Saturday, October 15, 2005

Campfire Story III - The Dead Man’s Hand

The Dead Man’s Hand

Douglas was in his late twenties. He worked at a big government research complex. He was a computer network administrator. After doing his BA at the local university, Douglas held a couple of jobs. He was a clerk on the graveyard shift at a video store. Then he worked as a waiter at a big steak house.

Douglas had the good judgement to sign up for one of those 9 month computer diploma programs from a then prominent local private school. This was during the tech boom of the late 1990s. After finishing the IT diploma program, Douglas caught on with the government job at the research lab.

Some of his classmates went for the high salary and stock options available in high tech startups at that time, and encouraged Douglas to do so too. But Douglas was more of the eight to four type and the steady, secure government job suited him fine. Turned out well too, as many of his old classmates were out of work after the tech crash in the early 2000s. In fact one of his old classmates who once bought a Saab with his signing bonus in high tech served Douglas a tasty steak at that same restaurant where he used to work.

Douglas lived modestly by himself in an apartment building near where he worked. He worked regular eight to four. As a systems guy, he sometimes had to work evenings or weekends for server upgrades, security patches and stuff like that. Douglas didn’t mind as the overtime was infrequent and paid at the union rates.

Growing up and in college, Douglas liked to play cards. A couple of times a month he met his buddies for poker night. Douglas was a pretty good player, and he won money off his friends more often than he lost. After going to work full time, his college buddies moved out of town and got married and stuff like that. The poker nights became few and far between. Douglas had other stuff to do so he didn’t really miss the regular card games.

Then one Sunday night Douglas switched over from a dull football game. Just clicking around, he happened onto the final table of a Texas hold’em tournament on one of the high numbered cable channels. Douglas watched it intently and took an instant liking to hold’em. There were plenty of commercials during the show for online poker rooms. Douglas decided he was going to play hold’em on the Internet.

So Douglas opened an account and made a $50 deposit at one of the poker sites who had advertised during the Sunday night show. He didn’t bother with the play money area and went straight to the real money tables. Like most players, Douglas lost his initial deposit.

The next time he worked overtime, Douglas used the extra money he earned to go back to that Internet poker room. This time he had learned enough to be able break even at the start. Then he improved some more and started winning money, like he did in the old days against his buddies.

Douglas enjoyed playing poker online and certainly enjoyed winning at Texas hold’em. He had no illusions about getting rich at it or quitting his government job to play for a living. It was just something he found enjoyable and modestly profitable.

Douglas liked to play in the evenings. Before he started playing hold’em on the Internet, he liked to go to bed around 11 PM and get up around 7 AM for a solid eight hours sleep every work night. After he started playing he was staying up a bit later. He did discipline himself to go to bed by midnight, so he’d still get the good 7 hours sleep on work nights.

One night Douglas was playing well and the electronic dealer was giving him good cards. Straight, flush, full house, several times over. As a result Douglas was having a good night and winning at a good rate. At 11:50 PM Douglas noticed it was getting late. So he decided he’d play until he won one more hand, then he’d go to bed. The way things were going, he figured he’d get that last win pretty quick.

Well, the electronic dealer giveth, and the electronic dealer taketh away. In hold’em your cards can go cold very quickly and for a long time. Suddenly Douglas was getting poor hands he couldn’t win with. He wasn’t even getting two pairs, which is itself usually not enough to win. When he did get good hands, he caught some bad luck and lost. One time he lost a king high flush to an ace high flush. Another time he lost a full house to a four of a kind.

These things happen in Texas hold’em, and Douglas didn’t get upset over his run of bad luck. He was annoyed when he looked at the clock and saw it was twenty to one in the morning. Well past the midnight quitting time he’d set for himself. Plus his run of bad luck had eroded his winnings for the night and now he was in a loss for the session.

So Douglas decided to quit for the night. But by the time he decided the cards were being dealt so he decided to play this last hand then quit. Now his two cards were Ace of clubs and eight of diamonds. Usually Douglas would just fold this hand as it is not a very strong hand. Plus Ace-eight is kind of a bad luck hand.

But since it was the last hand of the night, Douglas decided to call the blind bet and play it. If anyone had raised the blind Douglas would have folded. He was kind of hoping someone would. But nobody did and the flop came down.

Now the flop came down Ace of diamonds, eight of spades, two of diamonds. That gave Douglas a strong two pair of aces and eights. Douglas didn’t care for aces and eights and he would have folded the hand if there had been heavy betting on the flop. But the betting was light on the flop so Douglas stayed in the hand.

The next card was the turn. The turn was the 6 of clubs. Betting remained lukewarm so, feeling more confident, Douglas called a small bet to stay in the hand.

Finally the river card. The river was the Ace of spades. That gave Douglas a full house, Aces over eights. Douglas bet aggressively. He found two callers and Douglas won a nice sized pot at the showdown.

The win was good for Douglas. It put him back into a profit position for the session. He felt a bit strange winning with the dead man’s hand Aces over eights. But he was glad to win a hand after the spell of bad luck.

Annoyed with himself for staying up too late, Douglas logged out and hurried to bed. He didn’t want to be tired the next morning at work. The next morning he was a bit tired. Hardly bleary eyed, but he resolved to stick to his midnight bedtime in the future.

Unfortunately for Douglas, that Aces over eights would be his final poker hand.

Going down the hard steps of his apartment building, Douglas took a nasty tumble. It was raining that day and there was some water on the steps from someone's shoes. And maybe Douglas was not as alert as usual that morning from staying up too late the night before.

He hit his head hard when he fell on the concrete landing. Some neighbours heard the fall. They saw Douglas knocked out and called an ambulance. The ambulance arrived quickly and they took Douglas to the hospital. Unfortunately Douglas had a serious head injury. He didn’t regain consciousness and he died late that evening.

So if you’re playing poker online at night, when it’s time to quit and go to bed, then log out and go to bed. And, whatever you do, if you’re dealt Ace-eight in Texas hold’em, then click Fold right away.


If you liked this story, I wrote two other campfire stories on my general blog.
Campfire Story
Campfire Story II

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Campfire Story II - The Divers

The Divers

Dennis and Christine were a young couple in their mid twenties who got married. They were accountants at a mid sized firm in the city.

For their honeymoon they went to a vacation resort. One of those one price all inclusive places. It was a nice resort, the weather was great, and they were naturally having a great time. One thing the resort offered was scuba diving. The young couple really enjoyed this and went out a number of times.

Usually they went diving in the morning. One day they went in the morning as usual, and asked if they could go on the afternoon trip as well. At the resort, the boats ran two diving trips a day; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. There was a cancellation on the afternoon run on one of the boats that day so the resort said they could go again as there was now two seats free on the afternoon run.

So they went again in the afternoon. They enjoyed the diving. They took their time looking at the fish and the plants on the seafloor. When it was time to leave they surfaced to get on the boat and go back to the resort.

When they surfaced Dennis and Christine saw a shocking sight. The boat was gone.

What happened was that the operator of that boat forgot that there were two new people taking the spots of the ones that had cancelled. So when everyone else surfaced the captain thought he had everyone and went back to shore. He accidentally left Dennis and Christine behind under the water.

At first Dennis and Christine were hopeful that the mistake would be quickly noticed and the boat would come back. After a couple of hours nothing appeared and they feared for the worst. They spent a long night staying afloat in the warm tropical water. By sunrise the next morning they were totally exhausted. They didn’t last long after that and they unfortunately died that morning.

Back at the resort, nobody noticed Dennis and Christine missing. They were just there by themselves on their honeymoon. They were friendly enough with the other couples they met but they naturally liked to spend most of their time together.

So it wasn’t until a couple more days later that the housekeeper in their room noticed they were missing. Resort management quickly organized a search. Retracing their steps to where they were last seen, management realized what had happened. They had accidentally been left behind on the scuba dive.

A water and shoreline search was quickly launched. But they knew what to expect. They found the bodies of Dennis and Christine not far from where their boat had dropped them off.

Since the terrible error, procedures around the scuba dives have changed to prevent this from ever happening again. Head counts and passenger lists are now double checked both when they leave port, and when they head back.

Since the tragedy, some divers report seeing unexpected scuba bubbles under the water. As if there are other divers nearby when there aren’t The bubbles are faint and only appear for a short time.

Also some divers say they sometimes see what looks sort of like a shadow of two divers in the distance. They sometimes move to swim over but when they move closer the shadows fade away.

Even with the new precautions and checks, some of the boat operators will take their time when the divers resurface to go back. They pull away somewhat slower than before. They generally take a last look back when they leave, just in case – even though they double checked the head count and they know for certain that they have everybody.

Sometimes when they look back, they think they see what looks like an arm waving. As if someone was surfacing late and waving at the boat to come back. Of course it’s just a wave or a fish jumping or the way the sun glistens off the beautiful water. When they take a second look back it’s gone. But, like with what the divers are now seeing underwater, it’s as if the spirits of Dennis and Christine are still there in the water, waiting for their boat to come back for them.


If you liked this story, I wrote two other campfire stories.
Campfire Story
Campfire Story III

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Campfire Story I - The Cursed Computer

The Cursed Computer

Floyd bought his first computer. Floyd was in his mid forties. He worked as a car salesman at a big Dodge dealership. You know the type. Slightly built with dark hair and dark eyes. You'd see the cigarette pack inside the front pocket of his shirt if you look for it.

He walked in and bought a computer at a local dealer. He didn’t know much about computers. The price seemed steep but he didn’t know any different.

Anyway he took the computer home and then he hit the Internet. Unfortunately for Floyd he was not a sophisticated user and he explored around some of the dark side of the Internet. Hanging around those sites, his computer quickly got viruses and other bad software.

This was irritating to Floyd, as he wasn’t technically savvy enough to get rid of the viruses. He was getting all kinds of popups, his e-mail was overrun with spam, weird error messages, system crashes, all that stuff. Floyd got angrier and angrier with all the problems. Finally one night his system froze and he lost a sales proposal he’d spent two hours working on. Floyd went ballistic and in his rage suffered a heart attack and died at the computer.

Eventually Floyd’s wife found his body. When she found him, the computer was on and just showing a strange swirl pattern covering the full screen. Floyd’s wife didn’t know or care about computers so after the funeral she just sold it in the local newspaper. After all the problems with it and how her husband died, she just wanted it gone and sold it cheap.

It was bought by Andy. Any was in his late twenties, clean shaven. Andy worked at a computer help desk and the computer was a great deal for him. He knew what had happened to the previous owner. It was a bit creepy but it didn’t really bother him. So Andy took the computer home. He was technically adept and he put in the updated anti virus and got rid of the other malware and fixed all the problems.

The new computer worked well for Andy, but only for a while. Andy was careful to avoid shady Internet sites and stuck to clean, reputable sites like Yahoo, Google, eBay, Amazon, MSN, safe sites. Strangely to Andy, the new computer kept getting viruses and adware, despite his updated anti virus and sticking to safe sites. This annoyed Andy.

After a couple of months the new computer kept acting stranger. He noticed that it would sometimes be on in the morning when he thought he turned it off the night before. The first time this happened he just thought to himself that he’d clicked reboot instead of shutdown. But it kept happening, being on the next morning when he was sure he’d turned it off the night before.

Then he noticed this strange swirl pattern sometimes appearing when the system froze up due to the viruses. The last straw happened the time Andy woke up at 4 AM one morning to find the computer turned back on with that creepy swirl pattern on the screen.

Andy was getting spooked by this, and thinking about what happened to the original owner, Andy just decided to get rid of the troublesome computer. He unplugged it so it couldn’t turn itself back on. So Andy, like Floyd’s wife before, just sold the computer cheap to get rid of it.

The computer was bought from Andy by Errol. Errol was in his mid thirties. He was a big man. He drove a forklift at a building supplies warehouse. The price was great. Errol was like Floyd with technology. He didn’t know much about computers, and he roamed around some of the dark corners of the Internet. He didn't know how to update the anti virus.

As a result, the computer picked up new viruses. However the only thing Errol noticed was that it would occasionally freeze and a strange swirl pattern would appear on the screen. Errol unfortunately became addicted to the Internet and started staying up later and later in chat rooms and role playing games and online casinos. His work suffered and he began to arrive at work looking haggard due to lack of sleep.

One night very late Errol was fighting to stay awake but just couldn’t get up from that darned computer. At around 3 AM the computer froze and that creepy swirl pattern took up his screen. But Errol with his extreme tiredness became hypnotized by the swirl. He just sat there frozen, staring blankly at the computer screen. The computer just sat there frozen with the swirl pattern.

Eventually Errol, like Floyd before him, died sitting there at that computer. Errol lived alone. After a couple of days AWOL his co-workers became concerned. When his landlord opened the door to his apartment they found him. He was still sitting at that computer; hand on the mouse, eyes still open, staring at that swirl on the screen.

Errol lived modestly in a small apartment. He didn’t have any family in town. He didn’t have any debts. His siblings just put his assets up for quick sale to settle his estate, including that computer.

I don’t know what happened to that computer after that. Maybe it’s for sale in your local newspaper for a very low price.


If you liked this story, I wrote two other campfire stories.
Campfire Story II
Campfire Story III

Campfire Stories

Last Saturday evening we went to my in-laws house. My father in law has put a new fire pit in his back yard. They invited us over as well as my wife’s sisters for a campfire. The new fire pit is nice. They live on a lake and the fire pit is close to the edge of the water.

Sitting around the fire, my older son wanted to hear scary stories. Usually I can’t think of any but I managed to tell two. Here are the links to the stories, along with some stuff I thought of at later campfires at the fire pit.

Campfire Story I - The Cursed Computer
Campfire Story II - The Divers
Campfire Story III - The Dead Man’s Hand