The Christmas Gift – (London, England – 1899)
Winter in London could be bone chilling cold during the month of December, Edgar Craven thought, as he walked the streets searching for the perfect Christmas gift for his daughters. He pulled his overcoat tighter around him and tucked in his muffler to shield him from the brutal wind blowing down Portsmouth Street. Leftover autumn leaves swirled around his legs creating whirlpools of dead foliage that crinkled beneath his goulashes. Edgar ignored the biting wind; nothing could interfere with his quest for a memorable Christmas present.
Edgar was an extremely successful banker and had everything he ever wanted in life, except a son to carry on his name. No matter, he had two young daughters that made him very happy, Clarissa and Alice by name. Of course he spoiled them rotten, as any father would. They had plenty of dolls and toys they never even played with; this Christmas, Edgar was determined to surprise his girls with something different.
Shops in this part of London carried only the finest of clothes and toys, but none of these interested Edgar at all. He was just about to give up his search when he saw the Olde Curiosity Shop across the street; he had passed it a hundred times but had never been inside. A dignified business man of means didn’t frequent an establishment such as this, but he was intrigued by a beautifully displayed Ouija board in the front window. As he crossed the street, the unusual item seemed to beckon him inside. Edgar lowered the brim of his hat to avoid being recognized by any of his colleagues and ventured inside, where a smiling shopkeeper greeted him with a toothless smile.
Alice and Clarissa – (Oxford, England – 1899)
“I love it, Papa,” Clarissa cried throwing her arms around her father’s neck.
“Me too…me too,” Alice exclaimed as she jumped up and down not wanting to be left out.
“Now remember, children this is only a toy…no ghosts allowed in this house!” Edgar warned. His wife nodded quietly in agreement through pursed lips; she clearly disapproved of the gift her husband had chosen.
The girls opened the Ouija board with uncontained excitement and couldn’t wait to play with it after dark in the privacy of their nursery. All other gifts the sisters received that Christmas morning paled in comparison.
Darkness came soon enough and the girls pretended to get ready for bed however; neither one had any intention of sleeping any time soon. In the dead of night, Alice and Clarissa sat on the floor with the Ouija board in front of them ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Their hands eagerly grasped the planchette as they got ready to conjure up a spirit they were certain awaited their midnight summons. Alice couldn’t wait to hear all about the mysterious afterlife.
As they were getting ready to start, Alice spied a crumpled piece of parchment paper that had fallen out of the box. Clarissa snatched up the note and read it out loud.
“Only a murdered child will see them, only the bravest soldier can save them.”
Neither of them noticed the Ouija board glowing as Clarissa read the note, nor did they feel the slight shaking that caused the planchette to move on its own, if only slightly.
The two girls read the note again, pondering the cryptic message but it made no sense to them. Impatient to start their impromptu séance, Clarissa tossed the note back into the box and with candles alight they began their great adventure.
Charlie – (Stockbridge, MA – 1952)
Charlie McBaine finds himself suddenly engulfed in the brightest light he has ever seen. In his eight and a half years on earth, Charlie has never seen anything quite like it. The beam of white energy reaches for him greedily with invisible fingers he does not see, but can feel nonetheless.
“Charlie…Charlie…,” a voice calls to him in the distance, the voice of someone he once loved but now wants to run away from.
It is so cold and dark in this place and although he is trying hard to be brave, Charlie feels disoriented and frightened. His body is weightless now, his feet hover just above the ground; walking had become amazingly effortless. Charlie vaguely remembers an argument with his father. Someone he once loved but now fears more than ever. Hugh McBaine had once possessed a kind heart, but that piece of him had been forfeited long ago when his wife left town on a greyhound bus. After his mother left, Johnny Walker became his father's best friend, leaving Charlie with a tremendous hole in his heart. All he has left is a tattered teddy bear his mother gave him when he was very young, the very one he kept hidden from his father. It was that stupid bear that caused the problem last night. He believes it was last night, but Charlie is not really sure. His father went into a fit of rage, nothing unusual for him but this time his anger seemed uncontrollable. It was just a teddy bear after all, but when Charlie started crying and “blubbering like a woman” as his father called it, the shit hit the fan and his father came at him with angry fists that could only mean pain. After that, all Charlie remembered was the blissful peace of a deep and quiet slumber.
Charlie looks once more toward the bright white light as he studies his hands and is astonished to find that he can see right through them. His head doesn’t hurt anymore and when he touches the back of his scalp, there is no longer any blood left on his fingertips. Charlie is confused and so very tired, he only wants to sleep now; the light is so blinding he feels a desperate need to escape from it. A soft melodic sound assaults his senses, almost like singing and he is reminded of a mother he can barely remember. She is standing in the beam of light wearing her favorite red dress and is reaching out to him with open arms.
“No…I won’t come. You’re the one who left, remember…and I hate you for it!” Charlie screams as he covers his face and runs back into the shadows.
Alice and Clarissa
“It’s such a lovely party, Lissy…come and see,” Alice calls to her older sister as she watches guests arrive in seemingly timed intervals. The women are dressed in fancy gowns made of taffeta and fine silk; the men are dressed in identical black suits with matching ties. She has a perfect view through freshly varnished railings at the very top of the stair landing. This is the special place they always hide when there is a party and they are supposed to be in bed.
“I don’t want to,” Clarissa declares as she stubbornly folds her hands across her chest in defiance.
“Why not…are you still angry that Mama and Papa have been ignoring us,” Alice replies. She is wearing her favorite dressing gown, the pink lace one with tiny rose buds all over it. Her platinum hair falls in tight ringlets down her back, as she observes the entrance of each new guest with much enthusiasm.
“And why shouldn’t I be angry, Alice…for weeks they’ve been telling people we are not here…and pretending they don’t see us even when we are standing right in front of them. The other day, I saw Papa crying in his study…and when I tried to comfort him…he wouldn’t even look at me. It was almost as if I wasn't there.” Clarissa recalls with tearful eyes.
“I don’t know what’s wrong…Mama used to be so cheerful…and now…oh, look, Lissy…it’s Uncle Fred. Hallo, Uncle Fred…up here, it’s Alice,” she calls to him excitedly, but it’s clear he doesn't hear her.
“See, I told you...Alice, no one can hear us anymore. We might as well be ghosts flying about…blowing out candles like the wind.”
This comment causes Alice to fall backward on the carpet as she covers her mouth to stifle a giggle that escapes through her fingers. Clarissa was always saying things like this and at times, she just couldn’t control her laughter.
“C’mon, Alice…let’s go to bed,” Clarissa holds out a hand to help her sister up and they walk down the long hallway toward the nursery.
“Lissy…do you think the door will be locked again…I hope not, I really wan to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Alice falls behind her sister a little bit as they approach the nursery door.
“It’s okay, Alice…we don’t need a key anymore.” Clarissa reassures her younger sister as they glide effortlessly through the thick oak paneled door.
Once inside, Alice is happy and feels a sense of relief as she sits down on the ruffled bed. Alice lights a candle on the nightstand as Clarissa fumbles around in the darkness for her dressing gown. Candlelight brings a warm glow to the room, illuminating the face of Alice’s favorite doll, Emma. She picks the doll up and hugs it tightly to her chest.
“Lissy, why is the door locked if we’re inside?"
“Just go to sleep…it's late now, Alice…can’t you please just go to sleep.”
It did not take Alice Craven very long to become enveloped in the comfort of darkness as sleep took over; try as she might, Clarissa was unable to find solace in sleep. She lay on her bed with the illumination of a single candle, trying to figure things out. The nighttime wind made a whistling sound outside the bedroom window and although she could feel her eyelids getting heavy, Clarissa’s mind was racing. She couldn’t understand what was happening to them and was starting to become afraid. The yellow flame of the candle was hypnotizing and she almost drifted off to sleep, until she heard her parents coming up the stairs.
“Edgar…there it is again. I can see a flickering light coming from underneath the nursery door…I can’t bear it, Edgar…I just can’t bear it,” her mother cried.
“Sh-h-h…Elizabeth. I’m sure one of the servants just left a candle burning by mistake…it'll burn down soon. Come now…it's time for bed."
“I miss them so, Edgar…I miss them so very much,” her mother wails as they pass the nursery. Clarissa listens to the sound of their footsteps as they walk together down the hallway to the master bedroom.
“Alice and I are right here...Mama…why can’t you see or hear us anymore?” Clarissa spoke out loud, knowing she wouldn’t be heard.
Sarah – (Stockbridge, MA – 1969)
Sarah Morgan woke with a start. It was still dark outside as a pounding rain hit the bedroom window, making a rattling noise because one of the panes was loose. She sighed and reached toward the pillow beside her; the empty bed still took Sarah by surprise. Just like yesterday morning and the day before that, Louis was not there. Her husband was gone and there was nothing Sarah could do to bring him back. All the prayers in the world couldn’t change it. Death was life's final curtain call. Sergeant Louis Morgan was dead and buried in Green Hill Cemetery, five miles from the home they had shared together for nearly ten years. When your husband’s remains arrived from Vietnam in a wooden box small enough to fit a pair of shoes in, you could be certain his death had not been pretty.
Sarah whispered in the darkness as her eyes filled with tears, “Louis…if I could only kiss you one last time…we never got to say goodbye.” Butterscotch mewed from the end of the bed in response.
Butterscotch had become Sarah’s best friend lately; he was a rather corpulent red tabby and now all she had. The rain continued to come down and since she couldn't sleep, Sarah scooped Butterscotch into her arms and headed downstairs to make a cup of extra strong coffee. Each step made a distinct creaking sound under the weight of her feet; old houses were like that and it was something she had gotten used to.
The next morning a bright spring day greeted Sarah Morgan with a sunny smile as she lay between cool linen sheets and watched the gentle breeze play havoc with her muslin curtains. Butterscotch was nowhere in sight. She had been dreaming about Louis; it was always the same dream. There was the deafening sound of gunshots, the screams of wounded soldiers and her husband’s sweet face covered with blood as he called out her name. She always woke from this dream in a pool of sweat.
As full consciousness took hold, Sarah realized mornings were not as wonderful as they used to be. After six months without her husband, Sarah had started to accept this very sad reality. With great effort she forced herself to sit up in bed, swinging her tired limbs over the edge until her bare feet touched the hardwood floor. The floor was ice cold to the touch, but that was nothing new.
In the kitchen, Butterscotch waited patiently for his Tender Vittles, gazing up at Sarah with bright green eyes. The cat stopped licking his paws as a gush of frigid air passed overhead, apparently unnoticed by his master. Sarah smiled as she retrieved her pet’s plastic dish and prepared to face another day.
If there is an underworld, Charlie has surely found it. No place on earth could ever be this dark. No that was wrong, Charlie thought as he reconsidered his assessment. This place was more like an ancient death shroud for all that is evil. Charlie feels alone and chilled to the bone as he searches the darkness for a sign of anything remotely human. Suddenly, the boy feels certain he has fallen into the big nothing. When you didn’t believe in God, this was where you had to go. At least that’s what he believed. His parents never took him to church, so maybe this dark place was hell. Would someone come for him, Charlie wonders as his eyes dart all around. He retrieves a jackknife from his back pocket for protection, but Charlie’s instinct tells him nothing he encounters here can be hurt by such a pathetic excuse for a weapon.
"Who are you," a voice hisses in the darkness behind Charlie, which knocks him to the ground with a thud.
"I said, who are you, boy?"
Charlie tries not to cry but the tears come down like a faucet anyway, accompanied by an audible sniffle. The darkness suddenly lifts and Charlie finds himself in his own backyard looking up at a shimmering summer sky.
"My name is Louis, Charlie," a voice beside him spoke. Charlie turns to see who is speaking and wonders how he knows his name. The stranger is dressed in an army uniform and is smiling at him. Charlie’s only thought is, at least he's human.
"Who are the two girls standing behind you," Charlie asks the stranger, startled by the sound of his own changed voice.
"I am alone," Louis replied without turning around.
The little girls are dressed in old fashioned nightgowns making them look angelic however; Charlie doesn’t believe angels would ever be found in this dark place. The older girl has long auburn hair that floats around her face as though she were underwater. The younger girl has ringlets the color of spun gold; she holds a finger to lips as though protecting a secret. Their skin is grey and their lips deep purple; Charlie finds them beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
The older girl reaches her hand out to Charlie, before evaporating into thin air. The boy knows he is a ghost now, too. He should be angry but instead, Charlie feels an inner sense of peace he never experienced in his human life. Charlie is more than willing to stay with Louis, if for no other reason than that he has kind eyes. The boy feels pretty sure this man-ghost won't hurt him or make him bleed. But then again, Charlie probably couldn't bleed anymore, being dead and all. Maybe he was invincible in this place. On the other hand, it didn't pay to take chances; Charlie decided staying with an adult made sense, if for no other reason than he was bigger than Charlie.
Louis was an adult all right, but he had no idea yet what was happening either; he felt just as lost as Charlie as they stood together underneath a starlit sky. He did not remember much about how he had died but he knew it had been quick, unexpected and very messy. Louis was fairly certain that his injuries had not left much of a body to bury and his biggest regret was the realization that his beautiful wife, Sarah had been subjected to dealing with his ruined corpse.
They both looked around and realized that they were no longer in Charlie's backyard, but the night sky was still twinkling above them.
"Charlie." Louis moved toward the boy and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "We need to find our way to the place we belong…but, we have to take care of something first. I have been here a long time Charlie but you…have been here even longer."
"We're dead, aren't we Louis?"
"Quite," Louis replied, taking Charlie's hand to lead the way.
Alice and Clarissa
"They're coming this weekend…Lissy, this is our chance to get back to Mama and Papa," Alice cried clapping her hands.
"We have to be patient, Alice. No one knows what's in Papa’s chest…in fact; no one even knows how we died. If we could just get to that Ouija board…I'm sure we could get home again."
"Sarah's nieces are getting older now, I am sure we can ask them to help us now, we have waited so long," Alice said sticking out her lower lip for emphasis.
"No. We must enlist the help of others, Alice. Only he can get her ear…the soldier who can't see us and the murdered boy who can."
Sarah – (Stockbridge, MA – 1970)
Time passed more quickly than Sarah Morgan could have imagined as she worked hard to get back to normal life. It wasn't easy to accept such loss, when you were busy making plans for a life you had carefully mapped out.
It has now been a year since Louis was killed and Sarah still has trouble sleeping, part of it, she reasoned was this creepy old house. It was a family heirloom of course, most old houses were passed on from generation to generation; but everyone knew old houses had their secrets. Edgar and Elizabeth were her great grandparents but certainly not the only people who had lived here. There had been tragedy of course, all families have something horrible in their past. Sarah was all too familiar with the often told story about her great grandparent’s daughters who had vanished without a trace on Christmas night. After the devastating tragedy the family moved to New England, leaving their Oxford manor house and the mystery of their missing children behind.
Sarah sometimes thought she might be going crazy. Over the last few weeks she had heard a tapping sound coming from the basement; she tried to investigate, but never discovered where it was coming from. Basements by nature can be spooky places. People tended to store their most treasured items there, commingled with all the other useless things they kept because they didn't want to throw them out. Basements were a combination of old and new worlds being forced together in a place that most rarely use for anything other than storage. Sarah wondered if there was some piece of family history hiding there; perhaps it was even the source of the tapping noise that haunted her nights. All basements had secrets, maybe ones Sarah didn’t want to know.
Under the stairs, was the place where the oldest items were stored and more specifically, the ancient chest she had inherited from her great grandfather, Edgar. Sarah wasn’t even sure of its contents other than old clothing, some pictures and God knows what else. After Louis died, Sarah had laid her husband’s Purple Heart medal and his uniform on top of everything else and had not thought about them since the day of her his funeral.
It was Wednesday, her laundry day and usually the only time Sarah went down to the basement. She thought again about the old chest and decided she might want to explore its contents after all. She knelt down on the floor and whispered her husband’s name as she reached out to touch the lid of the chest with her hand. It felt cold to the touch which made her remove her hand quickly just as the upstairs phone started to ring. Sarah ran up the stairs to catch the call before it stopped ringing, but was too late. As she reached the top of the stairs, she heard someone whisper her name. Sarah covered her ears in absolute denial and didn’t feel comfortable again until she closed the basement door behind her.
In the chest, the Ouija board glowed ever so slightly; it took a shallow breath in anticipation of its next victim.
Charlie & Louis
“We have work to do, my boy,” Louis said to Charlie as they came to a wooded area neither recognized at first.
As they continued walking through the woods to the clearing, Charlie could see a huge Victorian house softly illuminated as the sun began to set behind the trees.
“Should I know this house, Louis?” asked Charlie.
“No, but I do,” Louis continued, “This was my home…where my earthly body lived before I died in a battle overseas. My wife, Sarah lives here still.”
“What are we supposed to do here?”
Louis turned to look behind them and Charlie saw the little girls standing in the clearing of the woods as they pointed to the house. They clung together, their eyes gone completely dead.
“They will tell us, Charlie.”
“You can see them now, Louis?”
“Yes, I can see them now…our purpose has been revealed. We need to go inside.”
Louis took his hand and as they walked closer to the house, Charlie couldn’t help wishing this man would be his new father.
Brooke & Bridget – (Stockbridge, MA – 1970)
Aunt Sarah’s house was a fun place to visit, as far as Brooke was concerned. It was old and kind of spooky, with secret doorways and lots of antiques. Her older sister Bridget didn’t seem as excited as her sister to go to her aunt’s house. That was because she had a new boyfriend she couldn’t bear to be separated from. Two weeks was an eternity when your older sister was in love, something Brooke was too young to understand.
Brooke bounded up the stairs with energy only a ten year old possesses to the attic room they shared. Fourteen year old Bridget followed reluctantly behind with shuffling feet, most likely intent upon throwing herself across their double bed to write a “love letter” to her new boyfriend. Brooke rolled her eyes and took off to explore the basement which had always been their favorite place to play on rainy days.
The first thing Brooke noticed was the cold; the frigid air assaulted her as she descended the wooden steps to the basement. She hugged herself as she began shivering uncontrollably. It was summertime, so why was it so darn cold down here?
As soon as she reached the foot of the stairs, she heard the tapping sound. Brooke held her breath, and then it came again. Tap-tap-tap, the sound echoed eerily as it bounced off the concrete walls. Had Aunt Sarah ever heard it, she wondered. Brooke followed the sound to its source; it was coming from the old chest underneath the basement steps. Curiosity took over as she kneeled down in front of the chest, determined to explore this hidden treasure. An artic burst of cold air hovered about, as though attempting to scare her off. Brooke knew basements could be drafty but this was something else, something much more malevolent in nature. As if to confirm her feeling of trepidation, the tapping sound began again. Brooke suddenly heard a young child’s giggle, leaving every inch of her exposed skin covered with goose bumps.
The distinctive sound of her sister’s footsteps descended the staircase giving Brooke a start. Bridget's presence was well-timed, because the chest was wedged under the bottom step and way too heavy to move without help.
“What are you doing down here, knucklehead?” Bridget asked using a favorite pet name for her baby sister.
“There’s something in this chest that’s making a noise, if you listen you can hear a tapping sound.”
Bridget knelt down next to her sister and strained to hear something and then it came again. Tap-tap-tap was followed by a small child’s laughter. As she moved closer to the chest, she shivered from the cold and buttoned her cardigan sweater all the way up.
“Let’s pull it out so we can look inside!” Brooke said as she started to pull on it without her sister’s help.
“I'll grab the other end,” Bridget offered as they managed to move the chest out just far enough to get it open. They kept their voices low so Aunt Sarah wouldn’t hear them.
For a moment, they both just stared at the chest. Finally, Brooke lifted the latch, throwing open the lid as they both held their breath. No sparks flew out, no ghosts and no explosions of light. Brooke and Bridget looked at the chest with disappointment as Bridget exclaimed, “That was anti-climactic!”
Brooke didn’t care about sparks or ghosts; she just wanted to see what was inside. Their uncle’s Purple Heart medal was right on top along with his army uniform neatly folded beneath it. Bridget rubbed the material of her uncle’s uniform between her fingers with a sadness she had not felt since the funeral. She remembered all the past visits when he was still alive and how he loved to toss them up into the air when they were still small.
“What else do you think we’ll find?” Bridget asked her sister.
Brooke didn’t even wait for her to finish before she started rummaging through the chest, looking for something more exciting than old clothes and war medals. About halfway down, her hand touched something hard and she felt a wooden box that held the Ouija board. With great excitement, she yanked the box out of the chest and placed it in front of them on the basement floor.
“It’s a Ouija board, Bridget!” Brooke cried enthusiastically.
“Wow, I've never seen one like this…it looks really old.”
“What’s going on down here?” a voice boomed from the top of the basement stairs. Aunt Sarah called down to them and without waiting for an answer she came down the steps to see what her nieces were up to.
“We found a Ouija board, Aunt Sarah,” Brooke exclaimed, holding the dusty box out to her in hopes they weren’t in trouble for snooping around.
Sarah looked down at the mess they had made but wasn’t angry, until she saw her husband’s wrinkled uniform and medal lying on the floor where they had carelessly discarded them.
“Give me that, now!” Sarah cried angrily as she grabbed the dusty box from her niece’s hands. Before she could say anything else, the box started to shake and tremble. Sarah almost dropped it but held on tight as she ushered the girls upstairs.
None of them saw the worn piece of paper with the cryptic note as it fell from the box until it was hidden once again under the steps in the darkness of the basement.
The Ouija Board
After the girls had eaten dinner, Brooke asked her aunt if they could look at the Ouija board again with her supervision. Being a soft touch, Sarah couldn’t say no. She was still unnerved by the shaking of the board but Sarah was not really a superstitious person, so she shrugged it off.
The house was now fully dark so the girls asked if they could light candles and use the Ouija board “just for fun” as they put it. The girls set the scene with candlelight and incense as they all sat around the dining room table to examine their precious find. The Ouija board was still covered with a thin layer of dust even though it had been stored in the chest since the turn of the century. This was not some child's board game, this was a hand-carved piece of artistry; the thin layer of dust covering the outside seemed to be its way of saying, "leave me alone."
Sarah was the one who decided to open it as her nieces watched her with eyes wide open. At first it didn't budge, but then suddenly the power switched on and off several times before finally going out. Their candles flickered frantically but somehow managed to stay lit. The tapping sound returned as the ancient board burst open on its own, exposing a special alphabet of letters and numbers along with gothic illustrations of the sun and moon. The luminescent symbols hung suspended in the air as they all looked on in disbelief. Brooke and Bridget gasped when a whoosh of musty air shot up to the ceiling before settling onto everything around them like sparkling fairy dust.
When the dust settled, Alice and Clarissa decided to make their appearance. The two girls stood together barefoot and clinging to each other. They were oddly beautiful in their old fashioned nightgowns and long flowing hair however; there was such a profound sadness in their eyes, Sarah’s heart ache to help them.
"Spell our names on the board and we will be released," Clarissa pleaded.
"Tell them we are trapped between worlds," Alice blurted out impatiently.
"It was our fault you see, we played it wrong…we should have known there were some things you should never wish for," her older sister whispered.
“What did you wish for?” Brooke asked, even though she was afraid to know the truth.
“To see what life was like on the other side. We shouldn’t have asked…we've been trapped between worlds as punishment ever since,” Clarissa replied, her eyes brimming with tears.
Sarah reached out to touch Clarissa because she was standing so close, but Sarah's hand went right through her. Her voice squeaked in surprise and she quickly jerked her hand away.
Without saying a word, the three held fast to the planchette and began spelling out the names of their ghosts as quickly as they could manage.
The two sister-ghosts held tightly onto one another as the room started to vibrate and shake. The candles flickered more violently despite the fact that there was no wind. Suddenly, the French doors leading to the patio flew open with a load roar. The two lost souls were caught inside a funnel of frantic energy above the table as Sarah and her nieces stared in wide-eyed wonder at the most amazing thing they had ever seen.
As the funnel spun round and round before them, Louis came into view for just a moment; next to him was a small boy none of them had ever seen before. They quickly realized the young boy was dead too. Louis raised his palm to blow Sarah a kiss; she reached out to him sobbing as he slowly disappeared from view.
The funnel of wind redirected its energy across the room and flew out the French doors onto the patio. Sarah was so stunned at seeing her dead husband, she was temporarily paralyzed. Her nieces ran through the open doors and were greeted by the brightest rainbow of colors their young eyes had ever seen. In an almost bubble like cloud they beheld a most amazing sight. Alice and Clarissa were engulfed in the arms of a young man and woman dressed in old fashioned clothes. The four were hugging and kissing each other, as if they had not seen each other in years as white light exploded all around them.
Sarah finally jumped up and ran to join Brooke and Bridget on the patio, just in time to see the reunited family embrace before they disappeared from view. Sarah smiled because she knew the house had finally given up its unintended ghosts. Inside the house, the Ouija board lay still on the dining room table; the innocuous board was patiently waiting for a new game.