Here’s the thing right. You have to give a little to beat these machines, put up an investment sort of thing, so I broke a tenner and gave it a whirl. Now this is where it gets a little odd. Fair enough, no argument from me on this, I often get engrossed in what I’m doing, and I might lose track of time, especially if I’m on a roll, but this was something else. You see, I’d already gotten the ‘buzz’ from the moment I first saw the machine. That’s the feeling you get when you are rolling with the gamble. I’m not sure that explains it well enough and it’s important, so let me just try to clarify. The buzz is like a charge of electricity running through your body. It lifts you to a level of performance where your mind is sharper, and your instincts and reflexes are operating at their peak. I’m no sportsman, but I have a suspicion they sometimes get the same sensation when they know they are about to take the gold medal or score the goal. It’s that sense of a disciplined euphoria, it lets you savour the moment whilst maintaining your professional composure. The buzz is the only pleasure a real gambler will feel when he’s doing the business. Trust me on this.
Well, I’d got the buzz all right, but it was nothing like I’d ever experienced before. I felt giddy, maybe a bit nauseous. I’m not a hundred percent it was the buzz doing that though, as I hadn’t eaten anything all day and an empty stomach in a badly air-conditioned arcade can play havoc with your health. But, when the buzz was over I really did feel sick.
And then, I was at home. I was sat on the edge of my bed, my hands gripping the duvet cover. My red Lamborghini came into focus on the wall.
I couldn’t recall the machine. I mean, I know I was there, but I just couldn’t remember playing on it at all. All I do know is that when the buzz left me I was sitting in my room staring at the wall. That’s it. It was warm in there but for a few moments after ‘waking up’ there was an intense chill running through me. I actually shivered.
It was a few minutes before I managed to pull myself together and look at the clock by my bed. Eight Thirty the green LCD timer told me. I had been out for two hours!
I was supposed to meet Jessie, that’s my girlfriend, at Mario’s Pizza Restaurant at Eight. I jumped into some tidy jeans and grabbed the only ironed shirt I could quickly put my hands on. My Dad shouted something to me as I rushed through the door, but I didn’t catch a word of it. I arrived at the restaurant at quarter-to-nine, which was some going I can tell you, Jessica was fuming though. I apologised constantly for about ten minutes until she finally calmed down. At last, we went in and ordered.
The meal was great. Mario’s place is one of the best in the area. A bit pricey, but as my old man always says, ‘You can’t put a price on quality’. The little saucer arrived with the bill. I pulled out my wallet to pay and I just stared at an empty black mouth in the leather. There wasn’t a bean in there.
I had taken just over two hundred out of the ATM. Fifty quid for the meal, a bit for the bandits and the rest for my car insurance. Now there was nothing, not even pennies. Jessie asked if I was ‘alright’ and I dumbly nodded at her. I had my credit card so at least I wasn’t going to look a t**t twice that evening. I dropped the plastic onto the saucer and sat in silence trying to recall if maybe I had put the cash into my other trousers.
I drove Jessie straight back to her house after the meal. I just wanted to get back and search my room for the cash. She was expecting some kissing and stuff by the wall at the end of her street. Her folks are a bit straight and get pissy if we get up to no good in the house. Jessie looked at me sourly when I said I had to go into work early and so I needed the sleep. It was a fairly crappy lie I know, but at the time it was all I could think of. I gave her a quick kiss, passionless, I guess. She got out of the car, gave me a curt ‘night’ and stormed off into her house.
What a s**t evening.
The search of my room and clothes only confirmed what I had already suspected. I had blown every nugget of cash I had on that b*****d machine. I was skint. What was worse though, worse than losing all that money was that I didn’t remember any of it. I had no sequences or combos written down, had no recollection of the speed of the gamble feature or the average number of nudges. I had been beaten by a machine.
I slept badly that night. I remember my first dream of the King was that same evening. I was walking on a vast sea of silver and gold coins. This metallic landscape stretched as far as I could see and the shine from the cash turned the sky a sickly orange hue. Although the coins slid from under my feet, they were deep enough to allow me to walk unsteadily across them. In the distance I could see a large golden throne with that sad b*****d King from the art on the machine sitting on it. I started to walk towards him. I think I wanted to ask him why looked so miserable but I woke before I could get near enough to chat.