The Elysian: Eighteenth Dream

Each of us held a hand of ten cards, with the deck and a face up card between us. I held a random assortment that I moved into numerical order. Between us sat a seven of hearts. My opponent snatches up the card and tosses back an eight of clubs.

The cards in my hand are too random. There’s the start of some melds but nothing promising. I draw from the deck and toss down another card.

“So what might lead a mortal to try to outrun Death?” Cain asks. He takes the Jack I threw down and discards a ten.

I take it.

“Is it really so surprising? How many mortals actually accept their death gracefully?”

Cain gives a throaty chuckle. The edges of his robes shift in the air like long hair underwater. As he settles back, the fringe finds its way down again.

“Almost none,” he responds. “But usually the thought of Death himself standing there makes most think twice. Others who might actually try to leave don’t get the chance.”

That’s an interesting thing to say.

“How do you mean?”

The cards between us keep shuffling back and forth, the discard pile getting bigger and bigger.

“Oh, you know. He’s death. He’s everywhere. It’s not like you can sneak up on death.”

I draw from the deck and throw down a King.

“That so? Because I did.” I smirk, thinking of how that boast must sound.

Though, if it affected Cain, he doesn’t show it.

“Are you sure?”

He tosses a facedown card on the discard pile and knocks on the table. Crap.

We reveal our cards. Most of his are in melds, though he has a five and a two for deadwood. I reveal my sorry hand state. I’m able to layoff a card, but my own deadwood is a two and two sevens.

“Points for me.” Cain holds up a hand and writes a nine in midair. Across the way, behind the counter of the diner is a chalkboard. Appearing on the board in white is Cain’s score, with a big fat zero under my name.

I don’t know how I never saw that before.

Cain collects up the cards and starts shuffling. As he flourishes he says,

“I would re-think your interaction with the dead one. He can be a little dramatic, but he always has his reasons.”

“Dramatic you say? You’re one to talk,” I respond.

Cain pauses for a second before dealing the next hand.

Up on my shoulder, my little wood spirit friend, Godemir hops up to my ear.

“I dunno what your playing at buddy. You want another god mad on your heels?”

I whisper back, “I don’t actually know. I’m just doing what comes naturally. It’s worked so far.”

The next hand is dealt as my mind whirls. What am I doing here? With Puck, I at least knew he was testing me. I couldn’t imagine Cain is expecting me to win Gin to get his key. Luna and Puck both taught me some kind of lesson about the afterlife we’re in. Could Cain be thinking the same thing?

“You’re a curious mortal, Mr. Rodriguez. Even if one could trick Death himself, most wouldn’t dare to do so.”

I shrug nonchalantly, hoping he can’t see how much I’m freaking out.

“Have you ever thought that maybe Death is a little full of himself?”

“Always. But I’m not beholden to his pull.”

He’s said something like that before. Why should he be free of Death?

Before I can ask, Jefferson returns from the back. He has two plates that he sets in front of me along with my orange juice and Godemir’s coffee. It’s only as he sets everything down that I question how he carried everything over here.

He smiles and says,

“All right! Need anything else for now?”

I look over my plate and respond,

“No, I think that should be it. Thank you!”

He gives a thanks and heads to the back again.

“I suppose we should take a short break then,” Cain says.

“Yeah, I guess.”


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