The power in the girl’s building went out. A loud CHHNG was followed by a fading whine and the sudden evaporation of all sound and light, as if they were candles, blown out. All that remained: the boiling water on the stove, which quieted in a few moments as the burner cooled.
The girl clutched her lottery ticket with one hand and reached into the jumbled mess of stuff with the other, frantically pushing things around, the remnants of her turned over bag. Finally she felt her cell phone. The light from the phone’s display lit up the room with a washed out glow.
“Macy?” her friend answered.
“Thank God you’re there Pen. Did you watch the lottery?”
“Of course I watched it, can you believe that? We get one number wrong! And a 32! Only off by one!”
“Are you kidding me?” Macy interrupted, disappointment flooding her head like a rush of blood. “I’m sitting on the kitchen floor, in the dark. Pen, the power in the building went out again – I didn’t even see the last number.”
“The power in the building’s out?” Penelope asked. “But the last time that happened…”
“Shhh,” Macy hissed.
The rhythmic sound of footsteps stopped, just outside her apartment. And she remembered that she hadn’t yet locked the door.
* * * * *
Jordan walked into the back room of the gas station, found his time card, and punched out. The loud stamping sound it made put a wry smile on his face.
“Jordan, what’s this?” It was the store manager, holding up a torn off piece of paper, a yellow corner. “Are these your numbers?”
“Nah,” he said, shrugging. “Just some lady playing the Super-Eight.”
“Always throw this kind of stuff out, you hear? I don’t like it when people leave their numbers lying around.”
Jordan shrugged again. He was so sick of his job. Then he laughed.
“You want to hear something crazy?”
The manager’s eyes narrowed into suspicious slits.
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“You see those numbers?”
The manager looked at the eight numbers scribbled on the paper.
“You see that last number, the 31?”
The manager nodded.
“That’s what’s crazy. I gave the lady her ticket. Except she pissed me off, said she could see right through me. So I changed her last number. I changed it to a 32.”
The manager looked disgusted. Jordan just kept smiling.
“And she never even noticed.”
* * * * *
“What’s going on?” Penelope asked. “Is it him? Is he back?”
Macy sat on the floor in complete silence.
“I don’t know,” she whispered, trying to quiet her breathing.
“I’m on my way, Macy. Don’t go anywhere.”
Macy heard her friend hang up, and the phone lit up for a second as the call ended. She hid the face of it against her chest.
Then two things happened at once.
The kitchen window began to slide up, ever so slowly, as if invisible fingers were nudging it up. And the knob of her front door began to turn, the door slowly opening.
She slid backwards on the kitchen floor until her back touched the wall. She could feel the window sill digging into the back of her head. Cold air rushed in over her, like some kind of baptism.
In one smooth motion she slid up the wall, put her butt on the sill, lifted her legs and spun around. She ducked her head through the window, stood out on the fire escape and took two side steps away from the window, toward the front of the building.
“Macy, quiet now.”
There was a girl standing on the fire escape, blocking her from the stairs. She wore a hooded sweatshirt that hid her face in a shadow.
“Who are you?”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said, her words coming fast. “You need to come with me. That dude in your apartment is going to kill you.”
“What are you talking about?” Macy hissed, looking nervously back and forth from the window to the girl. She was short, under five feet, and in the light from the street Macy could see she had black hair and, where her hands emerged from her sleeves, very pale skin.
“Macy, I’m only saying this one more time.” The girl leaned in close. “Come with me now. We are your only chance.”
Macy looked back over her shoulder, then started to follow the girl. They both crept towards the steps.
But the girl stopped.
Macy took a half step back, startled. Then the girl asked her a question.
“Do you have your lottery ticket?”
* * * * *
Here’s your chance to decide what happens next:
1) Macy slides closer to the girl, then pushes her aside, and runs down the steps
2) Macy says, “Yes,” and follows the girl down to the street.
3) Macy says, “No” (even though she has the ticket)
4) The power comes back on and Macy, freaked out by the girl’s question, decides to take her chances with whoever is in the apartment.
5) Macy jumps off the fire escape and plummets toward the alley below
To read the first two installments together, go HERE (but to vote, you’ll need to come back to this page)