She was on the couch, a hand plastered over her head, and she was staring up at the ceiling fan, wishing it would spin faster. It wasn’t hot, but she could do with a bit more cold air. A breeze, maybe. But if she wanted a breeze she could just step outside. No, wait, she couldn’t step outside. They were in space. If she stepped outside without a spacesuit on she’d die within ten seconds. They said you could survive at least ten seconds in the vaccum of outer space if you shut your eyes tightly and if you put earplugs in your ears and pinched your nose shut. And then you’d die. Oh, how sad.
A cynical smile wormed its way onto her face.
The television monitor sat uselessly on the coffeetable. It hadn’t been turned on for weeks now. A vidphone also sat uselessly on the coffeetable. Nobody had called. Then again, she had turned the goddamned thing off. She often saw the little green light flash out of the corner of her eye and she knew it was ringing, but then again, she pretended it wasn’t there. She just lay there, on the couch, with her arm flung over her eyes, the light getting brighter and brighter as she stared into it. Sometimes she’d seen white all around, wherever she looked, and even though it was only a trick of the light, she’d pretend that she was floating around, where she couldn’t see, or feel, or think. She could pretend that she didn’t remember anything, even though she remembered everything now. And oh, there were new memories to add to that remarkable database of hers.
She wondered why she had cried when he left. He was just an idiot, a bumpkin who didn’t know any better. She was the Romani. She could just leave here and go off again. Look for something else to love, to attach onto. But the leech in her had already told her, I like it here, even though I don’t like it here, the blood is old, but it’s fresh, and I’m used to it, so I think I’ll stay. That blockhead, he was nothing but trouble. All those times that Ace of Spades had turned up and she had always thought that was a sign of good luck, good fortune, good future. In blackjack, an ace could be an ‘eleven’ or a ‘one.’ Your chances of getting an ace were four out of fifty-two or one out of thirteen, not including the jokers. Wasn’t thirteen unlucky, though? One out of thirteen cards were an ace. Eleven. One. Eleven plus one was twelve, not thirteen. Where had that thirteen come from?
Oh yes, now she remembered. One out of thirteen cards were aces. And jokers. Two out of fifty-four. One out of fifty-four divided by two. One out of twenty-seven, was it? Maybe. There were originally four people, not counting the dog. Now there were only two. Two jokers. Out of four aces. Out of fifty-two, and fifty-four, and thirteen, and twenty-seven. Fifty-two plus fifty-four plus thirteen plus twenty-seven was one-hundred-forty-six. One plus four plus six was eleven. One plus one was two. Only the two of them left out of one-hundred-forty-six. She was always good at drawing the rare numbers. And this time she had drawn the rare number, the rare card. And this time, for once, she wished she hadn’t. She didn’t want to. She wanted four. Five. Five out of one-hundred-forty-six. At least then they had a bigger chance of gambling and winning. At least then they had a bigger chance of striking the gold, winning the jackpot.
Bombing at the syndicate building. Fifty-two casualties. There were fifty names. There were two that had none. There was a man on the topmost floor lying dead. He had probably died in the explosion on top of the building, authorities mused. Although his wounds didn’t look like it. But they didn’t get into that. There was also a man who had fallen on the stairs. His wounds were severe. But they didn’t get into that, either. They were afraid. They didn’t know what happened. It was top-secret, syndicate-enclosed information. They didn’t say that, though. They moved on to the weather. The damn weather. It was going to be rainy. Rainy for the next couple of weeks. It’s rainy season, they had said.
But it doesn’t rain in space, she mused, and shut the television off. And she hadn’t turned it back on since.
“Faye.” A soft rumble of a voice, Jet’s voice, interrupted her thoughts. “It’s time for dinner, Faye.”
“What is it?” She heard herself say, drawling, not caring, not hungry. Not hungry for weeks. She hadn’t been hungry. She heard a clicking sound and suddenly the ceiling fan stopped moving. She couldn’t watch it spin anymore, she couldn’t wish it’d spin faster. It was a useless thing now, like the television and the vidphone and herself. And she closed her eyes and wished that she had stayed where her house used to be, in the cold, because at least, there was nothing she could lose. There was nowhere anybody could leave to. Because there wasn’t anybody there.
“Faye.” Jet said, quietly, almost understanding. “It’s time for dinner.”
She sat up, opening her eyes wearily. A deck of cards lay on the coffeetable and Jet sat across from her. She could see herself picking up the Ace of Spades again, like she always did. It was just her luck. Lady Fortune was always on her side. So she reached out and flipped the top card over.
The red joker looked her in the eye and laughed at her, pointed at her, and he was perched on his unicycle, a fat letter ‘J’ in her hand. For joker. He wheeled around and threw the letter ‘J’ into the air again and again, doing a juggling show with only one item. Then he threw it up into the air and raised his hand and formed a first and then he said:
Her eyes glazed over and she reached out again, trembling, for another card. The black joker smiled up at her, showing all his black teeth, and his black eyes glittered in his head, and his skin was red, like the devil’s. He was sitting on the letter ‘J,’ for joker, and he got up, danced around it, his eyes always looking at her, head spinning revoltingly. He danced faster and faster and then he suddenly stopped and laughed and laughed at her and the ‘J’ went up in flames, red and yellow and orange and blue and silver flames of all different colors and she couldn’t stand it anymore, she reached for another card and another but they were all jokers, red and black, mocking her, devils, such devils. The cards were all red and black and they were everywhere and her vision blurred and she saw a million black tongues and mouths full of black teeth and suddenly she was taken by the shoulders and she was being shaken and she didn’t want to be shaken, didn’t want to be laughed at, she wanted to matter to somebody…
“Faye.” Somebody said. “Faye.”
She stopped, and looked up, and wondered why she was crying. The cards weren’t scattered. The card she held in her hand was an Ace of Spades.
It always would be. The deck of cards would always lie to her. She’d never get anything but that damned card. It would always be that damned card.
She felt Jet stop shaking her.
“What is it?” She asked, closing her eyes and letting herself fall back on the worn couch. She brought a hand up to her face and it came away wet. She didn’t know what that was. She pretended she didn’t know what it was. The lights seemed to dim as she stared into them. They grew smaller and smaller and then all she saw was all black and a little white spot, blinking at her, so far away, like hope that couldn’t be grasped.
“Never mind.” He said, standing up. “It’s nothing.”
She could hear him walking away, like that time everybody walked away. She didn’t want him to leave. She didn’t want to be useless and lying on the couch. She didn’t want to be like the television and the vidphone. She didn’t want to stare up at the ceiling fan again and watch it spin. She wanted to keep him in the room longer. She wanted to be a somebody who people would remember and wouldn’t walk past. She had entrusted her heart with them because she’d thought they’d be around forever. And now, they had all left and Jet was the only one left. And perhaps, someday, he’d walk out of her pretend-world as well…
He stopped to turn around. They didn’t look at each other. She looked up at the ceiling, he looked down at the ground. He had to say something. It was expected of him.
“What is it?”
She turned her gaze down, he looked up. And they looked at each other, and she smiled, dead and alive and hopeful all at once. He didn’t return that smile. He just stared, the emotions running through him, inside of him.
“He’s not coming back, is he?”
What a stupid question. He thought, keeping the gaze locked between them. What a stupid question. Of course not. But I wish…
She felt her eyes sting and she felt her voice diminish and she knew it wasn’t long before she couldn’t speak at all.
“What is it?”
“Can you turn the ceiling fan on?”