For Whom The Die Rolls


“What is that?” said Chloe, peering over the top of the partition wall. Nick was rolling a small, yellow blob across his desk and it gave a plastic rattle as each of its fassets struck and turned. It was covered with printed numbers. “Is that a dice?”

“A die” Nick corrected, raising the item up between thumb and index finger. “Dice is plural, die is singular.”

“You know how you asked me out and I said ‘no’ and you wondered why?” Chloe replied and Nick nodded. “Yeah, that’s why. You’re too much of a smart arse. You knew what I meant. That looks like a dice – a die – but it’s got more sides?”

“Well dice don’t actually have to have six sides, it just happens that’s the most common format. This is a twelve sided die, a D12. You can have D20, D8 and even D4 as well.”

Chloe’s face went momentarily blank. Nick made a mental note that he’d gone too geeky. Best not even mention Dungeons & Dragons at this stage.

“Okay I get that. So why have you brought one to work?”

It probably did look odd, Nick admitted – this bright plaything, here amongst the fax machine and post-it notes, the process and the formality.

“Well I’ve decided to start deciding the outcome of everything in my life with Skill Rolls.”

“Skill Rolls?” Chloe spread her hands.

Nick and Chloe were really from different worlds and if it weren’t for work, their paths would likely never crossed. She watched X-Factor, he watched Doctor Who. But they got on well though, amused by each other’s relative oddities. In fact they got on really well and Nick was developing a crush on his strawberry blonde haired colleague, feelings he suspected might slowly be becoming mutual.

“A Skill Roll comes from…” Don’t say roleplaying. “Various types of game – boardgames, like boardgames. You use it to determine the likelihood of something happening. You pick a number between 1 and 12. The higher the number, the more tricky the task. Then you roll and if you get equal or higher, that means you succeed. Lower and you fail.”

Chloe just looked at him. The words did not see to exist to adequately convey her confusion.

“Okay, say I’m going to toss a coin. To get a head would require a Skill Roll of 7 because it’s 50:50. Me finishing all these reports before the end of the day… fairly easy so I’ll say a 3. This morning I did a Skill Roll of catching my bus – I reckoned I needed a 5 but rolled a 2. Lo and behold, the bus was just pulling away as I reached the stop.”

Just then, Nick’s phone began to trill. He answered it and Chloe got back to her work.

“Yeah – you’re mental” concluded Chloe once Nick has finished his call.

“Try it!” said Nick. “Let’s say I was to ask you out again. What would say the likeness is of you saying yes?”

“Oh that’s definitely an 11” said Chloe then reconsidered. “Actually, let’s say 10.”

Nick nodded, cupped his hands and gave the die a good shake around inside before letting it roll out onto the desk. Chloe stood up to get a clear view of the result and for a moment, both watched in silence. The die slowed, looked as if had finished on an 8 then turned one more time. It was a 10.

Nick gave the air a little punch.

“So does that mean…” said Chloe.

“It means – this Friday, you and I are going to the pictures together!”

Chloe did her best not to smile. “I guess we are then. You’re paying though.”

Nick nodded enthusiastically. He was already looking up film times.

“About time you two got on with it” mumbled Donovan the Accountant from the neighbouring quad. When they both turned to look at him, he added: “You’ve both been flirting like a couple of school kids for weeks now.”

“It is pretty obvious” Sally, next to him, chirped in.

Chloe looked set to object when the fire alarm went off.

“Do you think it’s a drill?” asked Nick over the drone after they had all just sat there for a few minutes. There was a bit of a funny smell coming from somewhere.

“Come on you lot – do you not hear that loud, ringing noise?” called Norm appearing in the doorway. He had already doned his fluorescent Fire Marshall’s vest, clipboard tucked under his arm. “Hurry up and get to the assembly point outside.”

Obediently, everyone in the office complied, getting up and only pausing to collect bags and coats before filing out of the building.

In the stairwell there was a thin mist of plasticy smelling smoke accumulating. Who would have thought it, there was actually a real fire somewhere in the building. By the time they reached the ground floor, the smoke was growing frightfully dense and people were starting to cough and push against one another as the building’s many occupants made a mass exodus.

Nick was relieved to finally get out and gulp a large mouthful of fresh air. Norm waved them over to where he was busily trying to tick names off his list.

“Hey, where’s your girlfriend?” Donovan the Accountant asked Nick.

“What do you mean? She’s right…” Nick turned. He had thought Chloe had been following behind him but now found she was nowhere to be seen. He scanned the faces of the surrounding crowds fruitlessly. “I don’t know where she is.”

“Have you seen Miss Butler?” Norm came over and asked. Both Nick and Donovan the Accountant shook their heads and Norm tutted with irritation.

“I’m going to quickly see if she’s still inside” said Nick and though Norm attempted to protest, was already pushing his way back to the entrance.

“Chloe!” Nick called once inside. It was almost impossible to see anything through the wall of black smoke. He bent low and started up the stairs. “Chloe!”

Nick’s eyes were quickly stinging and though he cupped his hands over his mouth and nose, the back of his throat tasted of over done toast. This was a terrible idea, he’d completely underestimated what it would be like in here. He couldn’t even see any flames. His hand found the twelve sided die in his pocket and he began to play with it nervously. He should turn back now, Chloe could well be waiting safely for him outside. But what if she wasn’t? The fire crews hadn’t arrived yet and this wasn’t just anyone. It was Chloe.

“Here!” called a voice softly as Nick reached the second landing. He looked down to see Chloe kneeling in a nearby corner. He squatted down to her level.

“Some idiot shoved me and I went over on my ankle” she said. It’s too sore to walk on.”

“Come on, I’ll help you” said Nick, putting his arm around her waist to help her up. For a moment he thought about pushing his lips against hers but resisted.

Together they shuffled in the direction Nick had thought would lead back down but took them smack into a wall instead. Nick cursed. He could actually feel the soot and smoke collecting inside his lungs now.

Their legs brushed as they walked and the plastic lump in Nick’s pocketed prodded into Chloe. “Is that a twelve sided die in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?” she said, trying to lift their spirits.

Nick fished the D12 out as though feeling the need to prove that that really was the culprit. They both laughed which turned into a splutter. Somewhere above them glass shattered.

“So what do you think the chance of us getting out of here okay is?” Chloe asked.

“I don’t know” Nick replied. “A 12 probably.”

It wasn’t in his nature to be so pessimistic but things had gotten so bad so quickly. He found himself with a newly earned fear of fire – just ten minutes ago they had been sitting, laughing in a comfortable, brightly lit office. So quickly their familiar surroundings had become transformed into this nightmare.

Finally Nick’s feet found the stairs and, with the sudden drop, he lost his balance and stumbled. The die slipped from his sweaty fingers and fell to the step below. With a rattle, it rolled over the edge and out of sight.

“No!” shouted Nick in horror. “No, that wasn’t a proper roll! That doesn’t count!”

Title image courtesy norton8

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Published in: on September 30, 2011 at 11:03 AM  Comments (12)  

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Kinda horrifying to imagine that someone might base their life on the rolls of the die…

    Cliffhanger, that one!

    • It is but then when you think about – gamblers all over the world do it every day! Obviously they’re less likely to die of smoke inhalation though.

  2. Wow, that’s sort of a dark ending, there. For something that began so whimsically… that sort of came as a surprise.

    • That is the nature of the dice roll – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and lose bad.

  3. But it still counts! You need another part! Do they live?

    • I am getting bad for writing stories that feel like there should be more to them now but for this one I think it works. The uncertainty of their fate mimics the feeling you get when you roll a dice yourself.

  4. Oh that did end a bit dark, now as a reader I have to decided did they get out or not? did he retrieve the die and throw it again? Gee all this questions and not answers LOL

    Good story just enough to leave the rest to our imagination. ^__^

    • Thanks Helen. I do feel a little guilty about building up such a sweet relationship only for it to be thrown into such peril. I’d like to think they’ll survive as well but the odds are against them.

  5. I think it says a lot about him that he’s more bothered that he lost his die, rather than the fact he just found the stairs. Some superb characterisation here.

    • I think he’s more concerned about what number the die will land on but yes – our hero really needs to sort his priorities out.

  6. This stirs uncomfortable memories of my roleplaying hobby doubling as a romance repellant.

    And the “that wasn’t a proper role” line was well observed. I’ve been *there* before!

    • Yes “not a proper roll” is taken from my own youth as well – “you’ve got to roll it properly! it doesn’t count if you’re just sliding it onto the table”. Need to give the die a good shake first.


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