This chapter was written by the wonderfully talented ShaunAllan
Darkness is not just an absence of light. It can also be the abyss that you stand against when all that you love has been taken away. It can be the infinite nothing that you see when you close your eyes. A nothing that is a perfect reflection of the life that you see before you.
Darkness was her friend. In a world where the light was an illusion of fake smiles and false hopes, it had become an ally. A companion. A lover, almost.
No, not a lover. That implied intimacy. A physical contact combining electric shivers and stolen breaths. With the darkness, though she would sometimes think she could genuinely feel its embrace, she knew it was more her desperation that held her tight in its grasp than the touch of the night.
Knowledge and reason are meaningless, though, in the face of sorrow. Of fear.
She stood and looked at the faintly illuminated band on her wrist. She was waiting. Her husband had gone in the night while she slept, three days previously. He hadn't warned her that he was going. He hadn't discussed his idea with her. If he had, he knew she would have refused.
Having a husband and an empty stomach was better than having no husband but being able to eat a full meal. Or having heat in the winters that seemed colder every year, even if they did have a child with a persistent cough that always seemed worse after bed time.
They weren't colder, of course, but the perceived temperature dropped with each day that she cried silently or went hungry to ensure her children didn't.
So, he went. He crept out like the shadows escaping at dawn, afraid that the morning sun might not only reveal their presence, but would shatter them into fragments of nihility.
She woke to a slowly disappearing dip in his pillow. She knew immediately. Their children did too.
What else could it be? Where else could he go? Why else would he even do such a thing?
They cried and she couldn't hide her tears so held them close and allowed her emotions to cascade down her cheeks.
The band on her wrist felt heavy, as if the weight of the message it might herald was palpable. It drew her gaze like a bomb ticking in time with her heartbeat, although hers had been ripped out. Her husband had taken it with him, perhaps as a keepsake to keep him warm on the cold nights in the forest.
£50,000 was, of course, a lot of money. It would, particularly in the current climate of over-population and a crumbling society that was adept at ignoring the cracks and stepping over the chasms, be life changing.
£1,000,000 would transform every aspect of their existence. She wanted none of it. She didn't care. She just wanted him back.
So she waited. If the numbers changed and £50,000 was suddenly deposited in her account, her life wouldn't change. It would end. She didn't even contemplate the larger amount. The chances of that were too slim. Too distant. He wasn't a warrior or an athlete. His reactions had never been fast. He was a rock, and a comedian, and the sort of father she wished she'd had.
He couldn't win and she hated herself for knowing that.
The television screen stared accusingly at her. Why aren't you watching? it screamed at her. He could be victorious!
But he could also lose. She didn't scream back, she just watched her misty reflection in its black surface and waited.
After a moment, or perhaps an hour, she moved to look out of the window. The grey world outside greeted her with the wave of its grimy hand. If she looked in the mirror, rather than the television screen, she was sure her skin would be painted the same colour grey.
Enough! she told herself.
She couldn't wallow. It wasn't healthy and nor was it helpful. She was never the sort of person who accepted the dystopia that the world seemed to have be slipping into. She was a woman of action. Of decision.
She closed the bedroom door of her children. They were sleeping soundly, their faces masks of blissful ignorance, belying the knowledge they shared once awake.
She knew their dreams were of innocence and better times. They spoke of them often. She wouldn't be gone long. She'd be back again before daybreak. Back before they woke.
The front door clicked softly as she pulled it shut. She glanced up, her eyes skimming over the house number. The four had shifted slightly after years of the door being opened and closed, slammed and yanked. It had been that way for months and she hadn't cared. It didn't matter when held up against everything else. Now it did matter. She did care. It was a symbol of everything that was wrong with her life and the world. She reached up and straightened it in the vain hope that doing so would have a wider effect. Once it was square next to the six, she smiled.
The breath she took to steady her nerves was let out through gritted teeth. She didn't need such breaths. She was made of stronger stuff. Next to the laid back, accepting attitude of her husband, she was a coil wound tight, locked in place until it was required to spring up.
She had always been like that. Not pent up or feeling imprisoned, just prepared for something that might never come. But it had. This was her release.
Her husband and children needed her. Maybe everyone did. That was a grandiose assumption that she tickled rather than agreed with but it might not have been so far from the truth. If she could save her husband, then the authorities could realise how barbaric The Hunt was. She was certainly no fictional Katniss, but she did have one thing: experience.
Before the breathtakingly tall buildings rose up to house the excessive number of people that had to occupy them, before the food supplies began to dwindle and the deforestation tipping point was reached and the air quality began to rapidly decline, before welfare replaced work, she had been employed. And she had excelled at it.
She lifted the tired doormat that welcomed non-existent visitors to their humble abode. There was a line of muck marking the edges of where it had been. It made her think that even the mat was a ghost of the world they'd once enjoyed. The tiles within the area were cleaner than the surrounding ones. Not clean, just cleaner.
She pushed down on the second one down, third one in. It lifted silently. She looked around, knowing nobody would be watching but feeling the need anyway. Lifting it, she held it in her other hand in reached inside the exposed cavity.
The gun and knife were bound together and, once she replaced the tile, she separated them. The ribbon of cloth, she used to tie back her long hair. It was the once feature of her body that she still felt harkened back to a better time. It still shone. It was still soft.
She slipped the knife in the sheath at her ankle and the revolver in the back waistband of her jeans, ensuring the safety was off. She had no fear of it firing unexpectedly. In her hands, guns did what she told them and remained quiet otherwise.
She was down the three flights of stairs before she had taken another breath and paused at the door.
The darkness was her friend.
As she stepped from the building, it welcomed her and embraced her in its folds.
YOU ARE READING
How much is a life worth? Or a death? In the near future, there's a brand new reality TV show. Played on every television screen across the planet, live streamed and binge watched, is The Hunt. In a world gripped by poverty and over population, The...