This is the 22nd round of The Alphabet Challenge mentioned in THIS<<link post. As a refresher, the Broxson twins, Gary and Perry, and I will each write one story for each letter of the alphabet. Meaning, a story whose title begins with the given letter. For this round, it’s the letter “V“.
Readers have two weeks from the date of publication to vote for their favorite story in the current round. Points will be assigned to each writer based on total votes received.
In each round, the story with the most votes gets three points. Second place gets two points, third place gets one point. In the case of a tie, the points for the tied rankings are added and then split equally among the writers who tied. At the end of the year, we tally up and crown the winner with the most points.
Long or short, each story will appear on its own post and the trio will be followed by a fourth post where readers can vote.
The writing challenge has no restrictions and the stories span a wide gamut of genres. The majority of the stories fall in the PG-rating range with a few perhaps pushing into the soft R-rating. Some readers might find a few of the stories disturbing because of the topics, language, and/or plot points, and if so, stop reading and move on.
Here we go. Presented anonymously, the second of three stories with titles beginning with the letter “V” as submitted by its author.
Virgil Wins the Lottery
Copyright 2020 — Gary Broxson
(2,870 words – approx. reading time: about 11 minutes based on 265 WPM)
I woke up a multi-millionaire and my good friend Virgil woke up dead. I know that’s a wacky way to start a story, but I needed to get your attention because this is a wacky story that you will simply not believe unless you join me in the telling. Put aside everything you thought you knew about space, time, and reality, because this new reality is about to get really real.
Back to the old reality: I half-expected the shock of winning that Powerball lottery would give me a heart attack but it seems it wasn’t my turn – it was Virgil’s. Virgil was my best friend. The poor bastard was only 55 years young (don’t you hate it when people say that?) and the news broke my heart too (that is true). Forgive me if I over-inject into this story (like I’m doing right now). I am writing this at my bamboo desk, in my mansion, on my island, and I simply want to get it out there. Surely someone will believe it; Nessie and Bigfoot are still best sellers. Believe it or not, Ripley, here it is:
It seems like yesterday or was it a year ago, my old pal Virgil had again melted like a toasted marshmallow into his Lazy Boy chair to watch a Star Wars marathon. I wasn’t invited this time, but I like to think that Virgil had fallen asleep during episode III and the Grim Reaper had fittingly appeared to him in the guise of the Sith Reaper and cut him down with the dreaded red saber—either way, Virgil’s heart stopped that night and he never woke up, unless it was in a galaxy far, far away.
I met Virgil way back in high school. I was a half- jock and he was a full-nerd. But we had one thing in common in 1976—Star Wars. Virgil was a die-hard sci-fi fan even before the George Lucas blockbuster but the new Force gave him license to be a geek and he reveled in it. I got caught up in the seventies frenzy and fantasy of Star Wars for a different reason; the chicks digged that Skywalker pretty-boy and that swashbuckling Solo act, and I liked to make the ladies happy. My blond, blow-dried, parted-in-the-middle hairdo was my Force, and it was strong until…
Pam Fern stood me up. We had a date to see Star Wars (I’d already seen it six times with other dates) and she bailed at the last minute due to grades, guys, or grandparents, I honestly can’t recall her lame-ass excuse. But I had pre-purchased tickets and I thought I might meet another sci-fi filly at the theater. I did make an acquaintance, but it was Virgil, and he was a black dude—not exactly my type. He sat uncomfortably close to me in the half empty theater—awkward. He double-munched buttery popcorn in that acoustic room. He talked to himself during the movie, quoting every word of dialogue. He nudged me right before the good parts, whispering annoyingly that this is the good part, time and time again. Despite all this, somehow we became best friends.
Fast forward 40 years later: About the time his mom found ol’ Virgil in his ‘Bat Cave’, I was collecting a Chevy-size check from the Lottery Commission written for 900 million dollars; but rounded down to only 500 million and change after Uncle Sam picked my pocket, snatching nearly 40% of my take supposedly for schools, orphans, and blind parakeets…whatever. I hadn’t gotten lucky with Pam Fern, but a Slurpee and a scratch-off had changed my life forever.
With this kind of life-changing cash, I realized I needed to make a real difference in the world. As it was, I was already attempting to make my mini-mark. As an EMT, I had lost and saved souls over my long career. But you always walk away thinking you could have done more. It replays in your early morning dreams and right before you finally get it right…you wake up. As crazy as it sounds, I had listened to Virgil’s sci-fi babble for so long I couldn’t help but imagine that this time I could really live the dream.
Money is not always the answer, but sometimes it makes you ask the big question, “What if?” Search engines are awesome. These days you can find damn near anything—maybe even the answers to these big questions we are scared to ask. But when you get that itch, sometimes you’ve just got to scratch it. If years of watching sci-fi and hanging with Virgil had taught me anything, it taught me that anything is possible.
The first thing I did was search the Darknet (like you, I wasn’t sure it really existed). But you can’t just Google the information I needed. I spent thousands in Bitcoin currency to get the name I needed. A Russian defector and underground guru sequestered in Siberia, Doctor Chekov would be my only hope to achieve this crazy dream. My sources helped me track him down; he was in a very dark place. The censured astrophysicist, however, was intrigued with my proposal and jumped at the chance to promote and possibly prove his arcane postulations.
My next task was to buy an island, just a small one, in the Caribbean. Not nearly as hard as you might think with international real estate agents aplenty, mon. I signed my name as Marty Mcfly, transferred some serious funds, and the deal was done; nobody asked any questions other than how much.
While my wife slept, I kissed her goodbye and caught an awaiting helicopter to my new island home in the Atlantic. Would my sweet Caroline wake up and think I had gotten too rich and had left her for a life of lurid luxury? Probably. It happens a lot in these lottery cases. Lottery winners often end up being super losers. Mo’ money, mo’ problems, a rapping sage had once opined. But I knew that if my plan worked my sleeping beauty would never have to feel the real pain of my temporal betrayal.
Doctor Chekov arrived on Wells’ Island (as I deigned it) the next day, a bit bewildered and a whole lot jet-lagged. After a few (more) drinks, however, he spoke effusively of his years within the Soviet Union and the top secret experiments he had tried and tried, but had failed. It seems that in the waning days of the USSR, funding and faith for his far-fetched projects were crumbling like Gorbachev’s wall. “But here,” he said, sloshing vodka and slurring his words, “here, time is soft.”
“What exactly do you mean,” I asked, “time is soft?”
“You have read my research,” he laughed, pouring himself another drink. “That is why you chose this remote island, far away from my KGB and your CIA and close to your mysterious Bermuda Triangle.” Chekov waltzed around the expansive room, seeming to dance with his freshened drink, peeking into flower pots and desk lamps, and unscrewing phone receivers, presumably searching for listening devices—bugs. Finding none, he finally relaxed.
“True,” I said, allowing him to continue as he drank deeply then rattled his ice.
“Think of time as a fabric,” he said expansively. “Here,” he pointed to the ocean, “right in your own backyard, planes and ships have vanished, never to be seen again. The mystery, I believe, is not where have they gone, that’s the obtuse question. My theory asks a more timely question, when have they gone. You see, my American friend, there is a seam in the fabric here; the threads of time are loose.”
“Okay,” I said. “What do we need?” Chekov shouted something in Russian and did a little dance, then gave me a bear hug.
A week later my ‘Underground Amazon’ delivered the unmarked V-22 Osprey, but I got free shipping as a Prime customer. This military-grade aircraft could take off like a helicopter (negating my need for a runway on my tiny island), then burst into turbo mode at the flip of a switch.
I spent a full month learning how to lift off and fly the complex plane. The flight instructor that came with the package explained that it would take him another month to adequately teach me how to land the beast. I dismissed him (like the terrorist pilots of 911) saying that landing it would not be necessary.
Another delivery was made to my remote island during that month of flight training. The coffin-sized crate was labeled with a bright yellow “radioactive” sticker. Yes, even uranium-tipped AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles can be bought if the price is right. My plan was coming together, but would there be enough time?
As expected, an undertaking of this magnitude would not, and did not, go unnoticed by the powers-that-be, be they foreign or domestic. On retrospect, I should have killed my flight instructor immediately after our last lesson. I’m just a softy when it comes to cold-blooded murder—even temporary homicide. I’m pretty sure my ‘Goose’, my wingman, ratted us out for some pretty bitty-coin to the highest bidder.
* * *
Dr. Chekov’s security drones detected the black-ops helos just 10 minutes out from our tiny island compound. It wasn’t a lot of advance warning, but we hoped it would be enough. The tattoo of their rotor blades, like my increasing heartbeat, grew louder and more personal. They were coming for us and I only had minutes to accomplish the audacious mission I had set in motion the day Virgil died. The renowned Soviet astrophysicist, Dr. Chekov, chased me as I raced for my aircraft, nicknamed Millennium Tardis.
As I checked off my pre-flight must-dos for takeoff, Doc screamed the gotta-dos for the mission one last time as I curled into the Osprey’s cockpit, sans a Wookie copilot. The engines ignited with a subsonic whine, then suddenly roared with anger and expectancy. I could see brown dust clouds billowing from two hovering black-ops helos. Ropes shot out like nylon spider webs and I could make out the silhouettes of air-assault troopers rappelling down. The Osprey’s 20 minute start-up procedure would have to take 10, or less.
Unexpectedly, as I cheated through my checklist, Dr Chekov plugged a cable into my coms and looked me in the eye. After a short static crackle, Doctor Chekov, his eyes blurry and bloodshot, his breath quick and 80 proof, asked me one favor. “My comrade,” he said through the intercom, “you realize that if this works, then none of this,” he gestured to the island and the aircraft, “will have ever happened. I beg you, find me again and assure me that my life’s work is…or was, a success.”
I wanted to tell him that all would be well, but I couldn’t. Behind him, black-clad mercenaries charged the small airfield. It would take another three minutes to get my bird airborne and they were only 60 seconds away. I gave Doctor Chekov a gloved thumbs up and a politician smile; he followed my frightened eyes to the approaching soldiers and then did something unexpected.
The Doctor unplugged his com-link and walked boldly toward the team. He pulled out an absurdly large revolver from the small of his back and waved it like a freedom flag. The team froze, pointing a crazy array of weapons at the drunk doctor. It became obvious that they had orders to take us back alive, perhaps for questioning, or reconditioning.
Chekov realized his advantage and put the huge revolver to his temple. The black-ops teams shrank back, dropping their barrels, waving their hands in a stopping motion. A negotiator stepped forward and smiled like a used car salesman; but never dropped his weapon. Meanwhile, I tightened the chin strap on my helmet and switched on the turbo chargers. The team inched closer and Chekov clumsily thumbed back the hammer. They froze again. One of them mouthed a sit-rep into a helmet mike to some high-ranking government official a thousand miles away, and awaited a response.
I felt the Osprey lifted off like a carnival ride, slowly at first. The world reluctantly let go. Two hundred feet up I could see the battlefield below like an airborne general. The soldiers were still in stasis, awaiting orders, confused by the conflicted situation. I went to plan B, C…then all the way to Z in my mind and decided I just might be able to strafe the mercenaries if I could figure out how to fire the belly-mounted Gatling gun. As it was not on my checklist, I wasn’t even sure it was loaded. But I had to try.
Dr. Chekov was reading their body language, still holding them back with the old hand-cannon to his head. He must have heard me rotate the props and start to swing around, back toward him and the standoff. That’s when he looked up at me and smiled just like old Obi-Wan Kenobi before he lowered his lightsabre to the dueling Darth Vader.
I didn’t hear the blast but we had become close and somehow I thought I could hear his last thoughts. He would have joked about the fully loaded revolver being a foolish game of Polish roulette. The rest would have been a lecture on time travel and alternate realities. He might have concluded with a final regret—not knowing if his theory was provable.
I wiped my eyes with my Nomex gloves, then lowered my tinted visor as I climbed higher towards the Caribbean sun. Dr. Chekov was my friend and he had placed all his trust in me and his crazy theory. Somehow he expected me to find a happy ending to this tragic tale.
As I reached the clouds, reached heaven, I couldn’t help thinking that Virgil might be better off up there, if there really was a there. Higher and higher I rose until Doctor Chekov was a dead ant and my island was an anonymous anthill. It was then I realized this was no longer just about my pal Virgil.
As I neared the center of the Bermuda Triangle my instruments went haywire. Warning lights flashed and dials spun—I was flying blind. My traitorous flight instructor would have ordered me to abort the mission at this point, but I was already living on borrowed time just as my friends were dying on borrowed time. I pulled back on the thrusters and climbed ever higher, where the air was thin and the sky embraced space.
According to the Doctor, this was the place. It was now or never. As the engines began to sputter without oxygen, I nosed my bird of prey straight down. Gravity reestablished her greedy grip instantly and snatched me back toward the blue planet like an angry parent. Faster and faster I fell and flew—terminal velocity—but not fast enough. I re-engaged the huge propellers and pushed for even more speed. The Osprey was shaking apart, but according to Doc’s calculations, I would only need it to hold together for another ten seconds. Nine, eight, seven, six… I flipped up the bright red cover on the instrument panel, revealing a silver launch switch. Five, four, three, two… I flipped the switch.
I felt the Sidewinder disengage from the crumbling aircraft. At the same time, just as I had rehearsed, I pulled the T-handle between my knees activating my ejection seat and canopy. Everything happened at once. The Osprey disintegrated like a meteorite entering atmosphere; the Sidewinder missile exploded like a supernova, and I blacked out from the breath-taking G-force of everything.
* * *
I woke up somewhere in the warm waters of the Atlantic with my parachute billowing around me like an aquatic butterfly. The ejection seat kept me afloat and an automatic transponder told anybody in range that I was in May Day trouble (I hoped that sharks were not tuned-in to this frequency). But I mostly hoped that I wasn’t too late… again. Then I heard the chopper.
As the Coast Guard crew winched me aboard, I yelled over the roar of the helicopter engines. “WHAT DAY IS IT?” The dripping wet Aircrew Survival Technician looked at me like I might have a head injury.
* * *
Still dripping wet, I rang the doorbell in the dark; a dog barked; it must have been Lando, the black Lab. After an eternity shivering in my borrowed blanket, the door creaked open. It was Virgil, dressed in an orange-stained Jedi robe, the one he wore when binging on Star Wars and Hot Cheetos.
“G, what’s up?” he said, munching the cheesy chips.
“Get him!” I commanded to the team behind me. Two large paramedics, friends of mine, grabbed Virgil and escorted him to an awaiting ambulance that would rush him to Sacred Heart hospital faster than the Millennium Falcon’s Kessel run, where heart specialists were standing by.
Exhausted and feeling older by the minute, I sat down on Virgil’s front steps. “Today, the Force is with you old friend. I’d love go with you to the hospital, but I’ve got to make a crazy call to Siberia and go buy a lottery ticket.”
If you’ve already read the other two stories and are ready to vote, click HERE<<<Link and you’ll be taken to the voting poll.
If you’ve not read the other two stories, they can be found at the following links:
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