Hi, I’m Jeffrey Chupp

Embrace the weird, make like it’s the 1980’s, and choose your own adventure…

Bio(graphy)

Really, you chose the bio? I don’t know that this really qualifies as an “adventure” but it certainly was your choice.

Right… ahem: Jeffrey Chupp is a displaced Bostonian currently living in north-west Georgia with his wife and three kids.

He writes blog articles of interest to nearly no one about subjects as, uh, fascinating as writing hypertext fiction in markdown and then writing a Parsing Expression Grammar to add tooling around the whole process. Riveting, right? There’s also rather a lot of Vim content because of course there is.

What else is there to say, really? He likes solving problems with code and has a particular love of automated testing, simple solutions, and well-written commit messages. He’s super #blessed and is passionate about helping people level up and live their best developer life.

Jeffrey has worked in software since the early 2000’s. He’s been endorsed on LinkedIn for “Knows what a prince and lover ought to be” (just go ahead now) and he’s getting really tired of writing in third person.

Elsewhere

Behold. Pain on the horizon and your mouth is full of dust. The fear is palpable, like moving through terrifying Jello.

There’s no doubt. Jeffrey had a hand in… all of this.

You wake up on a raft

That’s weird. The last thing you remember was going to sleep at home in a warm bed on a cool New England fall night.

You shield your eyes from the overwhelming sun. “Not my bed,” you mumble. And this isn’t New England either unless the weather has shifted to a humid tropic heat.

“What is going on?” you manage.

“Oh good, you’re finally awake,” comes a gruff reply.

You wildly attack towards the voice

The best defense is a good offense, right? You swing your fist towards the voice and follow it up with a roundhouse-style kick that would have made your karate instructor proud (if you hadn’t lost touch after you dropped out as a child, anyway).

But as graceful as the kick was, you don’t manage to connect with anything. Worse, you don’t have any sense of space in your groggy state. You splash into the fast-moving water.

There’s nothing to grab onto. As you’re swept away into the darkness, you make out the vague form of a large mouth.

Maybe that wasn’t the best course of action. Well, everyone dies of something.

You try to pinch yourself awake

Ow.

Now you’re disoriented and a little hurt.

You decide to play it cool

“Yeah… I’m awake. Thanks,” you reply. The sun is still blinding but you can start to make out the vague shape of the figure behind the voice.

“I thought I was going to have to make this trip by myself. And that’s not what anyone wants, ha ha!”

He says that last part in a way that feels a lot like an inside joke.

He sounds friendly, but can you trust him?

You keep playing it cool

“Right right… the river can be tricky,” you say, trying to act like you’ve been here before.

His tone shifts from friendly to an icy suspicion.

“You have no idea what’s going on, do you, stranger?” he asks.

In for a penny, in for a pound

“Of course I do,” you bluster.

“Stranger, you’re either one of them or you’re too much a fool to admit you’re not the smartest person in the room… or raft. Either way, I’m better off without you.”

Your eyes adjust to the brightness just in time to see your large companion swinging an oar at your face.

SMACK.

“You’ve tried before?”

“Many times. Sometimes I’m alone, and sometimes there’s another. But always this raft and always this river.”

He pauses and looks to the horizon before continuing, “I guess it always will be. We’re doomed to forge this river until the end of time.”

“Where am I?”

“Why, you’re on the Forever River. Or maybe Hell. Depends on who you ask,” he says with a chuckle.

“Forever River?”

“Yep. As in, you’ll be here forever. Settle in, friend.”

Your eyes adjust to the brightness.

Your companion is a burly man with a short dark red beard.

He’s holding a single large wooden oar. It appears to be the same light-colored wood that makes up the floor of the raft.

The water stretches as far as you can see.

You ask, “How do you know it is a river if you can’t see the sides?”

He laughs. He’s surprisingly jolly for someone doomed to eternity on this body of water.

“Fall in a few times. Be swept away by the current. It’s a river, friend.”

You can’t think of a reason to argue. You move on, “What else can you tell me?”

“You’re not the first newbie I’ve met on my travels. No, you’re not the first at all. So let me give you the ins-and-outs of what’s what.”

Rules

He takes a deep breath and launches into his practiced explanation.

"This river, this hell – whatever it is – has rules. You move whether you want to or not. The river is too fast to fight it so don’t even bother.

It also isn’t the kind of water you can drink. You get more than a sip inside you and you’ll be praying for death.

Speaking of death… I can’t die. No, just listen. It sounds fantastical but it loses its charm right quick. If something happens that should kill me, I wake up on the boat again. My body, my clothes, and this stupid raft are back to the way they were at the start. I remember everything.

You can’t really die either. At least I don’t think so. I’ve seen folk “die” before. I see ’em again… eventually. They don’t always remember, though. Some people’s minds reset same as their bodies.

Once we both lose conciousness, it all starts over. Don’t worry about sunburn or hunger or even thirst. It’ll all start back at zero soon enough. And if you’re like me, you’ll count yourself lucky if you’re not alone.

One more thing. There’s people out there on other rafts. They’re not the same people that join you on your raft sometimes. They might not even really be people at all. Keep your distance. Don’t listen to anything they tell you.

Oh, and I’m Kevin. Pleased to meet you."

I think I’ve seen this movie already.

“Oh you have, have you?” he replies. He waves his hand, gesturing at nothing particular and says, “Sure. I mean, a million monkeys and a million typewriters, I’m sure this has been written.”

His mood darkens, “but this is no story. Stories have endings.”

I don’t believe you.

He thinks for a moment. “Well, let’s cut to the chase. You’ll be back. You’ll see.”

You don’t even have time to fully understand what he’s saying before the oar comes down on your head.

SMACK.

What if I have to… ya know… pee?

“Ha ha. Now you’re asking the important questions. Do you have to pee?”

“Not yet.”

“Well, count yourself lucky. If you had to pee now, you’d have to pee every time it starts over. There’s this guy Edward. Nice guy, but he woke up here with stomach problems you wouldn’t want back home, let alone want on a six foot square raft until the end of time.”

“Yikes.”

“Yikes is right. But to answer your original question, just give your partner a heads-up and go off the side.”

What if we have met before but we both forgot?

“That… that’s a good question. I remember past journeys down this river. Hundreds. Maybe thousands. But if some people reset entirely, I guess it isn’t unbelievable that I might not be able to remember certain folk at all.”

He thinks about this for awhile and strokes his beard a little.

You give him some time.

It seems you’re not in a hurry, let the man ponder his reality.

Once some time passes, you decide you have to press on.

What’s next?

“I knew this guy awhile back… You ever meet someone and you instantly know they’re the smartest person you’ve ever met? That was Leon. It is cliché, but he was on another level.”

Was?”

“You picked up on that, huh?” he says with a grin. The grin doesn’t last. “Leon thought he could get himself out of here. Everyone is convinced of that for a time, but most give up pretty quickly. Like how everybody thinks they’re really clever the first time they come up with the idea of sleeping in shifts to avoid the reset – turns out this river goes on long enough for someone to pass out due to dehydration. Anyway, I met up with Leon on three or four occasions where he just sat and thought for the entire cycle. He wasn’t great company, but I left him to it. I want out too, ya know… I figured he was my best chance.”

You wait for him to continue.

“Sometimes long stretches go by without seeing someone. Best I can tell, your companion, or lack of companion, is completely random, so that’s not terribly unexpected. But there’s not that many of us. I haven’t seen Leon in what feels like years. Leon is gone.”

Excited, you ask, “Where did he go? What did he do?”

“I don’t know for sure where he went but I believe that he’s out. Free. Beyond this hell. As to what he did? Last time I saw him he had settled on two different plans and was more certain than ever that he’d get out of here. You ask me what’s next, well, I’ve been thinking, and I’m ready to try one of Leon’s plans.”

What were the plans?

He doesn’t respond immediately. He’s staring out to the right side of the raft (starboard? port?).

“What were the plans?” you try again.

You regret your impatience when he holds a finger to his mouth. Your eyes try to follow his line of sight. There’s another raft moving in quickly. There’s a mist that obscures much more than the shape, but there’s no mistaking it. The sky is starting to darken.

You both crouch down. You’re afraid to say anything but even more afraid of the unknown. “Any chance they’re friendly?” you whisper.

“No,” comes the reply, “you never meet a friend out here.” He’s afraid. What scares someone who can’t die?

You begin to hear some faint voices coming from the other raft.

“Look,” he says quietly. “This is serious. What’s on that raft is a horror that will leave your mind undone. No one has ever survived an encounter. You wake up in the next cycle broken in ways that take time to heal – whether you remember why you’re broken or not. They don’t come by very often…”

He trembles a bit, shakes his head, and goes on, “I know this won’t be easy but I have to ask you to make a choice and you have to make it now!”

I’m ready…

“Leon figured we’re here for a reason. You can only speculate what that reason might be, but he figured there was something behind all… this,” he said gesturing across the open waters and past the approaching enemy. “Leon supposed this was a game and we could either win or quit playing.”

A moment of silence, but only a moment. Then Kevin picks up the pace: “To be clear, we either kill whatever’s on the other raft and sail it to whatever’s next. Or we kill ourselves over and over and over again until whatever god or devil put us here grows bored.” A pregnant pause. “What’ll it be?”

Let’s take that raft

With no oar of your own, your choices are limited.

Kevin suggests paddling towards them and making as much noise as possible. “Scream inane sounds, try to puff yourself up like a predator. We need every advantage we can get,” he explains.

You suggest that you should both pretend to be unconscious. “Maybe we can surprise them and you can get in a good hit with that oar?”

“That could work… Ugh, I don’t know. You make the call!”

Let’s try the element of surprise

You feign being asleep. This is a gamble, to be sure. You know that things reset when everyone on the raft loses conciousness but you don’t know if the beings on the other raft know that. If only you had had more time to ask Kevin about them.

Their voices get louder. It sounds hauntingly melodic, almost like they’re singing.

You tense up as the voices grow close. The rafts must almost be touching now. Your body tenses up, readying for your surprise attack. You suddenly feel an intense chill and hear Kevin emit a horrible scream.

You open your eyes to see a purple light consuming Kevin. You quickly trace the light back to the source and discover it is coming from the open mouth of each creature. Kevin’s scream is cut off as he disappears with the smell of sulfur.

The creatures turn their light towards you.

An overwhelming display of absurdity

You open your mouth and scream, surprising yourself with the intensity of the sound. Even Kevin is caught off guard. He quickly recovers, starts making his own ridiculous noises, and paddles hard towards the other raft.

You stand as tall as your frame allows and push out your chest. You wave your hands wildly. Your throat begins to go raw but you push through the pain.

You’re close enough now that you start to make out the creatures on the other raft. There’s three of them. Human-shaped. Ghostly pale. Their skin is almost translucent, with a wet sheen. You can make out wiry pink muscles stretched beneath the skin’s surface. Your screams momentarily give way to fear and you hear an unholy noise. They’re singing.

The rafts collide. Kevin wastes no time clubbing the closest creature in the head with his oar. The oar breaks with a crack that’s followed by an ear-splitting scream erupting from the creature’s face. Black ichor flies out in an arc. The creature falls into the water.

You rush the next creature and shove it as hard as you can. It scratches back with a claw across your face, barely missing your eye. Your face burns with pain but your attack worked: the creature joins his companion in the river.

The singing has ended. One creature remains. Trembling, it raises its hands in what appears to be a motion of surrender.

You choose to kill the creature

In another place and time, your mercy might have won out. But not here. Not now.

You kick the creature square in the chest and it falls backwards off the raft.

For a long moment everything is silent.

Eventually Kevin speaks in shock, “We… won?”

“I think so. One scratched me a bit. Are you hurt?”

“No. Lemme look at that scratch.” He leans in and whistles.

“That bad, huh?”

“No, friend. You’ll uh… you’ll be fine if there’s no infection. No telling how clean those things were.”

Time passes. There’s no oar to steer but it feels like this raft still moves towards its own destination against the current.

More time passes. The scratch on your face is definitely infected and you feel weak.

You and Kevin sleep in shifts as the raft continues. Neither of you wants to admit that soon you’ll both pass out from dehydration and everything might reset.

“Your turn to rest,” Kevin says softly. “I’ll be fine for an hour at least.”

You can’t argue. You drift off to sleep.

What comes next

You choose not to immediately kill the creature

You cut your eyes to Kevin and he’s just as confused as you are. What now?

You don’t have to wait long. The creature’s trembling grows more violent and it suddenly explodes sending viscera everywhere. It gets in your mouth and eyes. The pain is excruciating. You feel your body melting both inside and out.

What comes next

You wake with a jolt as the raft suddenly stops with a scraping noise. The sun is mostly set and the air is cool. Off the side of the boat, you see land. Actual dirt. Some strange grass.

Heart full of celebration, you turn towards Kevin. He’s not there. You’re alone. You try to call out for him but your throat only makes a choked noise. Dehydration, you think.

You place one weak foot in front of the other and stumble onto the land. Your face still burns. A fog moves in. You reach up to touch your wound and notice your hand…The pallor of your skin. The wet sheen. The pink muscles beneath the surface.

The scream of terror that comes out sounds more like singing.

You jump into the river

As you jump, you wonder “will I even remember any of this?”

The water quickly drags you under and you drown.

You wake up on a raft and remember

You’re alone this time.

You jump into the river

You drown. You wake up. You drown. You wake up. You drown.

You wake up with a companion. You don’t even register them. They call “wait!” as you jump off. You drown.

Occasionally you’re eaten by some giant creature before you’re able to drown. It doesn’t matter. You always die. It always hurts. It never dulls.

You wake up and notice Kevin waking up next to you. You share a look and a nod. You both jump. You drown.

The cycle continues for what feels like years. Sometimes you’re alone, sometimes you’re not. You jump. You drown. You wake up on a raft.

You jump into the river

You drown. You wake up on a raft. Immediately, something feels different.

“You feel that too?” Kevin asks.

“We’re not moving.”

“Nope.”

The river is as still as glass.

“Watch this,” Kevin says. He brings the oar down on the water next to the raft. It makes a strange thud. The river is undisturbed.

“No way.”

“Yep.”

You step towards the edge of the boat. “Hold my arm and keep me from going over,” you ask. Kevin complies.

You stick the toe of your shoe out onto the surface of the river. It is solid.

“No way,” you say again.

“You said that,” Kevin laughs.

You poke it with your foot again. Still firm. You pull your foot back. You let out a laugh as well.

“What now?” Kevin asks. But you both know there’s only one choice.

“Now we go find answers.”

Together, you pick a direction, the direction you’ve always thought of as “behind,” and start walking.