“A touch of bad luck”
By Mike Michelsen
“Yeah, they say that some people attract good luck and some people attract bad luck . . . sort of like a magnet”, Jim says, as he turns to Steve, who is standing behind him.
“Like a magnet? . . . asks Steve.
“. . . I don’t know . . . that seems farfetched to me. I mean, why would it be that way? What would make something like that happen?”
“It’s just the way it is.”
Slowly, Steve just walks away, perplexed.
“That sounds so ridiculous. How can good or bad be attracted to a person?” he thought to himself.
Steve makes his way to the bus stop. As he walks toward it he observes the 10 or 15 people standing next to the curb. Numerous busses stop and let off and take on riders . . . on after another. Steve decides to stand by the wall.
Finally, the bus he needs comes up – bus 451, to Riverdale. As he stands up to the curb the bus hits a pool of water and – splash – mud flings all over his pant.
“What?! . . . why me? No one else got mud flung on him. I sat and watched it. Why me?” he thinks to himself in disgust.
Waiting to get on, he steps onto the bus.
“Oh, sorry, bus is full. You’ll have to wait for the next bus,” states the bus driver.
“Huh, you go to be kidding?”
Frustrated, Steve goes and stands next to the wall to wait another 30 minutes for the next bus . . . with his muddy pants.
An hour later, he makes it to Jonathon’s house, Steve’s long time friend from Grade school.
“I just don’t understand.”
“What don’t you understand?” replies Jonathan, “Oh, I don’t know. It just seems like everything bad happens to me and to no one else. It’s like I’m targeted with it.”
“That doesn’t make any sense Steve. It’s all in your head.”
“But, I swear, I can feel it coming too. It’s like I can sense it, that something is about to happen,” Steve says to Jonathan.
“You just got it into your head that it’s true.”
“No, I swear I can, and you know what else . . . I can’t stand it anymore. I just get so . . . so mad all the time.”
“You’re letting it get to you. You do that all the time.”
Several weeks later, Steve was walking down the street after lunch. The city streets seemed alive, bustling with cars and trucks and people hustling about.
And then . . . the feeling, he could feel it.
Steve had enough.
Suddenly, quickly, he blinked his eyes hard.
And then, at the intersection – bam – a truck slams into the side of a car.
Quickly, Steve opens his eyes. “That’s weird,” he thinks, “I was just glanced at that car and truck right before I blinked my eyes.”
Later that day, Steve was at the office. Oh, the humdrum. Getting up from his desk, he walks to the drinking fountain. Glancing down the hall he sees Lou. Steve is still upset how Lou make fun of him the other day, telling him he was a worthless nobody after he made some errors in his figures. But, what can Steve do?
And then, as Steve bent down to take a drink he felt that feeling again, as if water was going to splash all over him for no apparent reason, but then, he gave a hard wink and thought of Lou.
Everyone turns and looks.
Lou is lying there, face down on the linoleum floor. Slowly, a trickle of blood oozes from his head along the floor.
Steve grins to himself secretly.
Oh, the homeward journey. Such a monotony. All these people on the bus. No one talks. Everyone acts as if alone, even though they’re with a busload of people. Here everyone is crammed together like sardines, and yet everyone is all by themselves. How quaint.
“God, things are strange,” Steve thinks to himself. And then he reflects on the car accident. Weird. And what about the thing with Lou. Even weirder, but still, Steve chuckles to himself.
“Could it be . . . no”
The thought passes through Steve’s mind. Could he . . . cause those problems with his mind?
No! That’s too bizarre.
But could it?
Silently, secretly, Steve decides to do an experiment. He looks to a man holding a bag of groceries. He thinks of him dropping it.
He looks outside . . . sees several cars. Imagines an accident.
“Oh, how silly,” he says to himself.
Some days later Steve is pushing the cart at the market.
“Why do I get this feeling something is going to happen to me?” he ponders.
And then – wham – he hits right into another ladies cart. Furious, she screams, “why don’t you watch where you’re going? Have you got rocks in your head!”
Embarassed, Steve quickly moves down another aisle. As he quickly pushes his cart another feeling comes over him.
“Oh, not again,” Steve thinks, as he glances at a stack of soup cans. He blinks his eyes hard and, he hears the cans fall down. Looking up, he glances around.
There’s no one around the cans. “Why would they of fallen?” thought Steve. “That’s weird. They couldn’t of just fallen over.”
He stops and watches one of the employees begin to pick up the cans.
And then . . . “Could it be?!” he exclaims to himself. “No! It can’t be.”
Could it be that every time he has that feeling he closes his eyes and thinks of something and it is passed onto the thing he thought of?
“Unbelievable! I’ll have to wait til the feeling comes again . . . then . . . I’ll try it,” Steve thinks to himself.
Several days pass. Still, no feeling. When he doesn’t want it to appear, then it appears. When he wants it to appear, then it doesn’t appear.
“That’s just my luck,” thinks Steve.
That evening he and his friend Jonathan went to the movies and then to a restaurant. While eating, they would often get into these really unusual and odd conversations talking about anything you can imagine.
Steve decides to ask Jonathan what he thinks about what’s been going on.
“Well, that seems farfetched,” was Jonathans reply. “Think about it. You’re saying that you can alter things with your mind, right? . . . just by thinking about it. You can’t expect me to take that serious.”
“I know it sounds bizarre. I can’t believe it too. But I’ve seen it.”
“Then move this salt shaker, or make it break.”
“It’s not so simple.”
“Of course it isn’t. It’s all in your head. You’ve been watching too many super hero movies.”
“I can’t seem to will it to happen. I have to wait for the ‘feeling’.”
“The ‘feeling’ . . . ?”
“Yeah, like I’ve been saying. The feeling when I feel like something bad is going to happen to me.”
“So you can sense when bad things are going to happen?”
“Yeah? . . . basically.”
“I think you’ve been thinking too much.”
“It’s weird though. When the ‘feeing’ comes I close my eyes and think of something and then something bad happens to whatever I think of. I can’t seem to control what this bad thing is though. It just happens, so I can’t control how it will manifest itself.”
“I’m telling yah: too many super hero movies. That’s what I think.”
Dejected, Steve changes the subject. Perhaps Jonathan is right. It does sound far fetched.
Another day standing waiting for the light to change. People walking, cars passing by. Nothing unusual today. He watches a lady with high heeled shoes walking. “How does she walk in those?” he asks himself.
Then the feeling comes. Closing his eyes he thinks of those high heeled shoes.
And then . . . a scream . . . the screeching halt of a car . . . a gasp of a crowd.
Slowly, Steve opens his eyes. There, on the street lay the lady inches from the front of a delivery van.
“Wow!” exclaims Steve, “wow!”
At home in the shower Steve starts thinking. What could he do? What could he do?
Just think of all those people who made fun of him. Think of all those people he hated and disgust. Think of what he could do? And no one will know . . . he didn’t do anything now did he?
But he has to wait for the feeling. If that’s not there, nothing happens. That’s the real problem. He’ll have to just be around them until the feeling comes.
“That’s going to be a pain,” Steve says out loud. But, oh, he seems committed to try.
Troy liked to go to the bar with his buddies, to cuss and swear, smoke like a chimney, act the hog, pour in the juice . . . and play a little pool. Almost everyday, like some ritual, he and his buddies would be there at sevenish. Tonight, though, there would be someone that normally doesn’t go to the bar – Steve.
Hiding in the corner he waits. Staring, gloating . . . remembering when Troy stole his girlfriend from him. It’s not so much that he did it but how he did it. That day, in high school, when he had Julie at his side. He felt at the top of the world. Then Troy comes in with his buddies. They start arguing. He still can’t remember why. Troy hits Steve in the face, and grabs Julie by the arm, taking her away. Then his buddies joined in, kicking and hitting Steve scrawled on the floor. Soon there were sticks . . . and bones started to break.
No, he’ll never forgive that, Steve thought. No, Nope, No siry.
There Steve sits as the decade and a half old hatred simmers. He watches Troy’s every moment, every move . . . and it makes him sick.
Day after day, he went to that bar, wasting money on beer he could barely stand. And the smoke, oh the smoke. Enough to make one sick. The same old sullen people, cussing, and playing the cock.
But there, on a tuesday it happened. Sitting there, leaned back against the wall, Steve felt the feeling, it was coming on. Glancing over to Troy, he feels it, and closes his eyes. With malicious desire Steve feels a release as he ponders Troy’s life.
“What? . . . What’s wrong?” he hears.
“Oh my god,” he hears from another.
“Someone got a phone! . . . hurry . . . Call 911!”
Steve opens his eyes and sees Troy, his hand clunched to his chest as he falls. Through all the commotion that day, and the hubbub at the bar, another death filled the night.
No one knew. No one knew how. All except . . . for one!
As Steve walked home he felt a power. He felt a joy. He felt he was someone.
Slowly, he forms a list in his mind, of all the people he disliked. Week after week, month after month, the list was checked off, one by one til there were none left.
Steve sits in his old worn out armchair. No one knows why he won’t buy a new one. He sits in years of grime and filth watching the news. Hearing of taxations and policies that are to be in effect he cannot help but yell out: “Stupid politicians. Go to hell!”
Then a thought . . .
Could he? But then he’d have to be around the politicians all the time. What a hassle that’d be.
But, is it just possible that he can just think about them anywhere, anytime and the result come about?
“It’s worth a try,” he says.
Days go by. No feeling.
Most certainly, it will come. It’s just a matter of when.
And then, waking up to the bell, he rolls over to turn it off. He could use a couple of hours more sleep. Sitting up on his bed a feeling comes over him.
He knows. He’s ready.
Quickly, he thinks of Congressman Vince Pilsar, a man he grew to hate. There was something about him he just couldn’t stand. Maybe it was that sheepish grin of his? Or maybe it was those large coke bottom glasses he always wore? Or maybe it was because he was just another one of those stupid liberal politicians who whines and complains about everything, or so Steve thought?
Whatever the reason, Steve didn’t like him. And so he thought of him and closed his eyes.
But . . . nothing happened.
He felt and thought and nothing happened.
Maybe it didn’t work. Steve didn’t know. How would he know?
“Well, it was worth a try,” he thought, as he got up and headed off to the bathroom to start another work day.
Returning from work, as he was sitting on the bus, Steve glances out the filthy window to the buildings off to the side.
“Did you hear the news?” he heard someone say. “That politician . . . what’s his name? . . . Pitzer, Prizler . . . or whatever his name is . . . well he fell off the balcony today while giving a speech. Can you believe it? . . . . yeah, I think it did . . . I think it killed him . . .”
Steve stood straight up. Could it be? No, it can’t be. It’s too easy.
Sure enough, as he watched the news on the TV later, it was confirmed.
Steve could only wonder: what are the possibilities now?
Tossing and turning, Steve struggled to get to sleep . . . but he couldn’t. His mind raced with thoughts of what he could do with this power. Could he change events to his favour? Could he change people’s thoughts? Could he use it to make money? . . . Or even become famous?
Oh, there’s so much. Which avenue should he take? Where should he take it now.
And so there he lay in bed, plagued by a newfound ability, cursing his mind with all its unlimited possibilities.
And so over the next few months Steve experimented. He had quite a time at it too. Steve fancied himself like a secret agent, dealing with affairs no one else knew about. It was as if he had control over aspects of life that he alone had.
He tried all sorts of odd ball ideas, like trying to change people’s thoughts and events but none of them worked. The only time he could get anything to happen is to give them his bad luck. This aggravated Steve to no end.
“Why is that all I can do?” he thought to himself. “I’m better than that and I know I can do better. I just need to find what it is.”
Walking down the street, Steve would glance at people thinking: “What poor small people. If they had the power I had then . . . maybe they’d be something.”
Sinking in this mirth of greatness, it was as if the ‘feeling’ of bad luck was always there, almost within his reach. He could almost grasp it. Think of what he could do if he could have the ability to grasp the ‘feeling’ when he wanted! Think of the possibilities! Think of the power!
If only he could . . .
It was just a regular day. Steve was walking to the bus station after work. The usual.
It was a hard unusually busy day and Steve felt exhausted. He just wanted to get home and plop himself on the couch and watch TV . . . maybe even take a snooze.
While thinking this way he passed by an armoured vehicle with guards unloading bags.
And then, suddenly . . . a thought came to Steve’s mind.
Steve stopped quickly, in the middle of the side walk, and glared at the bags. People passed him by, having to maneuvered around him. Standing in the middle of the busy sidewalk, some people would bump into Steve and shuv him, as if to push him out of the way. Then one man, with tattoo’s on his neck, said, “What’s with this ass standing in the middle of the road?”
Steve felt an anger rise up in him. He almost wanted to club the man in his tattooed head.
But then Steve felt it . . . the ‘feeling’ . . . something bads about to happen.
He glanced over at the truck and the guards.
“Screw the tattooed man, let’s go for the bags,” thought Steve.
His thoughts concentrate and he closes his eyes.
And then . . . Waaallluuuppp!
Glancing up, he sees that a sign had fallen from the side of the building landing partially on the truck and sidewalk. Screams, yelling, shock ensue. A bystander gets hurt by some of the debris. People are rushing here and there. The guards go to see what’s going on.
There’s his chance.
Steve takes off across the street . . . and grabs two bags and makes off.
Running, running down the street he goes. Looking back he sees no one in tow. No one in chase. He did it.
“Yeah!!!” screams Steve out loud. “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.”
Getting home he quickly opens the bags . . .
Steve sits confidently in his new red convertible Porsche, racing down the highway at 110 mph.
“Yeah, I’m not complainin’,” he says to himself.
He chuckles as he thinks of his new job title: Endless Vacationer. He has no regrets quiting that thankless boring job . . . not one. Besides, he doesn’t have to worry about money anymore.
Over the hum of the high performance engine he listens to the radio. It’s not easy making it out with the top down and the air swishing past you, but Steve doesn’t mind too much.
And then . . . the news . . .
Steve can barely make out something about politics. Now there’s a subject that rubs Steve the wrong way . . . and all the time. Nothing gets him so infuriated as politics.
“Starting another war? My God, now what’s the excuse . . . and more taxes! Jesus Christ . . . stupid poliDICKians,” he thinks to himself, “we ought to just get rid of them all, then we would finally be OK for a change. . . what? All the government officials are at the capital to discuss the problems. Huh! A lot of use that will do. If we’re lucky the roof will fall down on them.”
Lost amidst the noise of the road, the hum of the engine, the air passing by, the radio, and Steve’s anger the ‘feeling’ was coming on. He hardly knew. The next thing . . .
Steve closes his eyes and says: “God damned poliDICKians!”
Opening his eyes he looks ahead to the mountains up ahead.
“Not too far to go now,” he mutters to himself as he changes the radio station.
After arranging his motel room Steve decides to turn in early. It’s been a long drive and he’s wiped out.
The next morning he gets his camping and fishing gear out. Five days away from civilization. Just what he needs. Parking his car in a garage he takes the shuttle bus to the trailhead and heads off into the woods.
It’s been a long time since he’s been on a camping trip. He needs it. No! He deserves it. Out away from humanity, he can let it go any old way it wants. He doesn’t care. He’ll sit and fish, listening to the stream . . . and not give a damn.
Last morning of his camping trip. Better get up. He’s got a Caribbean cruise he’s got to get to in two days.
Making it to the trailhead he waits for the shuttle bus . . . but none comes. In fact, he doesn’t see anyone at all. Not a person, not a car, nothing.
“What in the world is this?” he thinks to himself.
Deciding he has no choice he heads off toward the town.
An eerie silence seems to be everywhere. No sound, no movement. But he does see smoke up ahead. A building must be on fire.
That’s something . . .
Getting close to the town he looks around.
The glass in the buildings are all broken, things have been ransacked, cars are overturned, there’s garbage in the street. It looked like a riot took place. He looks up now and sees the building on fire.
Then, behind a beaten up car, he sees a body.
“What? . . . What happened?”
Hurriedly, he rushes to the garage where he left his Porsche.
He looks around.
There’s no one.
Walking aimlessly, lost, he stumbles into the street. Spinning around he sees devastation.
He heads to the motel he stayed in before.
No one is there. The rooms have all been ransacked. Out, in front, a car is burning.
“Where is everyone? What happened?”
Dejected and confused, he walks down the sidewalk.
Wandering around some more, he has had enough. It’s getting late. Walking down an alleyway, he gets some cardboard and newspapers and makes himself a place to sleep. As he begins to doze off a thought comes into his mind: he will wake up and everything will be OK.
Steve finds himself waddled up in newspapers and cardboard in an alleyway.
“Huh? It can’t be,” he mutters to himself.
He hears voices.
“Hey! Hey!” he screams as he unwraps himself from his newspapers.
Stumbling up on his feet, Steve makes for the road and finds a beat up looking mother, maybe in her 40’s or 50’s. Next to her is a ragged looking boy with a dirty face, around 12, Steve thought.
“What . . . What happened? What’s going on here?” Steve asks.
Both the boy and the mother look up at Steve apprehensively, and then give him a quizzical look.
“We’re . . . food . . . eats . . . do you have any food?” replies the mother.
“Huh, what do you mean food? What happened to this place?” asks Steve.
“Oh, we’re hungry . . . the country . . . it . . . uh . . . collapsed. Don’t you know?” asks the mother.
“How could you not know?” asks the boy, “where have you been . . . under a rock?”
“Yeah, I . . . guess. Out fishing I was. Collapse . . . food . . . I’m all so confused.”
Quietly, Steve goes along with the mother and boy, too stunned to think, too bewildered to make sense out of everything.
Going through an old market they find some canned soup, chips, and other things. Gathering up as much as they can in bags they head for an area out in the woods. There, the mother and child were living in a camper.
Like animals the mother and boy open the cans and devour the contents. Steve stands stupefied watching them. By the time he decides to sit down they’ve already finished eating.
“Don’t eat too much, son, we may need it later,” She says to the boy.
Both lean back against the truck tire and seemed to almost doze off.
Steve looks around. The beat up mother and child. The truck and trailer. The empty cans of soup. None of it made any sense.
Steve decides to make a fire. He fixes some food and begins to eat while they are sleeping.
The mother wakes up.
“Smells good,” she says, “it seems an eternity since I have smelled good cooked food.”
“You can have some if you want,” says Steve.
“Just a little,” she replies.
As she eats, Steve makes small talk with her and begins to ask her what happened.
“Something happened with the government . . . they were all killed,” she says.
“Who, the government?”
“I think the building they were in collapsed . . . oh, and then the stock market plummeted. That’s right, everything became worthless. Everyone lost their jobs. And then . . . someone . . . some country, I think . . . invaded. That’s right. Everyone was killed. Everyone.”
“How can this be?”
The lady gave no reply but stared off into space.
Next morning Steve decides to go out and see what’s going on. Wandering around the town it seemed deserted. What few people he did see repeated what the mother had said . . . and looked about the same.
For some reason, he went to an ATM to pull some money out. He didn’t know why. Maybe it was his attempt at trying to make things “normal” again.
It worked. There’s still power. Things aren’t that bad.
But, on the screen of the ATM, it said that there were ‘no funds in account’.
Steve thought about just breaking into the thing, everything else has.
But then he heard, and felt, a big rumble. Stepping out into the road he sees military trucks coming towards him into the town. Then he heard over an intercom:
“Attention citizens. Please stay calm. Gather up your belongings and we will transport you to another location. Please do this quietly and quickly.”
As he stood watching the trucks he noticed all these people coming out into the streets, as if out of the woodwork, some starting screaming for help or crying.
A man rushes past him saying, “hurry, let’s go!”
Slowly, he walks toward the trucks. They were already loading people into the backs of the trucks.
“Move along sir,” says a solider.
“What’s going on here?” asks Steve.
“Evacuation. We need to get you people evacuated immediately.”
“Don’t you hear . . . ” and the soldier motions out of town.
Steve stops, looks out of town, and listens.
A rumble is heard.
“No, we’re being attacked. They’ll be here in a few hours.”
“WE’RE BEING ATTACKED SIR” was the soldiers reply.
Then it occurs to Steve: The government, the economic collapse, the devastation, the attack . . . it’s all his fault. He caused all this.
Staring off into space, his face turning pale, he mutters, “. . . my fault . . . it’s . . . my fault . . . oh my God . . . it’s my fault. Oh my God,” as the soldier slowly motions him into the truck.
(This story came about as a result of a conversation I had with my cousin. I said that I was tired of stories of super heroes who were always doing good and had ‘good’ powers. We then talked about how some people have a quality of where good or bad things always happen to them, as if it was attracted to them. It occurred to me that we could have a guy who always has bad things happen to him but that somehow discovers that he can project it onto other people. Then he finds power in this and uses it til it causes all these problems. I jokingly called this an ‘Under Hero’. Here, the character has a special ability but its not all that great, useful, or beneficial. He also can’t seem to understand or use that ability that well. It then leads to tragedy. Thinking about this led me to this story.)
Copyright by Mike Michelsen