Seven of Cups (Excerpt)

27 Seven of Cups [work in progress]
Excerpt from the novel ‘Two thousand fifty-six’ by Attila Kárpáthy. Full or partial use of this text for commercial or non-commercial distribution by any means whatsoever is strictly prohibited unless expressly authorised by the author.

“There are as many pillows of illusion as flakes in a snow-storm. We wake from one dream into another dream.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-nineteenth century.

Tomasz Pilch woke up abruptly in the middle of the stuffed and noisy room. He probably felt asleep for a moment, he thought. How bloody embracing is that? What bothered him even more, was that he had no clue where he was and how he got there. It was a large saloon full of people sitting at small, wooded round tables with tiny little candles on each one of them creating an intimate, familiar ambience. However, the atmosphere was more like incendiary. The crowd started cheering and screaming impatiently. Tomasz takes a quick glance at his clock: twenty past nine. The waitress returns to ask if there will be anything else. Tomasz starts to say no, but then he looks at the empty glasses and orders another shot of gin and a pin of beer. His throat felt dry while his brain frosted. Suddenly all the lights go out, and the crowd get silent. In the pale candlelight, all the faces looked grimy. The lights on the stage were still completely turned off when the announcer’s voice cut through the growing expectation:
– ‘Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to be here tonight! Our first guest is… Giulianooooooo, the clown!’
The stage lights came up increasingly and turned from pale yellow and white to blue. Concomitantly, the fog machines kicked in. Right in the middle, somewhat embarrassed, a childish figure emerged staring back at the audience. Giuliano, the clown, was wearing a huge, yellow, most likely four or five sizes larger jacket and matching, glowing orange sues. His face was painted all frozen white, and although from a distance it was impossible to spot, the paint was cracking up.
– ‘My beloved bitches and morans, I was bough here tonight to entertain you, to cheer you up a little bit, but to be honest, there is no better entertainer than you, so I am going to tear you apart! Each one of you, one by one. Volunteers required!’
Meanwhile, a neet looking, a well-dressed, middle-aged man came into the scene from the backstage. He was wearing an immaculate white shirt with Windsor-cut collar, grey striped suit-vest and black trousers assorted with the identical shade tie. His face was completely expressionless and impenetrable like a brick wall. The butler looking man pushed to the stage a covered tea cart and left same discreetly as he came.
– ‘Thank you, Thompson!’ said Giuliano and the audience started applauding. Tomasz thought that it is something wrong with the whole picture.
– ‘Game night, ladies and gentlemen, it’s game and free drinks night!’ Giuliano’s face was radiant like a midnight sun. ‘Anyone who will be kind enough to join me on the stage and share a dirty little secret with the class will get a free drink!’ while he blinked and spun his head slowly in the direction of the tea cart.
A spotlight started scanning the crowd moving rapidly and chaotically from one face to another. Here and there surprised oh’s and uh’s could be heard. Eventually, the projector settled on a woman sitting at a round table close to the bar.
– ‘Hello dear, how do you do?’ Giuliano asked in a surprisingly elegant manner. ‘Would you be kind and join me on the stage to have a chit-chat? Nobody is going to hear us, I promise!’ The crowd started laughing while the woman in a blue dress and with violet strands in her hair looked quite annoyed but incapable to refuse the invitation. Tomasz felt somewhat troubled: ‘who has a hair like that nowadays?’ he murmured distrustfully. Walking slightly stumbled, the woman reached the stage, and Giuliano grabbed her hand and pulled her up to the stage gently.
– ‘Pleased to meet you,’ said Guiliano, he caught, then resumed with a wicked grin on his face added, ‘hope you guess my name.’ The audience adored him. The women were screaming while the men whistled.
– ‘What’s your name, you gorgeous creature?’ Guiliano continued charmingly and captured the woman’s hands again.
– ‘Venus,’ said the woman hesitating, ‘my name is Venus.’
– ‘What a wonderful name, dear, it suits you perfectly!’ the smile on the clown’s face was fake as a wedding cake, and they both know it plus everybody else in the audience.
Tomasz washed his throat with a mouthful of beer, saving his gin for later. All the bitterness of the world was condensed in that mouth of beer he has just swallowed. He never liked the taste of the beer, he hates it. The gin was not better eighter, but at least it was strong enough to feel it all the way down to his guts. Vodka, on the other hand, a good old fashioned gorzałka was better than any French cognac, Scottish whisky or this medicine taste like goddamn gin. The vodka was medicine too, but without tasting and smelling like one. Gorzałka meant ‘to burn’, and Tomasz considered that the ‘burning water’ is purifying in a world which needs to be purged. However, he was wrestling his own demons, and the world was none of his business. Not to mention that vodka, even from the black market, was hard to get, even those counterfeit or home-brewed products from fermented potatoes.
– ‘So, beautiful, what is your darkest, well-guarded secret no one should know about it?’
– ‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m afraid I have no such skeletons in my closet,’ said Venus while she was trying to pulling off her hand slowly from the firm hold of Giuliano. The clown had no slightest intention to set her free.
– ‘You know, dear, that you can’t lie to me?’
– ‘I’m not lying, Mick,’ and the crowd started laughing and whistling, ‘I’m just an ordinary, regular woman.’
– ‘Quite a joker, I would dare to plead.’ Guiliano manners have grown detectably colder. ‘No skeletons you claimed, isn’t it? Let’s see your palm, dear, everything is written in your palm and Giuliano will know just at a quick glance.’ The expression on the woman’s face turned from suspicious to desperate in a blink of an eye. The crowd was jubilating. Tomasz thought that this is how must have been the atmosphere of a Roman circus with gladiator fights back in the days of the Old Republic. Giuliano was the lion in the arena while Venus got the part of a virgin Christian. The outcome was predictable, and everybody bloodthirsty. Still, Venus was not that innocent, and Giuliano might not have been a cold-blooded killer. Not officially, any-way. The clown twisted the woman’s right hand around and looked into her palm.
– ‘ Oh dear, oh dear!’ said Giuliano ironically. The whole room went silent as the tension took hold on the crowd.

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Excerpt from the novel ‘Two thousand fifty-six’ by Attila Kárpáthy. Full or partial use of this text for commercial or non-commercial distribution by any means whatsoever is strictly prohibited unless expressly authorised by the author.

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