It was a cold, moonless night. He sat still on his threadbare mat. The faint amber glow emanating from the ramshackle streetlamp at the end of the road provided the sole source of light.
The collective snores of the fellow ragpickers huddled on the pavement pierced the somber silence around him. He was restless and hungry, and sleep seemed a million miles away.
A muffled footfall seized his attention. He strained against the blustery winds to take in the vague form. At that moment, the streetlamp flickered vigorously and then went kaput. He frowned. It was past midnight. Who would frequent the streets at this godforsaken hour?
The next minute, he found a hooded figure standing beside him. His heart leaped to his throat as the figure dropped something on his mat and melted into the dark.
He took a long swig from his bottle and picked up the parcel. It was a newspaper with an envelope. He was about to scrap it when suddenly his eyes fell on the strange newspaper. It was blank apart from the headline. He fished out his lighter and read the headline- Ragpicker wins ten crores bumper lottery. Despite the cold, he started sweating when he checked the date of the newspaper. It was the evening daily due for tomorrow. It was yet to be printed!
He yanked open the envelope, and sure enough, there was a lottery ticket inside it.
Several months later
A smile sneaked on his lips as he sat in his plush office and sipped his single malt. The lottery win was a stroke of good luck, as was the chance encounter with the hooded figure. After many trials and errors and waiting at the same spot night after night, he had figured the central theme of the madness.
The foretold event had to occur before 12 o’clock, noon, the next day. And each of the forecasts, ranging from stock market predictions to cricket betting tips, was contrived to generate wealth for him. Yesterday was one of the few nights when he had had a rendezvous with the mysterious figure.
The schemes to make a pile from the latest news forecast had kept him awake till this hour. He felt weariness wash over him as he struggled to think of ingenious ways to use the prophecy from the newspaper—the Owner of the luxury hotel Kismet dies due to cardiac arrest. He knew it had to reap benefits for him, but how?
The shrill sound of the telephone woke him up. It was 11.55 A.M. He cursed under his breath for having drifted to sleep.
“Sir, Martin has transferred his hotel Kismet to your name as a payment towards his debt. It is one of his most successful and remunerative properties,” his agent exclaimed.
The words hit him like an anvil, and he fell back into his chair. He clutched his chest and gasped for air for a few seconds before dropping dead.
The clock struck twelve.
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This is an entry for the event #twelve #Five00-10 at ArtoonsInn Writers Room.
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