Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
It was early January when Jack walked through the large ornate doors of Lucky Sevens Casino and Hotel. It was a cold morning (or what passes for cold in Las Vegas anyway), and he took a deep breath of warm air as he stepped inside. He was immediately overcome with a feeling of nostalgia and excitement.
Jack had spent practically every waking hour in this casino for years after his mother died. He’d grown up an only child in a small house in Georgia. He never knew his father, but his mother was an amazing woman and had managed to provide them with everything they needed. When she unexpectedly passed away of a stroke just after Jack’s 21st birthday, he was devastated and couldn’t stand to live alone surrounded by memories. He sold the house, and with his meager inheritance, moved across the country to Las Vegas to make a new start. He rented a cheap apartment downtown, and his first night there, feeling lost and alone, he’d wandered into the casino. On a whim, he sat down at the first slot machine by the door, put in a 10 dollar bill, and pressed buttons until something happened. As it turned out, what happened was that the machine lit up with flashing lights and his $10 turned into $1,000 before he could even understand what happened. From that moment on, Jack was hooked.
A couple years after he moved he met a beautiful cocktail waitress named Lisa. They got along great and for a few months they saw each other almost every day. At first he took her on dates, but they quickly became content to just lay in Jack’s bed enjoying each other and forgetting about the rest of the world. There was one thing Jack could never really forget about though, and that was the slot machines. At first he only gambled while she was working anyway, but after the newness of the relationship started to wear off he would stay at the casino later and later. Lisa was a patient woman, but she grew tired of being blown off night after night as Jack sat mindlessly staring at a machine. Eventually she gave him an ultimatum – me or gambling. He adored her, but he simply could not pull himself away from the slot machines, and so she left.
With Lisa gone, Jack’s gambling problem became worse than ever. He felt like he had nothing else to live for, so he would spend all his time at the casino, sometimes not even going home to shower or sleep for days. His savings had dwindled down to practically nothing, but that only made him gamble more. He was determined to hit a jackpot that would make everything better.
Everything changed when Lisa knocked on his door one morning in the early spring. He never thought he’d see her again and stared silently at her face in disbelief. Before he could say anything she thrust the bundle she held in her arms toward him and said 2 words – “She’s yours.”
The baby lying peacefully in Lisa’s arms had gazed up at Jack with the most strikingly beautiful emerald green eyes he’d ever seen. In that moment, he vowed to turn his life around. He had begged Lisa to take him back and make them a family. She was understandably hesitant, but after he got a real job and rented a nice 2 bedroom apartment in a quiet neighborhood she agreed to move in with him. Dealing with his gambling addiction was beyond difficult, but he forced himself to do it for his daughter, she was worth it.
Those were the best years of Jack’s life. He loved Kylie more than he ever thought possible. She was bright and creative and friendly… he hardly believed he’d created such a perfect little girl.
Just after Christmas when Kylie was 5 she started to complain about headaches. At first they just thought she was coming down with a cold or something, but it wasn’t long before what seemed like a normal headache had graduated to her lying on the ground screaming in pain. They rushed her to the ER and waited silently, just holding each other, while Kylie was taken into the back for tests. Finally the doctor came out with a grim look on his face. It was a brain tumor. They could ease her pain, but she was going to need surgery… surgery that would cost over $100,000; that was more than Jack could make if he saved every penny for 3 years.
The next day was bleak as Jack and Lisa just sat in shock beside Kylie’s hospital bed. Eventually Lisa argued that there was nothing they could do right then, and they agreed it would make sense to take turns going home to shower and get some sleep. At her request, Jack went first while Lisa stayed with Kylie. He kissed them both, then got in his car and started driving, but instead of heading home he found himself driving to the last place he should go. Ten minutes later he found himself there, at Lucky Sevens, for the first time in years.
Jack sat down at the most private slot machine he could find, tucked in a corner darker than most of the Casino. He didn’t know if any of his old gambling buddies still hung out here, but he didn’t want to find out. The machine was called “Devil’s Choice”. Weird theme he thought, but whatever.
As he slid 20 dollars in the slot and the image of a caroony, but oddly creepy, devil winked at him then disappeared and was replaced by the familiar 5 columns of symbols. Some were pictures of predictable things like pitchforks, some were numbers, and others were symbols he didn’t recognize. His first 2 tries landed him nothing, but on the 3rd the screen lit up- “Bonus Round, would you like to continue?” the crimson letters read. “What the hell?” thought Jack briefly, immediately pressing the continue button, “who the hell WOULDN’T want a chance for a bonus?”.
The cartoon devil reappeared and walked across the screen, and as he did so the 5 columns turned into 3. The devil leaned against the edge of the screen and script appeared in a bubble by his head- “I see you need money!”. Again Jack felt a twinge of annoyance through his excitement, “Who the hell doesn’t need money??”. He pressed the button and the columns spun for what felt like forever before the first stopped.
Then the next-
Jack held his breath until he felt like he’d pass out as the last one slowed and came to a halt.
Jack smiled in disbelief at the matching row in front of him, “666”. The cartoon devil smiled too as the dollar amount below his feet shot up, the ticker raced up from tens, to hundreds, to thousands, finally settling down at $200,000.
It was too good to be true. That was enough to pay for all of Kylie’s medical bills with money to spare! He felt tears spring to his eyes as he silently thanked a God he wasn’t even sure he believed in. On the screen a scroll had appeared over the columns with paragraphs full of tiny text. At the bottom read “Do you accept the terms and conditions?”. He had never seen something like that on a slot machine before, but chalked it up to some kind of new law since last he’d played. Adrenaline pumping, he didn’t bother to read a word of it, he just hit the “Accept” button so hard that for a moment he was scared he broke it.
A moment later the screen returned to the original 5 columns. Jack waited a minute, expecting the kind of fanfare that usually comes with such a large jackpot, but nothing came. No flashing lights, no loud music, just a 6 digit number sitting at the bottom of the screen. With a shaking hand, he reached and pressed the button to cash out. The voucher printed with the usual casino logo at the top, followed by a barcode, some validation numbers, then the amount- “$200,013.00”. Below that was written “you have 3 hours”. He’d never seen that before, usually it read something like “void after 30 days”, but again he figured it must be some kind of new law, and more than that he didn’t care! He wouldn’t need close to 3 hours, he was cashing out right now and getting back to the hospital as soon as humanly possible!
Grabbing the ticket, he ran to the cashier. Again, he expected some kind of fanfare over such a large win, but the cashier who took his ticket looked at it nonchalantly, typed something into the computer in front of her, then handed him his winnings with a fake smile and a “Have a nice day, sir”.
Jack wasted no time running out the door and driving back to the hospital (with a quick stop at the bank of course). He was practically bursting to tell Lisa the good news, but when he looked in Kylie’s room Lisa was fast asleep in the chair by her bed. Instead of waking her, Jack went back out to the hospital’s main desk and informed the attendant of his situation. A few minutes later he was signing forms to go ahead with Kylie’s surgery and anything else she may need. He stuck his copy of the forms into his pocket, and headed back to Kylie’s room. As much as he wanted to wake Lisa he decided to let her have her much needed sleep. Instead he tucked the slip from his deposit at the bank under her arm so it would be the first thing she saw when she woke up, then he sat down in the chair next to her. After all the excitement he didn’t expect to be able to fall asleep, but soon sheer exhaustion overtook him and he felt himself start to nod off…
Jack awoke with an aching back. He slowly remembered the events of the morning and falling asleep in the hotel chair. As he sat up in the chair and stretched he smiled with a sense of peace that he hadn’t felt since Kylie’s headaches started. He gradually opened his eyes and saw… Devil’s Choice. Stunned he looked around the casino. This was impossible… wasn’t it? Was it all just a dream? Something occurred to him and he hasilty pawed at the pocket of his pants. A paper, the hospital document, right where he remember putting it this morning. It was real.
In a confused panic he sprinted for the exit. He wove through slot machines, and avoided people (none of whom seemed to even acknowledge him). Heart pounding in his throat he ran for the door, only to find himself inadvertently slowing down. At first he thought it was just in his head and the panic was screwing with his mind, but the closer he got to the door the more obvious it became. It was as if a strong wind was blowing straight at him. He couldn’t feel it, and no one else seemed affected, but he was powerless to fight against it. About 20 feet from the door he started to slide backward with each step, and as much as he fought he couldn’t get within 10 feet of the door.
Jack spent that first week frantically trying to find a way out. Every door was inaccessible to him, and every window felt like a brick wall. He pleaded for help, screamed and begged, but no one could see him. They just looked right through him and kept walking. Although he could touch objects, nothing reacted to his touch. He couldn’t write, phones were useless to him, and no electronics responded to him… except one. He could still use “his” slot machine, but now all the Devil would say is, “You want to play?”. He tried for a while, and he could theoretically win money, but trapped inside Lucky Sevens with no way of contacting the outside world that did him no good. He kept hoping for another bonus round, an explanation or a loophole, but none ever came.
Weeks passed. Then months. At first Jack would slip behind the front desk to look at the date, but after awhile it stopped mattering to him. Years passed and his only solace was that Kylie was ok. He’d gotten enough money to her for the best medical treatment, and she must happy and healthy now. He imagined what she might look like, what she might be doing. He imagined her going to school and making artwork or maybe learning soccer… she was always such a bright girl and now that she’d be free of the brain tumor the world was her oyster.
The casino was his home now, or more accurately his prison. He couldn’t interact with people, and even though they couldn’t see him they seemed to instinctively know to avoid him. They would walk around him, occasionally complaining of a chill in the air but more often continuing on as if nothing happened. He didn’t need to eat or drink anymore, but mercifully he could still sleep. He would follow the maids into the hotel rooms upstairs and lay down when they were done making the bed, trying to sleep away as many hours as he could. He would dream of being free- of running along the beach, or playing basketball. Sometimes he would dream of being home with Lisa and Kylie, just eating dinner or snuggled up watching TV. Those were his favorite dreams.
Years passed. Jack lost track of how many, it hardly seemed to matter. The only difference was when he was down in the casino wasting the day away people-watching he noticed some changes in style, and that they carried new technology (first smaller phones, then bigger ones). A regular customer who he’d come to watch almost daily as she played blackjack and chatted with the card dealers announced she was getting married. Then she came in less after she got pregnant, but reappeared later announcing she’d divorced. Life went on for everyone but Jack.
It wasn’t unusual for Jack to wake up and find someone had checked into the room he’d been sleeping in. He never seemed to bother them other than the occasional complaint about the cold. He couldn’t unlatch the door, but he would try to slip out of the room as soon as anyone opened it. Even knowing he was invisible, he still felt weird invading someone’s privacy.
One day he awoke to find a rather homely older man sitting on the edge of the bed. Jack stood up and stretched, getting ready to leave whenever an opportunity presented itself. As luck would have it, a knock came on the door only a few moments later. The homely man rose to his feet with a grunt, and Jack positioned himself by the door ready to slip out. The man unlocked the door, and Jack looked up to see the most beautiful blond-haired girl. He assumed she must be over 18, but not by much. She was a little too thin in an unhealthy looking way, but other than that she was gorgeous. She turned toward him and Jack saw her pupils were tiny, pinholed with obvious drug use… but that’s not what struck him. Her eyes were the most beautiful shade of emerald green.
Jack felt his heart stop. It couldn’t be her, could it? He completely forgot about exiting the room and stared at the girl’s face. He pictured his sweet little Kylie and tried to picture her as a teenager. The girl certainly had similar features, but why on earth would Kylie be here? The old man leered at her with lusty approval, and with an awkward greeting he handed her a wad of bills. She giggled teasingly and pulled the clip out of her long hair letting it fall around her shoulders. That’s when Jack noticed a scar curving along her scalp… from brain surgery.
Jack felt like he was going to throw up despite not having eaten in years. He ran into the bathroom and fell to his knees sobbing. He covered his ears and tried to drown out the sounds as that disgusting old man violated his precious little girl.
When the horrid deed was finally done Jack plodded back into the bedroom. Kylie wasted no time in grabbing her handbag and heading for the door. Jack followed. As soon as she was out the door she let the fake smile fall from her face; she looked miserable and desperate. Jack hurried to keep up as she ran down a flight of stairs and into the main casino. She reached into her handbag for something and tucked it in her fist. She glanced toward the ladies room, currently with a large “Out of Order” sign on the door, then scanned the casino. Her eyes fell on the darkest corner, the one that housed “Devil’s Choice”
Kylie sat down at the machine after taking a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching her. She opened her hand to reveal a small baggie of white powder. She stuck a long fingernail into the powder then leaned over the machine hiding what she was doing with her other hand. Jack watched in horror as she fell to the floor a moment later. Her beautiful green eyes rolled back into her head and her breathing slowed to a terrifyingly slow raspy moan.
In desperation Jack dove to the only object that had responded to him in years. Devil’s Choice. He pounded his fists on the buttons and almost immediately the cartoon devil appeared and walked across the screen. Winking, the devil leaned against the edge of the screen. This time the bubble by his head read “I see you need something more important than money!”. “YES!” he screamed at the machine slamming the buttons again.
On the screen the familiar scroll appeared full of tiny text. At the bottom read “Do you accept the terms and conditions?”. Jack desperately wanted to read what he was agreeing to this time, but he glanced down at Kylie and her skin was starting to turn blue. He didn’t give it another thought, he pressed “Accept”. Almost immediately a a pair of paramedics appeared and sprinted toward Kylie. They leaned over his precious baby girl, and after the longest minute of his life he heard one declare “She’s stable!”. They loaded her onto a stretcher and he watched through eyes clouded with tears as they carried her out the door. He stared after her for until he heard the ambulance siren fade into the distance, then he numbly turned back toward the machine.
Another ticket had printed. This time the ticket that printed out had no barcode and no numbers. Just four words – “You have 3 hours.”
CREDIT : Violet Doe