John Bailey Owen

Feb 242017

Sometimes, life doesn’t seem fair. But that’s just how it is when you’re a teenager. You’re always being forced to battle your peers in a globally televised tournament of death, here in this dystopian future of a present.

Kidkill Deathgames. The name says it all. Though I am in this arena fighting to save my very life, my struggle is little more than a handful of “games” to the people watching. And they watch these games with glee, the way a “kid” might. As for the “kill” and “death” parts, who knows? Probably some more of that nonsense the politicians are always spewing in the Capitol.

Maybe, long ago, things were different. But what am I talking about? Things may have seemed better then, but the same poisonous adult treachery was poisonously bubbling beneath the surface, poisoning existence. A fifteen-year-old being chased by a remote-controlled decapitation helicopter, and an eighth grader’s parents telling her she can’t have a co-ed sleepover for her birthday—there is no difference.

I scan the woods around me. Have any of my competitors tracked me here? A bird’s song breaks the silence: “You should give yourself an eating disorder!” So, it’s a robin. Years ago, every animal was manufactured into a “BODIES…The Exhibition” version of itself, and fitted with motion-sensitive insult generators, for capitalism. Leave it to adults to find a way to disrupt the natural tranquility of a tire forest.

I think back to the day I was sent here—the day of the Evil Choosing Lottery.

“You are teenagers,” the Leader said, standing before us in his most formal full-body Uggs, his voice ringing out through the tiger-themed air. “You must never be understood. You must never be listened to. You must live in a world that makes you as serious as John Rawls after he found out about the Holocaust.”

That’s when I heard my name being called. I had been chosen to fight in the Kidkill Deathgames.

“Be strong, child,” said Flimius Pynche, my mentor/Hagrid-type-guy.

“Thanks for everything, Flimius,” I said, as I threw my arms around his gruff but warmhearted body. Over his shoulder, I beckoned to my little sister.

“They just called your name,” I whispered. “Go on up there. No tears, now.”

“Christ, I can hear you saying that!” said Flimius.

“Your name is stupid!” I shouted. “You have a ridiculous name!” But I was already being taken away to get those shots that make you never have to go to the bathroom, or at least never mention it.

Enough. This is no time to dwell on the past. Here, in the present, there are people who want me dead. I have to make a decision: which of the two boys trying to date me do I love?

No, wait! I mean, what can I do to not die? All I want is to live! I must live! Oh, please! Let me live!

Hypothetically, though…which of them is it?

Rory? Impossible. For one thing, he’s my best friend. And on top of that, he’s the only person in the world I can be myself with. But for some inexplicable reason, my heart begins to race whenever he’s around. Maybe it’s the way he’s so sullen. The last time we saw each other, he shoved a crumpled piece of paper into my hands. “I wrote you a poem,” he said.

The world must burn. Lava exploding into faces. Their skeletons are screaming now. No survivors.

“Rory…” I whispered breathlessly. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“I prayed to my fairy godmother I’d find you here,” said Josh, appearing from out of nowhere. Josh, he’s almost the exact opposite of Rory. He’s not an insufferable jerk, and he looks like Taylor Lautner, whereas Rory looks like blond Taylor Lautner. But for all of Josh’s kindness, I feel the same notness in love with him that I do with Rory. Maybe it’s how he once told me his idea of a perfect relationship was an old man gently tending to his wife as she slips into Alzheimer’s.

“I hope you’ll care for me like that someday,” said Josh. My heart began to race.

Even if I did love him, though (which I don’t), what good would it do? We all know that love is against the law. Funny. Could it be that if adults allowed teenagers to find their soul mates for once, their entire corrupt system would fall apart? Fall apart from the power of love? It’s all too possible.

But what can I do about it? Think about whom I should choose, I guess. Yes. That’s what I’ll do. Go somewhere very far away from any kind of action, and think and think.

I only hope that the thoughts and memories I’m narrating out into nothingness are being recorded somehow, and that one day, they will be converted into writing, and that the writing will then be published as a book, and that a teenager in the past will be able to read that book, and that it will stay on The New York Times Best Seller List for at least sixty consecutive weeks.

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