Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The End of Days

In high school, a couple of friends and I would stay up all night playing insanely long games of RISK* until, inevitably, fisticuffs would ensue or someone would freak out and ruin the game.

One particularly exciting game featured my friend T massing an army too large to be held by the relatively small confines of Siam. He had not just the Vs, my friends, but the Xs. He must have had seventy armies on Siam.

Another friend, K, had retreated into Australia, perhaps hoping to live out his days peacefully in New Zealand or Western Australia, with his paltry five or ten armies. Maybe they would take up subsistence farming, or film a blockbuster fantasy trilogy with Orlando Bloom there one day in the future.

But T was at the border, with a vast force. And the dice came down in judgment.

You may have read in history books about the battle that day, how ten or so plastic Roman numerals held off the onslaught of far superior numbers, how K again and again rolled sixes to T's fours, threes to his ones, impossibly whittling down the juggernaut force until victory was in sight, and his ragtag band of plastic started to believe they could win the day. T's plastic warriors were strewn about the board, crying "Medic!". And no medic arrived.

But a rumbling began in the skies when T was down to thirty or so Roman numerals.

Every victory for K was rewarded with a punch in the arm. K laughed these glancing blows off and the dice rolling continued. These two gladiators pushed Is, Vs and Xs to their fate, demanded them up and over the trench wall into the face of a rain of bullets and fire. And every turn, K beat T. Again and again.

And the punches came harder now, with more venom. The laughter in return had an edge of ire.

No-one can now say exactly who was ahead when T launched the doomsday attack, for no-one survived that day. Somehow, Roman numerals started again after that, ekeing out an existence on a cardboard world that had seen the visitation of the perfect weapon. But no crops would grow; the land was ruined and diseased.

And in hushed tones, the legend would be passed from grandfather to grandson, that they may remember the past and not repeat its folly: The Day The Board Was Flipped.

* Yes, friends and neighbors. I was not the coolest kid in high school. I know, your illusions are shattered.


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