splash damage

Oh Danny Boy, the dice, the dice are calling…

Plastic polyhedra burst and scatter across the tabletop, over charts and character sheets, covering inked numbers with pips, obscuring the minutiae of the past with details of the present and the future – potential imagined futures, real and full of life.

Each plastic face a portent, but only one is truly relevant, only one is key, it faces heavenward, bold and declarative, saying “This is me, I am your result. I am your destiny.” Powerful. The dice are chance, compressed – all the vast array of the universe aligned across twenty quadrilaterals. Answers to all of our pressing questions, half-a-dozen omniscient arbiters of fate.

The players pass around the dice, scooping them up from hand to hand, the dice picking up something of the essence of the person; not merely oils and skin cell particulate but spirit, or soul, touched by the guiding hand of Fortune, lady luck, and in that brief moment of physical communion between flesh and die, before the roll that knows all is released unto the world, the players exalt in the uncertainty, the excitement of the unknown, lives and money hanging in the balance.

The dice bounce and jolt together in hand-cages, kept apart from the light; a secret instant while they talk to one another, conferring in their clacking dialect. They make their plans in that confessional, scheme and consort to come up with a number, a result, a judgement. Released at last, they flash through the air for a moment, each die its own, freed, independent of its brethren, spinning, turning, cutting stagnant air with edge and corner, pips whirling, order suspended as gravity strives to bring to earth those thrown Fates.

Will they hang together as a unit when they hit the table? Will their alliances hold in the final, crucial moment of Revelation? Or will some among them change their tune, pivot on an angle, or slide onto the floor? Dice are fickle things, god knows, their favour difficult to earn. Their secret plans unknown to us, no way to hold them accountable; feelings of superstition, of desperate desire for some particular result; these are not admissible in the blind court of Chance. And so breath is bated as the dice crash against the table with the force and mercy of explosives, as players bend and strain to get a better view, a glimpse as soon as possible, when the dice come to their destined rest.

All suspicions of collusion moot now that the Result has been pronounced. Or maybe a rebel die does indeed escape to the murky unknown of the floor, and continues its mad dash, prolonging the search for meaning. Players must kneel, stoop, contort, pause in their play, putting the future on hold, to find the errant die again, with its tarnished, untrustworthy result, contaminated by its profligate flight, its escape attempt. When stakes are high in game the technicalities of bounce and distance are of paramount importance, and players may discuss, in passionate debate, as to the meaning of the result, so lately revealed. Or perhaps the floor-bound result is waved away by the game master, erased from the posterity of the game world, but not completely; its replacement roll must always carry with it some hint of what it replaces, both in the minds of the players and in the plastic of the die, just as the die carries with it an ever-growing memory of all the many rolls that came before.

When at last the Word is known, the magic fades, the colour of the die’s flat faces dulls. The fiction may progress, and it may be glorious, but it cannot rival the serene fury of the rolling of the dice.

an exercise incited by Sharon English

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