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Thriller Drama

I can't stop my hands from shaking. Hell, my entire body has been quaking for the last couple of months. And the constant sour taste of bile rising in my mouth makes me want to vomit daily. The never-ending stress of this whole fucking thing will kill me before anything else does. I look at my face in the bathroom mirror, and I seem to have aged a lifetime in a few short months. How is that possible?

I chose this Option, willingly. Foolishly. I chose to live a privileged version of a life I've never had instead of going to prison for twenty-to-life. Twenty years of my life potentially wasted, rotting in a six by eight concrete cell before my parole date even rolled around. No thanks. The smell of stale urine from my last stint seven years back is permanently seared into my nasal passages. Never again, I swore to myself. I was going straight, leave my old ways behind. That never happened, so here I am.

* * *

I consider myself a weak, pathetic waste of flesh, with no trace of moral character now. Not a man who is living his life, but merely waiting to die. Wanting to die actually. You know what they say, "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime." Every night I replay my sentencing hearing over and over again like a movie on repeat. The pompous Judge, his black robe, and his tortoiseshell glasses outdated by a hundred years or more, but well suited to his face, look down at me.

"You have been shackled in front of me before, haven't you, Mr. Lewiston, more than once? Two previous times according to your docket, once for armed robbery, and once for carjacking. This time you have been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Given your continued disregard for the laws of United Countries of North America, you are now eligible for our enhanced program of reformation. You will be given two Options here today, the 3rd of March, 2071."

He took a deep, slow breath, and gave a long glance at the lookie-loo vultures in assemblage at today's proceedings.

Then in a booming voice, he began again.

"Option Number One will include your incarceration for a minimum of twenty years with a maximum sentence of life. After twenty years, you will come before me again for a once ever parole hearing. There are no guarantees, Mr. Lewiston, of being approved for parole given your lifelong penchant for crimes against others, no matter how good your prison behavior may be. Here are the terms.

You will be issued a finite amount of credits each month to spend in the prison commissary. You will only be allowed out of your cell for a period of thirty minutes each week. And finally, you will not be allowed visitors for the duration of your confinement.

I'm sure you know these conditions well, correct?"

I nodded, yes.

The degenerates in attendance glared down at me, their eyes bursting with excitement.

"Option Number Two will include lifelong membership in the Gentlemen's Club. The rules are simple.

You will enjoy a life of luxury from this day forward as a free man, free of charge to you. A furnished apartment is ready for your occupancy in Skytop Towers. Your wardrobe will be provided. Unlimited credits will be issued to your All Access Body Chip. You will be free to travel and live your life as an elite member of society.

The only condition is that you meet with all club members once a year at their arena headquarters, on the 31st of December at midnight."

He smiled a devious grin, his teeth crooked and yellowed from age. "I'm sure you know how the club works, right?" He chuckled, as did the drooling masses. "You have thirty seconds to choose."

If only they gave the guilty at least a minute to think. Think clearly about the whole fucking thing. Thirty seconds isn't long enough to choose what toppings you want on your cheeseburger from Dirty Dave's for fuck's sake. My ears were ringing from all the voices echoing through the court, bouncing off the glass walls like supersonic dodgeballs I couldn't duck to escape. And the massive crowds outside, their faces pressed against the glass, were salivating like dogs waiting for a bone. At the same time, I watched the colossal clock tick away my time down to zero. Eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. The chime made my teeth rattle; it was so loud. Times up.

"Well, Mr. Lewiston, what Option will you choose?"

The thousands of spectators egging me on from the three-tier balcony were rabid by now since I was the eleventh convict to come before them. "Take it! Take it!" they shouted, erupting in euphoric cheers the second I uttered the words, "Your Honor, I choose Option Two."

* * *

The Gentlemen's Club was indeed a club by all standards. Membership was not open to the general public. And not the type of Club I would ever consider joining under any circumstances, but yet here I am. And yes, myself and everyone else in the world knew how it worked. It's been in existence for fifty-seven years. It's numbers swelling every day, and shrinking every night at midnight on the 31st of December.

Mr. Huntley was the oldest surviving member, and he welcomed me in with open arms. "I admire those who chose Option Two," he said as he shook my hand firmly. "I've been here for almost twelve years now. Hardly seems possible. I truly am thrilled to welcome a new member into our folds. New faces always remind us of how lucky we truly are. Well, how lucky we will be on the 31st of December if all goes well."

Juries were a thing of the past now. The Judge was the sole person to decide your guilt since innocence was rare these days, and you alone decided your sentence. I had enjoyed the Club in the first few months. Who wouldn't? I was treated like a fucking God. Everything I ever wanted, desired, or needed was at my beck and call. I didn't have to work or lift a finger. I pranced around like a peacock in full bloom. But each night, the gnawing would begin until finally it reached a fevered pace and chewed at my insides day in and day out. The 31st of December was approaching, and nothing I did would stop it.

The world would tune in to watch the names as they were randomly selected. They would cheer louder with each name as if these men were winning some grand prize. It's the ones who's names weren't selected that were the lucky ones.

They get to go home.

* * *

I grabbed onto the edge of the sink to steady myself. My reflection was not a person I recognized at all. I need to leave, or I'll be late. I'm dressed impeccably in my designer suit, shirt, and tie. My handmade leather shoes are polished to a high sheen. My hair styled so that every hair looks as if it were placed one by one. I'll look gloriously handsome should my name be called.

The Gentlemen's Club currently has one-hundred and fifteen members. There's a formula to calculate how many will be leaving the ranks—a percentage of some sort. No one knows until tonight how many exactly, it changes each year.

I can't catch my breath as I enter headquarters. It's my first visit, and possibly my last at the same time. I secretly pray it will be my last.

You see, this elite Club executes some of its members every year on this very night, beginning promptly at midnight. With a click of a button, you are vaporized when he activates the kill mode on your All Access Body Chip. This life is the sentence I chose willingly. I could have hunkered down for the rest of my life and stayed alive. But what life would I have had? I mean, what the fuck kind of life would I have had behind bars? None. Just simply an existence. But Option Two allowed me to live. Live a life I could never have lived. I finally took a breath as I took my seat. I chose this. I knew the risks. Every man here knew the risks, but yet we still chose this. Willingly.

The meeting is called to order by the Judge. His black robe is dressier tonight, more elegant. His teeth are the same putrid yellow. And his smile even more insidious since he's the one pressing your death button. He utters a few worthless remarks to titillate the already frenzied crowd of one-hundred thousand plus, and it begins. I used to be one of those people. Millions upon millions more are glued to their portal view boxes at home to watch tonights events. I heard popcorn sales for the kiddies topped last year's event.

One by one, they rise when their name is called, some rock steady, others stumbling. They slowly step up onto the stage, surrounded by a large circle of chairs, four rows deep, in this vast arena headquarters. The spotlight shines on them now, as the cameras move in for an up-close shot of his face. Every emotion captured live. And then the Judge smiles and presses the button.

One by one, they are turned to dust. Particles of what's left of their bodies float through the air upon vaporization, glistening like stars on a clear winters eve, eventually settling on the shoulders and laps of those men in the first circle of chairs. A surreal dusting of what was once a life. I am in the first circle of chairs since I am a new member. I slowly brush off my pants, all the while keeping my head upright, my eyes focused on the Judge for the next name.

One last name is yet to be announced. I can't breathe, and I'm drenched with sweat as my body quivers. My mind is almost willing it to be me. Then it will be over. No more gnawing gut pains. No more stress. No more.

The Judge smiles and calls out the last name. The crowd is beyond deafening. My upper lip flinches ever so slightly as I inhale through flared nostrils. I think I'll celebrate with a cheeseburger from Dirty Dave's for fuck's sake. And I'll take my sweet old time choosing my toppings tonight. The remaining men are patting each other on the back in celebration. The crowd starts yelling, "Happy New Life!"

I'll be back next year on the 31st of December at midnight for another gathering of The Gentlemen's Club.

August 21, 2020 17:35

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11 comments

Mollie Rodgers
05:38 Aug 29, 2020

Very interesting concept. Reminds me of gladiator fights, the chance for redemption post-crime, the bloodlust of the crowd. Cool story, excellently written :)

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Karen Haggard
15:38 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you!

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B.T Beauregard
05:06 Aug 29, 2020

A thrilling story, and a very unique idea. It leaves you wondering which option you would chose. Great job!! I’m looking forward to more of your stories. Keep writing!! :) Ps: If you could check out my newest story and leave some feedback, I would really appreciate it.

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Karen Haggard
15:38 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you very much! I will definitely read your piece.

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☆ Ariadne ☆
01:16 Sep 25, 2020

This is an extremely well-written story with a very unique idea. I was constantly trying to figure out what will happen next. Well done!! I’m looking forward to your next story! ~Ria Mind checking out my stories? I would really appreciate it! :)

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Karen Haggard
17:13 Sep 27, 2020

Thank you! I certainly will.

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Keerththan 😀
04:15 Sep 08, 2020

The concept is very interesting. Wonderful story. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new one and share your views on it?

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Karen Haggard
17:14 Sep 27, 2020

Thank you! Certainly.

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Willow Bird
13:25 Aug 29, 2020

This caught my eye because I wrote a story about a gentleman's club for this prompt as well, though the idea was a bit different. Your story was incredibly captivating and makes the reader question what they would choose. Great job!! I would love your feedback on my latest story if you have the time :)

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Karen Haggard
15:39 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you! Small world, huh? I will absolutely read your piece.

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Willow Bird
15:48 Aug 29, 2020

Haha yeah. Thank you!

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