by dave ring Issue 2: Game | 696 words
OVERVIEW It is the late 2010s, within an upside down city, and you don’t know what to make of yourself. You spend your time paying bills, living from one cheap thrill to the next, and breaking up the endless boom and bust of ennui with the numbing tedium of social media. This isn’t the future you imagined for yourself. This isn’t what was supposed to happen.
Your big break was merely a prelude to a state of brokenness. The aptitude tests that saw such bright stars in your future have dimmed in your memory. You’re not the only sad, broken thing in this tableau; the world is falling apart too. The daily assaults upon your very existence are both gruesome and petty. Some days, it’s like the inexorable passage of time is nothing but a boot slowly pressing against your windpipe.
OBJECT OF THE GAME Don’t look at it. Don’t touch it. Don’t speak its name.
MATERIALS ● 365 day cards (additional expansion packs of 365 days can be purchased in the store, but please note that they are all exactly the same) ● 99 two-sided friend cards (when played, use the less helpful side) ● Assorted local currency (varies, according to region) ● 1001 memory cards (printed in a font too light to read, no matter how you squint) ● 1 smooth white stone (not included) ● 1 dream, shattered ● 1 buried conviction, fading each moment ● This instruction booklet
GAME SETUP The pre-players must conceive a child to be the prison. One of them, or at times an inanimate object, will gestate the child until birth. Resources and abilities may be purchased with the local currency included in the game. This setup usually takes place years prior to the game being played.
OPTIONAL SETUP Look deep within the bones of the world, beneath the concrete and the neon. Scour the veins of magma and limestone for purpose. For scraps of the yesterday that once called to you. Extend your consciousness into the wires that limn the walls, that infest the sky. Purge yourself of the cold iron in your belly. Wear a smooth white stone around your neck and call the moonlight around you like a cloak.
RULES Each turn has three phases
2. Memory (optional)
3. Inexorable Passage of Time
In the day phase, draw a day card and discard it.
In the memory phase, you may draw a memory card and press it to your lips. Let the smudged ink melt into the morass of your tongue until the remnants of the words printed there taste like ash in your mouth.
In the inexorable passage of time phase, smash an hourglass filled with salt against a flat surface. Press your hand into the shards of glass until the salt burns.
OPTIONAL RULE Hold the smooth white stone in your palm so that the coolness of it grounds you in the vestiges of an argent, sunless wood. Let the roots of that lost memory snake through the floorboards of your shitty apartment, green and tender with new growth, hungry for the magic that would feed them if only you were in our queen’s cool shadow instead of this forsaken place. Try not to cry when dawn’s inevitable arrival inflicts them with a rot that settles into the brittle husk that used to be your wild spirit.
FINAL SCORING The game ends when you’ve rendered the last of your memories into pulp, and the stomach acids of your prison, this changeling flesh, have transformed it into empty caloric content. The city, your jailor, will sigh with pleasure, your complicit existence freeing up their attention for another cell to house a bastard child of the fey.
You’ll slide your finger down your phone, refreshing your feeds, and something will shift in your gut. The places in your belly where magic used to live, long stunted and blackened at the edges, will have withered. And with them, your only way to come back to us. Your only way to break the city’s hold on you.
Look at it. Touch it. Speak its name.
Your buried conviction will take you home.