Mystery Fiction Fantasy

I don’t dislike my job. I love my job. I hate getting up to an alarm. Yes, I have tried everything I can think of and even more. I have read articles like “10 Ways to Wake Up Earlier in the Morning” and other similar web posts and blogs.

I used to think that I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I probably don’t, but I manage to get through the ten-hour day, plus an hour commute each way, and do at least an hour workout after dinner, do the dishes, make my lunch, practice a foreign language, and read a book for an hour or two. Roughly translated, I should have seven to eight hours of sleep a night.  

So, what’s my dilemma, you ask? Well, I press the snooze button so often that I lose my special “me” time in the morning. My “me” time is after I get up and am dressed and ready for work. I take my coffee to the back deck and enjoy the morning. I read my email, check my social pages, and do some yoga.

My favorite bit is to spend a few minutes standing at the southwest corner of my deck looking out over my neighbor’s backyard, across the valley, and gaze across Port Susan, a part of the branch of the Puget Sound that runs between the City of Stanwood and the east shore of Camano Island.

When my husband and I made an offer on this house, it was pouring down rain and was very dark and dreary. A few months later, on a chilly but clear day in February, while enjoying my coffee on the deck, I made a fantastic discovery. There was a view that wasn’t mentioned in the listing.

To the north, Mount Baker. To the east, the Cascade Mountains and foothills. To the south, Mount Rainier, and to the west, the Olympics. Anyone who has lived in Washington for some time knows what it means when we say, “The mountain is out today.” It references Mount Rainier, but I would have had to say, “The mountains are out today!” 

Our home location and the deck are a truly unique and magical place. Sometimes, when I stand in that southwest corner, I close my eyes and let the wind caress my face. I feel like Rose in the movie Titanic when she stands on the bow and exclaims, “I’m flying!” 

Taking this time each morning when I don’t Snooze it all away helps me feel refreshed and ready to start the day. On my days off, I wake up without an alarm, but I wake up about two hours after my scheduled start time. Going in that late doesn’t work for my boss, so I have to figure out how to get up without an alarm and be on time, so I don’t miss my “me time” and still hold down my job.

There doesn’t seem to be a simple answer to my problem. I have no idea how to become independently wealthy so that I don’t have to go to work four days a week.  So, I must figure out a solution.

This morning started like many others, with me making a bargain with myself to get up on the next ten-minute snooze alarm. I had pressed it twice already. I thought of that creamy cup of coffee my husband had placed on my dresser. I could smell it. Yum. I thought. You have to get up to drink it. Just get up!

Twenty minutes later, I didn’t have time to sit and enjoy another cup of coffee, but I had time to do my “Rose” imitation. I sat the mug of coffee on the café table on the deck and climbed onto the bottom rail support. I raise my arms in a “T” as if I am flying and breathe in the false spring air. I could see the sun starting its morning rise over the Cascades, and the sky was shades of deep orange and soft apricot.

It was a brisk morning, and the wind was in a swirly mood. The oak tree was giving up the last few remaining leaves to the March wind, and they danced through the air, joined by some samaras twirling from our bigleaf maple.

I reached out to catch one of the seed pods, and I leaned out a bit too far, but I caught it and myself before I fell. I shakily stepped back onto the deck and opened my fist.

Sitting in my palm is a crumpled piece of paper, not the seed pod I expected. What is this? I queried the wind. Where did it come from?

I smooth the small piece of paper and see it is a fortune from a fortune cookie:


致富 (Zhifù)

Lucky Numbers 4, 7, 8, 17, 34, 49

“That sounds like a great idea,” I snort out loud. As if I hadn’t already thought of that! I look at the fortune momentarily and remember that the other side usually has excellent words of wisdom, and I turn it over:

Fame and fortune lie ahead.

I take the last swig of my cold coffee and stare at the fortune. A brilliant idea begins to sculpt its shape in my brain. I dash inside to my iPad and pull up the Washington lottery website. The Lotto is up to $10,000,000.  No one has won the jackpot for almost six months.

“You can’t win if you don’t play!” Something says to me. 

I look around. Both of my kitties are as sound asleep as kitties can be. Lu is lolling on her penthouse perch, with one leg and tail dangling over the edge. Mags is folded up like a burnt loaf of bread on her favorite ottoman, with no legs or tail in sight. My husband had already left for the office, so it wasn’t him.

Maybe it was an old slogan for a Lotto ad, and Alexa, in her snoopy wisdom, decided to nudge me after spying on my internet search. Not to question the inspiration, I took it as a command. I ensured I had a dollar bill and dashed out of the house. 

The most accessible place to stop on my way to the office is a gas and grocery station just a block off I-5, about halfway to my work. The drive is astonishingly good today; the roads are dry. The typically poor Washington drivers must have called out sick.

I pull into the station. No cars are waiting to fill up with gas. There are no customers at the counter trying to fill up their travel mugs with the garbage the station sells as coffee; no one is vying for the last stale donut in the case.

I walk to the counter, pick up a Lotto form, and fill out the first line with the numbers from the fortune cookie. For the second line, I choose Quick Pick. I handed the form to the cashier with my dollar, and a few seconds later, he delivered my ticket. I jog back to my car, hop in, and drive towards the freeway.

I must be early, I think to myself as I pull into my favorite spot in the parking garage. No one has taken it like they often do with a huge pickup truck that blocks the whole corner where I like to sit to eat my lunch. 

“This is going to be a great day!” I announce to the empty lot and a single seagull trying to stay perched on the light pole as the wind pushes and pulls at its feathers. I gather my work bag, put on my face mask, and dash into the building.

It is oddly uninhabited. Usually, there is a line of people anxiously trying to push through the door to the check-in desk. Ordinarily, there are frazzled receptionists that I wave a friendly good morning to every day as I pass their desks dodging folks and errant kids. Missing as well are the silent masses, staring blank-faced into their devices while lounging about the waiting room. 

I wave my badge over the door lock to my department, and the door gapes to reveal a dark hallway. Now I am worried. No lights mean I am the first to arrive, which rarely happens. There are no doctors, no medical assistants, and no boss.

I run down the hall to my desk, pull out my keyboard tray, and hastily log in to check our “Teams” chat and e-mail to find out what is wrong. Nothing. There is nothing. No one is logged in, no urgent messages, no e-mails, nothing to tell me what is happening.  

I pull my iPhone out of my scrubs pocket; no messages there either. I text the team to find out where they all are. Ten minutes go by, and still no answer. I checked our schedule, and there are no appointments listed. There are no piles of patient files on my desk for the day’s visits either.

I get up and walk through the building, upstairs, downstairs, and back up to my desk on the second floor. There is no one else in the building. I pick up the phone to call security, and the phone line is dead except for the whoosh of the wind.

I decide to get to work and figure that everyone will show up soon, and my day will return to normal. 

I start on a particularly vexing issue that has me writing a long appeal letter on behalf of one of our patients. I finish it and send it off electronically to the insurance company.

I look at the time on my screen, which indicates it is 6:30 PM. I am sure I walked in at 7:45 AM, and it felt like maybe only an hour had passed after my trip through the building.

I don’t remember taking my morning break, my lunch break, or my afternoon break, and none of my coworkers have shown up. I immediately start thinking of dinner and wonder what my husband will cook tonight as I gather my belongings. I clock out and restart my computer. 

The waiting room is absent of people; there are no receptionists. I notice the lights are on in the vacant parking garage as the glass doors close and lock behind me. I climb the stairs and see my car is the only one on the top level.

I walk to it and jiggle the door. The button doesn’t work, so I dig in my pocket to find my proximity key. The only thing in my pocket is that rumpled fortune cookie fortune.

“Well, this is no help,” I say aloud to the wind that has picked up around me. I crumble the fortune, and a gust swipes it from my hand, swirls it in the air, and the fortune sails off over the railing down the street until I can no longer see it. 

Wanting to get home to see if I won the Lotto and to eat dinner, I start looking for my fob. I find that it has fallen into the RFID pocket of my bag. I fish it out and try the door again. It complies. I climb in and place my bag on the passenger seat.

I notice my lunch bag is open, and my breakfast, lunch, and snack are gone. I don’t remember taking breaks or eating my meals. No matter: I have been a bit distracted today. I warm up the car and drive out of the parking garage, turn north, and direct the vehicle towards the freeway.

I press the call button to tell my husband I am on my way. The hands-free device does nothing. I pick up my phone at the next stoplight and press his picture in my contact list, but nothing happens. The light turns green. I put the phone down and turn on the radio.

Satellite radio is definitely on my list of top things that have been invented in my life that I can not live without. I press the search button, landing on a new station called Fame and Fortune playing AC/DC’s “Money Talks.”

I wonder absent-mindedly where all the cars are. The freeway is entirely deserted. As I pass the Rest Area, I notice the lack of motor homes camping for the night.

The radio starts playing David Bowie’s “Fame” as I cruise by the ginormous billboard for the local casino advertising the $60K MEGA MONEY game. “Win A Fortune!” it glaringly flashed.

I’m turning off the freeway as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” comes on. The traffic lights on the remainder of my drive home are green. I turn onto our street and press the garage door opener. 

Pulling into my parking spot, I notice my husband’s car is not there. I pick up my things, close the car, go up the six steps to our fire door, enter our security code, and step into the lower level of the house. Our smart home knows what I am listening to and picks up with “You Got Lucky” by Tom Petty.  

There is no evidence of my husband, the cats, and no smell of dinner cooking. I’m no longer sure what to expect after my strange day. The lights blink on as I go up the stairs, and I set my lunch bag on the kitchen counter. I walk into the front room, drop my work bag in the hall closet, and the television turns on.

I notice it's eight o’clock. The Lotto draw is now being televised. I stand in front of the gas fireplace with the TV mounted above it and step back a bit to watch. The fire kicks on, and its pretty blue flames begin gyrating mesmerizingly.

The first ball exits the chute: 4.

Then, the following number is: 7.

The third is announced: 8.

Then four arrives: 17.

Trailed by: 34.

Lastly: 49.

The house starts playing “Wind of Change” by Scorpions. My mind whirls, dizziness overcomes me, and my ears fill with the roaring of a hurricane. I reach behind to find the couch, fall into the seat, and dig in my pocket for the ticket. The numbers on my ticket and the screen are the same.

I have won over ten million dollars. Thinking this calls for a celebration, I stumble to the refrigerator, pull open the door, and gawk. It is filled with bottles of champagne. I clutch one and fumble in the cabinet for a crystal champagne flute.

I walk through the dining room to the sliding glass door and onto the deck. With trembling hands, I pop the cork and fill my glass with golden bubbles. As I take a sip, I see a small, crumpled piece of paper land at my feet. It looks eerily familiar.

I bend over to pick it up as a gust of wind blows it out of my reach and off the deck. The wind swirls the paper up and over the house's roof and into the dark sky. I wonder where it is going and if it will bring someone else the good luck it did for me today.


The alarm clock clicks on and begins playing “She Works Hard for the Money” by Donna Summers. I roll over and start to press snooze, but instead press stop, get out of bed, and head for the coffee pot. Alexa starts playing “Against the Wind” by Bobby Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. I get this fantastic idea. I turn around, yank the cord to the alarm clock from the wall, and toss it into the trash. 

“Alexa,” I command. “Set an alarm Monday for 6 AM to play The Bangles’ ‘Manic Monday.’ Tuesday should be ‘Tuesday Morning’ by the Pogues. Then, queue up ‘Wednesday’ by Harriette. On Thursday, set ‘Thursday’s Child’ by David Bowie, and Friday,” I continued, “will be Loverboy’s ‘Working for the Weekend.’”

March 05, 2024 01:08

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David McCahan
18:31 Mar 14, 2024

Tammy, I really enjoyed this story. "The wind was in a swirly mood" is a beautiful description. I wondered, as the dream went on, whether maybe she actually had fallen when reaching for the seed pod and all the rest was the afterlife or was it just a dream. Made it very riveting. One quick suggestion, the verb tenses change from past to present, might just keep an eye on that. Otherwise, a wonderful, engrossing story.


Tammy Green
07:02 Apr 20, 2024

Thank you David! I will watch out for those nasty little verbies switching their tenses!!


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Trudy Jas
02:28 Mar 06, 2024

ah yes, dream on. :-)


Tammy Green
07:04 Apr 20, 2024

Thank you Trudy! Sweet dreams yes! I was trying to find a way to work on getting up in the morning while eating take out Chinese. I read my fortune, crumpled the silly thing up and started to toss it in the garbage, and then realized I had a spark for this prompt.


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Alexis Araneta
13:51 Mar 05, 2024

Lovely one as usual, Tammy. I love your gift for description.


Tammy Green
07:07 Apr 20, 2024

Thank you Stella. I think my favorite gift was a Thesaurus when I was in high school. I would read it like a Stephen King novel.


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