Second offering for 2017 NaNoWriMo warm-up. This one feels more like a scene than a short story, but here it is anyway (word count: 1249, time 60 minutes)
Fayre is Fair
“If you leave now, you get nothing.”
It was a statement as much as a threat, the words of a demented psychopath bent on destruction of the city.
The Host she called herself. Middle-aged, lumpy, with potato chip crumbs clinging to a faded blouse that might once have been covered in beautiful flowers. In a former life she would have been unnoticeable among the crowds checking out the latest sales at Wal-Mart. But one extra large bag of radioactive, Poutine-flavoured chips later and she’s a global threat.
“So, what will it be, National Nanny? Do you go home with your winnings, having saved only the financial district, or do you continue to play for the whole city?”
“You sick fiend!” I answered. “How can you play games with people’s lives? And with all your power.”
“Oh shut it, Babysitter Girl. Life’s a game, we either decide to play along with rules we didn’t make, or we check out. There’s no in between. Except for me,” she added, smiling. “Fate has chosen to let me make my own rules. Now stop stalling and tell me what you’ve chosen. Time’s running out.”
She wasn’t lying. The giant hourglass she’d somehow managed to conjure, hung high over a large map of the city that was somehow miniature replica tied to the original. As she’d shown me at the start of the game. The hourglass had landed on the city park, destroying both the map version and real version completely.
“What do you want from me?” I yelled.
“Your answer, please. You’ve go five seconds remaining.
“I have no choice but to play on. I can’t let you kill all those innocents.”
“An excellent choice,” she booms, speaking as if to a large audience. As far as I can tell, however, it’s just the two of us in the converted warehouse.
“Pick your category: Things I ate when I was five; Boys I kissed and left; Tests I cheated on; or Places where I peed my pants.”
“The first one, I guess.” It seemed the safest, if she was somehow sending a video feed of this out live. Although it seemed she already knew everything about me.
“I’m sorry, you have to say the category name and a value.”
I exhaled strongly. This was starting to wear on my nerves. Nevermind the innocents, if I didn’t find a way out of this game soon I’d go crazy.
“Things I ate when I was five for 200, please Host.”
“Much better. In this category, you not only have to name the item, but you have to bring me an edible example.
Well, that would allow me to get out of the warehouse, but I doubt I’d have much time to do anything in the short time she’d give me.
“Your answer is: Behind the neighbour’s shed with Jimmy Green.”
The flashbacks hit me hard and for a moment I was unable to formulate an answer. Jimmy was my first crush and we had numerous times behind sheds and under bleachers as teenagers, before he’d been killed in a car accident. I glared at The Host, knowing she made me relive that horrible memory intentionally, even if the answer she ‘wanted’ was, “What are Jelly Beans?”
“Correct! You have 60 seconds to bring me some.” As she finished, the giant hourglass slowly inverted, starting the sands draining through.
I flew off through the entrance she’d so conveniently left on the far wall for just such occasions. She knew I’d be back, and she knew I wouldn’t attack her or the hourglass/map because I’d already tried that and somehow they were protected by powerful forcefields.
By the way, yes, I fly. Not fast, certainly not like the characters of comics. But fast enough to get to the fairgrounds and back with a bag of jelly beans. As I landed, I threw them at her.
She easily caught them, laughing. “Well done Nanny. Are you ready for your next question?”
“Does that one count?”
She just laughed again. “Well spotted. And no. Pick your category and point value.”
I’d been here far too long to enjoy playing homicidal games with psychopaths. Fortunately, my brief trip had allowed me to formulate a plan. All superpowered crazies are megalomaniacal. They can’t resist hiding something of their ‘true genius’ in their plan and it’s usually the flaw that brings them down. If I was right, I just had to find the question I needed.
“Places Where I peed my pants for 200, please Host.”
“Ooh, excellent. The trick with this category is that once you answer, you’ll have five seconds to clear the map of the building before the hourglass smashes into it, destroying the site.
“Now, the answer: On the mat during sleep time.”
She was truly sick, threatening kids like this. I psyched myself up and planned my path before I said, “Rosewood elementary school.”
“Correct! You have five seconds from… now.”
I raced through the streets of the map as quickly and carefully as I could, uncertain whether errant footfalls could also cause devastation. Meanwhile, I counted down in my head. 5… 4… 3…
I reached the school. The building was up to my knees. Fortunately, my strength was well above normal and I hoisted the map segment up, like a giant puzzle piece in the wrong place, turned, and jumped, narrowly avoiding the falling hourglass.
“Oh, well done,” The Host said, clapping with glee.
I was really getting sick of her.
“Once you return to your post, let me know your next selection.”
A few moments later, I was back and ready to end this. “Places Where I peed my Pants for 1000,” I said.
“We’re going for the big money,” The Host said, but I was only half listening. As far as I could tell, the forcefield generator could only be under the floor, perhaps feeding the energy up through conduits in the wall. It I was right about the next question, I’d have my chance to stop her. But it would require exact timing.
“Here’s your answer: Cotton Candy Carousel.”
“That’s the Fairground,” I answered, muscles tensed to spring.
“Correct, your five seconds are on the clock.”
I sprang into action, rushing to the nearby fairground — the one and same I’d just recently gotten jelly beans from. I feigned struggling with the map component, all the while counting in my head. I had to be precise. 3… 2… 1…
With superhuman strength, I flung the piece out of the way as the hourglass came speeding toward me. I may not be able to destroy it, but I had the feeling I could at least move it.
At the last moment, I side-stepped before giving it a powerful shoulder check. The thing was heavier than I thought, but I managed to move it enough so that it crashed down on the scale model of the warehouse we were in.
“Nooo, what have you done?” The Host cried out.
But it was too late. The hourglass plowed through the floor setting off explosions throughout the building as it destroyed what I assumed was the forcefield generator. The look in her eyes told me she knew what this meant, but I was there faster than she could react. A right to the jaw and she was down for the count.
The superforce would send a clean-up crew now that I could notify them and The Host was off to maximum security prison. No more games for her.