Lift-off. In space. A familiar flight with familiar forces pinning one down. It could be an arcade game except that this is no flight simulator, there’s something deadly in the air, it’s life-and-death over a handful of gaudy discs. Maybe as much as several handfuls, a tray-load, more even, there’s a fortune on hand, one has to kill, to triumph, to swindle, to outgun, to lull, to wait with intent, to strike – and to know when to fall back, to switch off, to let a skirmish go, to wait, to wait again, to strike and strike hard. These coins, these counters are the stuff of life, nothing in themselves but the only thing, the tumbling cascade at the back of it all, the gold-dust, the perfect solution. Manoeuvre. Wait. Take. Grab.

The instruments we fly with, the control panel, the apparatus at our finger-tips, thin slides of information with constantly changing values, numbers that perform acrobatics, colours and shapes that can mean nothing or the world, that can conjure up tricks out of this world, these are commonly known as the cards. They operate in pairs, threes, fives at the most, yet sometimes a single high card can win. Sometimes a paltry hand, with mixed colours and numbers that mean nothing, can knock out a state-of-the-art collection, if the first owner has touched the right invisible levers at the right time. It’s a mind-game, this is the space we’re in, ducking and dodging and diving and . . .

Delivering. And the little mountains grow. Or all is lost. Pack up. Go home. There’ll be another time to take off, to creep up on the side, or simply to scythe in, carve through, swipe another’s stack, round up the glittering piles. To win.

I’m back after a night of epic. Shooting-stars are in my mind, terrific wins and terrible losses, a fading picture of constellations, duelling swords in the air, distant explosions as other worlds have ignited to extinction, played their all and lost. Or they have usurped space-kingdoms, played a blinder, left contrails to linger of a glittering orbit, won the field.

My mind is no more than the green baize of a poker table. Nine hours at the feet of Lady Luck and I’m done. As I drift off all I see is that trim lawn, cards, cards falling like leaves, and at the back of it all a spinning wealth of air, those dancing chips.                

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