The ManyEnding Story (Ver 1)You’re about to turn 31, and it’s time to level up. It’s time to stop renting, daydreaming and drifting around. It’s time to seize the day and make something of your life!
This is your chance to:
1. develop a fabulous career
2. make a commitment to a loving partner
3. have wonderful children
4. buy your own home, and
5. become creatively fulfilled.
Can you collect all five adult points?*
Or will you die in an unprovoked animal attack?
Only you can decide.
`*`<i>And even if you do – are you happy?</i>
[[Begin->Introduction]]<i>“Chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown. Best live as we may, from [[day to day->Author's Note]].”</i>
I hope you enjoy this ‘click-a-path’ adventure. If you reach an ending, you can click ‘take me back’ or ‘give me another chance’ to continue playing. ‘Take me back’ will xx, whereas ‘give me another chance’ will drop you into another part of the story. If you would prefer to immerse yourself in the character and get lost in the chaos, simply [press the arrow button at the bottom right of each page] to experience all the twists and turns.
This story is recommended for mature audiences.
[[Continue->Preface]]In an abandoned town called Moonlight, an hour’s motorbike ride from Dunedin, you lie on a lump of schist like a skink. If it hadn’t been for your boyfriend, you’d never have given a thought to lizards, but here you are – one of five members of the Otago Amateur Herpetology Association hoping to set eyes on a rare or previously unknown species.
At first you came along on these trips to humour Tama. But after you spotted that first Alpine Rock Skink, let it crawl over your thumb and around your wrist, and felt the smooth sleekness of it, you were hooked.
Lately, the stripes, spots and scales of the lizards have been informing your graphic design. More importantly, they’ve been appearing in your painting, breaking you out of the rut of birds and flowers you’d feared would relegate your work to greeting card status.
You were already switching your allegiance from birds to lizards after the Alpine Rock Skink incident, but when you saw your first Jewelled Gecko, you fell hard. You were enchanted by its big eyes, little fingers, rose petal tongue and diamond markings. The gecko really did look studded with gems, as though it had been bedazzled with tiny beads of peridot.
You look over to where Tama walks steadily between rocks and tree stumps, careful not to let his cool shadow cross any warm places where skinks could be hiding. You admire his broad shoulders, stocky calves. He has his dark hair up in a bun, but you know it’s thinning. You hope he asks you to marry him before it thins much more. You imagine showing your wedding photographs to your children in years to come, their surprise at seeing their bald-headed father with long, shaggy locks.
When you first met, both aged 28, neither of you were interested in making a formal commitment. But after three years together, and a shared transition from young adulthood to adulthood proper, you think he’s probably changed his mind. You know you have.
[[Continue...->Intro3]]Beyond Tama, Puawai the zoology student and Colin the university lecturer walk through the yellow grass with the same slow, almost comical gait. They like to go to the lizards. You prefer the lizards to come to you.
You notice a movement and see Alec slide onto a nearby rock. A grin flickers across his face. He’s tall, lean, with curly blonde hair and a plump lower lip. He looks like an outdoor adventure instructor, but he’s a surgeon at the public hospital. He probably wears the surgical caps that Tama ships around the country from the Medical Supply Warehouse. He probably stitches people with sutures Tama’s packed into boxes.
Alec brought his girlfriend Gabriella to some of these expeditions earlier this summer. But she hasn’t come along for a while.
He glances at you, raises an eyebrow. ‘Does sunbathing help you find lizards?’
[[Reply->Intro4]]‘I’m not sunbathing,’ you say. You were daydreaming, but you’re not about to tell him that. ‘I’m pretending I’m not here.’
‘Well, if there is a rare species around, it’s obviously pretty good at avoiding people.’ He smiles at you, and the hairs on your arms prickle. ‘What kinds of lizards are you looking for?’ you ask.
‘I’d like to see the Mokopirirakau Galaxias. They’re covered in white dots, like stars.’
‘Exactly. They’ve only ever found twenty-seven. I’d like to find the twenty-eighth.’
You know all of this about the Mokopirirakau Galaxias, of course. But it’s cute that Alec’s trying to impress you. You continue to peer into the undergrowth, trying not to feel the [[heat in his gaze->Footnote1]].
‘What about you?’ he asks. ‘What are you looking for?’
‘Well, it’s my birthday tomorrow, and I’m looking for–’ You’re about to say you want what Gabriella’s got – a career, a great boyfriend, effortless beauty. You bite your tongue. ‘Skinks. I really hope I see some great skinks.’
You get to your feet and pick across the grass towards Tama. You slide your hand into his, still feeling electric from your moment with Alec.
‘I’m looking forward to trying our new camping mattress tonight,’ you say.
Tama peers into the undergrowth and snatches his hand free.
‘Look at that!’
[[‘What?’->Intro5]]He waves at you to be quiet, and approaches a large rock protruding from beneath a bush. Annoyance shoots through you, but as Tama gets closer, you’re drawn into the same spell that he’s under.
And then you see it. A black and gold Otago Skink, the length of your forearm, with bright sequin eyes. Tama extracts his camera from its case and takes photos of the creature. It’s beautiful, and you can see why he shushed you. But you’re starting to wonder. You’ve spent three years with this man. Will you always play second fiddle to lizards?
[[Continue...->Intro6]]Tama stretches out on the new camping mattress. He sucks on his metal pipe and exhales pungent clouds.^^2^^ You lower the tent fly to let the smell out.
‘Nice lizard you found today.’
‘Thanks. Oh, hey.’ He reaches for something, and you think it might be a ring box, but it’s just his phone. ‘I’ll show you something.’
He pulls up an image. It’s a poster. Join the Otago Amateur Herpetology Association, it says.
‘I thought I could put it up around the uni and in cafés and that. Drum up a bit more interest in the society.’
‘Where did it come from?’
‘Jono from work designed it.’
‘Jono the warehouse sorter?’
You take the phone and look more carefully at the poster. Jono’s used about three too many fonts, but at least none of them are Papyrus. The leading’s a little tight. You zoom in closer. The photo’s slightly pixelated, and the cropped edges of a watermark are just visible. You toss the phone back.
‘You know I’m a graphic designer, right?’
‘Jono was keen to do it.’
‘Jono’s not even in the herpetology association.’
Tama ducks his head. ‘I know, but you use a lot of pink and that.’
‘That’s because I’ve been doing a job for the Breast Cancer Foundation!’ The words come out in a screech, and you hope the others didn’t hear. You reach for the tent fly’s pull tab and yank it closed. ‘I literally design things to fit briefs. If you’d asked me to do this job, I could have done it. Better.’
^^2 ^^(css: "font-size: 80%;")[The first time you’d ever smoked was with Callum. He’d met you near the quarry and you’d shown him the big tree near Logan Park – the one you could step inside. Sitting with his back against the trunk and your back against his trunk, hidden in a cave of leaves, he’d taught you about free will, about how having a shared language means even our thoughts are socially constructed, and how to toke without coughing. You’d thought he was the smartest person you’d ever met.]
Something about the way he looks at you reminds you of Callum. Callum with the auburn hair, the permanently cocked eyebrow and the sculpted lips. Callum, who’d amazed you with the ideas he was learning at university. Callum, who’d been your first love… more than half a lifetime ago.
[[Return->Intro4]]Double-click this passage to edit it.