“Jackpot” – A Free Short Story To Read Online

  Only one ticket was sold. I have to be the winner.

Charlie looked, stupefied, at the ticket stub in his hand. Then he looked again at the small article in the small newspaper with the smallest circulation in the tri-county area.

“CLAIMANT SOUGHT” Read the top line, printed in capital letters, of course, as searching for jackpot claimants was something to shout about. The details of the drawing followed, documenting Charlie’s purchase  with such painstaking detail he wondered that they hadn’t found footage from ccv for every step he’d made that day.

Likely someone has, or will do—those internet freaks, his girlfriend thought to him, and Charlie winced. He wished Vera didn’t like to PsyLink so early in the morning; she was always chatty and his calibration was slow to keep up before he’d had his first latte.

They’ll track down every move you made that day. Vera laughed and rolled her eyes. They’ll make a religion of you.

She was right, Charlie knew—he knew it without even scanning the whirlwind of thoughts that tunneled between them. He saw, just as Vera did, how in the future, when people wished for a little bit of extra luck, they might pop in a piece of Writly’s Wintergreen, as Charlie had done seconds before purchasing the winning ticket.

Just one example.

His own thought cloud was also awhirl, moving at a pace which made him queasy; comprised mostly of worries over managing the new money. 

Can’t be too careful; don’t want to spend it all at once…

He even started to wonder if he might be able to land an endorsement deal with the Writly’s people. Vera’s PsyStream was uninterrupted by Charlie’s musings. Her thoughts prattled on and on and on about all the things they’d always wanted or had always needed.

Charlie rubbed his thumb over the stub and his index finger over the classified simultaneously, as though he were confused about which too-good-to-be-true tale he was living through, and the objects combined to create a sort of Aladdin’s lamp. But, this was something presumably better—more money than he’d likely see in a lifetime of work as a plumber’s assistant. Upon what, Charlie wondered, would he squander a mere three wishes? 

Vera, meanwhile, was hurling at him strategies for keeping the ticket safe, and getting into town to redeem it as soon as possible. 

I’d wish Vera away.

The thought came unbidden, and was followed by an expletive as Charlie caught Vera’s gaze. Her face telegraphed nothing, but she’d picked it up, alright; he felt something dark creep into her spinning cloud only a millisecond before her mind snapped shut.

A string of curses now threaded themselves through the whirling wind of Charlie’s own thoughts, accompanying a twisting sensation in his gut he recognized as remorse. 

Why hadn’t he gone to those SnapShut classes with her? Why hadn’t he as much as cracked open any of the workbooks and materials she’d hauled home to him from those confounded “Evolve!” Meetings?

As Vera approached him, bringing her body and her scent intoxicatingly near, the fear in Charlie’s mind swelled to fill the vacuum her rage had left, and he could do nothing but stand there, stupefied, as she slipped the ticket from his hand.