A Short Horror Story
“Black twenty-two!” called the croupier. That made twelve numbers in a row I’d lost. I started to wonder if that was enough to make it look believable. Well, it was too late now. My tiny friend and I had already agreed on the thirteenth number. The little guy had a thing for the number thirteen. I placed my next bet, and the croupier spun the wheel again.
The men and women at the table had their heads bowed, watching the tiny ball spin. It was almost as if they were praying to it. It was a tiny god deciding the fate of every man at the table. Or it would have, if it weren’t for my tiny demon.
“Red thirteen! Red thirteen! And we have a winner!” The croupier gestured in my direction, and the people around me clapped. I guess they were glad that my luck had finally turned around. I had lost twelve hundred-dollar chips so far. But this time I had put down five of the little red chips, making me a big winner indeed. The roulette paid thirty-six-to-one, so I would be walking away from the table with over twenty grand. But first, I had to wait for my little buddy.
No one seemed to notice the stacks of chips falling over, or the drink being shoved to the side. As I collected my winnings, I felt my jacket pocket grow warm as my tiny, invisible friend climbed inside. As I walked to the cash window he whispered to me.
“Walt!” he said. “Walt, I’m sorry. After riding that spinning wheel for so long, I got so dizzy… I think I just barfed in your pocket.”
“Oh, god…” I was wondering why my pocket felt damp. “Oh, no problem. I forgot. I stole this jacket, didn’t I? That restaurant `loaned’ it to me when I didn’t have a jacket and tie. Well, I guess they’ll be getting it back later tonight, huh? Be quiet now, I’m almost at the cash window.”
I was in line behind an older man in a white suit and a cowboy hat. When I walked up to the line he looked me up and down, scowling at my jeans with torn knees and my ugly plaid “borrowed” jacket. I didn’t care. In another minute I’d be twenty grand richer.
After cashing out, my little friend and I walked out to the parking lot, where I had left another one of the night’s winnings: a 1969 Corvette Stingray convertible, all leather interior. It had been raffled off at another casino about twenty miles down the road from this one. A nice, grandmotherly type had reached into a big drum full of tickets and pulled out mine. Of course, she didn’t see the tiny demon shoving my ticket into her hand.
Once we were in the car, the miniature devil climbed out of my jacket and onto the passenger seat, where he returned to his visible state. His name was Dax, and he was my partner in crime. He was about six inches tall, and the color of congealed blood. He had a black goatee that went all the way down to where the belly button would be on a human. (Demons were hatched from eggs, so they didn’t have navels.) He had horns, but they were covered up by the tiny top hat he had taken to wearing lately. Other than the hat, he was naked. He always said that he couldn’t find pants with a hole big enough for his tail.
My name is Walt, and it’s been about a year and a half since I first met Dax. I used to work at an occult bookstore in Vegas. Not the good part of Vegas. The part with all the pawn shops and liquor stores and porno stores all in a row. The part of Vegas where people went after they had been kicked out of the good, fun part of Vegas.
Anyway, one night, I had to work from seven AM until closing time. I was bored out of my mind. I hadn’t seen a customer since early that morning when a woman in a purple muumuu came in looking for love spells. So to pass the time, I was reading this weird book I found in the back. It didn’t have a title on the cover, just a bunch of symbols like that one Led Zeppelin album.
I was flipping through a rather tedious section on summoning spells. It described all about how to call up demons and get them to do different things for you, like give you wisdom, or bring vengeance against your enemies, or help you get laid. I flipped a page and got a rather nasty paper cut. Sucking on my wounded finger, I saw that a drop of my blood had fallen on the page. There was a diagram of a pentagram and other weird symbols that you were supposed to draw and then pour blood on it…
Suddenly the book began to smoke. I dropped it on the counter. There was a flash of light, and Dax appeared. He looked up at me and said, “Yeah, whaddaya want?”
“What the hell… You’re supposed to be a demon?” I demanded. “You’re six inches tall! What kind of demon are you, anyway?”
Dax just pointed at the diagram with his tail. Underneath it was the caption “1:20 scale”. Oops. “I’m supposed to be ten feet tall, jackass! Can’t you read?” He was trying to be intimidating, but it was pretty hard to do that at his size. I could tell right away that I had a serious Napoleon Complex on my hands.
Like anybody would, I had a lot of questions. Unfortunately Dax didn’t have very many answers. Not that he was willing to give me, anyway. He did tell me that he was there to do things for me like the book said. The only thing I’d have to do was give him a sacrifice.
“What kind of sacrifice?”
Dax belched, and I smelled sulfur. “The usual stuff. Goats, or human hearts, or virgins.”
Well, like I said this was Vegas. I didn’t have any goats, and I wasn’t about to go get him a human heart. And I didn’t think I’d ever met a virgin, so that was out.
“Wait,” I said, “How about this?” My boss had left a magazine under the counter. I opened it up and showed it to the little demon.
“`18 and Ready’? What the hell is this supposed to be?”
“That, my tiny friend, is about as close to a virgin as you’re liable to find in Vegas.”
To make a long story short, for the past year the tiny demon had been doing me favors, and I had been living like a king. We’d hit casinos all over Nevada, anywhere his little hands could come in handy. In return for his work I would give Dax dirty magazines. I don’t know why he was so interested in porn. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I never look. It’s just not that exciting to me. Plus, sometimes it just makes me kind of lonely. I look at the girls in the magazine and all I can think is that I don’t really want these pictures. I want a real girl.
That was eighteen months ago. Tonight I was in a vintage sports car, paying a demon for helping me cheat a casino. “You owe me three for this one,” said Dax. I reached into my glove compartment and pulled out three magazines, still in their brown paper wrappers. I threw them into the back seat and Dax eagerly flew after them. He wasn’t allowed to read them in the front next to me anymore. I mean, who wants to see that?
Instead of returning the stolen jacket, I decided just to throw it out the window. With any luck, some homeless guy would come along and find it.
After about twenty minutes we made it to the next casino. This place was supposed to look like the space needle in Seattle. Basically, it was a six hundred foot poll, and then the rotating casino on top. I put on my leather jacket and Dax hopped in the pocket. We rode the elevator to the top and headed for the men’s room.
We talked it over in the bathroom and decided to try the roulette wheel again. It was much easier for Dax to kick the ball into the right hole than it was to try to stop a pair of rolling dice. We’d tried poker before too; with invisible Dax walking abound the table looking at everyone’s cards. But sometimes Dax would get confused and forget which hand beat what, and I didn’t want to risk it tonight. So it was another round of roulette. It was just too bad we had to keep changing casinos like this. Win too much in one place and they begin to get suspicious.
Dax made himself invisible again, and I casually placed him on the roulette table. We had agreed on the thirteenth bet again, with Dax throwing the ball into his favorite hole, thirteen red. In the mean time, all I had to do was sit here and lose money. That, and hope Dax didn’t get dizzy enough to throw up in my pocket again.
After five or six bets, I was staring to get nervous. It was getting hard to look genuinely upset when the croupier took my chips. I told myself to just relax. Dax was handling his little merry-go-round ride pretty well tonight. Nothing to worry about.
And that’s when I realized that Dax wasn’t on the wheel. I was looking across the table at one of the showgirls who had stopped to play a few rounds on her way home. She was wearing this low-cut, red, slinky number, and if she had had leaned forward any farther I would have seen… And that’s when I noticed that her Singapore Sling was drinking itself. That little bastard.
I watched in frustration as Dax finished the showgirl’s drink. I had no idea where he walked off to after that. He was invisible so I wouldn’t be able to just march over and grab him. I could only hope that he’d remember to stop the ball on the thirteenth bet. After drinking that much, he’d have about a six hundred percent blood alcohol count.
Finally it was time to put down my thirteenth bet. I placed five of the hundred dollar chips down on thirteen red, and waited. Spin, spin, spin went the tiny chrome god. I watched the group around me bow their heads in reverence, and the ball slowed down and…
“Nineteen black!” called the croupier. Damn it! That little bastard. The croupier leaned forward to take in all the lost bets, but then the ball stared moving again. Someone said “look!” as the ball floated through the air and dropped into another hole.
“Thirteen red? What the hell?” The croupier looked at the bets and suddenly realized that this little miracle made me a winner. I saw him signal to a man in a suit, and suddenly there were two gorillas at my elbows.
“Come with us,” demanded one of them, a balding giant of a man. The other one spun me around and yanked me away from the table.
The two massive men pushed, pulled, and dragged me through the casino. We went through a door behind the slot machines, and there I was thrown to the floor. The hard, concrete floor, the bastard. The room had rows of high shelving covered with tools and machine parts. I guess this must have been a maintenance room or something.
One of the men turned me face-down and held my arms behind my back. I heard a loud click as he locked me in handcuffs. He pressed his knee into the small of my back, his hands still holding my arms.
“We don’t like it when people cheat,” he said. “We used to just turn the cheaters over to the cops, like we’re ‘sposed to. But they just get out of jail and come right back. Some of ’em gets disguised good, and some of ’em just gets a beard or new haircut, trying to fool our cameras. But they always came back. So no more of that. We stop the cheaters ourselves now.”
“Bill,” said the other man. “I got the cutter!” I couldn’t see what was going on behind me, but I knew that sound. The other gorilla had just turned on a circular saw. “He’s gonna like this one, innit he? Can’t do no more of dat cheatin’ wit no hands, can he?”
A loud bang, and then a thud.
“What the hell?” The gorilla called Bill got off of me and turned around. I rolled over and looked behind me. The one with the saw was lying on the floor. Apparently a drill had fallen from one of the shelves and landed on his head. The handheld circular saw was still running on the floor next to him.
Now that I could move, I looked up at the shelf above him and there was a visible and smiling Dax. Somehow he had gotten back here in time to knock out one of the gorillas. The man called Bill was attending to his buddy and didn’t see my little demon running along the shelves. Dax came to a half-assembled slot machine and pushed with all his strength. Down it went, slamming Bill into the floor. The slot machine was much bigger than the drill. A pool of blood was beginning to form under Bill.
“Oh, god! Dax, get me out of these handcuffs!” I yelled. “Get down here and release me, quick!” I had to help this guy, even if it meant I’d be going to jail for cheating the casino.
“OK, boss. Be down in a minute,” Dax said. He jumped down from the shelf and landed next to the running circular saw. “Wait a minute,” he called to me. “I gotta do something first!” The handheld circular saw was thirty times Dax’s size, but he was still able to move it. At first, I thought he was just trying to turn it off. He wasn’t. My hands were still cuffed behind my back, and I couldn’t get up. Perhaps it was just shock at what I was seeing, I don’t know.
Dax had pushed the circular saw across the floor to where the giant man lay, and now the blade was digging into his face. I just sat there and watched the tiny demon work. The entire front of the man’s head separated from the rest, and landed in a pool of blood and gore on the cement.
I was speechless. Dax shut off the saw and came over to unlock the handcuffs. “Well, there you go! Vengeance on two enemies! I figure you owe me twelve titty mags for this one…”