strange it was and how exciting their relationship felt. Learning and playing the game, at least temporarily, cured their problems—why they had waited so long to entertain the idea of trying it in the first place was beyond them, because soon they discovered something about themselves: that they had even become quite good at it, this fun, exciting, mysterious game. She laughed and he howled—this was fun! And it was like this for a few months.
Then, like everything else, the old game slowly wasn’t fun. The danger was no longer dangerous. The whole thing now felt predictable and routine, near boring. Why? What was happening to them, after all, to become so apathetic and lose their sense of pleasure? It was a question they would later ask their pastor, long after the old game was over and they had become obsessed with playing the new game (on the verge, even, of asking themselves if the thrill of playing the new game was sinful, an evil spirit presenting itself in disguise, robbing them of their identity and soul), but for now the only question they asked themselves was simply: will it be exciting? This, a question answered much later, when they understood the pattern of destruction that had developed and how deeply hollow they really must’ve been, numb as they were, obsessed with finding such dangerous pleasure.
By the time they finally began the new game they were already experimenting with the idea of bringing in a third participant, possibly a fourth. And this they did, after a month of scanning certain magazine classifieds, even going so far as to disguise themselves online with an ambiguous age and identity; they became known simply as A & Z. On certain sites they posted ideas, suggestions, asked lots of questions, and made friends quickly. Their plans for the new game were well underway. The game had no rules. Objects from the old game weren’t supposed to be included because there were a whole new set of objects to be used, including recording devices, masks, knives, and even chloroform, all of which they discovered one rainy afternoon at their new, older friend R—’s apartment. . .R—, who was more commonly known in this underground circle as a sort of game leader.
Nobody ever told them how little or how often to play, but the more they played, the more people they met and became friends with. What was once dull now felt alive because things started happening and feeling interesting, and it felt good. Finally, they told each other as they dressed for bed, we are no longer boring! Finally, he laughed, and she laughed, too. Their lives quickly opened to others as they played and discovered the company of such different, new people. And as weeks passed, the new game surfaced and revealed itself in a way unlike anything they had ever experienced. They found themselves on display as artwork, patterns of vulnerable light, bright with movement and curiosity, things to be desired. Their appetite (his more than hers) for the preclusive arrangements, mixed with dinner drinks and the occasional joint, was easily satisfied even before the game began, something they had realized right from the beginning. They soon began thinking about nothing else except meeting new people and playing. It was like this for a while. But then something started feeling different. The more they talked about playing, and the more they played, the more irritated they grew with each other. Their relationship was changing, or had somehow changed in a way neither could understand. It was as if they could no longer have a conversation about anything non-game related—there was no small talk, no dinner conversations. They discovered that neither had anything interesting to say unless it was game or participant related. They grew silent and cold towards each other, and afraid. They had always feared what was now happening to them. Somehow they had always known it would one day become a reality, sooner or later, and here it was already. And yet they still continued to play, less out of their own enjoyment and more for being in the company of others, these new friends, odd as they were. Friends were friends after all, they told themselves. Work was work, fun was fun, and the world rolled on.
The one thing that changed everything was a moment of revelation (as their pastor later coined it) on a snowy night in January, at a point during the game in which something dreadfully truthful occurred to them simultaneously. They each realized how disgusted they were with themselves. At once they felt shameful and dirty as if their bodies were no longer artwork, no longer patterns of curious, movable light. Bodies are not souls, their pastor would later tell them, and for good reason. They were playing a game that was against everything they were brought up to believe; all morals were out the window. It was as if they were suddenly slapped awake by what they were doing and what was happening to them. They later told their pastor that it was the beginning of this defining revelation when they realized they could sense the enemy in the room. The moment was extremely painful and seemed to linger on like a dream whenever they later reflected on it. The moment on that snowy night in January began with her awakening, a gasp: Oh my God, she whispered, and turned to find her husband looking at her with an expression of horror, a revelation. Oh my God, she said again, and he realized at once that they no longer understood this game or the people who played it. They were lost in this one defining moment, numb with fear. People around them were blurred with chaotic flashes of what they later understood was the enemy’s wickedness, some sort of visual trickery, like a strobe light blinking in a dark room. Then they saw what was really happening.