Those of you who’ve been following World of Depleted for awhile have doubtless noticed that with some of the new contributions coupled with some of the in-house story arcs have had a decidedly Gothic feel to them. From the prophetic seer Gavin Hesterdale and his visionary Dark Dreamers to the brutal and shrouded NIR and their penchant for crucifixes to the bloodthirsty Reapers and mysterious Bloodborn to the cloistered Order of the Steel Rood to the fact that this is referred to as the Black Sandbox, few people have failed to note the presence of Gothic symbolism and imagery throughout the World of Depleted.
With themes that are extremely evident to many in the Gothic community, it made a lot of sense to chat with some of them. As I’ve always felt a kinship with the Gothic mindset, when I had three different people talk to me about Donna Sheey, a woman who was spearheading the Cincinatti Gothicon, a special invitation Gothic event, I felt like I had to chat with her. When I got her contact info and called her up, we had a marvelous conversation and I immediately felt a kindred connection with her. As we talked over the next few weeks, she felt that our work with World of Depleted would have a definite connection with some of the folks who would be at Gothicon and invited me to come up, have a table at the conference, and chat with those who attended.
Gothicon was held in Cincinatti’s amazing new 86 Club, a Goth Club that bridges an old mortuary (which still has a crematorium) and an old movie theater (that last showed films in 1977 with the then-released Star Wars). Complete with a few older areas that are still totally Depleted-style, the Goth club was incredible. However, more incredible than the club itself were the people! Whether the Gaelic term “cymbrogi” or the more modern term “kindred spirits” is used, they both mean those who are essentially cut from the same soul cloth and that’s exactly what I found here. People with cutting intellect, brilliant creativity, and truly wicked senses of humor! (During the Conference, the streets around the club were almost abandoned, which was very strange for downtown Cincinatti until we heard from one of the local restaurant owners that a rumor had spread that we were all vampires. The locals had decided to stay safely inside until they were sure we were all gone! Now, I have no reason to believe anyone at the conference would’ve spread such a rumor, but that didn’t keep any of us from finding it rather hysterical!)
Amongst the very cool people I met were a 16 year old girl who goes by Niko who’s already written a post-apocalyptic novel, a makeup artist that has worked on both films and TV shows called Drakke, and a brilliant prop creator named Thom who combines studies of the supernatural with complex physics like string theory. All had fascinating ideas to discuss and Thom is already working on new props for the World of Depleted after we met this weekend!
One of the most touching young men that I met this weekend goes by the name of Zion and he’s a classical singer with a fascination for scoring. We sat down and chatted about a lot of the hard elements we were exploring in Depleted and he really connected with the material and the brutal world we were portraying.
Shortly thereafter I discovered that he was one of the featured speakers, talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As I sat down to listen to his testimony, I discovered that he was one of the people who survived a brutal shooting at the Colorado Springs YWAM in December 2007. He literally saw one of his best friends shot to pieces before his eyes by Mathew Murray (who would escape the complex and show up a day later with a thousand rounds of ammo to begin gunning down people leaving a New Life Church, until he was shot and killed by an off-duty female security guard). Miraculously, Zion was the only person in the section of the building he was in who wasn’t shot. As such, he was able to get to his cell phone and alert an entire group of people from the hall, who were returning from a bowling trip to get as far from the complex as possible and to call the cops. The call literally saved the lives of everyone on that outing, for, when they received the call, their van was just about to pull into the parking lot of the YWAM building where the enraged Mathew Murray had managed to lock himself out of and was desperately looking for anyone he could kill in his rage. Without that call, the YWAM shooting would have made Columbine pale in comparison.
To say that I was left with chills is the understatement of the year. Zion went on to talk about how the stress and anxiety doesn’t catch up with you until time passes and you delve into the things you’ve repressed. Over the course of 3 and a half years he’s battled through what happened there and, even as soon as of 3 weeks prior to the conference, had a nightmare so vivid that he somnambulatorily tried to throw himself out a second story window. Thankfully, he woke to find himself hanging out the broken window and was able to pull himself back in safely! While undoubtedly extra steps have been put in place for the future, he went on to say that these night terrors have become rare and the rest of his recovery has been coming along very well. He credited his relationship with God for many of the miraculous things that happened to him and the fact that he could now begin to look into the future more than a few months!
As he completed his talk, it was almost as though the entire room started to breathe once more. I was privileged to have heard his story and to be reminded again of the things we must endure long after we’ve “survived” something horrific. Obviously, as we look at a world like Depleted, Zion’s story is a reminder to me that no survivor gets to where they are unscathed. It’s self-evident that his words will not leave me the same in my personal life, but, more than that, I shall also take his words with me into the Black Sandbox and, perhaps, someday, Zion may join us there, as well. Only time will tell!