If there was an artifact that increased all probabilities of success for you but in the process shortened your life span, what would a gambler do?

*  *  17  *  *


The coin flipped through the air.




The coin flipped through the air.



“How are you doing that?”

Darius smirked. “It just . . . comes to me.”

“Do it again.”

“No no,” said Darius. “I’m saving up for something big.”

“Like what?”

Darius pointed to the television. “Like that.”

“No way.”

Darius shrugged. “It’s worth a shot, right?”

“And you think it’ll work?”

“Only one way to find out.” Darius reached into his pocket and pulled out a green stone about the size of grape. It was jagged on one side as though it was broken off of something, but the other side was perfectly smooth. He slammed the stone onto the table and began muttering words he barely understood. “Certes, the boon which mine eyne do clepe mine shall iwis mine be.” He was never entirely sure whether the stone physically reacted to the phrase or not, but this time, he could have sworn the stone heated up.

Six hours later, Darius found himself standing outside the very auditorium he had set his eyes upon earlier that day. The auditorium where he would put his new good luck charm to the test. The auditorium where the Victoria Secret Fashion Show was being held.

As he approached the gate, he heard a whisper behind him.

Darius turned to find the source of the whisper, but was met by nothing but an empty parking lot. Shaking off the hearlucination, he returned to his goal.

Until he heard the whisper again. This time, we was able to make out a few words. “. . . iwis mine be.”

Darius wheeled around and was met this time by an old man in a purple turtleneck. The man was completely bald, had no eyebrows, and only came up to Darius’s chest. Darius, considering himself to be anything but an accurate age guesser, guessed the old man to be in his mid to late 160’s. Give or take a few decades.

“You put yourself at great risk,” whispered the old man. “You should not use such power so callously.”

“What are you talking about?” Darius asked.

“The stone,” the old man whispered, eyes wide. “There are consequences.”

Darius suddenly realized that he had at some point retrieved the stone from his pocket and was holding it tight in his fist as though hoping it would merge with him. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, old man.” Darius was shocked at his own words. He knew better than to speak to an elder like that.

“You get what you want, yes. But there is a price.”

“And what would that price be?”

“Your life.” The old man’s eyes were wide once more. “Every time you use it, you shorten your life.”

“Please,” Darius laughed. “I’ve been using the stone for months now and I’m as fit as a fiddle. Heck, my doctor says I’m in perfect condition. His words: ‘perfect condition.’ Now,” he said, turning away from his companion, “I have a show to get to.”

As Darius walked away from the old man, he heard him mutter, “You misunderstand.”

By several twists of fate, Darius was able to weasel his way to the front row. The show was just about to start when a man ran onstage with a headset. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he panted. “The United States government has just issued a statement that a meteor has changed course and is now heading for Earth. We are being advised to . . .”

The last thing Darius heard was the ceiling collapsing.


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