Will You Play? – Inspired by ‘Oogie Boogie’s Song’ from A Nightmare Before Christmas
Paul saw the tree speeding towards him, or more accurately he was speeding towards it. Again and again he slammed down on the brakes and still nothing was happening. Lifting his eyes back up to the windscreen the crash came before he had time to gasp.
“Ugh.” Paul groaned as his eyes opened slowly. In a flash of painful memory the crash replayed in his mind. So it came as somewhat of a shock when 1. He opened his eyes at all and 2. He did not wake in a hospital room.
With aching limbs Paul pushed himself onto his elbows, the stony ground beneath his arms pressing through his ripped shirt. Instead of the clean white and bright lit room of a hospital, he was in the middle of a large cavern. Dark grey walls surrounded him, uneven rock glistening with small trickles of water that found their way from the cavern’s roof.
“What the hell?” He whispered to himself.
“Hell?” A voice asked. “Not quite.” A low chuckle echoed around him. Paul’s body protested painfully at the way he suddenly tensed. “You have not yet entered the light.”
Paul scrambled to his feet, barely noticing how his once tailored grey suit was now torn from the crash.
“Who are you?” He called finally when he managed to steady his breathing. From out of nowhere a ripple of smoke appeared in the air. It swirled before his face before it began to get bigger and eventually formed the shape of a man.
The man was dressed in a bright purple shirt, with a black waist coat and black suit. A glimmer of gold caught Paul’s eye and he glanced to the man’s cuff links; they were shaped in a diamond, heart, club and spade.
“Do we really need introductions?” The man spoke with a sly smile, his olive skin gleaming even though there was little light. “But if you think it would really cause such an obstruction. I will give you no more cause to wait,” He took a few slow circling steps around Paul before coming face to face with him once again. “I am Fate.”
Fate’s angled features sharpened as he gave a long, slow smile. There seemed to be too many teeth.
“Fate?” Paul raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“How can you be in such doubt? Maybe we should get down to what this is all really about.” Another smile and Paul felt a shiver run down his spine. He had no doubt this man was not human. Fate obviously took Paul’s silence as an answer because he turned away and snapped his fingers.
Suddenly the once dull cavern had burst into colour. Heavy red curtains covered the rock walls, slot machines lined the walls chirping their tempting tunes and a large round table sat in the centre.
“What is this?” Paul asked dumbly as he looked around the cavern that now resembled a Las Vegas casino.
“Your life hangs in the balance after your crash with that tree, your life is no longer free.” Fate spun rather dramatically back to Paul, his long jacket swirling behind him. “In order to live, Paul, what would you do?”
“I’m dead?” Paul’s voice strained. Fate let out a hollow laugh.
“That is not yet true, though what you do here could change that.” Fate said and stepped next to Paul. “But how about we cut the chit chat?”
“What do I have to do?” There was no doubt Paul wanted to live.
Fate’s thin lips cracked into a smile. “Life is a gamble, death is the same. All you need to do is play the game.” A pair of white dice appeared from smoke on the table. Fate swept them into his hands. “Make the gamble and win your freedom, but lose the game and you will stay in my Kingdom.” His words took on a sharp tone and Paul suddenly did everything he could not to imagine what his ‘Kingdom’ was like. Whatever it was, he guessed it wasn’t pleasant.
Paul had never been a gambler. He never even played the lotto! Fate seemed to sense his hesitation and slid over to him in only two steps.
“Don’t want to play the game?” Fate pursed his lips. “I guess that’s a shame. You see, Paul, if you do nothing, you will forever remain in here, and this offer will disappear.”
“I’m not sure-” Paul began but was cut short as Fate put his hands on his shoulders. There was no temperature coming from the man, it felt like nothing more than a breeze on Paul’s exposed arm.
“Take the deal, spin the wheel.” Fate encouraged. “What have you got to lose?”
“My life.” Paul shot back as an answer to which Fate’s smile dropped. Suddenly the man looked menacing… and desperate.
“You’re failing to amuse.” Fate moved away and began twirling the dice between his bony fingers. “The case for your life is still open, so will you join the forsaken?” His attention once again focused on Paul and he tensed under the man’s stare. “Or to clear the debt, will you make the bet?”
Paul frowned and looked at the ground. He wanted to live again, to see his wife and children. To do all of the things he said he was going to do but never got around to. But a gamble was always a risk, and according to everyone, the house always wins.
When Paul glanced back up, Fate was only inches in front of him. He stepped back in surprise at the man’s closeness. Fate didn’t seem to notice, he was only smiling seeming to realise he was swaying Paul’s reservations.
“And all I have to do is make the right roll?” Paul asked, assuming the dice was what they would be gambling with. Fate nodded slowly. Paul still hesitated.
“You have to pay the price, so take the dice.” Fate hissed. “What would you be missing from life? What would you give to see your wife?” Paul swallowed hard at his words.
“Just one roll?” Paul asked.
“The offer will soon be gone,” Fate shrugged. “You haven’t got much longer for this to be dwelt upon.” Fate took a step back and Paul watched his steady movements carefully. “Come on, Paul, to live another day,” Fate stretched his hand out towards him, the dice sat temptingly on his open palm. “Will you play?”