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Fiction Fantasy Holiday

They watched the sun slowly dipping, unaware of the darkness gradually enveloping them. She could feel the comfort of his warm body sitting close to her despite their bodies not being close enough to touch. As she took one more deep, satisfied breath, she almost sobbed. If only she could stay here forever.

She looked around and thought about the idyllic eight days of her holiday. The location, stunning amenities, hotels, and restaurants had all been fantastic, but the next day, it was time to go their separate ways until the next time. This had been the holiday to top all others, and knowing she would soon have to say goodbye to her holiday companion was really heartbreaking. She could have stayed here forever - just breathing - nothing more - not eating, drinking, or talking - just contentedly breathing. They would say their goodbyes at 7.30 tomorrow morning and then not see each other for another 12 months.

She slowly gazed around the rooftop garden. Although not many stories high, the skyscraper had been positioned on a piece of land considerably higher than any others surrounding it. The two sat on a bench carefully set in the cultivated foliage. Surrounding them were various low bushes showcased in all their beauty and meticulously placed on the enormous landscaped roof. In the rooftop garden were numerous covered canopies to provide shade from the burning sun, pergolas and trellises dividing the plantings into individual gardens. As far as she could see, one stunningly colourful flowerbed mixed with various foliage of differing heights drew her attention repeatedly. 

Here and there, walls of different sizes and designs protected the numerous ponds ablaze with waterlilies and plants that she couldn’t name, and each pond surrounded by its own miniature flower garden. In various corners were expensive-looking cafes and discrete restaurants.  ‘Perfect for illicit affairs’, she thought, as only the artistic signage, coupled with the occasional snatched words or laughter heard from behind flowering foliage and shady trees, made her aware patrons were enjoying a cooling drink or a delicious meal. 

Paths leading to fantastic scenic views were surrounded by protective safety barriers at the roof's edges. Although acknowledging her poor photographic skills, she constantly ‘click, clicked’ away, trying to capture an image of this beauty. Peering down onto the streets below were lines of shops displaying quite splendid wares, all determined to lure those with luxury tastes. The clean roads were busy with trollies, taxis and expensive-looking cars. Looking beyond the streets lay a harbour crowded with ferries, yachts and small boats bobbing up and down. 

Looking out further than the port were various vessels ploughing through the smooth channel and taking fare-paying customers from one side of the harbour to the other, whilst other boats had struck out further and were making their way to the various islands standing proud in the distance. As she sat contentedly yawning, she realised how she longed to be amongst those travellers transversing from one shore to the other. 

She raised her eyes to the sky, expecting to see the dipping sun and approaching sunset, and was surprised to notice the sun continuing to burn brightly above and retain the heat of the day. She slowly rubbed her well-made-up eyes, trying not to smudge the mascara so carefully applied earlier in the day. She shook herself gently, feeling confused. She had been about to suggest that they leave and go to their favourite restaurant for their final evening meal of the holiday, but somehow, she had judged the time of the day wrongly - it seemed that it was mid-afternoon, not early evening. Her partner didn’t comment on anything and seemed quite comfortable watching the afternoon sun beginning to climb in the sky.

Suddenly he stood up and said:

‘Too hot for me. We need to move ourselves”.

As she stood up, her eyes drifted to the harbour far below.

“Do you fancy going to the harbour and jumping on one of those ferries? It seems a shame not to have visited a few of those islands before our holiday ends”, he said. “Race you to the harbour”, he said.

*****

Their feet thundered along the boardwalk as they rushed towards the first ferry scheduled to leave; they paid their dollars and joined the other travellers in the well-sheltered seating area of the ferry,

’Do you know where we are going?’ she asked.

‘No, don’t care - do you?’ he said laughingly.

‘Wonder how long it takes?’ she mused.

‘What? The ferry? Depends on where it’s going. Let’s enjoy the journey.’ he said.

She nodded and smiled contentedly.

A short while later, as she left the ferry, wondering where they were and what to expect, a short Asian man came towards them, offering them a hand of welcome.

“Hi, I’m Sunny, offering a tour of the island. Can I show you around?’. 

She saw no other tour drivers as she looked around.

’How fortunate that the other travellers had not booked Sunny’, she said to her partner.

They jumped in the taxi with Sunny and set off. 

They were on an island under new development commercially and for the tourist trade. Tall, impressive skyscrapers jostled for space next to Temples and Churches from different eras and cultures. The main commercial streets still badly needed transforming, and the small shops bore little resemblance to the expensive stores on the other side of the harbour from where they had set off. Many shops were housed in old colonial buildings from the island’s history. 

Sunny expertly drove them around the small, under-developed roads and happily answered all their many questions.

‘Most people come here for the Casinos. Would you like to visit one?’ asked Sunny.

Sunny took them to ‘The Gondoliers’ as he felt it was one of the prettiest. As the taxi swung into the complex, they were immediately caught up in the crowds and general excitement. Young Gondolieri, dressed in blue and white striped t-shirts, blue trousers and straw Panama hats adorned in blue ribbons, rushed forward and swung open the taxi doors to help them out. They both bade farewell to Sunny and were guided to a descending set of steps where a brightly painted gondola awaited them. Holding her hand, the Gondolieri slowly assisted her to a soft-cushioned seating area. She turned to her partner, and both smiled broadly, clearly in agreement that this was turning into a beautiful afternoon.

Standing at the back, the Gondolieri steered them around the various Casino canals until they finally reached an imposing set of stairs leading up to a magnificent entrance hall. As the gondola approached the steps, two men dressed in blues and red descended and assisted them as they climbed the steps towards the entrance. Offering his arm, her guide helped her proceed upwards to make a grand arrival!  More guides awaited them as they reached the landing at the top of the stairs.

‘Would you like to go round the tables, or would you prefer refreshments first? ' one of the guides asked.

‘Shall we go round the tables first and then go for something to eat and drink after?’ she suggested.

All agreed this was a good idea, and bowing deeply, the guides ushered them into the main Casino.

‘Do you want to stick with me, or shall they meet up in an hour or so?’ she asked her partner.

‘I’ll just wander. I find people losing money fascinating’, he said.

They went off in different directions, and she went to the ‘Fruit Machines’ - not for her Roulette, Poker or Craps. She loved playing the machines and was surprised at how much Fruit Machines had changed since she last played. Firstly, it was now possible to feed a ‘bet’ directly into the machines using bank cards; buying tokens was no longer required. She sat in front of an enormous machine and noticed there was no longer a handle to pull. Instead, there were various icons and buttons to press, which she assumed allowed different bets. She had no idea what these buttons did, as all attempts at pushing them did precisely nothing. All she could do was press the PLAY button again and again. Suddenly, a loud noise came from her machine. She swivelled her eyes over its busily decorated front, trying to see if the noise indicated her bet was depleted. In embarrassment, she moved her hands to her lap, hoping that removing her hands from the machine would stop the terrible noise. She couldn’t see any flashing lights or words likely to assist in putting a stop to the noise. Her embarrassment rose as the noise grew louder, clearly disturbing the other Casino players. Both croupiers and players’ heads had repeatedly looked up from the tables. Finally, in desperation, she stood up and began hitting the machine's front with all her might to try to stop the noise.

Her partner appeared from nowhere and ran over, looking concerned. 

“Is that your machine making all that noise?’

‘I can’t shut it up’, she wailed.

A handsome man wearing the uniform of a Casino employee came over.  He wore a name badge bearing the name Keith.

‘Do you want to cash in your winnings?’ said Keith, pressing a button. Immediately, silence ensued.

‘Thank you for shutting that noise off. What was causing it?” she asked confusedly.

Keith was laughing. ‘What do you think that noise was?” and without waiting for an answer said: “You won one of the Jackpots. Not the biggest Jackpot, but a Jackpot.”

‘My goodness. No wonder it was so loud. How do I get my money?

‘Just press ‘Cash up’, and a docket will come out, and then you go to the payout machines over there’, said Keith.

Pressing ‘Cash Up’, a printed docket appeared; she attempted to read it but quickly realised that the printing meant nothing to her. She shrugged her shoulders. Keith asked to see the docket, and passing it to him, he gave a long appreciative whistle. 

‘Wow, you’ve done well. It’s too much for the payout machine, so I’ll take you to the Cashier, who’ll sort you out. You need to follow me”.

Off they went, with her almost running to the Cashier to keep up with Keith, who was striding ahead. They got to the Cashier, and Keith flourished the docket at the man behind the barred window.  

‘Do you want the Cashier to count out the cash and give it directly to you, or would you prefer him to put it straight into your bank account?’ Keith asked.

Her partner, unable to control his excitement, said, “How much; how much”.

She began to laugh. A few days before, they had discussed coming to the Casino, and her partner had been adamant that it wasn’t a good idea to spend time gambling in a Casino. However, she had noticed his demeanour had changed dramatically, and he was no longer his usual calm, unfazed self.  

The amount that had been won was considered unsafe to carry around in her purse, so it was decided to pay the winnings directly into her bank. 

Another gentleman appeared at her side and asked if she required any ‘Winning Extras’. 

‘What on earth are ‘Winning Extras?’ she asked.

“A meal, a hotel room, a car to take you as you wish, the casino’s yacht to take you across the harbour”.

‘Well, we can’t stay in a hotel here as plane journeys are booked to our respective countries. How about the Casino’s yacht to take us across the Harbour?” said my partner.

‘Yes! Let’s do that. God, this whole thing is like a dream!’ she told him.

The whole boat began to shake as she gingerly lowered herself into the launch. ‘Phew’, she thought as she tried to find something to cling to.

*****

As her eyes slowly opened, she saw him smiling at her. 

She stretched and said: ’Come on. It’s time to go and eat, and I must finish packing.

She looked around her and felt immediately confused. It was by now dark but still warm. She put her hands down to her sides and realised she was still sitting on the bench in the roof garden. She smiled at the memory of what had been a dream.

She whispered to him, feeling a little foolish:

‘I dreamt we’d gone to a Casino and won a lot of money. It was such a vivid dream that I almost thought it was true.’

He looked at her, clearly confused: “We did go to a Casino, and you did win. Can’t you remember?”  

September 09, 2023 01:22

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3 comments

Michał Przywara
20:45 Sep 13, 2023

Indeed, it was hard to be certain if it was a dream or not! The sun being back in the sky, everyone being so accommodating, winning the jackpot on the first try, being unable to make sense of the writing on the docket - all these seemed dreamlike. But then, the whole trip to the island was cogent, logically consistent. It didn't have any of the standard "dream logic". This story almost flirts with horror too. The slot machine makes a noise she can't stop, and it makes her uncomfortable. Then there's her not realizing it wasn't a dream, rig...

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Stevie Burges
23:07 Sep 13, 2023

My goodness, Michal I have missed your critiques. Thank you so much for spending so much time and effort on the story. I had decided to make all of it a dream - the huge roof gardens, the person I was with, etc. I felt the prompt was a 'Fantasy' and I am useless with fantasy so wrote a dream. Again many thanks for looking at it.

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Mary Bendickson
22:46 Sep 09, 2023

Fun adventure.

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