The Games We Play

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Perfect Game.”

So I may have deviated slightly from the given assignment, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

This story is set in the dead of winter, in turn-of-the-century North-Eastern Europe, on a very dark night. Lars had never been good at being a family man. In fact, he was anything but. He worked in the textile trade, which meant long trips to southern Europe and the far east, and only rarely he saw his wife and two children. He didn’t miss them much, in fact, he enjoyed the freedom to roam and make his own decisions. The fine silks made him dream of a better life and he was always in the search for something more.

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This evening he took his seat at the bar, shifting his heavy weight onto the rather unsteady barstool. He was always on the lookout for a bit of gambling, certain he could make his own luck, and tonight was no different. The crew of soldiers that had stumbled in grew louder with the drink, and he overheard talk of a card game. This was his chance, nothing was easier to beat than a drunken soldier in the company of his own men – off guard.

He’d wormed his way into far more challenging evenings before, and soon he was sitting at the table, and took the cards that were dealt. A few rounds of whiskey gave him courage, and even though his golden coins were dwindling in his money belt, his luck did not seem to desert him tonight. And yet, as all games of luck unfold, the dark side of the coin was showing its face. He thought one more game would change every thing, and tomorrow would be market day. He would make it all back. He kept playing to his doom. Soon he was waging more than his money belt, hoping to take loans from the bar’s customers. I’ve got the finest silks! he slurred to his neighbour on his left, a fine elderly gentleman, whose gold-rimed coat set him apart from the soldiers.

What else have you got? As the evening wore on, Lars wagered his house, his load of textiles, his soul and finally his daughter. If he lost, she would marry the fine gentleman. It would never come to that though, as his luck was set to turn. He ordered more whiskey and joined in the singing.

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The gentleman had a grave look on his face. “I should be overcome by joy. I have wandered the earth for years, hoping to find some heartless soul that is fit to take my place. And I wouldn’t feel this overcome with sadness, if I didn’t know what awaits you. You wanted a bigger life, and were willing to give away all the riches you possessed. You made a bargain with the devil, as I had years ago. Now you must go live with him, and roam the nights until you find someone willing to wager his own soul for the luck of a card game. He reached for the large gold chain around his neck and lowered it over Lars’ head. It was heavier than it looked. At the end of it, hanging over Lars’ sternum, was a key. This leads to hell my friend, welcome.”

Dumbfounded Lars turned to the gentleman, as he left. Where will you go now?

“Me? I’m off to enjoy the little I had before. You will soon understand how much it means to me now.” And with that, he disappeared into the snowy night.

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