Many many years ago, little Willow belonged to a Star Trek PBEM RPG; Star Trek, Play By Email, Role Playing Game. And little Willow had been made Commanding Officer of a staging area of said game; Outpost Foothold (Qam'uch).
Just before little Willow was made commanding officer, there'd been another who'd decided what the Klingon Outpost needed was a nearby planet, with Aliens. But then that person left and the game itself went through a kind of revolution; things shuffled and changed, administrators and duties changed and little Willow was left to create those Aliens. And create, organize and visualize the Outpost. And she did.
And when time came for the big reveal, it was well liked. But then those in charge said that Willow had to give credit to the guy who'd left because he'd thought up the concept of having a planet nearby in the first place, with possible non human aliens.
Little Willow was mad. Really really mad. This guy had left! He had nothing to do with the biology, physiology, geography, religion or politics of the planet she'd created. He'd only said 'Hey, maybe the nearest planet was inhabited'. And then he'd gone.
But Willow got told that that contribution needed credit and if Willow didn't like it, she could take her toys and go home. And, that's a difficult choice for someone to make eager at the chance of their own rp Command and for someone for whom the whole concept of people playing Star Trek seemed damn near miraculous.
But it has never, ever, been forgotten.
"He's our friend and he's been part of this game longer than you, and who are you to withhold the credit he deserves."
"But he didn't do the work! He didn't create anything! And then he abandoned the game!"
Little Willow eventually gave up the game a few months later; possibly only two months later. And it was the first time she'd ever walked away from something she'd created; cut the cord, detached and try not to look back. It was a hollow feeling. Echoing. And it was a circumstance that leaves a mark.
By contrast, an experience in a different Trek game; Holofleet brings up a different set of memories, mostly smiles, sometimes a couple of face palms at youth and stupidity (namely my own). Someone took me under their wing in Holofleet, challenged me to be a better writer. After a while I did stop rolling with the punches of round robin rpg - getting irked at how others, especially newbies, saw and portrayed my character.
But I have never forgotten warm acceptance, teasing, instruction and friendship.
Shaun Darlington died earlier this year. In February. Since I still follow Holofleet bulletins, I got the email. It's taken me this long to be able to think about it/ write about it.
Knowing someone is alive, even if you're no longer in communication with them is a solid comforting thing. Somewhere out there in the world, going through the day to day, is someone you care about - even if it wasn't possible to tell them so when you were closer.
Learning that person has died, is gut wrenching.
"Why was I such an immature, bitchy, clueless, asshole?"
"Why didn't I try and stay in contact despite leaving the game?"
"Why? Why? Why?"
"Why did they have to die?"
Going through various Geocities sites, trying to remember old usernames (forget remembering old passwords), seeing the past laid static before your eyes, seeing how far you've come and knowing yourself enough to read between the lines of your own words - well, it makes it clear why so many therapists advise journaling.
I trusted Shaun, heaven knows why. I don't trust very easily at all. But I trusted Shaun. I risked and dared in friendship. With a male (lesbian quasi separatist here). Little Willow trusted, my past self who was more vulnerable and fragile and young in oh so many ways. Little Willow trusted even after being told all sorts of things about how much she didn't know about real life and how stupid she was in that prior game that only brings up bad memories.
To me this makes/made him an extremely remarkable man.
Maybe that's why it's taken me several months to try and say goodbye. To try and get some sort of handle on this hollow feeling which hurts far more than leaving a creation to bullies. I think perhaps good memories touched by loss burn in a way that bad memories can't ever emulate.
"Goodbye Shaun and Thank You."