As Luck Would Have It

Submitted by Renée Padmore to Contest #3 in response to: Write a story about someone who wins a contest and the prize of their dreams.... view prompt

December 22, 2017

“There's never a good time to get murdered. But if it had to happen, December would be the best time for that tragedy."


Richard flinches at those words and closes his eyes as though in pain. When he opens them he's still seated in the waiting room at the processing station.


He looks at the speaker to his right and tries his best to focus on the man's one good eye. The gaping hole where the man's left orb should reside is as obvious as, well, a gaping hole where an eye should reside.


The man grimaces and points to his grotesque features. "Sorry about that, old chap. Can't help it. This is how I went."


He eyes Richard in curiosity before sticking out his right hand. "Name's Donny. Gunshot to the head."


Donny has an expectant look that is obvious even with a missing eye. Richard clears his throat before shaking Donny's hand and responding. "I'm Richard. Richard Lowe."


Donny examines him again, taking in Richard's lean frame and dark brown eyes, before bringing his eyes, or rather, eye to meet Richard's gaze. "I don't see any obvious marks on you. How did you go?"


Richard stares into space, right fist clenched like a vise as his features tighten in anger. He pulls down the collar of the green turtle neck shirt he's wearing to reveal a collage of bruises around his neck.


Donny winces in sympathy and rubs his own neck. "You know who did it?"


Richard nods.


Donny stands and adjusts his own forest green sweater and khaki pants. "Well Richard, you're in the right place. Let me give you the grand tour before it's time.”


Richard stands and looks over at him. “Time for what?”


Donny's face is hard and merciless. “A chance at revenge.”

----

Donny and Richard walk around a massive facility shaped like many stadiums connected by tunnels. Richard observes people walking or floating around, faces a mixture of terror, anger or sadness.


Many have obvious mortal wounds. Richard stares in horror as a man passes him with his head tucked under his armpit. When the eyes glare at him from the severed head, Richard snaps his attention to the front and keeps moving.


Others, like Richard, look perfectly normal on the surface. They appear as though out for a stroll in the park.


Richard halts their progress. “So you're telling me that we're all dead?”


“Yup. Murdered or committed suicide. There's another facility in the underworld for those who died of natural causes.”


Richard folds his arms across his chest with a contemplative look. “What's up with the green? I wasn't even wearing this when I died. You're wearing the same shade.”


Donny smiles and gestures to his own outfit. “This is our identification marker. The colour tells us which month someone died.”


Richard raises an eyebrow. “Is that really necessary?”


Donny smirks. “You have no idea. We are considered the top dogs in this place. Remember what I told you when we first met?”


Richard's voice is sardonic when he responds. “About December being the best time to get murdered?”


Donny nods. “It's true.


“Why's that?”


“It's best if I show you.”

----

Donny and Richard enter a room designed like an auditorium. Thousands of chairs sit in neat rows across the shiny wooden floors. At the front of the room there is a huge wheel in the centre of a raised platform. Bright lights adorning the wheel wink in random patterns like a host of fireflies displaying their beauty in the darkest night.


Donny walks forward like he owns the place while Richard lags behind taking in everything around him.


Donny opens his arms wide and spins in a circle on the spot. “This is the Lady Luck Lottery.”


“How does it work?” asks Richard.


Donny pats him on the back. “And that, my friend, is why we wear colours.”


He turns and strides to the front of the room. Richard follows behind him still looking around at everything.


“As I told you before, you get assigned a colour based on the month you die. On the last day of each month there is a contest for each person who died in that month. Suicides are exempted.”


“Why's that?” Richard questions.


Donny ascends the steps of the platform and rests his hand on the wheel. “The prize is to go back and get a chance to avenge your death. You've got until the next year to achieve your goal.”


He shrugs. “Suicides already know who killed them.”


Richard sits at the end of the front row, feet planted apart and elbows resting on his knees. He stares at his clasped hands before looking up at Donny. “What happens if you don't get revenge?”


Donny's voice is grim when he responds. “You're stuck here forever. No peace. No moving on.”


Richard rubs a large palm over his face and sighs. “Some prize.”


“It's the rules. You can waive your right to get revenge, wait the required year and then officially move on. If you enter the contest you have to wait here until your name is selected, however long that takes. While you wait you can do like me and get jobs bringing the newbies up to date on this place and how it runs.”


Donny makes his way back down and sits next to Richard. Richard looks over at him. “What makes December so special?”


Donny grins. “It's the underworld's version of a Christmas gift. Four people get selected to go out instead of just one. The odds of being chosen are still very low but much better than being murdered between January and November.”


Richard is quiet as he contemplates all the info given. “Where do I sign up?”

----

December 31, 2017

Donny stares open-mouthed at Richard. “My God, I don't know if you are missing a halo or a pair of horns.”


Richard nods at various underworld inhabitants who shake his hand and offer congratulations. “It was the luck of the draw, Donny. Anybody could have won.”


Donny shakes his head at him. “I've been here a long long time. I've never seen anyone win on their very first try.”


Richard grins and pats him on the back. His face is serious again. “So what happens now? When do I leave?”


“As soon as the paperwork goes through you can leave. But I need to give you some rules.”


Richard swears under his breath. “More rules?”


They sit on the platform. “You better believe it, buddy. And you listen good or you will be punished. You'll be sent straight back here waiting until everyone from December gets selected.”


Richard's eyes widen. “That's an impossible task. I'll be here forever.”


“Exactly. So pay attention. You cannot kill the person who killed you.”


Donny holds up a hand to forestall Richard's protests.


“However,” he continues, “if they have a heart attack from fright that's a grey area that is perfectly legal even if considered unethical.”


Richard snorts. “And murder isn't unethical? Go on.”


“If your murderer dies before your year is up you go straight on to peace. No penalties, no punishments.”


“Okay.”


Donny continues. “You can't communicate with anyone from your past with the intention of telling them who you are.”


Richard's jaw clenches but he nods his head in acknowledgement.


The two men stare at each other with serious expressions before Donny continues. “And the most important rule of them all. If your murderer happens to die on the same day that you did you get another prize.”


“Which is?”


“They will be the ones stuck forever waiting until everyone in the month gets selected in the lottery. And every year on the anniversary of your death you'll get the chance to go back into the land of the living and walk free for twenty-four hours.”


"Oh, I like the sound of that," says Richard.


"Don't we all. But that feat is pretty rare, old boy. I've been here a few centuries and I've seen it done once."


Richard grins at him then utters two words. “Matthew Garland.”


Donny’s face looks like he's trying to solve a Rubik's cube. “Come again?”


Richard stands to accept the paperwork that is handed to him by an unsmiling woman with a deep slit across her throat. He walks towards the exit and pauses to look back at Donny before clarifying.


“Matthew Garland. Just remember that name.”

----

December 22, 2018

“There's never a good time to get murdered. But if it had to happen, December would be the best time for that tragedy."


The man on Donny's left glances over and scoffs at him as though he is a pile of garbage. Donny ignores his rude behaviour and introduces himself. “Name's Donny. Gunshot to the head.”


The man responds with a sneer. “I'm Matthew. And I had a heart attack.”


Donny frowns in confusion. “A heart attack? So why are you…” His voice trails off as he looks at him with a new eye. A grin creeps across his face.


“A heart attack? Tell me Matthew, what’s your full name?”


“Matthew Garland. What's it to you?”


Donny throws back his head, arm clutching his stomach. His laughter, dangerously close to hyenas in the wild, causes tears to release from his only eye. Matthew looks at him as though he escaped the loony bin.


“My God, I'm still not sure if that bloke used to wear a halo or horns," gasps Matthew. He continues to chuckle as he wipes his face and stands. Donny turns back to the underworld's newest resident.


“Come Matthew. Let me give you the grand tour. It's looking like you'll be here for a long long time.”





















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