Imagine reliving the best parts of your life again, and in a way that you control.
Would you change anything about that day? Maybe you didn’t quite take advantage of a certain situation.
Yesterday I stumbled upon a way of doing so, although I think I’ve changed more than just that moment. I didn’t realize the consequences. I decided to go back and see the guy at the bar who made it happen and now I’m trying to decipher what’s happened.
I found the bar again by some luck. The night’s alcohol still addling my brain. The lights were off and the doors were barred, I banged on it until my hand, and my head hurt, but no one answered. It was late in the afternoon and I figured it would open when the sun went down. I didn’t have work, the wife was out at her job, and I didn’t have anything else to past my time. So, I walked the streets until the light dimmed with the sun faded.
When I came back to the side street the window of the bar’s reflected the orange glow from within. I never bothered to take in the bar yesterday as I was way too drunk to even care.
The windows held little interest to me but what did, was the doorway. Etched into the panels beside the door was a different animal, each was crafted like it was drawn by a child. I tried to figure them out.
A snake, loin, toad, peacock, goat, pig and a snail. I wondered why the door panel had the animals?
I looked up to the flacking golden letters over the building. The Bar of Temptations.
Didn’t the glass yesterday have a goat on it? I thought as I pushed the door.
More paint flaked to the floor as I entered inside. It was the same as last night, boxy, dirty and empty. No one was here except the same barkeeper.
His wide unblinking eyes pinned me like he knew someone would walk through the door at that given moment.
“Ah, Daniel. Good to see you back.”
He bobbed his bald head like a chicken eating corn. Before I could say anything he reached for a glass and started to fill it with a yellow liquid.
“Na, mate. That’s not going to happen. What the fuck did you do to me last night?”
I crossed to the bar and slapped a hand down.
“My life, it’s…”
I didn’t know how to go on, was it real? Did my life change or was my mind that muddled by the drink, and I made up what I thought I remembered. Was I about to accuse someone of ruining my life, when they did nothing more than serve me a drink?
The bartender raised one eyebrow and placed the small glass in front of me.
“I’m not drinking that, not after last time.”
“Last time you weren’t ready, you didn’t see the…benefits.”
He slid the glass toward me and smirked.
He leaned conspiratorially over the counter.
“Was there a time when you didn’t take advantage of a certain situation Daniel? When an opportunity passed you by? Um?”
Again that raised eyebrow. I looked at the etching of a frog on the glass nervously and then back to his enameled face. My mind worked back to the times where I wished I had done something different. What the outcome could have been.
Maybe, just maybe I could go back and undo what I had done.
“Ah, more the reason.” He slid the glass with a gnarly finger.
I picked up the small drink and sniffed the surface – Banana and truffle oil. Maybe I could take advantage. Just jump back in, play the memory how it should have been and everything will go back to normal.
“Here’s to taking advantage.”
I stupidly toasted and drained the glass, almost instantly the barkeeper blurred and his words echoed in my head.
Just like a pebble hitting the surface of a pond, my world rippled. The barkeeper and the bar changed to a swanky affair. Polished granite reflected the exotic bottles laden on shelves behind. A cold glass of yellowish bubbles glisten in a glass next to my arm, A slender bejeweled hand stroked the side of mine.
“So, I was thinking maybe you could, you know, meet me in my room?”
A ball clicked repeatedly off to my left, a small group of people cheered at a table and the winner scooped up his winnings.
I became aware that the room was full of people standing and milling around.
The Blackjack tables, roulette, slot machines. I spotted the floor staff in their black suits and earpieces, the waitresses in pretty green dresses cut with shamrocks, the sharp curve of the letters *GXK* at their breast.
“Well, what do you say Dan?”
This was Vegas, it was my brother’s stag do and the lady at my arm was a prostitute. I realized the first time, only it was much later after winning quite a bit of money. Money that she would inadvertently require for her services.
“Na, I think I’ll pass.”
I left her at the bar and went to the roulette table. Last time, or was it this time? — It was getting confusing — my brother was there and he was having a bit of luck.
Josh was there exactly how I remembered him. Slim, to the point of needing a good fry up every day for a year. Drained — although no one knew what he was going through, he was due to marry Mary in ten days because they thought it would strengthen them, only for her to walk out on him a few months later with her fitness instructor.
And, in a disgusting Hawaiian shirt. I frowned and looked down at the replica on my back. I forgot that his best man had given us a uniform for the stag party.
“Hey bro, who’s the blonde.”
He nodded to the girl at the bar who’d moved onto her next mark, a bald man who seemed to think the luck of the Irish was upon him.
“Shit, you wouldn’t guess, right? Black 17.”
He placed a $50 chip on the spot and the dealer span the dial. I racked my brains trying to remember the outcome. He lost this one but if I was right he would win the next. What was the number..”
A few cheers went up but nobody won big.
“Shit I knew that.” I thought I said it under my breath but Josh chuckled.
“Should of put your money on it then.”
He flipped a chip and place it on the same number. I nodded and reached into my pocket for my money. I counted as I flicked through the bills. $700.
There was more back in the room but I would lose the chance to act now with the knowledge I had of this moment.
“$700 Black 17.”
“Whoo, that’s crazy Dan. I mean I’m not your keeper but as your brother, I think you should pace yourself.”
The dealer span the wheel and waved his hands over the board.
“No more bets.”
“Too late now,” I grinned.
For some reason, even those I was 99% sure that last time it came in, I still had the cold drop of doubt hit me in the gut as the ball dropped. Gambling right? A sure fire way to increase your chances of heart attack and leave you broke.
Have you ever won something? Maybe a bet on a soccer game, the top prize at the village fate? A lottery win?
Imagine my surprise as the ball landed and I was up $24,500. The best part? the night had just begun.
In total I only remembered 6 times that a particular number came in. The first was a guy in a black tux that was smoking a horrible cigar. He had puffed the smoke in my face, it’s the only reason I remembered. Red 2.
Each time it happened, I bet a thousand dollars — so it wouldn’t go noticed. But the more I won, the more people noticed.
Each time I bet $1000, Josh bet with me. On the third win the pit boss came over. On the fourth, the manager.
I knew that they thought I was cheating, and I was. It’s just they didn’t know I was doing it.
On the fifth win I had won close to $150,000. The manager looked to his pit manager, I smiled and shrugged my shoulders, I knew I was pushing my luck, Josh slapped me on the back. Although he wasn’t betting as big, he too was now sitting on a tidy $50,000.
I should have stopped, maybe it was the oxygen they pump through the vents to keep us heighten, maybe it was the rush of knowing what was about to happen, maybe it was human natural?…I should have stopped.
A fight broke out by the bar, another cue jarred my memory and I looked around for the tired waitress who had come to blow her weekly tips in a faint hope that it would change her life. Ironically, if she had been here when I started she could have had her change. Last time she did win anyway so there was a plus. I reached for the stack of chips and the table watched me.
The lady shouldered her way through the press of bodies and picked her lucky number. Black 21, it was her birthday day, she always choose it even though it had never given her luck.
“Black 21.” She called to the dealer and placed her crumpled notes on the spot.
“It’s my birthday,” she said to no one.
The dealer exchanged them for chips and I placed mine down too. All of them.
Go big or go home right?
In the commotion of the fight and looking for the lady, I didn’t notice that Josh had gone off to speak to the cash window and had returned with a venue cheque which he placed next to mine. He must have pre-cleared it for such a occasion, although he never told me.
I read the zeros and a coldness seeped into my stomach like a freezing weight.
“Josh, what have you done.”
“No more bets please.”
“We can’t lose!”
His excitement boarded on insanity as he jumped around thinking about the riches he would have following my lead. The crowd fuelled his madness as the ball clicked. He didn’t know how I was cheating, he just knew that somehow, when I bet, it came in.
“Ah shit,” the waitress kicked the floor, she wore the loss like a companion on her shoulders. Just a little more weight to bring her down.
I watched her leave and what just happened sunk in. She had lost, that didn’t happen last time, the meant…
I turned to Josh’s white face as my vision wobbled and distilled like the water of the pond.
The bar was empty, and light streamed through the window. I raised my head from the bar top and the pounding in my head increase.
I glanced groggily around at the deep blue walls, a colorful motif of someone famous hung with total disregard for my hurting eyes.
A card on the bar caught my attention and I picked it up.
5 more to go. The handwriting was childish but legible.
I stepped off the stool to a sticky floor, unidentifiable patches splattered across it like a plasterers radio.
I called out but no one came, so I pushed opened the doors and stepped into the morning air. The wind was cold and it helped me feel a semblance of normal as I reached for my phone.
I had twelve missed calls from my wife and too many angry messages demanding to know where I was. I knew I was in trouble and my real reason for not coming home would be totally unbelievable.
The excuses made circuits in my mind as the phone rang when the line clicked I still hadn’t thought of one that would be more believable than the unbelievable truth.
“Where the hell are you?” She sounded concern, which totally threw me off. I was expecting angry, unreasonable wife — justified I know.
“I understand honey.”
My brain couldn’t keep up with her mind tricks and I spluttered on my end.
“It’s always hard for you this time of the year. It’s not your fault Dan, your brother had his own problems?”
“My bro…Josh has problems?”
I was sinking fast, what ingenious game was she playing?
“It’s not your fault, come home baby. We miss you.”
Damn, she was good. I know where this was going. She would let me think I was in the clear and after dinner and the kids were abed. She would pounce after stewing on it for the day. I had to counter-attack and I didn’t have much to go on.
“Look, I’m sorry, I went to a bar last night and got too drunk. Ended up waking up with my face stuck to the counter.”
She sighed and I could hear a different tone in her voice.
“Drink won’t bring your brother back honey. I know his suicide hit you hard, but you’ve got to stop blaming your…”
“My What? Suicide? Josh?”
“Come home, honey. We miss you.”
I let the phone fall from my hands.
It happened again, I turned back to the bar, but the door had shut behind me.
I’ve been banging on the door for over an hour now and still no answer. My phone survived the fall and I’ve spoken to my wife again, I’ve told her I need a bit of time and she’s ok with me.
What I really need is to find out how to stop this from happening again. Maybe I can go back and change it back somehow. I’ve got too, three people have died, and it’s all my fault.