Lords of Apeiron
by Brian Gene Olson
The Creator slumbered on her golden lotus, dreaming a universe. Her head swirled with colors—crimson, turquois, chestnut, shimmering emerald—melding together, spilling apart, melding again, suffusing the canvas of the artist-dreamer.
She stretched her ivory arms and yawned. From her mouth issued forth the two primal beings, Fate and Free-will. They each in turn stretched their own long-slumbering limbs, then sat down at a little gaming table which seemed to have been left for them on the shoreline by the receding tide.
They had played thousands of games at that table. Long ago it had been decreed that before the Creator could bring a dream universe into physical manifestation, the two primal beings would have to face off, the winner of the contest then becoming its sole ruler and the loser returning to the slumber of non-manifestation. The universe would exist for a cycle, then fall into dissolution and die, whereupon the creator goddess would once again drift off to sleep on her cosmic flower to begin the cycle anew. Thus had things always been.
Upon this occasion, however, there was a problem: neither Fate nor Free-will could agree on which game to play.
Fate suggested a game of chance.
Free-will shook his head. “The problem, dear brother, is that I’ve lately noted a curious correlation between the type of game you choose and that game’s outcome–namely that every time we play a game of chance, you win and claim the universe as your own. Let us instead play a game of skill. That is the only fair way to determine who should rule.”
“Maybe not so fair,” Fate considered, “for now that you mention it, I’ve noticed a similar correspondence between games of skill and your own victories.”
Fate insisted upon playing a game a chance. Free-will demanded a game of skill. Neither one would budge from his position.
“Behold,” said Free-will, and he indicated the lotus upon which the Creator was once again stirring. “The great mother any moment now opens her far-seeing eyes and wills a world into being. We have never before failed her. We must decide the matter now.”
Fate, sensing the urgency of the problem, seemed to come up with a solution. “How about a hand of poker?” Even as he asked the question, he thought to himself, Chance shall deal me the winning hand.
Likewise Free-will thought, With my skillful poker face I’ll bluff my way to an easy victory. He smiled. “Agreed. A hand of poker. The winner, as usual, takes all.”
* * *
The sages tell this tale of our world’s creation, and upon so much they are in agreement. There is among them, however, some dispute over how the story ends. Some claim that Free-will won this world through his skill, others that Fate was dealt a hand Free-will couldn’t beat. Still others say that, on this one occasion, the two violated the eternal decree; that they so enjoyed playing their game they continued even into our universe’s physical manifestation, with the world continually changing hands, sometimes going to Fate, other times to Free-will, always with the loser asking the winner, “Brother, just one more hand?”
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Brian Gene Olson
Brian Gene Olson lives and writes in Western Washington state.