|Posted on March 24, 2011 at 6:51 PM|
There's been some talk in the forum about story ideas, ones we'd love to write but won't or ones we want to see what other people's takes are. Anyway, this is the latter and is my attempt at the shoot a child/let a plane blow up dilema I proposed.
I hope you like it and some of you write your own version.
“It’s quite simple, Jason,” Walker said, smiling a little. “”You know I’m not lying to you.”
Jason tried to think but it was hard to grasp hold of anything but the simplest observations. Blood was pounding in his ears and his heart was convulsing, leaving him short of breath. He wanted to run but he knew his legs couldn’t support him, that if he hadn’t already been seated he would have collapsed. There were dots swimming before his eyes and his stomach was turning somersaults.
“You need to concentrate,” Walker said kindly. “Now isn’t the time for a panic attack. You need to be decisive,” he picked the pistol up from the floor as he spoke, gently easing it back into Jason’s hands. “The clock is ticking.”
“You can’t mean it,” Jason finally choked out, aware he was clutching at straws. “You can’t.”
“You were told at the start we play for high stakes, Jason. You know I mean everything I say.”
Until a few years ago Jason had been a celebrity footballer, consistently the top league scorer and England’s best striker in years, earning tens of millions a year from club and sponsors. A savage sliding tackle during a Boxing Day derby had ended all that, his left knee shattered and his left femur broken. The other player was banned for life, and was now behind bars for GBH, but Jason’s career was over, except for a few pundit slots where he failed to shine, the early sympathy for his injury fading fast.
He’d grown bored quickly, denied the physical activity he was used to he tried to fill his time with computer games and his family – the girl he’d married when they were nineteen and the three children, two boys and a girl. It left him feeling empty, it was all too mundane, there was no risk in it. He drifted into high stakes poker, winning more than he lost most of the time but that grew stale quickly.
“We made the bet,” Walker said, a slight edge in his voice now. “You lost and you only have ten minutes to pay up.”
Jason and Walker had met over poker, the older man head of an inherited media empire with a fortune that dwarfed the footballer’s. For several months games involving both of them were a focal point for the casino, enormous sums crossing the table as they both searched for the real thrill, the knowledge that everything was on the line. When the invitation came for Jason to participate in a private game at the old man’s estate there could only have been one answer.
“Take the gun, Jason. Do what you have to, honour the debt.”
The private games were only partly about money, far less passed across the table than in public. They bet mansions and yachts, majority shares in businesses and banks at first, the big bets coming out if Jason had been forced to fold first, which were the first half-dozen or so he attended. The change came in the seventh game, when he had hand he knew could win but couldn’t make the stake.
“I’m short, fellas,” he’d said, “but my house is worth twenty million, that’ll cover it.”
“It’s your only house, isn’t it? We can’t turn your children out on the street, we can’t accept that, I’m sorry. ” Walker’s reply was a little sharp. “You’ll have to bet with something else.”
The negotiations were a blur in Jason’s memory but he knew he would win so it hadn’t seemed that important his stake was the drugging of his wife and her sexual assault by Walker and the others. He knew he was going to win and, when he did, he found the risk he had been looking for. His wife’s delight at the money and Brazilian villa he won was enough to quell any lingering doubts.
“You have five minutes, Jason,” Walker said, rising as he felt the stunned man’s fingers tighten around the pistol.
It had become routine for bets like that to be made. Sometimes they were sexual, Jason felt no qualms when he won but never bet his wife or children unless he knew he couldn’t lose. Other times they’d bet on the lives of poor people, one man was driven in and out of poverty for a year by the ebbs and flow of the game. Eventually the target was driven to suicide, netting Walker time with the fourteen year old niece of Blunt the crony. Blunt stopped playing after that and his niece drank a bottle of bleach but that was just a sidebar to the game.
The other two cronies dropped out not long after, beaten away by the increasing perversion and ferocity of Jason and Walker’s bets. Sealed together, a perfect double bubble feeding off each other, they started to bet with people’s lives, not just their existence.
Jason won the first assassination. Walker spent nearly a million arranging the documented killing of the man behind the tackle that ruined Jason’s career, denied him the chance to lift the World Cup. Prisoners, prison guards and the responding riot squads were all well payed to ensure he died a brutal death. After seeing the footage of his nemesis’ body hanging upside down from a prison walkway, brains falling lose in gobbets and fire already licking at his clothes Jason had gone home and, in his core, he knew that was the night his wife started to grow his fourth child.
“You remember the bet, don’t you, Jason?” Walker lit a cigarette.
“Yes,” Jason felt calmer now but his head was bowed, he didn’t want to look at anything but the gun hanging between his knees and the blurred patch of carpet below. “I remember.”
“Would you have hesitated to claim your winnings?”
“Then make your choice, you only have two minutes left.”
On a wall-mounted flatscreen TV almost as wide as Jason was tall, footage of an airplane cabin played in real-time. It was uneventful, cabin crew handing out drinks and meals, spacious and warm in first class. Inset at the top of the picture was another view of the people in economy class. The plane was only half full and most of the passengers were teenagers with their school chaperones, their collective parents rich enough for school exchange trips but not first class or charter.
Jason didn’t care about them, only first class mattered. The camera’s positioned so they were in the centre of the screen Jason’s family were halfway over the Atlantic, returning from a Disneyland trip. The boys, the eldest nearly fourteen and the other eleven, were engrossed in their DSs, playing some linked game or another. Gail was using her favourite doll, a cloth thing with a plastic face, to talk to the bump. At six months they knew Gail was going to have a sister but they were going to keep it a surprise. His wife was asleep, face mask on but head lolled to one side and starting to drool a little. She was only classy until she fell asleep.
It had been a dead cert, no way that he could have lost. The bet hadn’t even seemed that big at the time, not with a winning hand.
“I bet,” he had said, “my family’s life that there is nothing you can ask me to do that I would not do to save my family. If I lose this hand, you can put them in the path of death with only one escape. Something you think I wouldn’t do.”
“Against my offer?”
The cards went down and Jason’s triumphant cry warped into a tragic shriek. One card had beaten him, one fucking card. One card had his family on a plane carrying a bomb. Walker owned the airline, his influence and money had seen to the rest. It didn’t matter what he might have won, forty-three million and the maidenheads of Walker’s granddaughters, he had fucked up.
“Sixty seconds, Jason,” Walker said.“There are two bullets in that gun, you know what you have to do.”
Jason had a sister, six years younger than him. She had two children, his eighteen month old twin nephews. In their own baby carriers they were asleep on Walker’s desk. The carriers were dark blue and decorated with yellow stars and both babies were securely strapped in. They wore almost identical outfits – jeans, t-shirt and tiny denim jackets – but one was blue on red and the other red on blue. He thought it was David in the blue beanie hat and Stephen in the red but he wasn’t sure. No-one really was and he guessed it would be a few years before the names became securely attached to one or the other.
“Forty-five seconds. Two bullets, Jason.”
He had lost the game and Walker had found something he didn’t know if he could do. Two bullets, two lives in exchange for his family and the other fucks on the plane. He couldn’t miss, he’d have to push the muzzle against their skulls. No-one would really be sure which headless corpse was which. His children would be alive, the girl in his wife’s belly would get to breath and think.
His children or his sister’s children? There were more of his, plus the other people on the plane.
Jason took a few deep breaths, calming himself the way he used to do before stepping onto the field. This was all or nothing, a golden goal in the last seconds of injury time. This was the time to shine. Two bullets, two short squeezes and then the gun itself as a club to beat Walker to death. A chance to end the game and take a little revenge.
Jason leapt from the chair and crossed the short distance to the desk. He put the gun against the child in the red cap, urged himself to take the last step. Every muscle on his body was shaking and his eyes bulging, cold sweat running in rivulets from his nose and eyebrows.
Jason screamed and pulled the trigger. Blood on his chest and face he moved to the second carrier and put the gun to baby blue’s head. The explosion seemed louder than the first, the arc of pulverised bone and flesh stretching into the air farther. He saw some of it splatter against the wall as the echo of the shot faded in his ears.
Turning to launch himself at Walker, holding the still warm pistol by the barrel to make a better club, Jason snarled and started to speak. The words were cut short as three precision placed shots took out his right shoulder and both knees. He fell, blood spraying all around and tried to stand up again, intent on killing Walker.
For a split-second there was an image of expanding fire on the live feed, a few preliminary screams and then there was static.
“You lose,” Walker said, pulling the trigger a third time.