THE EEL GAME

by johannespunkt

This is a game that came to me in a dream a year ago. If you play it, I am not responsible for anything. I am updating the rules here because as time has passed the game has only got more refined in my brain.

Pre Game Rituals

The game is played seldom, only in times of drought or catastrophe. The elders will hold secret council late at night. They will light a small fire but they will not tend to it, and the rest of the people who live in the area will pretend to sleep when really they’re glued to the windows trying to catch a glimpse of the faces of the elders. The way to decide who will host the game is this: they have a poisonous fish in a bowl. The first elder puts the fish in their mouth along with water, and with a kiss transfers the fish to the next elder. The elder that bites the fish, or is bitten, dies and becomes the host. Their family is the one that hosts the event.

The way to choose a champion is more varied. The customs differ between families and places, but there are three main categories. The first is the diving game, which is a game where contestants dive to the sea floor and pick up rocks in their mouth. Generally this will include backbinding of the hands and a blindfold, and be done on a still day, but there are as many variations as there are games played. The heaviest stone marks the winner. The second category is the saltwater game, which is played by drinking saltwater until one vomits. The last player to vomit is the champion. The last category of games is the catching of live eels, where the champion is the contestant who catches the most eels. One champion is needed from each household, and anyone can play.

The Eel Game

The game requires at least one eel per player, and a maximum of eight eels. At least three champions are required, and the optimal number varies depending on the locale. The champions wear damp clothes full of holes and pockets and tight bands, which make it easy for the eels to slither around inside the clothes. The eels can enter and exit these garments like coloured handkerchiefs from a magic show.

When all is set up, the room is filled with saltwater to ankleheight. Champions are placed in positions and fitted with eels, then the game is begun. The objective of the game is to fulfill one of the following criteria:

Be the last one on the floor with eels on them

Have twice as many eels as the secondmost eeled player

Champions are not allowed to touch other champions with their hands but they may bump into each other with hips or shoulders, as long as this is not considered ‘violent’. A common strategy is for champions to stand next to other champions with sleeves or pockets toward theirs and try to coax the other champion’s eels into their own clothing. Games are usually slow-moving, somnambulist matches between two champions at a time, while the others buy time. Another common strategy is to coax eels out of other champions’ sleeves without bothering to catch them. Once an eel has touched the floor, it is out of the game. Strategies are manifold and it all depends on the type of player.

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