Prelude: “Landing on Edge”

Chance, son and godson of Dame Fortune, was suffering from a severe run of bad luck. At the moment, that bad luck had taken the form of an immense serpent, which was hell bent on dealing Chance his final hand of cards.

The serpent, longer than Chance was tall, struck. Chance dodged to the side, pivoting as he did so and bringing his sword down across the neck of the monstrous snake. Steel slid through scale and a gout of blood erupted from the serpent’s neck. The head bounced and rolled away as the body went into convulsions.

Chance leaned against the grimy bricks of a nearby building, chest heaving. Lucky for him, it was night and the alleyway was deserted.

Unlucky for him, it didn’t stay that way. The sound of slow clapping echoed between the buildings to either side, and a figure stepped out of the shadows.

“Very well done, Chauncey. You make your mothers proud.”

The strange woman smiled at him and leaned casually against the brick. Chance had his sword up in a defensive position. The tip didn’t waver but his knuckles were white.

“Chauncey, dear,” the woman tsked at him, “is that any way to greet your mother?”

“My name isn’t Chauncey,” he replied, keeping his gaze locked on her, “and you aren’t my mother.”

“Oh, bad luck, boyo,” the woman replied. “It’s your fortune, good and bad, to be mine. I may not have given birth to you, but I’m your mother, the same as she.”

The woman straightened and began to walk toward him. As she did, her figure blurred, and a man stepped out of it and into the dim haze of the city lights.

“You are mine, my precious boy—and you are the son of a goddess and the woman she loved—”

The man reached out toward Chance, toward Chauncey. Sirens began to wail in the background. Chance raised his sword—

—and Chauncey sat up in bed, hand fumbling for the screeching alarm clock.

He looked around blearily. Dream. Weird dream. Served him right for staying up half the night working on his character. Cool dream, though. But weird.

“Chauncey,” his mother’s voice echoed up the stairs, “breakfast!”

Chauncey yawned and hauled himself out of bed.

~*~

Chauncey slung his backpack over his shoulder and slipped out the side door of the house. With any luck his father wouldn’t—

“Chauncey,” his father barked, popping out from beneath the hood of the ’69 Mustang he was rebuilding, “I thought I told you to lock the garage last night.”

“I did,” Chauncey replied.

“The hell you did! The garage door was wide open this morning. Anyone could have just walked right in and—”

“I closed and locked the door last night,” Chauncey interrupted.

“Don’t you talk back to me.”

“Dad, I closed the door. I promise. I have to go. I’m going to be late.”

“Go? You’re not going anywhere. You’re cleaning this garage today. I asked you to do it last week, and look at this place! Look at that oil just slopped across the floor like slop for a bunch of hogs…You’re so damned lazy—”

“I did clean it. It’s not my fault you messed it up again. Clean it yourself, this time. I’m not your maid.”

“Don’t get smart with me.” Chauncey’s father lunged out and grabbed him. He threw him up against the metal shelving units at the back of the garage. “So long as you live beneath my roof, you’ll do what I tell you. Is that clear?”

Chauncey flinched away.

“I said, is that clear?” Chauncey’s father shook him.

“Yes! Clear.” Chauncey felt his eyes sting. He blinked rapidly.

Chauncey’s father let go and turned back to the car.

“Go on. Get out. I don’t want you in here while I’m working. Go get me some sparkplugs. ”

“I’ll pick them up on the way back from class. I can’t miss. We’re going over the midterm.”

“Just don’t you forget them.” Chauncey’s father pointed a wrench at him. “Gotta get this baby up and running in time for the parade this summer.”

Chauncey didn’t answer. He ducked out the door and started walking down the drive as fast as he could, cheeks burning.

Behind him, he heard a clatter and his father started swearing.

~*~

There was a dollar in the gutter. Chauncey leaned down and picked it up. Found money was luck money.

The bell over the door tinkled as he pushed his way inside the convenience store. Chauncey grabbed a few basics—orange juice, couple bags of candy, some potato crisps—before heading to the counter.

“One ticket out of here, please,” he asked.

“Huh?” The attendant—a spotty teenager named Mike, judging by his greasy name badge—looked at him in confusion.

“One for the lotto. Jackpot.” Chauncey pointed at the ticket and slid the dollar bill he had found across the counter. “You can ring up the rest after.”

“Ah. Sure.” Mike began listlessly ringing up Chauncey’s spoils.

“Chauncey!” The voice boomed across the small store.

Chauncey turned. Catching sight of the speaker, he smiled.

“Hey, Logan. Stocking up?”

“You know it.” Logan, a towering guy with the bone structure and blond hair common to many Minnesotans, grinned back and waved with a tightly wrapped foot-long sub sandwich. “You headed to the game?”

“Yeah. Wanna walk over together?”

“Yeah. Just let me pay for this stuff.”

Chauncey nodded and pocketed his lottery ticket before loading the other purchases into his backpack, while Logan paid for his stuff.

“Ready to shuffle off to another session of Immortal Coils?” Logan grinned.

Typical English major. Chauncey grinned back. “Defo. I’ve been looking forward to this all week.”

“Then, once more unto the breach!” Logan reached out and swung the door open for them.

The bell tinkled.

~*~

Author: Trip Galey

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