, and is willing to make Jessy talk if she doesn’t on her own. The woman knows that Jessy isn’t telling the full story, or even a part of it. 3 Liar Hold spent

4 Eye For Detail
Failure
  • What are you working on?

With officer O’Donovan pacing around the room, Jessy finds it difficult to keep focus on her. The medicine still has her a little dazed, and the image of Ellis gets harder and harder to parse. She’s large, huge even, and beneath the uniform is white, thick skin with wrinkles and calluses. Every part of her body swells out of her clothing, something massive impossibly fit into the police uniform and Ellis’ skin. Jessy stares in confusion at the sight. The way O’Donovan’s black tongue rolls and bounces across her chest as she talks seems to defy all sense. She looks back at Jessy, and a wide smile with sharp little teeth, yellow and filthy, spreads across her face. Her eyes, bulbous and white and shimmering like pearls, bore into Jessy’s. They see each other.

Jessy acts shocked, horrified, disgusted, and when all those fail to get a reaction out of whatever sergeant O’Donovan has become, she falls back to frustration. She responds to the hulking police monster’s every question with an indignant or dismissive half truth, but Ellis pushes on, determined to drain Jessy of all she knows. She demands complete answers, told in full truth, and the incandescent globes that are her eyes expose anything Jessy might withhold. She exhausts Jessy, for information and physically, under her intense questioning. Hours pass by, and through gritted teeth Jessy answers every question, defiant but unable to defeat the sergeant’s questions as they keep hammering her. Her mother’s ring, her nightmares, Wilma, the monster under the PATH. Her connection to Tan, the precious few things she knows about his religion, why she keeps his company. Jessy gives Ellis O’Donovan everything, and it still doesn’t seem to be enough. In the end, the sergeant leaves infuriated and with fewer answers than she’d like, though what exactly she expected Jessy doesn’t know.

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