Friday, May 7, 2010

Decker #24

The coat was pale blue silk, perfectly tailored to his now-gaunt form. The pants, also silk, were bone-white. His sand-colored huaraches were Italian-made, and caressed his feet as he strolled through the bustling casino, martini in hand. He noted the way the floor staff watched him; watched his drink to ensure it was never empty, watched his movements at the blackjack and roulette tables. He was a "high roller" in this casino, and in most of the other casinos on the Strip. Everywhere he went in Las Vegas, he was treated like visiting royalty.
He barely remembered how he'd gotten here, only that it was toward the end of a long debauch; cocaine lifted the alcohol's haze, and a stiff drink took the paranoid edge off the coke. A blur of motel rooms and torrid rendezvous, each more opulent than the last, had drawn him to "Sin City" along a crooked line from the Arizona desert where his memories began. It seemed as though fortune must favor him; he'd started off destitute and ill-versed in the system of exchange that these people used, but at every turn a new boon would fall on him. The jaded blonde time-share sales woman who'd picked him up on the roadside in her tall, rectangular vehicle (she'd called it an SUV, he'd since learned what that was) and offered him money to be her companion for the night, and taught him what this "money" was; the two floozies who'd come to sit at his table at the diner where the blonde had left him, who'd spent the next night in a seedy room with him, "teaching" him about sex, and next morning talked him into spending all his money on scratch-off tickets, then left him with one un-scratched ticket (it had been a ten thousand dollar winner, but they were long-gone by then); Brian, the trucker who'd befriended him and taken him into Scottsdale to get him some decent clothes and a shower; by the time he'd found himself in Las Vegas, he had a bank account that would have supported him in luxury for the rest of his life.
The days and nights of a high roller were very entertaining, he'd learned, especially when it didn't seem as though he ever lost. As he learned more about the games of chance that treated him so well, he'd begun to wonder where his luck could be coming from. Though the casinos scrutinized his every move, there was never so much as a hint that he might be cheating them, so they let him play. Through the advice of various other gamblers, he'd learned to "spread it around", going from one casino to another, only staying long enough to pocket ten thousand or so from each.
He'd developed a reputation along the Strip; there were always hangers-on who'd watch him carefully, looking for his "system", and no shortage of beautiful women willing to ply him with their "assets" to let them in on his "secret". He'd gotten to the point where he didn't even care to know it himself. As long as the money, the drugs, the drinks and the women kept coming like iron to a magnet, he'd ride the tide.
He'd called himself Decker Quall, for the purpose of opening a bank account and such things. Some papers and plastic cards he'd found among the clothing and detritus in the caved-in Arizona shack he'd woken up outside of had that name on them, written in a language that seemed unfamiliar but that he could somehow comprehend, and other information that he'd later learned was important to surviving in this land. Brian had taught him how to use the information. Now it seemed that, every time he looked at the little rectangle of plastic on which Decker's name and address were embossed, the image of the man the card had belonged to came to resemble him more and more.
Sometimes he'd have dreams in which he was someone else entirely, living in a totally different world. He'd always wake up in a cold sweat. In that other world, there were no casinos, no endless stream of attractive women ready to do his bidding, no raucous, glorious nights full of flashing lights and alcohol. Just a sparse desert with nothing to do but look for food, pray, and make love to...another man? He was repulsed at the idea, but it somehow pulled at him, too. It was a frightening idea, much like standing on a cliff edge and wondering what it would be like to....just leap. He vowed he'd never try it, and when such thoughts breached his consciousness, he shoved them frantically back into the depths. He'd occasionally been approached by other men, and at first he'd tried to be polite in declining them, but recently he'd started unleashing scorn and vitriol on those who offered such affront.
Here in the heart of organized chance, there were very few manifestations of the strange occurrences that were happening elsewhere. He was not one to listen to the news, but he'd catch an occasional snippet when he was riding in someone else's car; outside of Las Vegas, the laws of physics seemed to be unraveling and becoming fluid. Even here, every now and again, out of the corner of his eye, he'd see something coming out of nowhere that obviously didn't belong there. Well, no big deal, as people here liked to say. As long as he could keep on partying, he'd play "Decker Quall", and nothing was going to stop him. This, he thought, is the life!

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