This story is by Sam Cusad and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The Curses… Unbound!
Once upon a time… a hapless young construction worker happened on an artifact. He’d been removing the rubble from an old museum before his company began construction of a new building. He was trying not to think about the problems of keeping his job and keeping his apartment, when he made his discovery.
Tim Drake had been late for work that morning. His landlady, Mrs. Cramer, had forced a confrontation about his overdue rent. She blocked his front door, while her on-and-off boyfriend, Frank, blocked Tim’s alternate exit: the fire escape. Half an hour later, he finally got on his way by agreeing to pay the back rent in-full, with his next paycheck. That left him depressed and moody, disappointed he’d have to wait 2 more weeks to get his car from the repair shop by paying their ‘ransom’. Until then, he’d be stuck with taking the bus to work. Late running busses had already created a tardiness problem for Tim at work.
“This is your final warning, kid!” The site foreman and Tim’s supervisor, Randy, towered over Tim flipping through the papers on his clipboard. “I can’t cover for you any longer. If you’re late one more time, you’ll need to pack your gear. You understand me?”
Loud and clear, Tim thought. Job security joined the list of stresses he was avoiding that morning: Where would he live after Mrs. Cramer found his paycheck next Friday wasn’t enough to pay all of the back rent? He considered getting a bicycle to get around town, abandoning the 20 years he’d invested in his Ford Escort. He wondered about Cindy, who lived two doors down from him. Despite her prude femi-nazi attitude toward him, he thought she had a hot body and fantasized about her hanging up side down on a striper pole.
Tim was working alongside the crew creating a path for heavy equipment. He must have walked over the artifact twice without noticing while pushing a wheelbarrow up a wooden plank. The third time, he tripped. Lifting himself off the ground, he planted his right hand on a piece of shredded metal and broken glass. If he hadn’t been wearing his heavy gloves, he would have lost a couple of fingers.
Any construction crew could tell you there’s a lot to be found on a demo site; some treasure but mostly just junk. The metal Tim had landed on had been a container of some type, with illegible but colorful writing on its outside. Inside there was a crystal coin about the size of an Eisenhower dollar. It was mesmerizing. The concerns from the crew and the safety foreman rushing to his aid brought his attention back. He managed to slip the coin into one of his gloves without anyone noticing.
After work, Tim took a detour toward the pawn shop to see if the relic could give him at least another month of rent. Instead, a wish emerged from his subconscious and he discovered the true value of his lucky coin.
Two days later a handsome couple walked up to monstrosity of glass and steel that seemed to soar to the skies. The couple debated whether it was a castle or a palace. It was surrounded by a huge stone wall. A moat filled with crocodiles, sharks and piranhas also provided “protection”. Street traffic detoured around the structure as if it was normal.
Connor and Connie waited for the drawbridge to extend fully before crossing. Connor wore an open collar casual dark suit while Connie sported a cream lace dress that flowed when she walked. Connie hooked her arm into Connor’s as they strolled, taking in the marvels around the “home”. The lawn was littered as if a giant’s child had abandoned it’s toys in boredom. Jaguars, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, Mustangs scattered across the lawn among messy tire tracks. A huge yacht laid on its side nearby, along with a Navy fighter jet crashed nose first into the ground; smoke misting out of its fuselage.
Past the entrance, the couple found a courtyard stadium with stages in each corner. The stages each had several groups and bands all playing at the same time, competing with their own songs and performing in front a small cheering crowd. None of the music could be distinguished from the others, but no one in the crowd minded.
Connor and Connie followed the path into one of several towers. They found various spaces and huge rooms. On one side was an orgy of naked people. A few doors down was a video game arcade. Another room was a library. Just before the couple got to an elevator, the salty-sweet smell of french fries and burgers seasoned the air. Peering inside another room, Conner spotted a cafeteria with several buffet lines full of choices on demand.
“Does any of this surprise you?” Connor asked Connie as they rode the elevator up to the Penthouse.
“Nope,” she answered dryly.
“Maybe the library?”
“It was full of comic books.”
“Reading is reading, who are we to judge?”
Connie gave Connor a look. “You’re still looking for a redeeming quality in everyone! Despite unending disappointment! Honey, give it up already!” Connor lowered his head, and Connie realized she’d been too short with him. Overwhelmed with guilt, she tried to make him feel better: “People don’t change. Men nor women. Give any of them a chance, and we have, they all prove to be selfish.”
Connor and Connie stepped out of the elevator and into the Penthouse. The panoramic view of the city was breathtaking. Violence quickly intruded: as though performing a skit from “Punch and Judy”, Mrs. Cramer swung a rolling pin into the shoulder of her boyfriend, Frank. Both of them were bruised and bloodied, and their voices were worn into hoarse whispers from constant yelling. Surrounded by litter of broken glass and china, Frank was swinging a baseball bat.
Farther down the floor, Connor and Connie found Tim playing a combat video game in front of an enormous screen. His construction crew surrounded him, still in hard hats, cheering him on, offering strategies, and occasionally fetching anything he asked for. Nearby, a young woman wearing nothing but a G-string was doing acrobatics on a stripper pole.
“See, I told you he was a dick.” Connie sneered ominously, as they both took a stand in front of Tim, intentionally blocking his view to the screen.
“Hey! Hey! Hey! What are you doing? You’re in my way,” Tim objected.
“My name is Connor and this is my partner, Connie.”
“I don’t care who you are. I want you to go take a leap.” Tim waved his hand, but the couple remained in front of him. Tim pulled out the crystal coin he had hanging around his neck and tried again. “Go away.”
“That’s not going to work on us. If you give us a moment of your time, I will explain why.” Connor continued.
“No! You’re not taking my coin away. It’s mine. Finder keepers.”
Connie rolled her eyes while Connor finished explaining.
“On the contrary, the coin is yours and forever bound to you.”
“And so are we,” added Connie. They both sat down next to Tim on opposite sides of him.
“As long as you are in possession of the coin, I want you to see me as your conscience. I will advise and try to convince you not to abuse the power,” explained Connor.
“I don’t have to listen to you!”
“True. You don’t,”Connor agreed.
“Then you will have to deal with me,” Connie smiled. “Consider me the consequence,” with a swift motion she sliced off 3 of Tim’s fingers. The controller fell.
“That’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?” Connor asked Connie. She shrugged.
“I was making a point,” she answered.
Tim sat, his hand with missing fingers held in the air in front him. His eyes wide in disbelief. His face drained of color. His mouth opened to scream but he couldn’t.
Suddenly the penthouse transformed into his old apartment. Everyone disappeared except for Connor, Connie and Tim.
“I know this is all shocking to you right now. And once you compose yourself, you can get back everything you just lost.”
“But not without a cost,” Connie stated.
“Believe me, we have been doing this for centuries and your dreams can be made true if you make the right choices.”
“But the consequences of wrong choices will include sacrifices,” mused Connie.
“Connor and Connie Curses will always be at your service, available to illuminate your choices and consequences. We are the Curses,” Connor tickled. That introduction to new owners never got old.
Now Tim held up the coin in his good hand, and saw Connor’s face on one side and Connie’s on the other.