Well, guess now it can be told. A week before Halloween, I sent a little story into the Chicago Tribune for a contest they were hosting. It was to see who could write a “scary” story involving some person, place, or thing relating to Chicago or the Chicagoland area. It also had to be no more than 700 words long (not including the title). What follows is my attempt (and no, I didn’t even make the top eight final cut.)
Be Careful What You Wish For
It wasn’t a dark and stormy night.
Although it was late October, this night was a legitimate “Indian Summer” eve, a tease of summer past, before autumn got down to business. A full moon, acting as a heavenly nightlight, cast shadows, with stars providing twinkling counterpoint.
Pausing to catch his breath, and get his bearings, the bard sat hidden in the shadows. Scanning the immediate area, he took a swig of water from his canteen, and satisfied he had not been observed, continued on. Between the rubble, remnants of buildings, and nature reclaiming what was no longer cared for; there were paths, if you knew where to find them. The bard knew. Many years ago, “Stephen: Teller of Tales”, had traveled this way.
Stephen was old. Yet still surprisingly spry, memory sharp and clear. The weak, stupid, or gullible did not last long in this time and place. He was none of these. Patience and life’s lessons learned, combined with his physical and mental attributes, had brought him thus far, and with luck, would allow him to complete his trek. This would be his last chance to return where life had taken an unexpected turn. A place he wasn’t sure still existed. But it had to be there, standing as a mute reminder, for those who remained, of promises kept.
Stephen arrived at his destination almost by accident. He had been walking toward what appeared to the structural remains of some building or another. Feeling something in the air, a mixture of sacred and profane, brought him up short. The old bard had not been in the presence of this sensation in over 50 years. He headed toward the structure.
The exposed steel bore the ravages of decades of neglect, rust returning it to it’s native elements. The concrete, still intact, fared little better. It was cracked, pitted, and larger slabs were broken, though whether nature or two legged predators had done it, was unclear. There were no upper levels above what would have been the third or fourth story. What appeared to be an open area, could be seen a hundred feet, or so, beyond the outside of the building.
Entering the building, his eyes adjusted to being in the shadows. The bards senses heightened. He caught no scent of man or beast. Heard no sound other than his own breathing. His earlier feelings of major forces having been at work here, was stronger now.
Taking a breath, squaring his shoulders, he stepped into the moonlight. He had returned.
Stephen went toward the open field, the grass surprisingly still quite short, and sat down. His head was spinning, tears streaming down his cheeks. The ghosts of what, for an instant, had been the best day of his life, replayed their dramas with startling clarity. Memories of a time and place totally alien to here and now.
Conventional Wisdom held they had to win eventually. If nothing else, the odds demanded it.
Unconventional Wisdom held three different opinions:
- They were cursed.Management (and or the owners) spent just enough to keep them in contention, in any given year, and no more.
- Win or lose, the fans faithfully filled the stands.
- If they ever did win, it would signal the beginning of the Apocalypse. Fate alone determined their destiny.
Unconventional Wisdom was correct.
A three run homer, in the bottom of the ninth inning, gave them the win and the series. The Chicago Cubs had won their first World Series in over a hundred years. At precisely this moment, four “fans”, in front row box seats on the first base line, had transformed into the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The joy of the Series win quickly turned into pandemonium as their presence was felt, first by those at Wrigley Field, shortly followed by the rest of the world. Stephen had been at the game, one of few to survive.
“We all wanted it so much.”, he thought to himself. “If we’d known the ultimate outcome, I wonder how many would still have wanted the same. Grandfather used to joke, ‘Be careful what you wish for, it may come true.’ He was right after all.”