#tuesdayuseitinasentence: Death : The Ultimate Prize

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‘It’s the … Ultimate Prize.

Sound exploded – clapping, feet stamping, cheers so loud the noise weaved and warped in Stevie’s ears, turning to yelps, howls, animal voices from human throats.

The studio lights were too bright for him to see the audience, but he’d felt them througout the competition, heat pouring from them, an energy verging on hysteria.

‘We welcome back Stevie, our winner from the last round.’ The host, Louis, placed a manicured hand on Stevie’s shoulder.

Louis smelt of old sweat, of grease overlaid with aftershave so strong it hooked in the back of Stevie’s throat. Louis’ shiny suit was darker under the arms, the shirt damp beneath the flapping jacket. When he released Stevie’s shoulder there was a patch of cold left behind as the sweat evaporated.

‘Now, Stevie.’ Louis’s face was in his, false sympathy oozing from under the melting pan stick. ‘You’ve been a marvellous contestant all the way. Hasn’t he, folks?’ A turn to the crowd, absorbing the whoops and cries. ‘You’ve won some money too. But this is the Ultimate Prize. We don’t want you to win some money. We want you to win all the money.’ He winked at a camera, its red light flashing back. ‘And the freedom of your wife and son of course.’

The monitors showed the footage he had seen everyday for the past week – Sarah and Danny, dirty faces streaked with tears, huddled together, bare feet tucked to their bodies. Danny’s tiny body shivering on a dozen screens. Stevie flicked over the picture, searching for wounds, for signs of weight loss, but the monitors snapped to black, leaving an after image on his retinas, his family in negative.

Again, Louis’ hand on his shoulder. ‘But to win all of this, you know there is one more round to complete. Just one more.’

The control was in Stevie’s hand, trigger greasy under his forefinger.

Louis’ voice seemed to come from a distance as the monitor flickered into life again. ‘Your last target, Stevie. And here she is.’

The image resolved. CCTV footage. A young woman – younger than Sarah – sitting on a bench, tying her shoe laces. So young. Blond hair bouncing in a ponytail. Had she been one of the mug shots at the end of the news? An eco-terrorist? A trade-hater? He tried to think, but the memory wouldn’t come – there were so many Accused these days.

The red dot of the laser sight blipped on her chest, bobbing up and down with Stevie’s unsteady breath. She tied one lace, moved on to the other.

The Ultimate Prize, Stevie. Come one, folks, let’s give our champion some encouragement. The Ultimate Prize, The Ultimate Prize …’

The words turned to howls, screams, there was the girl, but she had Sarah’s face, then she had Danny’s, streaming with tears. Stevie’s finger slipped on the trigger.

He wiped his hand on his jeans then gripped the control again.

 


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventures’ #tuesdayuseitinasentence. Use the word – today it’s ULTIMATE – in a sentence or post. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

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24 thoughts on “#tuesdayuseitinasentence: Death : The Ultimate Prize

    1. Ah, thanks Stephanie. I see it as a place where the state has sold off the franchise for capital punishment to a private company who base an entertainment show round the executions. Hopefully not too close to the truth, but we’ll see what the future holds … Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Stephanie. Let’s hope we never degrade that far. Although, when you think back to criminals being killed in the Roman arena – it has happened before

        Liked by 1 person

  1. You do go to some dark places, it’s troubling …

    Just kidding! Brilliantly built up tension, reveals offered piecemeal so the reader only gradually surmises with horror what’s going on, genuinely creepy TV host. Very Hunger Games feel, but more chilling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I shall take all – even the troubling element – as great compliments! Thanks Chris. I thought the state might have sold off the capital punishment franchise to the private sector and of course they want to make some monet, keep their shareholders happy … So why not turn it into a game show? Thank you for reading and for your supportive comments 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very disturbing idea.. reminds me of a dystopic Doctor Who episode. It’s hard to imagine how bizarre entertainment might get in the future, because it changes in ways that make no sense to me, but let’s hope it doesn’t change in *this* direction!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, capital punishment as entertainment has happened a lot before of course – still happens in some parts of the world. But screening it as a game show? I doubt it. There are still small voices shouting ‘no’ to such base behaviour. Thanks for reading Joy 🙂

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  3. That’s splendid Lynn! It flashed a few scenes for me, from Stephen King’s The Running Man, to another King story I can’t recall the name of, but Ted Danson (from the American show Cheers) was in. The scene was Danson having to watch footage of his wife buried alive on a beach with the tide coming in slowly. He was chained upshore from her so he got to watch her drown knowing the tide would come get him thereafter. The realm of darkness in which you lurk, my friend…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, pretty dark for me – sorry about that! Not sure what happened. Wallowing in Victorian ghosts and death scenes for this current book (the one Lambeth Polly was lifted from). Maybe that’s what it is.
      I never used to like Ted Danson in Cheers, then I watched him in the second series of Fargo and he was amazing. All white hair and understated acting. How some people ‘grow into’ themselves, eh?
      That tale sounds pretty grim, I have to say. I must walk towards the light …
      Thanks for reading, Bill 🙂

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      1. Well, at least I’m in good company. I read recently that there is a trend towards downbeat literature, though there’s no definitive answer why. People just love to read it. Though what it says about those of us who like to write it … Back to the shrink 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I wondered about that, but I liked the idea of the reader maming their minds up as to if he pulled the trigger or not. It’s implied this is not his first shooting, so I think we can assume he will. But … I like a bit of ambiguity. Thanks for reading 🙂

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    1. Haha! Yep, definitely be used as evidence this piece – I reckon a shrink already has this printed out and tucked in a file marked ‘one to watch for’. Thanks for reading 🙂

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  4. Even though I could see the end when the wife and child were introduced I still felt the suspense building all the way. Great place to leave the reader to think about the next scene.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much Jeff. Glad you felt the tension there. Yes, I liked leaving it there too, letting the reader decide what happens. Thanks so much for reading 🙂

      Like

  5. Reblogged this on Write of Passage and commented:
    Here is Lynn Love’s post for Tuesdayuseitinasentence, with a link to the site where you can follow the prompts and receive news of the latest challenge.
    Thank you, Lynn, for information on this weekly challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

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