by Thomas Giles
photo by SOCKSarePURPLE
RCProse Contest Winner!
Dustin stepped up to the edge, carefully peering over into the 300 foot drop beyond. He wasn’t the type to get vertigo, but still felt his hands shake as he stared down at the ground. Of course, the fact that half the casino owners in Las Vegas wanted him dead had him on edge already. But what a week it had been…
The boy looked across the rooftop, contemplating his fate. They would know where he was by now; they were probably making their way up the building already. Simply waiting for them was sure to end in broken legs if he was lucky, a broken face if he wasn’t. The casinos did not take kindly to fifteen year olds sneaking into their establishment and sneaking out with a couple hundred thousand dollars of winnings. Do this a few more times, and you’ve managed to get on the wrong side of an entire city’s worth of pit bosses.
Dustin looked back down at the shimmering, mirrored surface of the building. It was quite beautiful from this angle, but he wondered what it would look like when he was zipping past at terminal velocity.
A brisk gust of wind blasted through him, pushing him back behind the lip of the roof and sending him toppling to the ground. He’d never been so high up in his life; not outside, anyway. It was amazing how nature had its way of giving subtle hints that it doesn’t want you there. Deep under water nature crushed you like a pimple under a sledgehammer. High up and it’ll do its darndest to blow you off whatever peak you’d managed to scale.
But maybe that was it. People fell off tall buildings and got saved by gusts of wind, right? He was sure he’d read that somewhere. Just a pinch of Kismet, drop a few dozen floors, and get smashed through a window. Painful, no doubt, but needs must.
It was a big ask, though. No matter how hard he’d tried since he discovered his power, it didn’t seem to be quite as fine-tuned as he’d like it to be. Wishing for a specific series of events never quite worked as intended, and for something as unlikely as this was, with so many ways for it all to go horribly wrong, it wasn’t even worth trying.
Everything seemed to hinge on the feeling, rather than the order of events. The first time his Kismet kicked in, all he had was a wish for a better life, and that worked out just fine. But how do you really test something so… fuzzy? Could it really be as simple as that? To just want to be safe, and the universe would fill in the rest?
Two muffled shots resounded across the flat roof, and Dustin instinctively ducked down. The wooden door splintered, crumbling apart as four men in black suits burst onto the rooftop. Two of them had guns.
Crap, Dustin thought. Crap, crap, crap!
He quickly scrambled to a low air-conditioning unit that jutted out from the flat roof. He leaned up against it, trying to catch his breath. They were here already. This was really happening.
Dustin looked across at the black duffle bag. The one full of money. Why’d he even bring it up here? They were going to see it for sure.
“Look!” a deep, gravelly voice boomed. “A bag!”
That damned Kismet! Dustin thought, biting his lip.
That was the one thing he wasn’t such a fan of with his newfound power. Having the universe pay attention to your thoughts and feelings didn’t play so well if you weren’t feeling that optimistic.
Okay. So what now? They knew he was here, they were on their way over to him, and they had loaded, fully-working, definitely-not-toy guns. Only one thing to do.
Dustin popped up from behind his cover. Ignoring the shouts of alarm from the four men, he started in a run towards the roof’s edge, grabbing the bag as he went. And with a deep breath, he closed his eyes and leapt into the air.
“Kismet” means fate. Or something. Dustin had never quite read enough about it to be sure, but it sounded cool, and so that was the name he used for his superpower. It seemed to him everyone was born with some amount of Kismet. Most people didn’t have much, or if they did, they put it down to blind luck or coincidence.
Dustin didn’t know any of this, of course—he had nothing to go on but his own experiences—but it all felt about right, and over the years since he discovered his gift, he’d learned to trust his instincts on this stuff.
Dustin also guessed this was why there was an age limit for gambling. Get some punk kid who had a decent amount of Kismet and knew how to use it, and your casino would go bankrupt in a single night. So why take the risk? Lucky for Dustin, he was tall for his age. He just walked in like he owned the place, and it all just seemed to work out fine. Until he found himself plummeting from a hundred story building towards a sticky end, of course.
No. Mustn’t think like that, Dustin thought. Have to keep focused. He’d be fine. He didn’t know what would happen, or the probability of his survival, but with a little concentration, he could start to feel it. He could feel the relief of escaping the casinos and their lynch mob. He could feel happy he’d made it out alive and intact. And—why not?—he could feel the reassuring weight of the bag of money in his hand.
In that instant, a sudden gust caught the bag, ripping it from his grasp. Fine, Dustin thought. Screw the money. Just get me out of this alive!
He could sense his body spinning slowly in the air, until his was plummeting head first towards the ground. His lips started to flap against his face, as though someone was wobbling his cheeks at a rate of knots. It kinda tickled.
He let out a staccato laugh. But as he did so, his jaw was wrenched open, air shoving its way into his mouth. It was an odd feeling, not being able to breathe when so much oxygen was slamming into your face. Dustin tried desperately to close his jaw while sucking in air through his nose at a more manageable rate. But it was no use. He felt his head lighten, time seeming to slow in a prolonged torture.
Come on, Dustin thought. I’m being as positive as I can here, but you’ve gotta kick in soon, or else—
A second gust interrupted his train of thought. His body lurched to one side. Dustin scrunched his eyes up ever tighter. He just hoped he was being flung towards the building and not further out over the streets below.
The sound changed somehow, the loud, bellowing air stream quieting down on one side of him. Did that mean he was nearing the windows? If all went according to plan he was going to break through one of the extra thick plate glass. He just hoped it wouldn’t break him in the process. He brought back the feelings once more, making them clearer and clearer in his mind. He’d make it. He had to.
A third gust blew, this time from below, slowing his descent. And suddenly, all was quiet. The blast of air was reduced to a light whistle somewhere off to his left, and his ears rang from the abuse they’d had to withstand. How long had he been falling for? Minutes? Hours?
After a time, he sensed a weight beneath him. It was his weight. Had he stopped? His body, his hands and fingers all felt numb from the lack of oxygen, and a dull throbbing ached inside his head.
He opened his eyes. There was a carpet beneath him, stretching off down the corridor. He could feel the deep red shag between his fingers now. As he pulled himself up a nearby wall, he noticed the doors at regular intervals down the hall, their shiny keycard readers glinting in the fluorescent lights above.
But where was the broken glass? Was he so out of it he couldn’t feel the pain of the impact?
Dustin turned and stared at a square hole in the side of the building, floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Lucky for him, they must’ve been working on this floor; replacing the pane of glass for whatever reason. And there, sitting just on the edge of the floor, sat a bag, still full of money, waiting for him to collect it.
He staggered towards it, picking it up with a sigh. He felt the weight of it in his hand. It was just as he imagined.
Thomas Giles is a writer specializing in science-fiction. With many years experience in programming professionally, he enjoys bringing the technical side of sci-fi to life and strives to make such topics accessible to a wider audience. He writes on a regular basis for the kind people supporting him through Patreon, his friends and family giving feedback on his works and helping him hone his ability to create worlds and share them with readers.