Spinning roulettes, springing levers, chips spilling over sorted suits, all sang out in chorus over the ruckus of rowdy highrollers. Coins tinkled like the feet of fairies dancing a ring around springtime. Ingordigia, a city paved with gold, where dreams come true.
Amongst the rabble, a curious young man sat quietly. Leaning back from his stool, elbows planted on the bar behind him, drink close at hand. The sanguine liquid quivered against deep crimson glass, distorting the stars in his eyes. Eyes closed, the fragrant fluid enveloped his senses as he sipped.
“Cigar, cigarette?” A girl with bunny ears and a bunny tail and bunny fur stood before him. The traveler waved her away and returned to his drink briefly before turning his attention to a heavy wooden door on his right. BOOM! The door swung open, slamming into the slots, and spilling coins upon the floor. With mercurial speed, a murder of crows set upon the gold, picking the planks clean in a matter of seconds.
“When will you wake up, Geoff! It has nothing to do with the money!” A fair woman with dark red hair stormed through the casino, rusting their voices and tarnishing the gold in her wake.
“What else is there, Clara!” Next came a man, twice as tall as any other and three times as wide. A Roman horn with Viking eyes. Reaching across the room, he failed to grasp her retreating figure.
“You’ll never understand!” Behind the darkness, beyond the casino doors, she faded and dispersed into the night. All silent, he stared absently into the misty shadows as the doors swung slowly shut. Turning, he peered down at the traveler.
“Spend some money! All of you!” His command polished the gold and greased the groans of greed. The room clattered back to life as the proprietor retreated, his form seemingly shrunken, framed in by the side door.
The room shook as Geoff collided with the chair beyond his desk. Reaching into a drawer, he clinched his fist around a cigar and drug the tip heavily across the desktop. With a sizzle, flames spurted from the end as he pulled it up to his mouth, a dark pit of churning glass.
“Nice place you have here.” Startled, the brute looked up quickly. Across the room stood the traveler, leaning against a bookcase.
“How’d you get in here?!” The young man motioned towards the door with his thumb. “Well, get out. This is my office.” He reached over the traveler’s head and grabbed an ashtray from atop the shelf.
“Was that your wife?” Coal black smoke rolled over gnashing glass, polluting the air.
“Ex-wife, I suspect. Nothing a good day on the tables won’t fix. And you are?”
“Just passing through.” The traveler turned to leave when something caught his eye. Pulling a book from the shelf. “Mind if I borrow this.” Geoff motioned towards him with an open palm then leaned back in his chair, spilling swirling smog into the atmosphere.
Seated on a stool around a table, a top hat, bow tie, monocle, white gloves, and black shoes hung in midair, a gold watch chain stretching into oblivion. Noisily, a tiny white ball bounced around the spinning roulette. Rejected time and again, scooped up and tossed away. An unwanted guest in undefeated homes. Tiring now, it made a final leap and rolled down to meet a blue triangle.
“Bust!” A glove tugged at the gold chain and out of nothingness popped a gold watch, which opened, clicked shut, and slipped away through a hole in reality. Standing, the top hat upended itself before tumbling back to rest above the monocle. The traveler nodded politely as the phantom effects floated past.
A bulb of inquisitive incandescence spiraled down from overhead, shining light across the book and casting a pale blue luminescence through the aquamarine glass in his hand. Crudely drawn pictures painted the pages, a family of farmers. Joyful in poverty. There was the planting, the harvest, the birth of a child. A teaching of the ways of the land. Then, blank pages.
The traveler glanced at the side door. BOOM! The door swung open, slamming into the slots. A single coin popped out and rolled across the floor, slipping through a crack and disappearing.
“I don’t wanna run the casino!” A blonde boy, barely two feet tall, strode out swinging a teddy bear angrily by the arm.
“But who’ll take over after I’m gone? Don’t you want to make money?” Next came a man, average in stature, chasing after the boy. A broken nose with grieving eyes.
“No! I don’t care! I’m gonna find Mommy!”
“Sven, wait!” Into the darkness beyond the casino doors, he vanished, swallowed by the night. Drenched in shadows, Geoff looked over at the traveler, sighed, and slunk back through the side door. Shards of glass fell to the floor, turning to dust underfoot. All around, gold evaporated and gamblers crumbled to powder.
Dropping into his chair, he looked up at the traveler standing across the room.
“Just returning this.” Geoff reached for the book, but his palm fell just beyond the desk edge. The traveler stepped closer and handed it to him. Longing welled up inside as he flipped through the pages. The traveler turned.
“Time to stop dreaming.”
Geoff sprang up in bed, drenched with sweat. Clara’s hand slipped gently over his shoulder.
“Are you all right, was it a bad dream?” Scooping her up in both arms, he hugged her tightly. Perplexity painted her face.
“Clara, don’t ever let go.” Her eyes softened, closing over a gentle smile. The soft sigh of baby’s breath rose from a nearby cradle, beckoning the morn.
The traveler glanced over his shoulder at the tiny cottage. A bygone forest pouring over fields of yellow grain. Pulling a gold coin from his pocket, he held it up to shimmer faintly in the gathering daylight. On one side, a jester, on the other, a falling star.
© Tyler M Deal. All Rights Reserved.