Attack And Receive

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

14th September 2018
The Game

10.13 am

As I approach the finish line all I can see is Jed. He's shouting something but it's so loud I can't tell what. I can hardly think and I don't want to look to my left, to see if the person next to me is still level or if I've passed her. If we're level, we die. If I've passed her, she dies. If she's passed me, I die. Only One Winner, claims the banner and they mean it. Two winners means nothing. You can fight and fight to the very end but if you cross together... one of you dies. If you can take out the person with the grip on you at the very end... you claim riches beyond imagination. Safety. Freedom from hunger. Everything.

In Jed's eyes I see fear. I see terror. I turn, finally, forcing myself to look. She is exactly next to me, every fibre of her being matching every fibre of mine. Every movement. There is no rule to say I can't still attack her. But we are so close to the end - if I miss, I could fall, and she'd win.

The Guards have their weapons ready.

Time slows.

I fix my Semi eyes on the Guard at the front. His weapon is trained on me. Right on me. His finger, I can see, is straining on the trigger. And I see there is a Guard next to him, with his weapon trained on her, the woman next to me. I fix my eyes on Jed's, and I push myself as hard as I can, harder, harder, reaching for him.

The Guard's eyes are on me.

My life, such as it ever was, flashes backwards, streams out behind me.

10.01 am

For a second, she's ahead of me, but I launch myself at her and drag leg, legs first, to the ground. Every bit of me hurts, every part of me wants to give up. But I bring her down and I get up and I run on. I hear her grunting behind me and I know I am ahead, for the very first time. I turn, and this is my mistake. Something hits me square between the eyes and I feel myself thrown sideways. I believe I'm shot for a second, before seeing what's in her hands: rocks she's picked up from the path around us.

Crowds close in. I fight my way back to the surface, I haul myself up and I stand and I run. We are level. I can feel her breathing, changing the molecules of the air around me. Stealing my oxygen.

The roaring around me intensifies. People yelling, everywhere. Jed's family will be watching this in the bar. They didn't want to be here. Only Jed travelled with me. Jed who I'm doing this for. Jed, who will lose me if I don't win. Jed, who will lose.

9.45 am

The clock changes as I pass underneath. Screaming around me gets louder and I see why - the woman who overtook us (when there was still an us) is within my sight. She is stumbling, but her arms are raised. Celebrating early? Fool, I think. It's just she, and I. She is in the way of me winning. I feel my legs charge forwards, pulling the rest of me. My training has paid off - all of the pain, all of the effort is worth this ability to speed up, right when I need it.

I go as fast as I can, climb the wall, down the other side, over the water crossing, and up the other side. I catch her. She claws the air behind me - I swear I feel her fingers like ghosts as she misses.

I go, faster and faster. I hear her screech of anger and she launches herself after me. This is what neither of us wants. Two of us means-

8.24 am

Lungs are burning. Players have fallen all around and been held down, for one, two, three minutes. What happens is this: You bring someone down, keep them down and when you rise, they stay there. They have to. It's the rules. Then a Guard comes up and shoots them with that weapon; the one that wipes us out. Switches us off. Makes us nothing but a pile of organic scrap. But we all play the game. If you fall or are brought down for more than five seconds, you have to stay there. It's the rules. Only once, last Race, did someone try to run. It wasn't good, what happened. Rules are there to protect us.

And we don't break the rules. Except Jed and I. We have broken the rules. But nobody knows this. As far as the world knows, Jed is my owner. I am his worker. It is for Jed I race. Jed who owns nothing except me, and who is struggling with the payments as it is. Jed who has family in the red zones, who wants to get them out before they die. He clawed his way to the green zone but his time's almost up. Miss one more rental, and he's out. And the rental is due next week.

People say we Semis can't think, you know? Well listen. Listen to my thoughts as I run for my life - whatever it is - and Jed's life. I love Jed. It's not allowed, but I love him. It feels real. It feels like all the people describe.

Semis and People aren't allowed to do what we do. Jed says I am as real as he is. Make of that what you will...

9.11 am

I'm in the middle of the pack. I've kicked off several attackers. Nobody can bring me down because I'm strong. I've brought down several. No remorse, It's them or me. Them or Jed. I'm his only chance. For the last hour it's been a battle over obstacles and a battle over myself. I beat myself and I focus and I run. And I run.

8.00 am

The starting pistol is a foreshadow of the weapons that would take us down. It's a pop in the air, a crack and a pop and a bang, but not innocent like those sounds can be. A gunshot like the ones they hunt with. It's the thing we are most afraid of; a weapon that wipes us out. We begin and I focus on not dying. On staying here. Staying in the Game.

7.00 am

The biggest difference is that we don't sleep. To the trained eye you can tell us apart, but it's subtle, as we look as different from one another as People do. But we don't need to sleep. That's why we were made: we do the jobs that People don't want to do, at night, as they sleep. Only those in the green zones and upwards can own us. We're a privilege, a gift, something to be proud of.

Jed was given me by his employer, for meeting a bunch of targets. Right away, there was something. I felt it and he feels it. I work for him. I do everything he doesn't want or have to do. And if I'm finished, I learn and I train.

Several years ago, somebody dreamt up the Games. We race, and the winner gets everything. The losers die - although they don't say it like that, the games organisers. They say terminated. We are terminated if we lose. But one wins, and if she's the winner, her owner gets everything. That's how Jed described it to me. Everything, for himself and for his family.

Jed has taught me old world words like 'sexist'. It's why you're all female, he says. Sexist. There should be men-Semis as well. But the world developed like this and we 're created female and it doesn't bother me, not at all. It bothers none of us, actually. But it seems to bother more and more of the People.

These are what my thoughts are like before the Race. So that I don't have to think about Jed and what will happen if I die.

People say we can't think, beyond what we're programmed to do. Try listening to my head, I want to tell them. Not only do I have conscious thought, I have the capacity for love. And I love Jed. That's why I'm doing this.

Less than an hour to go til we start.