Bad Luck (A #WorldsEnd story)
By David Eccles
There’ll be no birthday cake for me this year, or any other year, for that matter. No party with loud, blaring metal music to annoy the neighbours; no congratulations, kisses, hugs or slaps on the back from friends, family and other loved ones; no nibbles, dips or sandwiches with hard, turned up edges because someone uncovered them a little too early; no having to clean up pools of puke and having to apologize to everyone on behalf of the person responsible; no discovering the couple who are the usual ones to sneak off to a bedroom, so eager to fuck each other’s brains out while they’re high on drugs and the moment, and no having to get up early in the morning to clean up the expected disaster zone while suffering the assault on the senses that is one’s parents complaining about the smashed vases, the ruined curtains, the turd floating in the swimming pool.
To tell the truth, I’ve never had any of that anyway. It’s a whole set of different life experiences being brought up in a children’s home. The nearest thing to a birthday present I’ve ever had is the extra cookie passed to me under the dining table, or the cockroach in a matchbox that someone gave to me one time. Man, did I get a beating when it was discovered! Oh, I got clothes from time to time, hand-me-downs from the other kids who outgrew them, but I guess you can’t really call those birthday presents, though it sure did feel like my birthday getting those boots that didn’t look like I was wearing fingerless gloves on my feet!
No, I’ve never felt that warm feeling inside as you’re handed a perfectly wrapped present and the giver greets you with a warm smile and says “Happy Birthday, John!” It’s always been more of a “Here, Jonah!” kind of experience as someone thrust something at me with what can only be described as complete indifference. You see, I’m considered bad luck by most folk, hence the moniker, Jonah. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I suggest you go get yourself a Holy Bible and get familiar with the story of Jonah and the whale. Things just seem to happen to people when I’m around. Really bad things.
Most of the kids at the Lucas Trask Home for Children here in the State of Florida usually only stay for a short while before being lucky enough to find the couple who are willing to adopt them; but not me. Sure, I’ve had times when I’ve stayed with families who I thought liked me and wanted to adopt me, but it’s just never panned out; I’ve always been returned within days, a little like an unwanted Christmas present, and I know the comments were not meant for my ears, but sometimes I’ve managed to pick up on a few of them: “That boy’s just bad luck” “He’s a Jonah, that one” “He just ain’t right”. It doesn’t exactly do a lot for one’s self-confidence, does it? Neither does losing both your parents in a car crash when you’re only a few weeks old, or having to live in an institution run by a religious order, having it drilled into my head that the death of my parents was somehow my fault; that they must have done something really awful to be condemned to such a fate and that I must suffer the sins of my father and my mother.
At least I won’t have long to wait before I see them again. That’s what the preacher tells me, anyway, what with this being a Baptist-run home and all. I’m expected to believe that there’s a life after death, and that there’s hope for us all yet, even though there’s a huge asteroid heading our way that’s going to impact on the Earth and wipe out all intelligent life forms in a little under two years’ time. There was a lot of running around like headless chickens at first, with people all confused and not knowing what would happen if the banks were to close, if commerce were to grind to a halt and the whole monetary system become useless; they were shitting their pants that there’d be riots and stuff, but folks seemed to learn to accept the inevitability of the situation pretty quick and the widespread bedlam that was anticipated just never materialized. Admittedly, there are those who’ve just thought fuck it, preferring instead to go out in a blaze of glory and just get drunk and loot all they can before they’re gunned down by law enforcement, but for the most part, things are pretty quiet and have returned to normal.
Ha! Normal. Is it normal to just sit around and wait to die? To pray to a God who in all probability does not exist? I don’t know, but I guess we all need to believe in something. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which side of the fence you’re on: if you’re a religious person, then you’re bound to believe in everlasting life, whereas if you’re of a scientific disposition, then you are certain in your knowledge that matter can be neither created nor destroyed; it can only be transformed. However one looks at it, we’re all immortal, so why argue, and why worry?
I worry because I’ve pondered on the thought that somehow it is my fault. Silly, I know. How could it be my fault? As if I could ever cause a few million tons of rock to crash into our planet! Still, the feeling is there: that this extra-terrestrial monolithic “whale” is going to swallow up not only this “Jonah”, but every “Jonah”, Janet, John and every other person with a name, and this time, no matter how much we repent for our sins, it isn’t going to be spitting us out! It’ll be the vengeance of God, in true Old Testament style! I’ve been bad luck to so many people that I know. People have had accidents; people have even died because of me. Is it too much of a leap to think that my bad luck affects more than just those I know? What if it does affect all people? What if I’m the world’s greatest ever “Jonah”? Is bad luck infectious? Is that what I am, a walking, talking, virulent form of misfortune?
My head hurts through too much needless thinking. I need to get out into the sun and enjoy the warm weather we’ve been having lately, but guess what? Yeah. Just my luck! It’s started to rain!