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Chain Reaction

Lucille thought of her father. He had never reached this point. His whole life had been a mission which she would now accomplish. The gymnasium was quiet. She looked around the bleachers, the dim lights reflecting off the varnished wood, and up at the banner which hung above double-doored entrance: “World Dominoes Championship Final 2018.” The sight of it made the weight of responsibility on her shoulders palpable. She wouldn't let him down.

The double-doors suddenly opened, the lights of the parking lot streaming in from outside, blocked only by a dark, threatening silhouette. The silhouette approached Lucille but she did not need to wait until the lights of the gymnasium lit up his face for her to know who it was: Antoine.

He had that smirk on his face which always managed spark a rage from within Lucille faster than any other face could. He was wearing his Championship jacket, the medals of the previous five Championships he won hanging from his lapel. He walked with a smugness which repelled good taste and the squeak of his expensive trainers against the gym floor grated on Lucille's ears as he approached her.

“Come here to see the site of your defeat before the big day then?” He said, looking around, pretending to evaluate it.

“It's not over until it's over, Antoine.” Lucille knew she shouldn't engage. She knew nothing good would come of this. But she couldn't stop herself, there was something about the man in front of her which created an irresistible urge in her to put him in his place.

“I've won the past five World Dominoes Championship, what makes you think you stand a chance?” He said, his voice dripping with condescension. “And what I have planned this year is even more grand than last year. That part where the dominoes formed the image of an egg when upright and that of a baby dove hatching from the egg when toppled over before the final domino hit the latch on that cage and released a real live dove? What I'm doing this year will top that three times over.”

Lucille didn't doubt him. Antoine was a brilliant Dominoes choreographer. He'd been fascinated with them since a child, putting up Dominoes next to each other since before he could walk and watching them topple over. He was a child prodigy, designing the Dominoes routine which won the Northumberland County Dominoes Championship at age 12 and taking part in the World Championship by age 17. Now he was 24 and a living legend in the Dominoes world. There were even rumours that he had been commissioned to design Dominoes routines for some of the world's most brutal dictators. The rumours had thus far been unconfirmed but Antoine himself had never formally come forward to deny them.

“You better bring your best game tomorrow, Lucille.” He said, turning around. He then added, over his shoulder: “It would be a shame for you to end up like your father.”

He was taunting her, Lucille knew this and she had to repeat it to herself to stop herself from punching him squarely in the back of his head.

He was, of course, referring to the infamous Dominoes accident from 4 years ago which had taken her father's life. Her father had gotten into the game late in his life but quickly proved himself to be one of the greats. His Dominoes routines had a playful and quietly graceful quality. The beauty lay in the details, in the subtle shift of colours when the Dominoes toppled over, in the subtle stories they told. Antoine was all about flash and shock and awe. Lucille's father saw a beauty in the Dominoes nobody else saw, and his mission was to draw his audience's attention to that beauty.

Until that fateful day, in the World Championship semi-finals. He was rigging an air-gun which was supposed to shoot out a the first Domino of the routine and begin the the chain reaction. He was fiddling with the barrel, his head right in front of the exit, when it suddenly went off and the Domino inside shot out into his eye and passed right through his head. Cut down in his prime in front of hundreds of horrified spectators.

It was a suspicious accident. He would never been stupid enough to tinker with the airgun while a Domino was still inside it. There were rumours that Antoine had placed the Domino in there and tampered with it to malfunction the way it did. Nothing was ever proven. But Lucille knew. She knew.

Antoine was standing at the exit to the gymnasium, the lights from outside turning him into a silhouette once again.

“Ciao, ciao” he said and he was gone.

Lucille curled her hands into tight fists. She would do this for father. She would snatch away from Antoine the victory that rightfully belonged to her father.

There's a saying in the Dominoes world which goes, “When the first one drops, the last one has dropped already.” Once the Dominoes start falling, there's not stopping them. When you push the first one over, you set into a motion a series of events and the consequences of those events are yours to live with. Lucille vowed to herself she would make him understand the true meaning of that saying.

“My father may have been the first to drop.” Lucille thought to herself. “But I'll make damn sure you'll be the last, Antoine.”

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