File 0111-0113: Aeris and the Sarah Saga
When it comes to the Jen Saga, Aeris is a nebulous figure. Aeris knew Jack before most did and was one of the first people to be suspicious of Jen's motives and pushed back, calling her out. In the summer of 2002 Aeris and Jen would fall out spectacularly, this occurred while Icarus was staying with Jen and Jack, and he would be witness to Jen's very public hate campaign against Aeris.
Aeris became public enemy number one, well at least for a few weeks until Icarus made his escape and would go on to tell his story in 2005.
Little is known about what happened to Aeris after this, but there is a lot of speculation. Then in 2008, in a livejournal group known as Housemate Horrors a user would be begin authoring a series of posts telling their elaborate tale of this horrible roommate. The story would be known as the Sarah Saga and it came with several flourishes that were reminiscent of Icarus's tale about Jen, causing it draw more attention than anyone could've expected.
Then a user would make a post on the Something Awful forums, declaring with certainty that they knew who Sarah was and she was none other than Aeris from the infamous FF7 House story and this assertion spread like wildfire.
While others came forward to defend her, Aeris never made herself known to address the story. Until now
The Myth: The Sarah Saga
The Sarah Saga became permanently entwined with the FF7 House story, shrouded in speculation and mystery. Were the events true? Was it really about Aeris? Or was it just Jen again in another guise?
This is a story I debated telling for a long time as something about it didn't sit right with me. And the more I learned about the individuals involved in the Jen Saga, Aeris included, the more sure I became that there's no way the story was about Aeris or if it was, it was almost entirely fabricated.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
Let's talk about the Sarah Saga. Now before I get into this I want to say that the author of these posts holds some pretty archaic views on mental health and gender identity. The way the story is framed it appears to be designed to purposely make Sarah look as bad as possible and the author is judgmental at best and cruel, transphobic and ableist at worst. I'm not going to read these stories word for word in their entirety, we don't have time and some of the stuff that is mentioned just isn't relevant, so I will be focusing on the most important elements of the story.
On July 15 2008 a user by the name of dragontigerclaw would make a post in the Housemate Horror livejournal group titled "Insane Housemate, Part 1". It would be revealed that the author's name was Pete and Pete had a story to tell
I used to live in an awesome situation in SoCal…until the housemate from hell moved in. Fortunately she has left, but the bitterness remains on my tongue. It is a saga that can only be told in pieces. Please bear with me.
In the cut you will find part one of the saga involving the girl who believed she was a video game character.
Our house was owned by a guy named "Matt." It had been in his family for generations and it was beautiful! It has four floors AND a carriage house. On the first floor are the two formal rooms, Matt's bedroom, bath and his den, this HUGE kitchen, a powder room, a butler's pantry, a wrap around porch and two "open" rooms that are for everyone's use. On the next few floors are the housemate's rooms and baths as well as two extra rooms. One is called "the game room" since it has a pool table and the other is called "the lodge" since it contains all of the mounted animals Matt's grandfather hunted.
There are currently five housemates, plus Matt. We all have our own rooms and the run of the house. Matt is very particular about who he rents rooms to, which is a good thing. Some of the requirements are: professionals only (no students or kids working as waitresses while trying to make it big), no one under 25, no people with children and no pets other than Matt's two dogs.
Matt also insists that all current housemates agree upon the person we rent to. And, for all of this, we only pay $500 a month, including utilities. In the house we currently have a lawyer, two engineers, a high school guidance counselor, a professional pet sitter and a manager of a retail store. (Matt is the counselor, I am the manager)
Anyway…all was fine until Roommate #6 left the house to get married. We were all sad to see her go and decided to wait a bit before replacing her. Since the house is paid for, all of the rent goes towards maintenance, taxes and general upkeep, so there wasn't a rush.
After a few months went by, we started the search. We received over 500 inquires and had 153 people fill out our "online application" that the lawyer set up. We tossed out the students and those who clearly did not meet our requirements, dropping the number of potentials down to about 50.
We asked those 50 to send us their bosses' phone number so we could verify their employment and contact information for their current landlord. Following that, the number of acceptables dropped down to 17.
Still not in a hurry, we phoned all 17 and interviewed them. Cutting the number to five, we paid to run background checks. Finally, we met them in person and then the housemates came to a consensus of our top three candidates.
And we made our decision to allow "Sarah" to live with us.
It was the biggest
Sarah seemed to fit the bill. She was a programmer for a computer company (or so we were led to believe). She was 27 years old. She had a boyfriend but he lived in another part of the state. She was well spoken, seemed nice and quiet. She appeared to be the perfect fit for our house.
Everything about Sarah was a lie; even her name. When she had us run the background check, she gave us two names. Apparently she had legally changed it at some point. Ok, no problem. Matt did not pry as to WHY she changed her name, and the rest of us thought it was none of our business. Still, both names came up clean.
But there were more lies…many many more…
Pete goes on to describe Sarah moving in during February 2007, everything appearing quite normal until the following week when she went to work. She returned that day in tears saying she was laid off. Matt told her not worry, she had paid three months in advance and she'd have plenty of time to find new work. The housemates offered to hand out her resume, but Sarah said she hadn't unpacked her computer yet, but she'd give it to them once she did.
After this is when things got weird.
The next few days she started to show her oddness. She complained that there was meat in the fridge and that she was a vegetarian. Matt told her she could keep her food in the carriage house fridge if she was concerned about that, but that most people here ate meat and that she would have to get over it. She whined and moped like a two year old. Matt, being the one to make peace, cleaned out his college fridge that he kept in his private den for his wine and offered it to her. Sarah scoffed at the thought that her food would fit in such a fridge, but accepted it and put it in the butler's pantry.
A week passed and her resume was still nowhere to be found, Matt offered to help her write one, but she said she had one, she just didn't have time to look for a job as she was flying out to see her boyfriend that weekend
She left and we decided that when she returned we would give her a "welcome" meal. We made a whole bunch of food—lots of it vegetarian—and when she showed up she just shook her head at the fact that we had also made meat. Matt assured her the meat and veggies had been cooked separately. She said, "It doesn't matter. You are prolonging your existence on this Earth at the expense of another."
The others and I were quite horrified at her rudeness, but we kept it ourselves.
In the three weeks that followed, Sarah was still unemployed. She spent all her time playing video games in the family room. She would play the same game over and over—some crappy looking RPG from the 90s. It has an unpronounceable name, but Sarah said she was "bonded" to the game. She also told us that she changed her name to be that of one of the game characters. Upon further discussion, she explained that she believed she was the human incarnation of this character and that they shared a soul.
The game in question is Suikoden. Suikoden is JRPG series that first was released in 1995. There have been 5 games since then, plenty of spinoffs and now there are remakes in the works. While never reaching the same level of fame as Final Fantasy, Suikoden is quite popular.
A week later she said she was leaving again, this time to the UK to visit an online friend. Still no job, spending all her time playing video games, playing on the computer and sleeping.
Pete drove her to the airport and 24 hours later she called the house saying she was denied entry into the country. Pete picked her up from the airport after she was deported. He tried to talk to her about what happened, but she was a crying mess.
She said something about the UK officials finding something on her laptop and denying her entry based on that and confiscated her luggage. Which she said contained her medication to "control her emotional problems". She asked Pete not to tell the others about her needing medication, he agreed but told her she should probably tell them and soon as they were losing patience with her.
Still without a job, Pete offered her a job as a part-time cashier at the store he worked, but she declined saying she was overqualified and didn't like working with people
In the middle of the 2nd month, Sarah announces that the friend she had planned to visit in the UK was instead going to be coming to the house and staying for a week. Matt said that if anyone had guests for more than three days it required the entire household's approval, but she said it was "for her mental health"
The guest arrives. The guest introduces herself as "The Right Bishop Something." I laugh, thinking it's a joke. Apparently it is not. This person thinks she is actually this bishop whose name I can't pronounce or spell so "Something" will be his or her or it's name. She also thinks she's a man. But that's another story…
I want to interject here and say that the character this is supposed to be is called Bishop Sasarai and is a character from Suikoden. Also screw this writer for misgendering someone, we will refer to this person as Sasarai and use he/him pronouns
Sasarai and Sarah spend the week playing video games, eating everyone else's food and doing a whole lot of nothing. Pete comes to find out hat Sasarai believes he is the character from the game and that there were many others online that had similar beliefs.
On the fourth night of the visit, the household decides to host a BBQ in honor of Matt's birthday.
We invited Sarah and [Sasarai] to join us and Engineer #2 even offered to make them veggie burgers that she had bought especially for them. They turned down the offer and instead made protest signs and wandered around muttering something about being pacifists but still willing to call in their Army to destroy us for BBQ. This was apparently very funny to them, but none of us got the joke. After about 20 minutes of their chanting around us as we tried to eat, the lawyer told them to "grow the fuck up, get new meds for your insanity and leave us in peace."
Sarah started to cry and scream that no one understand her and how she hates it when people assume because she doesn't "conform to the norm" that she is "insane." [Sasarai] rushed to her aide but not before telling us that we were horrible people and that didn't we know that Sarah suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for being teased incessantly in grade school?
Matt, always the voice of reason, said, "You cannot get PTSD from being teased. You get PTSD from being raped, from being a witness to a violent crime or from being in war."
Now, I would like to think we all know that PTSD can come from all manner of things and no one else but the person who endured the trauma gets to decide what constitutes as trauma and what doesn't. It is very possible for someone to get PTSD from childhood bullying, in fact a 2016 study by University of Illinois found:
Experiencing bullying was the strongest predictor of PTSD symptoms among the college students who participated in the survey, surpassing other types of trauma such as exposure to community violence or being abused or neglected by adults
"Bullying victimization significantly predicted students' current levels of depression and anxiety -- over and above other childhood victimization experiences,"
So yeah, suck it "Matt".
The entry ends with
And this is where the real fun begins…tune in next time…
Two days later another entry would be posted. After the BBQ Sarah retreats to her room, sending Sasarai to get food. This seclusion lasted two days until Sasarai delivered a letter to the household, asking them to meet with Sarah that evening
Matt agreed to have
a house meeting and all of us were there, even Dan, who is rarely home. We sat
in the family room and waited for Sarah to arrive at the appointed time. She
and [Sasarai] made quite a show. They came downstairs together, Sarah wrapped in
a blanket and wearing her PJs and leaning on [Sasarai].
[Sasarai] prefaced the meeting with some nonsense about how everything said in the room was not to leave the room, how we had to be careful of Sarah's mental state and how we must approach things with an open mind. No, I don't think so. You're invading MY space and wasting MY time with your crazy. Matt said, "We will listen to you. I cannot promise anything else."
Sarah lifted her
head and started to talk. She started with, "I am sorry but you have to
understand where I am coming from." She also said, "Lots of people cannot
understand me because I have such a high intellect it is beyond their grasp."
Excuse us for being SANE, bitch. Anyway, from there we heard about various
1. Her parents were awful to her because they didn't understand her. They didn't accept her as this video game character and her father threatened to disown her after she changed her name. All her mother wanted was a doll to dress up and give lots of presents. It wasn't fair that they couldn't accept her for what she was.
2. The kids in middle school picked on her and this caused her to have problems. It wasn't fair that people picked on her because she was different. Aww…who didn't get ripped on in middle school? Get over it.
3. The only people who understand her are her online friends who also believe they are videogame characters. They have created their own "safe haven" and since she started the "soul bonding movement" she has had lots of followers.
4. She used to belong to fandom but left because people trivialized her "alter ego" and used him in porn.
At the last point, Pete says that he wanted to look the character up and draw him being sexually assaulted by a manner of things and put it on the fridge, but he didn't have time. And Sarah is the "bad guy"
Matt asks if Sarah is getting any help and she said no, she didn't have insurance. They asked about the job she was supposed to have when she arrived, but she said the job never existed.
She never had a job. She never lived in the state. She lived on the east coast and decided that CA would be more accepting of her. She started looking online for a place to stay and found us. To get past our "screenings" she had an online friend who worked at a programming company pretend to be her boss. The driver's license she faxed us for the background check was legit—kind of. She visited CA and used another internet friends' address as her own to get her license.
We asked her to leave. Matt even offered to let her stay there for April (since she paid for it) and give her that $500 back when she moved out by May 1. She started to cry […]
They went back upstairs and we all thought that was the end of it and that she would be gone come May 1.
But oh, it was not. She did not leave. She caused many more problems…
The third entry would come five days later
Pete says that after Sarah's breakdown, Sasarai extended his stay from seven days to an additional ten days. He told Matt this, who was pretty pissed at this revelation, but Sasarai said that someone needed to take care of Sarah as she hadn't come out of the room since the meeting.
Matt challenged Sasarai saying that's a lie, because he had seen Sarah come down and play video games with Sasarai. Sasarai said that was only because he was there.
"I don't even know your real name," Matt answered. "I know you were not born with the name you use and I don't trust people who can't even tell me their real name."
[Sasarai] gave him some story about how [he] was this Bishop and how everything he was saying was an insult to [his] religion. [He] spent about 20 minutes trying to explain this "religion" of "soulbonding" to Matt, Zack and I. Finally, Matt told [him] [he] could stay the 10 days but after that, [he] was going to a hotel or he was calling the cops.
Then, he told [him] that he wanted to talk to Sarah that evening. [Sasarai] said [he] would relay the message.
Matt met with Sarah and told her she was pushing his good nature, but offered to get her an appointment with a psychiatrist who was a friend of his, who had offered to see her for free. She reluctantly accepted the offer.
The next day Matt took Sarah to the psychiatrist, he doesn't know what transpired, but he did take Sarah to the pharmacy after. When they got home Sarah just went back up to her room. A week passed and Sarah began to fill out job applications online, one evening while a bunch of the house were in the kitchen they asked Sarah how she could afford anything if she wasn't working
She said, plain as can be: "I have people offer me donations on my blog so I can spread the news of my religion." Her religion being that she is actually a male video game character from a game that came out in the 90s.
WHAT? So there are some morons out there who are giving money to Sarah so she can pretend to be a videogame character and teach others how to do the same?!?!?!
[Sasarai] said, "We give her things because she has helped us find our true selves."
"So you don't work either?" Tim asked. I could tell he was ready to explode.
"No, I get government benefits in the UK."
"Because I don't
like to work."
Sarah's boyfriend is apparently the worst enabler in this group. According to [Sasarai], he bought her a car (that she sold), plane tickets and sends her money on a regular basis.
Eventually Sasarai went back to the UK and the next day Sarah announced she had an interview as a tester at a software company. Matt reminded her that she needed to find a place soon as it was now April and she was supposed to be out for May 1st. She said she had looked at some places online but needed to visit them in person. One of the housemates offered to drive her to see the places
Three days later we would get another post
She managed to get a
job doing software testing, ironically where our former housemate (the one who
married) worked. I'll tell you more about her "work ethic" in a future
post…suffice it to say she was shocked to learn your boss gets mad when you
update your "I'm a video game character" blog from work. Anyway, since she had
started taking the meds she was actually decent to be around and stopped being
a complete and total freak. I didn't hear the retarded chimes of that video
game in the family room, either.
There was a week between her getting the job and starting the job and this required her going for drug testing and stuff. I drove her to do that and when we were leaving she asked if I would take her to the airport the next day. I asked, "Why?"
Oh, because her boyfriend had sent her cash for a plane ticket to come and see him for the weekend. Smart. The weekend before you start a new job, you travel. Brilliant. I told her I would but she would have to give me gas money since the airport is about an hour from the house. She said, "But I have no money."
I told her to stop lying. I knew she was making money off her "I am such a gifted intellectual who is a video game character and its my religion" blog. She shrugged. "It was worth a try," she smirked.
Oh yes. She was a devious bitch.
She leaves for the weekend, but her flight home on Sunday night gets delayed and she didn't get in until 2am. She called the house to see if someone could pick her up, but the housemate that answered told her to get a cab.
When she got home at 4AM after finding a cab, she started yelling and screaming, waking everyone up. She cursed everyone and told us we were not being sensitive to her needs! Matt asked her point blank if she was taking her meds. She said, "No because my boyfriend says they are bad for me!"
Tim told her to "grow the fuck up and get back on the pills." The rest of us returned to our rooms while she threw a fit. Stuff was pulled out of the cabinets. Carrie said she smashed a few of her coffee mugs. Cabinets slammed. She broke a window with a wooden spoon. When I left for work later that morning, she was sitting in a heap in the family room playing her game. I left her there.
So much for her first day at work. She called in sick. Nice impression.
When Matt got home from work that day he gave her two choices: she either goes back to his psychiatrist friend or he calls the cops on her. She agreed to see the psychiatrist and next day she went to work at her new job
That evening she apologized to all of us and offered to pay for the broken stuff when she got her first check. Everyone just nodded. She said her boyfriend was coming to visit for a weekend the following week. Tim said, "You better stay on those damn pills."
Sarah worked those four days and then the following week, putting us in the middle of April. Then her boyfriend arrived. He was a nice guy and we couldn't figure out what he was doing with such a headcase. But, of course, you guessed it…he was one of those soulbonders. Except, he believed he was a dragon. That's right. A fucking dragon. Tim asked him to breathe fire. Apparently that was offensive to him, but he had a better humor about it than Sarah. And, he didn't claim to have PTSD like Sarah did.
Prior to the boyfriend coming Sarah cleaned the house top to bottom even demanding the other housemates vacuum their rooms and that Matt had to keep his dogs outside as her boyfriend was allergic to everything. The housemates did not comply.
One interesting thing about him was that he called Sarah by her video-game name, which is decisively male. Dan asked him if he was gay. That pissed him off, but it was still funny.
Sarah whined that we weren't being very nice to her guest. Dan said, "Why should we be? Last one you brought home stayed way too long and this guy just pays for you to live in a delusion."
Oh, that set the boyfriend off. Didn't we know that plenty of people in the world were "soulbonders" and "otherkin" and that we were "racists." Now, I don't know how those "demographic groups" qualify as a race but okay. He said we were harassing Sarah and that we better watch it.
Matt said, "I've been making sure your girlfriend has been getting her medicine that she needs. You should be more thankful."
Then the boyfriend started off on how medicating someone like Sarah was wrong and just a way for the drug companies to make money. He said that the drugs stunted Sarah's creativity.
Tim said, "You mean her craziness? Because normal people do not believe they are gender bent video game characters."
A day later, the boyfriend left. We were now about a week and half from Sarah's supposed departure
On night while we were watching a ball game on TV and Sarah was whining that she wanted to "get lost in her world" because she had a hard day at work, Tim asked "When are you leaving?"
She said, "I'm not."
Matt said, "I told you that you had to be out by May 1. And since you're a month to month tenant."
"You didn't give me enough notice," she said.
"I only have to give a month's notice," Matt said.
"I don't have it writing," she replied.
"I don't do written leases," Matt said. "I only do month to month and over 30 days ago we all told you we wanted you out."
"Then you'll have to evict me," she said.
…and this is where the real fun began.
Three days later another entry was posted
In the coming months, we would all learn a lot about Landlord/Tenant law in California […]
Now, keep the following things in mind…we learned these as we went along and fought this battle for almost a year:
*Our situation is legally defined as "owner-occupied, single family dwelling"
*We are legally called "lodgers" since we rent rooms, not apartments.
*County law requires a C.O. (certificate of occupancy) if there are more than 4 people "lodging." Matt did not have one because he never thought it would become an issue AND he didn't know he needed one. (This will be important later)
*In CA, a Landlord must show "just cause" to evict someone, unless it is a single lodger in an owner-occupied single family dwelling. (Emphasis on SINGLE)
*It is illegal to deny housing to anyone with a disability and/or on the basis of their religion.
Here is a link to a decent site that consolidates CA Landlord/Tenant law, if you're interested: https://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/index.shtml
The day after Sarah said she wasn't leaving, Matt delivered a written notice for eviction, giving her 30 days to vacate the premises. He didn't give a reason, just a date
She confronted him about this, asking why he was kicking her out
Everyone said their piece—mine was that I was really tired of listening to that fucking game and her insane babblings. Zack complained about the noise. Apparently she liked to dance around in her room when working on her computer at 2AM. His room was under hers, so he heard all of the noise and music. Carrie said that she was tired of getting yelled at to clean the bathroom. It seems that Sarah cleaned it at least three times a week and that since Carrie didn't, she would get "notes" under her door. Dan said he just couldn't respect anyone who scammed money off people and didn't want to be a party to something like that.
A week later, Matt was called by someone from the Dept of Fair Employment and Housing. Miss Sarah complained that she was being unfairly evicted because of her religious beliefs. He was instructed that someone from their office would be coming to the house for a "discussion" as part of their investigation.
The investigator came and quickly dismissed Sarah's claim of being discriminated because of her religion, but said Matt needed to get a certificate of occupancy as he did have tenants. Matt kept this quiet, as he was worried if Sarah found out she would use that try and stay longer.
Matt decided to move the TV out of the living room, the other housemates had their own TVs so no one cared, but Sarah, who was relying on that tv to be able to play her video games.
So what did she do? She started asking her loser friends for money. She also started selling her fanfiction and essays on soulbonding. She used one of those lousy self-publish sites where no one checks what you're actually publishing.
A week later she had a TV delivered. It was a nice one—probably set her soul bond freak friends back $600 or so.
Four days later we get a new post
End of June 2007
When Sarah didn't move out at the end of her 30 days, Matt filed an "unlawful detainer" on her which is basically a legal paper that says GTFO. Sarah contested it and complained that she was being evicted for religious reasons and because we did not like her disability.
So this went to
landlord/tenant court…but not for two months because they were so backed up. In
the meantime, we were "investigated."
The Soul Party: July 2007
We had our 4th of July party at the house like we always do. Everyone invites friends and it is a lot of fun. Sarah chose to sit in her room and sulk at all the animals we were killing to celebrate. You know…because BBQ is the same thing as ritual sacrifice. I was kind of hoping she would come down and protest in front of everyone but I guess without [Sasarai] around she didn't like to act like a total ass. So I was kind of disappointed in that one.
A couple days after the 4th of July party, Sasarai suddenly showed up. Matt refused to let him stay at the house, but Sarah argued that if the other house members could have a party, so could she and Sasarai was there to help her set up for the upcoming weekend.
Matt said he had to approve all parties, but Sarah said "Tell that to the judge. I'm feeling discriminated against."
Anyway, that Friday I came home from work around 8:30pm to find the other house mates sitting out in the carriage house drinking beer and looking all kinds of pissed off. Matt was inside, they said. Why? Because 12 people (plus [Sasarai]) had shown up for Sarah's party, they all brought pillows and blankets so they intended to sleep over.
And who were these people? Fellow soulbonders! People she met on the internet!
Matt dragged Sarah out of the house and we all confronted her. [Sasarai] ran behind them like a drunk frat boy chasing a can of Bud. Whatever this shit was, it was not going on. He said, "No one in my house that I don't know."
Sarah argued that the 4th of July party had people attend that Matt didn't know and Matt finally said "You have until 10pm. After that, I'm calling the cops and throwing everyone out."
"Then you need to go away," [Sasarai] said. "This is a religious rite."
"It's my fucking house. I'm going to watch TV," Matt said and he walked towards the house.
[Sasarai] grabbed his shirt. OH NO [HE] DIDN'T. OH YES [HE] DID. "You will disturb the something-astral-something." (I don't remember exactly what [he] called it but if we, the unbelievers interrupted their "ceremony" there would be problems.)
Matt said, "Take your hands off me before I call the cops NOW."
Sarah started crying. The rest of us just walked into the house. Now, the others had seen her setting up this shit but I had just got home. Sarah had darkened the family room by hanging blankets over the windows. She also put a bunch of candles out…and turned the coffee table into some kind of altar. It had a white cloth, candles, books and the expensive silver candlesticks from the dining room. I can promise that she did not have permission to touch those. They are over 100 years old and a family heirloom for Matt. We only use them for the House Christmas Dinner.
We all walked into
the family room and saw the "soul bond" freaks in there. Some were dressed in
cosplay outfits. The boyfriend was there, too. He asked where Sarah was. Dan
said, "We just gave her a verbal lashing. She's outside. Go deal with her."
Matt took the candlesticks from the "altar" and put them away despite the protests of another one of those losers.
Then we sat down in the family room that they had commandeered and Tim turned off that retarded game and put on a movie. One of the people said, "I thought we were going to play the game….?"
The housemates said nope and that the soulbonders needed to be out by 10pm or else the cops would be called. The group was shocked most had planned to stay in the house that night and they began to wonder what they should do. The housemates suggested they got a hotel room, but the soulbonders said they didn't have the money. The housemates said they should ask Sarah for it then
Sasarai returned, claiming they were being persecuted for their beliefs and Matt relented, giving them the living room until ten. He and the housemates moved into the kitchen where they could watch the events in the living room.
Sarah came downstairs, dressed in a white dress. She kept glancing at us. [Sasarai] stood between her and us so she couldn't see us (I guess?) and she began talking. She talked about how this was "Betty's awakening" and how Betty was now going to finally realize her potential by harnessing the soul of a video game character.
I couldn't stand it. I started cracking up. The rest of the housemates started cracking up.
Sarah started screaming at all of us, calling us "racists." Now…I don't know how being a soulbonder is a race, but okay. Then we were called "Nazis." Oh, that's lovely. I guess if you're sane and don't believe that you're a video game character/dragon/wart on someone's ass you're a Nazi.
This was better than any kind of TV you can imagine. See if you can picture all of these nutjobs kneeling around the "altar" as the video game played its music in the background. Sarah stood over them, preaching this "religion" and The Right Bishop [Sasarai] would occassionally interject something "deep" from [his]position. Sarah was really getting upset, so more of her "friends" made the human wall. We could still hear all the stupid…even after they turned up the volume on that video game.
At 5 to ten Matt announced that they had five minutes. The group said Matt was being disrespectful and this resulted in an argument that resulted in one of the soulbonders taking a swing at Tim.
Matt called the cops and they showed up 20 minutes later. Tim pressed assault charges on the guy that had tried punch him and Matt told the cops he wanted these people out of his house. The boyfriend tried to plead to the cops that they were being discriminated against because of their religion.
The cops told everyone that if they didn't live in the house they had to leave. The boyfriend booked a hotel room and the group got their stuff and even had the gal to ask if someone could shuttle them. The housemates laughed at this. The soulbonders left, the cops took to the one that had attempted to assault Tim.
We thought after that…she wouldn't want to stay. But oh, she did. She also filed a frivolous small claims lawsuit on the basis that we had "stolen" her candles and TIME. Yes, her TIME. I guess being a fake priestess in a fake religion is worth $300/hr. Who knew?
(The "candles" we stole were the ones that were in Matt's candlesticks when he took them back. He actually brought them to court and gave them back to her in front of the judge)
But she would remain.
She would remain and continue to be a pain in the ass.
One final note before I get going...
Why would someone want to continue to live in a place where they were obviously not welcome? Cost? Location? No. Not for Sarah. Sarah claimed she felt "close to her soulbond" in our house. She claimed that it felt like a house that this guy would live in and that her "soul" was at ease in our home
Pete announces that he will be hiking for a couple weeks, so another housemate, Carrie would be writing the next entry
A week later, Carrie's entry would come. She would talk about what living with Sarah was like
Sarah asked me to drop her off at work because she was getting tired of riding the bus. I told her I would since it was on the way but she needed to give me gas money and that she was a slave to my schedule. So if I had to work late, she had to occupy herself for a few hours.
I drove her for a week and then I called her and said I had to stay late. She said she had to get home because she had an online meeting with her followers. I said she'd have to take a taxi or ride a bus but I had a conference call that I couldn't miss. She whined and hung up on me.
Later that night, she left me a very nasty note on my door telling me that I was being mean to her and that I didn't take her religion seriously and if it had been someone who had to go to church, I would have skipped the call. I found her playing her game and I tried to talk to her but she just ignored me. I told her to find her own ride to work because she wasn't riding with me anymore.
About a week later, I found one of my tires slashed. I noticed it very early as I was returning from my run. Sarah was in the shower. She never admitted it but we all know she did it.
Another thing she'd do is have loud, obnoxious sex with her boyfriend not only in her room but in the bathroom. I also caught them screwing in front of that damn game in the family room. I guess they didn't think anyone was home. I heard the music from that game and I walked into the family room and there they were going at it on Matt's couch.
Another week would pass and Carrie would update again, this time to talk about Sarah at work. Turns out that the place Sarah got a job, was the same place that the previous roommate worked and ended up telling Carrie about all these antics. Most of this is just Sarah being difficult, wanting her desk to face the entrance to her cube so people couldn't "sneak up on her", wanting to put scarves on the overhead lights but was told she couldn't because it was as fire hazard and she argued they were religious symbols
Another thing she did was fall asleep at her desk at work. Becky said John was having an awful time with her about it. The first time, John woke her and asked if she was okay, thinking maybe she had passed out. She whined about how her PTSD and depression and ADHD and OCD and Aspergers and all the other crap she claimed to have was affecting her. Since she played the "disability card" now John was stuck with trying to "accommodate" her and she knew it.
Now that it was established that she was disabled, she told John she wanted different hours. He had to comply. She said that having to be there at 8 was just too early. So he moved her to 9AM start. Then she said she felt cramped in her desk. So she got a bigger cube. She said she got tired at 2PM so she started taking naps in the lounge. She said the noise from the office was distracting her so she got wear her iPod while she worked.
The next day would be another entry, this one penned by Tim.
People seem to have been guessing about Sarah's identity and her webpage and blog. I'm going to stick with Pete's philosophy of not openly stating who she is even though her craziness is pretty public and in your face. Hell, I bet you can google it and it will still be there. Somehow I don't think that after all that's happened she's stopped this crap. In fact, I bet she has kicked it up a degree so she can get more money out of people. Insane bitch that she is…
The rest of the post is very crass, transphobic and ableist and not really relevant to anything
The same day Pete posted
To the people who think we were "mean" to Sarah, let me remind you that we were all nice. We cooked her a meal to welcome her, we tried to include her in things we did in the house…but none of those things mattered.
I really tried to get along with her because I was the one who pushed the guys into taking her since I really wanted another woman around. I often feel like this was all my fault. But, we all make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are expensive, annoying and bring crazy people from other countries to crash at your place, but I guess I learned something. I learned that I can't trust people after just one quick interview, and that some people are artists at conning the system.
Pete would go on to tell more stories about Sarah at work. In one case Sarah took Sasarai to work with her and it was a shit show.
[Sasarai] actually walked around with a pamphlet about this "religion" and handed them around to these people that Sarah worked with. Sarah found out and wasn't happy about it. Apparently her soul-bond-stuff wasn't public knowledge at the office.
Sarah's blog also got blocked on the internal network at some point so she went to IT to unblock, who said it was blocked for violating company policy and that there was nothing they could do. She took the person to HR citing discrimination.
Sarah would get fired from the job in November 2007
The next day there would be another post by Tim, most of which he spent defending the actions of him and the other housemates. The comments on livejournal had began to call out the author for being transphobic and ableist and "Tim" pulled the usual "I have a friend who is disabled"
There was a lot of backpedaling yet doubling down at the same time
So I used a few
words that caused people to get their boxes in a bunch. Get over it. You
don't have a right not to be offended by things that I say. You have a right
to disagree and to not like my words but I am not going to change my thoughts
on Sarah because you're gay and I said "she-man" and oh now you need a
feelings band-aid. If you're that fragile, I'm sorry.
And those who were "speaking for the gay community" do yourselves a favor and stop. Speak for YOURSELF and yourself ONLY.
Sarah ruined nearly a year of my life. She lied to us, stole from us, inconvenienced us and then would scream "disability" at every turn. Even when she was gone she was never really fucking gone. G-d willing we're done with her but after she left she filed small claims case after small claims case against Matt and the rest of us.
Four days later on Aug 21s 2008 Pete would give his last update
Quit messaging me and telling me you know Sarah or you are [Sasarai] and I butthurt you or your a soulbonder and this is bad press for your subculture. I don't think so and I don't give a shit.
After the Soul Party we thought we got rid of the friends and [Sasarai] for good. But then [Sasarai] showed up about two months later for another visit. Matt threatened to start charging [him] rent. He also asked Sarah to leave quietly so they wouldn't have to go to court. She refused. Her soulbond was content in the house.
The rest of us went to a park together that Saturday. When we came home the Boyfriend was there and screaming at Sarah and [Sasarai]. Boyfriend caught the two of them having sex. He wasn't supposed to be there for another hour but was early and walked in on them.
Matt told them to take their shit outside because it was all screaming. Sarah was crying and saying she didn't mean to that her soulbond took over and made her screw [Sasarai]'s soulbond. [Sasarai] said that sounded like [his] soulbond was a rapist…and on and on and on… That went on for an hour but at least they took it to the carriage house.
The boyfriend left after that and Sarah and [Sasarai] came inside. They said they had to kill [Sasarai]'s soulbond for raping Sarah's soulbond but he would be replaced with the bishop's twin. Sarah said the twin was evil. [Sasarai] said the twin could be nurtured. Imagine that conversation going on for an hour. Tim had some colorful words for the scene but I'm not sure their PC so I won't put them here.
I don't know if they killed the soulbond or not and if they did how they did it.
A few days later [Sasarai] left but Sarah got a call from [him]. [Sasarai] had been arrested upon landing in her country of origin! Sarah asked Tim to help her out and he said, "I'm not licensed there and I wouldn't do shit for you anyway."
[Sasarai] wasn't just sponging off [his] country of origin. [He] was a scam artist! Like those kind that call elderly people and promise them lottery winnings. That was [his] day job. I don't know what kind of scam [he] was running but it was pretty bad.
Sarah continued to live with us. Up next: Landlord/Tenant Court #1
Despite finishing the post saying there would be another coming, none ever did
By this point someone on SomethingAwful had connected Aeris and Sarah and things were getting heated. It's thought the author got scared of retribution as they never resurfaced.
But what really happened? Was this actually Aeris? And what happened with Aeris and Jen all those years ago? Is it really possible that Aeris went on to model some of those very behaviors Jen used on her and others?
The Real Aeris
When it comes to Aeris there is a lot of misinformation and speculation and she became an easy target as she never came forward to defend herself, choosing instead to distance herself from the online drama and just focus on what was important. But years have passed and as much as she hoped this would all just fade away and she would become forgotten, the internet legend would not die and only became more and more twisted.
When I reached out to her I didn't expect her to respond, figured she probably had dealt with enough harassment and last thing she needed was me knocking on her door, but I also figured I had to try. I was determined to prove the Sarah Saga was a fabrication and get to the bottom of it once and for all.
I shot off a message to her back in April and carried on with my business, not really expecting a response. I had all but forgotten about it until July when suddenly there was a message.
Hello, sorry it took me so long to find this message! I would certainly appreciate the chance to debunk that whole thing.
And thus began our conversation.
The Early Days
Growing up, Aeris never really fit in with her peers, finding she didn't really have much in common with them and like any child that was a little different, she was bullied for it all throughout her school years. It was a time where kids were told to just ignore bullies and they would go away, which of course never really worked. Teachers and parents alike did not take these things seriously and often chose to turn a blind eye.
It wasn't all bad of course, she had a couple friends, her writing, books and games, but it was isolating nonetheless
In 1992, Aeris would first play FFIV sparking a lifelong love for the Final Fantasy series
I was fascinated with the redemption arc that forms the backbone of the story, I always felt like there was something about it I wanted to understand more deeply. I was 11 years old, I didn't have experience with fiction that had those sorts of things before.
It inspired her to write, to delve deeper, seeking to understand more about the world and herself through its characters and plot. Her imagination came to life with all the things that could be, all the things she could do and in doing so the game became precious
Where for many, literature and games were a form of escape, for Aeris they were sacred spaces where she could grow and learn, and due to that she became fiercely protective of them. She felt she had to hide her passions, because if the bullies ever found out they might try to ruin that too and they were far too important to her to just let that happen without a fight.
But this also meant that she had very few people she could share these stories with, that she could discuss or debate with. Fandom as we know it now didn't really exist yet, so if you wanted to talk about your favorite games, it had to be with someone in your day to day life. But that would all change
A couple years after her discovery of the final fantasy series she would find a peer group where she finally felt like she belonged. She'd become part of an AOL email list for writers. Email lists were almost like the first instant messengers, just, not instant. You'd join a list and would communicate with the group over mass email chains, one of the few times you're supposed to 'reply-all'.
It was a place she could be her so-called "weird" self and have fun.
[It] was an escape from high school peer pressure, where we were allowed to be deliberately "uncool" and nerdy, and geek about fantasy books in an era when both reading and fantasy were only for "losers", and admit to things like listening to Broadway instead of pop music. The spirit of the place was about having the right to be unapologetically nerdy
The group's original purpose was writing, but so many in the group had faced similar ostracization for their interests in the real word it also became a safe haven full of mostly like-minded individuals. She grew to see many of the members as her closest friends, some she still sees that way today.
It was through a member in this group that she would first be introduced to the concept of soulbonding.
It was a word she said she invented herself when she was young, to mean her own private connection with characters, and she kindly shared it with us; I don't think she ever meant for anyone to popularize it on the internet
This idea would really resonate with her, being a writer and her interest in RPGs and literature. Any writer would tell you that many of our characters live in our heads rent free, so this idea was an extension of this concept and Aeris found the idea of that kind of immersion attractive.
Soulbonding was just some fun little thing that I'm sure people have been doing since the beginning of time, making up stories and larping, and it was both sane and harmless. I don't think it hurt anyone; it enriched our lives, gave us a creative outlet, and for me it even provided self-development cues as I tried to figure out what it was that drew me to various characters and stories. I think we all benefitted from that kind of open-ended playing
Sometime in 1999/2000 a mutual friend would introduce Jack and Aeris. This was one of the first times that Aeris had met someone from outside of the writing group that was familiar with soulbonding and this is something the two would connect over, that and their love of FF7
Jack was into the same fandom as me, had cool fun ideas, and we were both college freshmen.
They didn't really live near each other, but that spring break, Jack took the opportunity to hop a greyhound and visit Aeris on campus.
The two played some FF8 and watched some anime and in general had a good time. Jack would visit a couple more times and while they weren't that close, Aeris suspected he didn't have much of anywhere else go on break, that was until he met Jen.
Aeris saw less of Jack when Jen came into his life as he spent more time with her and his local friends
Winter break 2001 Jack and Jen invited Aeris to come visit. They had spoken a few times online and they shared many of the same interests, so Aeris figured, why not?
Jack and Jen invited me to spend a week at their place. I met [Icarus]. We goofed around and had fun.
Not long after, Aeris would go abroad and she wouldn't see the couple again until summer 2002. Once back there were a couple visits back and forth, but most of their interactions were online and there was increasing pressure from Jen to roleplay and be in character.
The fandom aspect was irrelevant: we all, including Jen, knew on some level that the fandom stuff was just play
I hate to describe it as pretending, but it's the truth, it's just... if you pretend hard enough, you at *least* get to have the experience you're looking for, whether it's materially true or pure imagination. So why not? We had this sort of unspoken agreement not to break the illusion; we felt, I think, that if we all agreed to pretend intensely, it would be the next closest thing to experiencing fantasy adventures for ourselves. On some level we knew we didn't want to throw magic fireballs; we wanted to feel as if we were throwing them, and unrealistically at that. We certainly wouldn't have been prepared for the consequences if any of it had worked! It was actually great fun, if intense; I regret none of that stuff. I just regret that Jen turned out to be so toxic.
Jen had latched onto soulbonding in her own way, taking it much further than the creator had intended and twisting it to suit her own fantasies. We have heard from others how Jen acted like the she took the soulbonding thing so seriously, that even writing about your soulbonded characters facing adversity was a form of abuse.
While many outside of this story like to think Jen was "serious", that she truly believed she was a reincarnation and was channeling these characters, Aeris says otherwise.
In case anyone should doubt that Jen herself knew it was imaginary: I checked. She called me a good actor, and I said that she'd never really seen me act. She very reluctantly pointed out that technically everything we were doing was acting, in a way
Since the first time Aeris met Jen, she got a feeling something wasn't quite right with her behavior and how she treated others. The constant need for money and attention had her somewhat puzzled. She was young and a little naïve, she didn't have a lot of life experience so she felt she couldn't judge Jen for the way she chose to live, but she does admit it didn't quite sit right with her
I wasn't close enough to Jack for a real heart-to-heart. I tried to stay out of it, because I felt that it wasn't my business, and I wasn't an adult with experience living alone either. I felt that it was sus when Jack said they needed the money for food and rent and Jen insisted on buying frivolous things like plushies; it sure sounded irresponsible, and raised a red flag about them and money; but I didn't have the experience to back up my intuition. I wouldn't interfere in someone else's life when I didn't even have any facts, when I had not lived on my own myself. I was just someone who came over to LARP with them, and, embarrassingly, overheard them fight about money and thought "yikes, that doesn't sound good".
Jen began to grate on Aeris, but it was a phone call that made Aeris decide enough was enough
She wanted me to visit her that very weekend. And I said no, for some reason that I don't even remember; it wasn't about her. But instead of just accepting that I wasn't going to be there on demand, she dug in her heels. Suddenly she was angry because she couldn't have her way, and she ramped up to saying that if I didn't visit her, our friendship was over. I thought, "Ah, this is what all of those cartoons and PSAs meant when they talk about people who aren't your real friend."
Jen didn't take this well. The next week, Aeris drove to State College to pick up some stuff she'd left there. This would be while Icarus was living there and she says this is the last time she saw Jen or Jack.
I felt bad for [Icarus] because [he] seemed to be stuck in there too deep to get out, but there was nothing I could do to rescue [him], so I just... left
Aeris tried to put an end to things in a private manner, not wanting to drag things out and just move on with her life. But Jen wasn't satisfied to let things quietly die and turned around to drag everything out into the open.
Of course this made me an instant enemy, and she pitted each subsequent person against me. There was no helping that. There was fallout drama and I said my share.
None of Jen's friends wanted anything to do with me, they were all talking about how mean I had been to her and how badly I had treated her
That was it for Aeris and she had little patience for Jen's nonsense after that. She told mutuals she was done and warned them that Jen was bad news. But Jen already had her hooks into some of them, and it was an exhausting fight Aeris just didn't have the patience for, so she walked away
The drama with Jen faded, and while it resurfaced momentarily in 2005 with Icarus publishing his website, Aeris had little to do with that other than her letter to Jen getting posted. She emailed Icarus asking for a correction and that he used a pseudonym for her and that was that.
I believe [Icarus] told the truth about that awful summer where [he] was stuck there; no exaggeration, no lie. I didn't hear any of it as it happened, only later on, but it wasn't at all a surprise. That's how life at their apartment really was
Hi! This is future Cayla! Aeris and I have remained in constant contact throughout and after the recording of this episode. The other day she mentioned there was something she wanted to clear up and I thought it was very much a point worth mentioning so I thought I would add it in here
While we're clearing things up, I've always been a little bit bothered by that part of Syd's account saying I made out with Jen, because I didn't. I don't know what he thought he saw or heard, but ew no? Jen was indeed trying to force herself on me with whatever excuse bullshit she made up, but I ducked out of it. But I didn't want to make too big of a fuss about it, because the way Syd wrote about me ("this girl who claims she's straight") made it sound like I was really insistent about being straight, like I had some kind of stick up my butt about it or something. And I didn't really want a reputation for being uptight about that, either, so I just let it go.
What Aeris says makes a lot of sense, Jen was known to make romantic passes at anyone femme presenting or masc AFAB individuals, whether she was actually interested them or not or if they even showed any interest. In Icarus's story he says this
i myself have always been squicked by personal displays of affection. it comes part in parcel with being asexual. but i had to lie on my guest futon while jen and aeris snuggled, made loud kissing noises and giggled with eachother. i could not wrap my head around how this girl who claimed to be straight could not see that she was just lying with another woman making out. (EDIT: i turned my back to them at this point because i was squicked. i heard kissing noises, but i can't confirm they were really making out. it may have just been jen kissing her hand or something.)
While his text does explicitly say that he doesn't know if they were actually making out, it is strongly implied and this is often the takeaway most readers come away with. What may read as intimacy and affection is actually more akin to sexual assault. Knowing Aeris's side of the story, Jen was forcing herself on Aeris, and Aeris too uncomfortable and awkward didn't really know what to do about the situation and just did her best to avoid it.
We have heard from many people that Jen liked to make her romantic partners feel lesser than, like Marley told us, that Jen would rag on Jack for not being "man enough" and being unable to please her because he didn't have the "right equipment". We know from Mela's story, that Jen purposefully tried to make out with Mela in the back of the car while her partner, Angel was driving, Mela did NOT ask for this interaction, nor did she want it
From Theo we know that Jen would jump into roleplay and try to use that roleplay to force others in intimate settings they did not consent to. There is another survivor who isn't comfortable coming forward but she too expressed many times that Jen would make passes at her or try to kiss her when they were roleplaying. In Aeris's scenario it was roleplay as well and Jen was playing a character that was a romantic partner to Aeris's character
Aeris also had something else to add
A friend saw Jen's photo and said they were surprised because they'd always pictured Jen as looking unkempt. That's the thing! She looked normal; no one would ever pick her out of a photo lineup as dysfunctional.
In fact, I think they used the weirdest and least flattering photo they could find. The glasses and even the way she's wearing her hair in that lab coat picture are a cosplay. If she wasn't costuming, she would wear her hair down, and some kind of possibly-goth-possibly-normal dress; and if they only saw a photo, one wouldn't be able to tell her from a normal, moderately pretty 19-year old-- like, you couldn't even tell she's a geek. She could look very put together when she tried. Although as time went on, she switched to wearing the skirt most of the time.
Syd's description of her always kind of made me giggle, even back in the day, because it is 100% true about the skirt she always wore pulled up around her body at home. She started doing that while I was there, and I think the reason for it was that she was gaining weight, it upset her, and her clothes probably didn't fit very well, so she was trying to use them in more comfortable ways. What was stupid was that she chose to spend the money she didn't have on Disney store plushies instead of going to Wal-Mart and getting clothing that fits; but I think she was hoping she would lose the weight really soon and fit back in her other clothes. She was only a little bit fat, she was just very self-conscious about it. She was tall, broad and curvy, I suppose you might say. Even in the early 00's when fat shaming was popular, her weight wouldn't have been the first thing people noticed about her, but she was obviously so sensitive about it that it was an easy cheap shot. But even back in the fat shaming days, people seeing her photo would never think "oh she's not well put together" or "she's out of control". One absolutely could not tell. Syd's descriptions highlight the dysfunction, but that can be kind of deceptive if people think "oh I'd see a person like that and run away"-- you wouldn't see it all at once, and the worst of it wasn't visual.
It wasn't her looks that were overwhelming, or anything that could be captured in a photo; it was her way of getting up in your face before you saw her coming, both physically and metaphorically. She was not clean. But she didn't smell or anything (yet?), it wasn't like sitting next to her was stinky, she was just not someone you especially wanted up in your face, she pushed how long she could go without showers (and tbh I wouldn't be surprised if this too was getting worse over time). I never said anything because I didn't want to be rude about it, but it didn't surprise me to hear she stayed on the one-way train to grossville. But it's not necessarily great that survivors went on to paint her in the worst possible light, making an exaggeration of all the things that were bad about her, because it makes it sound like you can see her coming and would know better than to hang out with her. Most of it was only sometimes (although she might have gotten worse after I left).
She was so fucking overbearing, that was the really notable thing about her. She towered over me closer than I was comfortable with. She tried to use charm, like this sort of vulgar allure, like girl are you exuding pheromones in my face or is it just 3 different kinds of cheap body spray, or both. And she'd flirt really heavily, getting all up in your face, but she'd stop if you changed the subject. Like... you could just distract her and reframe it and she'd take that, and leave you alone. Not as pushy as most guys who've tried to flirt with me, tbh, because her goal wasn't sex, it was admiration. Everything she did was a grand performance, super focused on you. If she left it at that, it would just be bemusing. But if you let her go on, she'd invade your own personal space as well as your ideas and stories and dreams; she'd unsubtly reframe everything to be all about her. It was clear she'd invade as much of you as you'd let her, and she wasn't even reframing any of it to keep it from being obvious. And that included invading you physically; she was always getting up close and trying to make a move.
But what she wanted was compliments and flattery and attention. She had no self-control and no respect for boundaries, but she didn't want people to get angry or hate her, because her motive was for everyone to love her and fawn over her, so she would stop just short of anything you could get angry about. As long as she thought she had you hooked, she didn't care whether you nudged her in a different direction to get her to drop whatever she was doing; she was opportunist; all you had to do was flatter her a little and she'd be on board with your distraction. She would've been SO EASY to control right back. She was a tyrant, but also totally vulnerable if anyone wanted to take advantage of her. Whenever I hear about how people with mental illness suffer the most abuse, I think of how easy it was to read Jen's motives and to influence her with her own methods, and how easy it would be for someone to turn it around and take advantage of her instead. And I've sometimes wondered if that's where she is now, trapped by someone else, or worse yet murdered. She would not see it coming.
That's all from future Cayla! Back to the original recording where we jump into another quote from Aeris
I'd like to go on record as saying that while Jen absolutely was a toxic person, her issues were 100% normie. She's the same kind of toxic as any other scammer. I'm old enough to remember when the very idea of internet fandom was painted as this deviant behaviour that inevitably spawned drama and tragedy. I just want to head that off up front-- it's not fandom's fault, or larping's fault, or soulbonding's fault, or a weird belief's fault, or any kind of fan behaviour's fault that Jen used these things as tools to manipulate people. Fandom, fiction, identity exploration-- these things are healthy. It was Jen that wasn't healthy.
Aeris refocused her attention to other things. The concept of soul bonding was spreading and with it plenty of misinformation, people making assertions about soul bonders really believing they were these characters. While maybe this was true for some people it wasn't for Aeris and the other soul bonders she knew.
Even though I'd distanced myself publicly from Jen, I was still quite concerned that people were going to find and bully me over the "soulbonding" thing like they did with [a friend of mine], so I put up a site explaining why it wasn't terrible. Everyone was making sites about it in those days. I wanted people to see it as something not worth making fun of, so that if it did get dredged up, it wouldn't cause me problems in the future.
She felt the need to correct the stereotypes and began to post about soul bonding but this only drew the attention of the trolls. Exasperated, Aeris stepped back and chose instead to live a more private online life, abandoning her old pseudonyms and adopting new handles and much stricter privacy settings.
In summer 2008 Aeris was preparing to move across the country to be closer to her boyfriend, Will, who lived in California. She was neck deep in packing when one of her friends reached out
they'd found someone making up ultra bizarre stories about me in some housemate community. I was in the middle of a move and didn't have the time to sit down and confront the frustration of more ugly lies about me on the internet, so I asked them to go ahead and deal with it on my behalf so I wouldn't have to sit down and read it. I resigned myself to never googling myself and hoping nobody else did either.
This would be the Sarah Saga and what she didn't realize was that the story was steadily gaining traction day by day or how her name had become associated with it to begin with
It's important to note that the Sarah Saga itself did not specifically implicate Aeris. In fact during the first couple weeks no one had any clue that she might be the person the story was about. The comments were full of people speculating about who it could be, which of the many infamous soul bonders was the subject. Naturally FF7 house would find its way in these discussions and some theorized that Sarah was Jen, but anyone that had given more than a cursory glance at both stories could tell you there were just too many things that didn't line up.
So how did Aeris get linked to this?
See the story had found its way to the Something Awful forums.
About 4 years before the advent of 4chan, Something Awful would grace the internet and became a huge part of the internet culture we know today. Like 4chan and reddit, something awful was a collection of discussion boards covering all myriad of topics. While not as heinous as 4chan, Something Awful had its fair share of trolls. And it was one of these trolls that posted the Sarah Saga there for everyone's amusement
But what no one expected was that one user named Jagerhunde would recognize the Sarah character. Jagerhunde claimed to have dated a girl in highschool that sounded a lot like Sarah. It was him who would go on to doxx Aeris, by posting pictures of her, links to her websites and even including a copy of a legal document about her name change.
What was he basing this on? Well Aeris was a soul bonder and a fan of the Suikoden games. And he knew that she had changed her legal name, with parts of it being reminiscent of a character from Suikoden, just like Sarah.
The correlation between Aeris and Sarah was a bombshell. The Something Awful forums lit up and the story spread and eventually made its way back to livejournal where the claims began to be repeated in the comments on the Sarah Saga.
pleaded with the mods on Housemate Horror to take the story down, claiming the
story was made up to make their friend look bad. These friends would also
comment on the story or make their own posts arguing for Aeris's innocence
which seemed to only further fuel the fires.
Tensions were growing and the observers of the story began to divide between those that believed it was true and those that thought the story was made up, and then of course the trolls that were just there for the chaos. There were plenty of things to discredit the story, the whole giant mansion in California that one young man owned and could rent for pennies, the lax rules at Sarah's place of work and the similarities in writing styles between the different alleged writers.
It's said that the author snapped at a few people in the comments, claiming they were Sarah, and things got ugly. It didn't help that the story had a lot of problematic elements, with blatant instances of trans and homophobia and very bully-like behavior on behalf of the "authors" against Sarah.
On Aug 21st 2008 the 12th entry in the Sarah Saga was posted, ending with a promise that the next post would talk about Sarah bringing the household to court. But that next post would never come. Within the next couple days all the posts by DragonTigerClaw would be deleted
Members of the housemate horrors group were shocked, nothing so big had happened there before and the readers of the story had more questions than ever before. They found their way to other communities to discuss the story, but the narrative seemed to be shifting, the general opinion becoming that the story had to be fake and that the author couldn't handle the heat so they left.
But the question is, what really happened?
The Truth About the Sarah Saga
Aeris helped me fill in a lot of details, like Jagerhunde, the guy that doxxed her? She had indeed dated him for a couple weeks in high school, but it was far from anything romantic. It was more of a pity date and it was a relationship that fell apart really quickly, when he couldn't get over her involvement in online fandom and his own jealousy at the fact that she had a crush on a video game character.
The experience was frustrating for her as he became his own self-fulfilling prophecy. He felt like she'd leave him for a video game character, but it wasn't the character that caused her to end things, but instead his obsession with that idea.
She had hoped that he had matured all those years later, but apparently that was not the case.
What's True and What's Not True
Lets get some of the basics out of the way, the Sarah character is based on Aeris and the Sasarai character is based on Aeris's friend Alan.
- Sarah legally changed her name to that of a Suikoden character: Aeris did legally change her name, she was never a fan of her birth name, and when she was picking new names, part of her name was inspired by Suikoden.
- Sarah was vegetarian: Aeris is indeed vegetarian though she says this isn't something she really talks about much and certainly never picketed a BBQ
- Sarah was living off donations from her soulbonding website: Aeris has never had a donation jar associated with any of her soul bonding essays and didn't even have a website at this time that was related to soul bonding. The website that seemingly got targeted is a Suikoden RP site her friend Alan ran that was one part Suiko-shrine one part personal page. Again, there was no donation jar and the site was primarily for their own amusement
- Sarah self-published and sold soul bonding essays: Aeris never did such a thing, though she does say that she and a friend once made a fanfic book once. She said they just wanted a tangible thing to collect together their writing and it wasn't something they sold
- Sarah has a severe mental illness (stereotypes used in the story would suggest something along the lines of schizophrenia) and required medication to be stable and grounded in reality: Aeris does not have a personality or dissociative disorder, at one point she was on Paxil for anxiety, but that was it
- Sarah was traumatized from childhood bullying: This is true, Aeris was diagnosed as having C-PTSD due to the bullying she received throughout her youth. While teachers at the time liked to frame it as "being picked on", today we would call what she endured, assault. Frequently the older kids would push, trip or otherwise knock her down regularly and she couldn't articulate clearly what was happening, making it all the more frustrating when she was told just to ignore it. For the most part this trauma doesn't make itself known in her day-to-day life, but she feels it most when she feels like she is being ganged up on
- Sarah does not get along with her family at all and says they don't understand her: Aeris has a pretty good relationship with her parents
- Sarah moved to the west coast as she thought people there would be more accepting of her "soulbonding lifestyle": Aeris moved to the west coast to be with her long-term long distant partner, Will and for career opportunities in her field
- Sasarai identifies as male, the Sarah Saga seems to imply this is because of his soulbond to the character Sasarai: Alan identified as male long before the Sarah Saga was published and it had nothing to do with his interest in the character Sasarai
- Sasarai lives in the UK and lives off welfare: Alan does live in the UK but certainly was not living off welfare. For Alan's privacy we will not give any more details than that, but I can say with certainty he did not need social assistance. But another counter to this "fact", social assistance in the UK is incredibly meager and you have to physically be present to collect it. If the Sasarai character was truly living on welfare alone they would have not been able to afford to travel to the US, nor could they have collected their welfare while there.
- Sasarai had tracts made for their "religion" based on Suikoden and handed them out at Sarah's work: Alan took a real religious tract he found and copied it word for word just swapping out key words to link it to Suikoden and handed them out as a joke at a convention
- Sarah's boyfriend was also a soulbonder and identified as a dragon: Will has never been a soulbonder or dragonkin and was in fact far less involved in fandom than Aeris was
- Sarah's boyfriend is very allergic to everything including dogs: Aeris says while he does have some allergies she doesn't even know if he's allergic to dogs as they're both cat people.
Those are the minor arguments against the validity of the Sarah Saga, but there are several big reasons as to why the events of the Sarah Saga could not have happened.
While yes, Aeris was planning to move from the east coast to the west, at the time of the publishment of the Sarah Saga her move had just occurred a couple weeks prior and she was living alone, not nearly enough time for the events of the story to occur, especially when the story claims she moved there in February 2007. She lived on her own for sometime before eventually getting a place with Will. Aeris's own declarations aside, I have validated this with many sources and accounts from that time. It was not physically possible for Aeris to have been in California when the alleged events of the Sarah Saga occurred
There's also one huge piece missing: Aeris's cats. At the time of her move, Aeris had two cats that she absolutely adored. They are incredibly important to her, so there's no way she would move across the country without them, especially without even mentioning them.
But I can hear you saying "ok but what if it wasn't about Aeris?"
There are enough details in the Sarah Saga that correlate with Aeris and her friend Alan. The Suikoden fandom is quite small, and the pairing of the two characters Odessa and Sasarai is very rare, as in canon the two characters aren't even alive at the same time. Alan is from the UK and he did cosplay as Sasarai and Aeris did cosplay as Odessa. Aeris was a soulbonder and has written essays about it in the past. Aeris was moving from the east coast to California and did have a boyfriend in the same state. Aeris is vegetarian and did legally change her names. And as far as we know, Alan is the only person to ever dress up as Sasarai and hand out fake religious tracts based on the game. These things are incredibly specific when you combine them together.
Ok, maybe Aeris was used as inspiration and it was just a creative writing exercise and no ill will was meant by it? Maybe someone just wanted to write a new FF7 house?
If this had just been in good fun, you would think the writers would've backed down when they began to get challenged, or that they would've changed details once Aeris was connected to the stories. But they didn't, they doubled down and continued to reference specific things that aligned with Aeris. Sure, they denied that Sarah was based on Aeris, but it didn't stop them from referencing things that sounded like her.
They were known to aggressively attack people in the comments that called them bullies or challenged their depiction of events. If it was just for fun why go to that effort? Why write 12 parts? Why do any of this and just disappear and delete everything when things got too heated?
The question comes down to who wrote the Sarah Saga and what was their motive?
Aeris's trip to the UK
Aeris can trace it all back to one particular event
In early 2008 Aeris had finished her internship and was between jobs. She decided to take advantage of the down time and visit Alan in the UK. She figured she'd work on her LinkedIn profile and her resume, so that by the time she came back home she was ready to start looking for a job.
But things didn't go as planned, and she was detained shortly after landing.
Customs in the UK looked at me with my anime pins and backpack and sneakers, and the fact that I was unemployed, and decided I was suspicious-- mainly because they didn't believe someone would fly across the Atlantic to visit someone they met on the internet. It was , people were really skeptical of this sort of thing back then.
Customs paged Alan and then over a payphone began asking him all about his financial details. Alan was naturally very suspicious and didn't understand what was going on or know that Aeris had been detained so he didn't give them any information.
Customs then turned me away because they thought I was trying to sneak in and steal UK jobs or something. It was massive fail all around
Upset by this, Aeris returned back to the US, where she posted in a private friend's group about what happened. This event she says is what made her friends sure it was someone in that group that wrote the story, as she didn't share it anywhere else and a very similar circumstance happens with Sarah.
And just like in the Sarah Saga, Alan, disappointed he didn't get to meet up with his friend, decided to come to the US instead. It would be this series of events that would out one of the authors
The only people who even knew about this fandom friend coming to visit me and the character they liked were a small, locked circle on LJ of about a dozen people. By process of elimination, I knew who it was. I sent them an email saying I knew and unfriended them. It was someone who I'd just met through a mutual friend and I barely knew them, and I never saw them again
For the purposes of this story we will not be using the real names or handles of anyone that we suspect was involved. As much as what they did was incredibly insensitive and cruel, outing them won't fix anything and would just reopen old wounds that have long scarred. But we also believe that Aeris deserves to have her name cleared of this heinous story and have it put to bed once and for all
So with that in mind, we're going to call this person Kacey.
While the evidence Aeris supplied is pretty damning of Kacey's involvement, a couple years back I was contacted by a random person in the Tattle Crime discord with strong data that connected the DragonTigerClaw account to Kacey's livejournal. I had been trying to validate that connection through other means since, so when Aeris told me she knew who wrote it, I asked if it was Kacey and she confirmed it was.
Kacey was very involved in the Suikoden fandom and was known for writing fanfic and being in most every forum, group or chat remotely related to Suikoden. And she even went on vacation and was out of commission at the same time as the primary "writer" of the Sarah Saga was (when "Carrie" and "Tim" took over for posting while "Pete" was hiking)
But see, there were some details that Kacey wouldn't have known, as far as I can find, Kacey was not present when Alan was handing out his satirical pamphlets
But someone else was
In Chicago every year is a massive anime con known as Anime Central and Alan and Aeris decided it would be a lot of fun to go together with a group of friends and they began planning. By this point, Aeris felt like the internet surely had forgotten about her and she could go out and have some fun
I thought it was finally over and everyone had forgotten, enough that I could do a little bit of cosplaying at a convention. It started with my one friend who liked this bishop character; they had bought a costume to take to an anime con we were both going to, although they also took some photoshoots with me wearing it, since they were learning photography and I agreed to be the model. But also, we were going to this convention, right? And I was also going to cosplay as someone from the same series
So Aeris, her boyfriend Will, Alan and a handful of other friends went to the con and had a blast. They met up with other fans and enjoyed everything the con had to offer, including a fan-run panel about Suikoden. And this is where the pamphlets come in
Well, my friend had made parody fake tracts-- it was like word-for-word ripped from some Christian tract they got as junk mail-- they just changed the word Jesus to the runes from the bishop character. We thought it was an obvious parody-- just a light joke about what the character would do in a more modern world, like the humour people find in imagining a coffeeshop AU-- but apparently some people can't recognize parody when they see it. Anyway they had me helping to hand out these tracts at a fan panel, which I happily did, because I didn't know anyone was so illiterate that they couldn't tell a deadpan joke when they saw one. And because I thought people going nutso over my reputation was over, I thought I could maybe dare to cosplay a little without ridicule. I had no idea, at the time, that anyone would take such a goofy thing seriously.
One thing they also did was commission some artists in the Artist Alley for Suikoden fanart. If you're not familiar with conventions, an Artist Alley is place where artists can rent a table for the purpose of selling their goods throughout the convention. Most the time these artists are local, but for some artists they travel around the world to different conventions hawking their wares.
Usually they'll sell
prints of completed work or other products they've made, but often they will
also accept commissions during the con. Usually you would commission an artist
earlier in the con say Friday or Saturday and then on Sunday you would come back
and pick up the piece.
Between Aeris's group several pieces were commissioned from various artists, but in particular Alan commissioned two pieces of art from two artists at the same table.
One of these artists, we'll refer to as Akira, had prints of fanart they had done from Suikoden, including several with the character Luc, who in the game is Sasarai's brother/clone. Alan commissioned Akira specifically for a picture of Luc and Sasarai and also gave the table one of the pamphlets, thinking they would get a kick out of it as at least one them was a Suikoden fan.
But come Sunday when Alan went to pick up the piece, Akira hadn't finished it yet. This isn't that big of a deal and is something that can happen sometimes for a variety of reasons, and Alan just gave the artist his address and asked her to mail it to him when she was done.
No big deal. At least that's what you would think.
Akira and her tablemates made con reports the day after the con. It's common for convention goers to post a statement on their social media after attending a con talking about their experience, explaining the highlights and any notable events.
In both Akira and her tablemate's reports there was absolutely nothing strange to report about their time in the Artist Alley. In fact the tablemate said Sunday in particular was a highlight for her and Akira talked about the amazing friends she made.
But fast forward a couple months to August and Akira is responding on threads questioning the validity of the Sarah Saga and her responses paints a different picture
One thing of note is that Akira specifically mentions a couple times that Alan is obviously female and that brings us back to the transphobic comments in the Sarah Saga itself which repeatedly reiterate that the Sasarai character was female.
Except in real life, Alan is trans. He identifies as male and has since well before this convention and Aeris says anyone that knew Alan, knew that he was trans and the author, Kacey knew Alan, meaning her choice to claim the Sasarai character was female, was done purposely to invalidate and mock Alan's gender identity, just like Akira is doing in this post.
Now let's talk about the pamphlets. We know that Akira is the artist that was commissioned and that she was a huge Suikoden fan as well in particular a Luc and Sasarai fan, so if anyone would've been able to tell that the pamphlet was satire, it would've been her, which would indicate that she is purposely spinning what the pamphlet was in support of the Sarah Saga.
It's important to note that the way Akira words her post she leaves no room for any other interpretation but the fact that Sarah and Sasarai were without a doubt Aeris and Alan, as the link she posts is to Aeris and Alan's RP site. She also says that the pamphlet is related to a cult. The only reason you would say such things is that:
- you know the Sarah Saga is about Aeris and Alan
- you are purposely twisting the facts to support that
But what was Akira's connection to Kacey? I was able to confirm that the pair had known each other for years through the Suikoden fandom, Kacey even traveling to another country to spend time with Akira and their other friends, and Akira and Kacey had also been staff at the same convention together.
Turns out I also wasn't the only person to suspect Akira's involvement. In one of the many discussion threads about the Sarah Saga one of the random participants noticed that the DragonTigerClaw account was in the same communities as Akira was. They also noted a recent post by Akira that seemed to hint at something damning, but alas that post is now private and no archives exist
Artist Alley Fight
Conversations about the Sarah Saga were spreading and had begun to reach the Suikoden fandom. While Suikoden is fairly well known the fandom itself is quite small in comparison to other series like Final Fantasy. So when members of the fandom heard that this horrific story may be starring one of their own it raised questions
One fan in particular gathered the details and rumors about the story and wrote a post asking their followers what they thought. On this post was an anonymous comment
Note that right before this was posted, a user we'll call Roan makes a comment about how they deleted a comment they wrote and went to send the journal owner an email, but the owner said their email was broken and then this comment shows up. The timing of the anonymous comment and relation to Roan's comment, is suspicious, but not just that, Roan, had been friends with Akira and Kacey for years, with Roan and Kacey being the online equivalent of besties, wherever one went you would find the other.
This comment tells a different story than the one Akira does. They describe both Aeris and Alan almost as malicious and elitist.
I ran this comment by Aeris
She said she wasn't there when Alan went to pick up the art he'd commissioned on Sunday, but the description of such an interaction was completely out of character for him. He was a geeky Brit after all, not exactly the kind of people known for being overtly aggressive and rude.
The way Alan recalls the events
I didn't know they were upset with me. It was completely civil from my end. They weren't finished so I asked them to mail it to me and they never did. I left the con assuming all was fine. I was in cosplay and gave them one of the little fake tracts I had for funsies. That was it. I guess that's what made them mad. Because people were treating the tracts as real evangelism remember actually thinking when shit went down, bc i was pretty sure this artist was involved […] i remember thinking "well shit i guess im not getting that picture now" i remember hearing about that it was specific to "I don't like this weird evangelist person" (who was doin a joak, like, im sorry for making a joak) but like if they didn't wanna do the art they could have said. i wouldn't have been offended. it's kinda hilarious bc like it is so the opposite of me. i know im forgetful and i respect artists so im like. as soon as i commission someone i make sure ive either paid or i know how to pay them. usually i pay upfront. bc if i don't i'll forget. also im the [biggest] people pleaser ever and if someone even suggests i havent paid I'll be all over myself apologising
This is quite contrary to the anon's description of events
So I began to dig, what connected Akira, Roan and Kacey aside from the Suikoden fandom? Kacey was in the US and as far as I could tell did not attend Anime Central, yet she is the only one that would've known about Aeris's trouble with UK customs outside of Aeris's close friends. And Akira was from Canada, but would've been one of a handful of people that knew about the pamphlets and the only person I have ever found posting about having received one. Roan on the other hand wouldn't have personal experience with either of these events, but without a doubt heard about it from Kacey and Akira
As far as Aeris and Alan recall they gave out the pamphlets at the panel, which would've contained Suikoden fans and gave one to Akira's table. It's possible a few more were handed out to other Suikoden fans they encountered, but anyone with the slightest bit of awareness would be able to tell it was satire.
Kacey's Slumber Party
The day the first entry in the Sarah Saga went live, Roan, the mutual friend of Kacey and Akira, made a post about how they just got back from staying with Kacey. But they hadn't visited Kacey alone, they had gone with two friends we'll call Ash and Karen.
See, Roan is Canadian, from Alberta, but Ash and Karen were from Ontario, in fact the same area that Akira was from, and were real life friends with Akira. And this entire group had all known each other for years via roleplaying and general Suikoden fandomness.
There was also another member of this group we'll call Kelly. While Kelly didn't attend Anime Central or the sleepover in Texas at Kacey's, she too was a part of this group, lived in Ontario and was IRL friends with them. I wouldn't have counted Kelly in this if she were just a random bystander, but where Kacey and Roan were a unit as were Akira and Kelly to the point they would eventually become roommates and business partners that did the convention circuit together. So if Kelly wasn't directly involved, she knew about it without a doubt.
This brings our culprit count to six: Kacey, Akira, Roan, Ash, Karen and Kelly
Strangely, this is the exact number of roommates that had lived in the house in the Sarah Saga. There were 5 roommates, the landlord and the 6th roommate that had moved out to get married which had left a free room for Sarah. Interestingly, of the 6 culprits, all but one lived in Canada. And the one that didn't live in Canada, was the only one that was married. It's all kind of weird, but then again why make a house so big in a fake story? The story could've been told just as easily with only a couple roommates and would've been far more believable.
It all seems pretty circumstantial when you think about it. Because why? Why would six members of the same fandom target two other members of the fandom and go through all this work to make them look bad? How could we even be sure they were all involved?
We know for sure Kacey is, and we know for sure that Akira came out in defense of the Sarah Saga citing an encounter with Aeris and Alan and a certainty that they were the subjects.
Then I came across another anonymous comment in one of the many Sarah Saga discussion threads
This stood out to me, as it was very specific. It was one of the few things I could find that seemed to clearly be written by someone with insider knowledge.
In particular the thing that grabbed my attention was about a friend getting kicked out of Canada on their way to AN, which is an Ontario convention called Anime North.
All 6 culprits had attended Anime North many times. In fact Ash, Kelly, Akira and Kacey (even though she lived in the states) often volunteered, Akira running the artist alley there. Roan had traveled from Alberta a couple times to attend, and I know that on at least three occasions Kacey attended and the entire group did Suikoden cosplay together
In case you don't know this, I am a cosplayer. And organizing a group cosplay is a labor of love and finding people that will actually do their part and show up is pretty damn special. And committing to going to another country to do this with online friends, isn't something you do on a whim. Traveling is expensive, conventions are expensive, cosplay is expensive.
So whatever the scenario, the six were close enough to do this. Close enough that Roan, Ash and Karen felt comfortable traveling to the states to stay with Kacey and her husband.
Now the friend getting kicked out of Canada on their way to Anime North. Kacey was the only one in our group of culprits that wasn't Canadian, so was the only one that would've had to cross the border to attend the con. I do know that Kacey had some beef with Canadian customs at some point, but was unable to confirm if it was trouble crossing the border or if it was mail related, as Kacey frequently sent packages back and forth with Roan in particular. It could also be a friend of the group as Kacey wasn't the only person from the Suikoden RP that made a trip across the border for that con at some point to hang out with our core group.
The story about the guy and his girlfriend and the vegetarian sister that picketed a high school BBQ are harder to narrow down. I don't know who these stories are about
The question I keep coming back to is why? A few theories myself, Aeris and others have discussed:
- Transphobia: it may be they wanted to mock Alan, transphobia is rampant in the story. But if that were the case you would think the Sasarai character would be the primary antagonist not Sarah
- Anti-Soulbonding: Soulbonders have never been the internet's favorite "subculture". We know Kacey and Roan in particular took plenty of joy in mocking soulbonders.
- FF7 House: a common theory is that someone in the author group was aware of Aeris's history with the FF7 house and used this for inspiration. Akira did say that she searched the website on the pamphlet, which is Alan's site. On that site Alan had a cosplay section and under it had pictures of Aeris with her name listed. Turns out if you search her name, her old livejournal comes up, the names associated with which are the ones associated to the FF7 house story, so it would not have been a long search to make that connection especially if you were digging for dirt to use against someone
- FF7 house had achieved a level of notoriety by this time, and its infamy had every person aware of it casting accusations at anyone in the Final Fantasy fandoms that remotely expressed interest in Jenova, or seemed a little too attached to the characters. It's possible the authors wanted to achieve that kind of that kind of status without care for who they hurt.
- In a way they succeeded. Once Aeris's name was tied to the Sarah Saga it became galvanized to the FF7 House story. And while there are plenty of elements in the FF7 House story that made it believable, the Sarah Saga didn't have the same credibility, but by association, it gained credibility it did not deserve.
- The last 10 years, most anyone that believed the FF7 house story, believed the Sarah Saga
- Driving Aeris and Alan from the fandom: Semi related to the last point, Jen was made out to be some sort of bogeyman, and over the years dozens if not hundreds of FF fans have been accused of being Jen. While not the exact intention of demon-sushi, it drove Jen out of the FF fandom, she would be foolish to try and participate again with anything reminiscent of her old trappings and the same would become true for Aeris and Suikoden. As I said earlier, Suikoden is a small fandom, and at the time this story had permeated most online spaces where its fans gathered.
- Such an intention would have to be driven by something, maybe Kacey was jealous of Aeris? Both were prolific Suikoden fanfic writers, and Aeris was networked with some of the big fanfic writers in that genre from her years with that writing group. While anyone that knew Aeris, knew she didn't want the attention, especially after everything with Jen, but it's easy to make assumptions from the outside
- Shipwars: In any fandom the ships are aplenty. A ship is a pairing of characters that fans have grown to "worship" hence "ship". Sometimes these pairings are canon, sometimes they're not, sometimes these ships turn straight characters gay and vice versa, and sometimes there's incest. When it comes to fanfic and the way that fans interact with a piece of media the results and interpretations can vary wildly, rule 34 and all that. One thing that just about every fandom has is a couple ships that are incest, probably the most famous is Supernatural, where there's a surprising amount of Sam/Dean shippers. Sometimes in these fics it is explained they're not related, sometimes not. For most fans these are what they call NOTPs, a play on the term OTP meaning "One True Pairing". NOTP is used to describe pairings that a person is completely against, and one of the big NOTPs in Suikoden was Luc x Sasarai. As mentioned Luc and Sasarai are clones, so while not technically brothers they are genetically identical, so most fans would consider a relationship between the two as incest and do not support it
- The term Shipwars describes a situation in a fandom where fans actively attack other fans who ship something the first group does not agree with. In Mass Effect, there is a war over romancing Tali or Garrus, as if neither character is romanced, they will get together, and the fans that support this believe this relationship is far better than one that Shepherd would have with either of them, so you're a bad person if you play a Shepherd that romances either character. I am not kidding. While these fans are the minority, it doesn't stop intense debates and the bullying of either side.
- Now we're not going to get into the morality of these kinds of pairings, anti-ship and pro-ship is a massive, complex and controversial topic. Just know that these kinds of pairings can happen in fanfic and can cause massive debates within a fandom
- Akira was very against the Luc x Sasarai pairing. These two characters were her favs, but she hated the idea of incest with a passion. One theory Aeris floated was that maybe when Akira received Alan's commission of Luc and Sasarai, that Akira thought Alan was a shipper of the pairing. Alan says he specifically said he did not want a romantic drawing and is not a Luc x Sasarai shipper in the slightest, but Akira may have interpreted it that way or chose to interpret it that way.
- In 2004 I found evidence of Akira attacking a fanfic writer that had written a Luc x Sasarai fanfic. It's important to note that this fanfic was written before the release of the third game, which is when the player finds out that Luc and Sasarai were clones. So when this story was written, this wasn't incest. The author also added an author's note after the third game's release stating that in this story the characters are not related. Yet, Akira attacked them anyways. Akira posted about this in her journal and encouraged her friends to also leave bad reviews on this person's fanfic. Akira was also known to have a very aggressive attitude toward fans that didn't interact with the media in the "right way"
These posts came 4 years before the Sarah Saga and while I know that Akira was still fiercely against this pairing, I don't have evidence to support her still being so aggressive about her beliefs as she had made most of her journals friendslocked by this point. But it is a strong possibility that this anti-ship attitude is what prevented Akira from completing the commission and turning against Alan and Aeris
But the last motivation seems to be the most likely: trolling, or the reality behind that: malice
During my investigation I learned a lot about these individuals, most of what we have is circumstantial evidence and this stacks highest against Akira, Roan and Kacey
I saw accusations in forums and journals about Anime North that accused Akira of fabricating grievances against attendees. I saw people claim she was mean and showed preferential treatment for her friends and other con staff. Other staff members came to her defense, including her sister accusing the person who made the accusations of making it up, becoming a she said/he said situation, making it hard to determine where exactly the truth is
Roan has written about her own behavior to people she calls friends including a story in high school where she broke into "friend's" locker to take her gym clothes and rub them in mud and coke as a "joke". I found that Kacey commented on this laughing and calling Roan a devil, to which Roan added:
And again Roan said this was a friend
Kacey on the other hand appeared to have made a lot of enemies over the years. The Suikoden RP she became a mod of became the target of fandom_wank, despite Kacey not even being mentioned in the "wank" that was shared, commentors quickly saw she was a mod of the group and implied that she seemed to always been involved in some "wank" or another.
In October 2008 a livejournal community called rp_anon_meme did one of their famous posts. The posts were designed so that users could comment anonymously about the RPs they were involved in or RPers they knew, they claimed it was for "airing grievances" but really it was bullying. Kacey's character in connection to her RP was called out, she was called a horrible player among other things, including suggesting Kacey unalive herself.
Seemingly throughout the entirety of 2008, a secret coalition was made within the RP she ran, with multiple instances where anonymous commentors would go on a commenting spree on the character journals for members of the RP. The comments pleaded that the journal report Kacey, claiming she was ruining the RP. Some of these comments claimed Kacey was homophobic and refusing to let members of the RP play out gay relationships. You would think someone who just so recently experienced an anonymous hate campaign would be a little more sensitive to doing it to someone else
But all of these statements come from groups designed to troll or from people who may be the equivalent of "disgruntled employees"
I wanted to speak with someone that knew Kacey to get their take. I contacted someone that had been in the Suikoden fandom and knew both Kacey and Aeris. She told me she didn't really know Kacey that well, but she had a friend that knew her and she would ask them. Not long after she got back to me with this statement
I have reached out to mutual friend and their recollection of [Kacey] is that they became a bit of a troll as the years went on. They would frequently make sock puppet accounts and harass members of the friend group
another favorite thing to do would be to write distasteful/triggering fanfic under a pseudonym and then be like "You HAVE to read this, it's so good!"
I do not recall this happening to me, but as stated, I was never super good friends with them, we were just in the same space at the same time
so I think, to put it in the words of my 13yr old nephew: they were being a buttface
I do recall them being increasingly derisive of the Soulbonding thing. But it does seem needlessly cruel to do something like that just for a joke it's possible it got away from them
[but] the Internet is Forever, etc
This statement gave us what is probably the closest thing we'll ever get as a reason. It still doesn't provide all the answers, but if this was the kind of thing Kacey was known to do, Aeris was just another target. It is possible this is a "troll" that got out of hand, Kacey spurred on by her friends, a bit of a mob mentality, that kept it going far longer than it would've with one perpetrator. And it's possible the group knew nothing about the FF7 house so had no idea Aeris already had this viral history.
Once Aeris's old public image got connected to the story it took off like wild fire, because now there was a reason, and like soulbonder Jen and so many before her, it was easy to paint Aeris as the villain simply because of her association with Jen and the very rampant prejudice against soulbonders in online communities at the time.
I'd sure love to know why [Kacey] did what she did-- but I suppose I may never find out. I was always baffled by it […] I assume she just didn't like me for some reason, and instead of being normal about it and going her own way, she decided to hurt me instead
Around the time the story would disappear a Suikoden fan made a post about it in their own journal. They knew Aeris and had many friends that were also soulbonders. A section from that post is here
all this crap has gotten plastered everywhere and I don't know how much of it is and isn't true. I think there are large chunks being pulled out of asses for entertainment's sake, but there are grains of truth in there. :/ So I can't think that it's all made up.
At the same time I feel bad for her, because it's one thing to have a laugh and move on but it's another to sit there and tear someone apart for the sake of being part of the crowd of howler monkeys screeching and flinging poo.
This person was also friends with Kacey and a part of me wonders if this had played a part in Kacey and her group choosing to take the story down.
I would like to think our authors have moved past his kind of behavior, but I found a tumblr blog where users could submit anonymous con horror stories. In Jul 2015, 7 years after the Sarah Saga, someone asked the blog what they knew about the Sarah Saga one of the mods responded with this:
"I was at ACen years ago and was given a pamphlet about the Sukoden cult. It was the most awkward moment in my 10+ years of doing an Artist Allies in the US and Canada and that's saying something."
Roan and Kacey had frequently viewed and interacted with this blog, in fact a post Kacey made was on the blog's first reblogs. The person who made this comment signed off as Mod C, and while the names of the mods aren't listed on the blog, based on various comments by Mod C there are a lot of factors that seem to imply that Mod C is Akira. If this is Akira she would've been 31 at this time, it's disheartening to think that she was still supporting this narrative after all that time.
Aeris acknowledges she not a perfect person, like many of us nerdy folk, we can be really awkward and miss social cues and in fandom petty spats happen. But what reason could possibly warrant this treatment of someone? The best we can hope is that the authors have long put this behind them and are no long supporting this narrative
Once Aeris confronted Kacey, it seemed the story disappeared pretty quickly, though not before it was extensively archived and documented. Aeris, who had barely even a moment to think about it, continued preparing for her big move, trying to push it out of her head
I forgot about them and went on with my life, albeit with renewed anxiety that I would be googled now that all of my legal details were spilled everywhere.
But the internet doesn't forget. Once Jagerhunde made the connection to Aeris, members of the Something Awful forum and Livejournal began looking for Aeris, her boyfriend or Alan. While Aeris's old livejournal and Alan's old flickr account were identified, most, if not all of the other accounts and webpages that were suggested or straight-up assumed to belong to them, had nothing to do with any of them. Many were simply other soulbonders or Suikoden fans, some were their friends or acquaintances.
Despite the story having disappeared, speculation continued to run rampant even to this day and the first stop anyone looking into this makes is the original Something Awful thread. Each time this happens it brings up all those accounts mentioned and "internet detectives" run with those accounts, leading them to other accounts ran by the same people, yet still not belonging to Aeris or Alan.
Like Jen, people across the internet get identified as Aeris. While we have no way of knowing how many have been impacted and to what degree, we know from other survivors that many people investigating this are crude and disrespectful, some are looking for answers but just don't care or realize their methods are harmful, others are seeking people out for the purposes of trolling them, and to many Aeris is a villain as they have thought no further about the story than what they read. It's one thing to be subject to this if you're actually the person these people are looking for, but another thing entirely when you have no idea why these things are being done to you.
I would be a hypocrite to say I don't understand the curiosity that fuels this behavior, but I do try to be as mindful as possible of the people behind these screen names and the things they may have endured. It can be really easy to make assumptions because an account interacted with the same content or same people that they might be who you're seeking. But I will tell you more often than not, 99% of the accounts you will find are not who you're looking for. It took me two years to find Aeris and I can't tell you the number of web pages, journals and social medias I poured through that were in my "maybe" pile. Before even reaching out to anyone I try to make sure that the accounts I am looking at are actually that person, in every possible way. So far, my aim has been true, but I can promise you, identifying these accounts beyond reasonable doubt is a trial and not something that can be done in a weekend
If after ten minutes of reading web archives and doing some googles makes you think you have found Jen or Aeris or anyone involved in this or anything really, take a beat. Rushing to conclusions can be harmful, every account and website belongs to a person, and this planet has a couple billion of those and each one of those have real feelings and real lives. Be conscious of the fact that record sites aren't completely reliable, they aggregate data based on key words and the more common a name the more likely that the records you're looking at don't all belong to the person you're looking for, if any of them do at all.
Talking to Aeris it's very clear just how much the public got wrong, how much even my own investigation had wrong. If the Sarah Saga is a cautionary tale of anything, it's don't believe everything you read, which in our social climate and internet culture should be obvious, but can never be reiterated too much. Be critical, find multiple independent sources, ponder motive and seek knowledge with empathy and respect.
Some of the people that turned on Aeris knew her and had known her for years. Many posted journals questioning the events, but instead of talking to Aeris, they simply unfriended her or pulled away. Not to say that she didn't have friends that fought for her, she did and they tried, but they all got accused of being sock-puppets to Aeris, the mob mentality had taken hold and that's always a dangerous thing
Aeris went about her life, she made the move to the west coast (with her cats) and found a job in her field. Twice burned by fandom she avoided getting involved, while she was still around online she didn't interact the way she once did and she certainly never went looking for what new wild stories about her may be out there
I honestly don't know if the publicity has affected me or not; I have no way of knowing how many people saw it, went "yikes," and chose never to deal with me because of it.
At random times, I've gotten mysterious emails from very old friends telling me they were worried about me because they'd heard something strange, and I didn't even know what they were talking about. All I could do was reassure them that whatever they heard, it wasn't me.
But a year ago her curiosity finally got the best of her
About a year ago people on twitter were linking around the "FF7 house" video and I finally dared watch it. That was the first time I actually saw, with my own eyes, any of the housemate or SA posts. I was mostly impressed by how much about me it got wrong, and how much it made of completely normal things like me wearing a white dress in multiple photoshoots [seem weird]. (Actually that's pretty cool. I don't mind being remembered as the mysterious lady in a white dress.)
The irony is that I barely knew these people, yet somehow the video ended up having more info on me than anyone else. I've spent my life since then trying not to be noticed. Now and then I've tried to do a creative project, or exist in FF fandom, but then someone figures out who I am, and I freak out and go back into hiding. I just want a fresh start, so badly.
I want to be able to exist like a nobody, and do fandom and make things and write and draw, and be judged by who I really am and what I'm really doing, not by the revenge drama of acquaintances and strangers.
Yesterday I told my friends that you had contacted me, and they were all like, "Oh no, don't talk to journalists!" But "don't talk to journalists" has been my policy on this forever, and all it's done is get other people mistaken for me, and cause the narrative to be controlled by people who don't really know me and don't care what happens to my reputation. It's time for me to at least say, for the record, that I was barely even in this. I probably wouldn't even have responded to your request for comment about Jen if the housemate and SA stuff hadn't happened later to drag me back in, because I just don't have anything on Jen other than "yeah, she was like that".
Spending the time to get to know Aeris and the events behind everything I was repeatedly surprised by just how wrong the narrative about her really was. The stories had grown and taken on lives of their own, taking on shapes that looked nothing like the reality. I am honored Aeris took that risk to open up to me and am so grateful for the opportunity to help dispel these rumors in whatever way I can
Today Aeris lives
with her partner and their cats. Understandably she wants to keep her current
life vague, too many times have people used it against her, but maybe this
will be the first step out from under the shadows that have dogged her for
the last twenty years. She deserves that peace of mind and a chance to live
her life without Jen or "Sarah" anywhere near it and I hope this
helps her get that