Try a Game in the Hall
This is an entry for Finish the Story Contest - Week #47.
Here is @f3nix's story:
Try a Game in the Hall
"Five.. twenty-eight.. twenty-two.. twelve.. seventy-nine.."
The marker's mottled surface is like that of a glass marble. It's hard to say where it starts and where the woman's fingers end. It flies on the large bingo card: a tablecloth covering the entire table, whose borders move in a capricious Moebius ribbon. Slender curls emerge rhythmically on the plasticised surface each time the marker grazes it. Now, the instrument is obeying to the imposed angle and pressure, producing the sound of a cat tongue licking a window. Between a number and the other, the woman clings to that image like a castaway anchoring to a slimy rock.
"Thirty.. thirty-one.. ninety-eight.. sixteen.. forty.."
The room has no windows but its walls are brightened by an arabesque of pulsating lines. When the plot detaches from the walls, it innervates on the orange rug and converges on a humanoid obelisk in the center of the hall. Thin wrists flex in synchrony, marking the numbers on the tablecloths every time that the obelisk punctuates them in a propagating fibrous echo. The fleshy organ of this creature is the only hallmark in an otherwise completely smooth mannequin's face. Its mouth unfolds through a complete circumnavigation of the dull head. Its lips are the valves of an agonizing oyster.
"Six.. thirty-three.. sixty-six.. eighty-six.. forty-one.."
The woman's slender fingers move a lock of hair back to the ear. In the time of a sigh, a caress lingers on her temple without the marker losing its rhythm. Sometimes, a new customer enters and takes a seat at a table sinking into one of the faux leather chairs. Soon enough, his face will begin to melt, dripping on the card's elusive signs, becoming one with them. In one of those ephemeral moments between a number and the other, the woman was able to raise her head and glance beyond the bingo door. The outside is the mute vowel of a blinding white expanse.
Sometimes, she struggles to remember her arrival. A cat licking a window reappears in her mind until a number sweeps it away. If there were windows in the hall, would that white nothing leak through them and fill the hall?
"Eighty-one.. thirteen." All in a sudden, the electricity of a look runs through her. It's a man from the table nearby. "..ty.. ninety-two.."
The marker hesitates in mid-air barely enough to make her lose a number.
And this is my ending:
Confound it!, she thinks as her cheeks flush. Concentrate, old girl, concentrate!
The stranger's admiring gaze stays on her side, sending a not unwelcome buzz down her spine. But she is unwavering now, eyes alight with anticipation, arms dancing all over the tablecloth, the marker a blur of elegance and precision. The announcer's metallic voice drones on.
"Ninety-five.. twenty-seven.. fifty.."
She chuckles, for that last number reveals her missed number to have been a sixty. She crosses the culprit with satisfaction, her marker purring like a satisfied feline. She is close now, as undoubtedly are several others. She feels her own face become almost fluid, droplets of sweat forming on her brow. She only needs--
Time stops in its tracks. Her arm shoots up as she rises from her seat. All around her, faces coil and reform back from the cards; their expressions are frozen in colorful shades of envy, dismay, and frustration. The pulsating lines on the walls move in concert, abandoning the mannequin. They converge on her instead. The white outside the entrance shines ever brighter. She is the center of attention, the absolute queen of a suspended perfect world, surveying her domain.
With an orgasmic, triumphant voice she cries, "Bingo!"
They are walking back to the car, and she is gesticulating animatedly.
"...and that's when Phyllis Royce started crying," she explains.
"That's nice, mom," her adult son replies while checking his cellphone. His hand is sizzling on contact with the plastic object, like a steak on a barbecue. "I'm so glad you're enjoying yourself with your friends."
"Not friends," she corrects him. "Competitors. Rivals. Fellow fighters in the eternal struggle between karma and causality. In the bingo hall... There's nothing but the present moment, the thrilling here-and-now. Everything else fades: the past, the meds, the pain--"
"Uh-uh," he says, still looking down at the small screen.
"You're not listening to anything your mother is telling you, aren't you." She tries to sound offended, but her amused smile betrays her.
"Very nice," he comments, ever oblivious. He finally puts away his work phone and looks up. "The doctors did say it would help with your special form of synesthesia. So, did you win anything?"
She fishes the coupon out of her bag and raises it to his face.
"50% discount for a 100-dollar-or-less electrical appliance," he reads with a complete lack of enthusiasm. "How useful. Perhaps I should come with you next week. Double our chances."
"I'm sure you'd love it," she lies.
She is looking at the stranger's telephone number, hand-written on the back of the coupon. The characters are clapping and cheering. There are all kinds of games in the hall, she thinks. And I'm about to try a different one.