“See you later Dodge,” I texted. I waited for a reply and getting none, went offline to do the good stuff. And by the good stuff I mean the cool stuff, which was hacking for me. Because we all have that vice which is our downfall or our salvation, and for me it was the latter.
Just then, one of my telephones rang. The ugly black one with its paint peeling off which I had scavenged from the scrapyard, which meant the Pig was calling. “Hello,” I said.
“Hey Joey. I got a job for ya.”
“I need you to rig the system,” he said.
“The usual?” I asked.
“No. This time it’s me. Get me out.”
“Oh…okay, well I’m on it boss. And um, hey, I need the dumplings,” I said, rather flustered at the request.
“Yeah yeah, I need the job done tonight. Judgement Day is coming.” And I heard static which meant that the call was disconnected.
Our country was divided into two sections; the Uptown and the Downtown. I lived in Downtown, which was the skimpy part of this broken country where the supposedly “less privileged” found home. Although we missed out on the luxuries and the so-called better part of life, I had set up fort here and this was my forte. Every year, people from Uptown would ask us — no, force us — to be sent to the moon on a day which we called “Judgement Day”. They choose some names at random and those fated people never really returned from their highly disliked voyage, which made us Downtownians skeptical of the scheme which was going on.
I got to work. I had deadlines and assured dumplings, and this was a job that I wasn’t willing to give up on. Dumplings are what I call stolen loot, which is what the Pig and his men lived off. Whenever the Pig had to get one of his cronies deleted from the Uptownian’s Judgement Day list, he’d call me, and being honest, I was quite proud. Everyone knows that if the Pig calls you, you’re either the best in Downtown for what he wants, or you’re just a dead duck. This time, he wanted himself off the list, which was something quite unusual. Looks like the Uptownians were tightening their grasp around us.
I logged into the Uptownian’s official website, which was exclusively for their use. But you know, I found a bunch of loopholes in their security and legally “logged in”. They controlled the whole game. I had managed to worm into a congresswoman’s account and I checked the Downtown Citizen Files. I scrolled through them looking for the Pig’s real name, which actually sounded more commanding, and much cleaner in some way; “Marshall Throne”. When I was midway through the list, I saw his name. “Oof, haha,” I chuckled as I deleted the name and marked him as “Deceased”. Nobody would know why he hadn’t been chosen until they took the roll call next year. Looks like he was really going to get bagged this time. The citizens in the middle of the list were the ones that were most likely going to get chosen, because each newborn baby gets put up at the top of the list, and the old people at the bottom. If you’re in the middle, get this — you’re doomed, but if you make it through, aren’t you the lucky one because it’s usually the ones right in the middle that get chosen.
I rung up the Pig, and while I waited I scrolled through the list as lazily and slowly as I could. He answered. “Hi, Joey here. It’s done,” I said. I swore for the millionth time that I was the only one that dared to speak to the Pig like this.
“Right,” he said. I choked. “Joey Smartell” glared the name on the screen.
“I’ll call you back later,” I said hurriedly.
“What? The dump- I slammed the phone down.
“Ughhhhh,” I groaned as I scrolled down to the last citizen. #7,686 was the last one. I scrolled back up to my name. #3,843. There. Right in the middle. And I wasn’t even spared a second chance. Every other year we have a Versus Broadcast. When there’s an odd number of citizens the two in the middle are chosen by a lottery which determines which one should be sent to the moon. I just had to change my status to deceased. I typed in my new status and rubbed my tired eyes. The shock was too much for me. I clicked the red button to update the system. Wait, what? Red? No it should be the white button. THE WHITE BUTTON. I had just initiated the countdown. Now I’d be whisked away to my doom faster than I should’ve. I hammered down on the trackpad trying to make the white button work, but nothing happened. I slammed my fist on the table and nursed it, regretting slamming it. Helplessness hurt.
Now all I had to do was wait. I called Dodge from the shiny red telephone.
“Hey bud. ‘Sup?” he asked.
“Yeah I know something is. Wanna tell me?”
“I got bagged,”
“Huh? Heyyy! Nice prank. You got me,” he said.
“No. You really got bagged?”
“Oh no,” he said.
“Yeah. Thanks for everything okay?”
“Sure,” he said.
I slowly put the receiver back in place. I checked the countdown. I had two hours before they took me.
I crumpled into my moth-bitten bed which I had complained about for years, yet it felt like heaven and smelled like cheap vanilla perfume now. I sighed and buried my face in the rag which I called a pillow.
There was a bang and feet thumped into the room. Sounded like some heavy boots. “Where is he?”
“We’ll beat him if he’s hiding.”
“It’s a girl.”
Someone dragged me off the bed and I plummeted down, landing with an unceremonious bump, my limbs sprawling out like a spider’s. I wasn’t surprised. I knew the way that I’d be treated would be way less than polite. Two of them took my arms and made me stand up. My body still waking up from the nap, was pulled up roughly and only my arms rose. My backside remained plastered to the floor. The officers gave another mighty haul but they just barely managed to get me off the ground. “This one’s thin but heavy!”
“Bugger’s still asleep,” sniggered one. I decided to pull downwards in spite. I liked seeing them sweat trying to get a mere Downtownian to stand up. After several, quite deliciously entertaining minutes, they hauled me up like a string puppet. I staggered as the blood rushed to my legs. They shoved me through the streets of Downtown on what we called the “Walk of Death”. Nobody came out of their houses to stare at me, but everyone, including the officers knew that they were doing that out of courtesy, and were watching from the forlorn depths of their houses.
When we got to the end of Downtown, there stood a snow-white van at the normally locked gates. The officers really had a time walking me down as if I were getting married. I made sure to give no indication of the horror or my wildly beating heart on my face, so as to disappoint them. Escaping would be no use. They shoot you on the spot and repeat the process. I’d rather die going to the moon than here in Downtown. “This ‘un is already dead,” said one officer. They blindfolded me and pushed me in. I sat like a hen hatching her eggs, still and silent. The van wheezed to death. It didn’t start. I “har har”ed silently, laughing at the malfunction of the Uptownians, where everything was perfect. The officers started yelling in tense tones, but, to my despair, it started and off we went. In their eyes I was the Wicked Witch being taken to her deserved death.
I sighed. I had an incredible knack for getting out of tight spots, but it seemed as if that time were over. I sat in silence as the van rattled through, from the gravel roads onto polished tars.