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Curiosity is a good thing and so is integrity.

By Mark GagnonPublished 4 months ago 3 min read


I started my day in the usual way: wake up at 6:30, dress in running gear, leave the house by 6:50, and try to run a 2-mile course through the park in under 15 minutes. My routine came to a halt the moment I opened the front door. A drone with a small package hanging from a grappling device was descending about ten feet above my head. Startled, I jumped sideways. The miniature delivery device continued to within a few inches of the ground, dropped its cargo, and sped away.

“Hey, wait! This package isn’t mine,” I shouted into an empty sky. I could have kicked the box into the gutter, or tossed it in a public waste bin while on my run, but my curiosity got the better of me and I brought it inside.

I studied this odd little gift from the sky, turning it over and over, looking for any type of identifying markings. All I found were two words, Open Here, so that’s what I did. My mystery box contained a single sheet of paper with the following message:

By opening this package, you have embarked on a journey that might change your life. Just solve the cryptogram below and your future is financially secure.

I want to win it all!

There is one stipulation. Half of what you win must be given to one or more charities of your choice. Act before the end of today or your opportunity will be lost.

I placed the paper on the kitchen table and left for my run. It was shorter than normal because the note kept popping into my mind. The words nagged at me as I continued through my normal routine, rereading the note in between sips of my protein shake. I like puzzles, and this could be a real challenge. Time was running short, so the note went into my coat pocket and I rushed off to work. It stayed there until lunchtime. Everyone left for lunch except for me. I remained at my desk and retrieved the note.

After reading it for the third time, I took out a blank sheet of paper and started writing letter combinations that would reveal a phrase, password, anything that might reveal a clue. My co-workers began returning from lunch and the chief topic of conversation was the $2 billion mega ball lottery drawing tonight. Lottery numbers, that’s the key I’ve been looking for!

Combine the letters in the words to gain their numeric value and play those numbers: I = 9 (ninth letter in the alphabet); want = 58; to = 35; win = 46; it = 29; and all = 25. This is just too strange for me to think it wouldn’t work. The clock crept along at a snail’s pace before quitting time finally arrived. I sprang out the door and headed for the closest convenience store to buy my lottery ticket. I only needed to buy one. My decoding was right, or it wasn’t. No hedging my bet. The ticket safely tucked away in my pants pocket; I went home to await the results.

The evening dragged on interminably. Finally, the time of reckoning had arrived. The machine was turned on; the balls danced in the air, and one by one rolled down the chute. 58, 46, 35, 29, 9, and the mega-ball 25. Joy, bewilderment, terror, pick an emotion. I experienced them all. After a very restless night, I contacted my lawyer and financial advisor, then the lottery commission, where I claimed my prize. It took about a week, but I was the country’s newest billionaire, with a bank account that read $1 billion after taxes. A deal is a deal, so I wrote a check for $500 million to the Make A Wish Foundation, fulfilling my part of the bargain.

Later that year, I was aboard a private jet heading to Monte Carlo. Next to my drink sat a small, unmarked box. Hands shaking, I opened it and read the message inside.

Our organization creates challenges similar to the one you have just taken part in. The contests are designed to reward the participant and help a worthy cause. I’m pleased you could decipher the code and claim your prize. More importantly, you are a man of integrity and donated as instructed. Life would have been very different had you not followed the directions.

We may call on you in the future to help us design a new challenge. In the meantime, have a good life!


About the Creator

Mark Gagnon

I have spent most of my life traveling around the US and the globe. Now it's time to draw on these experiences and create what I hope are interesting fictional stories. Only you, the reader, can tell me if I've achieved my goal.

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