Chapter 11: Mausoleum

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When the van slowed to a final stop and the doors opened, I was blinded by light. Hands, stronger than a human's and abrasive against my skin wrenched me from the floor and placed me upright. My bare feet burned against concrete as my eyes focused on the structure around me. The Dead World Racing Center, a massive onyx building fortified with electrified fences, demanded to be seen, to be feared. Guard towers dotted the perimeters. It was a prison with a strip of a race track on the side.

The men from the van dragged me inside the building, before releasing me with a push across the slick floor. I couldn't focus on anything besides the squeakiness of my steps against the shiny floor as I shuffled forward. A bored android waited for me at a tall desk, hidden behind a thin sheet of glass. A spit guard, I assumed. Above her hung a tacky neon sign.

Welcome to the Dead World Prix!

It Will Change Your Life!

Then, below it: a countdown clock. 9 days. 16 hours. 44 minutes. 12 seconds.

Could they be more subtle?

"Number?" She asked, her voice sounded harshly artificial.

The guard nudged me hard and I stumbled forward, my hand catching myself against the glass. Her eyes glared at my fingers until I snapped them back.

"Um," I stuttered. "Six, six...."

My eyes trailed and focused on all the strange highlights of yellow in the room. The android's uniforms were black with a narrow yellow stripe in unique places amongst the stitching. Her fingers clicked against the keyboard and then she paused. The guard behind me took a step closer and the numbers returned to me.

"Five seven nine four."

Passive-aggressively she finished entering the numbers before pulling a small device from a drawer in her desk and sliding it under the small opening in the glass.

"Finger please," she said. Warily, I handed over my right pointer finger. Her fingers were too quick for me to protest as she pinched my first knuckle and stuffed it into an unknown device. A sharp prick assaulted the pad of my finger and she released me. I caught my identification number alight on the device. That was it.

I was reduced to blood and a number.

"Go through that door and put your clothes in the garbage bin. Your new garb will be waiting. You will receive your racing suit the evening before the race," the android explained, her words monotone. "Meals are served twice per day, one bar in the morning and one in the evening. Men and women are separated by wing and there is to be no copulation under any circumstances, consequences include isolation and banishment from the games."

Death. She meant death.

"You will be assigned a vehicle, but it will not be utilized until the start of the actual races. There will be two preliminary practice sessions before the race. One will be to test your skills as a driver, the next will be timed laps to determine your position on the starting line. Good luck and welcome to Dead World," she said and then turned to her computer. I took that as my cue to leave and stumbled to the door she pointed to earlier. The androids who brought me in vanished, returned to the van to pick up more hopefuls.

Thin doors snapped behind me and I was plunged into a windowless room with a small bench. Folded, grey clothes sat neatly folded, like they'd always been there waiting for me. I shed my old clothes, dumping them into a bin where they would be incinerated. My shoes were harder to part with. Leather boots that I had spent years breaking in and repairing. Shoes that belonged to Valerie at one point. Shoes that meant saying goodbye to everyone. To Karl, Alfred, Valerie, Magda. I dropped my heart in with them.

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