The Red Cube

Aparioth sat studying the complex relationships of the play board in front of him. The intricacies of the mass of cards was more than a pure relational or spatial inter-connection. Even for a Greater Force, the intriguing aspects of Humanity, were perplexing. There were of course plenty of games in the multiverse that had greater depth, scope, and pure hedonistic pleasure than the card game, Humanity. Yet, there was something acutely puzzling and gratifying about the game, that went far beyond the cards in themselves.

Aparioth chided his lesser brethren, a cherub whose powers were of magnitude beyond the scope of human consciousness. The small Lesser Force fluttered next to him eager to garner any glimpse at the unfolding card game. “Oh! Can I play, Aparioth? I am sure, I can turn more cards aside — I can win!” The wisp of celestial purity gibbered quickly, fluttering around the table that had no bounds, in either space or time.

“The game is far too complicated, for you young one. This is not the only purpose to turn the cards aside…to us that is a mere flip of the wrist, but to the souls linked to the manifestation its much more. A turn of a card is a life-changing course down unknown futures and changing aspects of the game a hundred if not a thousand moves ahead.”

“Oh, interesting, but let me play. I am so eager to learn,” the cherub quivered, shedding a million sparkling reflections in his excitement.

“I have an easier game than that, little one. Perhaps this game will scratch the surface of what is truly going on within Humanity,” he spread his arms out to encompass the billions of cards jostling along the surface of the table.

The cherub perked up, its thousand gossamer wings vibrated excitedly. “Please show me more of this card game, please!”

“First, I ask you what do you see here?” Aparioth asked of the lesser celestial power. The minor angelical being humbled by Aparioth’s attention gazed down on the table. The billions of cards, each the direct link to a human consciousness, quivered like a hatchling egg under the heat of a farmer’s lamp.

“I see a table, with many cards, each with a face, each moving in its own gyration. I think there is a purpose to their moves, but at first glance its a bit chaotic.” The cherub returned his gaze to the Greater Force.

“Lets try something more simple.” Aparioth smiled and pointed to the table again. “The rules are simple for you. You have but two rules to remember: first, when I pose the question you must answer immediately. Second, your answer must be the truth … nothing more.”

“Sounds easy enough!” the impish celestial stammered eager to show off his skills.

“Look now on the table; what do you see?” Aparioth pointed.

All the cards were gone, in their place was a single red cube.

“Its a red cube,” declared the cherub.

“Correct! You win! You do catch on quickly,” Smirked Aparioth. “Lets try this again. Remember the two rules; What do you see on the table?”

At the moment the cherub returned his attention to the table, the lights extinguished and the room lay in utter and complete darkness. “Wait! How can I see what’s on the table?” chirped the bewildered cherub.

“Is that your answer?” Aparioth said disapprovingly. “Remember the rules!”

“I can’t see the table, so how can I make a judgment what is there, less how can I be certain, according to the second rule of what’s the truth?

“Oh I am sorry – you lose the second match. If I agree to leave the lights on would you be willing to try again”? Aparioth spoke from the complete darkness.

“Yes, then the game is simple.”

The light returned and on the table lay the red cube, just as it was before. “See! how hard was that? Tis the red cube as the first time, and yet you failed.”

“I won’t fail this time,” the cherub clenched his teeth, blinking fervently.

“Look at the table, again, and tell me what you see?”

The cherub glared for a brief second at the Greater Force, then looked at the table. Half expecting the lights to go out again, the minor being looked upon the table and saw the red cube. “Its the red cube again, just as the other two times” The cherub proudly trumpeted.

“Pick it up and see” Aparioth chimed. The small cherub gingerly reached for the cube but found his hand passing over what he thought was a three-dimensional object, and casting a shadow on such an intricately drawn red cube that it appeared to be solid, but was naught but a drawing.

“I guess you lose again” Aparioth chided. “Perhaps this simple game is too much for you…how can you expect to play the card game, Humanity, if you can’t tell what is reality?

The cherub stomped his hundred feet, his feathers bristled, and he glowered at the Greater Force knowing he was made a fool out of the simple game….

***

The neolithic hunters sniffed the scent on the breeze. The two hunters scanned the valley below, noting the subtle play of shadows, the gentle breeze and how the wind tossed the trees and brush, and the soft light of the moon as it splashed across the trickling stream that meandered through a rough gorge and cascaded into the open grasslands beyond.

Ogar glanced at his partner, a brutish tall figure. Even in the darkness, Migar reflected his steely demeanor. Both were lean and heavily muscled. Two panthers driven by hunger and the harsh reality of an age where man was far from the top of the food chain.

“What do you smell, Migar?” Ogar grunted through thick and chapped lips. He squinted through a heavy brow, taking deep breaths through wide flared nostrils. The older man squatted down, glancing first at the trampled earth than to the younger, but no less, seasoned hunter.

“There is someone down there….” Migar turned his head back and forth, his eyes strained to see beyond the first clump of trees, “I can smell their fire but I cannot see them!” He stomped his foot, then instantly fell to his knees realizing that even that feint sound could alert game or enemies nearby.

Ogar glanced at the younger man and huffed in derision. “Quiet, fool, or we will end up on the spit of their fires!”

Migar’s eyes widened, even through his heavy brow. He had heard stories of men that ate the flesh of their own kind, but thought it was tales to scare the women and children of the tribe. He glanced over to Ogar, hoping to see a twist of sardonic smile but saw only the tough resolution of a man who was embittered through years of harsh life.

The two had been on an extended hunting trip, trying desperately to find game for their their small tribe four days journey up from the small stream they had followed down from the gorge into this broad grassland savannah.

The trip had been a failure from the start; the two neither found any game and worse had found only a few prints in the mud along the river. On the second day out they had discovered a cache of eggs from a land turtle, but that hardly filled their stomachs and they had eight to feed, two that were pregnant. Ogar had saw several large catfish, splashing in the waist deep turgid waters of the churning stream, but without pole or long spear, the two floundered in vein attempts to catch anything. In the end, they found themselves drenched, cold, and tired. That was two days ago, and still they had not seen only fleeting evidence that any beast had ever came to the waters to drink.

Ogar slowly stood up and glanced around. The land was quiet in the last moments of the day, the sun quickly setting in the west, and the insects and birds echoed their calls in those last few moments of light.

Migar Stood as well, and with a brief momentary pause, headed downstream checking the land around for prints or broken branch, signifying recent passage from man or beast. The two proceeded along the gurgling waters, glancing to the banks on either side.

As night covered the valley, Ogar motioned his companion to the high bank off to the north. “We should sleep, find a place along the stream we can watch the waters…”

Migar climbed the meager hill and started towards a small copse of stunted trees, when he froze in his tracks. His nostrils flared and his eyes went wide, he wheeled around and looked up to the far gorge wall and noticed the flicker of light emanating from a cavern.

The two hunters clung to the stretching shadows of the trees, gripping their short spears in one hand and stretching the other out, in the childish attempt to cut the air in front of them, like foils cutting the wind.

They approached the cave and took in the aroma of cooking meats. Even with their aged cunning and experience, both salivated like dogs at the smell, their stomachs clenching and groaning like whipped curs. Migar checked his spearhead, pressing his thumb on its tip till blood dripped across the stone flaked edge. Ogar stalked closer, bent on stealing the meat or whatever else he could grab.

As both approached the entrance, two horrific shadows arose from the opposite side of the cavern wall. Fanned by the flickering flames, the ghastly shadows danced a macabre of death foretelling certain doom to whoever entered.

The gigantic shadows mocked anyone foolish enough to broach the cavern entrance, long stretched out claws, misshapen heads and grotesque bulbous bodies filled the cavern walls.

The two hunters looked at each other, then fled as fast as their legs could propel them across the landscape, hitting the water with such force that their first three steps danced across the water’s surface having the illusion of the pair running on water. The hunters swam to the opposite shore and ran until they collapsed in pure exhaustion, feeling lucky to survive the encounter with the pair of man-eating beasts.

From the cave’s entrance the two young children peered out of the cave, giggling to themselves before returning to the fire, making their shadows dance higher and higher along the cave walls.

“You two do make frightening monsters,” chided their pregnant mother shooing the children to their sleeping mats.

***

Ratook awoke from his nap. He had been very tired from his adventures last night. It was almost like a dream the way he seemingly moved from one creature to the next. He was urged on by some invisible hand, some force. His need for slaughter and complete disregard for personal safety seemed remiss as the blood from each poor creature wetted his blade.

The mighty orc ranger stood on shaky legs, flexing his arms until he felt life surge through them again. He checked his gear, and all seemed in place. The woodsman often found himself awaking in the most strangest of places, and often thought that perhaps he had some strange disease that caused him to suddenly and without provocation fall and succumb to a deep sleep.

Several times he awoke in the middle of the road, and other times he found himself deep within the bowels of the earth. Even with greater alarm, he recounted times where as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, monsters bent on slaying him, or worse, eating him, tore at his flesh.

Scanning the surroundings, the orc knew there was something he had to do. It was an urge and tinkling of a feeling more than anything he could put his finger on. He looked to his left and down the dusty path there was a centralized mail box.

He trotted over to it, which was another strange thing that bewildered Ratook is that why he often had to jog to places. The world was very beautiful and full of things he would like to admire, but he had no patience for walking, and often ran to every place in the world.

At the mail box, he opened it up and looked inside. Their was a slew of mail and packages there, and found two pieces of mail addressed to him. It was awfully tricky of those plucky little gnomes to build these mail cabinets that looked so small on the outside, yet large enough to hold a dead dragon on the inside. “Hmmmmm, one of these days I am going to have to cut me open a gnome and see if there is more inside a gnome than on the outside,” Ratook laughed as he tore open the envelopes that had his name on it.

One was from his good buddy Pidge. Well you know, thinking of it, he never actually met the tiny green goblin, but could visualize the little guy as if he had known him his entire life. for some odd reason the little green wizard had a preponderance to send him money. Not that Ratook would turn him down, but he often wondered why this little guy, that he never met, would continually send him large amounts of coin ….

“Hey, what are you playing?” Queried Phil as he walked into my study.

I turned around to see my good friend approach and lean into my monitor. He looked at the game, at Ratook — my character, and then at me. “Wow! Thats very graphic. I can’t believe they can make games so realistic today. Can I play?”

“The game is a bit more complicated than just pressing keys, Phil. There is allot to know about the game…” I trailed off looking at him with a be smirked smile.

“Ohh, please….” Phil whined faking a horrible, childish tantrum..

“I tell you what, why not start with something a bit easier. Look over there and figure that out?” I said busily directing Ratook to open another letter and pocketing the platinum that was sent.

“You mean this?” Phil grimaced. He picked up a rubic’s cube, all but one color. “This is too easy!” He chirped, cocking the cube back and forth.

I smiled up at him, “You sure you are up to the challenge of the Red Cube…..”

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