Just so you know, I have not given writing up on my fiction. I am just stopping the sequels to some of my other works until they are right. The following is the prologue and first chapter of something I’m fleshing out. Let me know what you think in the comments.
“You have ninety days. If you survive, you will be set for life. No more bills. No more medical worries. If you die, your body will be left wherever it lies.”
The man seated in front of me had a mean look about him.
“What about my family?”
“If you win, they go along with you. If you die, your chosen beneficiary receives $250,000.”
That was a lot of money, more than ten years worth of wages, but it would barely cover my mothers medical expenses.
“What exactly is going to happen?”
The smile that came to his face was creepy.
“You will be taken to an undisclosed location somewhere on the North American continent. You will have nothing but the clothes on your back, a hunting knife and a fire starter. There will be no one around you for hundreds of miles. You will have all of nature to feed you, shelter you, and attack you. There are cameras hidden throughout the zone you will be dropped in. Your every movement will be watched.”
I don’t know if I could do this. I was a farmer boy who watched nature on a television screen. My mother though, she needed my help.
“Let me make one thing clear to you before you sign the papers in front of you. We do not care if you live or die. This is The Game, either way we get entertained. We don’t care about your motivations. We don’t care about your family. We care about being entertained.”
That’s what it comes down to, being entertained. There is no compassion. No sympathy. No empathy. Just as long as the masses are entertained, all is well. People need not look any further than their televisions to experience anything they could think of. No one cared that they had become a hive.
“Where do I sign?”
He smiled and slid some papers my way. I looked them over without really reading what was said. No one had ever survived The Game, and I doubted I would.
I sighed and signed the papers.
“Very good!” The man said, “The Game begins tomorrow.”
I was awakened around three in the morning and pushed onto a plane. There were no windows so that I couldn’t see where we were going. A cabin attendant came out mid-flight and gave me my last real meal. I never saw him again. My meal was a steak, baked potato, and asparagus with a side salad. There was also a few bottles of cola and a big slice of Dutch apple pie. I wasn’t hungry but forced myself to eat everything in front of me. I didn’t know what or when I would eat again.
The Game was hard to prepare for because you didn’t know where you were going. Most of the country was empty now so, the choices were many. Most people lived in four major zones. The Northeast centered around old New York City. The Southeast centered around Atlanta. The Southwest in Old New Mexico. The West, around San Francisco. There were a few pockets of people throughout the rest of the North American continent but, they were snuffed out when they were found. The television show The Hunters was about Hunters going out and taking care of these people. Death was the national past time now. The population of the old United States was around three hundred twenty million. The population of the North American Free Zones was just over thirty million.
Each of the Free Zones was designed for one major job. The Southeast where I lived, was the Zones agricultural hub. Although the other zones had small farms, most of the food came out of the Southeast. The Northeast was the financial district and also held the government offices. The Southwest was manufacturing. Everything that you had in your home was made there. There was no longer trade with other countries. The West, it was where the military was located. There were small bases in the other zones but, the bulk of the military was in the west. They didn’t go out and fight wars with other countries anymore, they were sent out to quell insurrections in the other Zones.
There hadn’t been an insurrection in over thirty years. In the last one, over thirty thousand people had been killed. One of the many television channels showed what happened at least once a week. The insurrectionists were rounded up into what used to be a national park and bombs were dropped on them. Since then everything had gone underground. People still talked about the old Constitution. Mom had one hidden in the wall of her bedroom. I read it once, it was beautiful but, it was a dream of a different time.
There was very little movement between Zones. Everyone was schooled until they were sixteen. When schooling was over, you were given an aptitude test and moved to the Zone that suited you best. Many families had been torn apart. I hadn’t seen my brother since he was sent to The Southwest almost ten years ago. We were able to communicate, but I doubted we would ever see each other again. Those who tried to flee their Zone were killed on sight.
We did have news but, everyone knew that it was basically just propaganda for the government. We would hear how much food was being produced and knew it was lies. The ground was losing all of its nutrients and we were fighting a losing battle. Some of us had gone to the bosses and told them that we needed to let some of the lands lie fallow so that it could regain the nutrients, we were ignored. We must feed the masses. It was a joke. They kept spraying the ground with God only knows what, saying that it would take care of the problem. It wasn’t. We were getting less yield every harvest.
That is what brings me to where I am today. Sitting on a plane, probably going to meet my death. The spray they use is supposed to be safe but, since they started using it, cases of lung cancer had quadrupled. My sweet mother is one of the latest victims. They cause cancer, deny it, and we pay for it. My mother’s medical bills are so high, I will never be able to pay for them. That’s why I’m here.
I almost believe that this is done purposely. Fewer people are volunteering to do the shows. The government had to come up with a way to keep the hunger for blood fed, so they do this. I’m sure there are things being done to the people in the other Zones as well. We must feed the blood lust.
I looked around the plane, wondering if there was anything I could steal to gain an advantage. I opened the overhead compartment and saw some cargo netting. I took out my knife and cut it free, stuffing the netting into my pants. I searched another ten minutes and found nothing. I sat down in front of the plate that had held my dinner. I took it and put it under my shirt. The silverware I put into my pockets. The cola bottles I put into the inside pockets of my jacket.
I heard a ding and looked toward the cockpit of the plane. The seat belt sign was lit. I sat back down and put my belt on. I heard the landing gear go down and braced myself. I had never been on a plane and wasn’t sure what would happen. After what felt like forever, I felt a small jolt and we were on the ground.
The pilot came out, smiled at me and told me I had to cover my eyes and ears again. I did so and was then led down the steps and set foot back on the ground. I was taken to another vehicle and made to climb in. I felt straps being placed around me. After a few minutes, I felt the vehicle move. I was afraid. It was swaying back and forth.
After about five minutes I heard a voice in my ear tell me I could take the blindfold and ear protection off. As I uncovered my eyes I saw that I was hundreds of feet off the ground, flying through the air. Panic set in, and I started to struggle against the straps holding me in. I felt the pilot touch my leg and give me a look that for some reason instantly calmed me. He pointed to a headset and gestured for me to put them on.
“I hate that they make us put the blindfold on you. It always freaks the gamer out. I’m very sorry.”
I just looked at him for a moment. He seemed kind but, I had met enough seemingly kind people to know better. I looked at him again and saw genuine concern.
“It’s okay. Just a bit disorienting.”
“Good. I know you took some things from the plane, I’m supposed to take it away from you. I’m not going to, though. I’m tired of setting you kids loose with nothing but a knife.” he paused for a second then asked, “ You did get the cargo net right?”
“Yes, I got it. I took the cola bottles too, I figured I can collect water with them. I got the plate and silverware too, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them, though.”
“I’ve gone too far by letting you take those things, I can’t help you any more than that.”
“It’s OK. I appreciate you not taking it.”
We sat in silence for a while. I looked out the window watching the land go past. Every once in a while I could see small towns that were being taken over by the forest. It was beautiful in a strange way. It was sad too. I wondered to myself what had happened to the people that lived in those towns. I shook my head to clear that out of it. I had enough to worry about, thinking of probably long dead people wasn’t going to help.
“We’ll be landing in about ten minutes. Listen to me. Where we land is not going to be a safe place to stay. It’s beautiful and you’ll be tempted to stay there and set up a base camp. Don’t. The last kid who decided to stay there was torn apart by a bear the first day. When we land, you jump out and go the direction the nose of the chopper is facing. There’s a stream that s clean and some dead fall for fire wood. Think smart. Don’t just do the first thing that comes into your head. Think everything through before making a decision. I don’t know what your story is but, for once, I want to see someone make it through this. Do it kid.”
“Thank you” Was all I could think of saying.
We flew for a couple of minutes and I saw a beautiful green space come into view. The pilot did his thing and we landed.
“Good luck kid.”
I unstrapped myself, jumped out and nodded my thanks. I ran in the direction he had told me to go. I turned back and waved. I thought to myself that he would probably be the last person I ever spoke to. Looking back to the forest in front of me I felt the weight of the world fall on my shoulders. What was I doing?
I looked down at my feet and forced them to walk forward. Within minutes I was surrounded by trees.