I love cup and ring marked stones, such as Roughting Linn. There’s something transitional about them, as if they mark the centre point between two worlds, whether horizontally divided territories or vertically separated worlds. The designs are also reminiscent of a gaming board. All these ideas inspired today’s story.
The Stone Game
Sat amongst the heather, we weighed the pebbles in our hands and played papers, scissors, stone to decide who would take the first throw for our side. The rest of the villagers stood behind us on the moor, watching our movements, our gestures, our breathing. Sarah won with scissors against paper and chose to go first. She tossed the pebble through the air watching it land on the rock carved ripples.
The air above the slab shimmered and a similar sized pebble arced out of the clear sky to land close to Sarah’s. Neither had hit the precise centre. I weighed the stones in my hand, chose one and threw it toward the ancient designs. My throw almost hit the middle point, but lodged on the nearest circle. I felt the crowd gasp as for a moment they thought we’d won.
The air shimmered once more and a second pebble came from the other side. We watched it land and for a moment said nothing as it nestled in the depression at the centre of nine concentric rings.
No one was surprised. No one was shocked. In over two hundred years the village had never beaten the other side.
Sarah and I sat in silence. We had no way to know how the other side chose. After a moment she turned to me.
“Can you hear it? Can you hear the music?”
I shook my head.
Without saying another word, Sarah stood and climbed the rock, standing on top of the cup and ring marks, her feet awkward on the pebbles. For a moment I smelt pond water, stagnant and weed choked. Then the stone turned to liquid and far too quickly Sarah dropped below the surface, her fingers leaving concentric ripples that stayed even when the water returned to rock.