19th December 2022. I watched the soccer match that would forever be earmarked in history books as the most unbelievable game to ever take place. Kylian Mbappe had just scored against the Argentinian team. It was Kylian’s 11th consecutive goal against goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez, with 15 minutes still remaining on the clock. The Frenchman was on the cusp of being the first person in history to score a quadruple hattrick in a singular match.
The game was deplorable, and I couldn’t help but think how this may be another prime example of the corruption that riddled the soccer world. But logic competed with that thought. If it were a fixed match, one would assume the teams and players would attempt to mask it beneath a 3-2 or a 3-1 win—not a 12-0 landside. It begged the question though, how was Emiliano Martinez not blocking a single ball? Kylian Mbappe attacked from the same angle each time, executed the same footwork as he approached the goal, and kicked the ball into the same top right corner as he did all 11 times. And each time, Emiliano would dive left.
The game finished. Kylian scored the quadruple hattrick making history. Attendees of the soccer game, angry punters, even some fans of the winning team went into a primitive rage, rushing the field; even security was participating in the havoc. Destruction begun, goal posts were pulled down, turf trampled and moments before the cameras broke to post-game discussions you could see a Molotov enter the air above the crowd, suspended momentarily, before the camera transitioned to an after-match review with the commentators and some ex-professional soccer players.
I turned the tv off. There wasn’t going to be any more on the post-game destruction tonight, and what I would’ve missed will be covered in the news articles the following morning.
“Well, that was bizarre.” Jane said
“Tell me about it,” I replied, “I know soccer’s notorious for its riots, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that bad.”
“Hopefully those players made it to safety before anyone gets hurt.”
We continued eating dinner, the sheer curtain held in an updraft that obscured the view of the tv. We sat, troubled and in silence recounting the scenes that unfolded minutes earlier. The Molotov hanging in the air above the crowd was stained in my mind. I couldn’t help but imagine the news article tomorrow morning that would read something like: History Making Soccer Game Sends Fans into Rage, 8 Burned Alive, Dozens Injured. Not to mention the articles that would follow that: Emiliano Martinez Stands Down, Soccer Club Under Investigation.
“Let’s play a board game and take off our mind off things.” Jane said.
“It’s quite late—”
“Oh please, we need something to take our minds away from that horrible soccer game before we go to bed, otherwise we’ll be up late anxious, or have nightmares.”
“Okay then. What did you have in mind?”
Jane shuffled along the carpet, reached into the cupboard and pulled out Monopoly. She set up the board; distributed the cash and we selected our tokens. It had been a while since we played Monopoly, from memory that was for a good reason too. Monopoly, the global instigator of fights, turning sibling and against sibling, husband against wife, and marked the start of many silent treatments of disgruntled tenants of hotels on Oxford, Bond and Regent St.
I rolled first. The dice revealed a seven which landed me on the ‘chance’ tile. I collected a card from the chance deck and read it aloud: Your building and loan mature, collect $150.
“Typical." Jane snuffed. Jane shook the dice in her fists and casts them down. The dice came up seven. Jane plucked a chance card from the top of deck, her face gleaming with a smile, as if her fate was too also collect $150.
“Your—” She hesitated, “building and loan mature, collect $150”
“Bullshit. Let me see that.” I replied. The odds of rolling identical numbers and revealing identical cards must have been hundred-to-one odds. Her hesitation had to be a tell, a lie she failed to tell with conviction. She handed me the card, but she was telling the truth. “What are the chances of that?” I said, chuckling and embarrassed.
“Ha! See, I told you.” She replied. “And what can I say, I guess I’m just lucky.”
“Psssh-whatever you think.” I grabbed the die and proceeded to take my turn. I clasped the dice, and started scrambling them in my loose fist, “lucky number…” I threw the dice down. “Seven, again. How boring.” I grabbed my token and proceeded through to Northumb’nd Avenue.
Jane followed up with an additional seven. “We’re not going to get through this game very quickly at this rate.” She said. But as the turns unfolded, roll after roll, it seemed the two of us were incapable of rolling anything other than seven. We proceeded taking our turns, readily approaching ‘Go’. Turn after turn rolling the same number, Jane landing on the same tile after each roll. It wasn’t making any sense, but Jane didn’t seem fazed by it, rather, she sat their frustrated that she was mimicking my pace.
“Is this a joke?” I said, “are these the prank dice, weighted or something that force them to keep landing one side up?”
“Don’t be silly.” Jane replied, “Just roll the dice, this is getting boring.”
I quickly inspected the dice before the next throw. There wasn’t anything visually wrong with them, the numbers one to six were there, the dice did not seem to have an uneven weight distribution; not one that I could feel. I tossed the dice into the air, watching them rotate and spin erratically in the air. As they landed, it appeared they landed on numbers six and five, but as I leant in to verify, the dots on the dice seemed to almost reconfigure before my very eyes and it was yet another seven.
“This is silly” Jane declared, “You’re doing that on purpose. I’ve had enough and I’m going to bed.” She rose to her feet and stomped with frustration to the bedroom.
“I’ll be right behind you,” I said.
I grabbed the dice and threw them on the table.
Again, and again.
“Are you coming to bed or not?” Jane said, ending the sentence in an emphatic tone. The question was clearly rhetorical. It was more an ultimatum.
Sitting at in my cubicle the following day, between emails and paperwork, I rolled the dice on my desk. Each time, the same number kept repeating. I attempted to get a different result by placing one die on five, but the second dice I threw out would come up two. If I placed the first die on one, the die I threw would come up six. Alternating the numbers, and alternating which die was thrown did not vary the result. I felt hot under my collar. The desk-top fan could not stop the sweat beading on my forehead. Technically it was possible to roll a hundred sevens consecutively. In fact, you were probably more likely to roll a hundred sevens as opposed to a hundred different numbers, as there were a greater number of combinations, but to do so was still unprecedented.
In that moment, the office felt still. Motionless, just the sound of the fan whirring beside me, blowing cool air and the smell of dust from disturbed carpet. As if I were alone, but I wasn’t, and I could feel the eyes pressing at the back of my head and over my shoulder. I turned. The office sprung into full motion, or maybe it was already in full operation and it was my eyes that deceived me. People walking to and from, and up and down the halls. The dice were making me paranoid, but it still required an explanation.
Tim leaned into the office. “How are you going today?”
“Tim, I’m good. Come quick, you have to see this.” I replied
Tim sat against my desk. There were only two kinds of people in the office that sat on another’s desk; your colleagues you consider friends and the boss. Tim was the latter. I started showing him the phenomena of the dice.
“Come on, stop playing games” Tim said.
“I’m not playing games.” I replied, “I can’t help it, something weird is going on Tim.”
“It’s just luck. Nothing more.”
“No, it’s not—”
“Stop.” He said raising his voice. “Listen, you’re overreacting, they’re just dice. You need to go home, you're not well and quite frankly, you're unproductive."
“That’s an order.” Tim said with a stern voice. Then got up and walked back to his office.
Leaving the carpark, I felt deflated and embarrassed - maybe I was making a bigger deal out of it then I needed to. I started making my way home; making the lights at the intersection of James St, then again at Leonard St. Again, at Nicholson, and again through the center of town. Four lights, four lamps indicating green. The lights on Alfred St that intersected the highway were rarely green, stopping the highway even momentarily led to a backlog of vehicles congesting the town. The lights however, were green as well.
I made my way through the lights, and over the highway then slammed the breaks on and pulled to the side of the street. I walked up to the intersection, just watching the lights, awaiting their change. I stood at the pedestrian crossing, alongside an elderly woman and a young boy that was likely her grandson. Another two boys, teenagers on their bikes. All four of them staring blankly across the road awaiting the indication to walk.
The traffic lights were still not changing.
The drivers in their idling vehicles did not seem perplexed by their uncharacteristically long wait. In fact, as I approached the edge of the road, peering in through the windows they did not seem at all aware. Their faces remained expressionless at the wait of the lights that was lingering on five minutes now. A women stared back at me from the passenger window. I approached, stepping onto the road, the crunch of rocks beneath my feet seemed louder than the idling cars. I walked up to the window and bent down. The woman’s eyes were looking at me, but it was as if they were focused on the background behind me.
“Have you pressed the button?” I said to the elderly woman on the sidewalk, who’s hand was fixed around the young boys.
“Yes dear.” She replied. “You just have to be patient.”
“Would you mind if I press it again? Perhaps the button is faulty,” I said.
“Yes dear.” She replied, “You just have to be patient.”
Nothing made you feel smaller, asking someone ‘Would you mind…’ and having them respond with ‘yes. I would mind.’ I stood there in silence, unable to digest the words that were now fumbling in my head. How could this woman be so unreasonable?
Without provocation, the old woman started talking again.
“Yes dear. You just have to be patient. Yes dear. You just have to be patient. Yes dear---”
The sentence circled. Again and again.
I ran back to my car and stepped on the accelerator. The car squealed as the tires gripped the asphalt. I had to get home to Jane. I had to make sure she was safe. What if? The question surfaced in my mind, a thought I tried to suppress but like a drum, the words beat back to me time after time. What if Jane was like the elderly woman? A looping track of repeating words, perhaps she would be mute. Maybe I’d come to find her starting blankly out a window, washing dishes or using the loo, frozen in time like the people at the crossing. I turned my head as I drove down the road, it dawned on me that some people were also motionless. A woman watering the garden waved a hand at me, but a man two doors down stood still behind his mower; his lawn, with two rows freshly cut and the remaining overgrown. Trying to remain at a controllable speed, I entered a roundabout. A horn sounded, and suddenly I felt squeezed and glass crystals tearing through the cabin.
Awaking to the feint smell of disinfectant, my eyes blurred but began to focus upon a woman sitting by my bed—Jane. As I started to emerge from my weariness two things became apparent; I had a searing pain beginning at my right pinky toe extending up my right side and into my rib cage and I was in hospital. I extended my hand from the bed and nudged Jane from her sleep. Her eyes jolted open.
“You’re awake.” She said, “Oh honey, you had me so worried.” She leant down and embraced me, wrapping her hands as best she could around me.
“Sorry. Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’m alright, it’s just my ribs they’re awfully bruised.”
“You were on your way to work when you had a car accident.” Her eyebrow cocked with apprehension. “You don’t remember?”
“I—” The thoughts were muddled in my brain, but slowly coming back to me. I remembered the soccer match, then – what was it? – the game of monopoly that never finished. The memories even blurrier now, but a mosaic of seven’s filled my mind. “We watched the soccer. France beat Argentina 12-0, there was a riot and—a Molotov. Then--"
“The soccer ended in a draw.” She interrupted delicately, but insistent. “Argentina and France tied 3-3. Then we played Monopoly, you won and I got cranky. Then, without talking, because I was still upset with you, you went to work the following morning and got into a car accident on the way there. You must remember, don’t you?”
“It plays out a little differently in my head.” It did play out differently in my head, very differently. The memories started to return one by one, each one throwing me into a deeper state of suspense and confusion. The woman at the crossing, the motorist staring through the windscreen in an expressionless daze. Nothing was making sense. It wasn’t possible. “It’s probably just the accident and drugs talking, right?”
“Yeah. You did get hit quite hard.” She replied, her warm hand gently caressing my arm. A sensation that helped my mind focus on something comforting rather than the pain that was filling my body. “Your car is a write-off.”
“Can I use your phone for a moment? I assume mine got destroyed in the crash.”
Jane passed me her phone. It’s not that I didn’t believe her, but the memories that were surfacing in my mind were so vividly clear. I typed into the phone and brought up the match results of the game between France and Argentina. The score three all.
I arrived at home a fortnight later. On crutches, still feeling sorry for myself. But more importantly, two weeks in the hospital had given me ample time to think. I replayed the events following the soccer match, picturing both variations of the events that transpired. The variation Jane had provided me with: The soccer match that concluded with a draw, the monopoly game that finished with me winning and the following morning getting into a wreck on the commute to work. And the variation I remember: The post-game soccer riot, the sevens, speaking to Tim from work, and the woman staring at me through the window. This memory presumably fabricated within my own brain, seemed in a strange way, more believable than the other. The evidence was clear however, police reports, hospital admittance time and Jane’s story. Even after talking with Tim, who said he was worried once I didn’t show up for work and hadn’t bothered to phone in.
Jane went for a shower, and I sat there, stuck to the leather couch that was clinging to my perspiring skin. I heard the shower turn on down the hall, and in this moment of seclusion, something still did not sit quite right with me – the dice! I had the dice with me when I had the accident. I slumped from the couch and dragged myself to the tv unit. I promptly removed the board game cover and searched through the components, cards, money, board—and dice. I inspected the dice between my fingers, they seemed smaller, the corners more rounded, the shade of white and black slightly different but the difference was miniscule, so much so, it may even be my imagination.
I placed the dice into my hands, rattled them and let them flow from my hand and onto the coffee table. The first die settled, landing on a four, the second die, spinning but beginning to unravel into an unbalanced spin. My heart pounded in my chest; the die turned up two. I picked them up and started dispensing them like an ice machine in rapid succession. The collective numbers adding up to three. Then nine. Twelve and eleven. I placed them in my hands once more, but just like the office, the room stood silent. Jane was watching, or so it felt. I turned my head, but there was no one there, just a figment or dispersed dust, like the electrons in the air were cut and starting to settle, but a sliver of a moment later you ask yourself if it was anything at all, as if a car had gone speeding past your house, the sound is present but are you sure it was in front of your house you heard the speeding vehicle, or was it the street over? Was it wind that kicked up the dust? The sound dissipates and you wonder if there was car at all.