I draw the nicotine laden smoke deep into my lungs. The rush flows through me like the best drug hit you can imagine. Smoking, of course, is illegal outside the smoking zones, yet the visceral thrill I get from this one act makes me not care. That and the fact I am surrounded by possibly hundreds of other illegal acts, contributes to this feeling.
The crowd mills about the park, watching to see who steps forward. Who is going to take the chance today? I feel the small handful of change in my right pocket and know that I will. I just have to get the courage up first.
The government have repeatedly denied the existence of the so called “Death Games”. The news keeps telling us this. No-one believes them. We all know someone who has competed through desperation.
Very few of us know anyone who survived.
When a society develops a system of looking after its citizens by limiting their income and destroying their self worth, then that society would normally be deemed as a failure.
Not this one. This one trumpets it as a step forward. Why pay money to people who cannot work (or who do not earn enough from that work) to survive with dignity. There is a crisis that needs attending to. The news media tell us this over and over. This is the only way to sort it. We are all in this together.
Of course that is just another lie but it is told to us again and again until, at some level, that is what we end up believing.
I stub the cigarette into the dirt at my feet and exhale the lungful of smoke into the night sky. The recruiter is waiting for contestants and the amount of money they are offering as a prize has been revealed. It’s not as much as I hoped, basically a weeks wages. But it is a weeks wages I do not have and that is enough for me to step forward, my hand in the air and be welcomed by the crowd. The VIP area behind the stage is full of politicians sat around the monitors. The same ones who deny the existence of these events during the day, are just avid voyeurs when the daylight ends. Revelling in the poor competing against each other for their amusement.
Shutting out as much of the noise as possible, I stare emptily into space. The rules are explained to the watching crowd but I have heard them many times before. Kill or be killed, it is that simple.
I feel the weapon being placed into my hand, the gate in front of me opens and the park grounds are revealed to me. I offer a silent prayer to a deity I do not believe in.
The siren sounds.