We were alone for years, and more than alone, alone among the larger mass of humanity and therefore doubly alone; mere isolation ends and must end with the first human figure to break the horizon, but our secret was so deeply etched into our hearts that the crowded streets were deserts tenanted by lizards and scorpions and owls. We never grew reconciled to our loneliness – we are still and forever pack animals – but we grew wise in it, skilled in it, crafty in our seclusion; too clever, too habituated, perhaps, for when we began to find each other we were scaresome and wild as any wild dog, all eye and tooth and growl. How we fought in those early days, ourselves and each other, blood and dominance, ambush and retreat, over and over as we struggled against years of living outcast and untrusting.
The games grew out of this fighting, a way to bridle our worst selves and rank each other: a man was worth so many points, a woman so many, a young child or baby so many more. It was our revenge, too, on a world that had kept us apart for so many years and against ourselves for letting it. Even as we rose and fell on the ladder, even when mad with the joy of the game we knew we were putting the long knives to our throats. Sooner rather than later they would turn and see us at last, and in that sight we would wither and blow away; but we were together at last, and while we lived we’d hunt.