Long ago, in the misty days of the past, when it was always summer, nothing was ever mysteriously sticky, and I could sleep till 10 in the morning, I didn’t have a tiny fascist dictator running my life. In those halcyon days, I could throw whole days away on lazy indulgence, because I was free. Free! Oh foolish youth, with what naivete did you embark on that quest to grow another person inside you, like some sort of horrifying alien medical experiment?
What I’m trying to say here is that I used to play my fair share of video games, until a certain someone decided to be born and take up 100% of my free time. Ugh. So selfish.
And when I played video games, my favorite was Skyrim, because it’s the closest I’ve ever come to finally being the hero in my own private fairy tale, and because I got to shout at dragons a lot. Seriously, the goal of the whole game is to shout at dragons. It’s great!
So there I am, innocently playing a game that rewards me for kicking chickens, when I got a horse. Honestly, I don’t even remember how it happened. Maybe a fair maiden rewarded me for my daring exploits? Or maybe I stole it when the villagers’ backs were turned? All I know is that I had a horse now, and I was pretty juiced, because it meant I could go faster, which is a big deal when a game forces you to go on lengthy, relatively boring hikes on a regular basis. Also, I looked pretty cool.
The seed of my destruction was sewn early on. “What would you like to call your horse?” the game asked me. I’m pretty bad at coming up with names when I’m put on the spot, so I did the obvious thing: name my video game pet after my real-life one. In this case, the horse became Emilia, after my one-eyed cat who will fling herself off high surfaces with reckless abandon, trusting that you’ll dive across the room to catch her. She has reverse-trust issues. Is that a thing? It should be a thing.
So Emilia-the-horse and I set off on a quest, through the forest. I dismounted to talk to a wandering bard and pick up a cool side-quest, and the next thing I knew, the horse had run off a cliff.
Okay, back to a save point, before my horse tried to find out if she could fly, and I’ll just carry on. This time, up the mountain we go! Huzzah! We’re on an adventure and… seriously? Did the horse just get eaten by wolves? What the hell, horse?
Round three. Maybe we’ll just go for a gentle gallop across the plains. No way to wantonly disregard life here, just safe, flat grass.
DID MY HORSE JUST DROWN IN THAT BROOK?
Over and over, my horse kept doing stupid shit. I couldn’t figure out if belonging to me was so unendurable that she was just trying to put an end to it all, or if she was just really, really, really dumb.
But by this time it was too late. I’d given her an emotionally loaded name, gotten excited about riding her around, saved her life REPEATEDLY, and now I loved her. I couldn’t let her fall off any more high things (how she managed to climb to the top of that tower when I wasn’t paying attention, I shall never know), or get eaten by a dragon (okay, probably my fault that time), so I had to figure out what I was going to do with her.
This is where it gets really sad.
Heroically, we set off across the virtual continent, at first stopping regularly to kill goblins, but eventually just running away from everything that moved. We gallantly took an extra half hour to go the long way around because there was a sizable puddle over there, and restarted more times than I could count, bringing this god damned bastard of a horse back to life over and over, because, and I cannot stress this enough, she just kept dying. More and more, I was building a love-hate equine relationship as we limped along all afternoon, doing our best to stay in the most boring bits of the game possible, and still finding ways to somehow fall off gently rolling hillsides.
By the time we got to the only stable I knew about in this godforsaken universe, I had put hours into just keeping this horse alive, which essentially meant that I was avoiding playing the game as hard as I could, because everything fun = instant horse doom.
I SPENT AN AFTERNOON OF MY REAL, NON-VIRTUAL LIFE ON AN ANIMAL THAT MANAGED TO ONCE GET ITS HEAD STUCK INSIDE A ROCK.
Eventually, we made it. The stable! Safety at last! Please, take good care of my hor- what’s that? I need to undertake a quest before you’ll even consider watching my useless lump of animal? Really??
You can guess what happened. I would ride the horse three feet, dismount, go forward and clear everything that moved out of the way, then backtrack, find wherever the horse had wandered off to, hope that she wouldn’t be a corpse, ride her another few feet forward, repeat. It was almost meditative, in the way that a road trip with a car that’s stuck in first gear is meditative.
I wanted to kill this motherfucking bastard suicidal idiot of a horse.
Finally, we made it through! We completed the quest! And it only took us fourteen more tries before we successfully made it back to the stable without the horse spontaneously combusting!
Yes sir, I fetched your magical hat from the land of the dead, so now you may at last watch over my horse. Thank you so much for your troubles, and I’ll be going- What?
Yes, here is literally half the wealth I have managed to gather over weeks of gameplay. Please, take as much as you want. You’re welcome to all that I have, if, in turn, you agree to keep the World’s Most Delicate Horse upright.
And for the rest of the game, which took weeks more to beat, I checked in every few days to make sure the only horse I have ever loved was being taken care of. Or at least kept away from small rodents, because they’d probably find a way to kill her through, I don’t know, squeaking. Finally, she was safe from the terrors of standing upright in a video game world!
And that’s how I spent 10 hours of my life trying to keep a suicidal pretend horse alive, all because I named her after my cat.