Contestant Sixty-Four

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This chapter was written by SebJenkins

   

Like a greyhound at the races, contestant sixty-four sat hunched over in a small metal box, ready to be released onto his track as the beads of sweat cascaded down his worried brow. Only, unlike the greyhound, he was petrified of leaving the relative safety of his tiny cell. He wasn't a prisoner, not in that sense anyway, he wasn't a criminal. Sixty-four was here by choice, if you believed the government on that matter. 

His bright orange jumpsuit completed the inmate image despite his innocence, with the sunlight painting shadows across his chest where the bars blocked a small window. Making them look like a criminal made it easier for the public to watch, as if they wouldn't watch anyway.

America had toyed with using convicts at first, solving the problem of overcrowded prisons, and overpopulation in one foul swoop, but it was deemed too inhumane. The act of hunting another defenceless human was seen as abhorrent, just as it was with animals, but when the humans volunteer, that changed everything.

The answer was simple once they streamlined the legal side of things. For decades celebrities and members of the public alike had stepped forward to appear on reality TV shows and survival programmes. All they needed to do was tweak the concept slightly, and they were left with The Hunt.

A game show of sorts, in which a volunteer is released into the wild, tasked with reaching a certain 'safe zone' before a chasing pack of hunters, horses and dogs caught them. Clearly without incentive, the volunteer count wouldn't stutter off zero for a second, but once you introduced prize money into the equation, phones started to ring.

If you made it to the end, you would receive £1,000,000 for your troubles, a feat accomplished by only a few. If you were caught, £50,000 would be transferred to a loved one of your choice, only, you wouldn't be around to enjoy it with them.

With this new concept, they had tapped into a growing pool of poverty gripping the nation, feeding off a climate of desperation and fear. Thousands would apply every day, not with the aim of winning the grand prize, that was optimistic at its very best, but as a sacrifice. One hunt to give your family another chance at life.

The Hunt was now the most viewed sport in the world, eclipsing football, golf, tennis, even The Super Bowl final. Millions upon millions tuned in twenty-four hours a day without fail to watch nameless contestants like him compete against the odds. Nineteen countries, all sharing video links to different hunts across the globe, broadcasted with specific commentators for each region. It was an efficient, unyielding, money-making machine.

Contestant sixty-four thought about his family, devastated that he couldn't share his final moments with them crowded around him. He had always imagined passing away peacefully, in the presence of his loved ones, painless and comfortable. Instead he sat alone in his own coffin, waiting for death to chase him down like a savage wolf.

He was selling his dignity, his soul, and his life, for £50,000. It didn't sound like a lot, but once a family like his was forced onto the streets, it was impossible to claw your way back onto the ladder. Once you've fallen, there's no getting up, there is only The Hunt.

The money would give them a second chance, a legacy he was willing to leave behind.

Crash

The reverberating bang of a gong erupted through the forest, played at full volume from every single speaker throughout the course. The hatch in front of him slid open, telling him that he had five minutes before the hunters would begin their chase.

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