Jackpot!
3
 Jul 5, 2016
Rules


Your character just came into a vast amount of money, how this happens is up to you. In any case, yesterday they were not rich, today they are. How did they get the money, and what do they do with it?

Contest Rules
* Entry Fee: Free
* Prize: Trophy
* Level: Advanced (All members may enter, but judging uses 'advanced' criteria.)
* Word Limits: 1000 - 3000
* Submit period: 14 days
* Voting period: 2 days
* All regular Writing Deck Rules apply.
* Multiple entries are allowed in this contest, however, any entry not meeting 'advanced' standards will be disqualified. So take your time, proofread carefully, and make your entry count.

Good luck!
1st place
  7.571

I’m writing this to collect my thoughts before I call the police. Or perhaps a priest – I don’t think the police could do much in this situation. Perhaps by the end of this writing, I will know who to call. Perhaps by the end, I will have decided that I’m hallucinating or dreaming and shred this entire thing…we’ll see.

***

My next-door neighbor, James, likes to play the lottery. He buys a Powerball ticket every Saturday morning and watches them draw the numbers that evening. Every week, for years, the same thing without him ever winning a dime. I tried to convince him that he should save his money. Saving two dollars a week for that long would leave you with a nice chunk of change…he just laughed at me, though. Said that it would all pay off in the end. I decided not to argue with him. It’s his money; he can do what he wants with it.

About a month ago, late on a Friday evening, I heard strange noises coming from his house. I looked out the window, but didn’t see anything unusual. One window was flickering with light, as though it were lit with candles, but nothing stranger than that. I decided he was watching a movie with the volume up a bit too high and went back to my book, putting it out of my mind. I didn’t see him the next day, but on Sunday morning he told me cheerfully that he matched four numbers on the Powerball the night before and won a hundred dollars. Privately, I thought that it was still a waste, as he had spent a good three hundred dollars or so on tickets over the past few years, but I congratulated him. He certainly seemed happy about it.

The next week, I had friends over Friday night when the noises began again. We all went to the windows. This time, the noises were loud enough that we could tell they were voices. It sounded like singing. No, like some sort of chant. The window flickered again, but this time it looked less like a candle sputtering. It seemed more like somebody moving back and forth between the window and a light source. We decided that James must have people over dancing, although we all agreed that the chanting music seemed like an odd choice to dance too. The beat was slow and somber, nothing very exciting. We turned up our own music to drown out the sound and continued with the party.

That Saturday afternoon, I went over to James's house to ask if I could borrow a computer microphone. I explained that mine didn’t seem to be working and I wanted to see if it was the microphone or the jack before I went out and bought a new one. He led me into his office and while he rummaged around in some cabinets, searching, I looked at the items on his desk. I noticed a new Powerball ticket and, right next to it, a slip of paper with the same numbers written on it, weighed down by some sort of strange paperweight. The paperweight was in the shape of a human hand cut off at the wrist, which was wrapped in fabric. Curious, I reached out and touched it. The surface was smooth, cool, and firm, almost like plastic but not quite. It made me think of how my father’s hand had felt when I touched it at his funeral. It was like embalmed skin. I shuddered and pushed my hands into my pockets.

“Is this paperweight supposed to be Thing from the Addams Family?” I asked. James jumped and spun around?

“Huh?” he looked confused. I gestured to the hand. He glanced at it and paled. “I…uh…yes,” he stammered. He was holding the microphone in his hand, the cord a tangled mess that he had apparently been trying to straighten out. He looked at it, then shoved it at me. “Here,” he said shortly, shepherding me towards the door. “Keep it; I don’t use it.”

“Oh, thanks! Let me know if that Powerball ticket wins anything,” I said. He nodded mutely and closed the door behind me. I shrugged and walked back to my own house. The next morning, I looked at the winning numbers, thinking about the ticket I had seen. Four of the numbers plus the powerball matched – a ten thousand dollar win. What were the chances of that? Two wins in two weeks, especially after all those years of nothing? I wondered if James was somehow cheating, but I couldn’t think of a way it could be done.

I went next door to congratulate him and was shocked to see him pull into the driveway in a brand new Aston Martin. Even before taxes, the lottery money wouldn’t have been enough for a down payment. James just had a normal office job; there was no way he could afford that car. James smiled at me as he stepped out of the car.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked. “I’ve had a string of good luck and feel more coming my way, so I decided to splurge a bit.”

“It’s…certainly something,” I conceded. “You thinking that you’re gonna win another Powerball?” I decided James was definitely cheating. I still didn’t know how, though. Maybe he knew somebody inside who was rigging the balls? It might be hard – that’s why only four or five of the six balls were coming up properly. Maybe they would keep doing it until he won the jackpot. James grinned at me.

“I’m getting luckier,” he said. “In fact, you should come over Friday night when I’m getting the numbers. Two people thinking are better than one.” I hesitated, not really wanting to be a part of whatever con was going on. Then I decided that if James showed me what he was doing, I could tell the police exactly what was happening.

“Sure,” I told him. “See you Friday night.” As I walked back home, I noticed him caressing the side of his new car lovingly.

That Friday, I walked over to James’s house and knocked on the front door. He answered immediately, as though he had been waiting on the other side for me to arrive. I followed him to his office. The first thing I noticed was that the weird paperweight was right in the middle of the desk, on top of a blank sheet of paper. James had slipped a pen between its fingers, as though it were about to write something down. It made the thing even more off-putting than it had been before.

“Where did you get that thing?” I asked, unable to take my eyes off of it.

“That? It was my father’s before he died.” James sounded somehow amused, maybe because I was so clearly repulsed by it. I finally tore my eyes away and looked at him.

“So how do you come up with the numbers?” I asked, trying to sound at ease. He glanced at the clock – it was nearly midnight already.

“Stand right there,” he ordered, pointing to a spot in front of the desk. I complied, wondering what sort of ridiculous show I had agreed to. James walked around to the other side of the desk so he was standing directly opposite me, the hand between us. He grabbed my hands and held them over the desk, then began to chant. I yanked my hands away.
“What are you doing?” I hissed. James frowned at me.

“Getting numbers,” he replied. “Don’t worry; you don’t have to do anything. Just stand there and keep quiet.” He took my hands again and started up his chant a second time. I was about to step back and demand to leave when the lights went out. James gripped my hands harder and chanted more loudly. I tried to protest, but my mouth seemed glued shut and my feet glued to the ground.

The room lightened until it was almost as bright as day, but the bulbs around the room remained dark. James’s voice sped up and rose in volume and shadows appeared on the wall – human shapes dancing in circles. James was chanting impossibly loudly now, as though dozens of voices were chanting with him. In the flickering light, I saw the paperweight on the desk move. It reared itself up to balance on the stump of the wrist, fingers flexing until the tip of the pen touched the paper. My vision blurred and I thought I might faint.

“Father,” James shouted over the sound of the chanting that continued without him, “speak to me from beyond your grave. Give me the numbers I need. Make me rich so I can take care of Mother and myself in your absence.” There was a long moment as James and the hand were still, as the shadows continued to dance around the walls madly and the chanting rose to a deafening level. Then the pen began to move, scratching six numbers onto the paper. As the last number was finished, the light went out, the chanting stopped, and the hand sank back down onto the paper, leaving us in darkness and silence. James let go of my hands, which were clammy with sweat, and I fainted.

***

I woke the next morning in my own bed, convinced that I had had a terrible nightmare the night before. I convinced myself of it even after James matched five numbers that day, winning a million dollars. I convinced myself all week…but today is Friday and I have been hiding in my basement all afternoon as James has pounded on my front door, telling me to come over because this week will be the week. This time, he will get every number. God, save me.
2nd place
  7.499

Pubs - an Historical Hobby

Preface

Welcome to the history of the United Kingdom as seen through Public Houses. This coffee-table encyclopedia of Pub information is sure to delight any that are willing to look into it’s pages.

Before you delve into this informative tome, let me just say that it would not have been possible for me to create, if I weren’t the richest man in England (and maybe the whole world for that matter). You see, I did all the research for this project, including visiting each and every one of the establishments inside.

No one without unlimited funds would be able to accomplish such a feat in one lifetime. Probably not in many lifetimes, really, considering how many Public Houses are on the islands. Wales alone would never have gotten finished if it hadn’t been for fortune smiling upon me.

I had no intention of doing something like this in the beginning. I was just a nerdy tourist that liked history, and beer! Some people collect coasters as a reminder of Pubs they have visited, but more and more, beer companies provide them now, and there is no way of telling which place you got which coaster anymore.

I had a better (some would say compulsive) way of remembering my visits. First I would take a few pictures of the outside. Preferably any sign hanging over the entrance (which I would usually try to create an illustration of), and cornerstones, if they were inscribed with a date. This information I could use at a later time, to determine more specifics about the place. I would enter in a notebook whatever meal I partook of as well as which brand of beverage. I also try to pry any other historic information about the establishment through conversation with owners/barkeeps/etc. I would include that in my notebook as well.

Later on, at my leisure I would peruse any records available, and then compile all the information. This I originally just kept in the documents program on my computer. At the time, I thought no one would ever be seeing this information. After all, It was just my little hobby.

But then I came into wealth like the world has never seen, unless one is a dragon! Yes I know, and you know, that there are no such things (right?), but the cache of coins, precious metals, gemstones, jewelry, armament, and who knows what else that I found resembled nothing more than what one would expect to find in a dragon’s lair.

And how did I stumble upon this you ask? Well, I was just travelling through the mountainous interior of Wales on a hiking vacation. I was off the beaten path so to speak, as I had come upon what I thought might possibly be ruins from an ancient fortress or castle. It was immense in area, though not in height, and after following bits of ruin for over an hour I finally came to a small village nestled in a vale amongst the mountains.

There were only a few structures, but sure enough, the tell-tale sign of a public house hung over the entry of one of them. I took a couple pictures of that sign, though you will not see them in this book. The image, though badly worn, appeared to be of a man on a horse in battle against a dragon. The man had a spear aimed at the dragon’s head while the horse had a spike on it’s forehead, like an unicorn, aimed at the dragon’s midsection.

One cornerstone was visible; the others being mostly covered by foliage or buried in the earth. The markings that were visible on the one stone though were runish in nature.
I was overjoyed with this find and wasted no time in entering, to see what more I could find out about the place. I was also wondering what kind of fare they offered out here in the middle of nowhere.

The food (a deer stew) was delicious, as was the mead which they brewed there behind the main building. I had never tasted anything like it before. The owner said it was a recipe passed on for generations.

As for the history of the place, that was lacking. The village had been here for as long as anyone knew, even before that fortress had been built they thought. But no records were kept, and the village didn’t even have a name. There were a few other villages scattered about that all traded with each other so that all their needs seemed to be met. Unfortunately, they said that those that left for the thrill of the big city, never seemed to return, and their numbers were dwindling.

The pub didn’t have a name either. The sign was supposed to be a depiction of a Saint (George?) that fought a dragon in the area. They assumed he must have won, or the pub wouldn’t be there.

All in all, it was a most entertaining time, and as it had gotten late, I was offered a room for the night. I gladly accepted, with my mind looking forward to what kind of breakfast they might serve in the morning.

Laying in a comfortable (though rather small) bed, under a massive comforter, my mind started wandering to what the runes on the cornerstone might mean. I knew I would have to research them when I got home. Just as I thought I was about to drift off to sleep, the image of the sign came to mind again, and I jumped up. It was a double entendre! What I saw now in my head, was something completely different. It was a map. I knew that, because I recognized it as an area I had visited on a previous hiking vacation.

I don’t know if I dreamt that night, but I was glad to know that the image of the map had not departed with my sleep when I awoke. The grand breakfast that was waiting for me when I ventured down only added to my elation. No continental breakfast here; evidently this place still believed that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Afterward, It seemed the whole village came out to see me off, and I promised them I would visit again, but that I would not tell others, for fear it would get over-run with tourists.

When I returned home, I did research the runes, and that only added to my desire to head for the map area. It seemed like forever before I was able to take another vacation from work, and finally head out on what I assumed would probably just be a wild goose chase. I did not waste all that time idly though. I also did research about finder’s fees and the like. I had read of too many people finding artifacts on their farms (or wherever), that the crown gladly accepted from them for measly pennies on the pound.

Well, let me tell you, it was not a wild goose chase, and I would never have to work another day in my life. Thanks to the runes and the sign map, I found the hidden cache, that though it might be nice to think of as a dragon’s, was evidently the plunder of wars far in the past.

I will not tell you where this cache is, but there are enough clues here (and hidden throughout this work), that if you so desire, you might be able to find it for yourself. The treasure is still almost entirely there, as I have only taken a pittance to live on happily, travelling all over and indulging in my hobby at such length as to have finally decided to create this coffee-book.

If you are not the adventurous type, I hope that you will experience at least enough pleasure through these pages, that you take it upon yourself to visit a few of these establishments. While not all of them are truly memorable, they are all worth a visit for those that enjoy the simple tastes. I tried the fancy five-star restaurants and hotels (I told you I am rich), and have found that rich or poor, the pub is still the best thing ever to have come from the British Empire.

On a last note, should you attempt to find this treasure cache, and you succeed, please don’t be greedy. Any of the jeweled crowns/tiaras there could have you living gloriously for the rest of your life. You could then do something, with a hobby of your own for instance, and give clues for some other lucky individuals to find it as well. You will need to utilize the services of a good solicitor to ensure you get your fair share as finder’s fee. Make sure you find a trustworthy one that will allow you to remain anonymous. The saying is true, that if people know you have money, they will try to take it from you.

Now grab a beer and peruse my work. Thank you.
2nd place
  7.499

John was playing a video game as usual on a Saturday morning when his wife Judy walked in the room. She had seemed unusually moody at breakfast; actually she had been rather distant last night also, come to think of it, which John didn't at the time. The only reason he was thinking about it now is it was apparently going to interrupt his game. He sighed and put the game on hold and put his controller down.

"Yes dear?"

"I didn't say anything," Judy replied.

"Yes, but I know that look and you were about to, so what is up?"

"I don't know how to start this. I have some news I need to tell you."

"Well starting with the news would be one way to do it. Is it good news, or bad news?"

"It depends on how you look at it. It's life changing news either way."

"What, are you pregnant?"

"Thank goodness no, that's the last thing we need at the moment."

"OK, um you're not ill are you? Did you see the doctor yesterday?"

"So do you want to get to the news, or are we going to continue to play 20 questions?"

"OK, I give up. What's your news?"

"You know the lottery jackpot that hit $900,000,000? The one someone won on
Wednesday?"

"Yeah, what about it?"

"That someone was us. We won."

"You're kidding me right?"

"Nope, perfectly serious, I checked the numbers yesterday, then signed the back and stuck it in our safe-deposit box at the bank. Here's a photocopy of it if you wanted to check it yourself."

John took the copy and headed to the computer to check it against the site. He gave a low whistle. "You're right, we won. Why didn't you tell me yesterday, I could have quit my job?"

"This is exactly why I didn't tell you yesterday, we need time to think about what we want out of life."

"I can call my boss and quit today!"

"Yep, you could, but there is no point to it, you aren't due back to work until Monday anyway, so take a day or two to think things over, starting with 'what do you want to do with your life now that money is not a key concern?'"

"I might just want to play video games the rest of my life," John pouted.

"You might, but you'd be doing it with someone else, I don't want to spend my life with a husband who doesn't do anything but play video games," Judy replied.

"Um, yes, that. Well what do WE want to do with the rest of our lives?"

"That's better. I don't know either, I need to think about it myself. I do know there are some steps we need to take before we cash in that ticket."

"I take it you haven't quit your job either?"

"No, I did ask them for a week off so I could deal with a 'family emergency'."

"I didn't know you could take vacation that way."

"You can't, it's unpaid leave, though under the circumstances I don't think it matters."

"Yeah, I get your point. OK, I'll call my boss and ask for next week off to deal with a family emergency. So what are we going to be doing with the time?"

"We need to see our lawyer, I have an appointment set up for Monday. Next we need to see a tax accountant, and an investment planner."

"Investment planner?"

"You weren't planning to spend half a billion dollars this week were you?"

"I wasn't even planning on having half a billion to spend. Where did the other $400,000,000 go by the way?"

"Taxes I'm assuming; estimating anyway."

"So we are keeping our jobs again, why exactly?"

"Well first of all for just in case we haven't actually won the money. Or how much groveling were you intending to do if you needed to beg for your job back?"

"Um, yeah, I get the point."

"Secondly to provide some stability during the transition; as soon as the news hits we've won this much money, hands are going to start popping out from all directions. Relatives we didn't know we had, strangers with hard luck stories, charities, and generally anybody who feels they have more of a right to our money than we do. Which reminds me, we're going to need to pick up some liability insurance too. I'll put that on the list for our lawyer."

"Sounds like this is going to be more trouble than it's worth," John muttered.

"Well it's worth half a billion dollars, unless you want me to burn the ticket anyway."

"You're kidding, right?" John said, shocked.

"Only half kidding, with great power comes great responsibility, and other stupid comic book sayings. The problem is this amount of money is just staggering, how do you go about dealing with the reality of it when it hits you all at once?"

"I can get a new game console, right?"

"Yeah, I'll put that on the short list. Seriously, yes, we are going to set an amount aside just to spend just as soon as we get all the important stuff out of the way. Like finding a temporary place to live and changing our phone numbers."

"Should we set up a charitable foundation?"

"Good, now you're thinking along the right path. Yes, I'm sure we are going to do that, it would be just plain greedy to keep all of this to ourselves. We'll need to run it past our lawyer and tax accountant to set it up properly."

"So when are we going to tell our parents?"

"I think we need to wait to tell anybody until after we meet with our lawyer. Obviously we can't keep this from them too long, but as soon as the information gets out, there will be no way to get it back," Judy replied.

"Wow, just wow," John said. "I never seriously considered the implications of this."

"Neither had I, it's just too far-fetched. Apparently a lot of the past winners never did either. Whether winning was good news or bad depended on how they handled it, no amount of money is too large to burn through if you go about it wrong. Hey tiger, we'll figure it out. Did you want to get back to your video game?"

John looked over at the console. "No, that seems rather mundane at the moment. I think I'll take a walk and think about things."

"Care for some company?" Judy asked.

"Sure sugar, we're in this together, let's walk."