Warp Drive

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Conrad the Healer


I reckon you've heard of the name Conrad Sheldon; else you wouldn't be here. Everyone in Hicksville knows his name. He was born with a rare learning disorder. All throughout his days, he was licked in every task by no fault of his own. He struggled as he might to spell, but he served his purpose well.

You see, Conrad Sheldon had a heart of pure gold. Most folks, well, they never back down from a fight. Conrad was different. Conrad would face a fight with a kind of innocence about him. Some of them folks wrote it off as mere ignorance. Conrad just sought to share in his love of life. He knew nothing of resentment. Hicksville is a better place having known him.

If you should permit me the time, I'll tell you more about Conrad Sheldon.

What was that? The next bus out of Hicksville aint for another three hours yet. Sure, we have plenty of time. Allow me to start from the beginning...


Part 1: Reintroduction

Conrad Sheldon was born to Roy and Petunia Sheldon of Sunnybrook Lane. Roy, the only son of a Jewish household, and Petunia, a devout Catholic. They weren't always in agreement with one another, but they knew in their hearts that which was best for their children.

Their daughter, Vespa, was born a few years after Conrad, and by that point, Roy had taken a job as a high school math teacher. He grew ever more curious with computers. They were but a strange contraption to most folks at the time, but he desired to understand them more fully.

Roy eventually mastered a multitude of programming languages. A skill that would prove most useful to Conrad in his own quest to understand the world around him. With the help of his father, Conrad might even live out the fantasy of a king.

Part 2: The King of King's Quest

"Make the guy say 'hey king,'" said the overjoyed young lad. Roy had taken the helm of the family's first home computer and their very first computer game, King's Quest: Quest for the Crown. Conrad was his acting advisor. Roy said with a degree of insight most familiar to his students, "I don't think that will work, Conny. It's not the proper syntax. It responds 'I don't understand "hey".' How about we try 'talk to the king'?"

Having typed the correct command, the computer screen turned completely dark. Roy, at first glance, feared the game had crashed back to the disk prompt. A myriad of text soon appeared; "When you speak to King Edward, he sighs and says, 'Sir Graham, I am an old man. I fear my end is near. I have chosen you to prove yourself worthy of the throne.'" The message went on to reveal the existence of three magical treasures. King Edward thus tasked Sir Graham with bringing them back before his time expired. Roy and Conrad's quest had only just begun.

Conrad, now certain he understood how the game worked, said with a grin, "Move the rock." Roy input his son's command, the rock then crushed Sir Graham and the final message read, "This moving rock rolls downhill and you, unfortunately, are in the way." Roy, trying his best not to burst into laughter, said with remorse, "I'm sorry. That mean rock crushed us, but it wasn't your fault. I was standing in the wrong place."

Roy lifted Conrad onto his knee and said, "Do you want to take over for a while, little man?" Conrad walked one screen north and three screens west. A gated ranch stood before him. Conrad typed the first thing that popped into his head; "opin sezemee." The game returned the message, "I don't understand "opin"." Roy quickly typed "open gate" and the rather heavy gate opened. A goat appeared on the next screen. Conrad's eyes suddenly lit up with excitement. He typed "feed got" to which the game responded, "I don't understand "got"." Roy once again took over typing duties and they were thus treated to the message, "What do you want to feed the old goat?"

Conrad and Roy left the ranch to find something to feed the old goat. They eventually stumbled upon a carrot patch. With a bit of trial and error, a new item appeared in their inventory. One of the tastiest looking carrots Sir Graham had ever seen. They returned to the ranch, and to their surprise, the goat was now missing. Determined to see things through, Conrad said to his father, "feed goat." The game returned the harrowing message, "There is no goat in the immediate area." Conrad looked upon the screen with intense confusion and said, "You've got to be kidding me!"

Just when hope seemed forever lost, Roy restored the game to an earlier point. They once again obtained the carrot from the carrot patch, and this time, they fed the old goat without leaving the gate unattended. Roy was surprised to see the score had dropped by two points. He said with a smirk, "I don't think we did that right. Maybe we should try something else?" Conrad, in one of his brightest moments on this Earth, said to his father, "Make him want it first." Instead of feeding the goat, they simply showed him the carrot. Sir Graham and the old goat were now friends for life.

A short time later, they encountered a bridge blocked by an evil troll. Their trusty steed made quick work of him. After printing the alphabet in forward and reverse order by hand, they correctly guessed the name of a mischievous gnome. He granted them the use of his beans. Roy and Conrad planted those beans in a nearby field and a large beanstalk appeared before them. Conrad said with delight, "Cool beans!" They were now closer than ever to obtaining the three magical treasures described by King Edward.

"We're really high now," said the little man, unable to contain his excitement. Roy and Conrad had climbed to the very top of the beanstalk. A grassy meadow stretched into the horizon. Conrad said with surprise, "Watch out for the tall man!" In true David and Goliath form, they fashioned a sling and pebble into a slingshot, took careful aim and luckily hit the tall man square in the forehead. The magical chest, one of the three treasures, was now theirs for the taking.

In their quest for the two remaining magical treasures, Roy and Conrad would come face to face with a fire breathing dragon, a nasty old witch and a colony of very lucky leprechauns. Each encounter placed them closer and closer to King Edward's request. In their extended travels, they discovered a starving woodcutter and his wife huddled into a small cottage. Under the watchful eye of King Conrad, none shall be left unfed. In no short order, and with no shortage of deaths, they obtained the magical mirror and the magical shield. Roy and Conrad made haste for the castle.

"Oh!... Oh!!" proclaimed King Edward in ever more intense pain. Conrad said with a smile, "King's got some real dance moves." With the king's dying breath, he said, "Well done, Sir Graham. You have been a good and faithful servant. Your reward is well deserved. My kingdom is now yours." King Graham ascended to the throne. Careful not to step on the former king along the way. Roy and Conrad shared a high five, befitting of a father and son victory. Many such quests would follow in the years to come, and Conrad Sheldon would even one day set out on an adventure of his own. But that is another story...

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