“Do you need a break?”
Those were the words Coyote had awaited. “God, fucking yes.” Seizing the remote, he thumbed the volume up over the sirens passing outside and people shouting, and listened to the commercial. Details were confirmed in his head. He wrote down the website and then went to it.
Stasis. That was exactly what he needed – a month away from his life. Thirty days, technically, but still, fucking yes, he needed a month away from his job and his wife and the general malaise and ennui sucking the energy out of him. He’d dreamed about going into stasis since the first time that he’d read about it. But stasis wasn’t for middle-class people like him. The cheapest stasis was two grand a day. Two grand a day. Fucking outrageous. Like the rich needed stasis. Why would the rich need stasis? Just another thing to lord over the other ninety-eight percent, the bastards.
But this was different. This was a lottery. Tickets were ten dollars per. Proceeds were supporting school vouchers and health insurance subsidies, the usual beneficiaries of lotteries. Ten dollars per, ten winners picked per night. Tickets could be bought online, paid for with Bitcoin, debit and credit cards, or Paypal.
After skimming exceptions and warnings, because it wasn’t completely safe – nothing is completely safe – he sweated the math, established an account, and charged five hundred dollars of chances to his Visa, rationalizing it as an early birthday present.
Then he had to wait. The next drawing wasn’t until the next day, six thirty P.M. Pacific Time, twenty hours away. In the meantime, he wondered, how the hell had he missed hearing about this? Still, he didn’t mention it at work, nor to his wife. That was easy, because they weren’t speaking to one another, again. He thought about telling The Third, but he was on another fucking anti-government rant. Coyote decided telling The Third would be like tossing an M-80 on a campfire, so, no.
He didn’t win the first night, and bought fifty more chances. He didn’t win that lottery, either, causing him to scream at the fucking television as fire trucks and police cars roared by outside, sirens going as loud as a rock song. It wasn’t fair that he hadn’t won, but that was his fucking life, wasn’t it? He never won anything, never got any damn breaks while everyone else in the world was blessed. He consumed a case of Miller’s bemoaning his luck.
Fifty more tickets were purchased. He giggled as he did it. He was fully committed, all in. Yeah, he was committed all right. Heather would have a shit-fit when she saw the Visa bill. But if he won, that confrontation wouldn’t occur for a while. Besides, she would eventually thank him. This would be a vacation away from him for her, too, as much as it was a vacation for him away from her.
He didn’t win.
He was down fifteen hundred. He sweated over the number. Fifteen hundred. That had become a relatively large number in their financial world. Five hundred wasn’t bad, a thousand was okay, but fifteen hundred. Going into the Visa account, he checked the balance.
Holy shit. Sweat poured over Coyote’s face. That had to be incorrect.
He brought up the statement’s transactions details and almost crapped his pants. They’d overcharged him for the stasis lottery tickets, charging him for tickets the day before he’d bought his tickets, and the day before that. Damn fucking crooks.
He chugged down a beer to consider his options. Truth came up with a burp.
Heather was buying stasis lottery tickets.
His jaw dropped as he went through the Visa statement again. Besides the stasis lottery tickets, she’d purchased airline tickets.
Coyote broke into her email. She hadn’t changed the passwords. She was a fool. He’d changed his passwords about a year ago, when the marital cracks seemed like the precursor to separation and divorce. He really thought the ice princess was going to leave him. Well, in a way, she had, hadn’t she? If – as he thought – she’d won the stasis lottery. When was the last time he’d seen her, anyway? Day before yesterday. No, two days ago, three. It’d been the night before he’d first bought tickets. She’d had a business trip. Yes, but was it really a business trip?
The etickets receipt was in her email. She’d flown to Montana.
Montana was where the stasis center was located.
Her ticket’s return date was thirty-two days later.
Then, he saw the other email.
She had won.
Sitting back, Coyote stared at the email in disbelief. She’d won – she’d bought tickets, and she’d won, and left – without saying a word to him. Not a word.
Unfucking real. It just wasn’t fair. Giggling, he popped another Miller open. Well, there were advantages to be had, here. Heather was gone, into stasis. So, if he bought more tickets —
A buzzing noise sliced through Coyote’s thoughts. A door opened. Blinding light streamed in. As he raised his hands to protect his eyes and squinted, Coyote asked himself, “What the fuck?”
“Hey, Coyote, how was it?” someone asked behind the light.
The room dissolved around him, becoming a tight cylinder. Cringing against pain, Coyote asked, “How was what?”
But he knew as soon as he asked. He could take a break from his life, but it wasn’t the problem.