“Do I know you two from somewhere?”

One of the customers, a well-groomed young man in a black suit, bore the appearance of a man preparing to attend a funeral. The other, a woman of approximately forty, wore matching somber attire in a black dress.

“Brittany,” he read from the waitress’ name tag. “I don’t think so, but perhaps I resemble someone you used to know.”

“Gngnrs, drink your coffee,” the female customer chastised her younger friend.

“I’m allowing it to cool before I sip it,” Gngnrs replied. “Isn’t that customary, Cxuci?”

Brittany looked between the two of them with uncertainty. “Your names are James and Lucy? Maybe we haven’t met, then.” She shrugged. “If you need anything else, let me know.” They watched her go, then turned back toward one another.

“How simple, yet how complicated,” Cxuci commented.

“I have never studied them as closely as you have.”

“In a mortal, the consciousness eludes its complexity,” Cxuci elaborated. “The layers of convolution are stripped away to result in an alteration of the dynamics. With mortality, our boundaries would change.”

“Mortals suffer from physical illnesses,” said Gngnrs. “A concept known, but foreign, to Us. You cannot pretend to understand.”

“Human life is prone to many vulnerabilities,” Cxuci agreed. “Oxidation, particularly. However, their restrictions give their lives meaning, just as the Game of Circumstance gives Us direction.” She glanced down at her cup. “How is your coffee?”

“I don’t know.”

“Nor do I. Mine is mocha.” Cxuci stopped to look around the coffee shop. Gngnrs altered the subject.

“It is said that Yuxdzgyal cannot be bested in the Game of Circumstance.”

“But it is possible,” Cxuci countered. “The rules change with every round played. From wars to political campaigns, the strategies are ever in a flux. In this case, cards will determine the outcome. This is Yuxydzgyal, who walks the wasteland the mortals call ‘Antarctica’ and seldom wanders among them. Many an entity has lost its awareness to Yuxydzgyal. Humankind is condemned to the mundane, but unlike them, we possess no distinction of light and shadow. In ways, these mortals are more enlightened than Us.”

“But they are unaware.”

“Their mannerisms are varied,” Cxuci said, “but for them, each day is a new beginning. For Us, ‘days’ are meaningless. Time’s entirety is but one unending stretch.”

“You understand them better than I, Cxuci.”

“If only I did.”

Both stopped then, and looked toward the coffee shop’s entrance. Yuxydzgyal strode through it.

Yuxydzgyal had chosen the guise of a female, around thirty years of age, dressed in a white blouse and a black skirt which came to her knees. She clacked across the floor in black high-heeled shoes. Her black hair was loosely pulled back to fall over one shoulder. She sat down at their table.

“Shall we play?” Yuxydzgyal spoke. Each of the three drew forth a deck of cards. The first round began.

Cards were laid onto the table. This game, a vast fusion of popular and obscure games borrowed from modern mortals, would not end until all decks but one, the victor’s, were depleted. The game could continue for days, months, or even years in mortal time. Mortals, oblivious to anything outside their circle of perception, would never notice.

Cxuci looked distractedly around the coffee shop, at the mortals enjoying their beverages and talking, some deep in discussion, some laughing. Cxuci observed them and pondered their small lives, which seemed so important to them.

In contrast, Yuxydzgyal remained distant from them always. Hers was an existence devoid of the absurd notions their outwardly insignificant lives might bring, a pointed isolation but for the Game of Circumstance.

The game stretched on. Nearly a month passed. Gngnrs laid down his final card. The game was now strictly between Yuxydzgyal and Cxuci.

Cxuci played another card. Even while immersed in the game, Cxuci meandered. She picked up her latté, paused, then set it back down without a single sip. What was the use?

She turned her attention back to the game. Cards hit the table. Days passed, until the game’s final round.

The moment’s heaviness was undeniable. Each opponent held only one card. The exchange was dealt.

Yuxydzgyal dropped her card. All focused on the single card remaining, the winning card — Cxuci’s card. Cxuci stared. Could it be? With the winning point in her hand, was she was a moment away from declaring victory?

Her gaze shifted to the tasteless mocha latté. Suddenly, the Game of Circumstance held more meaning to her than ever before. To Cxuci, a purpose, a life, no matter how small, made an eternity of detachment seem pale by comparison.

For them, each day is a new beginning.

“I forfeit the game,” Cxuci spoke. She dropped her card.

The fog closed in. The mortal colors began to seep through. New memories flooded the empty voids of consciousness.

Both of them blinked. They glanced to the third, empty seat at their table, and shaking off the momentary disorientation, turned back to face one another.

“How’s your coffee, James?” Lucy asked.

“I’ve had better. How’s your latté?”

“Cold,” she muttered. “And I think it’s spoiled. I’ll have to send it back.”

“I have to go,” James assessed after a look at his watch. “Sorry to cut this short.”

“It’s all right,” Lucy replied. “We’ll continue this another time.”

“Okay. Take care.” James stood, and left the coffee shop.

Lucy looked aimlessly around. She realized that she had to be at work within the hour. Though she had gotten an unappetizing latté the first time, there was time to send it back for a fresh one. It wasn’t often that she had the time to sit peacefully and enjoy a nice mocha latté, after all. Life was too short to skip the simple pleasures.

She had plenty of time, and there was no rush. She was only forty. Forty was the new thirty, and thirty was the new twenty, or something to that end — isn’t that what they said these days?

Tommy B. Smith is a writer whose presence currently plagues Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he resides with his wife and diabolical cats.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Paul Freeman

    Not really sure what was supposed to be going on here.

  • Bob

    A very clever idea, but you almost killed it in the early going with way too much exposition. Having two obviously alien creatures talk with each other about how different they are from mortals/humans/whatever is an obvious and trite way of establishing background, and in this case it nearly lost me before you got to the interesting part.

    The consequences of losing the game redeemed this story – a very cool twist; but the first three-quarters need some serious pruning.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Interesting story about two cybernetic eyes who consider themselves superior to the ground speakers whom they “inhabit.” They are reluctant to admit to themselves that they are only human at best, but because of their mortal fears of possible punishment, fears which they hide from themselves, claim to “spare” the torch of consciousness of the groundlings, whereas it is a greater eye than they, one who is above all the characters in question, who forbids harm to the lives on the ground which he/she, the greater eye, judges independently from the faulty and tenuous decisions of the inexperienced or dull little “eyes.”

  • http://the-walrus-said.blogspot.com Janet

    As you know, Bob, when characters inform each other of things they both already know, it makes for boring, artificial conversation.

  • http://www.erinmkinch.com Erin

    I enjoyed the twist at the end of this story. I wish I knew just a tad more about the rules of the game of circumstance so that I could understand why it happened a little more.

  • FB

    Just a personal pet peeve: I don’t care for stories that have “alien” names / place names / etc. that are unpronounceable. Not that I need aliens named Tim and Steve, but something a little more familiar to the eye, I guess. Not just this story – I have this problem with a lot of science fiction.

  • JohnOBX

    I’m still looking for the cybernetic eyes.

    This story reminded me of why I’m not a fan of Russian literature. Dense conversations that make one feel like an uninformed eavesdropper and leave you scratching your head, wondering if you are just very shallow or if there is actually something profound going on.

    Best of luck with your writing and thanks for sharing.

  • Gerard Demayne

    “In a mortal, the consciousness eludes its complexity,”

    Love that line.

    Agree with Bob, too much exposition. Interesting idea that you almost pulled off. Quite liked it overall.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Even taking board all the criticism posted above and agreeing with some of the points made, I have to say that I liked this a lot, Tommy. It has its own integrity and atmosphere. I almost… almost, believe. And that must be good. Stick to your guns. Thanks.

    😉 scar

  • Carrie

    I think it is a brilliantly written story by an obviously very talented writer.

  • http://www.browsebuyrepeat.net net.net

    Apologies, but I stopped reading it the first time out. Today, I pushed through the exposition and things got interesting. The first third could be trimmed a bit.

  • Rob

    Bob has really already voiced my thoughts about it in comment #2 so I won’t re-hash. Good idea but needed a ‘no-holds-barred’ edit or a different angle of approach in the beginning.

  • Jen

    This was sort of confusing. I had to reread certian parts a few times to figure out what was actually going on.

  • http://www.tommybsmith.com Tommy B. Smith

    I gather this story wasn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea(or coffee in this case), but I appreciate the comments from everyone who had useful words to offer.

  • Juan

    Clever and interesting story, feels original to me. I enjoyed the twist and was engaged throughout, especially during the card game. The backstory dialogue did feel a little forced, but it wasn’t too much a distraction.

  • Pilgrimage

    I enjoyed this. The unpronounceable names didn’t bother me. The first bit was a little too much, but I like it. I especially like the ending.