A Game of Chance
There was nothing remarkable about this town, and many locals stared at you as you walked down its dusty streets, as if the very idea of a visitor in this ghost town was as the people themselves. They dressed in apparel fit for kings, as if them walking in and out of stores with busted out windows and rusty door handles would make the town any more welcoming. If one would stop for a moment, they would wonder how they got such fine material when the town was far from any major sellers. But no one stayed for very long here. And you are no different. You have a goal in mind, one only at the edge of town, but a place that seems miles away as the sun plays tricks on your weary eyes. You finally make your way to the last building in the row, almost more run down than the others, as if death could die again. Every window was boarded up, the glass shattered, the only sign that this was once a place of life at all being a sign hanging on by a chain, reading only, “CASINO” in big black letters, though the paint had faded enough that it looked more like, “_AS_NO”. You take a deep breath, more certain than ever that this is the right place, and step onto the porch, boards groaning beneath your weight. The door, slightly ajar, has a sentence scratched onto it, almost like by hasty fingernails scrapes against the rotting wood, with the barely legible words reading, “It’s only a game”. And as you get closer to the entry, heart beating, face sweating from the heat and mouth as dry as the desert around you, you hear something, barely audible. A faint noise coming from the empty shack, like a bug buzzing in your ear, but this sounds almost like a crowd, and you can swear you hear, shouting, laughing, screaming. You gather up your last bit of confidence and, mind still unprepared, you enter the Casino.
Although the sun was bright overhead, the light that blinds you from above is brighter than anything you have witnessed in years, and you wonder for a moment if this is all a trick, and you have died and are facing the gates of heaven. But the feeling quickly fades as your eyes adjust, and the lights deepen to shades of green and purple, shining from the huge chandelier where you stand beneath now. You were promised a Casino, but nothing could have prepared you for this. The shack was only 6 feet tall, but the floors of this place seem to scratch the sky, each one full of laughter, giddy screaming, and the clatter of dice against tables. Your head becomes woozy from the air of smoke and alcohol, and you lean against a wall to steady yourself. As your fingers graze the pinkish purple material, it feels odd, almost moist, but before you can decipher the feeling, you sense you are being watched and stand up tall, not wanting to look vulnerable in a place like this. In front of you, though you didn’t notice them arrive, are three men dressed in the same color suits as the walls. As your eyes travel up from their shiny black shoes, almost too small for their large frame, the pinkish fabric covering nearly their entire bodies, and finally reaching their faces, you hold in a gasp. Where welcoming faces should be there is only large, white masks, with nothing but two large black holes where the eyes should be. Despite their appearance, the creatures begin speaking to you in a friendly manner, speaking in a language you can’t quite hear, but by some feeling from the smoke and tone of their hidden mouths, you understand them perfectly. They invite you to sit down at a table, where two other players and a dealer are already in the middle of a game. They wave goodbye as you sit down, disappearing to other tables. As you look around, you realize there is no one actually walking around the area, and that everyone is sitting down, but you write it off as just being too focused on the games to get up. Indeed, the people at your table are staring at their cards with great intent, making sure to keep them close to their chests. You do the same, and wait for the dealer to begin. As you do, you begin to zone out, listening to the endless chatter of the Casino, the diamonds and hearts of your cards dancing off onto others, the laughs of the players sounding louder and louder, and the walls seeming to come closer and closer, living, breathing, hunting. You try to break the haze, only to fall deeper in, eyes glazing over. Your head falls onto the shoulder of your partner, and as you look up at them, you see that they, like the three men, have no face. But this time, they have no mask to hide it. Instead there is only a wreathing, pulsating mass of pinkish purple skin, like that of freshly chewed gum, mashed and destroyed by grinding teeth. And you know now what the walls are made of. You know what this place is, why the halls are empty, why the floors seem to go on forever, why you can no longer leave your seat. The air around you, not smelling much like smoke as it does a sweet smell like a carnivorous flower attracting its simple-minded prey. You are captured now. As you feel your legs sticking to the chair, then your arms, then your head, and you lose control of your mouth, nose, ears, the last thing you see before it is taken too is the three men staring over you, and though their masks stay strapped on, you know in your beating heart, at least for this moment, that they are smiling. Because, after all, it’s only a game. At least, to the Casino.