"We need an article, anything tomorrow," the publisher pleaded, "One of the writers just quit."
"Well, you gotta give me something, a topic. What is your paper about?"
"General things. Write me a story, something new-agey or one of those hard times turns good if you believe in yourself. You know what I'm talking about."
I nodded and agreed over the phone. I sat down, turned on my computer and stared at the blank screen.
And hours later, I kept staring. Nothing was coming. I wrote down a few sentences but always promptly erased them, afraid of their impact. I looked around my office for inspiration. There was a deck of cards and that churned and turned into a story about the Tarot's Fool but half a page in, it didn't sound good.
This was my first break into a major paper. The London Magazine Online did not circulate physically but it was the starter paper, turning nobody writers into big hits from Lenton Wiggins to Jeremiah Yisel and even Evenah Loughbury. Their writing all started at the big LMO.
And today, because some new big shot gave his notice, I was asked to scramble and write something. No doubt, I thought, there would be twenty others doing the same thing. It was a competitive business. Fair, but competitive. Everyone got paid but only one would be published.
"You're thinking too hard," I told the reflection on the monitor. I grabbed my laptop, went to the small living room in my apartment and turned on the TV.
My fingers flipped through the channels landing on news, cartoons, and movies, until finally, I made it to the Big Million Lotto which gave me an idea. I had actually bought a ticket earlier today which gave me an idea.
I opened my laptop and started writing.
"Joe was a regular guy." Geez, of course he was,
"Jeremy was an accountant at a local startup gone mid-size. He came in promptly at eight-thirty every day and left at five-thirty just like everyone else. Upon arrival home, he made dinner, watched the newest episode of Game of Thrones.
"He was an interesting man at work, always full of jokes and ready to discuss any topic but outside he had no clue what to do with himself other than stick to his regular schedule."
"Now we're working," I said to myself. My phone vibrated and I idly shoved it to the back of the couch. Most likely another spam email, I really have to shut it off.
"So what would Jeremy be like?" I made a mental list of my previous co-workers, friends, bosses, and classmates, picking out different attributes. This was my jackpot, I thought. It's been a while since somebody wrote an article about the regular Joe winning the lottery.
"Ah, but it will have a twist!" I turned to my dog who dropped a ball in front of me, ignoring my comment, "An expected twist! Jeremy will grow unhappy with his money! Perfect."
That's what everyone wanted to hear. That they're better off where they are.
My phone buzzed a few more times, "Cut it off." I picked it up and turned off vibrate.
I blazed through the story pretty quickly. Jeremy won the lottery, the "Huge Mill Lotto", quit his job, and found himself bored, having nothing to do. Meanwhile, his friends and family would ask for money, become vicious, and he would end up lonelier than before.
I typed quickly until the night fell even darker. I decided to take a break, grabbed my phone and took my dog out. Almost time for bed.
"I think the publisher will like it," I told my dog while he urinated on a tree nearby.
I checked my phone for the first time in hours and found myself staring at fifty unread messages and forty notifications. What was going on?
Unlocking the damn thing, I stared at what was in front of me.
"Congratulations! You've won!" the mocking voice yelled from the speaker. I had installed an application that would check the lotto numbers, just for fun. And the little-known never-seen winning screen stared straight into my face.
It did more than just notify me. I posted on my facebook, on my twitter feed, sent a text to my family and friends. There was no one that did not know that I had won.
"Wait, I won?" I asked myself out loud as I sped back into my apartment, making sure the piece of paper with numbers was still there. And it was.
"This is unbelievable!"
Time fluttered past me in the next few weeks. I had quit my job as a freelancer, leaving my story unfinished, moved to a new house in a new neighborhood, threw a big party inviting every person I could think of (okay, it was a small party), and got a large set of very nice suits, a big TV, and several first-edition copies of my favorite books.
It was amazing. I had access to all the things I wanted. Whole libraries of books shipped to my house to stack into my tall-shelved walls, all of my friends flown to see me and enjoy my company.
I had read through several books but not fast enough. Every day, I found a new hobby, a new book, a new author, and a new activity to indulge in. My senses were over-saturated with the possibilities.
I was like a desert, drinking thirstily on Nile my whole life when suddenly an ocean opened and filled my fields.
Before long, I had helped my best friend buy a house, gave my parents a credit card that they could use to travel anywhere, and had given a few charities a piece of my wealth.
It was however, only two years later when, during a dinner, my father approached me with a dark attitude.
"What are you gonna do with your life?" He said. My mother sitting on the other side of my dark mahogany table. His face was tan from his trip to the Carribean, almost leathery from the sun exposure.
"This! Learn, love, enjoy my life!"
He shook his head, "I haven't seen you step outside the house."
"I've traveled to India, Australia, and even Korea!" I exclaimed, excited still.
"Yeah, and you've spent not a day there before you came back here. Aren't you going to find a job soon?"
I turned to him, "What for?"
"What for? For some meaning in your damn life! I get you wanted to take a vacation but your life is flying away from you!"
"It's not, I'm barely thirty, and look at what I've already achieved!"
"What you've achieved is gotten a ticket, and had been given everything to you. And now you're just rotten from it."
"Rotten?" I stood up, "Rotten?! After I've allowed YOU to fly and experience the world? After I built your house!"
"Honey," my mother said almost too sweetly, "We appreciate that. We love it. We're just thinking of you."
"Thinking of me alright. Thinking of being ungrateful," I had with them. It wasn't the first time. And they were not the only ones. I took their credit cards away and left them be. Sending only occasional cards for big holidays.
My best friend had come to my house only a few months prior, asking me, no, demanding from me money to pay for his mortgage. His wife had left only a year ago and he could no longer keep the house I helped him buy. I helped him a few times already but that only resulted in him spending the money on stupid things and taking out loans.
"Just send me a few thousand. I'll be off your back," he said, "Come on. You can't hoard all that money for yourself."
"I can't. I've already given you more than enough."
"Huh," he said, "I guess money changes people. Should've known."
I hadn't seen him since then.
A few other friends refused to fly up to see me unless I paid for their tickets and lodgings, and even hotels despite the fact that I had a big house with lots of spare rooms. They wanted me to pay for everything but I did as told. I did not want to risk losing them.
"We'll be right back, okay?" They told me as they left the house in the morning of their first day. I had planned many fun activities but indulged in them alone, again. They came back the next day, exhausted, falling asleep drunk. One of them vomited on my sofa and when I asked her to clean it up, she only replied, "Can't you hire someone to do that?"
And that was that. Outside of my parents, I hid away from the rest of my family since they all wanted big gifts for whatever events. I caught Aunt Jenny asking me for a birthday gift for my cousin five separate times during the same year. I got five different cards, five different invitations during the most inappropriate times which I had to decline.
But at times, they would come to visit me. I had become bitter by then. They tried to keep up some small talk but inevitably it turned into a "you wouldn't understand" conversation. Where, somehow, I did not understand money problems, or taxes, politics, or even sports.
"We don't watch horse polo," my uncle would say. I don't even know what that is.
Two more years had gone by and I finally decided to travel the world better, perhaps get a cottage in Costa Rica up in the mountains, or a ranch out in Texas in America.
It was then when the final blow of my misfortune destroyed my life. A simple white envelope from my investors. I had put away a considerable part of my fortune to be controlled and appropriate as necessary by a small finance firm that I had heard of. The company was family owned, and had helped many prosper.
As I opened the envelope I could not fathom what it could be about other than annual earnings. It was quite the opposite.
One of the large companies my money was invested in had, somehow, nearly bankrupted over the years. I never kept up with news, but the company produced several sub-par products, had tried to invest in unsuccessful startups and suffered from bad management.
A week later I found out that they had invested their own money into those startups and came out richer than before. When I mentioned this to a lawyer, he could only say "you have something there" but "they have a diverse portfolio" and that "nothing would be provable" and he would certainly not "take on the case without a substantial pay" which I, unfortunately, could no longer afford.
In the mean time, as my house was getting packed up, my small condo purchased, I thought to myself, it's time to finish my story.
With only a small small sum left in my savings account, I had to get back into working, just as before. It was funny, I thought, that in the past five years I had not once tried to finish writing the story, or tried writing another story.
"Jeremy moved back into his original apartment and applied for the same position at the same job. It took him a few months to break the bad news to his friends and family but they welcomed him with arms wide open. At least most of them.
"He could think of only one thing as he sat in his office, filling out spreadsheets and going over receipts. The money he won did not give him happiness, quite the opposite.
"And with that, he could only conclude that 'money is the root of all evil'."
Except that's not what happened. Mainly because my story was fiction not fact. What in fact happened was quite the opposite.
The evening I went out for walk went differently than I portrayed. I had an older phone model, one ready to be trashed. In fact, it was so unpredictable and unusuable that it lost signal completely after the notification application received the latest lotto numbers. It wasn't unusual for me whatsoever.
I finished my story that night, while making a wishlist on amazon. The thing is, I was aware of the dangers of money. Especially going from broke to rich in a single minute. I decided to post on various forums asking what to do, anonymously, stating I had received a large "inheritance".
It took no time at all to get solid advice. Form an investment firm, research what to put my money into myself rather than relying on shady consultants. And then join in on different capitalist ventures with other companies. A large cash buffer was sent to a low-risk stock account and I did not mention a word of this to anyone.
Months later, I finally told my parents and vacationed with them for a while.
I never abandoned my work, that was one of the warnings an online commenter gave me, "You might find yourself wanting to do nothing. Take some time off but never abandon your passions." Instead, indeed, I was published several times and started writing "Memoirs of the Secret Millionaire".