Thursday, July 1, 2010

Legendary Curse

I struggled with how to approach this prompt. As I read it now, I see some places I would rework but overall I'm happy with this result.

Fiction Friday Prompt: Write about a man with an impossibly bad streak of luck on his birthdays, who, as his 40th birthday approaches, is scared of what might happen.

The detective rapped on the door of room 201. He eyed the man who opened the door—around 5’9”, blue polo shirt with hotel logo, khaki chinos, loafers. The man was not smiling and clutched a white envelope.

“You the one who called?” the detective asked.

The man nodded.

“Your name?”

The man flushed a bright red. “Sorry, officer. I’m Dan Anderson, day manager.”

“Detective Brim.” They did not shake hands. “Why did you call, Mr. Anderson?”

“This.” Anderson thrust the envelope into Brim’s hands. “And that.” He pointed to the right.

Brim’s eyes swung to the right. Bathroom. Brim stepped into the room and to the bathroom door. The tub was full of ice. Some trails of pink were laced through the ice. On the floor were several towels, some with blood. Brim turned and scanned the rest of the room. A small suitcase sat on the floor. The bed was rumpled but not turned back. Shoes lay on the floor. The rest was just your standard hotel furnishings.

“Whose room?” Brim asked.

“Isaiah Haynes. Checked in day before yesterday. Ordered room service a few times.”

“And now?”

Anderson shrugged. “Don’t know.”

Brim looked at the envelope. FOR POLICE IF NECESSARY was in bold letters across its face. Brim was glad he was wearing gloves.

“Anyone else handle this?” he asked Anderson.

The manager’s face flushed red again. “No, sir.”

Brim waved a hand. “Let’s wait downstairs for my colleagues.”

In the lobby Brim carefully opened the envelope. He slid the envelope itself into a plastic bag; then he slid each page into its own bag. He laid the encased pages on a table and began to read.

Police Officer or Emergency Person:

My name is Isaiah Haynes. My birthday is June 30. You are probably reading this letter the day or two after that date. I’ve written this note because I know that something would happen to me. I’m cursed, a birthday curse. Each year something happens on my birthday, each year since I turned 13.

That year I became violently ill after having Pop Rocks and Coke at my birthday party. My parents had to have my stomach pumped. Doctor said I could have died. In years after that I would have accidents or bad luck or a death in the family, each time on my birthday. My grandmother was attacked by a man hiding in her backseat. My dad was knocked out by a treated business card and robbed. My brother was severely injured by an exploding lava lamp. Car wrecks. Broken bones. Coincidence I’ve been told, but I don’t think so.

At 22 I was severely electrocuted by urinating on an electric fence; yes, I was drunk at the time, but still almost died. At 31 I received second and third degree burns when staying at a monastery. Police could determine no cause; they said I just burst into flames. Now, another nine years later, I’m turning 40. I don’t know exactly what will happen this time, but I took no chances. I’ve locked myself in a hotel room, only eating when I must. If you are reading this, something has happened. Please call my parents and tell them.

Brim looked at the phone numbers listed at the bottom of the letter. He shook his head. Cursed? Ha! But he should still call the parents. Who knew exactly what was happening. He heard Anderson answer the hotel phone and have a very heated discussion. He walked to the desk just as Anderson hung up the phone.

“Trouble?” asked Brim.

Anderson shook his head. “No, just an insistent wrong number. The person wanted to talk to a Dr. Smith. Insisted that this Dr. Smith was staying here. Why would a transplant expert stay here?”


  1. Excellent writing. I loved that you told the story through the eyes of a detective -- instant tension. It took me a little while to understand the ending, though. A little more clarity for the dull (me!) on the rework would be good, but I love the irony of the ending.

  2. Nice tone. I love the funny little urban legend incidents that have happened to Isiah on his cursed birthdays: pop rocks & soda, peeing on an electric fence.

    I'm a little confused by the ending. I'm not sure exactly what happened in the hotel, although I realize it involves a transplant of some type. Is this a hint to the urban legend where a man has his kidney/liver/other organ removed? I'll have to look that one up. You may want to clear up the ending just a bit.

  3. So what exactly happened to him?

  4. I liked the urban myth about waking up in a bath tub of ice to find your kidneys or liver removed. This use of the detective was a good framing for the story.
    Enjoyed it.
    Adam B

  5. I agree that the ending is the part that needs the most rework. I wanted to hint at what happened without just stating it. I need to clarify that in the rework. (I'm glad you saw it, Adam!)

  6. Of all the outlandish birthday outcomes I've read for this prompt yours take the cake! I particularly liked the burns in the monastery and exploding lava lamp. As to the electric fence ... I had best not go there! I like the ending ... you have to pause and consider for a moment and when you get there its a wincing moment. Cool.

  7. I love all the crazy bad luck situations. So outlandish! :) I agree with Laura about the end. This was fun to read. :)

  8. loved the little details of bad luck birthdays. Yes - this is a first draft - yu have gotten your ideas on the page - now it just need s a little reworking - but I think you have a strong beginning to carry the much loved urban myth through.

    Visitors can see my entry over at

  9. I agree with the slightly unclear ending. The letter also sounded a little too factual to me. It felt like Isaiah was listing his bad luck instead of talking about his bad luck (maybe add a little more emotion into his letter?).

    What I liked about the piece was the the fast-paced narration and suspense. Sounds like the beginning of a bigger piece of work too. :)