Death and a Card Game
[WP] You are a being so incomprehensible that you drive anyone who perceives you to madness. Your effect on others makes finding friends a challenge.
“So you’re her?” Death asks, looking down the girl with a black-pixie haircut. Death is wearing a full bodied robe with his hood drawn over his head, concealing his face in shadow. His only visible features being his exposed skeleton-hands where he’s tapping all of his outstretched fingertips together as he considers something.
“Tell me, Aubrey, why is it that descriptions always make people seem taller?”
Aubrey stand across from him and the expanse around them is a featureless white. She shrugs. “If it makes you feel any better, you’re exactly what I imagined you’d be,” she replies. Her clothes are all black and her top looks like a scapular but with long sleeves. The hooded garment has an athletic fit over her torso, but below her belt, it hangs loose like a dress while the cloth along the outside of her thighs is cut away, revealing the leg length, black-leather boots.
“That’s just how this works, Aubrey. People see what they expect—although…those people are usually afraid—at least a little bit. I don’t frighten you, do I?”
Aubrey shakes her head. “No. I know why I’m here. It’s fine.”
“Well,” Death says, holing up a finger, “this next part is a bit of a tradition and you have to play. Everyone does. We play best 3 out of 5. If you win…you get to go back.”
Aubrey smiles. “That sounds very happily-ever-after-like, but aren’t you still undefeated?”
Death’s hands separate and his palms turn upright in a shrug. “Eh, technically speaking…I guess that’s the way one would look at it.”
“Well, that technically sounds very anti-committal of you, Death.”
His fingers begin tapping again. “Sassy. I can see why Dark took such an interest in you.”
“Dark? You mean, Shades? Excuse me, the Lord of Shadows.
“He really let you call him Shades?”
“Well, he didn’t seem to like it at first, but he got over it…so, 3 out of 5?”
“Ah, yes,” Death replies, then pauses. “Why the rush? Have some place to be?”
“No. I’m just know what it’s like getting distracted,” she says, smiling. “I don’t know how to play, but do you think we could try cards?”
“A classic! I like it.” A table with green felt appears between them and Aubrey looses her balance as a chair slides against the back of her caves, scooping her up and moving her to the table. “We play Texas Hold’em, and it goes like this…” He continues shuffling the cards then deals each of them a set of cards. “Those cards are yours and these are mine.”
Death takes a peek at his cards to find a 8 & J of diamonds.
“Next comes the cards we both play off of, he says as he flips cards over between them.”
“Is it true that Billy the Kid almost cheated you out of y’alls game of cards?”
As she says this, Death pauses before throwing down the final card. “He told you that, did he?”
Aubrey nods. “Yeah, he won the first two games against you and was about to win the 3rd when Shades informed you about his extra cards.”
Death drops the last card and nods. “The following hands were played with him being naked…without places to hide cards, those hands did not go his way. Are you suggesting that’s something I should be concerned about with you?”
“Oh no, I wouldn’t know how to cheat at this if I tried. See?” she asks turning her cards to show him. “I’ve got a black 3 and a black 7. Am I supposed to draw or something, next?”
Death studies her cards then the earnest expression and genuine curiosity on her face. Looking back down at the center cards, the only noteworthy ones are the 6, 7, and 9 of diamonds which go nicely with his 8 & J of the same suit. He stacks them together and turns them upside down next to the deck.
“I fold,” he says.
“What does that mean? Do I fold too now?”
“No, I mean you win that round.”
“I did?! What did you have?”
He guards the discarded hand with his own. The waggles the other finger as say that’s not allowed. “It’s too embarrassing, so I’d rather you not see. You beat me rather soundly and I’m a little bitter about it.”
“Oh,” Aubrey says, covering her smile with her hand.
The next round comes out and he beats her with four of a kind. The next was a win with a full house.
“I can tell you two are on the same team, so to speak,” Aubrey says, as the next cards are coming out.
“Same team, huh? And what makes you say that?”
“Because y’all are both part of the dark. You’re both shadow deities.”
Death’s hand freezes again as he’s about to throw down another card. “You think we’re equals? What exactly do you think is the connection between us?”
Aubrey shrugs. “I don’t know. You’re both taking care of the dark related things? That’s why he told you about Billy, right? He was just leaning over to tell his buddy in the next cubicle or whatever while y’all are both work at Dark Inc.”
Death starts to laugh hard. So hard that he has to get up and walk away from the table, placing one hand over his obscured face and the other around his abdomen. He tries to return to the table several times, only to start laughing uncontrollably again as Aubrey looks at him with that confused expression.
“What?” she asks, not being in on the joke.
When Death finally can sit back down, he exhales and his hood turns as he shakes his head. He peeks at his cards again, then folds a four of a kind. “Got me again,” he says, causing Aubrey’s confusion to turn to joy.
He takes up the cards again to deal a final hand and begins talking as he passes them out. “No, we’re not partners and no we don’t work in adjoining cubicles. To continue with your very poor analogy, you couldn’t even consider him my boss in your Dark Inc. No, the real Dark couldn’t even be called the building owner or the land owner for the property that it sat on…because the real Dark is what the building, the land, all the associated office equipment, and all the employees…Dark is what they’re all made of.”
Death looks at the dealt cards, his expression invisible as he looks at his Royal Flush.
“I don’t understand,” Aubrey says, her own cards forgotten.
Death nods at her confusion. “Your humans get many, many things wrong, but the thing that you miss the mark on by the greatest margin is your belief that all things are made up of matter and energy. You and I aren’t here right now as either of those, so what do you think those two are made of exactly?”
Aubrey looks away from the table, growing distant. “Light and Dark?” she asks, absently.
Death nods. “The very same. So you thinking that Dark is some arbitrary deity or that we’re equal in some way…that’s why it’s so funny. You and I are here right now as different combinations of Dark and Light. We two consist of more Dark than like and the two of us are closer to being equals than I am to being an equal of Dark. That latter similarity is so astronomically far off, it’s nonsense. And I’m almost insulted on Dark’s behalf.”
Aubrey slouches deeper into her chair as Death lets out an exasperated sigh, then turns his cards over in the discard pile. “Congratulations,” he says, simply.
“Wait, what?” she asks, confused.
“I can see why Dark likes you,” he replies, extending his index finger and shaking it at her. “You’re the only person to ever beat me, back you go.” He issues a shooing gesture with the backs of his hands and Aubrey is whisked away, the table blurring as her and the chair zip across the white expanse.
Aubrey opens her eyes, and all she sees is darkness. After a bit of confused orienting, she realizes she’s in bed and sits up to click on the lamp atop her bedside table. She rubs her head, feeling like she was just talking to someone, but every time she tries to recall the conversation, the memory seems to move around like a shadow in the dark. She feels like it’s there but can’t rule out the possibility that it’s just her mind playing a trick as she focuses on something without features.