The participants took their positions at the starting line. Each one hoping that they had trained rigorously enough to stay well ahead of everyone else in the race. Hector breathed deeply, attempting to calm his nerves before the race began. He looked down either end of the line and analyzed what competition he was up against in this race. Most of the racers seemed to be average to mediocre, according to Hector’s judgement. He was very proud of how hard he had trained the previous two years. For six days every week, Hector ran wildly around his neighborhood to prepare for his Millenia Race. By this point, he knew that he was in prime condition to stay far away from the last place position. His confidence would be put to the test as the race now began.
Erica watched as the runners collectively kicked a thick cloud of red dirt behind them as they began the race.
“Why do we do this?” she asked her father who was the sentinel of the race.
He looked particularly uncomfortable and annoyed by her question, “Every one thousand days we have a Millenia Race to determine who is the fastest person in our community. Ten randomly selected people are chosen to compete in our great race to see who wins, and the winner receives a prize.”
Erica looked baffled, “I heard some of my friends talking about it at school, and they said that something bad happens to the person who comes in last place.”
Shooting his daughter a sharp look of disgust, “The little idiots you go to school with know nothing about our ways. We are the adult rulers, and this is how we choose to govern our subordinates. No simple child can comprehend.”
Erica, afraid to say anything more on the matter, stared at her father indignantly.
He sighed, “What happens to the slowest person is not bad at all. Someone must be sacrificed in order for our community to remain in a peaceful state. The lower classes must be kept under our yoke, otherwise they will conceive foolish ideas of equality and freedom. If that should happen, they will rebel, and our society will be ripped apart. That is why we have this race.”
Hector felt the wind rush against his face. He was alone; because of this, he became confident that he was leading the race. The meadowlands offered up rolling hills and grassy expanses for Hector to tread upon. Looking ahead, he spotted the river which serves as the boundary for the race. Anyone that crossed it would be immediately disqualified from the race. Hector approached it and began running alongside it. Thoughts of his past were conjured up as he trotted along. He remembered the first time his father took him fishing and how exciting it was to have a fish bite onto his line. His father told him that you had to be patient when fishing and not lose your focus when watching your line bob in the water. It was a very fond memory. Suddenly, a great alarm sounded that serves to alert the participants and onlookers that the beast has been released. Hector quickened his pace.
Erica witnessed everyone around her cheer voraciously as the alarm went off, signaling the catching and killing of the person in last place. Her father excitedly announced that the killing should take place in no longer than half an hour. The crowd of rich elites praised him for giving them such fantastic entertainment. Erica, however, felt a pit in her gut. She quickly recognized that she was disgusted and appalled at how her father and the aristocrats in her community treated the poor laborers. As her father raked in his praise and accolades from the audience, she crept away into the dining hall.
“Dinner will be served after the sacrifice,” said a pristinely dressed caterer who was setting out silverware.
Annoyed, Erica said, “I’m well aware of when the food will be ready. I was hoping you could bring me a glass of cold water.”
He smiled and agreed. As soon as he entered the kitchen, Erica grabbed a large carving knife from the head of the largest table that was meant to be used by her father to carve the meat after the race. Silently, she exited the dining hall and began a race of her own.
Hector peered behind him every few paces, hoping that he would still be alone. It was becoming increasingly difficult for him to breathe. Thinking that he was far away from last place, he slowed down to a brisk walk. The sun hung low in the sky; night was fast approaching. Hector began imagining how great it was going to feel to be crowned the winner of this race and gain immunity from ever having to compete in it again. His fantasy was cut short by the sound of someone running behind him in the woods. He looked back nervously and ran faster than he thought possible. As he began tiring, he turned around and spotted the beast coming to kill him. Hector bolted into the woods, trying to evade certain death. The beast was gaining on him rapidly, and Hector felt the shock and embarrassment of being in last place throw him into a panic. He yelled out desperately for aid, but this race had been designed to doom the slowest racer. The footsteps grew louder and louder; Hector’s fate seemed to be sealed. He waited dreadfully for the pain to shoot through his back.
The footsteps suddenly ceased at once. Hector thought this was some sick trick by the butchering beast. He pressed on relentlessly but dared not to look back. Finally, he realized that he was no longer being followed. Certainly luck had smiled upon him, discouraging the beast from chasing him any farther. Hector tuned back and back tracked to the location where the footsteps stopped. He looked in awe at a truly marvelous and unexpected sight. He saw a teenage girl standing over the person dubbed the beast— Erica. Hector walked a little closer and noticed a large knife protruding from the killer’s back and breathed a sigh of relief.
He turned his attention to Erica, “How did you kill him?”
Erica stared blankly at him, “I stabbed him in the back. I don’t feel very well.”
She vomited behind a nearby tree. Hector held back her hair, patted her on the back, and thanked her for helping him.
She smiled, “Your class shouldn’t be treated poorly by my class. I did a good thing, right?”
Hector nodded, “I think what you did is great; you protected me. You’re different from the other rich people.”
She and Hector collected themselves and returned to the starting line. They saw the other nine racers and all the glamorous, rich fools anxiously waiting to see the beast return. They were quite surprised when they saw Erica and Hector emerge over the grassy crest of a hill. A loud gasp was uttered from the crowd; they were utterly amazed by what they saw. This had never happened before and was seemingly impossible.
“Why is your daughter with that scummy boy, and how did he survive?” asked an onlooker.
Erica’s father answered, “I suppose that is where she ran off to.”
Erica and Hector defiantly approached the crowd.
“Erica, what have you done?” her father demanded to know.
She glanced at Hector and said, “I did the right thing.”