The Best of Fritz Leiber, Introduced by Poul Anderson – 1974 [Michael Herring]

“I’ll take the big dive.”

…”Joe Slattermill, you still have something of value to wager, if you wish. 
Your life.”

At that a giggling and a hysterical tittering and a guffawing and braying
and a shrieking burst uncontrollably out of the whole Boneyard. 
Mr. Bones summed up the sentiments
when he bellowed over the rest of the racket,
“Now what use of value is there in the life of a bummer like Joe Slattermill? 
Not two cents, ordinary money.”

The Big Gambler laid a hand on the revolver gleaming before him
and all the laughter died.

“I have a use for it,” the Big Gambler whispered. 
“Joe Slattermill, on my part I will venture all my winnings of tonight,
and throw in the world and everything in it for a side bet. 
You will wager your life, and on the side your soul. 
You to roll the dice. 
What’s your pleasure?”

Joe Slattermill quailed, but then the drama of the situation took hold of him. 
He thought it over and realized
he certainly wasn’t going to give up being stage center in a spectacle like this
to go home broke to his Wife and Mother and decaying house
and the dispirited Mr. Guts. 
Maybe, he told himself encouragingly,
there wasn’t power in the Big Gambler’s gaze,
maybe Joe had made his one and only crap-shooting error. 
Besides, he was more inclined to accept Mr. Bones’s assessment
of the value of his life than the Big Gambler’s.

“It’s a bet,” he said.

“Lottie, give him the dice.”

Joe concentrated his mind as never before,
the power tingled triumphantly in his hand, and he made his throw. 

The dice never hit the felt.
They went swooping down, then up,
in a crazy curve far out over the end of the table,
and then came streaking back like tiny red-glinting meteors
towards the face of the Big Gambler,
where they suddenly nested and hung in his black eye sockets,
each with the single red gleam of an ace showing.

Snake eyes.

The whisper, as those red-glinting dice-eyes stared mockingly at him:
“Joe Slattermill, you’ve crapped out.”

Using thumb and middle finger – or bone rather – of either hand,
the Big Gambler removed the dice from his eye sockets
and dropped them in Lottie’s white-gloved hand.

“Yes, you’ve crapped out, Joe Slattermill,” he went on tranquilly.
“And now you can shoot yourself”
– he touched the silver gun
– “or cut your throat”
– he whipped a gold-handled bowie knife out of his coat
and laid it beside the revolver
– “or poison yourself”
– the two weapons were joined by a small black bottle
with white skull and crossbones on it
– “or Miss Flossie here can kiss you to death.”
He drew forward beside him the prettiest, evilest-looking sporting girl.
She preened herself and flounced her short violet skirt
and gave Joe a provocative, hungry look,
lifting her carmine upper lip to show her long white canines.

“Or else,” the Big Gambler added,
nodding significantly towards the black-bottomed crap table,
“you can take the Big Dive.”

Joe said evenly, “I’ll take the big dive.”

– Fritz Leiber, from “Gonna Roll The Bones”, in “Dangerous Visions“, October, 1967 –

The Lovers, by Philip José Farmer – 1952 (1982) [Jim Burns]

Hal Yarrow stared through steamshapes into big brown eyes. 
He shook his head. 
Eyes? 
And arms like branches? 
Or branches like arms? 
He thought he was in the grip of a brown-eyed nymph. 
Or were they called dryads? 
He couldn’t ask anybody. 
They weren’t supposed to know about such creatures. 
Nymph and dryad had been delated from all books
including Hack’s edition of the Revised and Real Milton
Only because Hal was a linguist
had he had the chance to read an unexpurgated Paradise Lost
and thus learn of classical Greek mythology.

Thoughts flashed on and off like lights on a spaceship’s control board. 
Nymphs sometimes turned into trees to escae their pursuers. 
Was this one of the fabled forest women staring at him
with large and beautiful eyes through the longest lashes he’d ever seen?

He shut his eyes
and wondered if a head injury was responsible for the vision and, if so,
it if would be permanent. 
Hallucinations like that were worth keeping. 
He didn’t care if they conformed to reality or not.

He opened his eyes. 
The hallucination was gone.

– Philip José Farmer –

The Best of Cordwainer Smith, Edited by John J. Pierce – (1975) 1977 [Darrell Sweet]

The Worlds of A.E. van Vogt – 1974 [Bart Forbes]

Contents

The Replicators – Galaxy Science Fiction, 1964

The First Martian – 1939

The Purpose – Astounding Science Fiction, 1945

The Earth Killers 1951 Ziff-Davis

The Cataaaaa – 1937

Automation – Other Worlds, 1950

Itself! – 1963

Process – Mercury Publications, 1950

Not The First – Astounding Science Fiction, 1941

Fulfillment – 1956

Ship of Darkness – Ziff-Davis, 1961

The Ultra Man – Galaxy Science Fiction, 1966

The Storm – 1943

The Expendables – 1963

The Reflected Men – 1971

The Book of van Vogt – 1972 [Karel Thole]

Contents

The Timed Clock

The Confession

The Rat and the Snake – Witchcraft & Sorcery # 5, January-February, 1971

The Barbarian – Astounding Science Fiction, December, 1947

Ersatz Eternal

The Sound of Wild Laughter

Lost: Fifty Suns