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The Dealer's Curse
“We know that their adventures are childish. They themselves are fools. They are ready to kill or be killed over a card-game in which an opponent -- or they themselves -- was cheating. Yet, thanks to such fellows, tragedies are possible.”
? ? ? ?
The night was like most, dark and humid, however the moon shone brightly in the cobalt sky, and it lit the solitary road and ragged tent in a luminous way. The heat was still unbearable as it was during the day, but the merciless sun was hidden away well as seven people, young and old, made their ways carefully to the tent. It had been a tricky adventure for all of them to follow the less then professional map they’d been sent, but miraculously it seemed they all made it, one by one they parked their mode of transportation and walked nervously into the dimly lit tent. Percy Jenkins, one of the seven, entered the tent last of everyone. He stood outside for a moment, taking in the blue sand that felt cool under his feet. The moon was full and the lands it lit up barren, all except for the tent he now stood in front of and the nearly non existent road he’d followed here. Pulling back a tattered tent flap, he peered inside before fully entering. Six people sat at a table in the middle of the tent he noticed quickly as he entered slowly, glancing every which way and taking in everything he could all at once.
The tent was large. There was a table in the middle, a wooden one; the bottom was exposed as was the cracked surface. There were many things hanging from the walls, things he had no idea what they were. Things littered all throughout the tent, odd things, junk and left over parts from a wide range of things like toasters and cars. Colorful rope dangled from the ceiling and as the wind ran through the air, rattling the tent, complex charms bumped into each other making an unsettling but beautiful noise.
Then Percy noticed the people sitting at the table. Five total, an old woman was seated farthest from where he stood, her grey hair hinting towards her age, but her face held a bitter resentment towards something. However old she was, he knew she would act younger. A third member of the card party was a young girl, perhaps nineteen or so, with long golden hair and one ruined eye. The obvious deformation of it didn’t seem to affect her apathetic energy as she chewed gum and swung her foot up and down impatiently. Across the table sat another boy, maybe twenty two or a little bit older, Percy really couldn’t tell. He seemed a little nervous, but he was good at hiding it. His pale skin, eyes, and hair, let way that he wasn’t at all from around these parts. Another man sat by this pale boy, he was forty, dark, and looked dangerous and angry. He kept glaring at the older woman, who returned his glare with her own extremely dirty look. There was one more member present, another woman, maybe thirty or forty, short brown hair streaked with golden highlights. She seemed overly curious with everything the tent held, in fact a little two interested with her surrounds and not at all paying attention to the neat stack of cards sitting in the middle of the worn table.
The cards. Percy glanced at them, then looked up suddenly, and realized his initial count of people had been wrong; there was another person in the tent. Man or woman, he didn’t know, the hooded figure strolled from the back of the tent to the only large area of the table unoccupied by any of the players. The figure motioned for Percy to take a seat next to the angry man and the girl with the scar piercing her eye. Wiping his hands on his pants, he took out the chair and sat down carefully, continually glancing around himself.
“You all came, thank you,” the hooded figure said, making everyone jump a little as the hood was removed just a little to reveal a woman, confusing in appearance. She looked old yet young, and at times when the light flickered her face portrayed that of a man, but then the light would come back and the dark woman would once again appear. Percy was greatly disturbed by her, but kept his calm unlike the very pale boy. He was exceedingly nervous, you could tell.
“Introduce yourselves, it is common courtesy to know the names of your opponents,” the woman went on to say and everyone jumped a little at hearing her voice. It was bone chilling.
“You first,” she said gesturing to the woman who could not stop glancing around the tent.
“Oh me?” she asked innocently. The woman nodded, looking completely emotionless but someone sending her notes of disapproval.
“I’m Cam, live in the states…” she said trailing off unsure what else to say. The woman in the hood nodded and glanced at the angry man sitting next to her.
“Hanson, Abdul Hanson,” he said with a fiery voice. There was a hint of a smile on the woman’s lips but you couldn’t be sure what you saw with her.
“Jo,” the girl with the scar eye said confidently and quite happy giving minimal information. There was a more visible smile now on the lady’s face, yet Percy couldn’t stare too long, he didn’t want to offend her…
Yet he already had when he suddenly realized he’d been caught up in thought and had failed to give his name in a timely fashion.
“Sorry, it’s Percy,” he said quickly as the woman simply nodded and turned her head to the nervous boy to his right.
“Hi, um, my name is Peter,” he introduced quickly and with a shaky voice. No one seemed to take him seriously, how could you when he was shaking before the game had even begun?
“Name’s Nancy,” the older woman said, ending the circle of people. Cam, Abdul, Jo, Percy, Peter and Nancy…it was quite the crew.
“My appreciation to you all for coming, but we really must start the game. I trust you all read your letters and understand them fully? Every detail?” the hooded woman questioned. She glanced around at everyone, making eye contact to make sure everyone knew what they were in for. A million dollars, was all most could remember, however all Peter could focus on was the curse…
“Good. Abdul, would you care to be the first dealer here tonight?” the woman asked calmly, grabbing cards that seemed to float into her hand. It was apparent to anyone that Abdul wanted to say some sarcastic remark, but it seemed impossible to disrespect the mysterious woman before them all.
“Of course,” he said taking the cards the woman handed him and shuffling them well. All eyes were now glued onto the cards, the game had started, and the reason everyone was here was because of those cards.
“Seven to each,” the woman reminded, still looming above everyone as she stood tall while standing. She had to have been at least six feet tall.
“Alright,” Abdul replied, dishing out seven cards to each player with expert precision and ease. He was confident now that the game had started, everyone was confident now except for poor Peter, who could not forget the letter they’d all received and what it had said. He wanted to ask about it, he really did, but couldn’t seem to bring himself to disrupt the game that was already set in motion.
“Pass your lowest card,” the lady reminded and everyone watched as Nancy took out a card and slipped it to Peter. Everyone noticed how he nearly had a heart attack at being involved so quickly into the game, but with a shaking hand he took the card and removed another one from his hand, passed it to Percy, then set his hand down. The tent was dark, the wind was howling, and even though the air was thick and humid, everyone felt chilled, in a cold sweat.
The card rotated all the way down to Jo before she decided to keep it and exchange it with another one from her hand. At last, she handed it to the dealer.
Abdul flipped it over, revealing a two.
“Would you like to take your chances with the deck?” the woman asked in a hushed tone, staring intently at the man. He glanced at the deck for only a moment.
“Of course,” he replied again, and without any hesitation, he spilt the deck in half and over to reveal an ace.
“I’m sorry; you have the lowest card, you are now only two points away from losing,” the lady whispered and everyone was quite. Suddenly, Abdul took a sudden intake of breathe and threw his hands around his stomach like something was wrong. No one moved until the lady finally removed her heavy stare from the man, still gasping.
“Next dealer, Nancy I believe?” she inquired. Nancy looked up at her in amazement, then back at Abdul who had somewhat composed himself. It was still bluntly obvious however, that he felt different then when he hadn’t been dealer.
“The cards, please,” the lady said again in her chilling voice and the light from the middle of the table flickered a little, putting the whole tent in a darker state for a few moments. The flickering stopped as soon as Nancy’s arm reached across the table to remove the old and worn cards that sat in front of Abdul. Everyone glanced at him quickly for a moment, but his face showed anger more then the pain he felt and everyone was quick to turn their faces away.
Now the attention was on Nancy as she took the cards into her hands and shuffled them well. It seemed it took her longer then Abdul, but right now, everyone was feeling slightly paranoid. As like the last time seven cards were given to every player and the lowest card was passed around. The lady looked on with pleasure.
Finally, the card made it back to Nancy, who flipped it over to reveal an ace.
“I’m sorry, that’s an automatic lose,” the host announced and Nancy quickly took an intake of breathe and immediately her hand flew up to her forehead as if she was struck by some horrendous headache.
It anyone had been smart, they would have realized what was happening. It happened to Jo and Percy, each clutching a different part of their pained body after they had been burned as the dealer.
“Cam, I do believe you are the current dealer now,” the host reminded, pulling everyone’s attention off of Nancy and the others. Cam look slightly worried but completely naïve as well. She took the cards and shuffled, not messing up once, she even passed them out in an expert manner.
As always, the dealer ended up with the last card. Cam flipped it over, revealing a three this time.
“Do you wish to take another card from the deck and risk your chances?” the lady host asked politely, however it was a terrifying tone that she used.
“Yes,” Cam replied simply, drawing the deck into two separate ones and turning it over to reveal a two.
“I’m sorry, Peter, your turn please,” the host went on as if nothing bad had happened. It certainly seemed like she had completely missed the painful pant from Cam as she wrapped her hand around her upper arm and began to rub it constantly.
The group didn’t know what to do anymore. The game was enticing; all of them were here because of their love for cards and adventure of any kind. This was the biggest adventure of them all, and when you looked at it, they were all up against each other for the prize. They were scared yes, but most continued to push out the warning signs of danger and embrace the thrill of the game and desert air.
“Before you deal Peter, I would like to remind you that after him you have all gone full circle, and there will be a short and mild break for you to attend to whatever you might feel the need to attend to. You may continue now Peter,” the lady said as the light changed a little for a moment, revealing someone who looked more like a man than a woman for a brief second then the candle light went back to fully burning and once again a tall and cold looking woman stood before them all.
All eyes were on the reluctant Peter as he fumbled a little with the cards as he handed them out. He was sweating as he watched a single card circulate through out the entire circle. The darkness seemed to invade the tent more and more and Peter prayed he wouldn’t pass out or anything like that. He wanted to win, yes, but he wanted to live to win again even more.
“Flip it over please,” the woman reminded lightly as Peter hesitated. Only a six.
“Do you wish to stay with that number?” the woman asked. Even though it was higher then any of the other numbers the dealers and been give, he had watched everyone pass that one card. It was the lowest. Everyone knew it. Everyone expected him to take a card from the deck, it was what any of them would have done.
“Yes, I would,” he replied with a plan in mind, but winced slightly anyways, waiting for some sort of on set of pain. The woman narrowed her eyes at him for a brief moment, one that showed fierce rage at his decision, but only for a moment before her face became a clam emotionless stone once again.
“Alright, please flip your cards over,” she asked and her eyes darted to everyone’s card quickly. She already knew what everyone held.
“Well, I’m sorry but you lost… it’s time for a break. You all have exactly ten minutes before you are expected back in your chairs. Don’t be late,” she said, speaking quickly and with a hint of anger in her voice, then disappeared behind the curtain that separated the tent into another section. No one moved for a moment, and then they all got up at once. All except Peter, he sat still. No one had noticed.
Nothing had happened to Peter, he was fine.
The night air felt much cooler outside the tent. That’s where everyone flocked, into the sandy landscape, an eerie shade of blue coating them all. No one went near each other, instead preferring to gain a little space. Percy stepped out last and glanced around himself to see what everyone else was doing.
“Stop being late all the time,” a voice from his left said and he turned his head suddenly to see Jo leaning against a car and smoking a cigarette.
“Late? I’ve only just met you,” Percy responded, walking over to the mysterious girl. She was the only one here who really seemed to have the most to her story, whatever that story may be.
“You don’t have to know everyone in the world to be late for something. ‘Cause you are definitely a late comer,” she responded fixing her position against the beaten up Jeep. She was pretty in the moonlight, golden hair flocking around her shoulders and extending to her waist, solemn yet wild blue eyes, even with one looking less then stellar, it remained the only blemish on her flawless face.
“You wish,” she added before Percy had a single chance to reply. He wondered what she was talking about, but she got up and threw the cigarette on the ground and practically stomped off to the single tree that stood here. Debating whether or not to follow her, Percy sat down next to the Jeep’s front wheel and ran his hands through his thick white blonde hair. The game felt off, as if there was absolutely no way to win. He wondered how many of these breaks they would get, he wasn’t sure about anyone else but his mind felt thick and needed time to think. How quick was this game anyways? Slow, fast, medium paced? Suddenly every little think began to bug Percy, and he thought he was having a panic attack at first. His chest grew tight and beads of unhealthy sweet dribbled along his forehead and down his cheek.
It dawned on Percy almost immediacy as it was Peter. The longer the game went on, the worse everyone felt, the stranger things became, and the less connected to reality everyone was and felt.
The cards were cursed.
It seemed ridiculous. As soon as the thought entered Percy’s mind he pushed it out abruptly and was quite mad at himself for letting his mind even stretch that far. There were no such things as curses, for Christ’s sake he went to church, sometimes.
Standing up, we forced his body to not submit to the pain he was feeling. Others around him seemed equally ill at ease, yet had the same tough attitude around them. Whatever was going on here didn’t really matter, all that counted was the winner.
The chimes rang eerily; the second half of the game was to begin.
“Take your seats; remain comfortable as can be as we now enter the second period of our game. Shall we start with a new dealer please?” the cloaked lady asked in her smooth voice that trickled down everyone’s spine and sent them all at even more unrest then they already were at. Taking the cards off the middle of the table, she let the worn down thick paper run back and forth through her hands until her face smiled and she set the cards dead center in from of Jo. Defiant, yet cooperating to her fullest, Jo looked up at the lady, eyes watchful, and picked up the cards and handed them out. Seven cards to each member later she set the rest down in the middle, making a point of arranging them nicely.
Quite smugly, the lady said, “alright, pass your lowest card to the right to win this round…”
It was then that everyone thought they heard a soft whisper escape her lips.
“To save yourself.”
No one dared even think about what would be going on if that small whisper they all thought they’d heard had been more prominent. Questions began to rise in all of their minds, who was this lady? Why did she look like a woman in the dark, but the spitting image of a man when the light flickered? Why was she so cold? How did she even contact them, choose them, for this game? All so random…
A new fear was rising in all of them, and it was no longer who would win and who would loose this game. There seemed to be a whole another game going on in the back works of this little tent production, it was unnerving.
“Alright, please flip over your cards now,” the lady narrated, as if it wasn’t already plainly obvious what was needed to be done at his step in the game. Everyone knew what they were doing, and they knew what would happen to Jo, at least, they thought they knew exactly what was about to happen.
“Abdul, it seems you are stuck with the lowest card, how unfortunate,” the lady stated sadly as the light flickered and the face of a man took over her body, but vanished almost instantly when the light returned to its normal state.
Everyone was so shell shocked at this random turn of events that Abdul’s gasp of slight pain as he began rubbing his legs fervently was lost to everyone’s senses.
The first to put a hand on Abdul’s shoulder to ask about the pain was Cam, but she was quickly rebuked by the lady.
“There is no talking during the game!” she nearly shouted, and it sounded like a threat so Cam quickly with drew her comforting hand and left Abdul to wallow in his pain alone. He gritted his teeth together, eyes flashing anger at being seen as weak.
Grabbing the cards forcefully from where Jo, just staring at the kings she had laid out, had set them last. Shuffling them harshly, he diced them out to everyone and then waited for the person to his left to pick a card to pass. Nancy, after glaring secretly at Abdul, picked a card and slid it smoothly across the surface of the table, trying to restore class and dignity to this game. After all, she knew how to hide fear well, how to seem like she on top of everything, how to manipulate a game so she could win…
Peter’s hands were shaking so hard at this point. Nervous nonetheless, this new twist of the game, that the dealer had actually been safe and someone else hurt sent Peter into near hysterics. How would he be able to protect himself now? With no plan or hope at all, he picked up the card and saw it was a four. A four…that wasn’t as bad as the two he held in his hands so he kept it and passed the two over to Percy, everyone’s fingers tingling a little at the new passing card.
Percy picked it up and carefully took the ace out of his hand and traded it with the two. Making a quick glance around the table, he saw the smug smile on the lady’s face. Who was she?
Finally the ace was back to Nancy, who flipped it over in such a way as to make everyone assume she was perfectly happy with this turn of events.
“Nancy, you will loose if you do not take the option of choosing a card at random from the deck. The choice is up to you though. Your decision?” came the haunting voice, a new edge spinning from the notes of the sound of her voice.
Without hesitation, she glided her hand to the deck and turned over her card at random from the deck, sitting all to neatly in front of her.
The Ace of Spades.
“Terribly misfortunate, Cam, your turn I do believe?” the lady continued, and another silent moan escaped a players lips and Nancy was clutching her side beads of sweat formed on her face and her composer was lost but she quickly regained it in a minute or two.
Daring to say nothing, the spunky girl from the States took a quick breath and dealt the cards out in an orderly fashion, no fancy moves to show off now. Everyone was scared, it was plainly obvious. The game continued in a similar fashion, and after every round someone was gasping in pain. The lady seemed to be fully enjoying herself, and after each person dealt the look on her face grew more prominent. She was eager for something to happen, that could be seen well enough, but for what?
Peter’s shaking threatened his ability to play, because now he was entertaining a new thought in his mind, one that seemed to be the answer for the questions that were plainly written on everyone’s faces, what would the end of the game bring?
The air was chilly, moonlight entering the tent as the doors flapped in the gentle breeze that lulled senses to dust. Small rusty trinkets clunked around from where they hung from the rafters, the sand was moving around feet, prickling and pinching whatever the grand mass came into contact with. The lady in black, tall and omniscient, stood hands folded into each other and not visible to the human eyes, all was covered but her face, and even that was cast in shadow, only detectable really if it was stared at for a long time. That seemed an impossible mission.
The larger chunks of broken down and rusty machinery seemed out of place lying all around the edges of the large tent. Randomness… Ruffled tent edges crept up and then slid back down the strong wooden posts as directed by the wind. Outside the tent was the picture of calm and solitude. Any traces of a road had vanished, any animals tethered outside the tent had wandered off, and any jeeps parked out front seemed to have aged nearly a hundred years as the sand wore away at them, rusting all that was metal, eating away at the leather and causing mirrors and roof pieces to fall off and onto the ground.
Inside on the wooden table there was no sand, only cards and sweaty palms and then the announcement that this round was over and another break would be allowed…the noise was from her mouth faded…everything was dulled….wandering outside….just sitting down and resting…what was going on….
“Hey, hey!” Percy shouted, faltering in his step as he struggled over to where Jo was, leaning against the only tree here and smoking her cigarette while pressing her hand against her temples.
“Why are you screaming? Do you think I’m deaf or something? Jeez get a grip, I’m not even moving!” she snapped and Percy took slight offence.
“Okay, calm down,” he replied and he immediately regretted his words.
“I am calm! You’re the one disrupting the peace. Where the hell are you from anyways?” she asked blinking one eye more rapidly then the other, the scared one. It was something Percy noticed and knew it was new, for it would have noticed it earlier if she’d been doing it before.
“Australia, what’s wrong with your eye?” he asked, voice overly coated with concern. He felt drunk. He reached out to touch her but she jumped back and slapped at his arm, giving him a large red welt.
“Don’t touch me. And my eye is fine, what’s wrong with your mind?” she spat, anger rising in her voice. She too felt the confusion and unclear thinking everyone else was experiencing. Already feeling lesser from her blurry vision in her bad eye, she held a greater anger towards what was happening to all of them then the rest.
“A little liquor in the system never hurt anybody,” he said a little to sing song like for her taste.
“But you haven’t drunk any alcohol all night! Don’t you see that? Does anybody?” she shouted but a voice from behind her was quickly quieting her down before she could scream and more. She whipped herself around arm raised and cigarette extinguished, only to find mousy Peter shaking before her. Lowering her arm she glared at him, waiting for a reason he was here behind her.
“She-e-e can hear-r you-u,” he whispered and spinning around she glanced over to the tent. Seeing no one she glared once more at both Peter and Percy and stalked off.
“Games! Games!” came a shout from the tent and all participants staggered over to the tent flap, feeling better after they were able to sit down again. To say they were feeling exhausted was an understatement, so say they were sickly would be hitting the target in the center.
“I say we start with Peter this time, shall we?” the lady asked smoothly and trembling Peter rose slightly out of his chair to grab the cards from her icy cool hands that had suddenly turned a scalding hot.
After dealing them all out hastily, the poor boy sat down and waited for the lowest card to make it his way. He knew this was the last round. No one had said it but by the looks of everyone’s worsening condition, there couldn’t be any more rounds. Peter’s mind was something of a marvel. Right now it was working at such a fast pace, fear wasn’t even allowed into his thoughts yet. Last round meant a winner. Who would be the winner? So far multiple people had the same scores, but then again it would only take one point over for a winner to be crowned. The lady who ran this, she stuck by her word, so the winner would be okay he knew, but what would happen to the five who lost? Peter didn’t know if he had any hope.
“Peter, lost in thought? It’s time to show your cards,” the lady announced and he shook his head, flipping over the card that he knew would be his doom.
“A four? Surely there is a lower card in the deck,” she coxed because of his last stunt of sticking with the card.
“Maybe not,” he squeaked, pushing his card forward and letting everyone else flip there’s over. He’d been wrong of course; it was the lowest card in the deck. He felt a pain his head almost immediately and wondered how and why, he hadn’t taken a card from the deck, but then he looked up and stared right into the angry eyes of the lady. Her glare was awful, horrifying, it made his insides convulse and he thought he was going to pass out. The face, oh, he could see the whole thing now, how horribly grotesque it really was because…because of the…
And then it was over, just like that. He felt chilled to the bone, unsure of what had just happened, but life around him was continuing on and he felt like he couldn’t remember a thing of importance. His body took over and picked up the passing card, changing it was a five in his deck and passing it along, all without the exertion of his mind.
“Jo, please continue now,” the lady reminded. Faintly, Jo wondered if there was anyway to just stand up and leave, but something was compelling her to stay where she sat, and she knew it wasn’t her own doing. The pain in her head was nearly unbearable, her vision blurred and her scared eye was tearing up uncontrollably. Barely able to do anything, she lifted up the car and looked at it and then threw it off to the center and yanked another card out of the pile.
“I’m sorry, that seems to be the lowest, Cam you’re our next dealer,” the lady rushed on as Jo’s head exploded and a small moan escaped her lips. She looked at the cloak of the lady and something inside of her snapped.
Cam looked around anxiously before she started shuffling the cards. She didn’t like this anymore, this wasn’t any fun. This was scary. Her blood rushed through her veins as always when she felt this level of terror. Oh why was she here she moaned to herself. Her whole body felt off, like she was tied down and really just needed to break free and run. She needed to escape.
“Lift a card from the deck if you will?” the lady reminded gently and before Cam even had time to weigh her other options she plucked a card from the very top of the pile.
It was the Ace of Hearts.
Cam’s own heart started racing. Her lungs tried to drag in more and more air but it wouldn’t happen, nothing would slow down, her whole body was at fast paced yet she sat motionless in the chair, unable to move.
“That brings us to Nancy as our dealer,” the lady said handing the neat stack of cards to her. With a quick breath in and then out, she took the cards, shuffled and dealt. The game was coming quickly to a close, she knew this. Only Abdul and Percy to deal now after her, and it seemed so much could happen in that amount of time.
As she watched the car passed again and again from player to player, she couldn’t help wondering how it would all end. She knew the end was near, and that went beyond the realm of this one card game, if it even was just a card game.
“Do you choose to stay or take a card?” the lady inquired. Fully prepared for the pain she knew would hit her, she chose a card from the deck and her legs buckled even though she wasn’t standing. The pain didn’t touch her face though. This disrupted the lady, but she continued.
“Abdul?” she reminded and seeing that Nancy was fine, new hope was restored to him. Oh, only if he had known she was faking…
Feeling a new amount of energy, he grabbed the cards eagerly and dealt them out to everyone who by now was visibly having a difficult time keeping up; only the adrenaline from fear was keeping them going. Abdul was hurting the most, but he was also the strongest which made him able to take the pain and confusion with a new hidden edge. The hatred inside of him burned a fiery red, and he knew it was only a matter of time before something happened, that he caused or that she caused, but either way he was ready for it. All the others, they were just collateral damage. How unfortunate, but it was staying true to life.
He watched with a hardened expression as bitter Nancy passer her card to flaky Cam. She kept the card, took out another and passed it to the tough looking blonde Jo who kept it going to the kid Peter, who amazed Abdul that he was even here and still alive. Peter took the card and passed it to Percy, who seemed like a total drift off to him and then handed the card over to the dealer.
“Well Abdul?” the lady asked. Her smile was pointed, eyes shiny under the mask of the shadow she wore.
“I’ll flip it over and keep it,” he stated smugly. He would win this. He knew he would. Only one dealer left and if he gained this point he’d be ahead of the others…
“Well, that was a poor choice. Your card is the lowest. Terribly disappointing. Percy, if you will now shuffle,” she said moving her attention away from Abdul as the fiery hatred inside of him turned to real fire, and he began gasping at the pain of feeling burned alive from the inside out.
Percy barely heard the lady speak to him. Partially because he wasn’t feeling top notch and the other half being it was very interesting to see someone hide so much pain and get away with it. What was Abdul doing? Percy wondered about this, of course no one knew what was going on inside of the poor man.
“Percy, the game is almost over, lets continue please?” the lady asked and it shook Percy from his fixation and back to the game. Almost over?
“Alright, my humblest apologies,” Percy slurred and the lady would have rebuked him naturally, however this was it, what everyone including her had been waiting for. There was no time to waste, or use up on foolish beach boys who were too weak to resist drunkenness.
After shuffling awfully, Percy threw seven cards at everyone, and some people struggled to hold them all in place. This was going to be slow, but the excitement was running through everyone. No matter the physical ailments they were feeling, the knowledge of the end of the game was widely known.
Watching the cards pass between the players was near torture to them, because every second wasted was another second in horrible pain, everyone was feeling it, even the host.
“Stay, or choose?” the lady questioned and Percy shook his head and flipped over his card. The Ace of Diamonds made it’s first appearance.
“Peter Gates, you have won the game,” the lady announced.
The roaring was almost instantaneous. Wind that before had only been a light breeze dulling senses was now a gigantic mass of energy and pressure, pushing up against the tent and waking everyone from there stupor. A loud laugh was carried throughout the wind and everyone’s eyes turned to the lady who now through back her hood and outstretched her arms into the sky.
More horrible screams were heard, the reasons were piling on top of each other. Firstly, the pain in everyone but Peter was so great, so over powering that it hurt them to the core. This was like nothing ever felt before, burning inside, head’s exploding, arms and legs tingling to run but unable to move, it was all felt at the same moments and it was such pain that not even all of it could be felt.
The second reason for screaming was the awful sight before them. The tent whirling around them, as was all the broken down and rusted machinery parts combined with sand and parts of the now broken down tree that had stood but twenty feet away from the structure. It hurt even more, sand driving itself into their skin, big and small metal objects occasionally slamming into a leg or arm or in Cam’s case her face.
Thirdly, the screams erupted from their owners of the sight of the lady. Her cloak was gone with the wind, all the pale light seemed to be focused on her body…
It was grotesque, nearly seven feet tall. In her face were hidden multiple eyes, mouths, and ears. Her skin was a saggy yellow bag that seemed to be barely hanging on to her body. Arms and legs, she had more of them then the normal two per person. She was a monster, not even human, not even fully a woman. Mangled up body parts it seemed, all intwined, fighting each other now, it looked as if each arm was trying to kill off the others, each leg trying to out do the ones next to it, each eye swelled up to be the biggest and out last all the others.
Then it started to happen.
The wind quickened around the six players, Peter had been carried off by the wind and dropped about half a mile away, with a bird’s eye view of all that was happening at the game site. Peter was horrified; he couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. He willed himself to pass out, but his body refused, instead he sat paralyzed watching the tragic and horrifying scene below.
Its body, no longer wholly woman or wholly man, started to rip itself apart. The arms were scratching away at the skin and it began to separate. A loud and hideous shriek came form its many mouths as the full amount of pain began to hit this creature. Suddenly, the eyes didn’t look set out to win but looked horribly confused. What was happening? This wasn’t as expected, they were supposed to be free, free from this awful and humiliating trap, and now, now it felt as if they were dying the hardest way possible.
“Run!” screamed Jo to the only contestant she could see through this horrendous storm of sand and rust and indescribable scenes. Percy couldn’t hear her, but he saw her mouth open and close and knew the exact words she was trying to get out. Stretching out his hand to her, she grabbed it forcefully and dug her nails into his skin in a manner to let nothing separate them. Pulling her towards him, together they tried to scramble there way out of the center of this storm, putting the grotesque creature and all its wild screams of terror behind them.
Struggling, they made it a few inches before the amount of wind pushing at them from all directions was to great to over come. Eyes squinted painfully against the rising sand, they looked at each other in a fear and understanding.
They knew they were about to become the creature.
“It’s a curse!” screeched Percy and Jo wailed at the thought. No, she’d rather die then become what she’d just seen. What had even become of it now? The horrible glass shattering noises it had been making from the pain of ripping open was gone, only the howling wind and screeching metal clanging together could be heard. The two rested where they were for a moment, trying to take in air and prepare for whatever was going to happen. Their hands never let go.
Suddenly, Jo felt a tug on her foot and then she was yanked back cruelly into the true center of the whirlwind. Percy, never letting go of her hand, was dragged along as well and both felt themselves being pressed up against other bodies. Nothing could be seen, it was to dark and to painful to open eyes, their ears were going deaf, touch was something that was going numb. They were a group of pitiful and defenseless group.
From Peter’s view, he could no longer see anything that was going inside of the twister around the tent. All he noticed now were the mangled bodies being thrown from the center and onto the sand, where they slid to a stop, moaning and reaching out for help that did not exist to them. Six bodies he counted as he sat petrified, but they weren’t the people he expected to see. These people, even though their flesh was mangled and bloody, were very different from the ones he knew. It took his mind only seconds to realize that this was the lady’s, or rather it’s, body separated finally.
“Oh God,” he whispered to himself before he felt pressure realized off of him and he was able to fall back into blackness. He knew what would happen to them, his teammates, he knew now.
Without the whirlwind, nothing could be felt, and then suddenly an explosion of pain hit every member with in and each was awakened with a new energy to fight back and run. It was no use though, as the pain increased the less and less they had control over their body. As the pain of skin leaving muscle increased, they felt their own bodies pushed together and melting into other hot masses they knew now to be another’s body. It was at this point the true realization of what was to happen hit them all, and now it was too late to do anything but scream as loud and as hard and one possibly can.
The pain became the worst and all they could feel was pain and hurt and a fire so hot it melted their skin and everything inside of them until they didn’t know what they felt anymore. Confusion was all they knew, pain all they felt, ravaged bodies all they could see, and horrifying screams all they could hear. Was there no end?
Then it was no more, and all was black and quiet. The picture of calm.
No one knew how long they lay there, alone in the moonlit desert. Coming too all at the same time, eyes opened and all they could see was sand and sky. No pain was felt, all memories of what could have happened minutes ago or hours ago were blurry and faded, and questioned if it even really happened at all.
Peter was gone. That was the first bit of knowledge that came to them. Secondly came the fact that there was no tent anymore, no point of reference, that they were somewhere randomly and no one knew where.
Lastly came the knowledge that they were thinking together. Eyes opened wider and limbs started to move. This is how the realization came to be that they were one. One body, one mind. Shrieks erupted from their mouths and they as a whole sat up and tried to look at themselves. a man they were, but a woman also. They all now dwelled within a multi-personality creature that was grotesque and ugly. Unexpectedly, Abdul’s voice sounded in their head. He was the dominate person here, that was why the body was mostly that of a man’s but it could not be denied that within this creature three woman lived as well. Disturbed, naked, confused, and hopeless, the creature tried to stand up and walk, and walk it did around the dessert aimlessly. Self pity came first, then anger and hopelessness. It took months for all the emotions to be sorted through, all the feeling to come back to the people imprisoned in such an eerie and vulgar way.
It hit them one night, all of them as they tried to sleep. An answer ws given, they knew how to break out of this. Sitting up quickly with the new idea in their mind, it was not a surprise or shock when on the rock next to them sat a pile of neatly stacked cards.
The game would continue, so the curse would live on.