Part Three: Redemption
As it turns out, the player I’ve murdered is a bandit and the chat lavish me with praise. I go along with them. If only they knew who I really was.
A few minutes later, I see two more survivors walking through the forest to my tower. They’ve already seen me. I lower my gun and decide to play another crazy round of Russian roulette that is dealing with other players in.
“I’m friendly!” I say. He reciprocates with the same.
His friend joins me atop the tower while he waits in the bushes. One is dressed in camo, the other standard clothing, but they’re both wielding high-powered weaponry. Their backpacks are three times the size of mine and they even offer me a weapon. A gift of a gun – that’s the harsh reality of this world.
Progress brings you equipment and equipment is the only true way to ken the prowess of a player; you may be a person defined by experiences, but they’re all still stuck in your head. You’re as good as the gear on your back, but that can again paint a target there. Some bandits may leave new players alone, but seeing an armed, experienced player means better loot. The trigger on that sniper rifle is going to be pulled immediately and without hesitation.
Over the next three hours, we run together through forests and turn inland, away from the beach and those who hunt easy prey. I ask Twitter, jokingly, whether I should betray them now, but I reject their calls to “TAKE HIS BEANS!”
We escort one of them to Cherno, otherwise known as “Bandit Central.” Now that I’m alone, I aim the gun at the back of my companion’s head every so often, toying with my impulses. We continue to walk further north and west. Along the way we share the spoils of zombie war and on the edge of a forest he bids me a goodbye, but not before we swap Steam usernames.
It’s all so awkward now – there’s no way I could kill him. It would be messier than spilled blood.
It’s all so awkward now – there’s no way I could kill him. It would be messier than spilled blood. I feel my heart soften and my feet settle into the comfortable path I’ve walked a million times over. I smile a little.
The bandit is gone for now, buried somewhere while I walk an honest road. I offer players food and they return my kindness with GPS systems and even bicycles. I die more than once thanks to my friendly ways, but I take it on the chin and set back out there. Those on Twitter who once urged on my darker inclinations now join me and we roll together, watching each others’ backs. I’m part of a moving team. I cherish my character’s life all the more for it.
Murder had been my drug, and I’d used my characters like syringes, tossing them aside in search of my next fix. I was too lazy to take the first steps up the Chernarus ladder and, instead, I had hunted other, more fortunate players for my first supplies: sometimes food, other times water, if I was lucky a weapon to defend myself.
That was the thrill to me – the trick, the double cross, their anger once they realized what had happened.
My survivor wanders the forests of Chernarus alone, with a dry tongue and an empty stomach. He sees a fellow survivor in the distance, but his heart sinks. In DayZ, fellow players can save your life or put a bullet in your head, and you never know which one it’s going to be until it’s too late.
A friendly meeting in passing or hours spent together. Quiet fields. A journey through town where zombies don’t attack. All of those small mercies are damning you. They’re events in a pressure cooker and the lid is going to blow. It’s inevitable and, worse, you’re always looking for it in a never-ending attempt to predict the future – and the actions of others. You fear humans more than you fear the zombies – their predictability becomes the subject of craving. More often than not, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, because you’re the first to crack.
Bang! Bang! You killed that man for looking at you the wrong way…
Follow Jamie Dalzell on Twitter, @Sir_JD.