The Living Game – 1st Draft

Got this title from a random title generator and ran with it. Now if I could just stick to one story…

***

“Are you living?” A young, fair-skinned man stood over Leera, loose clothing blood-stained and sweat-drenched. He tilted his head and stared.

Leera lay in a field of grass two hundred yards from the safety of the forest. Green and brown blades whispered as wind rushed over them. She held her breath and stared upward, unmoving and unblinking.

“I asked you a question, girl. Are you living?” Silver eyes sharpened with his tone.

“Mose, we got movement over here,” a voice shouted from a short distance. “He is living.”

When the boy turned his head, Leera drew a silent breath and held it again when he looked back.

“Come on, Mose. This one is living!” The voice pitched higher. “He is running!”

Mose took one last look at Leera with a lingering frown and shook his head. “I will find you if you are living,” he said and darted away.

She waited and listened as yelps and yips drew farther away, and then she counted.

“One.”

A long, deep breath.

“Two.”

She sat up.

“Three.”

Scanned her surroundings.

“Four.”

Pulled herself up onto her knees.

“Five.”

She jumped to her feet, pushed off the ground, and sprinted away from the voices.

The tree line drew closer. Leera could just make out the small purple berries in the brush. Safety waited for her, beckoned her. Harder, she forced her legs to move even as they burned and ached. Her fingers could almost touch the bark of the nearest tree. It was so close, just there, just a few more feet.

The blow hit just between her shoulder blades, and gravity seemed to laugh as it pulled her down. Sharp, biting tendrils of demobilizing poison rushed through her veins. First her legs, then her arms, then her face. With no ability to cry out, Leera failed The Living Game.

Mose stood over her once more and pointed his gun. “Told you I’d find you.”

***

Kiry jumped with the sound of the blast. The soft drop of a tear tickled her face as it rolled over her cheek. She reached up to wipe it away and took a deep breath. Her eyes squeezed shut for a moment as she regained her composure.

Pesh chuckled. “No one cries over The Living Game. Why should they? The Predators win every time.”

Kiry’s eyes flew open and glared across the table at him as he reached for his glass of sweet-wine and smiled back.

“And that concludes this year’s Living Game. Seventy-two years running, The Predators remain our victors. Stay tuned to hear next year’s contenders.” The anchor’s voice seemed to smile with her, which made her name all the more appropriate—Jubilee Tonnel.

“I remember ten years ago, that woman’s daughter was selected for Prey and sent to Channel Five. She smiled the whole time like it was nothing.” Bakely shook his head and crossed his arms. “Something’s not right about that.”

“You think anything is right about any of this?” Kiry glanced at him.

Pesh shrugged. “I get the purpose, but your own kid? She’s gotta be on something.”

“It’s called mind control and government-issued drugs,” Theera said. Her hand held tightly to Pesh’s free one. A cold, blank expression rested on her face.

Kiry frowned. “You get the purpose.” Her brow furrowed, eyes narrowed. “How exactly do you get any of this? They are literally killing human beings for sport.”

“Hey, I’m just stating my opinion. I got just as much right as you.” Pesh’s dark eyes squinted as he glanced at her. “In fact, I got more right since I’m not over here dissing the government.” He stabbed a bite of steak with his fork.

She scoffed. “I didn’t ask what right you or I had to our opinions. I asked how you got the purpose of killing perfectly innocent people.”

“Chill, you two.” Bakely reached for his bread roll and picked off a piece, popping it into his mouth. “Doesn’t matter whether we get it or not. We don’t have a say in what happens.”

“Exactly.” Pesh flashed another smile. “It’s called entertainment, Kiry. Just be glad it isn’t you.”

“Dude, just drop it.” Bakley sighed.

Kiry watched her husband as he chewed. “And what if it was me, Bakely? How would you feel? Would you sit there and defend people like that?” She gestured to Pesh.

“You are such a dramatic child.” Theera rolled her eyes. “Get over yourself, please.”

Bakely tossed his roll onto his plate. “Of course, I would be devastated, but what am I going to do about it? I can’t just fly out to Channel Five and rescue you. If Jubilee Tonnel can’t save her own daughter, I sure as hell can’t save my wife. I’m not the president.”

Kiry bit her lip, swallowed the lump in her throat, and stood. “I see.” She shoved her chair back and marched out, feet stomping against the hard floor.

“Maybe she needs some government-issued drugs,” she heard Pesh say, followed by sharp laughter from Theera.

“Shut up, Pesh,” Bakely said.

Kiry stopped inside their ice-cold bedroom and slammed the door with a loud bang.

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