They’re not magic dice.
Stanley stares at the pair of them. Brass, he thinks, or bronze — he’s not sure he knows the difference. Could be just gold paint. Staring at him on the bedside table, right under the lamp, in front of the clock, beside the book he’s been reading.
Outside, a storm rages. Lightning flashes and flashes, the thunder won’t stop, the rain smacks the window in waves. But the bed is warm. Promising, if lonely.
Inside, it’s warm, the lights are still on — though not many of them. It’s not quite midnight. There’s no need to get up early in the morning.
And there’s the dice.
He dreamt once — it couldn’t have been just last night — that’s he’d rolled a pair of dice just like the two sitting on his table now.
He’s not a gambler. Maybe the occasional lottery ticket, but only on a whim. He doesn’t even know the rules of craps. Last time he touched dice was probably for an exciting, whiskey-fueled game of college Yahtzee.
He hasn’t seen the inside of a college classroom in quite a while.
He barely remembers the dream. There was no wager, not that he calls, no prize, nothing. If he saw what he rolled, he doesn’t retain that information.
Dice have no special meaning for him. His father wasn’t a gambler, either. His mother didn’t spend her weekends in Atlantic City. He’s never even been in a casino. He never understood the point of Monopoly. He prefers crosswords. He works them in ink, not pencil.
But he doesn’t throw dice. He doesn’t shoot dice. He doesn’t toss them. He’s not a bone-rolling kind of guy.
He’s trying to remember if the table had been clear when he turned on the light. He doesn’t know. The dice might have been sitting there the whole time. But surely not since that long ago or maybe recent dream.
He’s also listening for any sound that might suggest he’s not alone in the apartment. There’s only the thunder, and the rain, relentless sounds that drown out anything else.
So he checks the place. He doesn’t bother with a baseball bat; he generally doesn’t keep one near the bed. Living room, kitchen, bathroom — they’re all empty. It’s just him in the apartment. He knows he didn’t put them there.
Back in the bedroom, he stares again at the dice. They’ve been set on snake eyes — a pair of ones. Is that supposed to be a bad thing? An ill omen?
He doesn’t know.
Eventually, as no answer presents itself, and since he’s not even sure of the questions, he lays down in bed — facing away from the dice — and tries to sleep.
He can try to blame the storm, but that’d be a lie. He can’t keep his eyes closed. He watches the light show through his window for a while, thinks about maybe going to a movie tomorrow, or making a big breakfast, but he can’t escape the dice.
He turns over. Lying on his side, he glances at the dice. They mock him. They don’t move, don’t really do anything at all, but just their presence is a tease. It’s as if they’re saying, “We dare you to pick us up.”
What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like he’ll roll these brass dice and open up some interdimensional portal and release a legion of demons upon the earth on this otherwise peaceful stormy night.
He can’t keep his eyes closed. Even after turning out the lights, the constant lightning makes the dice flash like a cat’s eyes in the dark.
“Fine,” he says.
Stanley scoops up the dice.
They’re heavier than he expected, and colder, though he wouldn’t say frozen. They click between his fingers when they touch. No depth to the sound. No resonance. Nothing to compete with the thunder.
He moves them around in his hand, getting a good feel for them, warming them up, learning absolutely nothing. He blows into his fist for luck. Isn’t that what they do? He thinks he should say something about shoes, but he doesn’t understand the reference.
Reluctantly, and with perhaps a small degree of anger, Stanley releases the dice on his bedside table. They bounce and clatter, they knock into the side of his book.
One lands on a four, the other a five.
He doesn’t think that would be a willing roll in craps. Shouldn’t that be a seven or an eleven or something?
Did the storm pause in that moment before he threw them? No. Only his imagination paused.
No interdimensional portal comes up. No demons emerge. Nothing changes.
They are, after all, just dice. There’s nothing magical about them.
When he finally falls asleep, Stanley dreams of throwing dice and rolling bones.