The Game of Diamond and Djiit
by Brenda Anderson
Danny raised his tray and tried to slip through the
crowd blocking the corridor. Armed guards posted outside
the hotel’s premier conference room eyed him. Danny
steadied his coffee cups. One guard whispered something
to his neighbour, and for an instant Danny had an
uninterrupted view of the large room they guarded. Heads
bent low, hotel staff were crawling across the plush
maroon carpet, probing its depths with their fingertips.
Danny remembered now. An hour ago Mega Diamonds’
fabulous ‘Mizar’ diamond had gone missing in this room.
Everyone looked worried.
High on the far wall, something caught Danny’s eye. He
stared. A girl in white pyjamas, eyes wide with terror,
launched out from the mezzanine balcony. Her body
separated into a thousand thin, wafer-like pieces that
spread outward in a wide arc, each piece drifting down
light as a feather. The individual pieces of her face
and her mouth, still open, moved in a curious wave, up
and down. Her now far-flung arms continued the wave,
while the rest of her body, separating further, drifted
light and white in the air above the conference room.
dropped his tray. Coffee cups hit the floor; coffee
splashed everywhere. The guards trained their weapons on
him. Danny raised his hands. The Head of Security
materialized beside him and patted Danny down just as
the floor manager ran up.
–dropped it. S-sorry, Mr Brand.” Danny kept his hands in
up.” Brand clapped his hands. “Show’s over. Back to
work.” He turned to the guards. “Relax.”
floor manager opened his mouth. Brand cut in. “Get rid
of him. Get rid of everyone. And Leon,” frowning, “get
nodded, closed the conference doors and dragged Danny
down the corridor. “What’s up? Dropping trays? Hell,
you’re our best waiter.”
thousand-piece girl reappeared directly behind the floor
manager. What am I, going mad? Danny swallowed.
He’d be fired, for sure. He could survive on nothing,
but his parents? That was different.
Leon studied him. “You look like you’ve seen a
Danny almost nodded. What sort of girl
separated in a thousand pieces? Even now, she floated
behind the manager, doing slow flips in the air. Her
mouth went up and down, uncertain as a child’s sketch.
“I’m really sorry. I don’t know what happened.” In a
rush he added, “I’ll clean up.”
job now.” Leon turned back. “Beat it.”
The separate pieces of the girl swirled closer to Danny
and her larger-than-life mouth trembled. In a strained
voice she said, “No-one else in that room saw me.” Her
individual mouth parts wobbled, as if she were fighting
off tears. “So, you’re Danny. You’re in trouble now.”
Danny edged away. He needed help. Even this apparition
knew it. A missing diamond was one thing, but dropping
coffee cups and talking to phantoms was something else
again. Worse, phantoms who seemed to know him. “Who …”
“Listen to me! Lng is coming.” In her mouth the name
sounded unpleasant. “Follow me.” She floated away.
“I said, listen!” This time her voice was harsh. “Lng
will win if he finds that you’ve seen me. He might get
nasty. If you stay very close to me, I can shield you
from his touch. He’ll do anything to win. Now, walk down
Fine. It did seem the only way out. Even Leon had told
him to beat it. Danny rubbed his forehead. “Let me
guess: I can’t even see this Lng but he’s going to win?”
He was pretty sure no headache pills would make this
girl disappear. “Who are you, anyway? How did you know
“Later. Winning’s the thing. We play for high stakes.
You will not like Lng’s touch.”
the hotel hadn’t been in lockdown he could get help, but
the ‘Mizar’ diamond had put a stop to that. Most people
had congregated in or near the conference room, which
left the corridors relatively empty. Somehow, Danny had
never felt so cornered. “Did you take the diamond? Is
that what this is all about?”
planned to tell you about that.” This time she sounded
sulky. “It’s safely hidden inside the cushion on the
fourth armchair from the door. Scanners won’t pick it
up. This loses me points.”
Danny spun round, scattering various pieces of the girl.
“What kind of game is this? Point scoring? Look, the
diamond élite of this planet are back there. They booked
the entire floor. No-one messes with Mega Diamonds. And
how do you know my name, anyway?”
“That’s tricky.” She sounded uncomfortable. “Look, you
bought into our game, but it’s not one you can play. The
rules are flexible, but not that flexible. Walk faster,
the corridor ahead of Danny a middle aged couple let
themselves out of their room and began walking towards
him. He gave them a professional smile as they crossed
paths. Their courteous nod reinforced the reality that
he alone could see this girl. He was the odd man
out. Wait. He’d been doing fine until this girl turned
up. Jumping off balconies, breaking into a thousand
pieces: by what definition could this be called a game?
“This Lng, is he flexible, too?” he asked. “Or just
thousand swirling parts of the girl marked time, as if
hesitating. “He has no fixed appearance.”
obey the rules,” she said. “Free-fall mode demands I
choose my body with precision. A body, falling. This
present one, the girl,” she gave a swirl, “I seized from
a window sill in a burning house, on the other side of
the planet. One point to me. Imminent death is rated in
various ways ...”
“You mean, you’re playing with a real girl’s body? I
don’t believe you,” cried Danny. “How?”
plucked her from death. A young girl. She would have
died a horrible death, believe me. Until I restore her,
she is my vehicle. In purely physical terms, she’s
Danny stopped. “And her house?”
“Burned to the ground.”
swallowed. “What about her family?”
uncertain expression returned. “Burnt, too.”
Danny felt cold. He began walking again. “This Lng of
yours can pop up anytime, in any shape, and he’s
dangerous, is that what you’re saying?”
“Yes and no. It all depends,” she said. “Right now, I’m
playing against him. Sometimes we’re partners. Not right
now. Of course, that can change any minute.”
feet ahead a flicker of fire sprang up from the carpet.
“Nice try.” Unlike the girl’s, this voice was deep.
“Four points to me.”
– I was going for demerit points.” She sounded
defensive. “You know that, Lng. I had to. You know that,
flame twisted higher. “Ha ha. Watch me tickle his feet.”
“No!” cried the girl. Danny jumped back.
“Oho.” The flame curled in on itself, as if recoiling.
“The human moved. He heard you? Can he see you? Us? It’s
“Lng, he can,” the girl whispered. “It’s Danny.
This upsets everything. He knows about us.”
“Danny? Impossible. What, he’s talking to you?” A hoot
of derision. “After what you did to his parents?”
“Lng, be quiet!”
“You two,” Danny cut in. “Okay, it’s established. I’m
actually here. Talk to me! What’s this about my
flame sidled up to the girl. “He doesn’t know. You
haven’t got to that bit?”
started.” The girl sounded unhappy. “I started to
explain about the demerit points.”
“Danny, meet Dilly.” Lng’s voice sharpened. “Twenty
years ago, when you were four years old, she muffed a
touchdown near your home town. Your parents were out
late that night. There was a fire.”
Danny’s heart constricted. He knew the rest. The entire
woods had been burnt to a crisp. The intense heat had
given his parents shocking burns, but also blinded them.
They’d struggled to raise him from that point in time,
always trying to understand what had happened. The
mysterious fire had never been accounted for. Was this
“You’re Dilly?” Danny turned to the girl, now floating
dispiritedly beside him. “That was you?”
Dilly dipped and swayed. “The best we could do, as
recompense, was put you into this job. You received a
letter offering you a position here, didn’t you? Of
course you did. That’s why you’re working here. This gem
summit was booked decades ago. The reward for finding
the diamond ...”
“Diamond?” Danny nearly choked. “What’s a bloody
diamond compared to what you did to my parents? Their
burns are unbelievable. They suffer terrible pain, all
the time. Even now they can hardly move and their faces,
their skin ...” He swallowed. “Yet they raised me. If
you’re so smart, can’t you at least give them their
told you. Rules,” she whispered.
Danny swore: long, hard, bitter words that didn’t begin
to touch the pain. When he finished, there was silence.
“Dilly,” said Lng. “It’s time.”
“What, you’re heading off?” cried Danny. “This is just
some pit stop on the way? So, what about that girl?
You’re going to dump her somewhere? You’re criminals,
you two. Someone should lock you both up.”
“You don’t understand: you saw me.” Dilly’s
voice sounded close to tears. “I couldn’t get to your
mind fast enough. You caused a commotion. Otherwise, I
would have given you a picture of exactly where the
diamond is. Even now, it’s still there, concealed in
that armchair cushion. If, as I planned, you’d claimed
your reward, I would have regained two points, to make
up for that touchdown. Look, I wasn’t even supposed to
land on this planet. It should have been another sector
five galaxies across. Navigation was never my thing.”
“Still isn’t,” murmured Lng.
“What difference does that make, now?” cried Danny. “I
asked about the girl. Can you concentrate, for once?”
“You don’t understand,” said Dilly. “Timespace is a
grid. We do flips, see? The girl? I picked her up just
after that touchdown. A different country entirely. I
told you, the other side of the planet.”
Danny stared at her. “You mean, you’ve used her body
all that time? Twenty years?”
Dilly’s various parts did a shimmy. “She’s safe. Not
dead. I rescued her, remember. What’s the problem?”
“Problem?” Danny struggled for words. A young couple
walked down the corridor towards him, and he gave them a
vague smile. When they’d passed he said, “What are you
going to do now?”
“Collect that reward, for you,” said Dilly. “You can
send the money to your parents. Plus, I need those two
“Even with demerits,” boasted Lng, “I’ll beat her.”
“You’re unbelievable, you two,” Danny said, with
disgust. He’d reached the end of the corridor. Before
him lay the large hotel foyer and beyond the front
doors, the real world. “What’ll it take for you to
promise never to come back?”
laughed. “We can’t promise. Rules.”
“You’ve got to be joking,” he said. “What’s this game
both made a twitchy movement, as if he’d said something
game,” they said, with emphasis. “Danger. Scores. You
Danny swore. “No, I don’t! The least you can do is leave
the little girl here. You owe her that.”
“Little girl? Ha. Remember, twenty years have elapsed.
Anyway, you owe me two points. Take the
reward,” said Dilly.
“How?” cried Danny. “If I go back into the conference
room, head straight for that armchair, find the diamond,
they’ll arrest me! They’ll think I stole the diamond and
hid it to claim the reward. After all, how could I
possibly know where it is? Think about that for a
gave an uneasy wriggle. “He’s right. We miscalculated.
Down another four points. And I still don’t know how he
can see us. No-one else has. He’s the first.”
crowd of people exited the foyer, passing close to
Danny, who tried to look professional. They haven’t
fired me yet. One woman gave him a curious look.
If only she could see what I’m really
doing: making sense of some game involving the
kidnapping of some little girl … or was it, rescue?
Wait! Stupid! Danny almost smacked his own forehead.
I see things other people don’t. I have a natural
advantage. Suddenly he made up his mind. Two can
play this game. So you guys don’t think I can play?
need points?” he said, when the corridor had emptied.
“You gave my parents twenty years of pain. Take that
away! Surely that’s something you could win points for?”
“Ye-es, maybe. If we succeed,” Lng sputtered. “Pain is
an element we could remove, but we can’t guarantee total
success. There might be a cost.”
“Cost? You mean money? What about the diamond?” Danny’s
heart skipped a beat. The thought of his parents living
without pain suddenly overwhelmed him.
appeared to be doing some calculations. “We take the
diamond, he gets the reward? Mm, could work. It might
cancel the touchdown.”
opened his mouth to speak.
late,” said Dilly. “Someone’s just found it. Goodbye
thought you said it was well hidden?” Danny said,
was, but a hotel employee has just found it. What a
liar! He’s faking some fit or other. They’re searching
him, not finding it. Wait. They’ve called an ambulance.”
A distant siren began to wail. Danny stood rigid. Did
this leave him back where he started? He was so close!
The lobby doors swung open and an ambulance team pushing
a gurney rushed past. Danny stepped back to let them
pass. Surely, somehow, there was something he could win
from this game?
can tell you where he’s hidden the diamond,” said Lng.
“We’ll still get those twenty points.”
...what about my parents?” Danny exploded. “What about
the girl? Point scoring is all you can think about?”
“Yes.” Dilly’s voice pitched higher. “Ooh, look. Coming
up, greasy fried eggs: two bonus points, up for grabs!
Lng, I’m going to beat you! Watch me jump into not one,
but two new bodies! Slippery dip, here I come!”
A maid carrying a breakfast tray advanced down the
corridor towards the medical team
pushing a man on a gurney.
voices whispered in his ear: “He’s hidden the diamond
under his belt buckle. Claim it, now!”
“How? They’ll throw me in jail!” said Danny. “How could
I possibly know that?”
“Tell the truth: say you saw something. It’s a
preternatural gift,” said Lng. “Perhaps the touchdown
that robbed your parents of their sight actually did
give you something extra. How else can you see us?
You’ve got a gift. Play it for all it’s worth.”
Clutching her tray, the maid stepped back as the medical team swept past.
On the tray Danny saw two fried eggs do a flip, giggle
and break into little pieces.
He looked up. Against the wall behind the medical team,
a female figure took shape. Of course! Dilly had
returned the girl’s body. To hell with it, he thought.
By accident he’d bought into this game. He’d play it for
all he was worth.
“It’s under his belt buckle!” Danny cried, pointing.
“It’s him! He’s got the diamond!”
Gurney man jack-knifed upright. Instantly, medicos and
hotel staff pinned him down. Someone in uniform pounced
on the belt. The maid, balancing her tray, passed the
gurney and continued down the corridor, with suspended
egg pieces trailing after her.
a shout, the uniformed man held the diamond high.
Everyone cheered. Danny turned his attention to the
girl, who had finally taken shape against the wall. He
blinked. Blushing, an attractive dark-haired young woman
in a singlet and micro skirt tried to cover herself with
her hands. One by one, heads turned to stare at her.
“Who the hell’s that?” said someone. Still staring at
the girl the medicos strapped the man down.
young woman appeared to understand the question. “Zulya,”
she whispered and, nervously at first, then with
increasing confidence, began a torrent of words in a
language no-one could understand. The floor manager
Danny kept staring. Leon snapped his fingers. “How did
you know about the diamond?”
saw something, I can’t explain it. I mean, I looked up
and saw ...” Danny shook his head. “No, I can’t explain
gave him a searching look. “Mega Diamonds wants to speak
to you. Don’t panic. I think it’s about the reward.”
reward? Danny registered this, even if he was distracted
by Zulya. So was everyone. He grabbed a handful of
towels from a passing maid and handed them to her. Zulya
gave him a dazzling smile.
“Who’s that?” Leon suddenly noticed Zulya.
thought he knew. The little girl snatched twenty years
ago from the other side of the planet had just regained
her body but of course, she was a big girl now. “I could
be wrong, but that doesn’t sound like English. ‘Zulya’
sounds Russian to me. Do you reckon we could get an
gave him a strange look. Danny sighed. He had so much
explaining to do and, if things worked out, so much
Russian to learn. At the very least, he knew something
of her background. His cell rang. He listened as his
parents both spoke at once. Ecstatic, laughing, crying,
they kept asking how had this happened? For the first
time in twenty years, they were pain-free! Now, instead
of a world of darkness, they saw red trees and a five
foot chicken through their kitchen window. What did all
this mean? How could they see red trees and five foot
chickens? Their world hadn’t changed. It must be their
eyesight. They could see, but not properly. Surely that
Danny frowned. Perhaps that was the ‘price’ Lng and
Dilly had mentioned. But if they’d succeeded in removing
his parents’ pain, perhaps it didn’t matter that they
saw red trees and five foot chickens. They could live in
comfort and, if Mega Diamonds gave him the reward, maybe
he could pay to have their eyes fixed. Who knew? He
could buy a house. He pictured something small, with
cherry trees and a picket fence. He could imagine Zulya
in a house like that.
the game and, against all the odds, win?
almost wished the Djiit players luck.