Flash Fiction Challenge -Gamblers Paradise

The prompts: Ghost Story / Casino / Colored Contact Lenses

The air was too high. It might be a hundred and twenty in the shade outside, but it was positively frigid in this place. Her short-skirt and sleeveless top were in no way adequate for this icy onslaught. It made her exposed skin tingle, especially her legs, though that may have had more to do with her precarious perch atop a pair of fifteen minute heels. She thought if she let out a puff of breath, she might very well be able to see it. At least, she might if the toxic cigarette fog weren’t so thick.

Wow, this place is packed,” Casey said behind her in an uncharacteristically chipper voice.

Miranda committed her whole face to a frown that was in danger of cracking, if not her face, certainly her foundation. This place was a lot of things, packed wasn’t one of them. It was filthy and lit only by the faintest flickering lights, but she could plainly see an empty slots floor. Only the jangling whir and auditory glitter suggested otherwise. She spun around, catching Casey’s eyes, something she immediately regretted. They were glowing a brilliant shade of white, reminiscent of a white shirt under black lights, punctuated by the little black dots of her pupils.

What’s wrong with your eyes?”

Lisa and Abbey, the other two in their casino hopping party, also turned to look at her. Both pulled faces as though a sack of garbage had been dropped on Casey’s head.

Oh,” Casey chirped, “Are they glowing? It’s my new contact lenses, they’re supposed to make my eyes more blue and also glow under black lights. Fun, right? Come on, let’s go, I want to check this place out, it looks great.”

Before Miranda could ask her about the place being packed or what she thought was great about it, Casey brushed past her and began weaving around a completely vacant slot floor. Even pausing and holding her hand out at one point.

How much has she had to drink today?” Abbey asked.

Lisa gave a toothy smile dripping with guilt. “We may have had a couple of shots.”

Abbey groaned. “You know she’s a cheap date.”

We’d better catch up,” Miranda said. “I don’t want to spend any more time here than we have to.”

Lisa wrinkled her nose. “It is pretty gross in here.”

The three of them walked out amongst the slots. Casey had already disappeared in the maze of color and noise. So far on their trek, they had entered some very empty places, but none quite like this. Usually, there was at least the odd chain-smoker alternating between puffs and hits from an oxygen tank while intently poking away at the machine. All she saw here were empty chairs and machines happily carrying on by themselves.

They rounded a corner and found Casey standing in front of a huge machine with a big digital display at the top flashing $5.00 per play. One Million Jackpot! Her eyes were as bright as ever. A chill ran up Miranda’s spine. This was what they’d come for. Every casino seemed to have one like it. Their game for the weekend was to find one in every casino they came to, placing one bet each. All they had to do now was stuff a few dollars into the machine hit the button and they could go.

Did you see this weird screen?” Abbey asked.

Miranda turned her head. It was a mirror image of the casino, except that in the mirror, the floor was full of people. No, not quite people. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, and if her hair hadn’t been so well stabilized with product, it would have done as well. It couldn’t have been a mirror. She didn’t see herself.

What am I looking at?” Miranda asked.

I like this place,” Casey said. “We should stay.”

At that moment, Miranda, and presumably Abbey and Lisa realized they were, in fact, looking at a mirror but only Casey had a reflection. Miranda held a shaking hand to her mouth as she drew in a sharp breath that stuck in her chest, refusing to leave.

We should just go,” Abbey said in a strangled voice.

Yes. Now,” Lisa breathed.

But this place is great,” Casey said.

Her voice hadn’t come from where she was standing, in fact she wasn’t standing there anymore. The voice came from the mirror itself. Casey’s face suddenly seemed bonier, she had a gaunt unfed look about her, rather, the reflection that looked like Casey did. Then, the reflection reached out, pushing its hand into the glass and through, losing its flesh, revealing pale, but very real bones.

Perhaps it was because there were three of them, and they were all doing it, the air in her chest finally broke free to a bone-rattling volume. The half-formed faces in the mirror looked up at them. Only, they weren’t on the other side of the mirror anymore. They were all around, sitting at the slots. All of their eyes glowed the same as Casey’s. None of them spoke a single word, yet the cold thought came into Miranda’s head, Don’t leave.

Running in heels is a bad idea at any time, but horribly twisted ankles and scraped knees seemed a fair price as all three of them spun around and charged through the crowd of semi-substantial figures with glowing eyes boring holes into them. The three of them burst through the doors and into the stifling desert heat simultaneously. Tears were running down Miranda’s face, making a hideous mess of her makeup.

Where have you three been?” A voice shouted from up the street. “You left me!” It was Casey, striding toward them.

Miranda’s heart thumped hard. The woman inside hadn’t been Casey. She looked back up at the casino they’d just left. There wasn’t one. It was a tall wooden wall with a bland sign reading gamblers paradise – coming soon.

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