A New World~ Lage’s Game: Chapter Eight Part One

By ‘home’, Lage had meant a hut, really. It was just a bulge of twigs and leaves among the snow and trees. I suppose he was trying to be nice, taking me to his home. There, he had said in the brisk walk over, he would make me a good hearty stew.

There was to be no stew.

Before the hut stood several figures. They were conspicuously not made of stone though they stood as still as it. They were alive, and that was to be trouble.

There was one woman, tall with onyx skin like pearls, bearing a white fur cloak and hood that draped to the ground. Beneath, I caught glimpses of a green dress and metal accents. She bore a staff that was sculpted and carved intricately. The way she held her head and stood gave off a sense of royalty.

To her left and right were guards in medieval tunics and cloaks, complete with shields and swords drawn.

Lage muttered something unintelligible under his breath as we stepped from the trees into the small clearing before the hut. Reaching out an arm, he drew me slightly behind himself.

“Lage,” said the woman with the white cloak. Her words were icy.

“Rebella,” said Lage cautiously, tilting his head downwards not so much respectfully as carefully. “What can I do for you?”

Rebella did not answer, her eyes flickering to me then back to Lage.

“There has been some trouble,” said Lage slowly.

Rebella’s lip curled. “As usual. The bonds ought to have been severed centuries ago.” With a nod to her guards she said “Kill the girl.”

“No!” exclaimed Lage, drawing his sword and punting me behind him with a swipe of the leg. I fell over, tumbling into the snow.

“You don’t want to do that!” Lage was saying as I scrambled back up to my feet behind him.

“Oh? I’m certain I do,”said Rebella with a sneer.

“I will tell the Queen, and you – you will suffer the consequences!” Lage barked.

Rebella sneered again, but seemed to reconsider. “Card collectors cause nothing but trouble,” she said to me “And they have no rights here.”

“Unless they are invited by a card bearer,” said Lage. “I invited her! She is a guest between worlds. You cannot deny that! Would you cause a war between worlds for your vanity?”

Rebella moved to the right, so gracefully I was entranced. Her eyes were fixed upon me in utter disdain. “There has been trouble that you know not of,” she said icily. “I think we ought to kill her.”

“Whatever trouble, I doubt it’s her fault! Don’t murder a child!”

There seemed to be a light behind Rebella’s eyes. “Her soul is hardly young.” But she gestured to her soldiers, who had drawn their swords. “Put your swords away.” To Lage she said “The Queen is ill.”

“The crown will not pass to you,” said Lage slowly, wary as he lifted his hand from his sword.

Rebella sneered. “I would not be here if I’d done the poisoning. No, rather,” she reached under her cloak and drew a pouch out from her belt. It was of soft brown leather, but held something clunky and pointed within. She waved it before herself. “Guess.”

Lage made a sort of shrug. “The Tael poisoned an arrow?”

Rebella laughed. “I would not want a card collector dead if so.” Ruefully, she drew the pouch open and drew out a black handgun. Lage gasped. A shudder went down my spine. ‘They’ were here. It had to be. Were they everywhere?

The gun was tossed to the ground between us. Lage jumped back and I flinched. “Be careful with that!” Lage muttered.

“The worlds have been crossed,” Rebella said angrily, glaring at Lage. “Murder has been attempted – on our Queen no less. War must be declared. A line is to be drawn between us, and them. Make your choice, Lage.”

I looked to Lage, then Rebella.

Lage heaved a breath that misted out between us. “They are after the child as well. They murdered her family. She,” he placed a hand on my shoulder. “Is one of us.”

“’Us’?” Rebella asked pointedly. “You think she can join? That I would permit that?”

Lage hesitated. “Her soul is old, like you said,” he started.

Rebella lifted her eyebrows in an angry question.

Lage looked down at me. More hesitation.

“Say it!” barked Rebella.

“She has an ancient soul, is all I’m saying,” said Lage in an obvious fib. A smile played on his face. “What more can I tell you? I think she would be an asset. To you. To this kingdom.”

Rebella’s gaze narrowed. “Who is she? The Fool? The Emperor? Tell me, and I might let her live.”

Lage rolled his eyes. “Not all old souls are known to you. Besides, I-” he hesitated again. Then, shaking his head, he continued. “She is but a child now.”

“I don’t care!” yelled Rebella. “If I want her dead she will be dead!”

Anger surged in me. A tingling came over me and I decided that Rebella, for all her grace and beauty, was my enemy. For all my admiration, I wanted to murder her.

Rebella’s eyes landed on me. “Do you sense that?” she asked. Lage nodded, looking down at me glumly.

“She is an ancient,” murmured Rebella in awe. Greedy awe. Stooping over, she peered even more at me. I wanted to punch her.

“Maybe an Annunaki,” suggested Lage playfully, and I felt he was gambling with something, or goading her on.

“Shut up!” Rebella snapped. “You wouldn’t know them if one punched you in the throat.”

Lage sighed and squeezed my shoulder. “As a matter of fact, I think I have been punched by one-”

“What part of shut up don’t you understand?” barked Rebella, straightening. With a nod, she ordered her guards. “Take the girl. I’ll keep her.” With a sneer to Lage she said “Mine now.”

Lage lifted his hands to his shoulder in a ‘not my problem’ gesture. Then, eyes widening, he stooped over me and, cupping a hand to hide his mouth, whispered in my ear “Don’t tell her you ate my card!”

The next instant, the guards were dragging me away from him. “What did you tell her?” Rebella was shouting, marching up to Lage.

Lage held up his hands to his shoulders. “Not to make you angry. That’s all.”

“You wish,” hissed Rebella before whirling around and marching away into the trees. The guards followed, hauling me along by the arms. I took one look back, and Lage waved miserably at me.

Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez on Pexels.com

Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Four, Part One

I was suspicious of the man now. Who was he? A figment of my imagination, come to hallucinate and prey on my fears? He couldn’t be real, could he? How did someone appear, only to vanish with an object?

I had searched my bag for my unicorn, even the living room, just in case I hadn’t brought it out with me. But no. My unicorn was missing.

I slept poorly, wondering and thinking and crying the whole night. When I woke, things were no simpler.

Aunt Kayla was there, offering to drive me to school. She looked exhausted, like she’d spent the night at the hospital, but she tried on a smile for me. I didn’t bother returning one.

Over breakfast, Kayla broached the topic of the school. That she had called the school and would be filling out the papers as my new guardian.

“I’ll do everything to make sure you get there,” she said to me, handing out her heart on a platter.

I nodded, wondering where the hell my unicorn was. Going to this school didn’t matter much when strange things were appearing around me, or when They were going to be coming back for me.

On the drive to school, I was quiet. I leaned my head against the cool window of the car, and wondered. I wondered so hard. Kayla tried to start a conversation once or twice, but I didn’t answer. I didn’t know what to say. How would I explain to anyone who hadn’t seen the board game about everything that was happening? My cousins had seen it, true. But would they understand? They hadn’t seen it come from the wall. They hadn’t seen Them demand it from mother or take it from me.

No one knew anything, I realized, dumbfounded.

At school, the day ground along. I paid attention through first and second periods. Lunch arrived. Third and fourth periods ground by. The final bell rang, and I was free.

I was standing by a picnic table, waiting for Kayla to arrive. The traffic ground by not far away, and cars turned into the parking lot to pick up students. I stood and waited.

I saw him out of the corner of my eye, walking down the street. A tall shape, green and blond. In his hand, presented before himself like a pass-card, my unicorn.

I froze, but was jostled by a group of students running past. I nearly fell over – and now he was only a few strides away from me. I looked up, and froze again.

He looked like something from a medieval reenactment scene. He was wearing a cloak, tunic, pants and boots complete with belt and sword. His jaw was square, his eyes a startling clear blue. His blond hair hung in waves down to his shoulders.

With a smile, he bent over as if bowing and held out the unicorn with both hands.

I held out a trembling hand. My unicorn was precious to me.

My hand didn’t quite reach, but he placed the unicorn in my grasp like it was a precious object. I drew it back to me, mind whirling. Was it now that I drew the card out before him to destroy it? Would he attack me here, with all these witnesses? Or were they just collateral damage to him?

“Hey! Sweetie!” Kayla’s voice rang out.

I turned. Kayla was coming out of her car in the parking lot, anxious as could be. She waved at me, trying on a smile again.

I looked to the man – but he was gone like he’d never been there.

Lesser people might have begun doubting themselves right then. I felt a wave of tears, but crushed them down savagely. Refusing to be gotten the better of – even by my own imagination – I looked down. There, in the grass, were two boot prints.

Hah, I thought.

The ride home was silent on my part. Kayla said how she’d been talking with the doctors, been talking with the school, and – “You can come and stay with me for the summer. Give Wanda a chance to make a nice room for you in the house. Or do you want to go to boarding school?”

Boarding school was expensive, I knew that. But if it was an option, I’d rather that than be with Wanda and her happy family all the time. The thought of being near so much familial happiness made me feel sick. “Boarding school,” I said, deciding that it would not matter much anyways. They would be coming for me before the new school year had begun.

“Okay,” Kayla said, nodding. “I’ll call the school.”

Then, she got us donuts.

It was only two more days before they arrived. I had taken to sitting outside in the evenings, taking my homework with me to sit. That night, a black van arrived into the roundabout. I looked up, and my heart jumped into my throat.

Three large, imposing, and very beefed-up men came towards me, all in badly fitting black suits.

Finally, I thought, finding that I was not afraid. I set my algebra aside with determination. I rose, setting my unicorn down to supervise.

Then, I felt a presence behind me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the reenactment man walk to me. I was locked in, tall men on either side.

I turned to face the reenactment one, reaching into my pocket for the card. So be it. He must be the new chief. Only someone who was a little silly in the head would walk around wearing that, and one must be silly in the head to want a card this badly.

Hand in pocket, I faced him. He came to a stop a few feet from me, just the same distance as he had been with the unicorn. Again, there was that smile that was disarming. It seemed kind.

“Little lady,” he said, his voice deep but gentle. “What’s your name?”

I held my breath. He should already know my name.

“Hey, kid!” came from directly behind me. I spun, and was now faced with the three large me in black. Behind them, hunched and scowling, was the man mother had attacked. So he lived.

“Your mother’s a-” he was saying as I drew the card from my pocket. His words died away. A light went on in his eyes, in all their eyes. “Good kid,” he crooned, stepping forward between his henchmen. “Give that here.”

I placed my second hand on the card, ready to tear it in two. My hand trembled. I hesitated one second too long.

All four of those men lunged towards me. In a flash I knew I wasn’t fast enough. I resorted to my second plan, what I’d planned to do once the paper was ripped anyways. I ate it.

I crammed the card into my mouth, chewing as fast as I could.

I was slammed back, my hands were jerked away from my face, and I swallowed just as the man started screaming “Stop her! Stop her!”

The world turned black. For a flash I saw the men around me, felt them tearing at me. Their boss was screaming incoherently. I was satisfied.

Then, I hit the ground. Uncle’s voice was shouting.

Oh no, I thought. Another fight. More police. More dead.

Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Three, Part Two

That night, I slept in uncle’s living room, curled around my unicorn on the couch. They said it would just be for a few days, but I heard them saying to the cousins that they might have to bunk in the same room soon. But how long was ‘soon’? How long would it take before mom was officially ‘gone’?

I could not sleep. Thoughts of mother kept me awake, but not as much as they should have. I was selfish, worried not about her because she was already gone in my mind. She would be safe now, happily with father. No, I was waiting for when ‘they’ would come for me.

I would be ready. I had the card under my pillow now, and with it, my vengeance. I would destroy exactly what they wanted. What they were willing to commit murder for. I’d burn it before them.

It was only halfway through the night that it occurred to me that I didn’t have a lighter on hand. That bothered me. Would I rip the card then? Tear it into four pieces? Somehow that was less validating. Could the card be repaired? Could it still be sold, even in pieces? I wanted it to be utterly ruined. I wanted it burned, gone beyond repair.

The moonlight was drifting in through the living room’s curtains. It illuminated the coffee table, the TV on the wall ( a large one, way too expensive. They might take it with them when they came for me.).

It was my last sight before I drifted into sleep. An empty living room. It ought to have made me feel safe, but it didn’t.

When I dreamed, I dreamed of a presence so surely, so closely, that I knew it was there. I knew it was a man. I knew he was white. I caught sight of blond hair. An outstretched hand. A voice, whispering.

When I woke, the sunlight was streaming in and the air smelled of milk and cereal, the sound of bowls rattlign could be heard. The uncles and cousins were speaking in hushed tones in the kitchen.

I rose. Still in my pajamas, I walked into the kitchen with my unicorn. They all smiled at me, pitying. I sat down in the empty chair, set my unicorn on the table beside me, and ate.

I wanted to ask them who had been there during the night, but words escaped me. On one hand I ‘knew’ that no one should have been there, but on the other hand, I was certain I had felt someone. So I was not sure what to say, or how to say it. Then, it occurred to me that they might not know about the board game. That they too, like the police, might not know or believe that ‘they’ were coming for me.

The thought struck me cold. Here I was, bringing trouble to another family. Also, I had forgotten the card in the living room. How stupid of me. What if they came in now? They would find it and take it. And probably, uncle would try and defend me and get killed as well. Maybe the cousins too.

I stared at my half-finished bowl of cereal, feeling sick. I scrubbed at the tears rolling down my face, angry. I would have to leave. I would have to find them. Bring the card to them.

But no. That was my vigilante side speaking again. How would I realistically find them? I didn’t know where to search. I only knew that they struck at night, and that their maybe leader might be in the hospital right now. Or maybe dead? No. As much as I liked to think that mother had dealt a killing blow, it was highly unlikely.

So what now? I looked up from my bowl, and uncle was discreetly walking out of the kitchen. The cousins had vanished. Their mother was sitting beside me, rubbing my back. I wiped the tears from my face. I picked up my unicorn and hugged it, angry. So angry.

I did not go to school that day, instead lying on the couch, alone. Wanda, uncle’s wife, had insisted on staying home with me, but I’d glared at her and said “No. Go.”. And so she left, frowning, off to her job.

I waited for them to come for me. The card lay before me, face down on the coffee table. I was dressed in my almost-best, jeans and a button up shirt and a vest, waiting for them. I had searched for matches or a lighter, but hadn’t found any. The closest I could think of was turning on an oven element to burn it, but that wasn’t practical. They wouldn’t let me get that far.

So I sat and waited, my unicorn in my lap. It didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t. It was only when Uncle came home from work that I realized the day had passed, and I had spent it staring at a card. It had only felt like an hour.

“Your aunt will be here this evening,” he said, trying to sound cheerful.

I didn’t like my aunt, but I supposed she was alright. She was just so – mayonnaise salad impersonated. Bland. Strange. A little fruity, if you were lucky.

The cousins arrived, loud at first then quiet when they saw me. I stared at them, realizing that somehow, their lives hadn’t changed. They were still happy, yet I was devastated. Their lives were intact, yet both my parents were gone.

I had nowhere to run to to hide and cry. No room with a door to slam. So I held my unicorn and decided not to cry.

My aunt arrived just after supper, looking wrung out and exhausted. She was wearing a tank top and jeans, her hair a curly blonde frizz. “Oh, dear!” she cried out as she saw me. She flung out her arms and crouched. I sat very still, not wanting a hug at all. I even put my unicorn on my lap.

She hesitated. Wanda cleared her throat and patted auntie on the shoulder. “It’s alright, she’s just, processing.”

Auntie looked doubly devastated. “Okay,” she said, straightening. To Wanda, she said “How is everything? I mean – I just, what happened? I can’t-”

“Here,” Wanda guided auntie (I think her name was Kayla) to the kitchen. As if on cue, probably on cue actually, Fred left his homework in the kitchen and came to turn on the TV for me.

So I sat there while the Lion King played, drowning out the sound of Kayla’s crying and Wanda’s telling her how it all happened.

I was starting to hate the Lion King too. In between dramatic music and character quips, I could hear Kayla saying “Another break-in? But why? What did they want?”

What they did want lay before me on the table, face down and inert. So stupid. So small.

Then, it occurred to me that if I hadn’t left the card out of the box, if I hadn’t taken the box to my room that night, none of this would have happened. They’d have come, taken the box, and maybe we wouldn’t have even known they were there. Maybe they’d have not even waken mom. Murder was against their usual tactics.

I had killed mom. My actions were the root of the chain of actions that had murdered her.

I sat there, very calm and cool as I thought this through. True, I could not have known. But as any lawyer knows, idiocy and ignorance is no excuse for a crime. I was at the root of it all. I had caused my mother’s death.

Had I caused Father’s too, I wondered. Had I left a door unlocked, said something about his collection to a friend too many, or done something small and seemingly insignificant that had tipped the robbers off?

No. I was not going to randomly punish myself. I was not going to wallow in self-flagellation in order to throw a pity party. I had murdered my mother, but I had not murdered Father. I had to be realistic, keep a grip on reality.

I propped my feet up beside the card, staring at that stupid printed diamond on its backing. Obviously, I was not legally to be held responsible. The law did not see the moral beginnings of things. A critical flaw, if you asked me. No, I was not afraid of people finding out, or of going to jail for this. I was morally responsible, but not legally. No one would think of blaming me, but I knew that I was to blame.

I came out of my thoughts when the TV was paused. Wanda and Kayla were standing there, eyeing me nervously.

I stared at them, waiting.

“Hey,” said Kayla. “I’m going to go see your mom. Would you like to come, sweetie?”

I shook my head.

“Are you sure?”

I nodded, wrapping my arms around my unicorn and staring back at the TV.

“Okay,” Kayla said quietly. Then she left. Wanda came to sit beside me. I wished she wouldn’t, but wishes aren’t fulfilled.

“Kayla was saying that you were going to a new school?” Wanda said gently.

I nodded, still staring at the TV screen. It was frozen, the characters mid-position. Just like I had been. Frozen.

“Do you?” Wanda was asking.

I startled, staring at her. She smiled feebly. “You’d still like to go to that new school?”

Oh. I nodded, knowing it was what mother had wanted. But I would not live that long. They were coming for me. But I might as well do the motions. It would make mom happy, wherever she was.

Wanda talked some more about how she and Kayla were going to be taking care of Mom’s affairs, but that it was mainly Kayla who was going to be doing it.

“If your mom doesn’t wake up, you could go live with her, until she does,” she offered.

My lip trembled. I gritted my jaw to stop it. I was not moving away. Mom had wanted me to go to that school, so I would. Shaking my head, I hugged my unicorn to my chest angrily. Besides, this was all until they arrived. Then, it was all over. They would kill me – probably. They murdered mom for not knowing where the card was. They would certainly kill me for destroying it before their eyes.

Wanda was asking me what I wanted to do when I noticed the darkness outside the window. It was time. They usually struck around now.

I rose to my feet, discreetly picking up the card and pocketing it. “I’m going for a walk,” I announced.

“Want some company?” Wanda asked with a smile.

“No,” I said sharply, taking my unicorn to the entry way where I put my shoes on. Then, with Wanda watching me with a frown from the couch, I left out the door.

Uncle and Wanda’s house was in a small roundabout of cozy looking houses with a green patch in the middle of it all where dogs probably peed to their hearts content. There was three benches. I took one, placing my unicorn beside me.

I knew Wanda was watching from her window, but my back was to her. Let her watch. Then there would be a witness to what they did, this time.

The moon was clear and bright, nearly round in its brightness. They would be here soon. I could feel it.

So I drew the card from my pocket, ready and waiting. I glared at the card, flipping it over so I saw the simili- ancient sculpture. Lage. Well Lage, it’s down to you and me.

I didn’t hear a car, but from the corner of my eye, I saw a man approach. Tall. Green in color.

I froze. They were here.

With a sigh, the man sat beside me. He was wrapped all in a green shape with long blond hair that swept his shoulders. And he just sat there.

I couldn’t move my eyes to see him. I was leaning forward on the bench, he was leanign back, just a fuzzy shape in the corner of my vision.

“Hey.”

I jumped, screaming.

“Whoah!” Uncle was standing before me, hands raised. “It’s just me!”

I spun to face the man, horrified that Uncle was here to get caught in it all – but there was no one on the bench beside me. Nothing.

Heart pounding in my throat, I turned to uncle. He was saying something about too late and time to go to bed. I looked again at the empty bench. Uncle took me and walked me back to the house. I kept staring back at the bench that was so empty.

It was when the door shut behind me and I was in their house that I realized my unicorn was missing. The man had taken it.

Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Two Part One

After the Lion King movie I retreat to my room, leaving the door slightly ajar. Like this, I am able to hear the reassuring tones of mother and the cousins talking around the kitchen island. I burrow under my blankets with my stuffie and stare at the walls. The light from my window played on the wall, the tree on the front lawn lending moving shapes to it.

I watch as the light slowly dims and dims some more. The shadows grow thicker and still the voices talk on. It’s a dangerous time now, the evening. That’s when it had happened, the evening.

I must have fallen asleep. When I wake, there are no more voices and everything is dark and still. My heart is pounding in my chest and I think that something is wrong. It didn’t even occur to me that it could not be happening again.

I hide in my bed, shaking. I hear no sounds. Was mother dead? I screw up my courage, and take my unicorn stuffie with me just to be sure.

I pad through the house. It is dark, but I know the way. I make my way across the kitchen, to the living room that is dimly lit by a single light. There, mother is sprawled on a couch, dead.

I freeze. No! Mother! But again, as with the man, I cannot move. It is only when mom snores that I realize that she is merely asleep. Oh.

Feeling a rush of relief, I look around. Nothing of our new setup is disturbed. The TV is still there. There has been no break-in this night.

I let out a sigh, dropping my stuffie to the end of my arm. Before mom, on the coffee table is a bottle of wine and one glass. But there is also the board game, spread around as if she’d been searching through it for something. I pad forward, wondering what she was searching for. The rule book? The reason behind the numbers on the cards?

I find myself beside the board game, just out of reach of my mother. She is somewhat alright. No wound on her that is fresh or bleeding. But even so, with the shadows her bruises look garish and her face distorted. I turn to focus on the board game, not wanting to think of mother’s bruises and how she got them.

The cards are spread across the board, fanned out carefully in three rows. There is the language cards, the people, and the items. At the top of it all sits the d20.

A thought strikes me. There was nothing left here of value except for this board game. Whoever came tonight, during the night, they would be coming for it. Maybe this game, maybe this was the real reason for the break-in. Maybe it was all about this game. After all, why was it hidden in a wall?

I scoop up the cards, piling them neatly back into their stacks. I place them back into the box with the dice. Then I fold up the board and place it all together in there snugly.

Determined, I take the board game back to my room with me and my stuffie. Burglars left children alone. They had left me alone, locked in my room. If they came back, they wouldn’t hurt me, that I knew. So I had to keep the board game with me, safe.

I tuck myself back into bed. I was hungry for supper, but it was too late and mother wasn’t about to wake up. I knew I could go into the fridge for a snack, but the sound of the door opening and its light might wake her. Besides, now that I was back in bed, the rest of the house was too large and vulnerable. I couldn’t leave the somewhat safety of my bed, not again. The burglars would be here soon.

I press the board game’s box against my chest, half tucked under my pillow. It would be safe with me.

For some time, I watch the shapes on the wall, the shadows of the tree from outside. I watch, and listen. Every breath shallow and too loud. I listen, and wait.

Then, a click of a door being unlocked.

I freeze. Did I hear what I thought I’d heard? Really? Were they back?

Another click, the door being softly shut. They were back.

My heart has stopped. Ice covers me. They’re here for the game, they’re here for it.

In a cold rush, I realized I’d made a mistake. They were never going to stop until they got what they wanted. They wanted the game, it was too precious to leave behind. They knew it was here.

I hear a muffled shriek. Mother. She’s whimpering.

“I don’t know where it is!” she cries out.

I had to think.

Whump. Thud. Mom is crying.

I sit up. Heart is pounding again, too loud. I had to give them the game. I had to save mother.

The box is in my lap. It’s the last thing from father.

Thud! The sound of mother hitting the floor.

The world turns black.

A muffled shriek bring me back to my senses. There are footsteps all over the house. Thuds all over of things being knocked over. The basement- they were in it. They would see the hole in the wall.

I step out of the bed, covered in ice. Determined, clutching the board game to me, I walk across my room. The floor is so cold against my feet. I push the door and it stops against something, someone.

“Stay in there, kid,” a man’s voice growls out.

I push on the door again. The door jerks open and a huge man is facing me. All in black, face covered in a ski mask. He laughs.

“The kids’ got it!” He reaches out. I clutch the game to my chest, taking a step back. “Give it here,” he says, chuckling. Another big man appears behind him.

Mother starts screaming.

I hand out the game. Just take it and go.

He takes it, his hands gloved in black too. He hands it to the other man, who nods. “Good kid,” the second man said while taking the game. Then they close the door to my room.

I come to with a light being flashed in my eyes. A blanket is on my shoulders. Police are everywhere. The lights are on, chasing away the dark. In the living room, I hear mother talking through sobs, her voice high-pitched. There are so many other voices, but I hear hers above them all.

The EMT is talking to me, patting my shoulders. I stare at him.

Then, blackness. They are shaking me gently when I come back to.

“We’re going to go to the hospital, okay?” the EMT is saying kindly. “We’re going to go.”

I turn to my bed. My unicorn. I couldn’t leave the house without it.

The Emt walks with me as I go to my bed and pick up my stuffie – and a card falls out from its grasp. It was probably lying on it, but in my head right then, it seems as if my unicorn had been holding the card, keeping it safe.

The card flutters down to my feet, but I recognize it. The only card with a black backing dotted with a diamond. The ridiculously overpowered card.

In the back of my head I think that the game is probably ruined without that card in it. I hope it is. No rule book, no trump card – I hoped it was now unplayable.

Leaving the card on the floor, I was turned away and taken to the hospital.