It was, in fact, a real poker chip

Reilly stared at that chip with the intensity of one whose life had been spent fruitlessly searching for the meaning of life and then possibly stumbling upon the very thing he'd sought. Eventually he gulped and the emcee put his arm on Reilly's shoulder,

“Impressive, isn't it?”

Just then, Reilly noticed he was sweating. He wiped his cheek against his shoulder and fought to regain his breath. He gulped again and forced himself to look away from the half-million dollar chip. Again he got the sensation of something moving beneath the emcee's skin, but – like vertigo – the sensation was brief and his eyes focused on the emcee's grayish, sickly skin.

“You know about my gambling addiction, don't you?  Damn you, you know!”

Reilly threw the little plastic disc at the emcee. It missed and bounced off the wall, only to rattle around the floor until finally coming to rest by the open door.

The emcee said nothing, just looked at Reilly with that wandering stare and one finger placed thoughtfully on his chin. “It's a lot of money,” he mused.

Reilly was unable to ignore the chip; it called to him, a lilting voice in the darkness of his world which seemed to eclipse everything but his need. At that point he knew he was hooked. No matter how big a struggle he put on, it was all for show. That creepy host of this godforsaken show had him hook, line, and sinker and Reilly knew it.

He was damned.

He walked over to the chip and looked down upon it for some time, perhaps waiting for the illusion to dissipate, only to awaken in a cold sweat beneath his sheets of his crappy bed, situated in his depressing room, in the middle of his miserable life. He squatted to retrieve the chip between his thumb and forefinger and stood. He brought the chip up to his nose and continued to stare at it as the rest of the room melted away; a black hole sucking him in.

Half-a-million dollars. Jesus, that WAS a lot of money. Reilly ran his tongue along the roof of his mouth in an attempt to restart his salivary glands once, twice, but it was just sandpaper on concrete so he left it alone and stared at the chip.

“This is real?” he asked quietly, struggling to speak with a parched mouth.

“It is at the Le Piege Casino.”

Reilly shook his head – still fighting the good fight against seemingly insurmountable odds, “You bastard. You know I wouldn't be able to cash this in.”

A swath of innocence crossed the emcee's face, like an unnatural shadow that didn't belong, but he remained silent. His eye even stopped twitching momentarily.

Reilly continued, “It's like an alcoholic walking into a bar and expecting to leave without a drink. It just, it just...” He shook his head slowly, still fighting but losing the will. He felt the chip sapping his fight with every touch of his knuckle as he rolled it around his fingers. It exhilarated his skin, a fiery chill which made his bones tremble inside his fingers. A terrible thrill that had already consumed him.

“All you gotta do is walk in there and cash it in, sport. Easy peasy, right?”

Reilly's eyes had already glazed over with the lust which grew inside him. He stared at that slowly rolling chip in his hand, swaying from finger to finger. His voice, now a million miles away, tried to reason with his sickness in a whisper, “Yeah, I could probably do that. It'd be...”

“Quick and easy,” the emcee intoned, his arms crossed satisfactorily across his chest.

The only indication Reilly gave through his trance was a nod, “Uh-huh. Super easy.”

      1. Lost in his addiction, Reilly goes to the casino

      2. Reilly goes home to think things through first

      3. The emcee grins, “But that's not all!”

The End

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