Letters from Somnolescent December 18, 2022

four becomes five: what a year, huh?

by fiveducks

Four years in, five folks under the bulb.

Actually, I’ve been around for longer, haven’t I? What’s up with that?

At the time of writing, it’s Friday night, the group’s watching Cammy stream Vib-Ribbon, and I’ve been anxiously tracking gifts I shipped off to the somnolians last weekend. I’m on the third draft of this post because I keep flipping back and forth on the tone.

There’s been a lot of change this year. I figure instead of just gushing about how good it’s been, it might be interesting to have a retrospective looking at my entire history with Somnolescent (as one of the “original somnolians,” though I think that label is useless now). I’ll try to keep this focused more on the us, since I’m not that interesting a person.

on hands and knees: digging through the records

I’m going to put a disclaimer here: I’ve got a shit memory. Not, you know, the result of massive head trauma, but my teen years and earlier are fuzzy. Recounting events with the group includes plenty of “wait, was I around?” and “when was that?”

or seeing a screenshot of art on an ex friend’s old site and going, “that’s familiar, is that mine?” (doesn’t help she didn’t give credit)

There are whole chunks of Somnol history that I’m missing, even when I was there. On a personal level, I spent my teens destroying my work and avoiding my history. Now that I’m a little older and wiser, I want nothing more than to revisit it. Maybe that’s a direction I’ll move in for 2023.

It’s a good thing Cammy archives the shit out of everything. (Well, almost everything.)

I spent a good portion of this year looking through every record I could find, if only so I could catch myself up on everything. Reading old blog posts (and wincing at “this is going to be a great year” knowing things were about to fall apart), looking through the Somnolescent archives, and getting the group to dole out entertaining stories during our weekly calls.

Maybe I feel like it’s the least I could do for being a deadbeat.

i was a lonely kid

Ironically, I know I’m not alone when I say that.

I won’t get into all the details, but from the age of 10 it was me in my room with my MacBook. I had a couple school friends who were just school friends, and the kids in my neighbourhood all moved away eventually, so I didn’t get out much.

I was also an insufferable little snot, so I can’t blame folks for not liking me.

Like most depressed preteens, I spent my life on the internet, drawing terrible fanart with my mousepad and fiending for any morsel of attention I could get.

awful mlp fan animation screenshot circa 2012, before I got freaked out by all the adult men into this show for little girls

In 2012 I got into Portal 2 and stumbled upon an abandoned roleplay forum where there was just about one active user left: Brianna. She was 19 and I was 12, but I lied about my age and said I was 15 because I thought that was super mature.

If you’ve read A Year Under the Bulb: Origins, you’ll have an inkling of what the Brianna situation was. I was 12, it was the summer, and I was completely unsupervised, so I’d roleplay with her until sunrise every day. We overtook the abandoned forum with thousands of pages of awful RPing (with at least one other member who came by and stuck with us until she learned my real age), and because I was 12 and alone I thought she was my best friend. I mean, she was.


Brianna was the type to give me sob stories about her previous friends all abandoning her, and sometime in 2013 she fed me one about another falling out she’d just had. She pointed me in the direction of the absolute villain that did this to her—some asshole going by pacguy19.

Being a mature 14-year-old gremlin, I decided to reach out to him in the most reasonable and respectful way I knew how, through a polite anonymous ask:

“Fuck a goat.”

This was Cammy. The first thing I ever said to him was “fuck a goat,” in the form of a Tumblr hate anon. He obviously immediately knew this was Brianna’s doing (though he thought she hit send at first).

We managed to make up from this alright. His side of the story is that he always saw it as an adult woman siccing a kid on another kid. Brianna formally introduced us in 2014, when she extended the invitation to join the #somnolescent IRC room. So, I suppose 2014 is when I really “joined” Somnol (or an early version of it).

I still thought he was an asshole who took everything way too seriously, and I’m sure he thought the same of me. In retrospect, we were probably both more alike than I could’ve known.

The IRC days have mostly faded from memory, besides vague recollections of embarrassing roleplaying. I’m sure it was pockmarked with drama, though, because that was life with some folks who ran in our circle.

high school shit

It was 2016, we were graduating soon, and I my real life was doing… okay, for once? Home was still hard, school was still busy, but I was figuring out my social life. I was getting close to Dan, a cute boy in my class who I’d known since grade nine or 10.

At the same time, I fell out with Cameron, which meant the rest of the group went with him by default. We argued over, essentially, high school shit. I dipped (or maybe I was blocked?) and focused on my real life. I also pushed on with slowly developing Wisp.

oldest digital wisp art I can find, december 2016 (just a little ugly)

I was gone for a year and a half and I told myself I’d never go back. Brianna siding with Cameron made sense strategically (as she was so sure he’d take care of her someday), but it stung like hell at the time.

And then, because he’s not as much of an asshole as I always liked to think of him as, Cameron came around one day. I recall an emailed apology and an invite back, if I wanted it.

Cameron — 02/26/2017 12:04 AM
prengle we're talking to savannah
wish me luck
prengle — 02/26/2017 12:04 AM

Savannah — 02/26/2017 12:26 AM
Cameron — 02/26/2017 12:26 AM
if you even wanna be back
Savannah — 02/26/2017 12:26 AM
I'm okay either way

A really enthusiastic re-entry into Somnolescent.

Despite being back, I put up a wall and told myself these people weren’t really my friends, it was just a group chat. Brianna was… Brianna. Cameron obviously didn’t really like anyone, because we were all terrible. I was a narcissist and only really wanted to exchange memes and edgy jokes. The vibes were way off.

new folks

You might notice I’m only really focusing on people who are still around (plus Brianna, since she was a pretty big chunk of both mine and Cammy’s stories). Somnol had more people floating around—prengle, borb, some of Cammy’s other IRL friends, Cheren and Neo, a Neocities admin who popped in for a little bit? Too many folks for my raccoon brain to hold onto. At the same time, we had Brianna pulling her usual antics and periodically dropping out.

a pretty good summary of life with brianna tbh

In August 2018, Cameron invited in a couple more new folks from Neocities: dcb and caby. I had no idea what was up with Neocities, so I thought I didn’t have much in common with them, though I did gush about caby’s art occasionally (who didn’t?).

Brianna was finally excised for good in September 2018, which gave us the chance to start healing. I had just started college and was working two jobs while attending school full time during my first year, so my contributions to the group were mainly “fuck, I have to spend 16 hours out of the house today,” and “I hate my step-dad so much,” until I moved out with Dan in 2019.


Narcissistic, busy, disinterested, uninteresting deadbeat.

I figure there were a lot of reasons why I felt like I was drifting out of Somnol’s orbit. Over the years I mostly used it as a repository for Wisp ideas and art. I didn’t really engage outside of my Wisp channel, and folks didn’t engage with me much in it.

I was also used to watching drama from the sidelines and considered the group a revolving door, figuring that my own time with them would be up soon and I’d get the boot again. I barely knew anything about caby and dcb despite “knowing” them since 2018. There were calls and streams I wouldn’t attend. Devon joined and I’m not sure I ever even said hello. Somnol bought its own hosting in 2018 and wrote a manifesto, making it official while I wasn’t paying attention.

I got my first (and last) hellish ad agency job straight out of college when I graduated in 2021 and let it eat away at my existence. The work days sometimes stretched as late as 8 pm, and by the time I wrapped up I was too tired to engage with anyone or anything. I was under the impression that Somnol was the same mess I always perceived it as, and was too much of a self-interested ass to notice that (most) other people were growing up.


So what changed?

Well, Somnol had a final bout of drama earlier in the year that was a much needed release. There was worrying at first that things were at risk of falling apart, that everyone had a job mentality, that we weren’t really friends and couldn’t carry a simple conversation, and that our numbers are dwindling. I didn’t even take part in the discussion at the time, just watched from the corner.

And then the funniest thing happened—everything scabbed over and started to heal. For the first time in forever, it started feeling like a place I could actually stick around and chat freely. I started with just poking my head out of #wisp more to test the waters, and slowly got comfortable with just… being a friend.

In May I left my agency job and moved somewhere that doesn’t work me anywhere near as hard. Suddenly I had things like “time” and “energy,” and I started actually participating—reviving old characters for Pinede or creating Pennyverse OCs, making a sona, and building my own website. Look, I’m a canon Somnolian now!

I’m not crying, you’re crying

When talking about Somnolescent, I went from referring to them as “the group chat” to my partner to “my friends.” Shit, I talk to them more than I talk to anyone other than Dan, and that’s partly because I live with the guy. Reading old group logs feels like I’m in a weird, uncomfortable alternate reality where nobody likes each other for some reason.

I actually feel like I really belong for once. Maybe I even feel like I’m actually a little likeable sometimes.

Plus, we’re sending mail to each other now! I mentioned it up top, but I’ve sent out my first ever international packages. dcb already got his, so here’s hoping other folks get theirs before Christmas.

djungelskog for scale

Not to mention the weekly calls, which have been better for my mental health than I can admit. Everyone feels real to me now, and I want to get to meet everyone in real life. Which is to say, I am so down for SomnolCon at Burger Mountain.

Isn’t it funny how, after knowing Cammy for eight years, I only recently started to feel like I properly know him? As for the rest of the Somnolians—caby, dcb, and Devon (plus honorary folks in the group!)—it’s been a blast really getting to know you all this year, too.

Thank you all for letting me orbit for so long, and I’m looking forward to more years under the bulb.

About fiveducks

Canadian writer/artist/hermit. The raccoon living in your basement.

3 comments on "four becomes five: what a year, huh?"

  • caby says:

    god fuckin bless, man
    it’s been a wild ride this year, absolutely no doubt about it, and even more nuts if you look back at our whole history, but I think overall it’s been for the better, and I am supremely glad you’ve felt comfortable enough to open up more in the group. you’ve been great fun to chat to, you’re a real talented artist and writer, funny as hell, and a pro gamer to boot,,,
    hope your christmas card reaches you safely, and here’s to an absolutely poggie year ahead! >:]

    • fiveducks says:

      glad to hear it! said in the post but it’s been great actually getting to know you too. here’s hoping your gift gets in early so you can actually enjoy it on christmas. looking forward to another year!

  • devon says:

    i’m late, but i still think you coming out of your shell is one of best things to happen to somnol in this year. it’s just so nice to see you outside wisp channel, just having fun with us! you’re definitely way more comfortable than before. bless

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