"The thing about Heisenball," Paulie tells me with a grin on their face, "is that you can't win. But you can't lose, either. Not really. It's not about the game."
"Yeah," I say. "I know. You've told me like a million times." Ever since we started dating, I add in the privacy of my own head. Even if this is the first time I've asked for a game, it doesn't mean I'm stupid.
The court's smaller than I'd thought it would be: a square about three paces across set inside a hexagon twice as large. The walls are a shimmery purple colour that changes slightly every time I look away and back again.
"You don't have to do this, you know," Paulie says as they set the ball in the center of the square. "I don't blame you for anything."
I shrug, looking away. This is why I'm ending it, I want to tell them. I'm sick of your measured disinterest, your magnanimous bullshit justifications. Why can't you admit it when things hurt you?
Instead, I ask: "What's up with the walls?"
"Let's just start the...
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Stewart C Baker is an academic librarian, speculative fiction writer, and occasional haikuist. His fiction has appeared in Writers of the Future, Nature, Galaxy’s Edge, and Flash Fiction Online, among other places. Stewart was born in England, has lived in South Carolina, Japan, and California (in that order), and currently resides in Oregon with his family—although if anyone asks, he’ll usually say he’s from the Internet. You can find him at infomancy.net or on Twitter and Facebook as @stewartcbaker