Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Microstory 1788: Vulpeculiar

I never wanted to get into gambling. My family has a history of gambling addiction, and I knew that I didn’t want to even look down that path, so I never put myself in that position. Unfortunately, gambling found me anyway, and I fell into it hard. Maybe if I hadn’t been so afraid of it, I could have learned restraint, but there’s no way to know now. I’m madly in love with it, and every time I lose, it only makes me want more, because there’s always a chance of turning things around. I’m actually not half-bad, now that I know the rules of my favorite games. I’ve come up with a system, and I know everyone says that, but most of the people who say it are thousands—or even hundreds of thousands—of dollars in debt, whereas I always keep myself in the black. I have a special savings account of money that I don’t touch. It doesn’t matter how close I get to losing everything else, that money is for food and shelter, and I’ve held firm on that. That doesn’t mean my life has been safe and happy. I’ve certainly had some problems, especially with sore losers who think that they’re entitled to live their own lives free from consequences. It’s hard to disabuse them of the idea that they won when they’re holding the scary end of a gun against my temple. I’ve recently become immersed in the shadier side of gambling, to which the authorities either turn a blind eye, or can’t even find. I’ve just been going deeper and deeper, playing games with higher and higher stakes. I’ve recently discovered the most mysterious and unusual game of them all. Bottom of the rabbit hole, I call it. The people who play it, though...they call it Vulpeculiar.

There’s a family game I remember playing as a kid called Catch Phrase. I don’t remember the rules, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s just the game disc for Vulpeculiar that reminds me of it. Only 121 people can play in the world, and the only time someone new can join is if someone quits while they’re in the black. This is hard to do, because if you’re in the red, you can’t choose to play. Only someone else can select you as an opponent. It’s a game of chance. You choose who you want to play against, and how much to bet. Then you squeeze the button. You either win, or you lose, and the only strategy is to decide to quit while you’re ahead. When you lose—and you will lose—if you can’t pay with money or collateral, you pay with your soul. You’ll be sucked into the disc, where you’re conscious, and totally at the mercy of the corporeal players. They can give you a chance to win back your freedom, or they can ignore your slot, and play against someone else. The guy who got me into this mess is probably best described as my frenemy. I guess he figured it would be easy to convince me to help him cheat. It’s a two-man job. If I hold the disc, and he squeezes the button, the game is confused about who the player is. If he loses, the round will be disqualified, and nothing will happen. But if he wins, it will pay out into our supposed joint account. Of course, he betrayed me, and never gave me access to those funds, so I’ve decided to screw him over too. I let go of the disc at the very last second, dooming him to losing after betting the sum of every player’s debt against the “dealer”, which he could never hope to pay. He’s sucked into the disc, and I realize I’m the last corporeal player left. It has to end here. The game is evil, and I’m the only one who can stop it. I bet the pot too. It’s over a billion dollars, so I assume that I’ll be sucked in, and leave no slots open for new players. I was wrong. Not only do I win, but the other 120 slots suddenly open up. I think I just killed everyone.

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