Chapter 1 – What Bad Luck
Your name is Sam Dawson and you grew up with your mom in a small college town in Oregon. It was nice; a small two story home hidden in the trees that grew abundantly in that area. You had neighbor on one side and a thicker copse of trees on the other that you used to play in until you got lost one day and ended up in there overnight. Your mom found you the next morning with dirt and tears on your face and twigs twisted in your long, curly red hair. Now you pretty much steered clear of it.
You guess you weren’t surprised when it happened though. Bad Luck had been following you since you ever since could remember. And when your mom got sick, he was there then, too.
“I’m not leaving.”
He always says that.
“Please! I’m begging you! Just for a little while, at least. I really want this to work.”
“Ah, but you know I can’t. We’re bound together, you and I. Go ahead and try, anyway. Maybe you’ll succeed.”
He always says that, too.
Your mom had first started showing signs of illness when you were thirteen. She’d smiled through it though and told you not to worry. She spent the next four years trying to create a tonic. She’d even tried modern, western medicine without success. Eventually though, she got too sick to work. Desperate to save her, you’d tried your own hand.
You’d poured over your mother’s notes and books, carefully checking and rechecking and checking again to make sure everything was right. You had spent two weeks carefully crafting a tonic based on her previous work and your own meager knowledge of potions. You had been so very, very close.
Two turns counter clockwise, one turn clockwise and the potion should have turned bright blue.
It didn’t turn blue. It hadn’t even been close to blue. It had turned black and thick like tar and Bad Luck laughed.
“Poor girl, what bad luck. You must have missed a step somewhere.”
“But I made sure I didn’t!”
But it didn’t matter. Bad Luck killed your mother.
Or your abysmal potion making but at that point it may as well be the same thing. Your mother hadn’t been upset though. She had smiled and congratulated you for making it so far on the potion. You had been so close and mother was so proud. It was kind of sad thing to be proud of, in your own, quiet opinion. You had gotten so close. Just not close enough.
Your mom passed away that night and you had spent another two weeks pouring over her books and notes trying to figure out what you had missed but couldn’t find it. What bad luck you have.
That was four years ago. Now, you’re older and wiser and… still absolutely the worst witch ever.
The shattering of glass baffled and infuriated you. Shatterproof! Unbreakable! Yet somehow, you’d managed to completely destroy your seeing glass. The reflections of your frustrated gaze are thrown back at you a hundred times, mocking you.
“Oh what bad luck.”
“Stop saying that!”
You turn and glare at his stupid, smug, grinning face.
“This is your entire fault!”
“My fault?” He puts his hand over his chest, yellow eyes wide in feigned hurt.
“Sammy, how could you say such a thing? Oh, how you wound me! Fie, fie, foul witch. Your words
pierce my heart like such cold steel.”
“Ugh, shut up!” Frustrated and annoyed, you grab your wand, thin and swishy maple, and send a spell his way.
Or you try, at least. As usual, anything directed at him fizzles out and sparks uselessly.
“Ugh!” Slamming it back down on the table, you kneel to pick up the broken remains of your seeing glass, broken by a stray spell. Just your usual, rotten luck.
“You know, Sammy, you really shouldn’t blame others for your screw ups.” Bad Luck was like a shadow; a horribly literal one in a lot of sense. He was an ashen-skinned, yellow-eyed imp that had been by your side for as long as you could remember. No one else could see him though, something which vexed you to no end. Your mother had at one point been convinced that you had thought up an imaginary friend and scolded you for blaming your problems on him. After a while, you had believed your mother and had forcibly tried to wish him away. When that hadn’t worked, you’d tried mostly ignoring him. When your mother died… you had finally just accepted that he was now your only company.
Very unwelcome company.
“It’s not my screw up,” you hiss at him, dumping the glass in the bin and glaring at him again.
“You did something. Again.”
He was always doing something; breaking things, moving things, tripping you or pushing you.
“Why can’t you leave me alone?”
“Don’t you think I would, if I could?” He huffs and stretches out on the table like a cat. He wasn’t a particularly large creature; no bigger than a child with curled brown horns poking out of his fire-red hair. His long tail wraps around the cookie tin on the table, bringing it close enough for him to rummage through it and grab one.
“No, I don’t. I think you like making me miserable,” you snap. Bad Luck rolls his eyes.
“Why not just charm a new mirror?”
“And have it blow up in my face?” You scowl at him but he doesn’t look the least bit apologetic.
“Then buy one, stupid.” He takes on a haughty tone, an unspoken ‘duh’ ringing under his words.
“Why bother? You’ll just break that one, too,” you slouch down in a chair, wiping away the gathering tears of frustration and annoyance. Nothing ever went your way. You suppose you should be used to it by now but… failure and disappointment still stung like salt on a wound.
“Whatever, I’m… I’m just going to lie down….”
You go upstairs to your room and he follows you, of course. He always does and when you lay down, he drops onto your back, forcing you to grunt under his sudden weight.
“No, don’t do that,” he whines. “I get so bored when you just lay there like a lump! Go out and do something!”
“No,” you mimic. “I get so tired of you ruining everything. Go away and leave me alone.”
“Drama queen,” he pouts and you shove him off. He rolls off but you don’t get to hear that satisfying thud of his stupid hard head hitting the ground; he spins and catches himself, floating in midair.
Something seems to catch his eye and he grabs a leaf of paper from under your bed.
“Why not see if you can find a new seeing glass from this place?” He juts the flyer out and waves it in your face until you snatch it.
Sitting up, you stare at the piece of paper in confusion. Where had this come from?
“The Witch’s Festival. Come one, come all to the most magical convention in the US. The Witch’s Festival boasts hundreds of booths of merchandise and dozens of panels for witches and warlocks of every skill level…” you read out loud, puzzled.
“Held every ten years…. Why haven’t I heard of this before?”
“Maybe they only invite witches.”
“I guess…. Hey! I am a witch, you jerk!” You grab your pillow and swat at him but it goes through
him like smoke. He practically cackles.
“You haven’t had a single spell go right in your whole life! If you’re a witch, you’re a pretty poor one, in my book.”
“I’ll show you, you… you pest! I’m going to go to the Festival but I’m not going for a new glass.
I’m going to find someone who can help me get rid of you!”
“Your own mother didn’t even believe I exist,” he points out. And that was true; your mother had been a brilliant witch. But her specialty had lain in potions, however, so maybe that’s why you could never convince her.
“Shut up. We’re going to the Festival and that’s that.”
Even if you can’t get rid of Bad Luck, maybe you can still have a good time.
“Ugh, fine. It’ll be funny to watch you crash and burn in front of hundreds of other witches, at least.”
Clambering off the bed, you dig through your closet for a suitcase.
“I wouldn’t ‘crash and burn’ so much if you just left things alone! It’s bad enough you ruin every spell and potion I try but you topped the cake when…” you trail off, voice choking with grief.
“It’s not my fault you ruined the tonic, you know. I’ve told you over and over again. You messed up. Such bad luck, you have.”
You let out an angry growl and round on the spirit, clenching your shaking hands into white-knuckled fists.
“No! I have you. You are bad luck. You always have been!”
“You just weren’t paying enough attention.”
“Shut up!” You try and push him out of your room and, surprisingly, he lets you. He lets you push his cloven-footed furry hide right out the door and slam it in his face. Anguished, you fall back onto your bed, screaming into your pillow. You’d tried! You’d tried so hard and he ruined it just by being there! You maybe could have saved her if it hadn’t been for him.
Bad Luck phases through the door, face twisted in a knot. What a drama queen.
“I have an idea.”
“Go away, Bad Luck…”
“Come on, hear me out,” he needles, hovering over you and tugging obnoxiously at the hem of your shirt.
“Fine,” you groan, sitting up and swatting at him. “What do you want?”
“Go to the Festival. Do whatever it is you’re planning on doing. I’ll be there, of course -we’re stuck together whether you like it or not – but I’ll keep any of your perceived meddling to a minimum. We can see what happens.”
You glare through red-rimmed, brown eyes and fire back.
“Why do you have to meddle at all?”
He just rolls his yellow eyes.
“Who said I did meddle? Maybe I just hang around and you’re just blaming all your mistakes on me? Ever think of that? No? I didn’t think so. You’re so quick to blame me for everything, Sammy. Either way, go to the Festival and see what happens.”
This feels like a trick. You narrow your eyes suspiciously and point at him.
“Where did that flyer come from, anyway? And why are you so eager for me to go?”
He does that thing where he acts all offended.
“Oh, dear woman, how cruel you are to me! Here, I encourage you to go on a trip filled with wonder and magic and overpriced convention food and lo! But what doth the lady giveth unto me? She does nothing but caste blame and suspicion! Oh, my poor heart! How it aches from your loathing!”
“Ugh, fine! Drop the stupid Shakespeare thing already! It’s so pretentious!”
“Big words for such a giant fool,” he throws back, snickering. What a jerk.
“Just leave and let me pack, already!” Not that it mattered; he never strayed more than a few feet from you. Sometimes he hovered around in other rooms but, inevitably, he floated back to your side.
“Fine, you pack and I’ll go spook the dog next door.” He floats off and you call after him:
“Leave that poor animal alone, you little creep!” His answer is a fading cackle. Ugh.
It takes you longer to pack than you’d care to admit. You’re actually a little excited. A Witch’s Festival! You wonder why you’ve never been to one before… or why you’ve never heard of it…. You vaguely recall your mother leaving once when you were younger and she’d been very excited but you’re not sure where she’d gone exactly. You wonder if she had gone to the Festival. Either way, you’re looking forward to it. If you’re lucky, someone can get rid of Bad Luck. If you’re not – which is the more likely scenario – at least you might be able to have a half decent time. Midway through packing, you take a break to look over the flyer some more. Turns out it was more of a pamphlet.
Flipping it open, you look over the various panels and gasp when your gaze falls on one in particular: Ignatius Newtworth, author of Taming the Manticore, your all-time favorite book, would be hosting a panel discussing his next work as well as holding an autograph session beforehand! You could have him sign your copy!
You run down to the library to grab it but…
“Oh no! My book! Where’s my book?”
Its spot on the shelf is conspicuously empty, a three inch gap on the shelf marking its absence. Maybe you left it in the living room? You run for the other room, tripping on the carpet as you go and hitting the ground with a pained ‘oof’. You can’t worry about your bruised knee right now though; you need to find your book! Scrambling up, you tear through the house, looking up and down to find you favorite book. Finally, it occurs to you.
“You screeched, Sammy?”
There he is, smiling with that same fake innocence that borders more closely on just looking smug.
“Where is it?”
“Don’t you ‘what’ me! Where’s my copy of Taming the Manticore?” He shrugs, putting a finger to his chin and looking away.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it in ages. Although…” He’s smiling at you again, eyes twinkling. “I did see the neighbor dog playing with something. He was making a big mess of… shredded paper.”
You screech and go sprinting outside. That’s right! You’d been outside reading and had foolishly left it on the lounge. It’s not there when you get outside. Looking around, you spy a hole in the fence that hadn’t been there yesterday. Swearing under your breath, you drop to your knees and peer through. The neighbor’s yard is littered with paper. The dog seems long gone so you reach a hand through and pull a piece of it back to your side. In your hand is a piece of the bright red binding… of your favorite book.
“Oh what bad luck, you have.”
“You could always try and fix it? It’s just paper and cardboard, after all. Come on, then. I’ll gather all the little pieces and you can give your wand a wave. You can’t possibly make it worse.”
He had a point, but you’re a little reluctant to try.
“I guess, I can try.” He grins and vanishes in a puff of smoke. You head inside to grab your wand from the kitchen table, stubbing your toe in the process. When you finish swearing, nursing your smarting toe, you see a pile of paper on the table and Bad Luck grinning at you from across the table.
“Such language. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”
Your eyes narrow in a glare but you decide not to take the bait, focusing instead on the pile of shredded paper and cardboard that used to be, in your opinion, great literature.
“Go on! Give it a swish!” He goads, kicking his legs and watching avidly.
Inhaling, you let it out in a slow breath, point your wand at the paper and giving it a swish. You can feel the magic tingle through your core and you focus on your book, mending it and returning it to its whole state. The magic travels down your arm, to your wand…
And out in a burst of flame that startles you so much, you fall back onto the floor with a shout.
A splash of water has you looking up again, Bad Luck hovering over your singed table, an empty glass in hand. Beneath him is a pile of soggy ash.
“Oh what bad luck, you have.
“… Shut up.”
Chapter 2 – Train Rides & Good Luck
“Maybe he’ll have another copy you can purchase?”
You ignore him, wheeling your luggage through the train station.
“Why are we taking a train anyway? You have a broom… oh, sorry, had a broom. I completely forgot you crashed it two years ago. That was a mess. You were laid up in bed for weeks! So boring.”
You grit your teeth and ignore him, boarding the train and stowing your luggage in overhead carrier. Stupid Bad Luck. You’ve actually had the misfortune of crashing several brooms and had pretty much given up on it as a mode of transportation. Besides, trains could be fun, right?
“Ow!” At least until your hand slips and your luggage falls onto your head before dropping down to the floor with a clatter that has everyone staring. Blushing, you shoot a sheepish smile, reaching down to grab your bag again while you rubbing your throbbing head with your other hand. Bad Luck sniggers from the opposite luggage rack.
Still determined to ignore him, you try to lift your bag again. Grunting with effort, it suddenly slides easily into place. Blinking in confusion, you suddenly notice a presence at your side.
“You looked like you could use a hand, sorry.” Standing next to you is a man not much older than your own twenty-one years. Shaggy brown hair hangs over his green eyes and his teeth are white and straight when he smiles at you.
“Oh… oh yeah, thanks…” You give him a slightly awkward smile as he moves back to his seat. Flushed and slightly flustered, you fall into your seat, nearly jumping back out of it when Bad Luck’s face is suddenly right next to your own.
“That was the most pathetic display of flighty school-girl crap I have ever seen,” he deadpans, chin propped in his hands.
You glare and hiss out of the corner of your mouth.
“No one asked you and shut up. He was just being polite, anyway.” You reach into your purse and pull out another book, this one small, leather-bound and filled with twisting black script that spoke of fairies and their contributions and uses to magic and potions. It had belonged to you mother and the margins were marked in red with her notes and observations.
“Which is why you went all doe-eyed and red-faced, right? Right?” He pokes and prods at you but you continue reading. “Don’t ignore me, damn it!” You simply turn the page and continue reading.
The train lurches into movement a short time later and the conductor starts down the aisle. Anticipating the request, you reach into your pocket for your ticket… and stick your hand right into a hole. Oh no. You check your other pocket with no luck. You dig into your bag and the attendant is getting closer.
“Something wrong, Sammy?” You slowly look up into his grinning face and then up to the attendant as he stops next to you, looking expectant.
“… I bet you want to see my ticket, huh?”
“Ah… well, about that um…. I…. have Bad Luck…” You grin sheepishly and turn your pocket inside out to show him the hole. He doesn’t look amused.
“Ma’am, if you don’t have your ticket, you’re going to have to come with me.”
“I did, though! I had a ticket, I swear,” you hold your mom’s book tight to your chest like a lifeline. You can’t get kicked off the train.
“Please, I’m just trying to get to Los Angeles and I swear I bought a ticket.” The attendant opens his mouth to respond before a slip of paper is suddenly placed between you both.
“Guess it’s your lucky day.” It’s the man from earlier, smiling down at you again. You slowly take the offered slip and look down at it: it’s your ticket!
“Saw it on the ground a second ago. Guess you must’ve dropped it when your luggage fell earlier.” The attendant takes your ticket from your slack fingers, checks it, and passes it back to you. He checks your rescuer’s and moves on and suddenly, you realize you haven’t thanked him.
“Thank you. For helping me… earlier, you know. And now. Helping me right now um…”
“Huh?” You have to pointedly ignore Bad Luck making gagging noises next to you.
“My name is Nathan. It’s nice to meet you…”
“Samantha. Sam. My name is Sam.”
“Nice to meet you, Sam.” He shakes your hand, gives you another, charming smile, and goes back to his seat. You force yourself not to turn and gawk at him, staring forward with your mom’s book still pressed over your racing heart. Bad Luck is still scowling but you hardly even notice it, until he speaks.
“That was a stroke of luck, wasn’t it?”
A stroke of luck.
How lucky for you that Nathan had seen your dropped ticket. You smile and slowly start to relax, the terror of being kicked off the train fading away, and reopen your book.
“Yeah…. A stroke of luck….”
You’re almost giddy with the knowledge. Something had turned out okay! Maybe this Festival would be more than just a good time. Maybe Bad Luck was on his way out the door for good! You’re so excited and happy that not even having your drink knocked out of your hand, your candy swiped, or your laptop dying inexplicably in the middle of your movie could bring you down. You do have to ask though, quietly out of the side of your mouth:
“I thought you said you wouldn’t be meddling.”
“And who says I am?” The look you give him is probably the flattest look to be ever gifted upon another being.
“There you go, blaming me again for everything that goes wrong. I didn’t see you thanking me for earlier when Nathan found your ticket.”
“Why would I thank Bad Luck when I have a stroke of good luck for a change?” You don’t wait for his answer, sliding your book into your purse and standing. You need to use the restroom.
And manage to lock yourself in when you try to leave again. You jiggle the lock and the handle but the door doesn’t budge. A moment of panic starts to well in your chest but it suddenly stops: Bad Luck isn’t in here with you. He might be outside but… maybe you can try. You had some good luck earlier, who’s to say you can’t have a little more?
Pulling your wand from your purse, you point it towards the lock, hand shaking slightly with nerves. Deep breath. Focus. You tap the lock once, twice, the tip of your wand glowing…
And it clicks open.
You almost can’t believe it.
You quickly tuck your wand away and peer out. No one was there. Looking back down the aisle, you can even see Bad Luck pouting in the empty seat next to your own. You have to forcibly swallow down a cheer.
You did it!
You cast a spell and it did just what you wanted. Oh gosh, you think you might actually faint.
You keep calm though and step out, nearly skipping back to your seat but managing to keep it at a bit of a saunter, a grin tugging at your lips as you sit down with a little bounce. Bad Luck quirks a bright red eyebrow at you, his almond-shaped eyes narrowing.
“You look awfully pleased with yourself. Manage not to fall into the toilet, I assume?”
“Shut up,” you quip softly, but in a light hearted tone. Not even Bad Luck could bring you down now. In fact, you’re feeling pretty confidant right now. You stand and take several steady steps down to where Nathan is sitting, reading something on his phone. He doesn’t notice you at first and, for a moment, you almost run away.
Bad Luck has kept you from having many friends. No one likes a klutz who breaks their things, even accidentally. And the one friend who had stuck by you… well, she wasn’t too keen when you tripped and accidentally sent her down the stairs. After your mom died… you’d basically become a hermit, only occasionally speaking to your neighbor. Even the job you’d taken as an editor was done predominantly from home and you’d never had a boyfriend.
But now, Nathan was looking up, his eyes meeting yours and you drudge up your quickly slipping confidence.
“Hi Nathan…” you say softly, tugging shyly at the sleeve of your sweater. He smiles and lowers his phone.
“Hey, Sam. Enjoying your trip?” You nod and look at your scuffed mary janes.
“Yeah. Yes, I am… are you?” That’s it, just make casual conversation. This was good. He nods and gives you another one of his charming smiles.
“So what brings you back my way?”
“Hm? Oh! Um… well, I was just wondering if… I could maybe get your number… or something?” There you go! You can’t believe you did it! You totally just asked for this cute guy’s number and he…. His smile is fading and so does the one that had started to stretch across your own face.
“I can’t. I’m sorry, Sam. You seem like a nice girl but I’ve already got a girlfriend back home in Seattle.”
“Oh… oh yeah, that’s fine. I just… sorry to bother you… Um… thank you… again for earlier. I’ll just… go back to my seat.” You jerk your thumb over your shoulder, ignoring the sniggering coming from the teenager two rows up as you turn to head back to your seat. As you spin, one foot catches on the other and you go tumbling forward with a shriek. Everyone in the car winces and the teenager laughs louder until his mother smacks him on the shoulder. You stumble up and hold your arms out like you’d just done a trick, face bright red.
“Fine! I’m fine! Totally fine!” You hurry back to your seat, limping a little as your knee throbs dully in pain from where it took the brunt of the fall. You sit down, pull out your book and hide your bright face in it, shoulders shaking as you try not to cry from humiliation.
“Shut up, Bad Luck.”
“I’ve seen you crash before but that was pretty damn spectacular.”
“I said shut up,” you hiss between your teeth, voice cracking at the end.
There went your good luck streak; it was nice while it lasted.
“No, really! That was just… wow, Sam.” You drop your forehead against the pages of your book and then straighten, shutting it with a snap. Standing, you throw your purse strap over your shoulder and rush out of the car. Bad Luck follows as you make your way down the train to the observation car. It was mercifully empty. You sprawl out on your back and open the book, dropping it over your face to block the setting sun and you just know when Bad Luck comes to hover over you.
“Please just leave me alone….”
“You know I can’t do that, Sam.”
“Like hell, you can’t. You don’t follow me to the bathroom. Just go hover somewhere else or something and stop floating over me like that, it’s creepy and annoying.” He huffs but you’re not sure if he actually moved and you don’t particularly care enough to move your book to find out.
You can’t believe you just... threw yourself out there like that! You should have known this was all too go to be true. And just as quick as your luck had seemed to change for the better, that stupid gray specter of Bad Luck had hovered over you once more.
“Why couldn’t you just let me have this?” you suddenly ask, voice soft and sad.
“Have what?” So, he is still there.
“… He was nice to me… helped me… I didn’t really think anything would seriously come of it but….”
It had been a nice thought.
“It’s not my fault he had a girlfriend. It was just bad luck on your part. Besides, just because a boy is nice to you or smiles, doesn’t mean he’s interested. Maybe he was just being nice?”
Of course, he had a point. But still, it was nice to have someone to blame your broken hopes on.
“Couldn’t I have at least made it back to my seat without tripping?”
“You tripped over your own two feet. What makes you think I did it, anyway?”
“Because you’re Bad Luck.” He huffs again and when you lift your book from your face, he’s gone. Not that it meant much. He could vanish at will and you’ve seen him move things while invisible even to you. Whatever, as long as you couldn’t see him maybe Bad Luck would give it a rest and let you get some sleep.