Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2294072-You-Bet-Your-Life
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2294072
Jason plays a game of Blackjack for a whole lot more than just cash.
          He was flashy, that much Jason could tell. The cards seemed to dance between the nameless dealer’s fingers as he shuffled and twisted. They arched over his head, and with a splatter landed in his other hand. His green eyes twinkled a bit. They were perfect green eyes that matched the color of the card table in front of him. “Let’s see, what you have to bet,” he asked.

          The sights and sounds of the casino blended in and out behind him. Voices echoed. Laughter blending in with the lounge music piping in through the speakers. In every other casino he’s been in it was classic rock. Some seventies or eighties band whose heyday had long since passed in order to give the patrons a sense of nostalgia. A thrill while the cards played. Just another thing to make the aged clientele forget what time it was. How long they had been sitting there. How many hands they had been dealt. How much the one-armed bandit had taken from them. Just another thing to pin them to the stool and keep them betting.

          Jason plunked down a single token. Words appeared on them he had never seen before. Thirties? Forties? Fifties? Marriage? Life? Soul? What were these tokens? What is going on here, he thought, holding one up to the light to stare at it just a bit longer.

          “Now, now. Don’t be shy. First one’s always on me,” the nameless dealer gave him a wink. Then plucked two cards down. “Blackjack is my game. I just like saying it. Black. Jack.”

          The dealer gave him a grin that showed off all his teeth. There was something wrong. A few too many canines, perhaps. Too many incisors. Either way, it left Jason feeling more than a little unsettled. “I don’t know what I’m dealing with,” he said.

          “Come now,” the dealer said, his eyes lighting up for just a moment. Before turning back to green. “I think you do. How much are you willing to bet, now? Come on. You need so much, don’t you. Kicked out of college,” he said this last part in a mocking tone, his mouth forming a comical frown. “Failed out of every job you’ve ever had. Awww.” He reached forward and patted Jason on the cheek, “CHEER UP, BUCKO! I’m here now. I’m going to solve your every problem. That is, if you can win the game.”

          Jason swallowed. “How?” He asked.

          A television screen popped on behind the dealer. On the TV was…Jason. Only, he was rich. Very rich. A beautiful model under his arm. At a lavish party in a mansion that he owned. “All of this is what you can have.” The dealer said. “All of it,” he growled. “But I want to see your initial bet! You must make the opening bid before you have a chance at all of this.”

          He sighed, looking down at the chip. It was singular. Red with red white and blue checker pattern around the side of it. It felt as if it was made of clay, not a particularly dangerous substance. Inside the center lit up the word “Thirties.”

          “But, what happens if I lose,” Jason asked.

          The dealer behind the table grinned. “Ah shucks, bet it all, lose it all. I may let you have all that anyway just for being a good sport.”

          “If I win,” Jason asked again.

          The dealer’s grin grew wider. “Then you get to keep it! Keep your entire life! Get all of these fabulous prizes behind me.”

          The dealer flipped over the first card. “Come on. Whatcha say? You can’t win if you don’t play, after all. Life’s a game, isn’t it Jason?”

          A king of diamonds stared up at Jason. The other card, decidedly red card stared up at him. It wasn’t flipped over yet. “Let’s see your bet.”

          “I have all of these chips,” Jason said, swallowing a bit. “But I have no cards.”

          “That’s the spirit,” the dealer grinned, his voice taking on an animalistic tone. “You need cards to play, don’t you.”

          He looked around. “No other players?”

          The dealer touched his nose. “How about just me and you for now, sport?”

          Two cards landed in front of Jason. “You got to bet before you turn that card over. What are you gambling with? Ten years? Twenty? Thirty years? Your entire life? What do you have to give me today, my dear Jason.” The dealer’s grin grew, his teeth seemed to be sharper; almost like a shark’s teeth.

          Jason swallowed. “I don’t make bets,” he said shakily, “If I don’t know who I-I’m gambling with.”

          “Come now,” The dealer said conspiratorially. He leaned in, looked Jason in the face with a darkly sweet smile. “You know who I am by now. Besides, you don’t believe in me, remember? I don’t exist.”

          He leaped back from the table, his stool bouncing off of the tile. Laughter echoed somewhere. “W-wha?” His chest hurt. His nose burned. His skin felt itchy. What was going on here?”

          “You’ve already gambled with your life, haven’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

          Jason swallowed. “I uh…”

          “Oh, you’re still alive.” The dealer said. “For now. But if you want to continue you living, then sit your ass down in that stool and make a fucking bet.”

          He bit his lip. It all came flooding back. He didn’t go to a casino. He went to a party. His friend Zack was there. Good old Zack who always had the best meth. And then, after floating a few ships he got dizzy. Fell down. I…. Jason thought. Died?

          “Correct!” Shouted the dealer. “And incorrect! Technically, you’re in a vegetative state.”

          “If you want to wake up,” the dealer coaxed, “you’ll have to make a bet.”

          Jason swallowed, then held up the cheapest chip he had. On it, said “Thirties,” and he laid it down. The dealer smiled, “Now we’re talking!”

          Jason laid down his minimum bet. “Ah. Thirties. Such an over-looked decade in life.” The dealer said. “You still have vitality of youth, and all that glorious experience.” A single card appeared before him on the table. A nine of clubs. A second card also appeared. An ace. He swallowed looking up at the dealer’s second card. He touched and caressed the card as Jason stared at it, red images seemed to swirl and dance within it as he touched it. Almost as if something inside it was alive. “Now, let’s see if I can beat twenty.”

          He flipped the card over. Another ace. The exact same Ace that Jason had just laid down. “Oh look! Black jack,” he grinned. Taking the chip from him. “Looks like you’re going to be in that bed a long time. Maybe I can make it up to you? Care to make another bet? Not like you’re going anywhere.”

          The cards vanished. Jason laid down another chip that said “forties” on it. “Oh, I’m sorry.” The dealer replied, grinning. “We’ve upped the ante. Now, the minimum bet is just a bit higher than that.”

          “How much?” Jason said, swallowing.

          “Three chips.”

          “Three,” he asked, swallowing nervously.

          The dealer gave him the shark toothed grin again and nodded. Jason looked down. He didn’t have much more than that. Forties, Fifties, and Marriage was all he really had left. Other than “Life” and “soul”.

          The three chips felt cold in his warm, clammy hand. He sighed, and set them down on the board. Forties. Fifties. Marriage. All gone. Waiting for him to make a move. To bet against and beat the Dealer. One card appeared on the board. “Oh, would you look at that,” he said, staring at a Queen of Diamonds. “They are a girl’s best friend, after all.”

          The second card was faced down. The red images against the red background swirled and danced in delight. He swallowed, pulling on his collar. “You might have a chance here. Care to increase your wager,” the dealer asked, leaning in. His grin getting just a bit more menacing.

          “Can I, uh,” Jason asked. “Can I get a drink?”

          “Well,” the dealer said, wistfully, “people in hell do want ice water. But all we have around here is whiskey. Go ahead. Get a shot of courage.”

          Jason turned. A woman in a beautiful one-piece suit was standing in front of him wearing a pair of fake angel wings, holding a tray of whiskey. Her blue eyes and auburn hair spoke to him. Comforted him somehow. “You okay, honey,” she asked.

          “I-I think,” he started. Then took the shot. “I don’t know.”

          “Want some advice,” she asked.

          Jason nodded.

          “You keep playing this game? Even if you win, you lose.”

          She turned quickly, walking over to another table nearby to offer her tray of drinks and strange advice. Jason watched her leave, admired her legs and shape for a moment before sighing and turning back to the table. “What will it be,” the Dealer growled, a grin spread across his face. “Going to increase the bet? You can, you know.”

          Jason held both chips. Life. Soul. Somehow, he knew. He was going to win it all. Everything back from the Dealer. He could see himself sitting in a huge mansion, with a beautiful wife leaning over him, brushing his face with a cloth. Then watch as she walked over towards the pool, laughing with a beautifully tanned man. Pushed into a corner in the bedroom, while her and the tanned man went to bed. Forced to watch through the window as her and the tanned man climbed into his Ferrari. Unable to move on his own. Unable to do anything on his own without the help of his beautiful wife. All the money, all the success would be his. Everything else would not.

          Life. Soul. How much was he willing to lay on the line to win at this game? How much was he willing to suffer to have money and fame? How much was it all going to be worth for him? The advice the waitress gave him echoed through his mind. Then the only way to win, is to not play the game, he thought.

          Gripping the two chips, Jason bolted from the table. “Hey!” The Dealer shouted. “Get back here and play!”

          Twisting and running through the tables, twisted figures started appeared at the other tables. Strange beings with red horns and dark, black fur. Wicked fangs hidden behind pretty smiles. Each playing a different game, with shocked and horrified people in front of the table, staring forlornly at the chips in their hands. Elderly people as dry as mummies sat in front of slot machines, with no eyes. Pulling the lever, hoping for one last shot. One more chance.

          He looked down and ran. Hot breath started to burn his neck. “Get back here,” the Dealer shouted louder. “Get back here and play you coward!” He was almost there. Nails scratched his arms. His elbows, as he ran. Strange beeping echoed through the casino now. It sounded almost medical. “I’ll get you yet Jason, you hear me! You can’t run from me!”

          The voice sounded as if it was right behind him. Turning, he saw metal bars over a plexiglass window at a counter. Jason had been in enough casinos to know what that window was. Running as fast as he could, he jumped a railing, and landed directly in front of the window, colliding hard with the wall. “Ready to cash out,” the woman on the other side asked. She looked just like the waitress that Jason had spoken to earlier, right down to the black leotard and angel wings.

          “You bet your ass,” he said, handing his two chips over. Then he blushed in embarrassment, “I mean,” he said biting his lip.

          “You’re tired of betting YOUR ass, I bet.” She said, then smiled. “Here you go. All set. Good bye. And don’t come back, okay?”

          When the slip of paper hit his hand, everything turned black.

          The beeping increased in volume. A machine pushed air into him. There seemed to be a..tube in his mouth?

          Reaching up, he pulled off the tube and set it aside. Taking a deep breath, the beeping increased. An alarm went off somewhere. He opened his eyes, and stared up into a pair of beautiful blue eyes, framed by auburn hair. “Oh! You’re awake finally,” she said. “Don’t move, hun. I’m going to unhook you.”

          She began pulling tubes and wires from him. Electrodes placed on his chest to read his heartrate. His head to read his brain activity. IV tubes stuck in his arm feeding him with fluids, keeping him rehydrated. A small tug here, a hair pulled there, and finally, “There you are sweety,” she said. Her voice was grinning, but Jason couldn’t see behind her medical mask. “What’s that in your hand?”

          In all the confusion, Jason hadn’t even noticed the two-coin shaped objects. “I-I don’t know,” he croaked, his voice feeling dry and raspy. They felt flat. Round. He raised his hand and looked at them. Inside the palm of his hand was two poker chips. Red with red white and blue square dots ran the sides of them. In the center of one was the word “LIFE” and the second the word, “SOUL”. He gasped, almost threw them down.

          The nurse grabbed his hand, and held it tight. “It’s alright Jason,” she said. “Think of it as a souvenir.”
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