Under duress, Castor Sutherland might reveal a certain amount of personal information: for example, that – under a particular pseudonym - he is a relatively well-known author in the genre of magical realism (no, not ‘urban fantasy’, do you even read?). That he regards his personal style as ‘like, bohemian. But, ironically. Y’know?’ That, after losing the love of his life to a roguishly attractive weather reporter, he has spent six months travelling the US in the name of Inspiration. And such.
They’re haunting - everyone who sees them agrees but as with all pieces of art, some see deeper than others and find true meaning in the eyes that stare out at them. Some feel compelled, to cross the barrier that keeps the statues away from those who visit the Casino and reach out to touch the statue. Sometimes Norma stops them in time, but one or two often evade her vigil and for those, there is always a strong cup of something waiting for them from the kitchen, when the shock fades from their eyes and the tears cease. Sophie will sit them down in a quiet booth and ask them what they’ve seen. They speak of a day in Brussles when the ash poured forth and hundreds died. They speak of a Red Man who laughs and laughs and laughs. They say they saw his face but cannot find the words to describe it, a sense of unease the only thing that remains and distrust of the world where nothing lives but ash and a single living being. They speak of a woman who after some discussion is determined to be Mariana the Immortal, standing in the ruins of Brussels with a pocketwatch hanging from a chain about her wrist. At her feet lie the bodies of the dead, piled high in their hundreds, life sucked from them by the power of the item.
Those that see the vision never play at the Manager’s table and when the stakes of those particular games are mentioned they cannot suppress the shudder that accompanies them. They walk away changed, forewarned and tinged with sadness but with a determination to never let this (whatever *this* may be) happen again.
Castor’s book, Exegesis, grows in popularity but it’s rise is slow. A cult classic that is first mostly ignored by all except a few dedicated followers who even then argue and debate about its meaning. Later mistaken for fiction it gains new footing decades after the author's death, experts dissect and argue over its meaning, over what the author was trying to convey in this strange ‘motel metaphor’. Finally it’s worth is realised by those for whom it was truly intended as the next crisis set emerge from their rooms.
It doesn’t matter what the year is, the Casino hasn’t changed for centuries. Still the same tables with the cards dealt out at them, still the same bar and still the same memorabilia wall behind it. The yearly visitors to the Casino rarely manage to work out where the memorabilia comes from or why it’s important. A ticket stub here, a concert program there… and in the centre of it all two T-shirts with the desert waves logo on them. Old and faded but still discernible.
Two people sit at the bar drinking milkshakes. They have never met each other before but despite the space in the casino they find themselves sitting next to each other, staring up at the shirts thoughtfully but not quite knowing why. Their eyes meet and it only seems polite for them to introduce themselves.
From behind the bar Cassie reaches into her pocket to check that the pair of wedding rings are still there, she has a feeling they might be needed again soon.