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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Magic - a Flash Legend

by Yours Truly

I heard this story once about two competitors hunched over a card game, eyes red, hair greasy, fingers wet with tension and lips fluttering with silent calculations. It doesn't matter who they were. It doesn't matter what color their skin was, or whether they were male or female. It doesn't matter that the winner would gain thousands of dollars, because honestly they invested thousands of dollars to get this far.

It matters that the championship was on the line. 

Picture it. Two armies on the table. Each opponent's hand hovers over a deck crafted of perfect weapons, a tower of magnificent creatures, each hunted down online or bartered for in game shops or won in competitions, each card play-tested for hundreds of hours to work together with the rest. These are more than flat paper rectangles in a pile: they're warriors who have climbed the corpses of their enemies to arrive at this mountaintop. 

A grin. Another warrior falls. Pure battle comes down to numbers, and the numbers on this card just aren't high enough. The card slips, forgotten, into the discard pile, and the attacking player leans back with a sigh of relief. The game's almost over. Attacker's side of the table has so many cards on it, the battlefield looks like a calendar, arranged in rows and ranks--while the owner of the now-dead card sits by a barren plastic desert with only one creature left. Both players are counting down their last life-points; it's the final game of the match.

The czar of the barren desert of loserdom chews a contemplative lower lip and glances from cards in hand to the card on the table. "Stand up and drop this card," reads the text in hand. "Any cards this card touches when it lands are destroyed."

"Is that game?" The attacker interrupts the desert czar's thoughts.
"No." Desert czar holds up the drop-and-destroy. Attacker's eyes glitter.
"It's still game…" Attacker says. "Even if that card manages to land on three of my best creatures, the rest still sweep and destroy you next turn."

Desert czar stands. 

Each card costs: maybe hours of hunting, maybe hundreds of dollars, maybe intrigue and deceit or favors and loss, but each card costs and each plays an irreplaceable role in the army that has become each player's life. That is why each card is carefully protected in a plastic sheath.

Desert czar removes this card from its sheath.

And this player who's spent everything to get here, who cradles cards like children, begins to rip this last chance into ugly shreds.

"What the--" Silence overtakes the gasping spectators. The eyes of the judges grow to cantaloupe size. Is the player throwing a fit? Is the player admitting a loss? Is--

Desert czar's fist juts over the board like a salute, shreds of paper clutched in a grimy paw. 

The Attacker understands an instant too late.

The fist opens like a raincloud over the battlefield, and as the spectators begin to scream and the judges begin to debate and the bloggers and podcasters and internet celebrities fire up their social media with thundering aplomb, torn paper flutters onto the battlefield like hail from heaven. The attacker pretends to argue and pretends to hope, but both players know the rules well enough to know this has never been thought of and never been forbidden: this is the end of the game, for the torn card settles like snow, like hundreds of infinitesimal white doves, over every single card the attacker owns, and:

"Any cards this card touches when it lands are destroyed," repeats the desert czar. 

They say to make an omelette you have to crack a few eggs. 

Isn't this a better way to say it? 

The End.

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