by Vicente L Ruiz
“Game night at my place.” Well, not really your best option, since you know she lives with her mother and siblings, one boy and another girl. But you like board games, and you also really do like Anne, so you say yes. And there you go.
It turns out they’re all nice. They simply take you on at face value, no questions about which kind of relationship you may or may have not with Anne. They make it comfortable.
Out come the games, and they let you choose. You ask for Carcassonne, because you know it. They agree with your decision; they haven’t played in quite some time and they feel like coming back to it. There’s a comment about it being Dad’s favourite, and a shadow crosses the room.
You decide not to acknowledge it. But you already have noticed that the empty chair is there, and it gets worse when they carefully put aside the red meeples and lay them before the vacant seat.
But they keep talking and Anne’s mum asks whether you want something to drink, and you say yes. She sends the boy for your drink, and you realize their names haven’t registered. So you smile and decide you’ll pay attention, but they don’t seem to mention them.
They’ve started drawing tiles and placing them, and you surprise yourself by actually remembering how to play. You place a tile and put a meeple on it, and the game goes on.
You realize something’s wrong when you want to place a tile to finish a city but it doesn’t fit. How can it not possibly fit? You feel dizzy.
What have you been drinking?
Anne smiles at you, and you realize you’ve never really noticed how sharp her teeth are.
by Gillian McFarlane
You brought out the best in me. You drew me out of myself. Then, over the years, you took everything else out as well. When I eventually gathered myself together everything got rearranged. I was a shadow of my former self, and not all that stable.
by Jamie Thunder
“Riiight,” said Linda, weighing up her next move.
“Left,” chipped in Barry.
“Stop it, I’m thinking.”
“You can always tell when she’s thinking,” Barry confided to Neil in a stage whisper. “Looks painful, eh?”
It was the third day of the holiday, and Barry had finally convinced the others to play. The rain had them pinned inside the barge like enemy fire, and his decision to bring the game ‘just in case’ had paid off now that they were bored of gin rummy and reading. “It’s a modern classic,” he’d explained to Linda as they packed. “It’s not just chance, it’s strategy and skill as well. And it’s easy enough for you girls to understand!” he added with a bark. Linda said nothing and continued pressing her clothes down into the suitcase. She knew better than to try to talk him out of it, and in any case her mind was on other things, namely long walks in the woods and Neil’s strong hands.
“Can I do that?” she asked. Barry squinted at the tiles and confirmed that she could, in a way that suggested that she really shouldn’t. She ignored him. “Alright,” he said, palms raised in defeat. “Neil, your turn – might want to watch out for that monastery!”
Behind his smile Neil’s teeth were clenched. Tina was confined to her bed, having complained of nausea, leaving Barry as the only obstacle between him and Linda. “Seasick on a barge!” Barry had exclaimed. “Can you believe it?”
Neil placed his tile down, followed by a small blue figurine. Barry looked at it and gave a small patter of applause. “Very nice. Very nice.”
Neil and Linda’s eyes met as Barry scrutinised the tiles. He was surrounded. He sucked his teeth and considered his options as the rain drummed overhead.
by Elik Rain
The piper played the dream again. Ringing, he sat back down as it swirled in his mind, the deceptively soft streams curling around his neck, until he was consumed by the effortless pull and push of the ocean waves.
“Jacky,” he whispered. The music caressed him, like raindrops against the nape of his neck, but the torrent was endless and interminable. As was the torment.
He saw her again, sitting by the fireside, her legs stretched out languidly, face pert and vaguely disinterested. She was wearing white pants, long sleeves that reached to her elbow, and which she combed back with an effortless tug of her arms. It reminded him of the weeping willows, how their long branches would be susceptible to the changes of the wind.
“Jacky,” he said again.
She walked over to the coat-hanger, bundled herself in her raincoat. She took an umbrella with her. He saw her from the corner of his eye but did not acknowledge her. They had a fight; he couldn’t remember what it was. He wanted to run to her like a child and hug her and never let her go, but he couldn’t swallow his pride. He pushed himself, every time he lived through this dream, he would shout at himself, but the past hadn’t been invented yet. He had no power in the present.
“Jacky,” he said in the dream.
She didn’t reply, and he turned around to watch her.
Her glistening blonde hair seemed wet from the rain, her raincoat culminating in millions of tiny droplets. Already she seemed gone from his world.
He could never tell where the present began after the dream ended. Maybe it was for the best, he thought. He held his wife’s cold, lifeless hand. He chose another memory and re-played it again.
Get Out of Jail Free
by Linda Grierson-Irish
My brother has built eight houses on one plot. You’re not allowed to do that, but nobody says so. His stash of notes floats higher than anyone else’s. That’s because he stole half of mine. Mum pressed her finger on my wrist and smiled “no” when I fired up to object.
‘Monopoly!’ is the only game we ever play, because it’s the one my brother likes.
Lukey has also stolen The Angel Islington, three train stations, and Piccadilly. I love the Yellows. He knows that.
My achievements will always run to rubble while he is around.
It’s funny, but on visiting day it’s Lukey I most look forward to seeing. Mum wrenches out her low-risk enquiries about the food, the sanitation arrangements, and how am I sleeping? I’ve stopped telling her the staff are all pricks, except for my personal butler, who is a true gentleman. Dad is mostly silent. Occasionally he’ll work himself up into a Niagara of angry spittle, until Mum buries her face and moans and he can turn on her instead. Today Lukey informs me he put all the hotels on pink and shut down the Water Works so nobody in the hotel rooms could flush their toilets anymore. He thinks this the most hilarious thing that could ever happen.
I’ve given up trying to explain. It started as a game, the shop-lifting. I only wanted a win of my own. I was sharp, too. Wrong-footing security staff with my lazy smile. Sparing my blushing pockets. Until, by chance, Dad checked my jacket for his lost car keys.
My parents are leaving, defeated. As they shuffle their good-byes, Lukey finger-skates a worn, sand-coloured card towards me. I know what it is, without looking. I’ll save it under my pillow, for the next time I play.
The Dungeon Master’s Pupils
By Gregory Kane
You are standing in a clearing near the edge of the Howling Forest. A narrow path leads into the thicket of tall trees. The forest is dense, but a glance toward the sky tells you what lies ahead: Ghost Mountain, its gray-white peak stretching above the treetops. You and your …
“This is dumb.”
Max shoots a dour look at me from across the table. The twins, Brandon and Evie, mimic their older brother. I sigh.
“We literally just started,” I say.
“Why are you talking like that?”
“It’s Dungeons and Dragons, Max. I’m playing a character. The part requires some … gravitas.”
“It’s like seriousness. Acting.”
“Anyway,” I say. “Ghost Mountain rises above the …”
“I just don’t see why we have to do this,” Max says.
“I played D&D for hours when I was your age,” I say. “You get to act, use your imagination, experience adventure … it’s fun. You just have to give it a chance.”
“Brandon’s character is a thief. You’re encouraging him to steal.”
“A thief is like a hobbit,” I say. “Not a felon.”
He’s undeterred. “And kids who play it worship Satan.”
“Who told you that?”
“Well, if Google says so …”
“He wouldn’t say that.”
“He just did.” Max shows his phone. “I texted him.”
I sigh. It’s like when I brought home the set of Choose Your Own Adventure Books. Or when I insisted we watch The Goonies on movie night.
They hate everything I love.
The twins peek down at the video games on their laps. Max plays on Snapchat.
Quit or keep going.
“Your party has been selected for a quest,” I say in my finest Dumbledore.
by Kerry E.B. Black
“You’re playing a dangerous game,” Paul said, dark eyes twinkling.
Birdie refused to allow Paul or his wicked grin to distract her. She squinted at the pieces, imagining the future based on her move. “Yeah, but if I lose, all it’ll cost me is a kiss. You’ll owe me dinner if – when – I win.” She slid her bishop into place.
“Confidence. I like it.” He moved his bishop.
She smiled, admiring his black emergency worker uniform and kind, pale face. “Do you play chess with all your rescues?” She engaged her queen.
“Just the most interesting.” He sidled his knight, an unanticipated move that decimated her strategy. Realizing her mistake, she scrambled to correct. Smoke from the nearby wreckage clouded her vision.
Paul’s crew chief stopped, sighing. “Really, son, again? Chess?”
Paul shrugged. “Passing time until we can get everyone where they’re going. Might as well enjoy ourselves?” He winked at Birdie whose face grew hot.
She interposed her castle.
He took it. “Check. Your move.”
Her heart raced. Check mate loomed.
She sat back, giggled, and twirled a strand of hair to distract him. “You know, if we were on a beach, this would be like that Ingmar Berman movie I studied in film history.”
He cocked his head, amused. “How astute. You’re really clever.” He waved his hand over the board. “Your move.”
She swallowed. “I’m not going to survive this, am I?”
Sadness clouded his face. He tapped a pawn, considering. “Where would you have liked to eat, if you won?”
She looked at her bandaged wounds. Blood seeped in gory patterns, runes to be interpreted by another generation. “I suppose anywhere would do.”
He leaned across the board. “You’re in luck. You’ll never be hungry.” Paul who took her queen. “Check mate.”
by Janelle Hardacre
“Why isn’t Daddy coming home tonight?”
“He’s sleeping at the hospital, baba. He’s had a little operation.”
“An operation? Oh…Did they take out his bread basket, Mama? Or his funny bone?”
“What are you…? No, child. No. It was just a little procedure.”
“A proceed your? Why? Is he sick? Will he die?”
“Oh baba, no. Goodness, no. It’s a very tiny operation. So I won’t get any more babies in my tummy. So all our love will go to you and Mika and Daisy and Sam.”
“Oh…So what did the hospital take out of Daddy? His wish bone?”
“His…? Where are you getting this from, sweets? No. Nothing has been taken out of him. Okay?”
“Okay….Well, I’ll check to see if his nose is red when he gets home.”
“Yeah. Because then we’ll know that the doctor was good and didn’t touch the sides.”
Prince of Fools
by Robin Rich
He lowered his head. Palms pressed flat over orbits so his fingers are making a flesh like crown for his head. On the floor a sheet of thin yellow paper, crumpled, desolate beside the red ink urgency of it’s envelope.
Voices are metallic from the tannoy that breaks out a minute warning . A crackle over the hushed hurry of supporting dancers. Draughts of warmer air . The shifts of costume change and reapplied pancake under rouge. Their combination is a pink sheen off sequins that is highlighting his greying temples . A chorus girl slips on the dropped papers. It brought an elegant collapse of limbs and her eyes to his eyes.
A raw contact like lightning and the return strike from ground to sky left her scorched and he filled with regret . Transgressions rolled home keened by the new and permanent absence. Promised children were tiny costumes wrapped in cellophane ; losses to indulgence . All filled that gap briefly : time fluid plasma from matter.
The spark of the plug and then the ignition.
Lust burned still, a grunt of an addiction, a dirty lit path to forget . Having his young fixers relieved and re-lived her. A bury himself in pink and youth. Away from his yellowing thin skin. A bruise behind painted on red hiding the blue . Her finest skin starved of good blood.
Damn her heart condition and the blue-bells she always left in his dressing rooms. Even tonight one back-stage too many they charmed.
Kindness is a perfume and the telegram is back in his hand. Somehow.
From the Stage: ” … the greatest comedian of his generation …”
Stage Manager: “20 seconds. Are you okay, Sir?”
He: “Sure kid. Like a eunuch in a harem
( timing )
I’m feeling marble-less”
by Janet Shafer
There is this photo of me where I once thought I was happy. I had my arm around your shoulders, and the cufflinks on my tuxedo glinted a refraction of light. We were like two kids playing dress-up, baby-doll butch girls, all swagger and bravado, the moment bathed in fairy dust and voodoo magic.
It was only a season ago, these years and miles between us; a lifetime in a few short months. You found out about me; that I was frail, flawed, and needy, not at all the man that either of us needed me to be.
I wanted to explain myself, cut off your accusations and the long litany of my perceived failings, but I’ve never done well without preparation. Are you really doing something wrong when you don’t know that it is happening?
It’s never been the same now, has it? You feel so very strange. I must also seem completely different. You see, the shattered glass that I hid inside me like jagged stuffing is spilling out of the holes cut in my skin. I leave bloody shards wherever I walk. I am broken in a way that makes me forget what it was to be whole.
I smudge oily thumbprints over our faces. The joy in them was hurting my eyes. I forget now why I was smiling.
THE RODENT PHILOSOPHER
by Leah Mueller
Once the snow melts in Chicago, the freaks come out. Like stunned moles, they emerge into the sunlight and stagger around aimlessly. Their spasms and quirks are exaggerated, due to the sense of release they experience after months of forced confinement.
One April morning, I sat beside my boyfriend Mark in his yellow Volkswagen. We idled at a stoplight and watched the street parade unfold in front of us. The intersection of Clark and Division was dominated by the Mark Twain Hotel and the Hasty Tasty Restaurant. These establishments attracted a lively cross-section of humanity—off-duty cops, hookers, students, and retirees who endeavored to nurse one cup of coffee for as long as possible.
The light always took forever to turn green, even longer if you were in a hurry. We stared at the windshield and waited. “When you’re late, things always conspire to make you later,” Mark said. He was fond of making sage pronouncements, a habit which had increased since he’d started stealing Buddhist texts from the bookstore where he worked.
An ancient man, wrapped in a ragged blanket, stepped into the crosswalk. His filthy beard trembled as he hoisted an object towards his head. The parcel was gray and lumpy, with a long, dangling tail that flapped in the breeze. “Oh my God,” Mark gasped. “He’s carrying a rat.”
As the car surged forward, I turned around and stole a look at the rat-man. He held his prey at eye level and stared intently into its face. The rodent remained immobile, beady eyes fixated on its captor. Both of them looked peaceful, like they were old friends who enjoyed walking together.
They say if you gaze into an abyss too long, the abyss gazes back at you. Perhaps the same is
by Doug Mathewson
While underlining what she especially liked on the take out sushi menu, she laid out what I was to get. Then she underlined the sushi she hated, and other ones that would be poor choices for different reasons so I would know not to get them. Then she went through menu a third time and underlined all the sushi that would be okay, as backups if the first choices were not available today.
She stayed to welcome any early arrival luncheon guests, and I drove to the sushi place with the menu in my pocket.
My memory is still pretty good still, but my concentration wanders, so when I got to the sushi place and looked at the little menu and almost everything on it was underlined! I had no idea what to do.
Good thing there’s a pizza place in the same plaza.
by Cath Barton
I was whizzing round just fine in my wee sports car, speculating and accumulating and then, just because I’m a bit too nifty with my throws, I’m banged up in jail! Stuck in there while there’s some fella on a horse turning up at my properties and I can’t get the rent he owes me. And when I need good throws they don’t work for me and I’m stuck in here while my assets are depreciating. There’s even some guy, what in heaven’s name is he on, looks like a battleship! How the hell has he got that moving on the streets?
Of course I could pay to get out, but I’ve got all my money tied up in property, haven’t I? Hang on, there’s a report that some dude with a wheelbarrow has turned up at one of my hotels and turns out he’s bankrupt. Some money has to get back in the system now and if I can just get the elusive double – Yes! Now I’m out and on the track of that cowboy on the horse. Shoot out at the OK Corral, if you will. I exaggerate, we’re in the East End of London, not Tombstone Arizona, but this is serious buddy, I’m telling him. Not just a game.
My throws are sweet now and I do a few deals, sell some property for ready cash and I’m on fire, oh yes. The guy with the battleship over-reached himself and the horse is down too. So now it’s just me and some crazy dude who’s dragging a cannon round the city streets, like that’s going to intimidate me. Oh whoops, one throw too many and I’m back in the slammer. That’s me zeroed, done for. So I throw in the towel. For today. But I’ll be back.
James in the Museum with the String
by Danny Beusch
James and his class visit District 9’s museum every month. Today they’re up on level 33, to learn about ‘20th century leisure’. New levels are added all the time; money and space are not limiting factors here.
The museum’s rooms look alike: white ceilings, white walls, white floors. James heads over to a glass box and peers inside. It contains a plan of a house dotted with six plastic figurines, five metal objects, and small piece of yellow string. He reads the plaque:
Cluedo, manufactured in District 12, 1949.
Cluedo is a ‘board game’, an entertainment format requiring counters to be moved around a demarcated surface. An example of a ‘murder mystery’, the winner was the first player to correctly deduce the criminal, the weapon, and the location of the crime.
The ‘murder-mystery’ genre – also encompassing video games, literature, and film – was a by-product of post-Cartesian policing. This posited that any observable effect could be logically traced back to its origin. Primitive scientific and forensic advancement up to the early 21st century supported this line of thought. However, further developments – primarily the advent of affordable body-modification technologies in the mid 21st century – challenged its hegemony, culminating in widespread civil disorder. An urgent need to progress beyond reactive law enforcement models was subsequently identified and implemented.
James feels faint. He removes his VR headset and is plunged into darkness; the vitamin D lamps aren’t turned on until the end of the school day. He runs an index finger along the edge of his cell door, clearing his throat to break the silence.
Dietary Advice for the Middle-Aged Military Gentleman
by John Herbert
Avoid cake. Not good for the waistline. Bloody unhealthy, altogether, it turns out. Never had a sweet tooth myself. Not much call for cake on the high veld. Come the end of a hard day’s hunting, a spot of biltong and a rhino-stopping G & T beats a scone, I can tell you. Not that there’s much chance of either now.
I blame myself of course. Got soft since I came back to Blighty and wooed that Scarlet creature. With her it was all zipping about in Morgans, days at Ascot, pink gins and weekends in the country with Daddy, massaging more lucre out of the old cove.
But, the family pile was where I met my dream girl, my dear Doris White. She maddened me like wine. Not one of these flighty types, Doris. Built on a solid chassis, you see, unlike Scarlet: a woman of substance, a floury-elbowed siren of the servants’ quarters. But she wanted out, was sick of serving Scarlet’s Pa.
It was Doris that put me up to it. Simple enough plan – she slipped a few horse tranquillisers in the Victoria sponge and knocked them out at tea time while they were nattering in the conservatory. Yours truly lurked in the passageway, gave the old man the good news between the eyes while he dozed and slipped the silenced revolver into young Scarlet’s sleeping hand, implicating her. Would have got away with it too if I’d not snagged my trousers on the way back to the bloody lounge and left a sign.
Had to persuade the beak, of course, that I’d baked the sponge myself. Protect Doris, you see. Rather a rum deal, the noose. Last meal request: Doris’s roast beef and Coleman’s mustard. Mustard by name, Mustard by nature, what? No bloody cake.
A Large Bird of Mysterious Origin
by Ben Verde
It was a terrible tragedy. Ms. Grover’s baby had been picked off and carried away by a large bird of mysterious origin.
“To the den of thieves no doubt,” said Mr McGargle, the saloonkeeper, as he shined a glass and stared straight ahead.
They had spent the day at the carousel on the river riding it around and around, over and over again. Ms. Grover had carried the baby to the riverbank to take in the view, when the bird, which was large, black, and of mysterious origin, swooped down and carried the child away.
“Why, oh why?” cried Mr. Grover from the corner of McGargle’s pub. “She was just a child.” The men in the bar looked over at him with sympathy in their eyes, and went back to their drinks and conversations. These bird related disappearances had been going on for months, but the victims had been cows and sheep for the most part. Still, there was only so much they could do. Mr. McGargle polished a glass.
Mr. Grover passed out at the table in the corner and woke up at midnight when McGargle sounded the bell for last call. He got up and stumbled out into the muddy street. All the men were still buying their last drinks inside McGargle’s, and all the others were in their homes. He knew Ms. Grover wasn’t in their home. She was in Mr. Garrison’s home, probably crying in his arms. She hadn’t been bothering to come home since the incident.
He set out for the fields, taking in the thick air. He knew it had been a reckless thing to do, and he regretted it immensely, but she had mocked him, and he had wanted to teach her a lesson. But he would do anything to take it back. He was leaving town now, entering the fields. The air smelled of mist and peat. He turned off the road and headed towards the hills.
It was too late to right his wrongs, he thought. There was nothing that could be done, she belonged to the den of thieves.
He looked out at the hills as his bones cracked and bended, tearing out of his back in either direction. His legs snapped at the knee, compressed, and claws emerged from the flesh. His arms were sucked into his body, and his skin turned scaly, then feathered. He cried out in pain.
The First and Final Clue
by David Drury
We found it sandwiched between Ouija and Bible-opoly in the game closet. This was not lost on us, given the game’s divergent dealings in callous murder and icy deductive justice.
Freshman year, dorm room lounge: we didn’t party, we played Clue. Marcus and Liam tracked wins and losses. Elizabeth and Donya kept murder statistics. The candlestick went missing, and we found it had been replaced with an M-80 firecracker. The moulded plastic rope disappeared, and in its place—a length of heavy twine tied into a noose. It seemed a game within a game had arisen.
The Kitchen card evaporated, replaced with a Crown Roast of Frankfurters Betty Crocker recipe card, altered by way of drawn-on pubic hair. Professor Plum vanished and was replaced with Bill Plummer Topps 1979 baseball card, Sharpied devil horns rising out of his batting helmet. But then the knife went missing and we found a ketchup-covered dagger stabbed through the board. Too far, guys. We blamed Katelyn hard. She didn’t come out of her room for a day.
I found a plumbing wrench next to my head the next morning. The lead pipe went missing and all the toilets started backing up. Someone flicked a lit firecracker into Elizabeth’s room. Who had done what and why? There was a lot of blame to go around. We fought. We took some time. We came back together to apologize, take stock of what we had, and start a fresh game. The count was made. When it was announced the Lounge card was missing, the game board lifted into the air and started spinning. The lights in whole dorm went black. “Was anything else missing?” someone whispered in the darkness. “The revolver,” Donnie answered back, and we listened to pinpoint the sounds of metal locking into metal.
It’s Not You, It’s My Grandma
by Alex Z. Salinas
My girlfriend’s family, unlike mine, played board games together. Her mom, dad, younger brother and sister—the whole unit.
Their games nights weren’t what I’d call wholesome fun, however. They’d turn into shouting matches. The brother would accuse his mom of hiding cards during Uno, or the dad would tell his youngest daughter to stop crying after he depleted her funds in Monopoly; he’d tell her not to trust people when it came to money.
My girlfriend didn’t understand that I preferred to watch them play.
Our conversations often went something like this:
“You playing?” she’d ask.
“I’d rather watch. I have more fun watching.”
“So, what, you don’t like my family?”
“That’s not what I said.”
I came close to telling my girlfriend once that my earliest memory of playing a board game was with my grandma. Connect Four.
My grandma didn’t speak a lick of English, so to get my attention, she’d grab the Connect Four box from her closet and shake it. I can still hear the plastic pieces clanking.
I don’t remember ever winning. My grandma must’ve been a crafty old lady. She’d probably’ve destroyed me at tic-tac-toe as well.
One time, during a match, one of her front teeth fell from her dentures onto the kitchen table.
I stared at the fake tooth, horrified.
When I looked up, my grandma had a goofy, missing-tooth smile.
She grabbed the tooth and inserted it into one of the slots at the top of the yellow Swiss cheese wall. It awkwardly clunked onto one of the chips.
My grandma, who was a tiny woman, laughed so loud it shook the whole house. I probably laughed, too.
Since then, for whatever reason, I haven’t enjoyed playing board games.
There’s no way my girlfriend would understand. Heck, I don’t, either.
by Charise de Becker
I was just ten and recovering from a nasty bump to the head, when I last played this game with her.
I was astounded that the game board hadn’t changed, it hadn’t aged; unlike like me – all cracked skin and greying edges. She was just as beautiful as I remembered her; composed, ethereal, her dark eyes, like midnight marbles, were completely serene. I liked them better than the smouldering crimson they’d become when she’d lost.
I’d made a good start, throwing a few doubles and climbing up a few golden ladders, she’d succumbed to a few snakes early on, but now I was tiring, lagging at least two rows behind.
The ivory dice grew heavy as the distance between our counters lengthened. Heavy with the weight of my fate.
The dice clicked like old bones in her hand, throwing a ten she went gliding up a long ladder placing her a mere four spaces from the end.
Determined to catch up, I threw the dice willing them, with all the energy I had left in my frail body, but they fell flat. A two – I watched my counter slither down a long, emerald back.
She threw a four. I sat numbly, staring, while she was already unfolding herself from my kitchen chair, her ivory wings unfolding behind her.
“Come now Margret, it could be worse,” her voice not quite masking her pleasure.
“But what about my Sally, my grandchildren?”
“Sorry Margret, I don’t make the rules, just follow them.”
The space just behind her started to form itself into golden rungs, creating a ladder which stretched straight through my ceiling into a glowing beyond.
“Cheer up, my dear, the last person I played lost as well, but she had to slide down the back of a hideous, sulphurous snake.”
No longer playing by Dad’s rules
by Alva Holland
There’s a ladder against the giant oak at the back of the garden. I expect a snake to wriggle down one day and move me two spaces to the left, where I might be happier.
Under the tree, King Tut’s grass and Bishop’s Weeds battle for supremacy and the attention of the beautiful Queen’s Tears occupying pride of place in the conservatory window. She’s out of their league, check-mated them years ago with an inside move. To be honest, they were pawned.
I have so many questions, Dad, but they seem a Trivial Pursuit now. You were my answer to everything, even when I refused to accept Miss Scarlet was the murderer. You comforted me by changing the box, the board, by letting me Pass Go, by giving me $200, letting me occupy your hotel, by waiving the mortgage on my little red house. You monopolised me, Dad.
Connecting four pieces was always difficult. When did we find out I was colour-blind? Was it after you made all the pieces the same colour? I bet you were the Mastermind who hid Uno to save me making a fool of myself.
So, to the iron. I was always the iron, catching that little piece by its metal handle and skipping over the squares, unable to pronounce anything except GO and JAIL.
Ironic that’s where you ended up. I battled for you, laid down my cards for you. Everything was a Risk but I felt I owed it to you? Where did we go wrong, Dad? What happened to the Strategy? Was the Domino effect too much in the end? Did you not Guess Who shafted you?
It was me, Dad. I oversaw the Operation. It was a matter of Diplomacy in times of War.
Your loving daughter,
And the winner gets a thousand year vacation
by Myrto Zafeiridi
“You rolled a six. Would you like a card or the ‘Charade Challenge’?”
“A card, please.”
“Advancement in Technology.”
“I choose hologram phones.”
“So soon? Are you sure they’re ready for this?”
“They are obsessed with their phones anyway. It might actually save some time.”
“You have a point. Okay, my turn. Three.”
“Move back two spaces. Five.”
“Bonus round. Choose a miracle.”
“There is a boy called Mike whose dog just died. I really liked this animal, it was so mischievous! Let’s bring it back to life.”
“Okay, but they won’t shut up about it on Facebook.”
“Who cares, most people will ignore it, like they did last time with Lucifer’s mermaid.”
“That was a splendid idea. I can’t believe you made her disappear in the ‘Annoy Your Opponents’ bonus round!”
“Come on guys, enough chatting. Let’s play.”
“Four. ‘Make a group of people famous overnight’. Hmm… They’d have to make a new reality show. Let’s call it… Survivalist. It will feature people fighting each other using only household items. The winner gets… hmmm… an underground bunker and a year’s supplies!”
“Who would watch that? Anyway, it’s my turn now. I rolled a three. ‘Choose a random person to be president.’ Nice. Let’s make it a woman this time. How about a model?”
“Speaking of women, where’s God?”
“I didn’t invite her. She’s always cheating. I keep telling her ‘you can’t get a 7 with just one die!’ but she won’t listen.”
“Why don’t you go call her? If I’m not mistaken, the last time we played without her she cried for forty days and forty nights. People are still telling stories about it.”
“Never mind. Six. I win! And as ‘Bonus Winner’s Wish’ I want a band named after me.”
New World Order – The Board Game
by Allan Forrest
A Wee Hand
By John Gerard Fagan
Wee Jeanie felt a tap on her shoulder.
“Here, hen, do you ever think about Jeremy Beadle’s wee hand?” said a tinker who just hopped on the bus.
Wee Jeanie dropped a magazine about puppies on the floor and smiled.
“All the time. It was a belter. It’s a shame that lovely man died. What I wouldn’t do to give that wee hand a wee stroke and tell it everything will be all right. It must be really frightened.”
The man sat in the row behind and whispered in her ear. “I know where it is. I know where his wee hand has been hiding.”
He took out his phone and showed picture of a headstone. It was marble and beautifully made; one Jeanie would definitely put on her list for ones she wanted. She read the words:
“Here lies, Michael ‘Marina’ Remano.” Jeanie gave the man a look. “Beloved grandfather and wife of— This isn’t Jeremy—”
“Shhh. It’s a decoy. His wee hand is hiding in under that woman’s headstone. Do you know who is really buried in there?”
“Really?” she said, eyes widening.
“Really. So do you fancy digging it up then?”
Jeanie smiled and nodded.
They dug up the body and low and behold Jeremy Beadle’s wee hand was right there. They snapped it off and ran away laughing. Jeanie had it Tuesday to Thursday and every second Saturday. She put it beside her pillow and showered it with kisses. She thought about running away with the wee hand and starting a new life with it – just them and no-one else.
“One day we’ll do it, my love. One day,” she said to the wee hand and kissed it goodnight.
by Chris Stanley
We wait at the edge of the river with water licking our chins. The reeds are alive with spiders and fizzing flies. The landscape is wild grasses and sausage trees. A fish eagle glides through the warmest sky I’ve ever seen. On the other side of the river is safety.
We came to Botswana to hunt. Our wheels had just touched down on the dirt runway when we collided with the ostrich. The plane spun and rolled. Crunching metal and a ringing in my ears. Our pilot was partially decapitated. Still shaking, we exited into a shock of sunlight. The truck that was supposed to pick up our bags had been skewered by elephants, the driver thrown to his death. We blindly followed Xau towards the river, only to find our mokoros had been torn to woodchip. “Crocodiles,” he said, “or worse.” Canoe-less, we were forced to wade, waist deep, through the reeds.
The water was soothing. I tried counting reed frogs to calm my nerves but, without my rifle, I couldn’t ignore the grumble of distant lions. Xau said they were following us.
Two hours later, we see the camp of mud huts and tree houses on the far shore. Xau tells us to wait. “Hippos own the river,” he says, “but they can only stay under for so long.” When it’s safe, we swim. Half way across, we hear a snort upstream. Too fast, the monster roars up out of the water, teeth as big as tusks, and snaps its huge jaws down on Xau’s head. With an unholy grunt, they both disappear and the river is calm again.
The rest of us tread water. One by one, more hippos break the surface, like beasts emerging from darkness. We’re surrounded. And they look hungry.
by J. Koebnig
‘I think it’s round here,’ she said, approaching another sharp bend. That’s all this place is, she thought, looking up at the impossibly high walls, just a collection of narrow paths and right angled corners.
‘Are you sure?’ Andi asked, wiping an oily film of sweat from her brow. Of course she’s not sure. I can hear it in her voice. We all can. ‘We should’ve left a trail of breadcrumbs … or something.’ Andi’s suggestion was met with a bray of fresh laughter. Kevin, she thought, why is everything with him so loud?
Once Kevin had squeezed out one last snigger, he said: ‘No, that wouldn’t have worked.’
‘Cause Billy here would’ve eaten them.’
‘Hey,’ Billy said, slapping Andi’s arm. ‘No I wouldn’t.’
‘Hey, why did you hit me?’ Andi asked, rubbing her arm. ‘I didn’t say anything, it was him.’
‘I know,’ Billy said, removing a packet of crisps from his pocket. He looked at the unopened snack as though he were weighing up the pros and cons of his next step then handed the packet of crisps to Andi. ‘But you were closer. Sorry.’
Andi snatched the peace offering and stuffed it into the front pouch of her favourite hoodie.
‘Friends?’ Billy asked.
‘Can I have a packet?’ Billy took a step towards Kevin and Kevin took a step back. ‘What do you think?’ Billy asked.
‘I think, yes!’
‘You would,’ said Andi.
‘Shhhhhhh …’ She had reached the part in the path where it turns sharply to the right. ‘Can you hear that?’
They listened. ‘What is that?’ Billy asked.
Andi approached the corner. ‘Is that what I think it is?’
She nodded, and said: ‘The end.’
‘We made it?’
‘Yes … and we’re the first.’
by Kev Harrison
Jules took a sip of her wine, staining her pursed lips. She rolled the dice, a shrill sound filling the room as successive corners struck the polished formica.
“Five,” she said aloud and then counted out the steps for her plum-coloured piece.
“A-ha, I’ve got it this time.” There was more than a little faux Agatha Christie sleuth in her voice. “Miss Scarlett, with the wrench, in the conservatory.”
Frank sat back in his chair. He’d been on his way to making the very same accusation. He ran his hand through his thinning hair. “I reckon you’ve hit the jackpot there, Jules.”
Martin, playing the role of Scarlett that evening, moved his red counter into the room and frantically searched his cards for an alibi. He found none. Lucy searched her hand, but found nothing to assist in Miss Scarlett’s defence.
Frank tossed his cards on to the table. The game was up. He stood up, took a sip of his own wine before sauntering over to the book shelf, where the secret envelope lay in wait, preparing to bear out Professor Plum’s victory.
“You can do the honours, Jules.”
He handed her the envelope and topped up the four glasses, draining the end of their second bottle of red. Jules eyed her four game mates, affecting a dramatic pause to ratchet up the tension. Then she slipped one painted nail under the seal and prised the mystery open. Her eyes widened. Her hand instinctively moved to her mouth.
“Lucy, in the en-suite bathroom with the hand blender.”
All eyes turned to Lucy, whose poker face had eased into a Cheshire cat grin.
“Oh, come on guys. Duncan’s had this coming for a long time.” She knocked back the last of her wine. “Another game?”
Snakes and Ladders
by Mileva Anastasiadou
There they stood. Three men in suits around a table. After moving his token six squares forward, as indicated by the die roll, the man who wore an omelet as a hat waved to the bartender for another drink.
“It seems like I’m winning again.”
“It is a boring game, isn’t it?” asked his partner in the blue suit, fixing his tie, blue like his suit, a twelve-starred circle in the middle.
“It never ends. That’s what makes it so interesting,” answered the dark skinned player, frowning while realizing it was his turn to play. Smirking, he moved his token to the lower end of the ladder, counting the squares one by one, picked it up and landed it on the upper end in enthusiasm.
Meanwhile on the board, two of the tokens exchanged hostile glances, while the red token was descending to the lower-numbered square of a snake.
“He deserved it, didn’t he?” said the blue token.
“That’s what you get, if you don’t try hard enough,” said the brown token.
The man who mistook an omelet for a hat didn’t like snakes in his way. Nor does any sane person, only the man with the strange hat had also a bad temper. He threw a punch at the player in blue who was now in lead and was ready to overthrow the table, when the bartender arrived with their drinks.
“We’re just pawns in their game,” screamed the red token, as it fell off the board and onto the floor. The other tokens ignored the words. They were still playing after all. And they were determined to stay focused, hoping to reach the top.
“Let’s have another round, gentlemen,” said the man in blue. His partners nodded in agreement.
Bert Moves On
by David Cook
When Maggie died, Bert became lonely. Tuesdays and Thursdays had been the worst. Their traditional board game nights had been his favourite nights of the week but, with the gentle squabbling over Scrabble and bickering over backgammon a thing of the past, they’d become the hardest and the emptiest.
But as time had moved on, so had he, at least a little. The long evenings with no-one to talk to were over. He’d found himself a social life and now there was always a crowd at his house. There was Bill – Baldy Bill, as Bert called him, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was a good egg, was Bill. There was David. Handsome chap, David. He was certain Maria kept making eyes at him. There was Paul, who’d always peer thoughtfully at the world through those wire-rimmed glasses, looking for all the world like he knew a secret that no-one else was in on. And there were others too. Bert always had someone to talk to.
Tonight, though, Bert felt tired. He excused himself to Robert, which he felt bad about because the poor fellow was looking a bit glum, and asked the throng if they’d keep it down while he went upstairs to bed. ‘I’ll leave the light on for you, folks,’ he added.
A fantastic bunch, he thought, as he slid into the now too-large bed and turned away from the dent in the mattress that marked where Maggie used to lie. Just fantastic. He clicked off the lamp and, as usual, completely failed to sleep.
Downstairs, the Guess Who characters stared at the walls.
And Was The Curse Lifted?
by Steve Lodge
The Rules Of The Board Game “And Was The Curse Lifted?” Six Players.
The players were members of an archaeological expedition cursed for mistakenly opening a Tomb Of Thieves.
The antidote to the Curse is a Chortleberry and Elkbinge flavoured cheesecake, supplied by the hostess for eating at the end of the game. During the game, the fattest player must guard the cheesecake. Points deducted for any missing cheesecake.
The winner gets across the board first, winning most rounds. There are three rounds but others can be added. One player is eliminated per round. Each player has a rubic cube with a passport size photo of themselves wearing a fake beard sellotaped to it as their board piece. Throw the dice to start.
The player eliminated after Round One – Murder Mystery – is the one the other members believe committed the murder. The curse lifts from that player on a forfeit (by making pizzas for all members using only a credit card and a telephone).
The player losing Round Two – General Knowledge in Latin – is dragged outside, tied to a post and forced to sing chunks of Shakespeare, while the others (dressed only in balaclava, underwear and sensible shoes) hurl porridge at him from a distance. His curse is lifted if no songs from The Sound Of Music are accidentally sung during the punishment. The weather can be key to the duration of this punishment.
Third Round. A quick check on the cheesecake. Deduct points if necessary. Remaining players throw dice in turn to move their piece across the board towards the member they believe has suffered the worst allergic reaction to wearing the fake beard and explain why in one syllable words, none of which should be Norwegian. Game over and the cheesecake antidote is eaten.
The emperor in the parliament
by Mark Sadler
The negotiations have turned stagnant. It seems unlikely that a resolution will be reached before the Tuesday deadline. I telephoned Playford in London with the disappointing news.
I had lunch with Vogel, from the Dutch delegation. We ate baguettes outside one of the pavement cafes in the square.
I described to him the benefits of a board game called ‘Suang’ as a means of breaking deadlock and rebuilding rapport. Players have to balance their personal interests with those that can only be achieved by cooperation. It was deployed in Libya recently, where it did a good job demonstrating to factions, who actively despise each other, that they could still work together.
The game has pseudo-historical origins in ancient China. A pair of rival physicians were tasked with resurrecting the embalmed body of the Emperor Suang. Each man dutifully took his turn to administer treatment, mindful that, while advancing his own success, he must also stymie that of his competitor. This daily back and forth went on for decades, until the armies of Ganbaatar stormed the royal palace and burned the emperor’s body.
The same tactics of cautious alliance were later applied to the governance of provinces within China, to stimulate cooperation and innovation. In this era, the entire nation was regarded as the emperor’s body; the land an extension of its ruler’s flesh.
By the 1800s, these competitive/cooperative nation-building politics had condensed to a board game called ‘Suang’ that centred around the construction of a city of towers.
“Bruyne plays. Liardet too. They have achieved good results with it.”
Vogel studied me with hard grey eyes.
“But this is no game.”
He brushed the crumbs from his lap, onto the flat cobbles.
Across the square, a troupe of street acrobats began to assemble themselves into a human pyramid.
by Mike Murphy
After much trying, the dog dug and chewed a hole in the wall. He yelped to his mates. This was it – their escape!
They all worked hard to make the hole big enough so everyone could leave this place they had been trapped in for so long. The thought of getting their revenge on the man who put them here kept them going.
After much digging, ramming, burning, and kicking, the hole was ready.
What lay beyond these walls? This was a prison, but a safe one. Had they been too impulsive to want to leave? No, they could deal with anything that came their way. Each had special abilities that could protect them all. If they stuck together, they’d be fine.
It was voted that the dog – largely because of his sharp teeth – should be the first to venture outside. He eagerly agreed, though he did pause to look about before walking into the darkness.
The pup heard the whinny to his rear. A man wearing armor approached him on a white horse. “You escaped too?” he asked happily. The dog yelped, wagging its silver tail. “Let’s work together.” The animal jumped about, motioning for the horseback man to follow him.
The knight and his many friends would lead the way. The terrier and the others would follow.
They escaped through a crack in some wooden planks to odd bell sounds. The man must be there.
The four knights – two black, two white – would attack with their spears. The others would do whatever they could. The shoe said it would kick the man with all its might.
And, if they needed them, the silver battleship and the cannon in the rear were ready to fire upon the thimble or the top hat’s command.