Eleven

It's my symbol, I guess. I'll always be just short of the end and past it at the same time. One cookie less than a dozen, one hour away from midnight. A cent more than a dime, a year after a decade. More than a handful, certainly, but I'll try to stay quiet and not let anyone get a hold of me from the start. It's dangerous to get too close. In a base ten world, I'm just off the scale. Hovering out of reaching for those trying to understand. Not that many are looking or counting. And those who are are either dangerous or just like me. Or both.

I'm always one more or one less.

I can be both at once. Two halves identical and opposite. One monster against the other. A living yin-yang. Balance means I can't belong. Just as the enlightened cannot go back to walking amoung commoners, so I no longer belong to either world. I'll just drift quietly. I'll just watch. There's no peace, though. One is always consuming the other, but they devour each other at identical rates. Stay in check. One and one.

Take it in pieces and subtract one half from the other and you're left with nothing. Zero. Put me with others and all they'll see is mirrors of themselves. I'll sneak in quietly, then sit and wait. I'll become invisible. The way I like it. Smoke and mirrors. Here and then gone, with nothing to talk to but yourself. Your own reflection. And I'm zero again, just one more than a whole and one less than the chime of Tomorrow. Myself and I. Zero.

Zandris calls me Blackjack. He's always been a gambler, a charmer, the happy-go-lucky who walks the night streets of New York with a bold face and bright eyes. He's the only one who calls me Blackjack. And I've watched him play. He's good. Like he says, it's you just against the dealer. When Fate dealt my cards, did she cheat me? Who knows. You never know the outcome until you turn over the second card. Your first card is a face, but will your second be an ace or a useless number? A number would just be a personality trait, a meaningless way of categorising who you are. A face and an ace and you'd win. 21, or 11. A face and a number and you'd simply have a chance. How do you play the game of Life?

I looked it up years ago, back when books were my only friends, the only ones I could turn to when the darkness faded from the sky to flood my mind. I remember what it said: it's a the mix of chance with elements of skill and decision-making based on the cards that have been dealt.

So that's it, then.

Fate sets the foundation and you cut the path, only ever half in control.

And believe me, I know about control. My control is the one thing I can't control.