“Are you hustling me, Harrison?”
Adaqaros turned away from the dartboard, his hand still on the final dart, which rested just to the right of center in the tiny treble twenty crescent. He stared at Jimmy through narrowed eyes, and accessed Harrison’s memories for the meaning of the term. It took several moments. Harrison had not put money on games of skill very often.
“No,” Adaqaros said. “My sudden increase in skill is a natural artifact. This is my second venture at darts only.”
“Wait,” Jimmy said. “That last game was the first time you’ve ever played darts?”
This made Adaqaros pause. He studied Harrison’s memories again, thoroughly. He had played a skill game similar to this at a fair when he was twelve years old, not nearly enough to have developed any muscle memory which Adaqaros could rely on. Several years earlier, Harrison had played with something called lawn-darts, which he had found in the garage of his paternal grandfather, but it was not truly a comparable activity. Adaqaros himself had never played this specific game of skill, and had had little opportunity to test the dexterity and depth perception of Harrison’s body. He decided that the statement was true enough to be spoken, and required no retraction. “Yes,” he said simply, and removed the final dart from the board.
He stepped deliberately back toward the bar, where a yellow line was marked in electrical tape on the wooden floor. “Your toss,” he told to Jimmy nodding at him and waving toward the board, a reflection of words and gestures Jimmy had used earlier.
“Well, you’re doing pretty good for a beginner,” Jimmy said, tossing a dart, which landed just outside the outer bull, in the one-point wedge. He clearly did not understand the game, despite being versed enough to teach it.
“It is a simple sport,” Adaqaros explained.
“Yeah well,” Jimmy said, tossing another dart, “when you were willing to put money on it, I figured you were an old hand at the game.”
“I am incapable of rejecting a proposed wager.”
“Ha!” Jimmy’s sharp laugh pierced the air. “I know what that’s like.”
Adaqaros did not believe that Jimmy truly knew what it was like, but let the comment go unchallenged.
Jimmy walked over to the wall and recorded a reclamation of fifty-seven points on the slate board next to the target. As he was pulling the first dart from the packed horse-hair, he turned and smiled at Adaqaros. “It’s funny running into you after all these years, especially in a place like this.”
Adaqaros looked around at the all-male group of patrons in the dimly-lit establishment, “I do not see how this particular situation could be humorous.”
Jimmy tsked. “I don’t mean that kind of funny,” he said, walking back with his darts. “I just mean that it’s been so long since I’ve seen you; nine years since that summer back in the dorms…”
“Nine years is not a protracted interval.”
“I know, it feels like just yesterday,” Jimmy agreed. “Can you imagine if we had known ourselves better back then?”
Jimmy frowned then gestured toward the target.
Adaqaros turned, and tossed his darts in quick succession. Jimmy whistled in appreciation after they struck. “One hundred and thirty-three,” Adaqaros tallied the score as he walked toward the board.
“So, what have you been up to all these short years?” Jimmy asked after Adaqaros crossed out the ‘159’ on his side of the chalk line and replaced it with a ’26’.
“Mostly sex and murder,” Adaqaros responded. He did not need to access Harrison’s memories for this answer.
Jimmy chuckled as he stepped up to the line. “I haven’t been into either of those much lately,” he sighed, “but there is always another night, right?”
Jimmy threw his best score of the evening then: One dart into the treble twenty, one in the bullseye, and the third in the largest segment of the eighteen wedge. “Woo!” he called out, and hopped into the air a few inches with his hands upraised. I think you will still get me this time, though,” he said, winking.
“I will.” Adaqaros said.
Jimmy rolled his eyes and went to record his points and retrieve his darts.
When he returned, Adaqaros stepped up to the line and tossed one dart, directly into the double thirteen. He then turned to Jimmy and held out his hand in the same fashion Jimmy had done after the first game. Jimmy smirked and unfolded a twenty dollar bill from his pocket, placing it neatly into Adaqaros’ palm.
“We shall play again,” Adaqaros stated.
“You just want to take my money!” Jimmy protested, smiling as though amused.
“No,” Adaqaros said. “Different stakes this time.”
“What did you have in mind, Harrison?” Jimmy asked.
“If I win, you return with me to my domicile, where we will perform a dark ritual of pleasure and pain.”
Jimmy looked stunned for a moment, then blushed, looking away briefly. He seemed to consider. “Okay,” he said after a moment, “but if I win, we do that after you buy me a few more drinks.”
“By my father’s immortal blood, I accept your wager.”
“You’re so weird,” Jimmy said, and went to retrieve the lone dart from the board.
CB Droege is an author and voice actor from the Queen City living in the Millionendorf. His latest book is Quantum Age Adventures. Short fiction publications include work in Nature Futures, Science Fiction Daily, and dozens of other magazines and anthologies.
Learn more at cbdroege.com.
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