I believe that luck is akin to faith in a higher power.
Like those who seek guidance from a god, luck provides solace in the idea that something beyond us is controlling our lives; that there is in fact a meaning and structure to the things that happen to us. Luck does this by way of probability, chance, and intuition, rather than prayer, though some may like to do so too.
When that dice rolls, the call or fold or the choice to stand or hit. All are governed by the laws of Lady Luck. The unseen force that flows through every gambler, the essence of the game. The cards pulse with it; the roulette wheel runs on it.
This is invariably a fact to men like me, but what remains to be questioned has always been where this comes from.
And much like those who follow Christ, many are still puzzled by the lack of an answer, the curiosity spurring those to combine science and religion to form an answer, to talk about the energies of the earth that influence us.
But sometimes, just sometimes, that curiosity is dangerous.
I’m familiar with luck, very much so. I grew up in, Henderson, Nevada, and so of course the association with the often notorious gambling capital was impossible to overlook. I always felt that there was an energy in the entire territory, as if the very presence of Sin City was a beacon; a colossal reactor so abundant with it that it spread to every corner of the state.
Of course, those were just teenage theories, and I had no proof whatsoever, but from the times my parents took me to Vegas on special occasions, I would be lying if I said that I couldn’t feel it. Every time we’d walk past the casinos with their grand fountains, I’d watch in awe as their neon glow drew me in, begging me to enter, to indulge, to try my luck.
Of course, I’d not been allowed to, since I’d been under-age, and my parents had been very conservative about that. I hadn’t even been allowed to walk in. My Vegas trips and been spent shopping, eating out and staying in hotels, and I’d enjoyed it, but I knew I wanted those casinos. I didn’t know if anyone else felt the way I did during my teenage years because it never became an unhealthy obsession, but I knew that I felt it. I had bigger things to worry about than Vegas. But the consistent fact that stayed in the back of my mind was that the luck in my soul needed to be sated.
I did mention it a few times in casual conversations with my family in a way that wouldn’t seem absurd to them. My family tended to believe in more ‘rational’ ideas, like secularism, coincidence and causation, so their replies usually consisted of general suggestions that we’d be able to go once I’m of age; that we could play cards some time as long as there was no money involved, things of that ilk.
And when we did play cards, I was good.
Blackjack, Spades, Poker, President, Hearts, Rummy, you name it, when I played against friends and family alike, I’d win more often than not.
I could understand the cards, and I had the luck to push myself when I didn’t have the upper hand. It was something I was truly good at, and I didn’t find myself feeling that I had to work too much for it. Of course, I lost sometimes, I wasn’t perfect, but I knew I had an affinity.
The difference between my friends, family and myself was how we saw it, though.
They wrote it off as being a natural talent, that I had the mental configuration needed to excel in card games, and I never doubted that those things factored into it, but like I said, I felt it was so much more than that. I felt connected to something when I gambled with them. I felt something stir inside of me, alongside the luscious rush of adrenaline that coursed through me when I won.
As I neared adulthood, the fire inside of me turned to embers. The need to gamble was pushed to the recesses of my mind by the need for good grades, a job, and other responsibilities. It never truly left me, but as I gambled less recreationally, the neon allure faded into the background. Once I’d graduated, I decided that I wanted to go to college, and came out with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration four years later.
Some people would find it dull, and some parts of it were; but I figured it’d help me a lot in job searches, and I liked the fact that the marketing aspect of it had a real psychology behind it that hooked people into things.
The people in my life went their own separate ways, and we kept in contact somewhat regularly, but ultimately my friends and family had their own lives, and I’d moved out to find my own way in the world by the time I’d turned twenty three. I had a nice apartment in Henderson, with decent places to eat and shop close by. Nothing to write home about, but it was enough for me. Four walls with some luxuries and a decent job as an estate agent were fine for now.
Or at least they had been.
As of right now, present day, it’s a Tuesday; and a week ago, I turned twenty four.
And the urges are back with more intense force than I’d previously felt.
I’m not sure why; I can only speculate that the recent celebration for my birthday had caused me to become less guarded, and more willing to let loose a little more. I usually keep to myself, I find that it’s nicer to have friends whom you can see in smaller quantities, but it feels like no time has passed when you do, so when I do see them it always boosts my morale. They’re good friends.
Whatever was the catalyst, the result is that it’s back, and it’s more intense than ever. It’s then that I realize that I can actually go.
I have the money, the transport, and I’m old enough. Why not? I’ve wanted to since I strolled past those grandiose structures all that time ago. I could use a day off.
My black sedan is full of gas. I pose in front of the full-length mirror that spans the length of my closet door. My dark brown eyes survey my figure up and down. I’m donned in a gray suit, with a white shirt and black tie, crease-free. My face is clean shaven, fair but weathered skin looking presentable, black shoes shined.
I run a hand through my short auburn hair as I ponder to myself. I’m not too sure why I’ve never thought about going until now. I guess the daily humdrum of life took the wheel, and my mind hadn’t wandered from that place for a while. Of course I have hobbies and such, but I don’t really go for planned days out often, especially not to a casino.
I slip on my sunglasses as I get into my car, the anticipation of the day eating me alive. After all this time, I’ll be able to do more than just glance at the neon glow as I pass by. I’ll be able to enter, to play, to drink it all in.
I’m here, I’m in Vegas. The giddiness inside of me is hidden behind my shades; the wonder in my eyes is obvious underneath them. I feel a little emotional, the sensation I’ve felt on and off for so long throughout my life at an all-time high.
I feel the buzzing and pulsing within me as I reach my destination.
It’s dusk now, and the towering building is lit up in all its’ green glory, a shining way-point illuminating my desires, just like I remembered it.
I pass the palm trees, taking in the almost overwhelming sights as I near the entrance.
And, at long last, I finally entered.
Almost immediately, I’m blasted by another rush of energy as I make my way into the lobby. The place is absolutely huge, with a majestic centrepiece depicting a golden lion under a gilded, well-lit dome. The floor’s polished, reflecting my image in a semi-visible fashion.
Once I work up the nerve and push down the explosive sensation being inside is giving me, I focus on where I can get some betting chips. After all, can’t play without them.
I watch the other people as they peruse the games in the casino section ahead of the lobby, and from what I can tell, most are taking the cash straight to the tables. My mind is racing, and I can’t wait a second longer.
I find myself sat at one of the blackjack tables, trying to maintain my composure in a sensible way. I put three hundred dollars down and requested it in the 50s, giving me a total of six individual chips. I’m by no means happy with just three hundred; however I know how enthralling it can be to win; so three hundred is a good compromise, lest the aching inside of me go out of control.
Speaking of which, the feeling seems to elevate as the betting phase begins.
I place down one of the fifties, taking care to keep my hand steady as I’m dealt my first two cards.
A three of clubs, and an eight of clubs.
The suits don’t matter to me; it’s just the numbers, the essence of the cards fuse to me as I look at the dealer’s hand.
A seven of hearts.
I’m perspiring slightly now, I feel alive; finally, my feelings of desire are being validated, in the gambling capital of the world!
I speak my request to the dealer, who promptly hands me another card.
Ace of spades.
That makes twelve, I can still take another.
A seven of diamonds.
I request to stand at nineteen; I've got a good hand, the static electricity building within me as the dealer makes his move.
Twenty three. A bust.
The dealer hands me another fifty along with my original wager, the euphoria of the first win of the night racking my body. I feel as though I’ve been charged, electric elation controlling my being.
I play several more hands alone, winning a further two hundred chips, and I by now I’ve gained a small audience watching me play impressed by my winnings.
It’s only small stakes, but I still feel flattered, the luck flowing through me, and I know my affinity is finally coming to fruition.
I feel the small crowd’s own energy vibrating in their souls, the luck flowing in their veins as I contemplate how to go about betting. It’s almost as if the energy is diffusing from one body to another, generating this wonderful rush in my head.
I feel good about this one.
The vibe is one of perfect ecstasy, and so I decide I must put in at least half of my winnings, or else I wouldn’t feel fulfilled.
I place down 250 dollars worth of chips, exactly half.
Now I must beat the dealer a final time.
The same as before occurs, two cards to me, two to the dealer.
Nine of diamonds, Three of spades.
Doubling down would be a strange choice here, since ten is usually the primary number to look for if one wants to do so, but I could still win with a twelve.
I might be thrown out, though.
I make my decision, and with a deep breath, I speak.
It’s a two of hearts.
Damn, makes it harder now.
The adrenaline spikes as I take yet another card; the anticipation of the final showdown before I leave the table is intoxicating.
Six of clubs.
I have a twenty; there’s no way he can beat me without a maximum.
I allow myself a small smile, wiping the perspiration from my forehead as I stand once again.
The dealer begins to take his own cards, and as I keep my eyes on him, I swear I see someone pointing in my direction in my peripheral vision...
…The dealer snaps me back to reality as he goes up the numbers; these cards are the make or break of the hand.
Nine, Ten, Fifteen, Seventeen.
And the dealer soft stands.
I’ve done it.
The buzz from the win is entrancing. I feel ethereally satisfied, with a contented smile on my face. I take my winnings with me, and head to the bar area, where I decide to celebrate with a couple of drinks.
It takes two Martinis before my head begins to spin.
This is weird, I’m not a lightweight; I can usually hold my drink infinitely better than this. So why do I feel so lethargic? Why am I staggering, slurring and feeling so sluggish?
I feel my eyelids begin to grow weary, great weights on my face, drowsiness begins to overtake me, and I collapse to the floor.
My mind stirs, a veil of fog clouding my cognitive processes as I begin to return to consciousness.
I feel groggy, peculiar, and unsettled.
Once my vision fully returns, I can fully observe where exactly I am.
And what I can see causes my already shallow breath to cease for a moment.
My left arm is connected to a drip of some description, its’ tubing connecting to a larger device that I can only describe as a large sand timer, at least in shape. There are other apparatus around the room, including the chair I’m tied to. I’m fastened with strong ropes, so I don’t think I’ll be able to escape very easily.
Something that looks like a speaker is attached to the wall, protected by a metal cage.
There are medical tables with various instruments upon them, scalpels, electric saws, all gleaming under the florescent lights above me.
The room itself is industrial looking, with rusted pipes in the corner and what I think is a radiator on the far left.
The only door to the room is located almost directly behind me, and I have to really stretch to see the damn thing, craning my neck to view the rusted, heavy frame.
Whatever this is, I don’t want any part of it.
I begin to shift to the right, towards one of the medical tables. Thank god whoever has me here didn’t bolt the chair to the floor.
I keep shifting as quickly as possible, desperate to reach anything sharp, the chair making clanking noises on the hard floor.
Suddenly, I lose my balance, and the chair tips over to the side, taking the whole table with it.
At the very last second, I wildly move my head backwards to avoid the arcing blade of a scalpel as it falls with the other instruments, clattering noisily to the ground.
I’ve probably alerted everyone in the vicinity now, I don’t have much time.
Using my teeth, I painstakingly angle a blade that’s fallen next to me so that I can launch it towards my hands.
With a sense of urgency, I make it happen, and the blade tumbles towards my left hand.
I have just about enough freedom of movement to slide the blade into the ropes, though it’s going to be awkward since I’m on my side.
I looked behind me, no one yet.
I begin cutting, as fast as I can without dropping it or hurting myself checking the door every few seconds.
It feels like eternity, but I’m finally free.
I shake the ropes lose, and rapidly cut through the rope on my other arm, followed by my legs.
Okay, I’m free.
Just then, the door swings open, and two men brandishing firearms enter.
They’re way larger than I am, and they’ve got guns.
I begin to panic, trying and failing to contain my breathing, the reality that I could very well die here setting in.
The men advance, ready to do whatever it is they want to do, closer and closer.
Then, a voice breaks the silence.
A raspy, gluttonous voice that doesn’t quite sound human makes itself heard over the loudspeaker.
“Remember what I told you, I want him brought here alive.”
My breathing begins to return to normal after hearing this; I might have a chance now, they’re not going to kill me yet. The less positive part of me knows that this is probably an out of the frying pan and into the fire situation, but I don’t have much of a choice here.
I’m disarmed, unhooked from the machine, and taken rather roughly through what seems to be a set of underground maintenance tunnels. My mind is racing right now, every moment spent trying to work out how I’m going to get out of here.
We pass by other rooms, and I catch a glimpse of other strange-looking devices, each of differing sizes and shapes. I turn my head in revulsion as an otherworldly viscous substance pours out of one of them, bright green in color.
Finally, we enter a large area, just as industrialized as the rest of this place, but with one key difference.
There’s a Thing sitting in the middle of it.
A large, grotesque-looking being is lying on a makeshift bed made up of a dirty king-size mattress, some linen, and red pillows. It resembles a slug, but lacks any kind of eyes that I can see. Instead, its' plump, gray mucus-covered body is home to a large mouth in the middle of the torso.
It rears up slightly as we enter, and I swear that mouth is grinning, or at least it looks like itis.
“I could smell you from your cell, you know.”
That same gluttonous, raspy tone emanates from the creature’s huge maw.
I stayed silent, utterly in shock. I don’t know what to say, what to think.
The thing continues. “You must be very confused, I know I would if I was in your shoes!” It lets out a gigantic guffaw, spraying stringy saliva around, small amounts, landing on the pustules on its’ body.
I grimace, this creature is disgusting.
“What’s the matter? All your luck ran out?” That mouth twists into yet another sickening, unmistakable grin.
I finally speak, fighting to keep my voice steady.
“Why am I here, what even are you?!” I shout in frustration, my voice failing to keep the shakiness from entering.
The being licks its’ lips, a huge purple tongue snaking out quickly.
“It’s not about what I am, but rather what you are.”
The creature says in a smug tone, before continuing.
“I bet you’ve felt this sensation all your life, this craving to gamble, ever since you first visited this disgusting city, right?”
I nod slowly, though my eyes betray my feigned nonchalance. I’m astounded at how this thing knows this.
“Everyone has what we call luck inside of them, but some of them…”
The beast trails off, licking its’ lips once again, and I can smell its’ foul breath even from where I’m standing.
“Some of them, I can smell a mile off. You’re bursting with it, that deliciousness.”
I interject quickly, gaining a little bit of courage.
“So you just, what, create this sensations so you can get off?!”
This results in another mountainous guffaw from the thing.
“Create? Oh no, we just harvest it. That’s what the casinos are for, see? Every win, every patron, their essence filters down here, to me.”
I can’t believe what I’m hearing; this is absolutely absurd, and yet, I know I’m not dreaming. I know that luck exists; I feel it too often to argue against it.
“Well, that’s really very interesting, but I should be going now.”
I say with a hint of nervousness that I’m still desperately trying to conceal.
The two men walk closer, pressing their guns into my back as reminders that I’m not going anywhere.
“You aren’t going anywhere I’m afraid.” The creature says it in a very matter-of-fact way.
“Y’see, the ones like you, you’re different, you’re full to bursting with the stuff, and I can’t just let you go, let all that marvellous Luck go to waste.”
I don’t like where this is going.
“And so, we have our ways of extracting it from your pitiful species, and while the process is fatal, it’s more than worth it, especially when ones like you struggle so hard to escape, it’s exquisitely delicious.”
Okay, I’ve had enough. It’s time to act.
“I thought that might be the case. Mind answering one more question though?”
The creature smiles its’ yellow-toothed smile once again.
“Of course, you’re going to die anyway, so Indulging you one last time isn’t a problem.”
I take a deep breath.
“Why are your men so bad at checking for weapons?”
While they’re still pondering the question, I duck under the guns pointed at my back, and take out a blade I’d kept hidden in my shoe.
As they realize what’s happening, I swipe at the left man’s leg, and he cries out as he falls, crimson pouring from the wound.
I get up, charging at the other man, trying to get the gun out of his hands.
We wrestle wildly on the ground, flailing, kicking, punching, until suddenly a gunshot is heard.
The man lies still, shot in the heart.
I stagger to my feet, handgun clutched in my palms, making sure I keep it trained on the other man.
During the commotion, the creature has stayed silent, finally choosing to talk in that smug tone now.
“And what will you do now? You’re delaying the inevitable. You can’t escape from us.”
I wince, ignoring the thought.
“Let me go. Now.”
The creature begins to laugh that horrible, gloating laugh.
“Of course, you can leave right now, I won’t stop you.”
I raised an eyebrow, looking down at the bleeding man beside me.
“Wait, really…Okay…good, but no tricks, or I'll shoot."
I back away, still with the gun aloft, glancing one last time at the chamber, at the slug.
And I leave.
I make my way through the winding tunnels with extreme caution, eyes darting around for any more guards. To my surprise, there are none, and my journey out of this wretched place is left unhindered.
I pass by an open storage area, and I almost ignore it and move on, when I spot something.
I fish around in the room and find a few matches; all I need to do now is empty the contents of the cans.
I empty them in as many rooms as I remember, while taking care to avoid getting lost. Something in the back of my mind is nagging me, though, I can’t quite pinpoint the sensation, but something is off.
To tell the truth, though, I just want to get out of here, and I don't care how that happens.
I gingerly walk towards what looks to be a set of stairs after what feels like an eternity. The vast iron cast door swings open before me, and I’m blinded by the sunlight.
I walk out, again, unhindered by the door, and dump the last of the fuel down the stairs, a nice trail leading back down there.
I stare up at the casino I’m now standing behind, and shake my head.
The flames look oddly pretty as I flee the scene.
Watching the news coverage back home of an arsonist in Vegas is quite surreal, and I keep going over the events in my head, playing over them repeatedly. The nagging feeling keeps getting stronger and stronger, and as I focus on the escape.
It hadn’t stopped me; it hadn’t cared about me leaving. It had just sat there, amused, almost impressed by my determination and willingness to hurt or kill to get what I need.
As I keep replaying the events that transpired, I begin to feel a pit in my stomach begin to form as something sinister takes root in my mind, about what it had said.
“that’s what casinos are for.”
And as I remember this, I begin to feel something else building within me.
The urge to test my luck.
Written by ZugZuwang