In April 2018, I posted my thousandth post on this blog. To celebrate, I started sharing here all my short stories. Every couple of weeks, I’ll be posting one story from my celebrated Exciting Destinies series for you to enjoy. With over 30 stories so far, I hope you’ll have lots of fun in the coming months!
This week, it’s “The Lucky Bastard,” a story from Infinite Waters. Click here to read some more free stories.
The Lucky Bastard
The low-lit bunker was as quiet as an old grave. The kind of grave the entire world would be like, if I didn’t stop the upcoming apocalypse. I glanced at the stony-faced people in the room. Uniforms of all shapes and colors surrounded me. A clean-shaven aide pushed a briefcase onto the table. His hands shook with a slight tremor as he popped the lid open. The insides contained a screen and a compact keyboard. He tapped it and the screen flickered to life with a soft beep. I inserted the crescent key hanging from my neck into a silver slot, while the aide took a respectful step back.
A man with as many golden stars on his lapels as the fingers on both my hands produced a similar key and pushed it into a second slot. Our gazes met for a moment. I nodded. We both turned the keys slowly until a soft click confirmed the system was now armed. Behind me, the entire wall lit up, mirroring the small screen facing me. I felt nothing. No emotion, no fear, no hope.
Is this what destiny had in mind all along? To hang the fate of the entire world on me?
Destiny. Fate. Luck. Whatever you called it, I was intimately familiar with it. ‘The Lucky Bastard,’ the papers called me; friends and foes alike. Little did they know just how accurate that was.
I never knew my father. Probably some loser my drug-addled mother met on the streets. She died within minutes of delivering me. My luck kicked in right away. I stole the heart of the doctor who delivered me. He and his wife had been trying for years, with no success. He later said I was the perfect child for them. He knew the minute he laid his eyes on me.
With no known relatives, the adoption went through right away. My parents lavished me with all their love and attention, the way only adoptive parents can. All I had to do was ask for something and it was mine. I didn’t let them down, either. Luck had gifted me with unusually spacious lungs and a unique metabolism. I won one competition after another. A string of athletic scholarships let me skim through school. As long as I could remember where and when the race took place, all I had to do was show up and the win was mine. I won my first Olympics barely out of high school. Didn’t even have to train.
Universities fought over me. My second Olympics, I won while studying management at a prestigious Ivy League university. Although studying may be too strong a word. I didn’t even have to show up at class. At the finals, I was sure I would fail. Luck saved me again. A computer glitch somehow caused my test to disappear. Eager to avoid embarrassment, the department offered me my degree without so much as a peep.
I lacked for nothing. Money, fame, women; all mine for the taking. Especially the women. They fawned over my proverbial chiseled jaw, my sparkling blue eyes, and my mane of thick, black hair. Plus, I was an Ivy League -trained manager on top of being an Olympic-winning athlete. A jock with a brain. Who could resist that? I had a different girl in my arms each night. I never committed to anyone, of course. Why would I? The moment one brief relationship was over, a dozen more were beckoning.
Some took it harder than others. My only long-term relationship—two and a half months—committed suicide over me. Stupid bitch. Luckily, her best friend also had a crush on me. She spoke to the press of the girl’s depression. Again and again. I still wonder how much of it was true. Regardless, in the end, I came out as a martyr. Instead of dragging me down, my stock had never been higher.
The publicity attracted the attention of a head hunter. She tracked me down and invited me to one of the best law firms in the country. I was to start low, but as luck would have it, the owner had just lost his son. Not only were we the same age, but he had been the spitting image of me. When I entered the man’s office for the first time, his bloodshot eyes widened as if he had seen a ghost.
It took me less than a year to make Junior Partner. Within five, I was Senior Partner, then, when the old man died, he left me the company and everything he owned.
Some grumbled, of course, but soon afterwards, a local politician was impeached. He swiftly became our largest client. The money he poured into the office put a stop to any complaints. And when we saved his skin on a technicality, he introduced me to his party leaders.
A couple of years later, he died of a Viagra and coke-induced heart attack in the arms of his mistress. I made sure none of it reached the papers. In gratitude, the party nominated me for his seat. Naturally, I won. My track record—both figuratively and literally—did all the work for me, really. Once again, all I had to do was show up and the spoils were there for the taking.
The only thing my record was not good for was the presidency. Not having a wife, three point five children and a cute dog does that. I was good enough for vice president, though. And when a crazy bastard shot the president, barely a year into his term, I found myself at the top of the world. POTUS by default.
I barely had time to enjoy it, though. My predecessor had poked the Bear once too often, and now the Bear just poked back. With nukes. Or so our sensors told us.
“Mister President? The code?”
The general’s voice snapped me out of my reverie. It had a hint of a quaver. I could hardly blame him. I stared at the screen in front of me. My finger hovered over the keyboard. All I had to do was punch in the codes that would activate our defense grid. Powerful lasers and a barrage of missiles would take out the nukes fast approaching the East Coast within seconds.
The Russkies knew this. Hell, they depended on it. They didn’t want an apocalypse any more than we did. They only shot their missiles as a warning, knowing we would shoot them down. It was just their way of growling, “Back off.” So, why had I not entered the command yet?
Dozens of tiny dots raced on the screen. I squinted to see them better. Red pixels edged towards the green line separating land from the sea. They would cross over at any moment now.
A smile tugged at the corner of my lips. What if I let them through? Maybe they carried nukes. Maybe not. My heart drummed in my chest. Was this excitement? It’d been so long that I couldn’t even recognize the feeling. My pulse quickened. If we were nuked, even my cursed luck wouldn’t be able to save me from a life of toil and struggle—would it?
All my life, Luck took care of me, and I loathed her for it. Never struggled, never strived. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d enjoyed something. My food had no flavor. Sex was a chore. Music had no melody. My life was reduced to satisfying one pathetic need after another. The highlight of the day was my morning piss.
My finger still hovered over the buttons. Then again, perhaps I didn’t make it. Maybe even the half-mile separating us from the surface was not enough in case of a direct hit. I shrugged. If I died, then this cursed life of immeasurable blandness would be over. I could see no downside.
“Mister President?” The quaver in the general’s voice was palpable now. He bit his lower lip. His fingers twitched towards the briefcase. His gaze shot between the wall screen and my face.
I glanced at the bug-eyed people staring at me from across the table. Beep beep beep. A warning. The red dots had just crossed over the green border. My smile grew into a grin as I snapped the lid shut. “Feeling lucky, gentlemen?”