Your Number Is Up

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
What happens when your number is up?

Submitted: September 03, 2016

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Submitted: September 03, 2016

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The population had spiralled out of control. There are just way too many people in this country. They are a drain on both the natural and financial resources and the country has been drowning in debt and crime. A solution had to be found – one that was considered ‘fair’.

 

Every citizen is given a number on their twelfth birthday. Everybody, that is, apart from the select citizens – those in power, those with wealth, and of course, all their family and friends. These are the elite citizens, one’s whose value exceeds their drain on resources; these individuals are guaranteed to remain number-free for life.

 

Every week six numbers are selected. What the selection then entails is generally unknown. It does seem, though, that once your number has been called you are never seen again. There is no point in trying to escape, to disappear, to just not turn up. Everybody has been tagged at birth and are instantly located.

 

On this particular Friday, you wake with a sense that your turn has come. The numbers are not announced until later in the day but you just know that yours will be one of them. You try to put it out of your mind, to get through your day as usual, but it is there in your mind all the time. The worrying, the not knowing what is in store for you.

 

Half way through the day you are called upon to account for your lack of productivity. You have been slacking, not keeping up with your workmates. Half a day’s credits will be docked from your wages. You must do better for the rest of the day. But does it matter, you can’t help thinking? After today you may well have no use for those credits ever again. Even so, you put that extra bit of effort in, lift your performance back up to normal and are not docked any more.

 

End of work time and everybody gathers for the announcement. There are six numbers to be called. Five have been announced and yours has not been one of them. Maybe you were mistaken. Maybe you are going to resent losing those credits after all.

 

The sixth number is announced. Should you celebrate or be terrified? You do not know for the last number to be announced for the week is indeed your own.

 

Your workmates move away from you, mostly looking at you with pity, although you do notice a couple of expressions that speak more of fear. Whatever the reaction the result is the same. You are left standing there, isolated and abandoned, clueless as to what you are now supposed to do.

 

Before much time has passed, two men enter and flank you either side. They know what you are supposed to do, where you are supposed to go. You follow their instructions without question – after all, what else can you do.

 

You are escorted to a large, heavily guarded building where you are led into a room. There are benches around two sides of this room and five people are already seated on them. It is a real mixture of individuals. Two of the people are old, much older than you, anyway. One, a boy, cannot be much older than twelve, while there is a girl who looks to be in her mid teens. A woman who looks to be in her early twenties, similar to yourself, makes up the five.

 

You all have a kind of shell-shocked look about you. One minute you were living a normal day and now you are here with no idea of what is to come. But the sight of the armed guards standing outside the door gives a clear indication that whatever it is, it is not going to be pleasant.

 

Nobody speaks. You all just stare into space or stare at the floor. You do not make eye contact with each other.

 

The door opens and in walk a man and a woman. These are people of importance. You can tell that by the way the guards react towards them, subservient, obedient, ready to take orders. You are not told to do so but you all stand up. There is a feeling of expectation, that you are finally going to learn the details of your fate.

 

And learn of your fate you do. The man dispassionately explains that you have been selected to take part in a rich man’s game. It is a game of skill, of survival. The rich are the hunters and you, the six of you, are to be their prey. There is a time limit of two hours. Survive and you will live. That’s it.

 

“Do you understand?” the woman asks.

 

The six of you mechanically nod your heads. What can you say? ‘No. I refuse!’ You know that would get you nowhere. There is no way out of this for you – for any of you.

 

“Any questions?” she asks.

 

“Do we get weapons, some way of defending ourselves?” you ask.

 

The man and woman laugh. “Of course not. When there were animals to hunt were they armed? Of course they weren’t. If they were to survive another day they did so by their own skill, their own cunning. Eventually, of course, they all succumbed but some managed to last for many years. Perhaps you will be able to survive for a time too.” The man gave a sceptical smile.

 

The woman continued. “The hunters will be armed with state-of-the-art weaponry. If they catch you, your death will be swift and humane. There will be no prolonged suffering.”

 

Is this supposed to make you feel better....reassured? If it is, it is failing to do so. Your mouth is dry. Your pulse is pounding. The desire to try to escape right now is so powerful it is only the sight of those armed guards that stops you from trying.

 

“When......when is this.....hunt to take place,” asks on of the older men. “It would nice to be able to say goodbye to my wife.”

 

“Oh no, no, no. That would never do. No goodbyes. Ever. Your number is called and that is it as far as your existence outside the hunt goes.” The woman seems to find the idea of you wanting to say farewell to friends, to family, absolutely hilarious.

 

“And the hunt will begin in....” the man looks at a screen in front of him, “Exactly one hour’s time. We wouldn’t like to leave you with too long to worry. Now, you will all be escorted to our transport section to be delivered to our selected venue.”

 

And with that the man and the woman stood and calmly strolled from the room.

 

The six of you are left standing there. You all feel the need to hide your panic, your pain, your confusion. Your outrage. You have been selected to be replacements, for bears, lions, wolves......for all the animals that have been hunted into extinction. The concept is too much for your brain to handle, apart from with a sense of disbelief.

 

The young lad begins to cry. Controlled sobs but sobs all the same. You move next to him, try to offer comfort. But what comfort can you offer to someone who knows that they are to be hunted down and killed for no other reason than sport? You rest your hand on his shoulder just to let him know that he is not alone.

 

You are taken out to a waiting van. You will sit in the back, completely enclosed. There are no windows for people to see you through. There is no way for you to see where you are being taken. You sit in silence, lost in your own thoughts, your own regrets, as the van speeds off to your destination. You cannot bear to look at each other, don’t know what to say. All your efforts are expended on remaining in some kind of control.

 

All too soon it seems that the van draws to a halt. The doors are opened and you are ordered to climb out. One of you does not want to leave the comparative safety of the van. A guard climbs in, and starts hitting with a club. These are hard hits, causing severe pain. You are not going to be allowed to protest your fate of humane execution without having severe pain inflicted on you for doing so.

 

A uniformed guard approaches you, waits until you are all paying attention before he begins to speak. “As soon as you are told, you are to scatter. You can seek shelter anywhere you like, use whatever you can find to defend yourselves. You must try to evade capture, death. Anyone who does not strive to survive will also die......but in a lot more painful way.”

 

Is it your imagination, or does he really seem to be relishing the prospect of resistance?

 

One of the older men speaks up. “What if I don’t want to play your game? What if I don’t try to escape? I mean, why should I? I’m going to end up dead anyway so why not just get it over with then you can all go home early.?”

 

The uniformed man casually aims his gun and shoots his questioner once in his left foot, once in his right arm. The shot man drops to the ground, trying to hold in his screams but writhing in agony. There is going to be no help for him. He will die but it is going to be slow and he is going to suffer.

None of you dare to move towards him, to offer assistance. You know only too well that should you do so his fate will also be yours.

 

Much as you hate it, much as you hate your own cowardice, you are going to give in. You are going to play their game. You really do not have a choice.

 

“Okay, get going. And make sure that you keep up that fight to survive, otherwise.....” The uniformed guard points to the man, still moaning and writhing. He doesn’t need to say another word.

 

You are in a small deserted town or something, the buildings all in various stages of collapse. There is dust everywhere. You start to run, all in different directions. There will be no team work, no co-operation. You are each out for your own survival and nothing else.

 

The engines can easily be heard approaching. There is no sneaking here. There are whoops and holler s, shots fired in the air. Here come the huntsmen and they are determined to have a good time while they hunt down their prey – while they hunt down you.

 

Maybe it’s the sound of the shots, or maybe their so obvious enjoyment that brings the reality of your situation crushing down on your head. These ‘hunters’ are after YOU. They are going to KILL you and there is nothing you can do except to run, to hide.

 

And run you do. Your feet are pounding on the cracked pavements. You are flinging yourself against a half-rotten door. Look for a hiding place, there must be somewhere that they won’t look. But where?

 

You run up the stairs but the steps are rotten. You gasp in pain as your foot pushes right through one and the splintered wood tears at your ankle. You grimace as you force your foot back out of that hole, back onto solid wood. You bite back your cry as you make yourself keep going on it, even though you can feel your shoe starting to fill with your blood.

 

You are panting, shivering, sweating all at once. There is someone downstairs, you can hear them walking around. What to do now? You just don’t know. You could hide in a cupboard or try to get under one of those mouldering beds but it just seems too obvious.

 

You stop, listen. There is a creak and another, closer this time. No time for hesitation. You are going to have to make your move. You look towards the window, partially boarded up but you can easily see that the boarding is rotten. Don’t think just act, you tell yourself. And you run straight towards that window.

 

You hadn’t thought of the noise it would make as you went crashing through to land on the ground. Stupid! Such a pathetic mistake to make. And you land hard, so hard, onto that ground. Can you move? Can you stand? Before you have a chance to find out that engine revs, that vehicle is there right in front of you.

 

And from the ground you look up into that rich and well-fed smiling face. That even tan and those white teeth speak of privilege, confidence, superiority. This is one of the chosen few; a hunter rather than one of the hunted.

 

You have done your part. You have struggled, tried to survive in the name of their sport. You know that you are looking into the face of your own death, and that that death is smiling at you. But it will be quick, merciful. You close your eyes and barely register the sound of the shot before you are.....no more.

 

 


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