"...woke up on a journey, the road ahead in my mind's eye... "
She found herself walking toward him. Slowly. Fremont Street was near-deserted, this time of night, and she felt a twinge of trepidation. He had the ragged look she recognized as Vegas having run somebody down - shaggy dark hair hid his face, but his hands were callused, one thin scar creeping up the back of his hand toward his wrist. His jeans were worn down to a crumpled-paper softness, and his Frye boots had been resoled a few times and were coming up on needing work again. All the signs of someone who maybe lived out here, on the kindness of tourists.
She'd never seen him before, though. Back and forth on Fremont every night, and she'd never seen this man who looked so comfortable in the shadow of the iconic neon cowboy, as if he'd just grown there.
The curiosity pulled her in. That, and the music. He seemed not to notice her, rocking so slightly back and forth as he shuffled the cards, tapped them on the concrete beside him, shuffled again, all going to his internal rhythm. "...the way, it opened for me like the drawbridge of a castle... underneath the tragedy I found the cave of crystal..."
Abruptly, he seemed to snap into focus. He looked up and grinned as though he'd seen her there all along. “Dead night, huh?”
He gestured with a card, its edges feathery with use. “It’s a slow night. Quiet. Fremont at four in the morning, all grey and potential. The city that never sleeps is maybe taking a nap. What are you doing out?”
“I - I’m-”
He held out a hand to stop her. “Oh, no, no, let me.” He plucked a card from the deck, sat cross-legged, pressed it to his forehead. “You’re looking for someone.”
“Yes. How did you-”
He laughed, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “Oh, honey, it’s Vegas. Everybody’s looking for a girl.”
She slumped a bit, releasing the tension she hadn’t realized she’d been carrying.
He edged forward. “Hey. I’m sorry. Look, let me tell your fortune.”
“I don’t have any money.”
“Me either.” He grinned again and held out a hand to her.”C’mon, sit down.”
She looked around. Same quiet street. Nothing to lose, really. “Fine.”
She touched his hand - and something happened within him, some shift, and by the time she was seated, something about him had changed. He seemed brighter than his surroundings. His smile, as he shuffled the cards, was gentler - more genuine pleasure, less the lure of the raconteur. When he spoke, his voice resonated. “You will choose seven cards. With each card, you will leave something behind. A token.”
“I have no-”
“You will know. You already know.” The thing inhabiting the man tapped the deck on the sidewalk and gestured to her. “Choose your first card.”
"Fortune" was written for Ravens in the Library, hence the s00j quotes; I've permission to use it for BARCC purposes. This is the second of my nightside-of-Vegas stories, and is, in some ways, the flipside of the first, "The Angel of Fremont Street". (The third will be about where the fortune-teller got the cards he'll be using in this one.)
I will post a new story-segment every time I clear another hundred-dollar mark in sponsorships. I'm currently at $380, which means if $20 gets donated today, you get to find out what she draws tomorrow.