Roll For SAN.

About ten times a day, I think: “I held a six-year-old girl as she died.”

Then I think: “Roll for SAN.”

I think this without irony, or merriment.  I grew up on roleplaying games.  They formed large portions of my thought process.  And when I say “Roll for SAN,” this is a reference from Call of Cthulhu, a popular game based on the horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft.

In the game, investigators start out with a Sanity statistic.  This is ranked as a number between around 85 and 0.  As you play through the game, and unveil the eldritch horrors, you are asked to roll against your Sanity stat.  If you fail, you lose Sanity.  (Sometimes, if the horror is sufficiently large, you lose some Sanity even if the roll succeeds.) Take too large a hit to your existing Sanity, and you go temporarily insane.

And I keep wondering: What is the Sanity roll for watching a small, beloved girl die?  Literally holding her as her breath stops?  Is it 1d6, 1d8, 1d10?  I’ve gone back and looked at the Delta Green books – they have a cold-hearted government clinician, Dr. Yrjo, who does horrendous psychological experiments upon captive prisoners.  They provide samples of the experiments, along with a list of the SAN losses for each thing, and I think for me it’s somewhere between 1d8 and 1d10.

This matters to me, because I am insane on some levels.  Mildly so, but I have taken a hit.

This did not occur to me until Gini pointed out that we must have driven home at some point after Rebecca’s body was loaded into the hearse.  We must have.  We know who was staying in the house then, and there were no empty rooms.  Which means that we drove home, presumably talking on the way, went to bed with each other, got up, showered, shaved, and

I have no memory of any of that.  Portions of my mind are wiped clean with grief.

And my actions are indistinct.  Both Gini and I have acquired a mild agoraphobia, wherein the crowds at the supermarket make us both nervous.  We retreat to home, curl up on the couch, don’t speak. I forget things easily now; we have the same factual conversations over and over again, where Gini forgets when DetCon is (in two weeks) and I cannot understand what plans we’ve made.  I now have a quivering sense of dread whenever I see the Meyers’ house, a feeling of returning to the scene of the crime.

It’s not debilitating, not totally.  But our shaky minds are a constant undertow. Our thoughts rattle in the wind now, a reminder of how fragile this foundation is.

And I keep thinking: We are too far from death.  Our ancestors, they dealt with this on a regular basis.  They had to look this directly into the eye.  And were they stronger, or us weaker, or did people simply see this diffusion as the background noise of a violent and cold universe?

Tommy died in the hospital.  I didn’t see him.  They cleaned him up off-stage, brought him out for the funeral like a prop.  Same with my Grammy, and my Gramma, and my Grandpop.  In my experience, death is something that arrives via a phone call, a nurse sounding sad, a relative trying not to cry.  It’s not…

…this was different.

And again, I think, “Roll for SAN.”  This is not an experience I’ve had.  A man should be a little shaky after watching his goddaughter die, goddammit.  Not watching in the sense that I saw Tommy die, which is to say watching the slow ebb of what the diseases stole from him, but watching in the sense that I stayed until a beautiful girl became a body.  And though I’d prefer my recovery happen on my schedule, it should take a while to rewire oneself to hook yourself back into the flow of life.  The world, it doesn’t stop spinning, which helps in a way.  Things continue to happen.  Software deadlines must be met.  Books must be written.  Tours must be scheduled.

“Roll for SAN.”  It’s all harder, though.

Yet I think of the only way not to be affected by Sanity loss at all: you lose it all, at which point the GM takes your character sheet from you.  You’re not you any more, at least not as you had defined yourself.  You’re something too used to death, too bereft of hope, too estranged from this enwebbed illusion we call humanity to be a true person any more.

“Roll for SAN.”

I am marking it off on my character sheet.

I am staggering forward.

I am lucky that I still have some left to lose.

4 Comments

  1. Dawn
    Jul 6, 2014

    I know of these things. I have felt these feels, very deeply and very personally. And it’s normal to lose those bits of time, though completely disconcerting. I do not remember digging the hole for my son’s ashes or putting the rose bush atop it, but I was kneeling down in the dirt one moment, and in the next, I was leaning against the car in the driveway, discussing whether or not my older son would want to be a forward on the hockey team. That happened a lot for a while.

    Personally, it was six months before I stopped being checked out all the way and could remember a day all the way through. It was another year after that before I was able to *not* pass the rosebush every day and pause just a little bit and slip out of time. And now many more years on, it’s still a weight that comes and goes around my heart. I can’t tell you what comes next because it can’t be a reality to you yet, but I can say that what you’re feeling is real and normal and natural. And it’s horrible.

    And I am so, so sorry. If there’s anything I can offer – an ear, a word – just let me know.

    • TheFerrett
      Jul 7, 2014

      All the hugs to you. I don’t know if there is anything I can offer, but your words help.

  2. Gayle
    Jul 6, 2014

    Yes. This. I went through a lot of the same when my brother died. It does get better. Call me if you need me. Love you.

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