The game had no rules, but cheating was an inevitable conclusion. Everyone knew it.
Draw six cards, cheat. Lay down, cheat. Win the game, cheat.
It was funny since it was so obvious. Everyone laughing, saying, “Oh I’m playing underhanded, aren’t you?” Giggling and smoking and drinking and just getting fucked up. Dipping fingers in each other’s pots. In each other’s pants. In each other’s hearts.
No-one knew the exact moment it went too far, but it was more obvious than the cheating. Crack like a bone snapping under pressure. And seconds afterward, the whole room collectively got this wave of nausea in guts or ears or heads. “That’s your body telling you something irrepariably wrong.” Someone sprawled on the back couch said. It was curldled yellow and torn to shreds, stuffing at angles that felt like rot. “Or,” someone across the room called, “like it’s sayin’ we can fix this — but hey, well, it’s gonna be a while my friend.”
Someone half-undressed on the rug laughed. The pole dancer kept drinking straight from a bottle of gin. The two cross-dressed strippers, still fully dressed, just stared.
“Six weeks to feel not so broken. Ten weeks stuck in one position. A couple of months crying over lost projects and lost moments and lost picturesque scenes in lovely dresses fanning in the wind.”
That was the room’s poet. Blue-grey feather in a black wide-brimmed hat, collar so close it looked like it was chocking. A dry cough after this line said it probably was.
The rest of the party sort of went on. Everyone got out sun hats and sunglasses. Everyone put them on to hide, took them off, and traded hands. When it all ended in another couple hours, everyone would lie about which ones were theirs. But why? Only to make each other feel bad. Only to make it sting when a friend slowly slipped away with your belongings. Only to make it burn when twos and threes drifted off, connected in triangles and tangents no-one had suspected.
Whoever was last in the room in the early morning bluing light had the best view of the trappinngs left behind. Mostly, it was discarded clothes and trash that no-one wanted. Mostly, it was things no-one would miss. Hysterical mmoments and hyperbolic mistakes that look better in shadows than in light. Like bruises and scrapes.
And every once in a while, something of value. Like a heart or a cast someone removed in the night, stripping someone else naked for the first time in years.
Those snapshots never yellow and those ghosts never fade. And about once a year, an exorcist comes through to blow faith around the room and make like the place is better. It’s not true, but religion has bad receptors for this kind of thing.