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Monday, March 23, 2015

The Cube.

As luck would have it there was an empty seat at the back of the Magic Bean café.
I grabbed my Chai Latte and settled, facing the mall. The aroma of coffee grinds spiked my taste buds. The general bustle, clatter and conversation eased as the early morning addicts downed their double shots and sauntered off to work. 

There would be a lull, for an hour or so before shoppers came clamouring for their eleven o’clock fix.

With my lap top open and imagination racing, I began to write. My attention focused on weaving intrigue and creating conflict. My intrepid hero’s behaviour needed tailoring to push the plot forward. 

Lost in the world of my creation I allowed the words to flow. My friend would be along shortly. We met each week to write, chat and share the latest news on our publishing journey. Despite the activity around me my mind focused on the characters playing out their part in my newest chapter.

A shadow fell across my keyboard. I looked up, expecting to greet my friend.
Instead a stranger loomed over my table. His gaunt frame, sallow skin and hair resembling a chewed dog toy didn’t fill me with confidence. At least the café was a public place. No real danger.

What would my character do in this situation? Show no fear, nor dismay.

“Can I help you?” I asked, feigning genuine concern, trying to catch the attention of the wait staff.

“Yes. I need your help.” The stranger sank onto the vacant chair opposite me with his back to the public. Deep set eyes, sunken rather than natural depth, gazed around the café before fixing me with a piercing stare. “I have been watching, waiting for the right person to arrive. You.”

“Why me?” I asked before I remembered my character would be stoic, calm.

“You ordered Chai, in a specialist coffee shop. I am looking for someone who has the strength to stand against the current. Go against the flow, take the road less followed.”

“Enough.” I shook my head. Would my character explain I don’t like coffee? It does strange things to my heartbeat. No. Let the stranger think I possessed strength of character. I liked the idea. It didn’t fit me. Not shy, introverted, marsh-mellow me. Still, no harm in playing the part. “So, how can I help? If you are unwell, there is a great surgery around the corner. They take walk-ins and bulk bill.”

“I am dying. It is true. The doctors have done all they can.” The stranger’s gaze softened. The grey blue eyes glinted, assuming a faint resemblance of the colour they might once have been. A tic pulled at the stranger’s cheek. He lifted a hand, I thought to ease the anomaly, but he placed a small cube on the table beside my laptop. “The luckiest man alive gave this to me, now I am passing it on to you. He promised the cube would change my luck. Take heed and listen to my instructions.”

“You know the old advice, don’t accept gifts from strangers.” I concentrated on sipping my Chai and dragging my focus away from the odd cube.

“Not even when it is a dying man’s final request?” A smile lifted the corners of the stranger’s mouth. Sadly, bloody gums showed, though again, there seemed a remnant of once cared for perfect alignment to his remaining teeth.  “Do this, for luck. A simple task and you could be blessed with good luck. For the rest of your life.”

“You are not a walking advertisement for luck, mate. Really, you need to try another tack if you want to sell this scam.”

“Scam?” His eyes rolled and his shaking hand recoiled. “Not a scam. Please. Don’t refuse. I have no time left to find another soul with your attributes.”

Soul? Attributes? Nothing would make me accept his gift, nor did I want to waste more precious writing time chatting. His odour now overpowered the pervasive coffee grounds. Time to encourage him to leave.

As though reading my mind he began to speak. His voice flowed with hypnotic cadence.  “Take the cube. Roll it. Read the numbers. They change with each roll, somehow they know what you need whether you play lotto, the pools, power-ball, lucky-loot, whatever. Choose one game and take a gamble. There is a draw tonight. What is there to lose? If you don’t trust me, fine. At least give the lucky cube a chance. You will win. I guarantee it. The cube does not lose.” He straightened. “When you collect your winnings…” He paused and again his eyes seemed to regain their colour and energy. Every fibre of his body appeared tense. I sensed desperation and hope. “You must immediately donate the complete amount to charity. Any charity. Your favourite good cause. Don’t keep any of the money for yourself.”

“Why don’t you do this? Why do you need me? I can give you a few dollars for you to buy a ticket if you are so concerned. You don’t need me.”

“If you donate the win to a good cause, luck will follow you. Good luck, for a good deed.”

I blinked. Sudden realisation hit me with sledge hammer force. “Bad luck for a selfish deed? Is that what you did? Kept some of the winnings for yourself?”

He closed his eyes and lifted a hand to his forehead. I tried not to notice the clump of hair clinging to his fingers as he kneaded his furrowed brow. With shoulders slumped he again looked up. “It seemed too weird to believe. Once you have used the cube once, pass it on to another.” He glanced away. “Or destroy it if you can find a way.” He turned back and sighed. The simple act left him gasping for breath. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve and leaned closer. Again I could sense lost energy, health and passion. He spoke in a hurried whisper, desperation scored each word. “It only works once. If you do the right thing, perhaps giving the cube to you might alleviate my guilt. I am desperate. Will you help me? Telling you my hopes might influence the outcome, but what do I have to lose? I am dying. Today is your lucky day. The cube is now yours.”

Without pausing to see if I accepted the gift the stranger grabbed a paper serviette and wiped spittle from his mouth. Staggering to his feet he strode away and disappeared into the crowded mall.

I wanted to rush after him and return the cube to his care.

What would my character do? Accept the cube? Find the stranger and return the odd gift? Take the chance and risk the gamble? Donate the win to charity? If the stranger told the truth. What should I do? Who couldn’t use extra luck? Good luck.

Scoffing my Chai, I snapped shut my laptop and sprinted from the café. Amid the bustle of rush hour I raced through the milling throng. I couldn’t see the stranger. His tall gaunt figure should stand out from manicured employees making their way to work.

Disappointed and needing to draw breath I halted my headlong rush. Trying not to pant aloud, my character never ran out of breath, I straightened.  Leaning against the shop front I gathered my wits.

Outside the mall’s newsagent and lottery office a sign caught my eye.

‘Thirty million dollars. Tonight’s draw. Try your luck’.

As the stranger said, what did I have to lose? Which charity would make the most of those millions?

If the cube provided the right numbers, perhaps a good deed would redeem the stranger. Perhaps his luck would change. He might live on.

What would my character do?

I headed inside to gamble on a change of luck.

***
Rosalie Skinner resides on the east coast of Australia when not totally immersed in the fantasy world of her writing.
Rosalie’s love of the ocean, nature, history and horses has enabled her to give her books an authentic air. Her latest achievement has been to ride through the Australian Snowy mountains and see the wild brumbies run. When not watching the migrating whales pass her doorstep she has more humble pastimes.
Other than being a published author, her greatest thrill is being a grandmother. Born over fourteen weeks early her granddaughter’s perfect development and growth are a miracle and joy.

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