The Cursed Dice of the Apocalypse


This is another piece I did for a randomly generated writing prompt with my writing group.  Six items were selected at random, and we had to use at least four of those items in our piece.  Below are the four items I selected, followed by my piece.

Prompt: An aging explorer, a roadie for an old rock band, a set of dice, and an apartment.

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The flashing lights were a familiar site for Jacob.  They flashed in a variety of colors as the low frequencies of the music shook the walls of the club.  He always hated coming here when he was in town, but the old classic rock band he roadied for was about as exciting as a rectal thermometer and just didn’t draw the hordes of eager groupies like they used to.  Every so often he’d get to skim through the leftovers, but lately there hadn’t even been a main course, so whenever they were in town he’d stop by the club to see what the local scene was looking like.

“Damn it, looks like every slick in the room is hittin’ on the girls at the bar,” he muttered to himself, though it was so loud in there that even if he shouted it’s unlikely he’d have been able to hear himself over the thumping din.

After a cursory scan of the dance floor, something caught his eye.  It was an old man who looked about as out of place as a Satanist in the front pew of a church.  He wanted desperately to find someone to warm his bed for the evening, but something about the old man was pulling at him the way a desperate child pulls at their mother’s skirt when they want to beg for a toy they saw two aisles over in the department store.  Finally, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything until his curiosity had been sated, he walked over to the old man and smiled at him for a moment.

“Hey old timer.  Mind if I sit down for a minute?” he asked.

“Dunno.  You’ll have to ask Joe here,” he said just barely loud enough for Jacob to hear as he indicated the seat next to him, which was currently unoccupied.

“Uhhh…ok.  Hey Joe, mind if I sit down?” he asked the empty seat politely.

“What’d he say?” the old man asked.

“He said I could have a seat,” Jacob said as he sat down.

“Who did?  Who were you talkin’ to exactly?”

“I was talkin’ to Joe.  You told me to ask him if I could sit down,” he said with a confused look.

“Joe who?  Ain’t nobody there.  It’s just an empty seat.  You blind or somethin’?” the old man asked with a mischievous grin.

“Ha ha, very funny,” Jacob said irritably.  “Look, I was just curious…you don’t look like one of the regulars around here.  I mean, you don’t exactly fit the profile, ya know?”

“So you’re sayin’ that because I’m old, I can’t score myself some young stuff?”

“Nah, I didn’t mean…well, yeah…somethin’ like that.  I mean, this just doesn’t look like your kind of a scene.  I was just wonderin’ what brought you into a place like this?” he said.

“Was supposed to meet my grandson here, but he stood me up from the looks of it.  So what do you do young feller?” the old man asked.

“Name’s Jacob,” he said, extending his hand for a shake.  “I’m a roadie for an old rock band.  We’re just passin’ through town, so I usually stop in while we’re here to check out the uhhh…”

“Local wildlife?” the old man finished for him.

“Yeah, somethin’ like that.  What about you?”

“Name’s Alistair Hargrove.  I don’t really have a profession.  Well, not a specific one anyway.  I just sorta wander around lookin’ for stuff.”

“Stuff like what?” Jacob asked.

“Stuff ain’t no one ever seen before, and stuff that ain’t no one knows about.  Like these for instance,” he said as he pulled a handful of dice out of his pocket and held them out for Jacob to see.

“Dice?  So what?  Everyone’s seen dice before.  What’s so special about those?”

“What indeed,” the old man said, narrowing his eyes slightly.  “Are you really that curious?”

“You know, oddly enough I am.  Couldn’t tell ya why exactly, but for some reason I really am.”

“Tell ya what.  Why don’t you come back to my place with me where we can talk without all this noise, and I’ll tell ya what’s so special about ‘em.”

“Come back to your place?  You’re not uhhh…,” Jacob asked, tilting his hand back and forth in the air in front of him.

“Yeah, I’m a little shaky,” he said as he stood up, his joints creaking like an old gate as he moved out from where he was sitting and stood there waiting for Jacob to join him.  “You comin’?”

“Yeah, sure…why not?” he said with a shrug as he got up and followed the old man out of the club.

As it turns out, they were only a couple of blocks away from the old man’s apartment.  When they walked in and Alistair turned on the lights, Jacob stopped in his tracks for a moment and just stood there absolutely dumbstruck as he tried to take in the massive assortment of junk, curios and other oddities that the man had collected over the course of his lifetime.

“Oh my god old man, you weren’t kiddin’ were ya?  Where’d you get all this stuff?”

“Ohhh…here and there I suppose.  You wanted to know about these though, didn’t you?” he asked as he pulled the dice from his pocket and held them out for Jacob to see.

“Yeah, I guess so.  What’s so special about dice?” he asked.

“Look close at it,” he said as he handed him one to examine.  As Jacob rolled it around in his fingers, he noticed that it wasn’t in fact just any plain old dice, as he’d first assumed when he saw them in the flashing lights of the club.  It was actually made out of what appeared to be ivory, and each side had a tiny little sigil carved into it in between the pips.

“Where the hell did you get these?” he asked as he handed it back to the old man.

“Found ‘em in a grave in Africa that the locals said was cursed ground.  That was back just after World War II.  Well I was young and stupid back then, so naturally I just had to dig up the grave to see what was in it.  I found these in there along with some other assorted beads and such.  Aside from these, all that was in there was some junk and a rotten corpse…but these things here…these were somethin’ special.  Came to find out later that the villagers had actually killed the poor guy for usin’ black magic.”

“Black magic?” Jacob repeated, wrinkling his brow in disbelief.  “They killed the poor guy over some nonsense like that?”

“They did indeed, and it’s a good thing they did.  These dice are dangerous.”

“Dangerous?  Dangerous how?” Jacob asked.

“Well by themselves they ain’t dangerous at all.  Even if you roll ‘em in pairs or whatever…nothin’.  You roll all six at once though, and that’s when things start to happen.  Bad things…,” the old man explained.

“Bad things like what?”

“Dunno if you ever learned about it in your history classes, but after I got back home from that trip, I was sittin’ in my apartment killin’ off a bottle of bourbon that I’d been workin’ on for a couple of days, and just out of sheer boredom I rolled all the dice, just to see how’d they’d roll.  You know how you do…”

“Yeah.  What happened when you rolled ‘em?” Jacob asked.

“Well the next mornin’ I woke up with a screamin’ case of the shits.”

“You sure it wasn’t all the bourbon?” he asked with an amused look.

“Might have thought so, except it wasn’t just me.  There was a worldwide outbreak of dysentery that very same day.”

“You’re shittin’ me…”

“Everyone was shittin’.  That was the problem.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but a few days later when I was sittin’ there all dehydrated and miserable with a burnin’ butthole, I picked up the dice and rolled ‘em again for no particular reason.”

“And?” Jacob asked.

“Suddenly the dysentery outbreak was over as quick as it’d begun, but there were three major earthquakes that day that killed over a hundred thousand people.  Not only that, but one of ‘em triggered a volcanic eruption.”

“Oh come on, that’s gotta be a coincidence…,” he said dismissively.

“I thought so too, but the thought that maybe it wasn’t just kept eatin’ at me.  It was another year though before it finally ate at me enough to give it another shot.”

“What happened?” Jacob asked again.

“Massive forest fires, all over the western part of the country started up the same day.  They said it was lightning that caused ‘em, but I know the truth.  It was the dice.  Thing is, I guess you can see that I ain’t gettin’ any younger.  I was gonna pass ‘em on to my grandson, but you’ve seen how reliable he is.  He’s about as worthless as tits on a boar hog, and I ain’t got no other livin’ relatives, so I guess I better find someone else to pass ‘em on to.  Someone who’ll at least try to make sure they never get rolled ever again.”

“Who’s that gonna be?” Jacob asked.

“Look, I been carryin’ this burden for a whole lotta years now.  I’m tired of it, so how about you do me a favor and you take these accursed things off my hands?  How about it son?  Will ya do it?”

“Me?  Why me?”

“Because I don’t know how much time I got left, and I need to make sure they end up with someone who knows what kind of power they contain.  Someone who’ll at least try to make sure they’ll never get rolled again, because you know what’ll happen?  If I die, the authorities are gonna come in here and clean the place out, and you know as well as I do that some idiot from the coroner’s office is gonna roll these damn things the second he gets his hands on ‘em.  That’s why I need you to take ‘em and make sure that doesn’t happen.  Will ya do it?”

“What makes you think I won’t roll ‘em?” Jacob asked.

“I’m sure you will.  You’ll be sittin’ around someday and curiosity’s gonna get the better of ya…but I promise ya kid…if you do roll these damn things, you’ll only do it once.  Now, will ya take these things off my hands for me so I can die in peace when Old Scratch comes a lookin’ for me?”

“Yeah…I guess,” he said as he reached out and took the dice from the old man.

“Listen, somewhere down the road when your time’s comin’, you make sure you pass ‘em on to someone you can trust.  You hear me?  I mean it now,” the old man said, looking at him with such a dead seriousness that he suddenly started to realize just what a heavy responsibility it all was.

“I promise old man.  I’ll find a nice safe place for ‘em where no one’s ever gonna find ‘em.”

“Doesn’t matter where you hide ‘em, there’s somethin’ about these dice that wants to be found.  You gotta hold on to ‘em and make sure they’re in safe hands.  Now…I think I still got a half a bottle of bourbon sittin’ around here somewhere.  Why don’t you sit down for a spell and I’ll tell ya about some of this other stuff while we polish it off.”

“You know, I gotta get up early and…ah screw it.  Why not?” he said with a grin as he shoved the dice in his pocket, moved a few knick-knacks aside and sat down on the dusty old couch.