Season 1 Episode 1: Room Zero

Season 1 Episode 1  Room Zero

In the first segment of this episode, I will describe how I spent my first day in Dunari in a magic room called Room Zero, how I met Ganhook, my mentor, and how the first time I used a Dunari toilet, that toilet tried to kill me.

Segment two deals with world building tips Ganhook taught me that day.

Rounding off the show, is a ‘Strange but True’ segment. Actually, everything in Dunari is strange but true. This segment, however, deals with the oddities that I directly encounter.

Key Takeaways:

I describe how Ganhook outlined his plan to educate me how to survive in Dunari.

I provide context for what he taught me, so listeners may be inspired by these basic world building tips.

Show summary:

Each show will be summarized in letter form. These are the letters I would have written from Dunari to my parents if I’d been able to do so at the time.

Six minutes reading time.


Dear Mum and Dad,

Just to fill you in about my first day in Dunari.

After passing through the gateway, something bit me, and I fell unconscious.

I awoke on a bed in a room that had so many polished timber beams running through the stone walls, it resembled a cage. Only the bench and chairs and other furniture was too beautifully designed to be a cage. Even the big window, which was shaped like a turtle, resembled a sculpture.

Everything glowed orange from the sphere of fire emerging from a spout in the ceiling.

The oddest thing there, though, was a wooden walking stick propped up close to the door. It had eyes, a nose, and a narrow little mouth carved onto it.

Oddly, it calmed me.

And I needed calming because I knew I was awake and not dreaming. I felt the heat from the fire against my face.

A man entered the room. Dressed in a dark blue jerkin and pants, and with his beard rolled up under his chin like a mini carpet, the man’s blue eyes sparkled in the firelight.

He introduced himself as Ganhook, said I shouldn’t be here, and that everything in Dunari wanted to kill me.

What a fine welcome, I thought.

When I asked him to send me back through the gateway, he told me that an ancient, secret curse lay over our family. This curse required the first born of every Keyes generation to enter Dunari and serve the Dunari authorities for five years.

As I’m the first born, this curse would have affected me. But not for another ten years, and not before I’d spent four years training to survive in Dunari before I passed through the gateway.

Instead, the first born of the last generation –and you know who that coward is— tricked me into taking his place.

Ganhook said that until I adjusted to Dunari, I needed to stay in quarantine, needed to be inoculated against Dunari diseases, and needed to be tested to ensure I wasn’t carrying any ‘Earth’ diseases. He mentioned the Spanish Conquistadors bringing smallpox to South America, and how it destroyed the local population who had no immunity to European diseases.

This made sense. What didn’t make sense was how Ganhook knew about it.

To prove his point about everything wanting to kill me, he’d rigged the toilet to ‘test’ me the first time I used it. This incident is too embarrassing to write about, but I do mention it in the podcast.

And every time I begged to be sent home, Ganhook changed the subject. He blathered on about house rules. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t touch this. Don’t touch that. Blah . . . blah . . . blah . . .

Most outrageous of all was that I could only use the bed between 7PM and 7AM, otherwise the bed would react to me. Seriously! 7AM! I only got up that early on Christmas morning.

Finally, after annoying him so much, Ganhook admitted that he was disgusted about what had happened to me, but couldn’t change it. Instead, he said I needed a tutor if I was to survive Dunari.

A cat with nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine lives would be a perfect tutor. This cat, Stein Cat, had already lost a bunch of these lives from exploring dangerous things. That’s how she learned the dangers of this world. And the ghosts of these dead lives would teach me these dangers.

On a day of unbelievable things, that was probably the most unbelievable.


I know this is hard to believe. So, to help you understand, every letter I write will repeat what I was taught to understand this place.

Ganhook and Stein Cat’s ghosts revealed Dunari to me slowly, so I wouldn’t go loopy figuring everything out at once.

Start small. That’s the key. I called my quarantine room, Room Zero, because that was my starting point in this world, my place to view the world from

Room Zero had just enough details for me to get a basic idea of what the world was all about.

The fireball suggested a power source. The crazy bed suggested magic. The beautiful furniture and wall paneling suggested comfort.

Ganhook gave me simple foundations to understand Dunari from.

Create your Room Zero.

Go into a ‘preferably’ windowless room. Take four post-its with you and stick them around the room. Then, try and imagine you’re in room zero of your special world, and that those four post-its represent four unique items only found in your world.

Use the post-its to take notes on each imagined item.

Perhaps it’s a picture of a creature, or a famous location, or some artwork that represents something in your world.

If you don’t immediately imagine new things, stick the post-its onto existing things. Example. Put one on a chair and then imagine what that chair might look like in your world. What could it be made out of? Where does the material come from? Who makes it?

It doesn’t really matter what you imagine, write, or scribble. Nor does it matter if you ultimately use it in your world. The exercise is more about developing your imagination from within a very constrained area.

What tiny details can you imagine that will start to transform your room zero into a perfect foundation for your world?


On a lighter note, I’ll finish each letter with a ‘Strange but True’ segment.

I had a copy of Lord of the Rings in my backpack when I entered Dunari. When Ganhook saw the picture of Gandalf on the front cover, he borrowed the book.

One week later, he turned up wearing a flowing grey robe, a crooked hat, and with his beard unrolled down to his waist. The resemblance to Gandalf was so complete, he’d have made a fortune as a Gandalf impersonator on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

So, why did Ganhook dress this way?

He is a fifth level Lavun Master. This means he’s got the highest skills to manipulate Lavun, the main Dunari power source.

This gives him high status. So, I can only assume he wanted a new, impressive look, something that hadn’t been seen in Dunari before.

He won’t admit this. Yet, considering he only dresses this way when he’s receiving important guests, I can’t think of any other reason.

Well, that’s it for now. Next time, I’ll tell you about my encounter with the first of Stein Cat’s ghosts.

Bye for now. Or as they say in Dunari, ‘Dreavik!’