The Spider’s Seven #1 – The Trickster God

This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series The Spider's Seven Vol 1

St. Louis, MO

The doctor on call met the EMTs at the door as the patient was wheeled in; a black man in his late thirties, wearing obvious second hand clothes. He was mumbling to himself and his eyes refused to focus when checked with a pen light.

As the one EMT gave the doctor the run down of what the diagnostics on the ambulance could tell, the other spoke to the the sheriff’s deputy who had followed them from the scene.

“I know him.” He explained to her, his face a portrait of displeasure. “I volunteer a the soup kitchen not far from where you found him. That’s Robert Butcher. He’s… sort of a leader among the local homeless. Works with the social workers, tells them who needs the most help, who needs medicine, that sort of thing.”

The deputy didn’t seem much bothered by this, maintaining a look of merely professional courtesy. “The homeless like to set up camp on the roofs in the summer, think that’s why he was up there?”

“Only abandoned buildings.” The EMT said, missing her general lack of empathy. “They don’t trespass, Robert the least of all.”

This was written down in the deputy’s notebook. “And… what’s wrong with him?”

“In lay terms?”

“In lay terms.”

“All our equipment suggests a massive stroke. Which is pretty cruel.”

“Cruel how?”

“Because Robert has cancer. Drugs can control it, but the government only pays for enough of a dose to slow it down. In a year or so, he’d have been here full time anyway.”

***

Twenty minutes later, Robert Butcher was dead. Time of death as pronounced and the doctor on call rushed off to see to yet another emergency. An orderly was sent to disconnect him from the devices brought into play in the attempt to save his life.

She had just unstrapped the neural imaging band from his head when she thought she saw his eyelid flutter. This was the part of the job she hated most; dead bodies made her nervous. And to think, she’d taken the job to help keep people from becoming dead bodies.

The oxygen mask came off next, and then she took out the IV. As she reached for the sensor pad on his chest, a hand caught her wrist.

“I can get these, thank you.” Said Robert Butcher’s body with a heavy Caribbean accent.. Another hand covered her mouth before she could scream.

“No, no.” He said, sitting up slowly, still keeping her still and quiet. “You don’t need to be afraid. Robert didn’t return to life. His time is over and though it was regrettably not a comfortable or long one, he’s done good works, lived a life of enviable worth. Better it end quickly then to slowly waste away because of uncaring bureaucracy.”

The orderly whimpered.

“You don’t believe me.” He observed. “I suspect this will become a theme. I further suspect that it would help my case not to tell you that I am a god—Anansi—who has taken this body with permission.”

Another whimper. He frowns sympathetically. “I know. I know. I put too much on your shoulders. But trust me: this is not the only strange happening in the world today, Mrs. Kelly Ritter. June 11, 2075 is the day the world changed.”

He put a slight pressure on her wrist and her eyes rolled back in her head, her weight suddenly fouled in his arms. Gently, he rose and placed her on his deathbed. In a few minutes, she’d wake up and be very confused, but by then, he’d be gone…

It was at this point that he became acutely aware of the not-quite-paper gown that he’d been put in.

Anansi the Spider laughed. “Step one to changing the world: conceal your nakedness.”

***

Atlantic City, NJ – Present Day

Jet black, pinstriped suit with a golden spider monogram on the breast pocket. Black Itallian leather shoes, polished to a nearly reflective shine. Designer sunglasses with gold tinged lenses. And his hair was in cornrows, ending with a gathering of braids down his back. His nakedness was successfully concealed.

Because he was him, his hands were still wrapped with bandages and beneath his tailored trousers and expensive shoes, so were his feet. Comfort and familiarity had to trump style sometimes.

The cab pulled up to the main entrance of Orion Towers, one of the biggest and most modern hotel/casinos in the city. He peered up at it over the top of his glasses.

“That’ll be forty-three fifty.” The cabbie, a young black man with a world weary look in his eyes, said tersely. He was a hell of a driver, Anansi recalled from the trip from the airport, probably one of the best in the city and honest to boot; he’d taken him the most direct route. That said nothing for his people skills though.

Anansi reached into an inner pocket of his jacket and took out a black cash card emblazoned with the same spider logo as on his breast, only in silver instead of gold. He swiped it through the reader on the back of the seat, read the screen above it, and said “Hmm…”

“What?” asked the cabbie. He wasn’t being paid to just sit there.

“I’m meditating on your tip. If I pay you less for your attitude, you’ll take it out on the next passenger. Would the opposite be true? How much will it take to guarantee you’ll be pleasant the rest of the day?”

“Look, I’ve had a shitty day, alright? Tip me, don’t tip me; I’ve got other fares to get to, okay?”

“Five hundred dollars.” Anansi said, putting that in the tip bar and signing it with his fingerprint. “Use it tonight to take Anne to dinner. Someplace nice. Bring flowers. And tell her that you’re sorry.”

The cabbie turned around in his seat, halfway between shocked and livid. “Where the hell do you know Anne from?”

“From you. I know your story, Tommy Lowell.” Anansi put the cash card away and replaced it in his hand with a business card. “If you need ideas or someone to make reservations… my card.” He passed the item to the other man.

Tommy blinked. It was a card made of actual card stock, not recycled fiber and plastic; posh these days. The center was occupied by the spider logo in black, serving as a background for a business name.

“World Spider Industries?” Tommy read aloud. “I’ve never head of them.”

“We are very small at the moment… to the point that by ‘we’, I mean ‘me’, and by small, I mean the corporate number goes directly to my palmtop. Still, I’ve been gifted some infrastructure and the manufacturing capacity of one of the best rapid prototype machines money can buy, so…”

“Are you for real?” Tommy couldn’t help but ask.

“More real than most.” Smiled Anansi. “And at the moment, I’m recruiting: three of the people I’m looking for are in this city. It’d be a big help if I had dedicated transport.” Again, he reached into his jacket and this time came out with a neatly wrapped stack of hundred dollar bills.

Tommy could only stare blankly.

“Ten thousand dollars.” Anansi said. “part of my gambling money. I would like for you to be only minutes away if I need a ride this week.” He pressed it into Tommy’s hand atop the business card.

“I… yeah, I can do that.” Tommy nodded, his eyes staying on the money as he half expected it to fade away.

“Wonderful.” Anansi said. “By the way; you trained with the airforce, yes? Does this mean you can fly a regular jet?”

“Not exactly. How did you—“

“You can learn on the job, I guess.” Anansi mused.

“No. Look: I need to know right now how you know so much about me.” Tommy said, offering the money back against his better judgment.

“Because I am Anansi.” said the Spider.

“I have no idea what that is.”

“That’s unfortunate.” Anansi sighed. “But, I don’t think I’ll need to go anywhere tonight, so you have the entire day free to look my name up. Before your date of course.” He opened the door and got one foot out before remembering something.

“By the way, the reason Anne is upset is that today is the second anniversary of your first date… and you haven’t mentioned it.”

Tommy nearly rocked in his seat. “Second… oh shit, I did forget!”

“Then it is a good thing I know your story.” Anansi pointed out as he left the car.

***

He went straight to the cashier’s cages once he was inside, blowing past the front desk for the hotel and attached bar. Modern society what it was, there was a bank of machines for buying and redeeming chips with cash cards and one actual cashier; a bored looking young woman who was reading something from her palmtop, having given up long ago on the possibility of actually having to do work for a living in her position.

For thirty seconds, he waited patiently to be noticed. When this didn’t work, he cleared his throat. And then that didn’t work, he said, “Hello, there.”

The cashier started, saved from dropping her palmtop only by the fact that it was clipped to a band around her wrist. “Oh! Um… yeah, sorry. Is one of the machines down? ’cause there’s supposed to be a tech on the floor for that.”

“No. I wasn’t planning on using one. I need you to change my money for me.”

She gave him a once over look, head to foot. The only people who asked to change real money were unlucky addicts who brought her change or a fistful of dollars from a pawn shop. Anansi was clearly not one of those people.

Very carefully, she cleared her throat. “Um, okay. I can do that. How much?”

Smiling pleasantly, Anansi reached into his jacket and came out with another wrapped stack of bills, dropping it on the counter so that it’s weight made an audible thump. Then he did it again four more times.

“I believe that is fifty thousand dollars. You will, of course want to count it.”

The cashier’s eye twitched. Fifty thousand wasn’t, in casino terms, a big deal. High rollers often ran around with millions in chips. But they, like most people, used their cash cards to retrieve chips from the machines. No one had ever stacked up that much paper money in front of her.

Anansi clearing his throat again gained her attention. “Sorry.” She mumbled and switched on the mic at her counter. It took a second to warm up thanks to disuse. “C-changing fifty thousand.” She announced, raking all that paper toward her.

While she worked to get the bill counter running, Anansi leaned on the counter and peered through the arch that separated the hotel from the markedly dimmer and more chaotic casino floor.

“You’re wondering why I would carry around such huge bricks of unsecured, nearly untraceable cash.” He said offhand.

“Well… yeah, I am.”

“I like to make a scene.” He explained simply. “Give people a story to tell and there’s no telling what it will become. This time tomorrow, maybe I changed one hundred thousand, two weeks; a million and I came in with bodyguards. A month and I’ll have been gambling with all gold coins. Beautiful how it works. Like grapes becoming wine.”

“Here’s your chips.” the cashier said with forced cheerfulness as she pushed the case of hundred dollar chips toward him. Anything to get him out of her hair and his crazy talk out of her head. She would have to blog about this whole thing right away.

Anansi took up the chips with a polite nod and strolled off into the casino.

***

He sampled every game, moving from table to table, learning the basic rules, losing more than he won, and moving on. After three hours and thirty-five thousand dollars, he found himself at a blackjack table he’d visited before.

The only difference was, now was a slow time in the casino and he was alone with the dealer.

“This is my first time with casino gambling.” He said, nonchalant. He checked his cards; deuce of diamonds up, nine of clubs down. “Hit me.”

Four of clubs. The dealer hit with a seven of spades showing and got a trey of diamonds.

“Are you enjoying it so far?” Asked the dealer in the manner of someone trained to ply talkative customers to keep them at the table. He was in his thirties, and his features were a blend of too many races for Anansi to guess at.

Overall, he was dark in a middle eastern manner, with hair that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be black or brown and kept cut close and cropped into a neat goatee and mustache with small sideburns. The way the blackjack table and the seats were situated made height difficult to tell, but his build suggested that he worked out a bit, but not quite enough.

“Very much.” said Anansi. “Your games are very clever. I especially like roulette. How you can put all your faith in one number, be slightly more cautious and spread it around, or play safe with just black or red for small gains.”

He beamed like a proud father. “But black or red are not so safe. Because you add green. And you cannot bet on green.. Even if you bet them all, you would win nothing and still, the house can win no matter what you do. Very clever. Hit me.”

Seven of hearts.

Anansi sighed and flipped the deuce over, pushing the cards back to the dealer who also raked over his chips. He put down two fresh ones.

“Better luck next time.” The dealer said with a plastic smile.

“Yes, I hope so..” Anansi looked at his cards as he was dealt them: King of diamonds, nine of spades. He continued to eye the bottom card as he asked. “I do wonder something though. I see these signs everywhere: ‘This building equipped with theta-scaning’? Because of psionics, yes? Are they really that much of an issue?”

The dealer looked away. “You never know and the guys in charge don’t take chances.” He remembered his job suddenly. “Hit or stand, sir?”

“I can imagine.” Anansi rapped his cards with a knuckle to indicate he wanted a hit. Ace of diamonds. “A person who can control the machines or read minds at the poker table would be very bad for business. I’ll stand.”

After checking his card, the dealer also hit, adding a nine of hearts to his jack of the same suit and four of clubs. “Twenty-three. Dealer busts, congratulations… sir.” He faltered because Anansi had turned over his card, revealing he’d hit on nineteen.

Anansi ignored it, letting his winnings ride on the next game. “I suppose to appear fair, they can’t employ descendants of their own… descendants, is that the correct name now?”

“That’s what they tell me.” the dealer said, dealing Anansi a Jack of diamonds up and a deuce of spades down. He had a six of diamonds showing.

Once again, Anansi rapped the table to ask for a hit. Jack of hearts. “Bust.” He said, flipping the cards. The act of sliding them over seemed to intrigue him. “Hmm. Just what do they make cards out of in these casinos? Doesn’t feel like a card I’d use.” He placed twice his previous bet on the table.

“I think it’s the same as disposable cash cards; recycled pulp and plastic waste fill.” The dealer once more dealt out the cards, giving Anansi an ace of spades face up..

“Ah. The more you know.” Anansi checked his bottom card. “I ask because I wonder if, for the sake of argument, a descendant came to this establishment, and he had a power as unusual as control over vegetable matter… would he even be able to affect these cards?”

His expression unchanging, he turned over his bottom card: Jack of spades.

It took a beat or two for the dealer to notice. “Blackjack. Congratulations, sir.” He recited from the script flatly. Passing a brief, nearly unnoticeable glance at one of the cameras watching his table, he added, “And now I’m going to have to ask you to leave the premises.”

Anansi took his winnings and added them to his tray. “That was unavoidable. But don’t worry, no one heard.”

“Please just go.”

“I suppose I will ‘just go’: across the street to the Twoflower, get a room… and I hear that they have an offer where you can eat continually from a cornucopia of foods for only twenty-five dollars.”

“You do that.” the dealer said coldly.

“It will probably take all day to sample everything…” Anansi mused and walked away.

On the way out, he stopped at a roulette table that had managed to attract a good crowd during this off hour. Just before the ball was dropped, he placed a corner bet with the remainder of his chips, some thirty-eight thousand dollars, on 22, 23, 25 and 26.

“If this wins, split it between everyone at the table.” He informed the croupier and walked away. Just before he passed through the arch, he heard the winning number (26 Black), and smiled.

To Be Continued…

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About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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