After a journey of many seasons, you come upon a ladder at the foot of a tree. A cheerful rodent beckons you upward, into a treehouse where you find a gathering of travelers. The travelers silently contemplate the grid of cards that appears mysteriously before them. Where did they come from? The travelers first divine a message from what they see, before taking turns rearranging the cards to tell their story.
The travelers agree that each will choose two cards to be their own.
Penny starts a spiral by setting the highest card aside and sliding her first choice over into its place. It seems to suggest the waving green of the fields that surround us, as well as the nearby spring, perhaps made salty by the travelers’ tears. Perhaps it even subtly suggests . . . that the creator who bore this world was male.
Wade removes the card below Penny’s to place his first card. His expression indicates that he fears it may be a trap; hopefully it will not prove to be an unlucky choice.
Next, Brendan chooses his first card, forming a line with Penny and Wade’s. Someone powerful, or powerfully clever, had been involved with the building of this treehouse. The card’s depiction of an animal noted for its long memory is unsettling.
Penny looks over the discards and swaps one with the last card in the column. Not just one animal, but a menagerie, indicating a world full of opportunities, both good and ill.
Mickey moves next. He slides an untouched card into an adjacent position. Opportunity, sure, but experience had taught that access to the airwaves comes at a cost. He who holds the keys needs to be placated.
Tracey fills a vacant position with a discard, her selection asserting her significance in the creation of this world, a leading lady, working like a horse to help create a buzz.
With a strained look, she sets aside a thoughtful man, and chooses her second card. Her choice indicates that she became tangled in her own scheme. By the sidelong glances of the other travelers, you suspect they too feel caught, even now, decades after any of their particular seasons.
Gillian promptly claims Tracey’s discard, moving it to the closest vacant spot. Although she considers her options carefully, she too sees no escape.
Winona retrieves a cast off card and nervously nudges a scary card off the grid in order to place hers. Had she tried merely flying away?
Brendan claims an untouched card, sliding it to an empty space adjacent to Winona’s. Though it shares his first card’s overall meaning (indicated by the shared number), it is gentler, more open to different wisdom.
Wade moves another untouched card adjacent to Brendan’s, claiming it. Echoing his first card, taking risks had left him hanging.
Winona claims a card and slides it in a straight line, matching Sun to Sun. This world has its delights, like the original garden. Perhaps they were merely spoiled by the knowledge of the world they’d lost in coming here.
Mickey selects a cast off card, responding to the suggestion in Winona’s second card. Knowledge is the Moon’s light in the darkness, and probably the only way they’d find an escape.
Gillian merely shifts the last untouched card on the board horizontally. There’s comfort, at least that they did not want for the fruits of the surrounding field, even if they could never reach them.
The travelers then turn to Nichelle, who has not yet joined in the silent storytelling. While awaiting her response, you muse on the arrangement. Everyone else had claimed their cards, the last two must be hers. Even with the remaining spaces and remaining cards, none would end where they started. The corners, by their summed numbers, made a cube. The top row similarly made a square. Winona’s cards; cube. Gillian, Penny, and Wade; squares.
Nichelle finally turns to the group, resigned. She does not hesitate to place a card that shows the ladder you thought you had used to reach the treehouse had been an illusion, but the great height was very real. No one would survive that jump.
She places the last card, completing the spiral and confirming your suspicions that even if you sought such an exit from this silent prison, the tricky juggler would just retrieve your falling bodies and put you back. Slowly, it dawns on you that their story is born of sad experience. The treehouse begins to swim before your eyes as the Happy Squirrel’s chittering rings out, laughing at you all!