This story is by Ben Coppin and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It’s your lucky day. Or mine. We’ll see.
I’ve been in this room for thousands of years. I’ve watched, many times, as the building it’s in gets torn down and a new one built in its place. The room is not small, but very few ever notice it.
I tried to escape, a few times, back in the early days. You can try it now, if you want: the door won’t open. Not yet. Every time I’ve tried, something blocked the door. On one occasion, a cow was leaning against it. On another, it was a cannon, waiting for its turn at war. After a few years I stopped trying.
You really should ignore the door. The wheel is the key to all of this. Once it seemed magical to me, showing me the ordinary and incredible lives of others. It’s not clear to me how the wheel chooses who to show, but it always picks the right moments.
Most people have no idea I’m watching them. Many hope I am. They call my name as they play their games. It doesn’t matter to me. Some of my decisions are trivial, even for the people they affect, but others change lives. Save lives. Or take them.
I’ve had lots of names, over the millennia. The Romans called me Fortuna. To the Greeks I was Tyche. Many mistake me for a God. Or vice versa. You modern Anglophones call me Lady Luck. I like that one. Less formal.
No, no — you haven’t died. This is still the real world. You and I are in a real room in the same building you work in, and I’m a living, breathing human being, just like you. The room has its own magic that renders it invisible to almost all. In fact there’s a lot of magic still in this room, even though it seems to have disappeared in the rest of the world.
We’re not strangers to each other, are we, you and I? I remember the day you were born. I made sure the doctor noticed how pale you were, made the right diagnosis, took the right steps. And all those school exams — you knew I was there. You worshipped me like a God, and cursed me like your nemesis.
But our true intimacy developed later in your life. I helped nurture your love of the lottery, scratch cards, the occasional flutter on the horses.
And in the past few years I’ve been your constant companion. You don’t see me, but I see you in my wheel. Recently you’ve begun to consider me a friend, a benevolent force in your life. And I like to think that I’ve rewarded your devotion with kindness. I know: I can be fickle, but there are rules to follow, quotas to maintain. I can’t give everyone everything they want. Not all the time.
But I’ve bent the rules a little, for you. I didn’t want you to forget me, so I made my influence, my very existence, as clear to you as I could. When you asked me, really asked, like a child begs its mother, I delivered. They’re wrong when they say I favour the bold. I favour you. Don’t forget that, will you?
I hope you enjoyed my occasional little flourishes. They were intended as a signal, a signature. The artist acknowledging her work. That day I made you miss both the trains that crashed, for example. Oh, don’t look so horrified: I didn’t make them crash: I just made sure you weren’t on them.
Why don’t you sit down? Like I said before, you won’t be able to get that door open. We’re not prisoners, exactly, but rules are rules, and the rule about staying in the room is a strict one.
You must have a lot of questions. I did, when I first arrived here. I don’t remember much about the life I had before this room but I remember stumbling upon a door that shouldn’t have been there: in the temple where we worshipped; a bronze door, impossible to miss. How could I resist? A voice in my head warned me not to open it, but something stronger took control. And then I sat where you sit now, with many of the same questions tumbling through my head.
But, there’s no time for questions now. You and I must play a game. A simple game of chance. And if you lose, you take my place, and I will be free. If you win, you can go and leave your memories of this room behind.
Of course, I usually decide the outcome of games of chance. But chance events within these walls are determined by a greater power than I. So we play as equals. And the first decision is the game itself. I spin the wheel, like this, and: ah! See, over there by the door. Our game has arrived.
Dominoes. Not my favourite game — too much skill involved. I like games of pure chance. Dice games. That kind of thing. Still, dominoes can be fun too. Shall we play?
This is a strange experience for me. I am the bringer of luck — good and bad. But I have no influence this time. You make your own luck, they say, and indeed I do. Today, this once, the playing field is leveled. Let’s see how the bones will fall.
You’ve made a confident start, but I think I might yet get the better of you. Ahh… A double five. I wondered if you’d have that one. The game is drawing to a close now. I have just one domino left, and you need to choose which of your two remaining bones to play. It all rests on this choice. If you pick wisely, you will win. Otherwise…
Well. That’s that. You’ve made your play, and I’m afraid you did not choose well. It seems I was luckier than you and can now play my final domino, and win the game.
After all this time, so many centuries, I will at last be free of this blessing, this curse. I’ve cultivated many, before you, invited them here to play. And somehow I never was able to best the others. Perhaps you aren’t as lucky as you like to think. And now your time here really begins. You won’t get bored: the wheel will keep you busy. And in time you’ll come to enjoy the work, as I did.
In a moment I’ll walk out of that door and disappear into the city, and you’ll stay here. I won’t see you again, but you’ll see me, in the wheel. When you’re determining my fate, remember I was kind to you. I welcomed you and gave you a fair chance at the game. Be kind to me, won’t you? Oh, and don’t bother trying to sneak out of the door when I leave. It won’t work. I tried, last time.
It has been a pleasure, truly. But now I have a world to see. Lucky me.