Author: David Barber
Your grandfather kept the luck locked away, says my father. It’s Martian, or at least it was found here. No, don’t touch.
The storm rocks the rover, our headlights lost in the swirling dust. We won’t be going anywhere. My father, down from Phobos. The father always away working while I grew up, who never talked about his childhood before.
And this is the firearm your grandfather brought out from Earth. Only has one bullet now. You spin the chamber then pull the trigger.
Certain that the storm dusting half the world would swallow him anyway, with his air getting too thick to breathe, Cal burrowed out of his stalled rover to save Mars the trouble. And tripped over a shiny pretzel of metal uncovered by the wind.
Cal was my grandfather. There’s a picture of him and his first wife, clutching their lucky charm, grinning like fools. A mining rig had loomed from the dust just as he panted his last. What were the odds? It was the beginning of flukes and relentless good fortune for anyone it touched.
Click. No, don’t flinch. Somewhere in the worlds of chance, the hammer strikes an empty chamber, and that world is this one.
No one bet against that winning streak. Soon folk began to ask to touch the luck. Can’t hurt, they’d say. Prospectors. Childless couples. Folk with sick kids.
My grandfather said the artefact was no more intended for luck than a CD twirling in the wind scared off birds. Whatever that meant.
Ill-fortune struck just once. Cal’s first wife was my grandmother. They married young back then. She tried cutting the pretzel in half so kin in distant Pickering could share the luck. A once-in-a-million suit failure.
The luck got locked away after that, and while he lived, my grandfather never let his family touch it, though it still oozed good fortune.
Word spread and a woman from State turned up. Oh, we would get a finders fee. Soon after, the Weeping Plague tore through the colonies and she never came back. Some places had it bad, we heard.
One sol, neighbours crowded our dome, their faces hard. Life here was too much for some. They demanded a share in the luck.
Cal went and fetched the heirloom chest and surprised them with the gun. One of them even moved to stop him before the trigger clicked. Then again. And again. There was a circle on his forehead where the barrel pressed.
That’s the luck, Cal said. You think it’ll let you come in here and take it? Mars knows how to kill folk.
He’s cursing us, one breathed.
Cal’s wife, my grandmother, her unbreakable faceplate cracking. Couldn’t they see? He hadn’t found the luck, it found him.
My father, the only child of Cal’s first marriage, was the first colonist to join NASA. His life was the Phobos Project. Just luck, his step-brothers shrugged.
See it in their faces, he says bitterly. The stupidity of those who always get what they want. You don’t have to be like them.
They will have noticed the heirloom chest was gone. My father wants me to toss the luck back. He thinks he’s letting me choose.
Luck is a word the bitter teach to the ignorant.
Stalled by a dust storm out of nowhere. What were the odds? But we should have known the family would find us. Just luck. Waiting for things to clear before they come knocking.
The twist of shiny metal is surprisingly heavy in my hands.
Let’s see what the luck wants.
Intriguing, and in a good way. Well done.
Nicely wrought, David. I’m a sucker for all things derived from the red planet but this was ‘really’ good. Thanks.