The Unknown in Tim Horton’s

Shortly before Gen Con, I decided to ransom some blog posts. I’ve been feeling the urge to blog lately, and you know what they say: don’t do anything you’re good at for free, raise money for charities instead.

Well, *I* say that. So I raised over $600 for Planned Parenthood. At $50 a post, means I owe the world 12 posts by the end of the year. And I took some suggestions from folks for what to write about. Gotta crowdsource that inspiration, yo.

That said, I’ll start with one from Kate Bullock: “How existential answers live at Tim Horton’s”.

I mean, she’s got a weird way of writing “Hey Macklin, write a love letter to Unknown Armies” but I’m into it.

There’s a Tim Horton’s on the beach in Toronto. As Timmy’s go, it’s kinda meh. There’s no espresso machine, which baffles me. But hey, there’s normal coffee and donuts, and I needed a place to sit and do some work during the day. It was a nice day, so I sat outside at one of those crappy grate tables where rain can fall through.

By “work,” I mean “sit around avoiding work by letting my thoughts go wherever.” My mind wandered to the idea of a universal language, which is one of those things that in sci-fi tends to bother me. I’m an amateur linguist, and language is a fucker.

This person sits down at my table, a gal in her 20s wearing way too much leather on too hot a day for it. There’s no one at any of the other tables around me. Now, I’m in Canada, so I try to be polite here. I’m taken aback but suppress my innate “what the fuck” reaction from leaving my mouth. That delay gives her the opening:

“They’re just expressions of thoughts, but shaped by societies. What binds those societies together? Your answer is in there.”

My next words left my mouth before I could think of them: “That oversimplifies language. It’s way, way bigger than that. That’s why we don’t have a universal…”

“You’re asking the wrong question.” Too-Hot-for-Leather sipped her coffee, and pulled off a piece of my fritter.

Normally, I’d… well, normally a random person coming up to me, answer a question I didn’t say aloud, would freak me out. Normally I wouldn’t engage. Or if I would, it’d be flippant as fuck. But not now, not here. “So what’s the right question?”

She rolled her eyes. “I literally can’t tell you that, Ryan.”

Something about the way she said my name sent chills down my spine. Like she wasn’t speaking to me, but to something in me? I still don’t know how to describe it.

She kept sipping her coffee as I thought.

“What bridges us all as people, if we can’t communicate?”

With immediacy, “Crying.”

I blinked at that answer. But, like, something told me I couldn’t refute it.

“Children are born knowing how to cry. Too many are forced to unlearn that. But it’s there in all of us.” Then she gulped down the rest of her coffee, got up, and went inside to use the washroom.

I waited for her to return. After a few minutes, I poked at work again, but kept looking over toward the washrooms to see if she emerged. After around 90 minutes of her being gone, I packed up my laptop and wandered around the beach, thinking about what crying meant.

More questions popped in my head, of course. The nature of such answers.

I still hope to talk with her again. I keep visiting that Timmy’s every time I stay near the Beaches, but so far haven’t run into her.

A philosophical spirit wanders in Tim Horton’s across southern Ontario, listening to the wandering thoughts of lonely travelers. It manifests as someone striking and memorable, and just one tick off of disarming. (A rank 1 or 2 Unnatural or Self check might be called for when dealing with it.)

The answers it gives aren’t necessarily “right,” but they stick in the mind just as the memory of the person does. And as more people remember this being, the longer it can persist in the world at one time, floating from one Tim Horton’s to the next. Whether it’s bound to Timmy’s or a conscious choice isn’t known, even to it.

The spirit building a life for itself out of the existential curiosity of dozens of host minds. That, and double doubles.

And of course, there are forces in the occult underground who seek it out for various reasons. Which means Timmy’s have become a common hangout over the last few months for adepts and freak-seekers.

There you go, Kate. What you asked for? Probably not. But like the spirit did, I answered the question I saw within the question.



2 Responses to The Unknown in Tim Horton’s

  1. Pedro says:

    I loved it.

  2. Kannik says:

    As someone who grew up surrounded by Tim Hortons, I cannot help but love this. Doubly so for the idea of a roving introspective spirit that asks just the right questions to forward your inquiry to a new level of awareness and understanding.

    Also, crying as a universal and most primal language (we know it at birth!) is itself quite juicy. Good stuff all around!