|A knock at the door. I get up, sliding my chair back across the stone floor. I walk to the door and press my eye up to the peek hole. I shiver, and it's got nothing to do with the temperature. I force myself to take a deep breath. I open the door.
A man peers curiously into the dimly-lit room. "Everythin' alright, Jim?"
I nod. I don't trust myself to speak.
The man looks at me, his black eyes boring into mine. "Can I come in?" His voice is gentle. It scares me more than if his voice was rough and deep. I nod again, and step back. The man steps forward, and enters the room.
"Everythin's set up all right, Jim. Shall we?" The nondescript man gestures to the table. Upon it lays two pewter mugs, a glass bottle of liquor with a fancy glass stopper, and a worn deck of cards.
I shuffle over to the table and slump into my chair. The man sits, and unstoppers the bottle. He holds it up to his nose and takes a sniff. "Ah, Jim, ma' boy, you shouldn't have. You flatter me." He upends the caramel-colored liquid into his cup, smiling. He places the bottle back on the table, and picks up the cards. He begins to shuffle. Each single card makes a sound like the ripping of a soul from a body. I cringe. His smile widens. "Let us begin."
I grab up the cards he deals out, handling them like hot coals. A jack and a seven.
"You kin start this time." I reach for the deck with a trembling hand, and slide the top card over to me. I place it in my hand with the other two cards. Its a ten. My heart beats a little faster. His smile widens again. "Ma' turn," he says jovially. I feel like I'm about to puke.
He clicks his tongue and taps the table, indicating it's my move. I gulp and place the jack face down in front of me. He chuckles and flicks a card from his hand. It flies through the air and hits mine, flipping it. The two cards lie facing each other. I breath a sigh of relief. Temporary relief, but relief nonetheless. I slide his nine off the table. It lands softly and burns a hole through the stone floor. My heart jumps to throat.
"Ah well, kin't win 'em all." He gestures. I draw another card. A four. My hand is shaking uncontrollably as I put it in my hand. He draws, and purses his lips. "Huh. Well look at that." My stomach clenches.
He slowly plucks a card from his hand and places it gently on the table, face down. I do the same, almost dropping the card. He snorts derisively and both cards flip. His six and my seven lie still for an entire minute. My teeth grind against themselves.
Finally he moves, tossing his cards in the air. Laughter bursts forth from his mouth. "Ahahaha! You beat me again, you lil' card-shark! Congratulations, you're not dead!" He laughs again, and pounds the table with a fist. The wood is blown to bits, splinters spraying everywhere. I flinch. But only a flinch; this has happened every time so far.
He downs his glass of whiskey like apple juice and heads toward the door. He turns in the doorway. I look away, reluctant to meet his eyes. "I'll be back next Monday, Jim. Have a nice week!" He whistles a nameless tune and walks out into the sunlight. I let out a shaky breath: Death has left the house.
Word Count: 611
Prompt:"... death can visit sometimes without taking a victim."