He absentmindedly swept his fingers across the side of his neck, as the errant bead of sweat gathered pace and travelled south. Rattled, he grabbed his glass and downed the last of his drink, which, like his luck – was melting away.
It was common knowledge that time was the enemy in casino’s, thus there were no windows which showed the passing of the day outside. Inside it was always time to gamble. Maybe this was why it felt like only a couple of hours ago, Darryl was sitting atop a small fortune.
He was right, but his mind couldn’t correlate the disparity between that position and where he was now, which was the opposite end of the spectrum. How could it have got so bad, so quickly?
It didn’t help that male bravado was his gambling buddy. Yep, nothing changes when there is a lady to impress, and guys are so stupid that they think that the tactics of the 1920’s still apply today. Oh yeah, he chastised himself in his mind, the way to lure a woman is definitely show them your gambling prowess and stack of chips. If that doesn’t work, then just show them you have balls of steel as you fritter away an amount that could have paid off your house and paid for another.
Those words bounced off the hollow walls in his mind, mocking him as he twiddled his mum’s wedding ring on his finger. He was an idiot. He wasn’t a big-time businessman. He certainly wasn’t making decisions on stocks and shares. No, the money he was placing on the roulette table was more than he had ever seen.
Which made his current position even more infuriating.
Darryl was Assistant Manager of Waste Services for the County. A middle-rung appointment that wouldn’t notice he was gone if he left. His bland attire matched his working week. He turned up because it paid the bills, but his lack of motivation was surely what about 90% of the working population suffered, wasn’t it? Nearly everyone disliked their job.
Still, perhaps the mess he was in now was down to his fat-free, no gluten life. With zero excitement, it meant that the merest whiff of thrills and spills would captivate him.
And so it proved.
He came into the casino on the premise that it was for leaving drinks for some other non-entity in the office. He came along because all the other sheep were doing the same. The rest of the crowd headed straight for the entertainment, but Darryl kind of, floated. A few goes of the slot machines, a couple of hands of Blackjack. He was just about to leave when he walked past the roulette table.
As he sat nursing his empty drink and even emptier pockets, he tried to recall why he sat down. He only had a few chips, and like the majority of his life, he was not really interested in anything that was on offer. So why did he sit down?
It didn’t matter, as the next few hours proved he had made the right decision.
Three chips turned into six. Six into 12, 12 into 24.
All of the documentaries and films surrounding gambling and casino’s tell you that when you’re on a hot streak, you’ve got to follow that horse home, and jeez, he certainly did so. Every time he chose a number, or colour, he went all in. You see, his interest was still not snagged, not until the crowd roused him from his reverie.
As the mound of plastic money mounted up, so did the crowd. Drips of bodies began to swarm around him. This guy was luck embodied, and they all wanted to perhaps catch what he had – like it was a fucking airborne disease. If they weren’t up for getting a strain of what Darryl was carrying, then they were certainly enjoying the show. The noise level was increasing with every bet that came in. Soon, it started to catch the attention of the Pit Boss and his underlings.
No one won like this. What was he, fucking Rain Man?
For three hours, his chips behaved like bacteria. Every time they doubled. After an hour, he had enough to retire for a year and travel to wherever he wanted. That was when Darryl started to pay attention.
Now that every bet was made with his mind in gear, would that alter his decision? Did it stray from whatever neurons would have been activated had he been in his normal state of apathy?
The ball rolled onto number 19 and it answered his mind’s own question emphatically.
For another two hours, his winning run continued mercilessly. At the peak of his epic win, his prospective fortune gave him the opportunity to never work again. The security were mouthing unheard words into their radios. The crowd was now a mass of whoops and pats on the back. The staff couldn’t possibly lift Darryl from his seat whilst this many people were around him, there would be a riot. No, they would wait. And watch.
Darryl had never noticed that drinks were being placed in front of him. He just kept drinking. They were going down easy, the perfect accompaniment to this wildfire of excitement that was making everything tingle. From the tips of his fingers to his writhing stomach, every fibre of him was alive – and he was loving it.
It wasn’t the money that had invigorated him, it was the hive of people, it was the winning, it was the insurmountable odds.
This was a good thing too, as the cash was soon to dwindle through his hands like sand.
His Midas touch had deserted him as quickly as they had become mysteriously acquainted, and as he was going all in on every bet, his fortune went straight into the coffers of the grateful casino with just one bet.
His head went into his hands. The groans from the dissipating crowd had been nearly as liud as those telling him to cash out with every previous bet.
Now it was all gone.
The people, the buzz. All that remained was the two members of Security, who ushered him from his chair to the back offices.
From the focus of everybody’s attention, to now walking through the casino as a nobody. Just like always.
The Security opened a series of doors, in a long, nondescript hallway. The final door opened up into a wide office, with a large desk and a raft of TV screens showing the casino floor in every angle.
Sat at the desk was a man in a suit. He had short, dark hair and one single gold tooth – and that was it. Darryl couldn’t remember anything else about him. He just looked like every man you pass in the street without batting an eyelid.
He was everyone – and no one.
When he spoke though, well, Darryl would always remember that.
“Darryl, please, sit down.”
His hands pointed to the one chair that sat in front of the desk that this man was perched on.
Darryl did as he was told, whilst struggling with how this man knew his name.
He sat down, and the man spoke.
“Darryl, what you have just done was nothing short of miraculous. It has never happened before. Do you know the odds of what you just performed out there?”
Darryl shrugged his shoulders.
“Numbers don’t quite give it the gravitas it deserves, so, it equates to the odds of finding Elvis alive, whilst sitting on top of the Loch Ness Monster. Needless to say, it was nigh-on impossible.”
Darryl could not quite get over not only the amount he had just burned, but also the loss of that excitement. He wanted both back, badly.
“You can thank me now Darryl.”
That certainly snapped Darryl out of his cycle of self-hate.
“You heard me Darryl. Of course, you are struggling to comprehend it, hence why you asked me to repeat what I had said. What I am saying is that I am responsible for what just unfolded. I am the reason why you have finally woken up. You can thank me now.”
No inflection of any emotion whatsoever from this man who still sat in his chair. Well, Darryl didn’t intend to sit around and listen to this horseshit. He got up without a word, and had his hand on the doorhandle when…
“Darryl, don’t you want that feeling again? You have ambled through life, just waiting for it to end. For those precious hours though, you felt EVERYTHING. You can have that again. You can have it always.”
As he spoke, the odd glint from his gold tooth found its way into Darryl’s eyes.
Darryl couldn’t help but listen. His hand slipped from the handle and he turned to face the man who was entrancing him with his words. He wanted it all back, and even though there was no logic present during this conversation, Darryl knew this man could make anything happen.
“All I need from you, is a pledge. A promise.”
Darryl would have given him his fucking fingers if he had asked, so a mere promise felt like he was getting the bargain of the century.
The mysterious man stood up, and was shorter than Darryl expected. Yet despite his diminutive frame, he dominated your vision.
The man placed both hands on the desk and tented his fingers so the palm was raised whilst his fingertips rested on the surface.
“I want you to promise me that, when it comes to your death – you will give yourself to me.”
Darryl was 32, with no previous medical complaints or hereditary warning signs. He had plenty of miles in the tank, so an event such a distance away carried no alarm.
“OK, you have my word. Just give me what I had.”
“Oh Darryl, you’ll have that and more.”
The man pointed to the door. Darryl left without another word between them, and walked down the hallway to the Casino floor with that same buzz he had so sorely missed.
He made his way to the site where he had made and lost his fortune. He sat in the same seat, and he was given one chip by the dealer, who winked at him. Darryl was a little shaken by this, but he went with it.
One hour later, he was on the same winning streak that he had surfed not hours before.
Three hours later, the crowds, the money had surpassed the last time. Darryl was alive, every word the small man had told him was coming true. Women were draped over him, he had more money in front of him than he could have dreamed of.
He gambled for another four hours. The money and people never stopped rolling in. Not once did he question how. He knew he wasn’t exactly the most magnetic of personalities, yet people – even beautiful women – were hanging on every word he said.
He stood up and asked a member of staff to cash the mountain of chips.
Five minutes later, he was walking out of the casino with three stunning women and a cheque for 20 million.
He hailed a cab and told the driver to go to the best hotel in town.
An hour later, he was on the top floor in the penthouse suite, drinking champagne.
Darryl took a minute away from the girls, who couldn’t leave him alone. He walked toward the massive set of windows which looked out onto the most breathtaking vista. He took a big breath, and tried to take it all in.
He was truly happy. He had everything he had ever wanted.
The night was a complete blur, but he woke up the next morning with four women he had no rights to ever be seen with, never mind have the time of his life with. The shearing headache made him smile, as there were bottles of champagne littered around the sprawling room.
It was the headache of a winner.
He sloped off and showered in what could only be described as the biggest wet room he had ever seen. He put on his clothes from the night before – all the while thinking some swanky new threads were the order of the day – and took his winnings with him. He couldn’t carry this cash around, he had to bank it – and then make it work.
This was his time, and he fully intended to enjoy every minute.
He exited the hotel foyer with a polite nod to the staff, and crossed the r….
A nondescript sedan piled straight into Darryl, his lifeless body bumping under each of the tyres as the car momentarily slowed down, but failed to stop.
Witnesses couldn’t give much to the investigating law enforcement, other than the driver had a gold tooth……
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