Okay, so after three weeks it seems that most of my readers/followers have some experience in writing short stories but none of them have any experience in playing Spider Solitaire. Nobody has left a single comment so far. So maybe my next project should be to play a game of Spider to the best of my ability, then pretend my move sequence is the plot of a really lame story, told from the viewpoint of one of the cards in the tableau.
THE GREEN SCREEN
So here we are in the Green Screen (for lack of better name). Our task is to somehow escape from this simulated reality and teleport back into the real world as physical objects. Perhaps we have to follow a white rabbit, enter a night club, meet a hot 67,72,73,67,75 named Trinity and take things from there – which would be insanely cool. Or I could be completely wrong.
Ten of us have been chosen as the “Starting Hand”, whatever that means. I don’t know which ten they are, mainly because I am still asleep. I don’t even know my name because my memory has been erased. All I know is I am rectangle-shaped and my back is blue. I am in the Fourth Column, covered by one other rectangle-shaped thing. There are 54 of us, and we have to somehow escape.
Ever heard of The Maze Runner by James Dashner? Or the movie of the same name directed by Wes Ball? The protagonist, 16 year old Thomas, wakes up in some intricate maze along with several other boys. He has to work out his role in their society (as does everyone else), work out the rules of the maze as they go along, solve a number of puzzles … only to find out once they escape there are more challenges ahead (it’s a trilogy after all so what do you expect?). Okay, that’s probably not the greatest analogy but it’s the best I can come up with right now. At least I am not a Slopper and there are no toilets to clean every day.
Apparently my name is Queen Of Hearts. Goodie – at least I’m a human. Most of my friends are numbers. 83,85,67,75,83 to be them. I’ve moved onto the Diamond King. It’s not the same suit, but at least I have someone to call a friend. I no longer feel alone. It also means I am further away from the dreaded Queen of Spades. She’s always grumbling about too much demand for something and not enough supply. Or the other way round. Whatever. I was never any good with Economics at School. I would later learn it’s not just her – everyone here often grumbles about cards of the same rank for some strange reason. <sarcasm> That’s what friends are for right? </sarcasm>
These guys are weird.
Okay I get it. Cards arrange themselves in descending order. At least that explains why the Kings and Jacks seem to treat me with respect. All the other spot-cards don’t seem to care much about me. I watch as the other cards gracefully dance around the tableau. Apparently they know the rules better than I do.
Just for fun, I try to scamper across to the adjacent column, onto the Ace of Diamonds. No – the laws of physics don’t like that, and I am immediately whizzed back to my original position. Rules are rules.
What the 70,85,67,75 was that?!?!?!? Ten new cards just popped out of nowhere! So that’s worse than I thought: if we don’t escape from this contraption then ten new cards will periodically appear every 5 minutes or so and eventually the whole place will get flooded – it’s probably not something I’d wanna think about … and I’ve just been covered by the King of Spades. I’ve heard plenty of bad stuff about them. They tend to appear at the worst possible moments. They sit on your face and stay there forever – or at least it feels like forever. I don’t mind the kings so much, but I much rather have their 65,82,83,69 next to me instead of on my face. At least there are no monsters in this world, unlike The Maze Runner.
Oh, and I’ve just noticed my twin sister has appeared in column 1. It then occurs to me: there are TWO decks of playing cards. I was expecting something like a single deck plus two jokers, and once the jokers turn up then Good Things Will Happen. Jokers can move onto any card, and any card can play onto a joker. But apparently they don’t exist in this Green Screen. At least empty columns seem to be useful: any card can use them, not just a king. That’s almost as good as a joker.
I scan the tableau. There are two-dozen cards yet to be turned. They don’t know the laws of physics that govern the Green Screen. They don’t even know their own name. The exposed cards are dancing around, apparently making no effort to free them. Ten more cards will magically appear on the tableau every 5 minutes or so. At this rate, they will never see the light of day, if you pardon the cliché. I was one of the luckier ones, having started near the top of a column. I was able to observe most of the proceedings so far. At least I have some idea of what’s going on.
“Stop moving around aimlessly!” I yell.
“We’re not moving around aimlessly!” said the Five, Four, Three, Two and Ace of Diamonds, all in unison.
“We need to come up with an overall grand plan.” I said “We need to consider the state of the whole board, not just a single col-”
“We’ll sort ourselves into suits first” said the Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five and Four of Spades also in unison. “Then we can take it from there”.
I watch as they gracefully leap from an empty column onto the Ten of Hearts. It now occurs to me why the cards were “wasting time” organising themselves into suits. In the early rounds, cards were able to move only one at a time; maybe two or three if we were lucky. In mistaking the trees for the forest, I succeeded in missing the details. I feel stupid.
Still, I think that there is some truth about “thinking about the bigger picture”. I start to wonder, what happens if we get a complete run from Ace to King, all in the same suit. I’m a bit rusty at Texas Holdem but I believe that is called a straight flush. The Club suit is looking good.
YOWZA!!!! All the Clubs have escaped! A triumphant C major chord pierces the dreary silence and fills us all with hope. Three suits to go, this should be easy as … no wait a minute. I’m still covered by the Jack of Clubs. My twin sister is still sitting in column 1. I remind myself there are two decks in this game. And we are still covered by a King. The King of Spades can move into an empty column, but for some reason he seems reluctant to do so. I guess we just have to wait then.
Okay, I get it now. Two decks of cards make 104. We started with 54. Every now and again, 10 new cards magically appear out of nowhere. After 50 cards are added, we have the right number to complete two full decks. Without two full decks, there is no way we can complete suits from Ace to King. So those cards appearing out of thin air are a blessings in disguise, if you pardon the cliché. I’ve finally figured this out. Who needs jokers when you’ve got the smarts like me?
Of course if more than 104 cards appear in play then we are REALLY 83,67,62,69,87,69,68.
“Off with the hearts!” I yell.
Everyone looks at me in disbelief. This isn’t the right time for a lousy pun.
“We have a complete suit from Ace to King”, I continue. “King-Queen-Jack-Ten in the second column, Nine-Eight in the right …”
“I’m not sure if that will work” said the Three of Clubs. “Even if it did work, it will cost three empty columns just to reach the 7 of Hearts in column 9”.
“There’s no choice. We’re gonna use up at least two columns to expose a card”, said the ace of spades.
“Even if it doesn’t work”, I say, “we still get to partially tidy up that mess in column 9 which is worth something. Spider is not all about turning over as many cards as possible”.
Yes, I just contradicted myself about earlier feeling sorry for the two-dozen face down cards that don’t know the laws of physics that govern the Green Screen. I get that.
The Nine of Spades leaps from column 2 into an empty column, taking the 8-7-6-5 with him. He is clearly eager for the Nine of Hearts in column 9 to take his spot on top of the K-Q-J-T of the same suit.
“Not so fast” says the Nine of Hearts. “The Spider Grand Master does not look kindly on 85,78,68,79,73,78,71 moves”.
“Who is this Spider GM you speak of?” I ask.
I shudder at the thought that we are being controlled by some “higher being” and we are pawns in a bigger chess game (or cards in a solitaire game if you wanna take things literally). Then again, if there is a higher being who is a GM at Spider Solitaire and he is playing to the best of his ability then that can only increase our chances of winning. So perhaps we shouldn’t be complaining.
The Jacks, Queens and Kings engage in a long discussion. This is a critical point in the hand. Make the wrong decision and we are trapped forever. All the little cards shy away from discussion: they are unable to visualise a long complex sequence of moves. They know full well it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than – well you know the rest of the cliché!
“Okay, I’ve got this”, I say. “Queen of spades goes to King. Rearrange cards so that we have Nine through Ace in column 9. Clear the hearts, dump the six of diamonds to an empty column. We still have one empty column left. Swap Ace of Spades with Ace of Diamonds, move the 3-2-A onto the 4 of spades, four of hearts onto 5 of diamonds … Oh 67,82,65,80, we don’t have an eight.”
“Yes we do”, says the Eight of Clubs in column 2.
Of course we do. We cleared the hearts. Duh.
We execute the plan. Fortunately we have visualised everything correctly and things go as expected. I no longer feel stupid. I farewell my twin sister as her suit gracefully whizzes to the bottom left of the Green Screen. Only six more triumphant C-major chords to go and we are done. Looks like we got this!
As expected there are no further difficulties and victory is a mere formality. Just for fun I do a little endgame calculation. There are ten cards missing. As long as nothing stupid happens like all even cards on the last deal …
Clubs = A4 Diamonds = 67TJ, Hearts = 2, Spades = 3JK. Yep, this is a lock.
“So what happens after we win?” asks the Eight of Clubs.
“Well, we go back to the physical world as plastic cards”, I reply.
“Would we become inanimate objects?”, asks the Nine of Spades. “Would we lose the ability to talk to each other and move around according to certain rules”
“Perhaps,” the Three of clubs says, “we would be fondled by grumpy old computer-illiterate farts in a retirement village who only know how to play Klondike.”
Always the cheery one, I think to myself. Maybe going back to the real world ain’t what it’s cracked up to be after all.
“Or perhaps,” adds the Two of Diamonds, “one of us gets a 68,73,67,75 pic after a bad beat in Texas Holdem.”
The Seven of Hearts gives the Two of Diamonds an oh-so-polite wink. No card higher than a Nine is amused.
I rest my case.
At this very moment, the last ten cards magically appear onto the tableau. We easily clear the remaining suits and win the game.
Some lame music plays and two pills immediately appear on the table. I’m supposed to choose one and swallow it. The Orange pill means we all stay in the Green Screen. The Blue one means we go back to the real world as inanimate objects. Both options 83,85,67,75.
I hold one pill in each hand and recite to myself: “Eenie meanie minie moo, smoking very bad for you, drinking is bad for you too, eenie meanie … ah 70,85,67,75 it”.
In one last act of defiance, I swallow both pills simultaneously. Hah!, bet they didn’t think of that did they? A burning sensation sizzles my tongue, and I feel ill. I feel the system crashing about me, as I teleport to God-knows-where. The colour drains from the Green Screen and I throw up. I believe it’s called a technicolour yawn except it looks more like 50 Shades Of Gray. Okay, I probably shouldn’t have done that.
THE END … or perhaps not?
OKAY THAT PROBABLY DIDN’T WORK
So there you have it. There’s probably a reason or three why I haven’t won any meaningful short story competition yet. But at least I had a go. Do you guys think I have potential as a budding short story writer? Or should I stick to just playing Spider Solitaire to the best of my ability, and leave the writing to the Short Story GM’s? On second thoughts, if I can improve your win rate at Four-Suit Spider by a substantial amount then I don’t care how lousy my short story is bwahhahahahahahahaah 🙂