26 - Luck (MapleCinna)
Maple watched as his friend stumbled away from the sideshow with a dazed, distant look on their face. The squirrel couldn't help but laugh at Beem's current predicament. The samoyed was taking their time staggering along like a drunken idiot. You might have even mistaken them for being drunk, if not for the spinning shapes swirling through their eyes. Beem was well and truly out for the count. Whatever game they'd just lost to had left them in a very pleasantly buzzed state.
``Thassafunone...'' they gurgled, gesturing with a noodle-limp arm towards the stand. It was a shooting gallery, still left in the position it had been in when Maple's friend lost. All the fowl that they'd managed to shoot had turned towards them, their feathery bodies sparkling with pretty colour. From this distance, Maple didn't feel any effects. But it was clear that it had melted his buddy's brain.
The samoyed leaned against Maple, their eyelids drooping as their soft body pressed more and more of their weight into him. Laughing, the squirrel pushed Beem back and guided them towards a nearby bench next to a refreshments stall and a merry-go-round.
``You good?'' Maple asked.
``Yeahhhm'fine~'' Beem giggled, his eyes drifting closed(the left one doing so about a second before the right). He began to snore, off in some blissfully swirly dreamland.
Maple would be lying if he said he wasn't jealous. Part of the fun of playing the games in The Viscount Von Zonk's FunFair was their unique `awards' and `penalties. Getting left with a buzzy, mesmerised high that would persist for a good half hour or so after definitely took a bit of sting off the loss. If you were into that kind of thing, that is.
Maple already knew he wouldn't do great in the shooting gallery; he lacked the twitchy reflexes for that. He wanted to try something that he felt like he had a chance of winning. ``Failure'' was more fun when it wasn't certain; plus, if he did throw the game he might just get kicked out.
As he scanned the funfair for options, he gave Beem little scritches, hearing his snoring gradually increase in volume, and feeling the slobber on his shoulder.
His eyes, by chance, gravitated towards a small mountain of colourful rhombuses and polygons, with little posts sticking out. PLINKNOSIS was the name of the attraction, spelled out in the loop-de-loop cursive that was the trademark for the fair.
``You gonna be okay here?'' Maple asked, continuing to rub the samoyed's ear. ``I'm just gonna try out a game or two, but I'll be close by.''
``Znnhn.'' Beem growl-snored in response, clearly too far-gone to even understand what was being said. Poor thing.
``Okay, sleep well!'' the squirrel laughed as he stood, his fluffy tail gently guiding the sleepy dog to lie down on the bench. Leaving Beem there, Maple moved across the arcade towards the Plinknosis booth. It wasn't too packed, at least over at this end.
He cast his gaze along the row of cradles at the bottom of the board, and the large laminated cards plastered just underneath them. The cursive font proclaimed several fantastic awards - a new game console, 50 tickets for other games, an overnight stay in a fancy local hotel, that sort of thing. They were nestled in a sea of `Too Bad' signs, each one filigreed with spirals. Win or lose, he was sure to have a good time.
He looked to the handler in charge of the board, a bored-looking cat with some pimples visible through the fur of his chin.
``Hey, I'm up for giving this a go!'' he said, proffering a pale green ticket towards them. The cat took it and handed him a small plastic ball, barely looking up from their phone. They had all the enthusiasm of an underpaid college kid who was doing this for booze money. Whatever, Maple wasn't here for them to entertain him anyway.
As he climbed up the step ladder to the top of the board, Maple tried to get a sense of where the best place to drop the ball would be, and which direction the pegs would send it. It was hard to predict, but he was still going to aim for that game console. That'd be a nice thing to brag about.
When Maple reached the top, he could see that the prizes for each hole were visible from his vantage point. He tried not to spend too long squinting and deliberating, though. A lot of it was down to luck. He looked down the multicoloured mountain, picked a hole, and dropped the ball in. He listened to the hollow click and tap of the ball as it ricocheted and bounced off the pins as it spiralled its way down the quilt of colour.
As the ball neared the bottom, Maple held his breath. Couldn't help himself. The ball was veering close to the `hotel' prize. The visions and sensations of sinking into a warm soft bed were in the back of his mind as it cleared the last couple of pegs, before it veered off in the other direction and landed right into a `Too Bad' slot.
``Aw....'' he breathed a disappointed sigh, leaning forward over the board. A moment later, he remembered what it meant to lose a game on this funfair. And a moment after that, the board lit up. Lights shone from inside each coloured panel, pushing outwards and creating a strange, swirling projection in the sky in front of him. It pulsed with purple, gold and green, all the trademarks of the Viscount von Zonk's aesthetic. The ribbons and smears of colour clashed and mingled with each other very pleasingly, and there was no chance of the squirrel averting his eyes.
``Ahhhhn...'' Maple groaned softly, delighted by the display. The sensations from that fantasy of sinking into a soft bed were re-created in a very different way. He slumped forward a little, bending over the edge of the top of the Plinknosis board. He was at no risk of falling; the hypnotic display was melting his mind, but not his self-awareness or his self preservation. He felt safe to sway and follow the swirling projections, his eyes flickering and pulsing with rings of the same colour. He allowed himself a big, buck toothed grin, sighing delightedly as he allowed his mind to drift away...
The projections faded away and vanished, leaving Maple with a slightly swimming head, and tingly fingers and toes... but also unsatisfied. He knew he could have gone deeper. That was over way too soon. He hurried back down to the bottom, and gave the kid a fistful of tickets.
``Five balls, please.''
As soon as he was back up top, he didn't waste any time deliberating. He was more likely to `lose' anyway, so there was no reason not to just lob the balls in wherever he wanted. Sure enough, he `failed' a second time, and out came the colours once more. He threw another ball in just before he lost sensation in his hands and slumped over to stare at the pretty projections. Just as the swirls started to fade, the ball he'd dropped moments before landed in another `Too Bad' cradle, and the projection brightened once more.
Maple sighed with contentment, his tail draping forward over the top of his head as he smiled a crooked, dazed smile. He sleepily reached for another ball, and let it roll down the board, before leaning into the illusory fireworks and letting them tickle the inside of his woozy head. He noticed he was drooling a little, but he really didn't care. He was having too great of a time to care. The projection got brighter with each successive `failure', and he let another ball fall down each time, sinking deeper, and further, and feeling himself approaching that state of mind that Beem had reached...
The projection faded away. He could still see the ghosts of the colourful display behind his eyelids as he blinked, and everything seemed tinged and filtered through purple, yellow, and green, like his eyes had been permanently altered. It was a trippy effect...
He looked down, and saw that the ball had landed in one of the prize holes.
That was a good thing, right...? Yeah, it was. Still, Maple felt a little bit of disappointment as he slowly, shakily clambered his way back down to terra firma. He couldn't see what it was from above, but up close, he got a better look.
``A free pass for a show with Viscount von Zonk...?'' Maple slurred, punctuating it with a giggle.
``Congratulations,'' the cat said, seeming at least slightly more enthusiastic than they had been. ``You're, like, one of 3 people to get that prize all year. Lucky you.''
``Oh... cool...?'' Maple said. Though, honestly, he felt like he would rather just keep rolling the ball down the board and getting more of those pretty -
A series of percussive clicks ricocheted around Maple's head, like a series of soft firecrackers going off inside his head. Hundreds of hands clicking at once. The colours swirled inside his mind, and his whole body went blissfully stiff as a board. As he smiled widely, staring into space, his eyes whirling with purple and gold, he heard a voice, silken and smooth.
``Come to me, lucky winner. Come to me...''
The voice came from inside his head, but he knew exactly where to go. The Viscount was summoning him, and he would follow the summons. He sleepwalked through the arcade, stumbling past his sleeping doggy friend without a care in the world. He forgot his friend even existed, in fact. He was preoccupied with delight with his luck, and his joy to have the opportunity to go deeper, deeper still for the proprietor of the wonderful fair.