The Game

The box of marbles rattled satisfyingly in the boy’s hands. He spilled them across the floor, emptying the box. He began to divide the marbles: 50 for him, 10 for his friend – one a defender, another an attacker. He looked up, staring his friend in the eyes, daring her to challenge the numbers. Defiantly, his friend took her marbles, and nodded her head. They agreed that the mission was set in the jungle, and that the friend had to capture the large marble, or “kill” all the marbles. There were no turns, except when in combat, but only one marble at a time could be moved. They shook hands, eyes locking again. The friend turned and walked confidently out of the room. With her gone, the boy could now choose his base, his headquarters. He looked around slowly, smiled and gathered his marbles.

The friend looked at the 10 marbles in her hands. So few. How could so few beat so many? She didn’t feel so confident any more. She would have to plan carefully. She reached her starting point, and stopped. How was she going to deploy her marbles, her troops? She decided to start them off as one unit, and split them later, closer to the enemy. She looked at the clock. It was 15:58…

The boy looked at the clock. Still two minutes to go. He looked around his base, moved a few marbles around and checked the large marble, his General. He made sure that all routes were heavily guarded. He sighed, and waited nervously. The enemy would be arriving soon.

The friend decided that the yellow and black marble should be the squadron leader. She had served well in the past, and would be the best one to command this small squad. She looked at the clock, and counted down the seconds: 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. She flicked the leader and watched it roll slowly across the floor…

… The woman moved cautiously, creeping forwards through the dense growth. She signalled for her men to follow. She still couldn’t believe she was finally in charge of her own squad. And what a squad to command – an elite team of assassins. Now, she had to prove herself. First, she had to get her men to the target zone safely…

The clock beeped. The boy looked up, alarmed. The two minutes had passed quickly. He held his breath, and listened intently. Was that the faint sound of marbles rolling? He breathed out deeply and shook his head. He had a small surprise for his friend. He rolled one marble violently, bouncing across the floor. When it stopped, he rolled four more. A little welcome for his friend…

… The men ran out from the base into the forest, jumping and ducking. They knew that they had been sent on a suicide mission. They had no hope of killing the entire enemy. They also knew, that the life of the General was more important than theirs…

The friend stopped suddenly. She had heard the distinct sound of marbles rolling. She smiled. A little detour wouldn’t hurt at all…

… Suddenly, the team stopped. There had been the distinct sound of men running through the forest. The men looked to their commander. She signalled for five of them to move to their right, and for the rest to follow her…

The boy rounded the corner, and suddenly, was face to face with his friend. He smiled as he saw that his friend had split her marbles into two groups. His “welcome” might be more effective than he had first thought. However, his smile quickly faded. There was another group of five marbles to his left. And then he realised, that with the angle of the corner, he couldn’t hit any of his friend’s marbles, and that the other group was too far away. But, the rules might be on his side. They had to go in turns when in combat. He decided to try anyway. He flicked his marble, and cursed as it swerved to the right.

The friend smiled as he watched the boy’s marble roll towards him. The marble came to a stop a short distance from her separated group. She softly flicked a marble, and smiled as she heard the clink of marbles hitting each other. 49 to go…

… The team saw a single enemy coming towards them. One of them advanced slowly, took aim and fired…

The boy stared horrified as his little welcoming party disappeared. They did not wipe out a single enemy. Not one. He marched furiously to his headquarters and re-arranged his marbles. The enemy was nearly upon them…

… The men scurried around. The General was angry. They quickly ran to their new positions and stared into the dense growth, dreading the arrival of the enemy…

The friend studied the two squads. She decided to merge them for a while. It was easier to move that way. Anyway, it would be a while before they came across another ambush. The enemy would still be recovering from their small loss. She began to move her marbles, flicking them expertly, keeping them grouped. She smiled, as she began to plan her final assault.

The boy was beginning to panic. He had been dreadfully outclassed in that little skirmish. His marbles had seem untrained, uncoordinated. He flicked them clumsily into position, his panic rising. The enemy would be here soon.

The friend’s marbles were clustered together, just out of sight of the enemy. Now, to see if her plan would work… It all depended on whether she had rattled the boy enough. But could she do it? Could she lead his marbles into the enemy’s base, severely outnumbered? Slowly, she moved her marbles into position, and took a deep breath…

… The Commander gave her orders, and watched as her men moved into position. Doubt began to rack her brain. Would she have the courage to lead the assault? Could she assassinate the General? Slowly, she raised his hand, and gave the signal…

The friend looked at the 10 marbles, spread out strategically across the room. It was now or never. One by one she began to flick them, the clink of glass reaching her ears after each one.

The boy’s panic was rising. He had just lost his entire frontline. He was suddenly in control of only 35 men. That didn’t sound like so many. He rolled some more marbles forwards; he still could not see the enemy.

Flushed with success, the friend flicked her marbles confidently, always hitting the enemy. Soon, she would be able to storm the innermost part of the enemy’s camp, and assassinate the General.

… The General looked frantically out the window. Men were running everywhere, confused, flustered under the invisible fire raining down on them from the jungle. He walked to the table, and picked up a gun…

… The Commander couldn’t believe it. The enemy was posing no problem at all. All they needed to do was find the General. She entered a room slowly, letting her eyes adjust to the light. Suddenly, a figure appeared in front of her, and there was a flash of light…

The boy was nearly hysterical. He had only three marbles left. There was no way he could win. He got up and walked slowly out the door and into his parent’s room. He reached into the safe and grabbed his father’s gun. He turned around, and took a few steps forwards. Through the doorway he could see his friend, crouched on the floor. He watched as his friend flicked her marble calmly, watching the marble roll towards its mark, the General. The boy raised the gun, took aim, and fired…

The marble exploded into millions of shards.