When the fog cleared, the debris swept away, the buildings rebuilt and the criminal proceedings complete, the universe was thankful. Someone paid off her mortgage. Some anonymous donations meant she would never have to work again. She didn’t give many interviews – a publicist worked hard to keep her out of the spotlight – and those she did were unremarkable. She was the right person at the right time. She stood up for what she believed in, and it turned out to be enough. In time, the media attention and the words closed around her, until only the occasional reminders in the background when she shopped (“Isn’t that the girl who saved the world?”) and the thanks of a grateful universe remained.
To be owed a debt by reality in general is a thing that manifests itself in a myriad of strange ways. Her headphones didn’t tangle in her pockets anymore. Buses tended to arrive as she reached the stop. Things she wanted tended to be on discount. She had just enough milk left for cereal and tea. It started to escalate, though.
She noticed that when she was running late, her train would have had signal problems. It seemed like coincidence, but the guilt of making a whole train full of people late for work wore her down, and she went to great lengths not to be late anymore. When she didn’t have a pound for the trolley, someone had left one in the last one; but who? Could they afford to lose the deposit?
She fell through the cracks of her phone company’s systems, and they stopped billing her. When she phoned up to query what had happened, the supervisor said “Someone will be fired for this”, and she worried about who. It became a constant worry, who was paying for all the things that were going her way.
On a hen party trip to Vegas, she was arrested. The casinos couldn’t understand how someone won every game, every time, and assumed she was cheating. It took a couple of weeks for them to decide they didn’t have any evidence that would stick. She was deported.
She tried to be generous with her money, and every pound she donated was returned in a surprise raffle win. When she won a holiday, she gave it to a neighbour, only to discover that due to a clerical error she’d been given a voucher for two holidays, and they wouldn’t take it back.
Without a possibility of failure, she became reckless. Throwing herself from an airplane with a parachute seemed like easy mode. Without a parachute she discovered the existence of a world record pillow fort, over sixty feet high, and fell to a gentle landing.
Eventually she took up being a vigilante, and stalked the streets in the name of justice for some years. The criminals of her city grew to fear her name and her costume alike, though she never happened to show up on camera. Bullets handily missed her. Knives skidded off jewellery, cigarette cases, novels and other unlikely objects in freak demonstrations of physics edge cases. Others around her weren’t so lucky, though, and she abandoned the streets for a quieter life.
Then, one day, a grand scheme arose. Like the plan she originally thwarted so carefully, the world itself was at threat, and reality couldn’t stand the cost of losing.
And this time, she didn’t stand in front of it.
It would have been literally self-defeating.
So she won, with the help of a grateful universe.