In the Game of God
by Marya Moryevna Wolfman
“What do you mean, a good card?” Jack asked. “This is terrible. How come your card was all right, Dolly, and mine wasn’t?”
“I got a good card, too!” Dolly showed her card, which had changed since she’d placed it in her hand. There were three gored horses, lying down with their entrails exposed. They slid into the room, giving off a vile smell. Jack retched as a wave of nausea passed over him.
“I don’t have mine, yet,” piped up Paul. “Does anybody have a King?”
“Go make it,” said Dolly. Jack wasn’t answering anymore.
Paul picked a card and showed it. A King was slaughtering his subjects. Again the carnage was overwhelming and entered the room where they sat.
“OK, what’s going on here? You killed those people and those animals, didn’t you?”
“We’re supposed to break things,” said Dolly and Paul together.
“You aren’t Dolly and Paul. Who or what are you?” Jack stood up to his full height.
“We told you we weren’t those brats. We’re your imagination. We’re whatever you want us to be,” said Dolly, standing to her diminutive height. Paul stood up beside her, looking like a forlorn waif with his thumb in his mouth.
“I want you to be gone. Get out of my studio. You disgust me. Get out of my life. Vanish. Disappear. Get out! Now!” He shouted in their faces. Even if they did look like his beloved niece and nephew, Jack wanted nothing more to do with them.
“Once you have created us, it’s not so easy to get rid of us,” Dolly said, holding her ground.
“We don’t want to go back into that empty old psi-gon egg,” Paul added, looking at the egg next to the computer.
“We wouldn’t even be us anymore. We like it here. We’re staying.” They spoke one after each other, in consecutive sentences.
“No, you’re not!” Jack pictured the kids shriveling up and returning to the egg, but they didn’t budge. He tried harder. No use.
“Ha, ha, Uncle Jackie,” the kids laughed. “We’re stronger than you are.”
Jack considered. There was no way he could compel them, short of killing them. That was abhorrent to him. Besides, he couldn’t kill them anyway. They were psi objects. He tried reasoning with them. “If you want to stay here, you’ll have to improve your behavior,” he said. “No more blood and gore!”
“Oh, goody, he’s letting us stay!”, said Paul, dancing circles around the carcasses on the floor.
“It’s your own imagination that’s gory, not ours,” said Dolly. “You created us and we created them,” she said pointing to the havoc around them.
“Then perhaps the best thing is to get rid of the psi-gon egg,” Jack said. He picked up the egg and prepared to shove it out the window.
“If you throw it outside, somebody passing by might find it and use it. Who knows what they might create from their imagination? It could be a lot worse than us,” Dolly said, almost reasonably, he thought.
“Look, if you’re going to be here for a while, we’ll have to work out a deal. Do you think you could go back inside the psi-gon egg for part of each day so I could get some work done? Then I’ll let you out and we’ll ‘play’. Only no more blood and gore. Right?”
“Oh, all right,” said Paul, pouting.
“As long as you promise to bring us out every day. I guess so,” Dolly agreed.
“Now let’s get this mess cleaned up,” Jack said. At his request, they each imagined their ‘card’ characters back into the psi-gon egg. Soon the bodies were removed, and the blood and guts were lifted from the studio rug. But are they really dead, those creatures from the card game? Jack wondered. He tried bringing them back again, but they were gone, permanently. He could make similar creatures, but the dead ones never returned.
* * *
That night he put the children to sleep in the guest room upstairs, knowing that they would not be there in the morning. When he awoke, he ran to check their room. Sure enough, they’re gone. What a relief. Maybe I’ll be rid of them after all, Jack thought. He ate breakfast and went downstairs to work in his studio.
His first task was usually to release Reddy and the other animals from the egg. A glance at the egg revealed that it was glowing, indicating an occupant was anxious to spring forth. He thought of his deal with the demonic children, but decided promises made to such monsters were best forgotten. He tried to picture only Reddy, and not the children.
“He’s dead,” a high-pitched voice said. Jack saw Paul standing on the rug in front of him.
“And he’ll never come back again,” said his sister, standing beside him.
“We killed him,” said Paul. “It was fun!” He danced about, miming poking with a spear at something lying on the floor.
“You should have seen him whine and whimper,” said Dolly. “He was really disgusting,” she said, making a face.
Jack was devastated. His best friend in the world was gone. Reddy, the faithful dog that would follow him anywhere, do anything for him. They had killed him, even tortured him. How he must have suffered. Vile creatures! He’d beat the shit out of them! He grabbed Dolly and landed a hard hit across her shoulders.
She only laughed, the damn little vixen. “You can’t hurt me, you stupid jerk,” she mocked. “It’s against the rules. A human can’t hurt a psi.”
“Damn it! I can’t hurt you, but you can hurt my dog, huh?” Jack was beside himself with rage.
“Those are the rules, dummy,” chimed in Paul.
“But you promised no more gore,” Jack said. “Why’d you break your promise?”
“Because you broke your promise, you jerk. You said you’d let us out every day, but you didn’t.” The girl glared at him venomously.
“How the hell did you get out, anyway?” Jack was full of frustration, sure that he’d never get rid of them now.
“We’re psi people, so you can’t control us, you poor slob,” said the replica of a girl. “We control you. We can choose whether or not we’ll appear when you call us. If we want to come out of the egg, you can’t stop us. We can make you let us out.”
“All right, I give in,” groaned the defeated artist. “Just let me have a few hours a day to work.”
* * *
All that had happened two weeks ago. Since then Jack had thought constantly about what he could do to get rid of them for good.
In the last two weeks, their games had become more morbid, sadistic. The children were maturing quickly. They went from “God” to “Monopoly” to “Clue” to “Sim City” to “Dungeons and Dragons”, all with gruesome revisions to the original game. From five to nine every night, Jack was forced to sit through these fantasy games with them.
His worst fear was that other people might acquire the psi-gon egg and create evil psi people from their imaginations just as he had. He must prevent that. He must make sure no one else ever played the game, or they’d be trapped, as he was.
Jack worried that he might create some new monsters, in addition to the two children. He might even create adults, who would procreate, spawning more demented beings like themselves. Or the psi people might clone themselves, populating the entire world. I must be careful not to think about it, he thought, or it could happen.
When Jack turned on the news shows, he saw images of sadistic, gory murders occurring right in his own neighborhood. There were no clues, no suspects. Watching these shows, Jack was sure that his own imagination, enlarged and distorted by the children of the psi-gon egg, was somehow responsible for the crimes. He felt he was causing them. With my over-active imagination, I might be sending the kids out to kill without even remembering it, Jack thought. If I’m causing these crimes, it’s up to me to stop them.
I can’t even be sure there are any crimes, he thought. I’ve only seen the news reports, not the actual bodies. It’s entirely possible that the psi kids somehow took control of my holos and created the demented news programs for me to see. Of course, the kids would say I created the gory news myself, wouldn’t they? What’s real and what isn’t? I don’t know anymore. I think I’m going insane.
The psi-gon egg was practically indestructible. There was no use trying to smash it. Heat or electricity had no effect on it. The two children were psychic projections, not living flesh. There was no way to kill them, even if he could bring himself to do so.
He tried leaving the children in the egg upstairs in the bedroom, far from the computer. It didn’t work. In the morning, he heard their voices calling him to let them out. They kept it up, driving him crazy until he carried the egg down to the studio. He even tried burying the egg in the garden, with the same results.
There was only one way out. He was now desperate enough to try it.
He had determined that the best way would be to commit suicide and leave a note explaining what the danger was, saying that no one should use the egg. The children would die if he died.
He must act soon, before more harm was done. Today was the day. He must do it before it was time to release them from the egg. He had chosen his method. He kept a loaded revolver in a drawer of his studio, in case of break-ins. He printed out the diary he had been keeping of the events since he acquired the psi-gon egg, and left it in a prominent place on the desk.
Jack picked up the revolver and looked at it, sorry he had to use it, yet seeing no other way. He cocked the trigger, placed the barrel in his mouth....
“What?” his reflex reaction was to turn and see who it was. The gun slipped from his mouth.
“Jack, wait a minute.” His sister Connie was standing next to him.
“Connie? How did you get here?”
“You know you gave me keys to your studio, Jack. When you didn’t answer the vidphone, I drove over here. And when you didn’t answer the bell, I let myself in. Looks like I was just in time.” She took the gun from his hand, hid it in a drawer that locked, and kept the key.
“You shouldn’t have come, Connie. It would have been better this way.” Jack allowed her to guide him to the sofa where he sat down.
“What are you talking about?” she insisted.
“Someone gave me this egg called a psi-gon egg. It’s over there, see? No, don’t touch it. It somehow concentrates the thoughts and feelings of the user into the computer. Realistic images of fantasy people come out and walk around right here in this room.” He pointed at the empty rug.
“The trouble is, the fantasy people have some pretty gruesome character traits, like torture and murder. I can’t make them stop their behavior, and I can’t get rid of them.”
Jack clenched his head between his hands and screwed his eyes shut. “They seem to be growing stronger and crueler each day.” He opened his eyes and appealed to her, wild-eyed, face contorted. “They want me to create more synthetic beings like themselves. They want to populate the world with their own kind. If this egg falls into the wrong hands, someone might create a whole world of these little devils, and then it will be all over for the rest of us.”
Jack threw himself to the floor and pounded with his fist. “As long as I’m alive, they are alive. I must act now. If they grow too strong, they may find a way to outlive me. The only thing to do is to kill myself and get rid of them before it’s too late.” He lay face down.
“I had a feeling something was wrong, Jack,” his sister said. “Remember how you saved my life when we were kids? Now it’s my turn to help you.” She bent down and stroked him gently on the back. “These creatures you’ve been seeing are figments of your imagination. You’ve just been working too hard and need some rest. C’mon. I’ll take you to the hospital.” She tried to help him up. “We’ll find a doctor to help you. You’re going to be all right.”
“I can’t go. I can’t leave the psi-gon egg here. Something might happen.” Jack was beside himself with distress.
“All right, then bring it with you,” his sister said.
“I can’t touch it. If I do, they’ll come out. I can’t let them out now. They may know what I was planning. They may find a way to get revenge. They may find a way to get along without me, perhaps by transferring their parasitic consciousness to a different host, someone like... Oh, no, Connie!” He looked at his sister as if he had seen a ghost.
Just then two small voices were heard. “Mommy, mommy, let us out. Uncle Jack, please let us out now. Mommy, mommy, help. Please help!”
Involuntarily, Connie’s attention turned in the direction of the sound. “Jack, what’s that? It sounds like Dolly and Paul!” She moved toward the psi-gon egg.
“Mommy, it’s us. Let us out.” The voices definitely came from the smooth ovoid egg on the desk.
“No, don’t!” Jack shouted. “Don’t touch that egg!” He tried to shove his sister out of the way. She was strong, and the protective instincts of motherhood were hard upon her. Connie reached the psi-gon egg first.
“Dolly? Paul? Where are you?” she cried, holding the egg firmly with both hands..
“Here, mommy, we’re here,” they answered.
“Where?” Connie looked all around.
“Right here, in the egg, but we’ll come out if you want us to.” The egg glowed vibrantly.
“I want you to, of course I want you to,” their mother said. As she watched, two small forms began to take shape in the space in front of her. She hugged her children close to her breast.
Copyright © 2010 by Marya Moryevna Wolfman