Alexander Bensen had a hard time believing in luck. Mainly because his was always bad. It seemed impossible, for everything in his life to go wrong, and yet here he was. The odds of all he touched turning to crap being mere coincidence were almost infinitely high.
Missed his exams due to roadworks and an exploded gas main. Couldn’t get into his back-up college because of a clerical error. A string of jobs that never lasted more than a month or two. Estranged from his family after the incident at his sister’s wedding. A string of misunderstandings that left him friendless. The flat he was forced into was small, damp, and prone to power outages.
This all seemed, to him, to go beyond coincidence. He had no way to explain it but he knew, deep down, that there was an explanation.
Bensen was sat in a coffee shop, brooding over job ads in a newspaper. His coffee tasted awful; he wasn’t sure exactly why but he knew there was no point asking for a replacement.
“Anybody sitting here?” asked a cheery voice.
He glanced up at the young man opposite; cheerful, loose curls to his shoulders, eyes positively twinkling, as though he alone was aware of an in redible joke. There were other tables, empty tables, visible. The stranger remained where he was, still smiling
“Well, why not?” Bensen replied, waving to the chair the stranger was already settling in to.
He continued scanning through the ads. The he glanced up. The stranger was still smiling. At him. He sighed.
“CanI help you?” he asked the stranger, trying to stay polite.
“Not right now. But I can help you. Alex.” The stranger leaned back, and his smile widened.
Bensen laid his paper down calmly, folded his hands in his lap. He looked up.
“I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you. How did we meet?” he asked.
“Oh, we’ve never met, Alex. Or do you prefer Alexander? We couldn’t figure it out,” the stranger replied.
Bensen shot to his feet and strode away. He left the coffee shop, but had barely gone ten paces before a hand clasped his shoulder. He jerked away and spun round, ready to snarl at the stranger. Except somebody else entirely stood before him.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Can I help you madam?” he asked.
The elderly woman before him smiled gently.
“Hello Alex. We’re here to-”
“Bloody hell!” Bensen cut in, “Are you with that lunatic from the café?”
She laughed, unashamedly.
“Jonas? Yes. We wish to help you ” she said.
He sighed. Ordinarily his bad luck didn’t manifest in such a way. But running into strangers who seemed to be obsessed with him certainly would fit the pattern of his life.
“Help me how?” He asked.
“If you’ll come with us, I think you’ll find it most beneficial,” she said.
The stranger, Jonas, sauntered up to join them.
“Evangeline! You’re the best. How you do it, I shall never know,” he said, his smile still infuriatingly broad. Bensen gritted his teeth.
Evangeline sighed, and Bensen felt somewhat reassured that she shared his annoyance. She turned to Bensen.
“Will you accompany us?” she asked.
“Oh certainly! Why not? I love trailing total strangers around,” Bensen replied, unable to resist a sarcastic jab.
“Let’s go then,” he said.
There was a flash of light. Bensen blinked to clear the spots from his eyes, then gaped disbelievingly at what he saw. The street was gone. He was indoors. In a house. He was pretty sure there were no houses on the high street he’d just been standing on.
“What…what happened?” He gasped.
“We moved somewhere more comfortable, dear. So we could have a chat in private,” the woman, Evangeline, spoke as calmly as though what was happening was normal.
“We moved? We moved. Of course, yes, of course we moved of course we did.” Bensen started pacing, hands clasped to his head.
Jonas slouched into an armchair. He was still smiling.
“Calm down Alex,” he suggested, “catch your breath.”
Bensen stopped dead in his tracks. He let his hands drop to his sides. His thoughts were a blur, nothing made sense. He was afraid he might be going crazy, that this was all just delusion, and he was lying on the floor of a café, drooling.
“Oh my no, you aren’t crazy Alex,” Evangeline said. She’d taken a seat, too. She patted the sofa beside her and Bensen moved to sit, too stunned to speak.
“Should we wait for him?” Jonas asked, motioning to the ceiling with a jerk of his head.
“He’d like me to begin. Jonas, perhaps you could fetch me a cup of tea? This will likely leave me parched. Alex would you like something?”
He laughed, short and harsh.
“Yes. I’d like a reset button for today. In fact,” he snorted bitterly, “can I have one for my life?”
Evangeline just smiled and patted his hand.
“Where to begin. Well. We moved from the street to here through teleportation. It was instantaneous. I couldn’t possibly begin to describe exactly how it works because I do it purely by instinct. Apparently- oh, yes. I have a gift. So do Jonas and the other people who live here. So do you, my dear. My, I really do a terrible job of explaining this. There are people in this world with powers. I say ‘gift’ but not everybody agrees. I have a feeling you might be one of them. I know you probably have a lot of questions, and I will try to aswer as best I can. Ah,” she looked up as Jonas returned,” thank you Jonas.”
Bensen shifted uncomfortably. He couldn’t dismiss what he’d been told, especially since he had undeniably witnessed something fantastical.
“You say I have a…a power. Okay. What is it?” he asked, sceptical.
“I’m sure you’re aware that you’ve experienced a life of great misfortune. We believe this to be more than just very bad luck. There are people who can alter probabilities, to a greater or lesser degree. These people often experience unnatural luck of some sort, until they learn to control their abilities. Judging by the rather extreme misfortune you’ve experienced, you could be very powerful.” Evangeline sipped calmly at her tea.
Bensen couldn’t help laughing. How many times had he wished for an explanation, a reason that neatly explained why his life was so crappy, why he couldn’t catch a break. He desperately wanted to believe and here it was.
“So…you’re saying I can turn this around?” He hated himself for sounding so needy.
Jonas slid into the seat beside him and laid an arm around his shoulders, gave him a little shake.
“Alex, I promise your problems are nearly over. You can relax.” The young man’s grin seemed to grow.
His eyes still seemed to twinkle. Bensen was looking straight into them, and could feel his concerns melting away. Jonas was grinning so broadly his face was almost split in two. His jaw seemed to unhinge as he moved closer. Something tickled at the edge of awareness, but he couldn’t seem to focus. All he could see were twinkling eyes and that broad grin; the wide, gaping…
Jonas snapped his jaws shut as he lunged forwards. Like a steel trap his teeth smashed through Alex Bensen’s neck. Jonas’ throat bulged and distended as he gulped and swallowed the head. He took out a handkerchief and wiped blood away from his lips. A somewhat pointless gesture given the fountain of arterial blood that was painting the room with gore.
:Are you finished?: asked a disembodied voice.
“Oh yes. Did Evie slip away clean?” Jonas replied mirthfully.
:She did. After all this time she’s nailed the timing:
“Oh, pooh. That’s no fun. Still, I’ll be along once I’ve showered. I’m sure you’re both eager to share the bounty.”