The game was simple.

She would watch each house as they drove by them, and she would talk about what issues bred inside. This was all she could do to keep her sanity on those long car rides to and from the hospital. They stopped at a light, and at the corner was a colossal red-bricked, three-floored mansion. Behind the house, one could see a pool where three teenagers were splashing each other. They were laughing and enjoying the sunshine that began to tan their skin. She, however, knew better.

"The teenager sitting on the edge of the pool is suicidal."



It was all about the game.



"The girl that just jumped in hasn't had her period in two months. I'm thinking...pregnancy. No, wait. Maybe it's anorexia. I suppose it doesn't matter."

"Honestly, must you insist on playing that game?"

"The father is having an affair with their maid."

Discouraged, her mother turned away and concentrated on the road. "We're almost there. Do you have everything?"

The girl turned away from the window just long enough to glare at her mother and motion towards the bag at her feet. Then she continued to gaze out the window, but it wasn't housees that she saw first. She startled herself with the reflection of her face in the glass. Passing landscapes acted as a background for her portrait, which as a reflection, acted as a ghostly reminder of the purpose of her car ride. Fleeting images of her many sleepless nights went through her imagination, along with the many stories she knew...the basis of her game all in a single flash of memory. She pushed the hair away from her face and looked into her sullen grey eyes, which were once a vibrant blue. Her cheeks were sunken into her face. Her lips were dry and cracked. She touched the glass with her hand, only to draw away quickly, mortified by her long, skeletal fingers.

Looking beyond herself, she continued her game.

This time, they were passing a white bungalow. Several cars were parked in the driveway and behind the house, and smoke was coming out the chimney. Loud, pumping music could be heard coming through the walls.

Her mother leaned forward to look at the house. "Looks like there's a party there, don't you think?"

The cheery atmosphere didn't fool the girl.

"The hostess is banging one of her husband's friends in the garage. Their daughter is getting high in the basement, and some guy just blackmailed some other guy."

This time, her mother pulled over to the side of the road. Gripping the steering wheel, she turned her head only far enough to see her daughter's profile. "Listen, I am getting pretty sick of you and your negativity. I suggest that you either contribute to a decent conversation or don't speak at all. Is that understood?"

The girl just stared out the window, unfazed by the lecture.

Frustrated, the mother pulled back onto the highway. More houses were passed as they entered the town, but this time the girl didn't speak. Playing the game inside her mind was more comfortable anyway. At least this way she could add more specific detail.

House after house glided by the window. So much unhappiness. So many problems. The issues began to bleed together, and weave themselves into a tapestry of corruption. Empathetic pain pulled at her heart, and a tear found itself rolling down her cold cheek. She knew what it was like, to feel like everyone else didn't matter. To feel like your lissues stood out above the rest. She couldn't help but know. She found herself rocking back and forth in her seat. The drugs were beginning to wear off.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Soon enough, she found herself sitting in a room with no windows. A man sat at a desk in front of her, tapping his pen against his lip in contemplation. She began to look around the room, intimidated by its many bookcases and few walls. The clutter seemed to close in on her. Looking away from the books, she focussed her attention on the floor. She made a note to herself to recommend a better carpet store.

"Your mother tells me that since out last visit, you have started playing a game." The man started speaking very carefully and slowly, like to a small child or simple adult. Being neither of those, she used silence as her defense. "Care to explain the rules to me?"

"There are no rules."

The man took note of this observation, especially highlighting the sharpened tone of the girl's voice. He continued to speak, this time in a less belittling way. "How do you play, then, if there are no rules?"

"You don't need rules. Just knowledge."

"Of what?"



This confused the girl. "I'm sorry?"

"Of what? Knowledge of what?

The girl looked up at the man. He was wearing a black vest over a white shirt, the way her father used to dress. She especially highlighted his eyes, which were hidden behind a pair of thick glasses, being the same colour as hers. Thinking of a response, one word came out. "Life."

"Knowledge of life?" The man put down his pen and leaned forward. "I don't understand."

At that point the girl recommenced the game. "How is she?"



"Who?"

"Your mother."

Taken aback, the man sat back in his seat. "I beg your pardon?"

"Cancer surgery can be stressful, especially when in the final analysis, it helps very little." She looked away from the man's gaping mouth and began to concentrate on the books. Soon, she focussed on his eyes as she asked her next question. "Did she take the news well?"

"The news?" The man's heart was racing.

"That she had three months to live."

The man took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes, which had begun to water at this point. Putting his glasses back on, he got out of his chair and began to pace, keeping his eyes on this girl, who had released his greatest emotion out of Pandora's box. He cleared his throat. "This knowledge-"

"Everybody has a secret. Something they hold back from the world for one reason or another. Sometimes they hide their secrets with makeup. Other times it's clothing, or wealth. But, in some cases, they just hide their secret in the back of their minds and carry on their daily business like nothing has happened. They create a fa├žade of normalcy. They go out in the world with their masks, and the sad part is, people believe them. Society is a costume ball. The reality is, if we don't expose ourselves, the knowledge will fester away at our brains, and we will actually think we are living amazing lives. So when the drama pokes through, the impact is that much greater. To know yourself and accept yourself is the greatest knowledge of all." She looked up at the man, who could not stop staring at this teenage prophet. He finally found the words he needed to respond.

"What is yours then? Your secret that you've been hiding?" She looked away, and he sat back down. "You said everyone had something to hide. What is yours?"

She stared off into a distant corner of the room, transfixed by an unknown speck on the ceiling. She breathed in, and seemed to force the air out as she looked away from the ceiling, bent over, and closed her eyes. She paused, then slowly looked up at the man, who sat waiting for a response. What he heard resonated in a tone of pure pain, as if the idea was too greatly saddening for speech to convey. "I have my game."

The man sat back. Pressing a button on his phone, he spoke to an unknown listener. "Please make sure the dosage for this patient is doubled." He looked back at the girl. Releasing the button, he motioned for her to leave.

She met her mother at the end of the hallway, who only stared at her like a dangerous animal. As they left the hospital, the girl noted that there were more bottles in the bag than before. It didn't matter. The game was always there. No amount of medication could conceal the truth. The truth that presented itself in her game.

The game that continued itself on the ride home.