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"Take a look at the guy at table forty." The rough voice of the pit boss breaks the silence in the security room. I look over his shoulder at the screen where he's pointing. "He's been a little too lucky today."


"I'll go check him out." Video is useless in my line of work. The dealerbots had cameras and sensors that could see everything. Almost everything.


Opening the door to the security room, I wade into a sea of sound and flashing lights. The casino floor is packed. Fortuna uses only high-end dealerbots. The bots look like underwear models and are as graceful as ballerinas. People love losing money to them. They also help keep the gamblers honest. Each bot is packed with more sensors than a cruise missile.


But they can't see everything. That's why they hired me. Since I was a little kid, I could see... I don't know what. I call them "the silent ones." They look like living shadows and lights. They often have a shape, but it's not usually distinct. The really bright or the really dark ones have the most definite forms. Some look vaguely humanoid. Others look like monsters.


The casino is filled with them. There are more silent ones than people, but they seem to be able to overlap in the same space. I can't explain it. Most of the ones in the casino are of the darker variety. Occasionally, I'll see the bright kind. A couple really bright ones hang around one of the housekeepers. She barely speaks any English but smiles all the time. She annoys me.


I turn a corner and see table forty. Whoah. A small, wiry dude in a tie-dyed shirt and jeans sits playing blackjack. A thunderstorm of silent ones hovers over him like they're about to consume him. Over the years, I've noticed that some people seem to be able to interact with silent ones. I haven't figured out how it happens, but people like this guy, it's like they're working together.


In a casino, that can be bad for business. The silent ones seem to be able to affect the odds somehow. Change reality even. Bots have captured video of values on the cards changing in the middle of a deal. It looks like magic, but it's not. I think some of the silent ones can interfere with reality.


My job is to interfere with them. It's funny how easy it is. I dig into my pocket and pull out a plastic salt shaker with a snap-on lid. It's filled with salt blessed by a Catholic priest I met in high school. He was the first person I told about the things I see who didn't think I was totally crazy. He suggested I sprinkle some blessed salt around me when I started to feel crazy. I found it calmed me down.


I walk up behind Tie-Dye and casually sprinkle a little salt behind him. The silent ones around him go crazy. The dark ones hate this stuff. I tuck the shaker back in my pocket as the guy jerks around and glares at me. I return the stare without blinking for a second before turning to go. His winning streak is over.


I wander around the casino floor for twenty minutes before returning to the security room. "How's our mystery guest doing?"


The pit boss smiles. "I'm never playing poker with you. You're bad luck." He laughs. "He's about halfway through that pile of chips. I give him half an hour, tops."


The rest of the night is pretty quiet. That's why I like this job. I rarely have to do anything, but they pay me a bundle because of my unique talent. My shift ends at four AM. I'm tired as I walk to my car in the parking deck.


The scuffling of feet behind me catches my attention. I spin around and there's Mr. Tie-Dye a few yards behind me. He pulls a pistol out of his pocket. Oh, crap.


"You ruined everything! I lost it all. Why did you do that?" The silent ones shift around him, a thick soup of darkness.


"What are you talking about?" I feign ignorance. What else can I do?


"LIAR!" Fear crawls over my skin as I watch the silent ones force themselves into the man's head. His eyes change from normal to jet black, and his next words are somehow spoken through him, not by him. "You hurt us. You poured fire on us. We couldn't win anymore. You stole all our money. You're a thief! Thieves deserve to die!" He raises the gun to fire at me.


"You leave him alone! Madre de Dios!" The voice comes from behind an SUV and a giant black purse follows. It must be filled with bricks the way it drops Tie-Dye to the ground. The little housekeeper steps out from behind the SUV followed by her two shining silent ones. The shining forms pounce on the darker shapes on the man. He begins to writhe and roll around on the ground.


I've never seen the silent ones fight like this. The first bright one reaches into the man's head and pulls out big double handfuls of black soup. The man coughs and then vomits all over himself. The dark ones try to hang onto his shaking form, but the second bright one rips dark tendrils out of him one by one, causing the body to jerk each time.


Suddenly, the entire squirming mass of dark and light silent ones vanishes. The man on the ground stops thrashing and lies quietly, breathing heavily.


A split second later, the brilliant ones reappear next to the small woman without a trace of darkness showing.


"Call security. Put this guy in jail. Diablos!" She flashes a warm smile and waves as she walks to a rusty old car. The two shining forms follow her. I notice something I've never seen before. She shines faintly, just like they do.

Copyright 2023 - SFS Publishing LLC

The Silent Ones

Nathan Krupa





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