?

Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Apr 8, 2009.
  1. mariahbleau - The Countdown

    2 vote(s)
    13.3%
  2. delaneydarling - Redemption

    2 vote(s)
    13.3%
  3. thefreshman - The Games

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. A.J.Crowley - Winners and Losers

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. redbaron - A game of battleships

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. Addicted2aa - Click

    3 vote(s)
    20.0%
  7. becca - Deadly Mistakes

    2 vote(s)
    13.3%
  8. BabelFish42 - Foolish

    5 vote(s)
    33.3%
  9. LordKyleOfEarth - Deadly Ties

    1 vote(s)
    6.7%
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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Voting Short Story Contest (41) Game With Lives At Stake

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Mar 27, 2009.

    Voting Short Story Contest (41) Theme: Games With Lives At Stake

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned.

    Voting will end 8th April 2009 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    Note: Entry by jj333 not submitted for voting for being well under the word limit.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not strictly in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    mariahbleau - The Countdown

    I was making my way to the small cafeteria located in the tennis campus, to buy myself a bottle of water. I walked, staring at the floor, watching my feet moving, one shoe in front of the other, when my sight was directed toward the tennis field, and my jaw dropped.
    There he was, wearing a red sports shirt, his hair bleach blonde in the sun; there he was playing with his racket, without a single idea I was looking at him from the other side of the fence. He felt so cool, didn’t he? With his little tricks of flipping his racket and catching it single handed in the air, for the great amusement of the crowd. But even if my relationship with Seth is over, are the feelings really gone? I sighed, while my eyes were permanently fixed on him, every single movement of his arm, every expression showing on his handsome face, every single glimpse of his smile I was so familiar to, but this time it was not directed to me, it will never be mine anymore.
    I decided to cross the street and focus on my exercise, for that was the reason I was there, and that was all that my mind had to think about at the time. But as soon as I stepped up on the elliptical machine, and timed it up to 20 minutes, I counted down every second, impatiently for it to finish.
    Please make it stop! Soon I was submerged in the tantalizing agony of waiting, waiting to see his face again. I needed to see his face again, but I wouldn’t allow myself to step out of the machine, I was, indeed, stronger than that.
    14 minutes to go. Aaaghh! I want Seth; he is standing at the other side of the street, for the first time I have the opportunity to explain everything to him, my first chance in almost two years, that chance I kept praying for. What am I doing here? Why can’t I just get off the elliptical and run, run through the street toward his arms, tell him how much I’ve missed him!
    9 minutes to go. I was about of quitting my resistance and actually going to look for him. But I was stronger than this; I kept thinking every minute I was closer to hearing him whisper my name, once more, please, say it just once!
    6 minutes left. My breathing grew stronger, I felt my fingers as they grasped to the machine, resisting the impulse of running away. But what if he left? What if I wasted my chance to see him again? Why, why, why?
    4 minutes more, only 240 seconds left. Prove your self control, Cassie! Prove you are stronger than this!
    80 seconds left, my heartbeat increased second by second, I was close; I was really close. But now that I was going to be free soon, free from my own spell, free to go and look for him, what will I say when I actually see him face to face?
    I totally panicked, what if I didn’t know what to say, what if I wasted my only chance by making a complete fool of myself. But then I thought about it and the truth was that insecure girl was once no one else but myself; back at the time when I broke up with Seth, back at the time when I was afraid of what people would think about me.
    But now I knew better, I had learnt how to be myself, how to allow my inner personality break free. But it was Seth, standing just meters from me, who awakened something on me; maybe it was because I loved him incredibly, or because I had always been scared of doing so.
    When I talked about my past, I was talking about Seth, I considered Seth my past, but the idea of Seth being my future was rather odd, unlikely to happen. But now I was away from him for ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two…
    I jumped off the elliptical and made my way to the Tennis grounds once more. I took a deep breath while I fixed my eyes on the court, words already in the tip of my tongue, but no red shirted blond was there. Seth was gone… That was not possible. I turned around just to witness how a car passed by, a car so familiar to me!
    “Seth!” I yelled from the bottom of my lungs, I screamed his name over and over again. But Seth was gone, and all I could do was to pray for one more countdown, one more chance, only one more chance...
     
  3. Gannon
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    delaneydarling - Redemption

    “We’re going to play a little game,” a man chuckled maliciously. His anxious voice trembled with excitement as my six year old daughter began to cry piercing shrieks.

    “Mommy, I’m swkared,” she managed to whisper through her toothless frown.

    “Me, too,” her older brother added.

    I hugged both children against my breast protectively. “I know, Janie, Mommy’s going to make it all better,” I said softly, stroking her gleaming blonde hair. I didn’t know how I was going to fix the situations, mostly because I had no idea where we were, or even how we had arrived there. I didn’t even remember being taken.

    “Mommy,” the man addressed me viciously, “how about I make a little deal with you? You play my game…or rather you win my game, and I shall let your little kiddies roam free.”

    “How can I trust you? I don’t know that you won’t hurt them,” I sneered.

    The man stepped into a fragment of moonlight that came in through the dusty, cracked windows. I noticed he was oddly dressed for someone of his psyche; he was wearing a black pinstripe zoot suit, accented by a blood red tie. He wore white gloves, which he fidgeted with while he spoke. His face was covered by an exaggeratedly happy theatre mask, which was eerie enough to make even my teenage son turn his head in disgust.

    “Well, my pretty, it seems you do not have much of a choice. I suppose I could swear on my dead mother’s grave if that would satisfy you, but I don’t think that would help much, especially seeing my mother is not dead, actually quite well, damn her. I mean, is it too much for a boy to ask that his old, disgraceful hag of a mother turn over and croak already? You know what I mean, dontcha, kid?” he demanded, reaching his hand out to pat my son’s head.

    Nate shook his head no, looking at my reaction.

    The man put his hands on his hips in frustration. “What’s wrong with young Americans these days? No rebellion in them anymore. Shame, shame,” he cooed. “But…” he continued reluctantly, “I suppose you have passed the first test of my little game. What humiliation! I was hoping for wrong answers, I was hoping for pain, and you have given my neither, Nate! I suppose I shall just have to count on your sister and your precious mommy.”

    I felt my daughter shiver beside me. His sinister voice disturbed her young, innocent ears. He stopped his rant and took note of Janie’s reaction.

    “Oh, Janie,” he sung huskily, edging towards her. “Do I make you uncomfortable? I wonder if my touch would make your tiny body tremble in such a childish and pure way. Oh!” he squealed in delight when his hand barely grazed her cheek and she shuddered. He threw his hands up in the air. “Ooh, I know what game you can play, my sweet little Janie! It’ll just be oodles of fun!”

    Janie lifted her head up to look at him through tear-stained eyes. “A game? We won’t get hurt us if I pway?” she asked sweetly.

    The man got down on his knees, lowering himself to her level. “Sweetie,” he sang again, “if you win my game I won’t touch a hair on any of your beloved heads! I can't promise, buttercup, that you'll be safe when you leave here! I mean, not to be negative or anything, darling, but this world is just plain nasty. You could walk out on the streets and get shot, or run over by a car! Oh dear, oh dear! Thank goodness you have your mommy to save you! Anyway, I must not ramble! Come with me, my dear!”

    Janie rose to follow him, but I clung to her. “No,” I said firmly.

    He sighed and placed his hand under his chin dramatically. “Oh, gosh, Mommy, you are no fun, no fun at all! Either you attempt to win my games, or you won’t be freed at all. I can’t promise that no harm will come to you, dearest, but I do think it is a marvelous idea to at least try to emancipate yourself. Besides, they’re relatively easy games!”

    He was starting to seem less ominous, and strangely more juvenile. “Ok,” I agreed, not sure of my other options. At that moment, I began wondering about his games—which answers were considered correct, what sort of pain he had hoped for, why he was so oddly fascinated with them—and suddenly I had a general realization; he was no man at all. He was still a child stuck in the form of a grown man, who was violently searching for his way out. If I could only figure out what he wanted to hear, then I could save my children and myself.

    “Mommy!” he called, singing once again. “You look like you have something on your mind and I just do not think I can possibly allow that! Sit back down, silly Janie; you can play your game next! I want to play with Mommy!”

    “Yes,” I quickly agreed, wanting to get my daughter farther away from him. I glanced at Nate, who had cornered himself against the walls. He instinctively took on my protective role, embracing his sister.

    “Mommy, I wonder,” he whispered into my ear, wrapping his arm around my shoulder, “what makes a mother love her children so? Do you think it is because they look like you? Or maybe simply because you know those things came out of you, and by some law of nature, you know you are inclined to love them? So what makes a mother despise her children? What makes her cast them off like they are nothing more than an old apple, rotten to the core? My love, I must applaud my use of such a magnificent pun!”

    Should I be honest? I asked myself. Or do I tell him what he wants to hear? “A mother is not inclined to love her children, and yes, many do throw them away like an old piece of fruit, but a mother is not always at fault. Sometimes children are just so impossible, you can’t find a way to love them. Or maybe there’s just no way a mother can keep her baby…”

    Although his face was covered by his mask, I felt as if he was frowning at me. “Such a terribly serious answer, and serious is no fun at all! Perhaps I will come back to you after I’ve been entertained. Janie, sweetheart, come play!” his coo echoed through what seemed to be a warehouse.

    The place began to bring back memories. 1984—I was fifteen. In my parent’s eyes, I committed the biggest sin. I was a burden to them, and they sent me away. I wasn’t to return unless I found a path of redemption and righteousness. I was all alone. I had no one. I would have never survived.

    I drifted out of thought. “Mister, I dunno yur name. What is it?” I heard my daughter asking.

    He suddenly halted, cocked his head to the side, and studied her face with his gray, distantly familiar eyes. “You want to know my name…” he mumbled quietly to himself, forming a statement rather than a question. He stopped fidgeting with his white gloves. He looked at his shaky hands before removing the glove on his right hand. He extended his arm, and Janie immediately understood he wished to shake her hand. “Fidaa. Do you want to know what that means?”

    She shook her head.

    “Sacrifice. Redemption,” I answered for him. Suddenly all eyes were on me as I started crying. “When I was fifteen, I ran away with a young Muslim man, whom I thought I was very in love with,” I tried to explain to Nate. “I came to my senses a few days later, but it was too late. I found out I was pregnant. My father was extremely racist and religious. He said the only way he would accept me back into his family is if I went away, gave birth to my baby, and then gave it away. I didn’t want to leave my precious baby. He was possibly the most beautiful child a girl could have ever been blessed with; he had his father’s gray eyes and lightly tanned skin. Beautiful…”

    “But you threw him away,” Fidaa accused.

    “Yes, a mother’s love is nothing compared to a father’s fury. I didn’t know how to survive on my own. You have to believe me, I loved you!” I cried.

    Janie’s face scrunched up in confused. Slowly taking off his mask, he whispered, “Do you understand, little Janie? I’m your brother!” His facial features were identical to those of Nate and Janie.

    “This is where I came, twenty-five years ago,” I announced to no one. “I was going to leave my baby here, hoping someone would find him in the morning, but when I tried to leave him, he started to whine. I cried myself to sleep that night. At dawn, I was awoken by an elderly lady, who I suppose was a factory worker. I explained my situation to her. She sang cheerfully, ‘My dearest, you can’t play games when people’s lives are at stake, precious.’”

    Fidaa began to smile as he sang, “Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Fidaa, happy birthday to me.”

    My son had gotten his birthday wish.
     
  4. Gannon
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    thefreshman - The Games

    “No please, you can’t do this to me.” I heard a frantic man screaming from the next room over. Suddenly a very loud bang, from the room in which I heard the man, made me jump. I can only assume it was a gunshot.

    The door to the room I was kept in opened and 2 strange men that I had never seen before stepped through. “What happened to Toby and Kenneth?” I asked the 2 new men.

    “They decided to play a game for their freedom, as I assume you can tell he lost.” The taller of the two men replied. “I am James and this is Shawn,” he gestured towards the smaller man “ We will be your new keepers.”

    “My keepers? Ha, the only reason you are here is because your boss, knows that if I challenged him for my freedom I would win and I could tell people of this atrocious place. You are here to make sure I am happy and don’t get to bored with myself.” I said.

    James and Shawn looked at each other with faces of utter disbelief. “You mean your boss hasn’t told you? I am the only one to have ever survived all of his games, and I have done so multiple times for each. He is persistent, I’ll give him that, but I am the best and he knows it. He just doesn’t want me to, but I do. So long as I am content here and am taken care of I will not leave.”

    “Would you like me to tell you why Toby and Kenneth wanted their freedom so badly? I drove them crazy, they couldn’t stand being around me another day. They would rather play the game and face almost certain death than just stay here with me.” I said as the two men stared at me with the same look of disbelief they wore since they walked in. “Would you two like to play a game?” I asked with a cruel smile on my face.

    Shawn looked up at James, and James looked down at Shawn, they both simultaneously said “No, thank you sir.”

    “Really are you sure? Because I am getting bored, and your boss doesn’t like me to get bored.” I had already started to set up the board for the game I wanted to play it was chess. The two men saw that I only meant a simple game of chess and not one of the many death games the compound had to offer. James decided to play first.

    We started, I played as white and him as black, and the game progressed slowly for a very long time. We each went a long time without taking one of the others pieces. Was the first to strike however, by taking his queen side bishop with my king side knight. As I took the piece off of the board, he let out a small cry of pain. He looked down at his shoulder and saw that a rather large gash had appeared on his right shoulder, the side that the bishop had started off the game on.

    He looked at me as if he didn’t realize what was happening. Then it hit him, “So this must be one of the new games?” he asked as he quivered from the pain. I simply answered him “Yes, it is.”

    He got up from his chair, and said, “I refuse to finish this game.” As he let go of the chair he suddenly dropped to the ground. Shawn felt for a pulse and found none, as I knew he wouldn’t. He turned as if to leave but I quickly got up and grabbed him by the arm. “Won’t you stay and play with me?” I asked with the same cruel smile I had used earlier.

    His answer was that he wrestled his arm from my grasp and started running down the hall. As he turned the corner I heard another gunshot. Shawn was now dead also. It was a pity too; I had another game I wanted to play. I walked back to the table and picked up the pieces. Then I grabbed the board and placed it back into the case.

    I left my room and started walking in the direction of the office. The office is where the boss stayed; he had his own room there and everything and didn’t leave unless he absolutely had to. I went unimpeded through the hallway, actually everybody stayed clear of me. No one ever wanted to play any of my games, and mine were fairer then the ones the boss thought up. Mine were based on skill and intelligence, his were all about finding the loophole, and no one ever did.

    He barged into his office, he looked up at me, and he was afraid. I knew he was afraid of me, everybody at the compound was. “I challenge you for my freedom!” I shouted at him. “I am tired of this place, your “compound” has driven me insane. I know I am, I don’t play to stay alive any longer, I do it for my own enjoyment. Which I find sick and demented, you did this to me!” I continued to shout.

    “I cannot deny your challenge Tanner, so what game shall it be then?” he asked as courageously as a man who was about to die can. He looked at me through scared eyes, the same eyes everyone who came in here to play for their freedom looked through when they looked at him.

    “One of my games, chess.” I brought the case that contained the chessboard out from behind my back. I pulled up a chair and started setting up the board for the second time today.

    After all the pieces were set and colors decided we commenced to play. I was white again and the boss was black. The game started much as the last one had. We went many moves without taking one another’s pieces. He was playing rather defensive he hadn’t figured out how a game of chess could kill a man.

    I took a pawn of his with my queen, he screamed in agony. He looked at his left hand where he had just lost a finger, his index finger to be specific. Then he knew how a simple game of chess could kill a man.

    “Let me guess. Every piece corresponds to a certain part of the body, so when it is lost the body part is either severed off or mortally injured. I would also assume that if I were unable to move a piece because of these injuries I would lose and my life would be forfeit. Am I correct in my assumptions?” He asked.

    I responded to his question simply with “It is your move.” I gestured towards the board. He made his move taking one of my pawns; I lost my middle finger on my right hand. The game went on until all he had left his king, a queen, a rook, and 2 pawns. Lucky for him he had the 2 fingers left on the same hand or he would have had a problem. I however had all but 2 pieces I had lost a pawn and my queen side knight.

    “This game really is genius.” He said as if compliments would save him now. “The blood isn’t flowing from the wounds as it should be. But the pain is still there.” He was in a lot of pain he had many wounds, I won’t go into them with great detail. I had lost a finger and had a shallow cut down my entire leg.

    “Yes, I designed this game especially for you. I wanted you to be alive the whole time, but I also wanted you to feel the same pain all these people felt before you killed them. You had no right to bring them here and kill them as if they were nothing but cows in a slaughter house.” I was frantic but I still kept my concentration.

    “Oh, but what of you my friend? You have killed many a person for your enjoyment as you said, you don’t do it to survive anymore, and you do it for the fun of it. What of Toby and Kenneth? You drove them insane and the challenged me to a death game they knew they couldn’t win Just so they didn’t have to be around you.” He was trying to break my concentration so he could gain some ground it wasn’t working. If he kept it up it might.

    I was now determined to make him suffer, I decided right then and there that I would cause as much pain I could to him before I delivered the deathblow by taking his king. The game went on and he had his king and his 2 pawns left. I had lost another pawn and a bishop.

    “Do it, kill me. I have suffered long enough. Please kill me.” He pleaded with me to kill him. He begged and begged for mercy, “Silly man I told you when I came into this compound after I won the first death game that I would kill you. I told you that you should not play games with human lives on the line. You didn’t listen and now you will die for it.” I gave the man the mercy he cried for so sincerely; I took his king and left him to die. I walked out of the office and called out, “You area all free, I have challenged the boss to a death game and won.”

    People came rushing towards me, embraced me. I felt very awkward, as these were the same people who only an hour ago avoided me as if I were a plague. We all walked out of the compound, but before I could step outside into full sunlight I felt a strange sensation at the base of my skull. I saw Shawn through my fading vision and he said “Silly man you should not play games with human lives on the line."
     
  5. Gannon
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    A.J.Crowley - Winners and Losers

    The door slammed open. Jonathan walked in, unceremoniously dropped his bag on the floor and sighed. He was home, another school day had passed, The TV was on; it had been on this morning and last night, come to that. The Miller household operated on the wait until someone else does it form of household politics. If you wanted the telly off (or the clothes washed, or the dishes cleaned) you yelled for Jodie (if she wasn’t at her boyfriends) or Sam (if he wasn’t running wild in the streets) or mum (if she wasn’t at work) to do it. Chores happened to other people.

    On the TV was one of those damn extended news bulletins. There seemed to be a lot of them these days. Some Middle Eastern countries with funny names and which until a few years ago had been locked in deadly combat had come back for round two. Lots of men in suits were talking animatedly while footage of deserts filled the screen.

    John wasn’t that interested but he lay down on the couch anyway, his shoes leaving two great dirty marks, and picked up the remote. He changed channel, another bulletin damn! This one had some shots of a city being bombed. Quickly he flicked through the other channels. More bulletins. He changed back to the city bombing one at least there was some actual war footage, the other channels had simply been dull men in suites explaining that it is “Our duty to help the freedom fighters of…” or “The terrorist insurgency must be suppressed”.

    ***

    There was a deafening crunch as a nearby building exploded in a flower of crimson fame. An ominous buzzing filled the air as the plains flew overhead. The sound of hundreds of missiles finding their targets sounded like a grim drumbeat. Thump thump thump thump. Achmed’s heart sounded in time to the explosions. He pressed himself hard into a crumbling wall praying to Allah to make him invisible. In his hands he held an antique AK – 47 like in was the only real thing in the world.

    He remembered back to the meeting. There was the general talking about honor condemning those infidels yelling insults at the western dogs for interfering when it was not their fight. And afterwards he’d talked to him, him lowly Achmed. He’d said he was a “good boy” and there’d “be a place in paradise for him” as he handed him the gun. Smiling like he did in the poster which was one of Achmed’s few personal possessions and the most highly prized.

    I must not disappoint the general. I must be brave and strong. He told himself over and over again. The thought of his idol gave him strength. He felt better the fear was leaving him. It was not the only thing departing. The planes had finished their bombing run. Achmed ran into the middle of the smoking wreckage that had previously been a street whooping with delight and cursing the planes with every word he knew.
    “That is right you bastards you cannot beat us that easily. Allah is with us.”

    ***

    The city bombing had finished and the men in suits were back on. John got up and walked up the stairs nearly tripping on a crushed beer bottle from Jodie’s most recent party. The TV was still on; someone else could turn it off. He walked down the upstairs corridor and entered his room.

    To call it a mess would be a disgrace to pigsties everywhere. John had never really grasped what a wardrobe was for. He forced his way through the dump to his computer. He brushed some fifthly clothes off the chair and sat down. The computer hummed to life and he waited impatiently for it to start up. It had been paid for by Mum to make up for the fact that she was always at work.

    There was assignment to do but it could wait. You never did them in your free time otherwise you had none. You waited till the night before and cobbled something together quickly and hoped like hell you passed.

    He typed in his password and waited for it to log in. “Finally” he sighed as the computer finished starting up. Now what to do, what to do? He moved the curser over several icons and selected one. The familiar menu popped up accompanied by the blaring music. He selected the “load game” option and waited impatiently for it to load.

    It was like many of the other games John owned. The sort where Aliens/ monsters/ terrorists/miscellanies bad guys appeared and you shot them then you’d move on to the next area and more cannon fodder would show up. As these things went it was quite a good one. The box proclaimed that it featured “state of the art physics” and “Cutting edge graphics”. It basically this meant when you shot crap it blew up more impressively.

    Finally the game loaded. He was in a desert much like the one on telly. Some rather angry terrorist’s were coming towards him. His fingers flew over the keyboard. He fired off several shots. Blam blam blam. One of the terrorist bastards was torn to shreds with what the box described as “extreme realism”. More terrorists appeared from somewhere taking up positions behind conveniently placed trucks and barrels. John reloaded as he ducked for cover behind a burnt out jeep. Everywhere there was the blam blam blam of gunfire. He popped out from behind his cover briefly and let off several shots in the direction of a stack of barrels. They exploded in an array “astounding flame and smoke effects”.

    ***

    Near the town center, or what remained of it, a barricade had been set up. I wasn’t much and had been hastily erected pile of rubble built the survivors of the bombing. It would easily be overcome but it was a symbol saying clearly “we defy you”.

    Achmed was helping Sharid carry a large wooden beam from a bombed out shop. After the bombing had subsided they had regrouped and argued amongst themselves about what to do next. Then the general had arrived and taken charge.

    It was a relief to have someone telling them what to do. The barricade was in sight. The general and some other high up men were sitting to one side listening to a radio strange voices speaking in a language Achemd didn’t recognize. The general and high up men were now speaking in low voices but Achmed caught a few words.

    “The English news says…. Ground assault…. The volunteers… hopeless can’t fight”

    The two dumped the beam and began to head off to find some more useful rubble. The words cut into him like a knife. They didn’t think he could fight, his hero had said. But he could he would kill and infidel and show them.

    There was a scream from the end of the street two men were dragging another protesting man behind them.

    “Let me go, your doomed here, he’s leading you to your death”

    He looked at Achmed as he passed his eyes filled with terror. The general and the high up men stood up and started to mover towards the man the general reaching for his pistol.

    “Allah help me”

    The general stepped forward and brought his fist into contact with the man’s face, his head snapped back with a sickening crack. It wasn’t loud but in the silence of the watching crowd it filled the world. The man looked up. The blow had broken his nose. Bright red blood was gushing down over his jaw.

    For a moment it looked like the general was going to say something, instead he laughed, pointed his pistol at the man’s chest and without hesitation squeezed the trigger and fired.

    Once, twice, three times. Achmed shut is eyes. He heard the man scream but as the second shot was fired it cut out. It made him feel sick, he wanted to throw up and felt the gorge rise in his throat.

    He opened his eyes and saw the man’s body crumple to the ground, the general standing over him the gun still smoking in his hand. His hero was smiling just like the poster. A tear rolled down Achmed’s cheek.

    ***

    John expertly maneuvered his character through the terrorist compound. Against all reason the bastards were still showing up to fight him even though he’d taken out three quarters of their troops single handedly. The noise from the telly downstairs was getting on his nerves. It was too loud he yelled out for someone to turn it down.

    Someone, Sam probably, answered with a shout of “do it yer’self yar dickhead”. John sighed and turned the sound up on his computer to drown out the sound of the news bulletin. Still some words penetrated the blaring music and gunshots streaming from the computers speakers. “Land assault… troops… city… victory assured”.

    ***

    The air assault had been bad enough the ground one was worse. The bombs didn’t leave much behind, the guns did. Corpses, disfigured beyond recognition lay strewn among the debris. Everywhere Dark figures were dashing for cover, firing wildly at similar figures that fired back.

    Achmed scrambled through rubble of the fallen barricade dazed and confused. Screams, bellowed orders and gunfire filled his ears but he couldn’t make any sense of it. The world no longer fitted together as one coherent picture. One moment he was behind a wall, the next in a street facing down an armored vehicle, then suddenly he was crawling through the rubble with no idea how he’d arrived there.

    Why was he here? How could he have been so foolish? There wasn’t any glory or honor in this. A movement caught his eye. He turned and saw a figure running. Not strange in this environment but this figure was heading away from the combat. Achmed realized who it was and it surprised him; the general fleeing? Images of the execution filled his mind.

    Three shots, each louder the previous played over and over again in his mind

    Why was he here? Why had he been so foolish, because he’d believed this man that was why, he’d idolized him. But there wasn’t any glory or honor in this. He’d said these men were evil and heartless. But he’d seen their faces, masks of fear, so like his own. He’d been told they were bad but were they? Yes he’d believed the general even though he could see what he did was wrong. The general was bad, he was the enemy. Filled with resolve Achmed raced through the fighting after the man.

    In an alleyway the general heard a sound behind him, the click of a gun being brought to bear. He turned to face Achmed. The boy’s hands were shaking with terror but he didn’t let the gun drop.

    “What you playing at idiot boy” the man growled.

    Achmed felt the rage boiled up inside him. It yelled at him to pull the trigger, make the world a better place. His finger shifted but he held back.

    “You bad man, you go to hell. Not me”

    He voice was shaky. He said more but he couldn’t hear it, inside him another voice screamed blocking it out. “Pull the trigger, Pull the trigger, Kill him!!!”

    The general smiled. “You’re weak boy, a disgrace. You can’t shoot me” he aimed his gun directly at Achmed’s forehead.

    The words cut Achmed. The general was an evil man he knew but they still stung. He had disappointed his hero. His hands were shaking violently now. The screaming voice inside him fell to a whisper. The general watched with sadistic pleasure the internal struggled in his eyes.

    “I am not a murderer like you”

    The gun dropped from Achmed’s hands and clattered on the ground.
    “I die for something, I will go to heaven”

    The general began to pull back on the trigger of his gun. The world exploded

    ***

    John swore. He’d died again. Damn! Well he’d found out that that way was a dead end. His death had at been worth something at least. He brought up the load game menu and selected his last save. He tapped his fingers impatiently on a piece of desk that was not weighed down by countless books, DVD’s, CD’s and game cases. The game loaded. The terrorists attacked. John shot them. It was good fun. The TV was still too loud why couldn’t someone, not him obviously, turn the bloody thing off. He paused for a second and turned the volume up even more.

    Which is why he never heard what the reporter was saying and even if he had he wouldn’t care, apparently “the terrorist insurgency had been defeated in…” that town with a stupid foreign name and “heavy losses had been sustained by the coalition but victory has been assured”. The “terrorist elements” had been “firmly dealt with”. At that point someone became so fed up with the constant noise they turned it off.

    ***

    Achmed opened his eyes. He was covered in blood. His surroundings were still the same. There was no pain. But the gun had fired and he should be dead. Nothing survived being shot from that range. He looked up and saw the general and immediately wished he hadn’t. A gun had fired but it wasn’t his. Some stray bullet had cracked the general’s head right open. The big general was toppling over now. Achmed turned away as he heard the crunch of the body hitting the ground.

    ***

    When the coalition soldiers found Achmed Ben Ali he was sitting peacefully amongst the rubble. He was murmuring two words over and over again but none of them could speak his stange guttural language so it meant nothing too them. Later one of them would get it translated. In English it went thus.

    “I win, I win” over and over again. The soldiers in the mess had had a good laugh about the crazy kid that thought he’d won, but those who had found him remembered the look in his eyes and the tone of voice and thought maybe there was something to the phrase.
     
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    redbaron - A game of battleships

    It was the time of day where Norm placed his chubby hands around the small box of assorted figures and would end up spilling the contents onto the floor. It was true that he didn't take much care with his toys- but it wasn't expected of a four year old child, interests in dinosaurs and toy tanks now blooming. Hence why the floor now displayed a scene of small plastic prehistoric nightmares being clumsily jarred into military vehicles. Yes, it was also true that he didn't exactly understand that any tank carrying such creatures would not in reality travel at the sheer velocity at which he threw them across the floor, but hey, the boy was happy.

    ------------------------------------------------

    'Are the guns at the ready?'
    The Frogus nodded to his commander, gesturing towards the rest of the ship’s crew, all heavily armed and ready for combat against those who threatened their expedition. The commander smiled, his thick green lips pulling back to reveal a set of yellow, jagged teeth. 'Good,' he croaked, his eyes ever so slightly batting in the ships ceiling lights, as he surveyed his gloriously dressed troops. 'I think it's time to start up the engine, and fast!' His servant nodded and scurried off, pulling on what could only be described as a large upside-down plunger. The ship juddered, a low humming sound now pervading the air. The crew could feel that the vehicle was going to be ready to get moving, and that soon they would have left the huge jungle like area that they now ever so comfortably sat in.
    The commander took a huge breath and slumped into his chair. It was true that he had not been hugely sure that this expedition was the right course of action to take. After all, previous commanders had rarely returned, and those who did often kept themselves to themselves. The 60 strong crew of Frogus star-troopers had been mocked many times for being unimaginative, for not doing anything that hadn't been done before and for using every story that they knew in order to catapult themselves to fame and fortune as the most unlikely bounty hunting race the world has ever known. Yet still mocked. Still mocked. That day would change, however, as the commander predicted that this expedition would be their ultimate mark on the world- to prove that they were more than just unimaginative copycats- that they could actually accomplish what others begged to be able to do.
    Suddenly, the ship came to a juddering halt- the commander suddenly found his stomach lurching as the entire ship seemed to lurch awkwardly, sending all of the Frogus into fits of panic. They were terrified that they had once again come against a body of water, something which previously has happened to their fellow comrades and had led to their death. Their ship, as it turned out, however, had simply tipped over onto its side, the rough ground below them obviously not agreeing with their choice of tractor treads. The commander looked at the worried faces of his fellow bounty hunting peoples- they were all attempting to recover, to regain the ships power and hopefully move the ship onto its side again. It made the Commanders heart swell to see such beings take their job so seriously, and to understand exactly how important it would be to all of thier lives. The commander gave one last smile, and got ready to help his fellow comrades.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    Norms mother watched him trudge around the park, picking up the fallen sycamores and trying to make them fly once more, watching them spin towards the ground. She smiled contentedly and picked up her knitting, satisfied that she had finally found a way to occupy her son in a way that didn't involve buying the latest dinosaur or keeping him in the house for longer than necessary.
    The boy was simply stumbling around to the back of a nearby tree when his beady eyes spied a simply marvellous toy boat. It looked almost new and was shimmering in the light as it lay on its side. With a gleeful look on his face, he rushed over and picked it up. Inspecting its side, he decided he's make a good attempt at trying to read the letters on the side, but alas, he could only make out the letters F, R and G. The other letters escaped his memory, and his short attention span soon drew to a close. He decided that perhaps it was time he played a game- a game of battleships. He could imagine how exciting it would be to see his very own plastic dinosaurs sink such a magnificent boat. Of course, he would ruin the insides, and ultimately upset whoever had owned it, but for the time being simply wanted to see it happen, just the once. With a skip in his step, he went back to his mother with the brand new toy.
     
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    Addicted2aa - Click (Mature content and language)

    *Click*

    The gun didn’t fire. I’m alive. I’m ALIVE!

    My breath returns with a force and speed that belong to a car’s pistons. My stomach remains clenched, tight just like all my other muscles. Slowly I open my eyes but I still can’t see because tears are filling them up. I’m choking on air and saliva. My shaking hand is still clenched around the pistol, the trigger still pulled. I can’t stop my body from rocking back and forth. My first coherent thought is that I must look autistic.

    “Kyle. You OK?”

    I look up at Frank and suddenly relax. His blue eyes shine from beneath his stringy greasy blond hair. The calm look in his face brings me back into control. My hand stops trembling and my muscles begin to loosen. I lower the gun and look around the cave we’ve been trapped in for the past month.

    To my right sits Brenda, the only girl we had brought with us on our trip. She won’t meet my gaze, favoring me instead with a view of her long brown hair, still beautiful after all this time. I can’t tell but I think I can hear her crying. Not for the first time I regret pressuring her to come with us.

    Next to her sit Dick and Lenny. Lenny is staring into space, his eyes vacant; most likely his mind too. Dick glares at me, clearly not happy with the outcome of my turn. Behind him there are a number of climbers from Brazil, most of them students. I’ve never bothered to learn their names, what’s the point when I can’t speak Protégées.

    On my left I’m all too aware of the non-presences of my two comrades, Grady and Jon. I don’t want to think about them now, so I look up at the only other one of my crew left. Frank still gives off that aura of coolness in any situation that always made him so popular back home. He’s been my closest confidant for years; he even got me laid my first time. We’ve been through fights, breakups, beat downs, championships, hell I even sat at the family table during his mom’s second wedding. He’s closer to me than my brother. I would die for this kid. I, I even killed for him. Remember that night, less than a week ago, all my emotion returns. I look up at this dude, the tears no longer obstructing my vision, stand up, walk slowly up to him, put my hand on his shoulder, and bring the pistol straight across his face.

    “Don’t!!” I hear Brenda cry but I pay her no mind.

    Spiting the words and more than a little saliva I yell at his prone body “NO, I’M NOT ****ING O! K! What the **** are you thinking? I almost just SHOT my god-damn head off, you ****ing....****ing....” I end it lamely “dick!”

    Normally I would feel disgusted with my behavior, but right now I’m not really thinking about it. All I’m thinking is that I finally have someone to vent on. I kick once in the stomach just because he’s there and it feels good. I know that in a few minutes I will regret what I’m doing but I won’t explore that emotion till all the action is over, till this morbid game is done, hopefully for the last time. A few kicks later my anger begins to dissipate; evaporating like the snowflakes that landed on my blood-flushed face as I we hiked up to our refuge. I leave Frank rolling on ground groaning. He doesn’t look so cool now. I walk to the cave mouth to look out on the ice covered mountains. That outburst took all my fire from me. Now I’m just empty: no more fear, no more sadness, and no more anger. All that’s left is the empty feeling in my head and heart.

    The view from up here is spectacular. The white mountaintops gradually give way to green tress and brown rocks and beyond them I can see the river valley, all farmland and forest. Bringing my gaze back up I notice I can still see the plane wreck a mile or so below us. The fires went out within hours of our crash, but I can still see the smoke rising, a black snake outlined so epically against the grey sky. If I ever make it back home I think I’ll try to paint it. As terrible as it was, it made quite a site. I’m started out of my meditation as Frank puts his hand on my shoulder. I can see the bruise already forming on his eye but there is no accusation in his look. This is why I love that kid.

    “**** Man. You know, for a second, hell for more than a second, perhaps for as long as we’ve been playing this game, I’ve almost wished it was me. How much longer till all this **** ends? It was almost over you know. No more shivering. No more hiking a kilometer to **** or wiping my ass with snow. No more having to ear...” Even after two weeks of it I still can’t bring myself to say it out loud. “No more worrying about food.”

    From back in the cavern I hear Dick complain, muttering under his breath “If you don’t want to go on then why don’t you just pull the trigger till you get the right chamber?”

    His words pull me back from the edge. “I heard that asshole and I said almost. If you’re so eager to see blood, let’s see yours. You’re straw’s the next shortest?”

    Dick’s acne covered face blanches. It’s the best thing I’ve seen all year. 20 years old and still a spoiled brat, he may be the worst part of being stranded on this mountain. At least now he might learn he couldn’t hide behind daddy’s money forever.

    “Well come on. You didn’t get to pull the trigger last time. Grady took your turn for you and it never made it back around did it. Well not this time. This time you pull the ****ing trigger, if I have to pull it ****ing with you I will. You’re not punking out.”

    I relish the effects my words have one. With each one I take a step closer smiling menacingly. He tries to back away, trips and ends up on his back. I quickly straddle him and place the gun right to his temple. I cock the pistol. I can see the fear in his eyes and smell it’s sweaty odor coming off of his. I feel him struggling beneath me, looking for the escape we both know he won’t find.

    I realize that for the second time today I had physically beat one our small group and none of the others had tried to stop me. This time even Brenda’s voice wasn’t raised in protest.

    As he finally relents I bring my face real closer and ask “Any Last Words?”

    “Stop.”

    Frank’s hand closes over mind, his finger sliding under the trigger to prevent me from firing. “Stop Kyle. You’re angry. If you’re like me you’re more than angry. I don’t even know what I feel right now and I doubt anyone else really does. That’s exactly the reason we can’t give into our emotions. You told me that right when Jon tried this same thing and I wanted to pardon him. You know what will happen if I let you pull that trigger. I can’t let that happen to another friend.”

    “Oh? And who would do the deed for you this time?”

    “We will.” I have never heard Brenda’s voice sound so cold. I look up and see she and the others had been busy while I had been focused on Dick. They stood in a semi-circle behind me holding the knife’s we’d fashioned from bones and rocks blocking any thought I might have had for trying to make it on my own down the mountain. It doesn’t take long for me to realize that I don’t stand a chance. With a sigh, I hand the gun over and let Dick up.

    I turn my back on the coward and push my way through the crowd. They all keep staring at Dick, except for Brenda who drops her rock and embraces me.

    She speaks into my chest “Thank you. This is hard enough without murder.”

    As I hold her awkwardly all I can think to say is “He’d better actually play this time.”

    From behind me I hear Dick spouting indignations about how I need to be the next one die. I had tried to kill him after all and besides I was 30 pounds heavier with far more meat. I would last much longer than he would.

    His words have no effect on Frank. I hear him try to soothe Dick with his gentle voice. He tells him not to be scared. It will be ok. All the lies you tell frantic people to get them to obey you in times of crisis. It surprising how effective this can be when said with conviction by a person with confidence. Eventually Dick’s cries of protest die off. I turn back to see him looking at Frank with sad eyes, but it seems he has resigned himself to take his turn in our deadly roulette. I suddenly remember that on the plane he wouldn’t shut up about how his great great something used to be a Russian count. How appropriate. He knows there’s no way out. Frank hands Dick the gun and says, “You know what you have to do.”

    Dick puts the pistol to his head and closes his eyes. His neck muscles begin to tighten and bulge out. I can see the veins start to pop on his arm as his whole body tenses. His breathing picks up and occasionally a whimper escapes his mouth. There is no dignified silence for him. He faces his death the way he faced his life, like a coward. Time passes and it begins to seem like he had always been in this position. That we had stumbled into the cave to find him like this.

    “Just do it God Damn it.” The co-pilot, the only one of the four man crew to survive, finally breaks the silence.

    “I can’t. I can’t do it. I’m too young to die. I have a girlfriend, My dad promised me a new car when I graduate. This is unfair, it’s too unfair. IDON’T WANT TO DIE.” This last one comes out in a long whine.

    “Nobody wants to die” I snap back at him. I’ve never felt more contempt for anyone than I do right now for him. I should feel sorry for him, but I can’t forget his words from earlier. I can’t forget Grady.

    “You do. You said so earlier. Why don’t you just kill yourself, so the rest of us can make it another week? There's no need for this ****, I shouldn’t have to risk my life when you want to give up yours.” He wipes snot from his nose, trying to regain his composure.

    “If you can’t do it, then don’t.” says Frank. My jaw drops. Surely he can’t mean that. “Give me the gun, if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have too.” Everyone in the cave just stares. No one could have heard him right, I know I didn’t.

    “Y-y-y-you mean it? I can ...Live?” The desperate hope in his voice sickens me. With so many more deserving dead how can Frank really want to let this asshole go on living.

    “No, **** that, you have to take your turn like everyone else. Frank you’re talking crazy. Don’t let him back out just cause he isn’t man enough to do it. If he’s too much a pussy, I’ll pull the trigger for him. I already have one death on my hand cause of this trip, what’s one more? Just give me the gun and I’ll-“

    “Kyle. Shut the **** up.” He doesn’t deliver the line with a loud shout. There is no fierce snarl, but no warmth either. Just dead flat. And just like that my mouth stops moving. I feel like I’ve been physically struck. That’s the difference between Frank and me. When I get pissed at him I actually have to hit him to get my point across. With just a few words he can produce the same effect.

    “You asked me to lead, so listen to me for once. Grady took Dick’s turn last week. It was the honorable thing to do. You always used to talk about how chivalry was dead if it had ever existed. Well now I’m about to revive it and you’re protesting. I intend to do the right thing. No more objections. Dick, give me the gun.”

    Dick gives Frank the gun. He doesn’t even have the grace to do it silently but proceed to offer his sycophantic eternal gratitude. Each word spills over the next in his over-enthusiastic attempt to thank his savior. “Thank you, You don’t know how much this means to me, I swear if you make it, I’ll remember this. My dad will reward you, you’ll even get a mention in any books that get written-“

    *Click*.

    Frank looks at Dick’s stunned face. He has paused mid-sentence and he is still frozen with his mouth open as Frank says his last words.

    “Too bad” Frank says looking down at the gun. He puts the gun to his own head and pulls the trigger.
     
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    becca - Deadly Mistakes

    removed at request
     
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    BabelFish42 - Foolish

    “Don’t do this, I’m warning you,” I muttered to Hippomenes as we approached the starting line side by side. “I’m not worth it.”

    “But I love you,” he replied simply. I scowled as bent down to tighten the straps of my sandals.

    “That is a deadly mistake. Once we begin, I will not allow you to forfeit.” I was carefully avoiding eye contact with him, choosing to concentrate instead on making sure my tunic was tied comfortably above my knees, the way Artemis wears hers.

    “I know the rules of the contest,” he replied calmly.

    “Runners, take your marks,” a deep voice boomed behind us. We both sank into a crouch.

    “You have all your life ahead of you,” I begged. “Don’t be a fool and throw it away. Leave while you still can. Forget me.”

    “I’d rather die.”

    “Very well. As you wish.”

    “GO!”

    I sprang up and flew across the course! Already, I had pulled ahead my young opponent. I shot across the ground, faster than an arrow from Apollo’s bow, arms pumping, feet flying, kicking up pebbles in my wake! I leapt over a gully in a single bound, agilely wound my way through a particularly thick patch of trees, all the while doing my best to ignore the other set of footsteps echoing behind mine.

    Pity was not in my nature. Pity didn’t help you survive after being abandoned as a child. Feeling sorry for your opponents did you no good in a contest that would claim the life of the loser. Besides, this was all his doing, that young fool! I had warned him, hadn’t I?

    I sprinted across a grassy field towards the foothills of a craggy mountain range, my hair streaming out behind me. There was an enormous cage pursuing me, with bars of iron; I must outrun it.

    Just who did they think they were, anyway, these men constantly chasing after me? They must have heard the stories. Surely they knew how many other suitors had tried and failed to win my hand in marriage by beating me in a footrace. Surely they’d heard how each and every loser was slaughtered afterward.

    So what part of me, exactly, did they find attractive? My utter lack of mercy? My reputation as a murderer? The dark prophecy hanging over my head? I was a cursed woman. Marriage was the last thing I wanted. But did any of them care who I was, or what I thought? Of course not. They simply saw a pretty face and chased it. No concern whatsoever for what might happen to me, or even to them. I didn’t regret sending them to Hades. Their blood was on their own heads, not mine.

    Though the man I raced today had seemed somehow different than the others, and he was so young… No. Both my freedom and my life were on the line. The Oracle does not lie; marriage would be my doom. I must not lose this race.

    Suddenly, a something golden flashed through the air ahead of me. The shiny projectile arched through space and crashed to the ground a good hundred cubits or so to my right. What on earth…? Was he throwing things at me? That was a new tactic.

    I skidded to a stop in the middle of the trail and glanced back at Hippomenes, who was running across the grassy field far behind me. He noticed my shocked expression, and his own beardless face broke into an amused grin.

    No, he wasn’t trying to hit me. He wanted to distract me. He assumed I was an idiot girl who would chase after the shiny object, like a dog retrieving a stick, allowing to him to reach the finish line first. I bet he thought he was clever. Well, if he thought he could win, either by outsmarting me or outstripping me, he was sadly mistaken.

    I raced off the trail and towards the grove of trees where the object had landed. It didn’t take long to spot the glint of gold next to the root of a gnarled tree. An apple? I picked it out a let out a gasp of surprise. So heavy! It must be solid gold! Where on earth did he get this?

    By now, my opponent was far ahead of me, making his way up a craggy hillside. Clutching the small apple in my hand, I ran after him, my sandals drumming rapidly against the ground.

    I caught up to him easily as he crested the top of the hill. Though he was breathing heavily, he stride was still strong. I expected him to look angry, or at least surprised, when I passed him, golden apple in my right hand. Instead, he gave a warm smile. I quickly averted my eyes and quickened me pace even more, leaving him in the dust. Why did he affect me this way? Why was it so hard to imagine sending this particular man to his death?

    He didn’t deserve my pity, I reminded myself as we approached a meadow full of tall grass swaying gently in the breeze. I had told him to find some other girl, and the fool refused. He must die.

    I raced through the meadow, crushing stalks of grass and wildflowers beneath my relentless feet.

    Die for what crime, though? For loving me?

    Another apple flew through the air, shining brightly under the noonday sun.

    Really, this was just insulting! How stupid did he think I was? Did he honestly think that I would stray from the path unless I was certain I could catch back up? Did he expect me to willingly exchange my freedom for a piece of metal? I clenched my fists and turned sharply off the footpath into the field of waving grass. I was both smarter and faster than he’d anticipated. I’d win the apples and the race to prove it.

    It took only a few minutes to find the apple amid the tall grass, and even less time than that to catch back up to Hippomenes. Sweat was dripping down his face as he glanced at me.

    “I believe these apples are yours,” I said, matching my pace to his.

    “Not so,” he panted. “I gave them up.”

    “Why? Did you perhaps think me a foolish girl who would chase after them and lose the race?”

    “Certainly not. You could – retrieve a hundred apples – and still outrun me.”

    I snorted. “I suppose a man who would throw away his own life for nothing wouldn’t hesitate to waste his gold as well.”

    “I do not – think it a waste. Everything worth having – comes at the expense – of something else. Some prices – are worth paying.”

    “I am not an item to be bought, nor a prize to be won,” I spat.

    “Of course not. That is why – all those who have tried to win you – have lost. You are – whatever you choose to be – Atalanta.”

    With that, he flung his third apple into the air. It landed with a thud next to a shallow stream.

    He was offering me a choice, I realized. This man, alone of all the suitors, acknowledged that I had a mind of my own. The others were all proud and haughty, each and every lustful one of them so sure that he could outrun me. A humble Greek man was about as rare as… well, a golden apple. And yet this newcomer willingly admitted that a mere woman could be not only his equal, but his better.

    Oh, why did he ever agree to this race? He knew I could beat him. Why risk his life? I had sent so many to their deaths without flinching, but somehow I couldn’t bear to do the same to this one. But it was my life or his.

    “I choose to live,” I replied softly. “I choose to remain free. I’m sorry. Goodbye.” With a burst of speed, I flew ahead of him, away from the cage, away from the prophecy.

    But as my feet sprinted up the rocky slope, my thoughts trailed behind, still attached to the young man. I had to leave him, surely he understood that? Marriage would destroy me. That was the curse that had haunted me all these years. And even ignoring the prophecy, who would want to be chained to someone else? I needed no one. I had always taken care of myself, and I intended to keep it that way.

    And yet… were some things more valuable than freedom? More precious than life itself?

    I paused halfway up a long hill.

    At the top of this rocky hill, the finish line was in sight. Just ahead of me, I could see victory. Waiting for me on the hillcrest was a long life of racing the wind, unfettered by stifling marriage and dark prophecies. A long life… but an empty one.

    To my left, the golden apple lay gleaming on the grassy banks of a shallow stream. To my left I could see defeat. Waiting for me at the waters’ edge was a short life, a cursed life. A life that was as brief as it was full.

    Suddenly, my decision was made. I turned away from the finish line and raced downhill as though both our lives depended on it.

    I had always assumed the arms of a man would feel like the bars of a cage closing around me. Yet when I ran across the finish line into Hippomenes’s embrace, I felt anything but trapped. Instead, I felt as though, for the first time, I had won.

    Was I foolish? Perhaps. The thought certainly crossed my mind, I assure you, especially when the prophecy eventually caught up with me. Maybe it was foolish to sacrifice my entire life for a few fleeting months of happiness. Then again, maybe everyone who loves is a fool… for when does love not require sacrifice? What relationship does not end, sooner or later, in loss and heartache? Maybe I was foolish. Or maybe what I gained, however brief, was much more valuable than what I lost.
     
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    LordKyleOfEarth - Deadly Ties

    I looked left at Franco and blipped the throttle. My '70 Plymouth Road Runner lurched violently under the massive torque of the supercharged 440 cubic inch engine; this bird wanted to fly. That Mexican sonuvabitch was done for. His piece of **** Camaro would be taking him out of town for the last time.

    He had been trying to move in on my girl and, after a few fights, we had decided on a race to solve things. The loser leaves town and never comes back; plain and simple. I only agreed for her sake, that poor piece of trailer-trash was messing with her mind. She was much better off with me, he would only pull her down with him.

    I kissed two fingers and then touched the picture of Cindy taped to the gauge cluster on my dash board. She was beautiful, the most beautiful girl at school, and she was mine. Beating Franco in this race would ensure things stayed that way. My left hand squeezed tight around the top of the steering wheel as my right hand dropped heavily onto the shifter.
    “We go on three!” I yelled over the combined fury of our engines.

    -----

    Bryan was a rich-boy-douche bag. The kind of guy goes to college, slips girls roofies at parties, then brags about it to his frat 'bros'. Beating him at this race was going to sure feel good. I loved putting rich boys in their place. For as much as he could talk, that boy couldn't fight worth a damn. I had beat his ass, and he still kept trying to take Cindy from me; that was the only reason I agreed to this race.

    I was only doing it for her sake. She meant nothing to Bryan, I could tell, just another status icon. Cindy and I had both been raised in poor families; we understood each other. I couldn't offer her much, but what I could give her was honest, pure, love.

    I looked out across the road ahead of us. Through the waves of heat radiating off from my hood I could see the first curve of “Wise man's pass”. I heard they call it that because a wise man would stay the **** away from it, whatever man, I know my car can make it.

    Bryan revved his engine off somewhere to my right. Damn, that thing sounded mean. Bryan's car had been built by some fancy shop here in town. His family had paid lots of money to make it the meanest machine around. I'd bought my '85 Camaro from some vato down the street. I paid $600 that I'd saved from my job as a bus boy.

    It had barely run when I got it, but my cousin and dad had helped me to fix it up. I'd added a turbo and that fancy injector set off an IROC-Z; it was the same parts that had been used in Corvettes, so it HAD to be good stuff. I knew this car inside and out, there was no way it was going to fail me.

    “We go on three!” Bryan yelled. I looked over at him, revved my beast to a solid 5400 RPM, and prepared to launch.

    “Three.” I looked up at the sun visor on my ceiling. There was a yellow snap-dragon pinned there. Cindy had given it to me last week after class. She said it was her favorite flower.

    “Two.” The smell of exhaust drifted in and out of my open windows. The evening sun beat heavily down on the cracked asphalt of the curvy industrial park ahead of us.

    “One.” I cast a defiant smile over my shoulder at Bryan.

    “GO!” I dropped the clutch and mashed the throttle. The air erupted with the sound of angry wasps and the scream of tires trying desperately to hook up.

    -----

    I felt the rear end of my Road Runner begin to hop as the tires tried to grip the pavement. Suddenly the traction control engaged and I shot forward like a missile. As I entered the first curve Franco was about half a car length behind me. I have to admit, that rusted pile of crap Chevy was actually pretty fast.

    Wise man's pass was a notorious stretch of road running from Sweller creek, through the Monarch industrial park, and ending at the railroad crossing that marked the city limit. It got it name because of the danger racers faced as they rounded its three blind corners. Each turn could potentially end in a collision with an eighteen wheeler or some other bit of industrial machinery; a wise man would pass on any offer to race here.

    To play it safe I had called my buddies and told them to clear the road out. That way I knew each corner was fine, but Franco was probably going to play it safe. My father always told me that winning is accomplished by out smarting the competition. Franco had been held back twice for low grades, I figure out smarting him shouldn't be much trouble.

    I exited the first turn and shifted back into third gear. The roar of my engine tore through the crisp desert air. Cindy was waiting across town in the city park. Franco and I had asked her friend to tell her to meet there at six this evening. Only one of us would still be here and that guy, the winner, would pick her up. The delicate scent of her perfume danced through my mind as I hit the brakes and down shifted to enter the second turn.

    -----

    Bryan's car was ****in fast. Plus he was driving like a mad man. There could be other people around these corners and he was diving into them it was NASCAR or something. I looked up at the snap dragon and thought of Cindy. No way I was losing her to Bryan. As I came out of the second turn I reach down and turned up my boost controller.

    A boost controller allows the driver to change how much power his turbo makes. Turn it up too high and you will blow your engine; too low and some pretty boy runs off with your girl. My homeboy had told me that four turns was safe and six was suicide; I turned the knob to five.

    The sudden surge of power sent me flying toward Bryan. For a moment we were neck and neck. I looked over at his car. The look on his stupid face was nothin but fear. He was losing and he KNEW it. I smiled and hit my brakes to make the final turn.

    The two of us slid around the corner like a pair of massive, smoking, metal figure skaters. Bryan had been able to take the inside lane and that had let him get ahead of me again. As he pulled away from me I decided to turn the knob to five and a half. There was less than ten seconds left to until we reached the finish, and I needed to be sure I'd win.

    -----

    Franco had gotten lucky back there. No way his piece of **** is faster then my car. The tracks were less than ten seconds away, and I had a quarter of a car length advantage. I looked at him in my rear view. Amazingly he was gaining on me. This race was going to be close all the way to the finish.

    I thought of my friends and family. I thought of Cindy and her long dark hair. No way. There was no way I was going to let that want to be thug ruin my life. I held the pedal to the floor and flew toward the finish.

    Four seconds left. My speedometer climbed past 150mph. The front of Franco's car was even with my door.

    Two seconds left, 160 mph. Franco's smug look says how much he is enjoying getting this close. I am still ahead, but only by a couple of feet.

    One second. Dead even.

    -----

    A tie. We both flew through the finish at the same moment. Bryan's God-knows-how much, fancy ass classic, and my $600 beast. One more ****in second and I would have had him! Why hadn't I turned up the boost sooner? God dammit.

    I hit the brakes and started to turn around. We had agreed to meet at the third turn exit after the race was over. Bryan had said it was a good place, and I really didn't give a ****. As far as I was concerned I had won. Cindy was mine and Bryan was going to have to get his ass out of town.

    I rolled up to the meeting point a few seconds behind Bryan. He looked really upset; that made me feel pretty damn good.

    “So what now vato? I say you lost, I was pulling on you hard. I'd have passed you in another second.”

    “Screw that man. It was a tie. Ties don't decide anything.” Bryan fired back.

    We stared at each other for a moment. He was right; a tie is a tie. Saying I would have won if the race had lasted longer, is like saying I would have passed the tenth grade if Mr. Matthews had given me more extra credit.

    “We play chicken for it.” Bryan said, finally breaking the silence. “First man to turn away loses.”

    I stared him in the eyes to see if he was serious. God damn, I never thought he was this hard of a guy. He wasn't kidding. “Alright man. First guy to turn away leaves for good.” I revved my engine for effect. “I'll give Cindy your love.” I blew a kiss to drive home the point, then sped down the road.

    -----

    That bastard was really pushing my buttons. I still couldn't believe his car had almost beaten mine. I'd have to get some more work done after this was all over. Cindy deserved nothing but the best of everything; I promised her that she would get it too. I always make good on my promises.

    This race would be a contest of nerves. Two cars, starting one mile away from the tracks each, heading straight for each other. I looked up the dusty road, through the rising heat distortions, and saw Franco's car turn around. I looked at Cindy's picture one last time.

    “Baby, I promise you, I will not turn.” I reinforced the promise by reaching over and unbuckling my seat belt. A moment passed and then I punched the accelerator to the floor, shifted into first, and launched toward destiny. In the distance, I saw smoke rise from Franco's tires as he launched toward me.

    Suddenly between us the railway crossing lights began to flash. On the western horizon a freight train was coming fast. There was no way that I was going to stop; no ties this time. I shifted up into second gear, and watched as my tachometer climbed toward the redline.

    Second gear shifted to third gear which flew by almost as fast as the telephone poles lining the road. The train was drawing near the crossing, but I was going to make it. “I'm not stopping. I'm not turning.” I told myself. As I shifted into fourth gear the speedometer passed 100mph.

    -----

    I saw the train moments before the lights began to flash. Bryan was still rolling toward me, and I was not about to lose to him. I'd never be able to live with my self if some seventeen year old had proved me a coward. I pulled the snap-dragon off my visor and held it between by fingers and the steering wheel.

    “I won't lose you chica.” I swore as I shifted into third gear. The train was coming fast, but so was I. Bryan was all talk, he was still heading at me but I knew he would turn. He was a chicken-**** kid who tried to run off rather than fight me, at least the first time. No way he was going to challenge a car and a train.

    The speedometer had just passed 140mph when I heard a terrible noise from my engine. A sudden plume of thick black smoke confirmed that my engine had just crapped out. ****! Five and a half had been too much boost. I shifted into neutral and turned on my windshield wipers to try and clear the oil, which was now spraying everywhere, off from my windshield.

    I looked out the driver's window and saw the train almost on top of me. I was only seconds from crossing the tracks when my engine had gone, but now I couldn't see Bryan's car through all the smoke and oil.

    I looked at the flower between my fingers and thought of how beautiful Cindy must look sitting in the park. The deafening roar of the train's horn was all I could hear. I turned and saw the brush guard as it tore into my fender. Through the haze and smoke and glass I saw Bryan's horrified face one last time as we collided.

    -----

    Some prizes can not be had,
    some games can only be tied,
    Cindy sits alone in the park,
    awaiting her ride.
     
  11. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Voting Short Story Contest (41) Theme: Games With Lives At Stake

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned.

    Voting will end 8th April 2009 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    Note: Entry by jj333 not submitted for voting for being well under the word limit.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not strictly in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
     
  12. Addicted2aa
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    Addicted2aa Senior Member

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    It's hard this week. There are three I really want to vote for not including mine.
     
  13. thefreshman
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    thefreshman New Member

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    I have to agree with Addicted, I want to vote for like 4 different ones. They were all really good.
     
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