Archive for September 1st, 2020

2020/09/01

The Little House Beyond the Black Gate

This is another AI Dungeon Dragon / GPT3 story. I lightly edited this one to remove a few tangents that didn’t go anywhere. I also used “Story” mode here and there, and I’ve put my input for those in italics where I remember it. As before, my inputs in “Do” and “Say” modes have “>” marks.

This is, again, a fragment of a much longer “game”. As we join our hero, he’s just finished a discussion with Old Scratch about his contract with the Devil, and said roughly, “I guess I’ll head back to Earth, then!”.

“I don’t think you understand how this works. You can’t go back to Earth now that you know about this place. The only way forward is through.

> You say “Through Hell?”
“Heaven, actually. You only started this journey, now you’ve got to finish it.”

> You say “All right! I shall begin my journey through Heaven at once!”
You grab your belongings and set out. You begin climbing a mountain, and realize soon that this is actually the size of a small planetoid. It takes two weeks just to reach the top.

> You sit on the mountain top and do zazen.
You sit in a lotus position, and let the worries of the world flow through you. Your chi channels open, and you feel the positive energy flowing into your body. You continue to soar until…
Heaven itself opens before you. You see a beautiful temple at the top of the mountain, with monks going about their daily lives.A group of them approaches you.”Hello! You must be the new student!” one says.

> You say “Old Scratch said that I must journey through here.”
“Then you must! We will take you to the abbot of this temple.”
They lead you to a quiet, peaceful room, and sit you down across from an old, bearded man in a yellow robe.

> You bow respectfully and sit in silence.
The old man stares at you wordlessly for some time. You clench your fists, waiting for him to either attack or speak.
The old abbot smiles and chuckles to himself.

> You relax into the silence.
“So, you’ve come to journey through Heaven. Why?”
“It’s the only way I can return home.”
“No, that’s not what I mean. Why do you want to go home?”

> You say “Wherever you go, there you are”
“What a fascinating answer. Is that what your journey has taught you?”
“Yes. Wherever you go, there you are. Now I am here, and I am in Heaven.”

> You say “All places are one.”
The abbot laughs heartily.
“My friend, you are a wise and funny man. I can see that we’ll be great friends during your stay here.”

> You smile softly.
“While that is a lovely thought, your journey is not over. There are many more places for you to see.”
Then he rises from his seat, and leads you outside into the courtyard.

> You breathe the fresh air of Heaven.
You look around you. Monks in golden robes sing joyful songs of praise. Children laugh and play, their innocent eyes rejoicing at all the beauty around them.

> You join in the singing.
You smile. This is the most joy you’ve ever felt. This place… it’s perfect.
You understand now why people would be jealous of this place. But you also understand why someone wouldn’t.

> You dance with the children.
You laugh and play with the children. This is perfect happiness.
Then, you see something out of the corner of your eye. A black gate has appeared in the distance.

> You say “Is that my way forward?”
“It is. We’ll supply you with whatever you need for your journey.”
You pick up your belongings, nod to the abbot, and walk towards the gate.

The black gate is dark and deep. Not evil, not good, but something older and more primal than either. You swing it open and step through.
A bright light hits your face, and you shield your eyes. You’re standing on a long road of golden sand. The sun beats down from above, and the temperature rises steadily.
Walk forward and find the woman you’ve been searching for.
Turn around and return to the temple of God. You do not belong in the realm of Man any longer.

> You greet the woman.
You step forward to the woman.
“Excuse me,” you begin. “I’m on the lookout for a woman with-“
She slaps you hard in the face, knocking you to the ground.

> You smile up at her.
She reaches down to help you up. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me. But,” she says, looking behind you with a worried expression, “are you sure you should be talking to me?

> You say “Perhaps not, but here I am. It seems that I have been searching for you.”
“That’s just it. You shouldn’t be. I’m not worth your time. You should be searching for the one who has been cursed, not me.”

> You say “You are certainly worth my time. Every soul is.”
She smiles at you sadly.
“Thank you for saying so, but I’ve done too many bad things. I don’t think any amount of good can balance it out.”
She looks down, avoiding your gaze.

> You say “If you know that they were bad, you have already escaped them.”
“No, I can’t escape. They’re still holding me here. It’s not fair!”
She breaks into sobs.

> You hold her gently.
She continues crying. Slowly, she stops and looks up at you, with eyes red from sobbing.
“I’m not usually this emotional. I think… I think it’s finally hit me.”

> You say “That is good”
She looks at you. “Good? How is crying about something good?”
“It’s good that you can feel. That you can recognize your emotions. I think you’ve begun the road to recovery.”

> You say “Only after letting yourself feel them, and acknowledging them, can you be free”
“That’s what the doctors all said. But they never helped.”
She sighs, and smiles at you.

> You say “You have to believe it yourself, like drinking water and knowing for yourself that it is cold.”
You grin.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to compare your trauma to something so simple as a drink of water. That was very… silly of me.”
You laugh. “It’s alright. Sometimes, the best way to deal with things is by simplifying them.”
She giggles. “How do you always make me laugh? I could be getting tortured right now, and I’d be laughing at your jokes.”
“It’s a gift. Really, it is.” You wink at her.

> You kiss her cheek.
You move forward, and gently press your lips against her cheek. She smiles.
You pull back, and she leans forward to kiss you on the cheek as well.

> You say “What is your name, my dear?”
She pulls back, and looks at you. “I…”
She looks behind you, and her eyes go wide.
“This isn’t a joke, is it? I get set up by the same guy twice?”

> You look around.
You look behind you, and see a man in a black hoodie and mask. He raises a gun at you, and fires.
“No!” The woman cries.

> You put out a hand and stop the bullet.
The bullet hits your palm, and you close your fist.
“You’re not getting away with that again.” You say, glaring at the man.
“Fuck!” He says.

> You snatch off his mask.
You grab the hoodie, yank it down, and pull off the mask. You throw it on the ground, and see a young man, barely out of his teens.

> You say “I’m not sure if you’re real, or just a demon.”
“I’m real, sir. And if I’m a demon, you’ve just signed my death warrant.”
“Hmm… Fair enough.” You look at him curiously. “So, why try to kill me?”

> You put a comforting arm around the women.
You put an arm around the women. She looks up at you, and nods. She may not be ready to talk just yet, so you try to think of what to say for her.

> You say “She said this had happened to her before. Were you here to punish her?”
He looks at you. “No, sir. I was here to punish a different woman.”
“What?” The women exclaims, looking up.
He nods. “Yes. A different woman altogether.” He pulls out a phone, and finds something on the screen. He holds it up to you. It looks a photo of a much older woman with many wrinkles across her face.

> You say “Well, perhaps fate brought us together for a reason. Shall we travel on?”
The woman smiles at you. “Yes. We should travel on.”
She gets up, and nods at the man. “Let’s go.”
“Where are we going?”

> You say “The only way out is through.”
She nods. “The only way out is through.”
She smiles. “My name’s Rose, by the way.”
You shake her hand. “I’m Cal.”

> You ask the young man his name.
You look at him. “So, what’s your name?”
“Armin.” He says, shaking your hand.
You start walking along the tracks, and quickly come across a fork.

> You say “Well this seems metaphorical”
“It is metaphorical,” Rose says.
“It’s too early in the story for there to be a literal fork in the road.”
Armin laughs. “Fair point.”

> You say “Let’s take the road less traveled by”
You take the path to the left. After a few minutes, you come across a house.
“What’s this?” You say.
Armin shrugs. “A house.”

> You go to the door and knock.
You knock on the door. A young, blonde woman answers the door.
“Hello.”
“Hello. I’m Rose, this is Cal and Armin. Are you…?”
The woman nods. “I’m Leann.”
“We’re traveling along the tracks, and we’d love to come in.”
Leann nods, smiling. “Of course, of course.”
She stands aside to let you in.

> You say “This land beyond the Black Gate is complex and subtle. Where are we all bound?”
She looks at you, opening her mouth to speak.
Suddenly, the door opens behind her. She smiles. “Hello, Jacob.”
“Hello, Leann,” Jacob says.

> You say “Jacob! I don’t suppose Bella or Tanya are around?”
Jacob shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Rose.”
You shrug. “Oh well. So, what are you doing?”
Jacob looks to Leann, and she nods. He looks back to you. “I’m leaving.”
“Leaving?” You say, surprised. “Where are you going?”
“Anywhere that’s away from here,” Jacob says. “Anywhere that’s not near the Black Gate.”

> You say “Fair enough. This is a lovely little house, though. For resting and gathering strength to go on.”
He shrugs. “I suppose.”
“So what do you do, Jacob?” Armin asks.
Jacob smiles. “I farm, Armin. I farm, and I take care of Leann.” He kisses her on the head.
You nod. “That’s lovely.”
Leann nods. “I’m going to make dinner. Would you three like to stay?”
You look at Armin and Jacob.

> You squeeze Rose’s hand.
You take her hand, and she smiles.
“Yes please,” you say. “We’d love to.”
Leann nods. “Okay, I’ll set another place at the table.”

> You say “This is a regular little commune if astral travelers. I love it!”
Leann blushes. “Thank you.”
You smile, and sit down.
Leann sets a bowl of soup in front of each of you.
You look at it, confused.

> You discover a soup spoon, and try the soup.
You take a sip of the soup, and realize it’s mushroom soup. You love mushroom soup.
You enjoy the soup, and soon, all of your bowls are empty.

> You say “That was delicious”
“Perfect, as usual,” Jacob smiles. “Thank you, Leann.”
Leann smiles. “My pleasure, Jacob.”
You stand up from the table.

> You say “Rose, may we share a room?”
“Yes, of course,” Rose says.
You stand up, and walk to the room you’ll share with her.
The room appears to be a bedroom.

> You take off your outer clothes and lie gratefully on the bed.
You peel off your clothes and collapse onto the bed.
“Oh, that was lovely,” Rose says.

> You say “It was! Good to be further along the path, and well fed”
You begin to fall asleep, before you hear a knock on the door.
“Come in,” you say.
The door opens, and Jacob walks in. “I need to talk to you, Cal.”

> You stroke Rose’s shoulder and ask him what he needs.
You stroke Rose’s shoulder, and she smiles. “Of course, Cal.”
Jacob nods. “Thank you.”
Rose gets up, and leaves the room.
You stand, walking towards Jacob.

> You say “So?”
Jacob nods. “Cal, the path is dangerous. You know that. I’m not sure if you’re ready for it.”

> You say “We will stay in the house here until we’re ready to continue. Thank you for your concern.”
Jacob nods. “If that’s what you want, Cal. I’ll leave you be.”
Jacob leaves the room, and you close the door. You walk back to your bed, and lie down.
Rose comes back in, and smiles at you.
“Everything alright?” you ask.
“Yes, everything’s fine. Jacob just wanted to talk to me.”
“Oh, I see.”

> You say “He was concerned we might move on before we are ready. But we won’t.”
You nod. “We won’t. We’ll stay here until we’re ready to continue.”
Rose smiles. “Of course. This is a safe place.”
You lie down, and soon fall asleep.

In the morning, you get dressed and walk downstairs holding hands with Rose.
Jacob and Leann are there. Jacob smiles at you. “I was wondering when you’d get up,” he says.

> You say “It was a good night. Are you two moving on?”
You nod. “It was a good night. Are you two moving on?”
Jacob nods.

> You say “What about Armin, do you know?”
You shake your head. “What about Armin, do you know?”
“I saw him over by the woods, picking flowers,” says Jacob. “He was with a tall blonde girl.”

> You say “We will take good care of the house, Leann. Stay safe on the path, Jacob. Remember, all places are one.”
You say “We will take good care of the house, Leann. Stay safe on the path, Jacob. Remember, all places are one.”
Jacob smiles. “I will.”
Leann smiles.

> You stand with your arm around Rose, waving to Jacob and Leann as they walk out of sight.
You stand with your arm around Rose, waving to Jacob and Leann as they walk out of sight.
After some time, you can no longer see them, but you know that they are safe.

One of the things I like about this is that it’s like an origin story for NPCs. When you’re exploring beyond the Black Gate and you come to a little house where Cal and Rose live and you can eat and rest, this is how they got there.

AI-wise, you can see a few places where I ignored a hint or an error, particularly when it briefly forgot who “you” is or otherwise got people mixed up. The two consecutive lines starting “Walk forward” and “Turn around” look like a prompt; it does that occasionally, I suspect due to the structure of the chooseyourstory.com files that AI Dungeon used as prompts. It also dealt smoothly with a few typos by me, which is cool.

The brief meta-discussion around the fork in the road was fun. :) And conversely I’m pleased that it didn’t pick up on my Twilight-themed question about Bella and Tanya.

I didn’t want it to forget that Rose exists, so I would squeeze her hand or mention her unnecessarily now and then. Amusing that when I touched her shoulder the AI thought that meant I wanted her to leave the room.

And once again we see some of the assumptions from its cultural background: it’s always the women that cook meals! Wurra wurra wurra.