This story comes in the aftermath of my incomplete zombie series which eventually will coalesce into a novel called “The Rise”. Please let me know what you think by commenting below.
By Jason Warden
Three strikes and you’re out. I’m told that phrase comes from a game. Perhaps a fight game, perhaps something else entirely, regardless, what it means now is the end.
We reached one end and survived. I don’t believe we’ll survive another. With each day that passes, I find it harder to embrace life and appreciate the sacrifices of those who fought for our continued existence. If there is a God in heaven, and those heroes made it up there, I wonder sometimes if they regret their choice to stand. I know I do.
No one believed it would happen to them, I certainly didn’t, but at least I saw it coming. Is that is a blessing or not? I used to think it was. At first, some fought back, hid, one guy even barricaded himself in his apartment, but no matter where we go, or how many miles or things we put between us and them, they find us. We don’t even bother to claim innocence anymore, not since the Track.
I remember the first one, Andre… something, he had that smug, tough look a lot of kids from the city wore before the Track, but I saw beneath his skin augmentations and brandings to the scared kid he really was. Even at the end I could see in his eyes he couldn’t believe what was happening. I thought our civilized people would redeem themselves and cry out for it to stop, but whether out of fear or bloodlust, no one did. I didn’t either, and for that I’m surely damned.
I still cannot accept that the Track and Judicial were intentionally designed for this. The people asked to approve such a thing, if they’d foreseen what it would become…
The Judicial came first, the panel of five, through an elaborate database, marked those assumed to be a detriment to society. Rebels, kingpins and criminals were targeted, as were all who clung to a moralistic, self-denial of the liberties enjoyed by the populace. Even after The Rise, even with our population at a fraction of what it once was, that database should have kept the Judicial busy for a hundred years, and most likely would have, had it not been for the popular acceptance of the Track.
I’m guilty. I’ve attended scores of Trackmeets since Andre stepped off the platform. The words spoken by the judicial after the ceremonial reading of the charges ever haunt my mind.
“A man for every purpose, a purpose for every man.”
I watched at first, not out of obligation, but only to see. Many went gratefully, accepting their fate with thanksgiving, glad only to have the wait over. Others ran, but even the strongest eventually fell. Most were ground under those metal gears with their last scream still locked in their chests.
I’ve stood looking over those sheer walls as men, women, and even children were pushed off the platform onto that rolling track. We booed the runner’s stubborn will to live and threw rocks at those who only rode the track to the end. When the show was over, I always walked away, head lowered, never daring eye contact. My belief was the crowd would see my tears as weakness and although I heard the sobs all around me, I wanted to at least appear strong.
Andre’s crimes were many, the Judicial told us he’d killed two men and raped a woman. They said there were other crimes unfit to be spoken of in public. I never questioned his guilt, nor that of any of the others that came after, how blind I was, how callous.
It’s been three weeks since I last participated at the Track. Three weeks, three strikes. They will tell you I spent that time involved in active rebellion, that I killed a man who dared confront me. That I assembled an arsenal and planned to arm any who would join me. The truth is I just didn’t want to see those spinning gears where the track ends grind up the flesh of another “criminal”. I couldn’t, so I stayed home. I waited.
Now I get to see it all one more time, one last time. Will I run from it? Will I fulfill my purpose?