Game Poem 40: The Pact

The Pact is a game for two players. The players were best friends as children, and at some point, made a promise to each other, like children do, that if one of them was ever turned into a vampire that they would turn the other one into a vampire as well, so that they could be best friends together forever. At the time, both children knew that vampires didn’t really exist, of course, so after a while the promise was forgotten as juvenile fancy, and there would be no further talk of vampires as they grew up together.

Play begins sometime after childhood, and follows the friends through their lives. The goal of the game is for the players to stay together, and avoid murdering each other.

Before starting, you will need to find a regular deck of playing cards. Remove all of the clubs and spades, and one heart card; shuffle the black cards together and, without looking at them, deal out a deck of fifteen black cards. Add the heart card to those, shuffle them well, and deal a stack of eight cards face down to each player. One player should now have a stack of cards with a random mix of eight spades and clubs, and the other will have seven mixed black cards and one heart, but neither player will know who has which cards yet.

The game will consist of a series of seven short scenes or conversations that take place between the friends throughout their lives. Each scene represents a specific period in a player’s life: their teenage years or high school, college age, their early twenties, early thirties, forties, their retirement, and finally their old age. The players will most likely remain close friends during these years, interacting with each other as friends do; at the very least they will find an excuse to meet every once in a while to catch up with each other.

Every scene will begin with each player looking at the top card in their stack, noting it privately, and then putting it aside. If they draw a club, their side of the interaction will be a positive one, or good things will have happened to them, and they will share their happiness with their friend. If their card is a spade however, they will behave negatively towards their friend for some reason, and that reason will likely come up during their conversation at some point. They will still be friends, of course, but it’s possible that something bad has happened between them – perhaps a betrayal or loss of some sort. The two friends may have pulled similar cards, or opposite ones; the key is to interact with each other genuinely, behaving as dictated by the card drawn without being so extreme as to put the other off, one way or another.

Each scene between the players shouldn’t last more than a few minutes, five or six at the most. When it is time to move on, the players should find a reason to part, turn up their next card, and jump forward in time to play out the next scene.

At some point during the game, one of the players will turn up the heart card. This means that they have somehow become a vampire. The specifics of how this happened is not important, and should not be discussed with the other player. It is now up to this player whether or not to honor the pact that they made as children. If they choose to curse their old friend to an eternity of undeath, effectively killing the person that they’ve known their entire lives, they may do so at any time after they’ve received their heart card by showing it to the other player. If they do decide to turn their friend into a vampire as well, the game ends immediately. Put away the cards, and do not speak of it again.

However, if the vampire player wishes to spare their old friend, they will simply behave as though the heart card, and every other card they turn up afterwards, is a spade. They may now see their friend as beneath them, a source of food, as mere cattle at worst, or weak, shivering prey at best. Perhaps they fear for their friend’s safety now, and prefer to maintain a certain distance between them, so that their old companion may live out the life that they themselves no longer can. Perhaps they pity them, seeing them as inferior to what they have become, or it could be that they wish to spare their friend the pain and thirst they now know, or maybe they simply believe that the mortal player doesn’t deserve the gift of death and life that they have received.

Whatever the reason, the vampire will continue to push their friend away, no matter what card they turn up in subsequent turns. They will never reveal the reason for their coldness – unless they decide to turn the other player – but they will go on treating their childhood friend worse and worse, until the very end. (A note on aging and looks: For the purpose of this game, the vampire may alter their physical appearance to take on whatever age appropriate, so as not to alert their friend to their ghastly condition.) They must be careful to not be too obvious as to the reason why they are behaving so – at any time, if one player believes that the other has been turned into a vampire, they may destroy them instantly by revealing a spade card that they have just drawn. This will kill the other player whether they are a vampire or not, so be careful – murdering your friend will cost you the game. Either way, end as above, as if one player had turned the other, quietly.

Through seven ages, the friends will come together, reminisce over their shared history, discuss changes in their lives, speculate about their future, or just enjoy each other’s company. As time goes on, the relationship may become more and more strained, or they may find a way to look past whatever lies between them, and remain close and true to each other until the time comes for old age to finally take one of the two.

At the end of the seventh turn, the players will draw their eighth and final card from their decks. At this point, one of them will know for sure that they are a vampire; the other will know that they are not, and will end the game by announcing, “And then, I die…” The vampire player may finish in one of two ways: by saying, “…and I don’t.” Or, if they wish to turn their childhood friend in their very last moments, they may say, “…no, you don’t.” In either case, they reveal their heart card, wherever it may have come up in their lifetime. The dead may go on living, but the game has ended.

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