Caleb Fortunata was not a patient man.
“Forgive me, Marisa, but the whole idea is to amuse ourselves with this invention. You are trying to dissect it. It’s a gift, remember? We’re just supposed to enjoy it.”
Marisa Fortunata looked with a mixture of indulgence and annoyance at her husband. She moved the platform a few aspects to the right and spun it across the split continuum she had set up. She leaned forward to watch the activity that appeared on the platform surface.
“Look at them! All those people scurrying about. It is fascinating. And imagine—someone we know has created this marvelous diversion. You didn’t praise Galen enough when he handed it to you.”
“That’s because I had no idea what I was getting. Truth to tell, I don’t know what it is even now.”
Marisa leaned back and sank into a dimension she favored. She had noticed her capacity to accelerate alternate world immersion often occurred when she and Caleb were together. She could hear his voice but not see him, an event that she often enjoyed. There were even times, though she did feel some guilt at the thought, that she wished she could cease to hear him as well. Not always. Just once in a while. His whining disrupted her equilibrium. She was essentially happy by nature, but hypersensitive to the vibrations of any other entity.
She re-entered the space she shared with Caleb and pointed to Galen’s gift. “Have you noticed what they are doing?”
“How could I miss that, at least? Storms all the time. Tons of swirling things all around them.”
“Vibrational storms. They don’t know how to handle the vibrations they are.”
“So what are we supposed to do about that, if anything?” Caleb stretched out his arms and watched them move in intricate conversions from transparency to solid and then into the more familiar fragmentation. He looked at his wife. She was up to something. The shards of her all held the same expression, a rarity to manage such a thing. She was clever, his Marisa, he’d give her that.
“Here,” she said, “look closer.”
He entered her field and observed the platform with what he felt was an objective mindset.
“I can’t see them now.”
“Of course not. That’s the whole point of the game! They change all the time at random. We have to overcome their vibrational states and manipulate their actions from the inside out.”
“Who gets to be the winner and how the devil do we know who wins, anyway?” asked Caleb, displeased by her obvious enthusiasm. He had never liked Galen. The man was far too interested in Marisa.
His wife sighed. “The winner is the one who causes the most mayhem.”
“You know I don’t understand that word and you use it often. You mean confusion. Say the word confusion.”
“Not just that,” Marisa said, and her laugh was genuine. “The one who wins is the one who sets chaos in motion and prevents them from ending it.”
“Too simple. Besides, playing it means we’d have to stay here until we’re done, right? I have other things on my agenda. No time for games.”
“No, my love,” Marisa said, fingering a swath of stars as she dropped into another dimension for a moment to speed through the vibrations of a neighboring galaxy, “you don’t have to play continuously. Galen said we can stop and start at will.”
“Well.” Caleb looked at her with a combination of relief and curiosity. “So what happens to these, ah, people,” he gestured toward the platform, “when we stop and start? It won’t make sense to them.”
“It doesn’t have to, darling. They will simply have periods of peacefulness when we have other things to do. We return and it all goes into mayhem. Just a nice back and forth.”
“Fine. I’ll be back later.”
She felt his absence on the instant and turned her attention to Galen’s invention. He had used a world from a thousand years ago, he said, that he had managed to access in real-time. Anything that players commanded in the game would happen in that world, he told her. The behavior of the inhabitants intrigued her. They were easy to control, but prone to unexpected reversals. Galen had mentioned that. It was what made the game so hard to win.
Marisa smiled. Yes, it would be a good way for her and Caleb to interact. It quite possibly could save their marriage. Playing the game would give them common ground, even though she intended to win. She had to agree with him about the life forms, however.
“Three dimensions,” Caleb had said with surprise. “Who the hell would want to live in three dimensions?”
AUTHOR BIO: Regina Clarke lives and writes in the enchanting Hudson River Valley region of New York. Her short stories have appeared in a number of magazines, including Subtle Fiction, Bewildering Stories, A Twist of Noir, Thrice Fiction and Over My Dead Body! In the spring of 2012 she was a finalist in the Hollywood SCRIPTOID Screenwriter’s Feature Challenge for her script “Second Chances.”