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This short story was inspired by multiple things, the most influencial being the movie, Battle Royale. The story is meant to spark the question, "Does your survival outweigh the importance of your morals?".
September 4, 1994, a regular Friday morning. A fourteen-year-old girl is laying in bed with the covers on only the left portion of her body. Her hair is stick-straight, clinging to her head. She slowly opens her eyes as she once again sees the same mustard-yellow-stained walls that she’s woken up to for the past four months. Since then, she has been observing the cracks in the floor and holes in the ceiling, desperately waiting for the door to open.
Soft footsteps emerge and she instantly turns her head towards the steel door. The girl sits up, eyes widening while her hand shakes. She carefully pulls the worn-out blanket off her body and crouches down on her knees. As the footsteps gradually grow louder, she silently crawls under the bed.
The cold, dark door opens. He enters.
Dark brown boots and navy pants make their way towards the bed. On the bottom of his pant leg is a stain. A mustard stain. Another man, wearing the same boots and pants, grabs and lifts the side of the bed, revealing the girl.
“L-Lingde!” the man said, “Up!”
Without hesitation, the girl jumps to her feet. Her heart gradually beats faster. The man with the mustard stain grabs her arms and pulls them together. The girl’s face turns to a light pink as she silently endures the pain in both shoulders.
“D-Do it,” mustard stain said. The other man lets go of the bed and takes a small navy bag with “NPFPC” stitched on. He unzips the middle pocket and pulls out a needle filled with a clear liquid.
As soon as she sees it, she tries to pull her arms from mustard stain’s grip.
“Lingde!” he yells, clenching her wrists.
She keeps trying to remove herself as the needle approaches her. The man holding the needle pulls up Lingde's left sleeve. She feels a sting on her left arm. It’s not what you think it is. It’s not that day.
A sharp pain emerges in her arm. She feels as if the back of her neck is being pulled while her knees buckle. She begins to lose consciousness below her waist before collapsing.
Lingde’s childhood was unlike the average person’s. Since she is a sibling who has been living in China’s current state, she has been in hiding her whole life. She has only known four people, the most important being her sibling.
“I’m home!” said a thirteen-year-old boy as he slammed the front door. His hair was loose and free.
“Dengta, you’re home!” said eleven-year-old Lingde as she hugged him.
“Did the teacher grade our history project? Did she tell you the answers to three and seven? She did, didn’t she? I was right, wasn’t I?” asked Lingde. “I told you-”
“Slow down. First of all, yes, she told me the answers,” replied Dengta as he placed his books on his desk. “You were right.”
“I told you!”
“No, you didn’t. Plus, I was so close,” he said as they sat down.
“Can we do some math? I’ve been dying to ask you about number four. I don’t know how to start it.”
He pulled out a piece of paper.
“Basically, you want to get rid of thirteen and four. After you simplify it, you should get zero,” he replied.
A knocking sound came from the front door.
“Go,” said Dengta in a serious tone. He pointed to the rug. “I’ll take care of it, now go!”
Lingde uncovered the rug to reveal a trapdoor underneath.
“O-Open up, I’m with the National Population and F-Family Planning Commision!” said the man as he knocked again.
Dengta opened the trapdoor. Lingde sighed. Like every other time. Stay silent. Stay silent for him. She grabbed the sides of the opening as she slipped inside. Dengta let go. The trapdoor plunged onto her right hand. She couldn’t resist the urge to scream.
Lingde slowly lifts her fingers while regaining consciousness. As she turns her head and opens her eyes, she sees multiple blurry blue and grey seats. Airplane seats. Her hand starts shaking uncontrollably. As she takes a deep breath, she feels a slight sting on the front of her neck. She touches what seems to be a metal box about the size of a coin attached to her throat.
To the left of Lingde is a girl who looks to be about thirteen-years-old. She has short to medium-length black hair with knots at the ends. The girl is leaning against the window, arms crossed. She is staring through the crack in between the seat in front of her and the side of the airplane. She too has the small metal box attached to her neck.
Every four rows is a man wearing a blue uniform. All of them have the same short haircut. Each one is holding a rifle, completely still.
The plane is crowded with teens in every seat. Their heads are sinking as they sit, motionless. All have the same metal box clasped to their throat.
Lingde lowers her head and stares at her shoes. At least I’m not hurt. At least I’m okay. At least I’m not alone.
The speaker overhead screeches.
“In the pocket attached to the seat in front of you is a pair of headphones. Use them as you watch the video that will play on the screen in front of you.”
Lingde, along with the other kids, jump at the sound of the speaker.
Her stomach sinks as her hands clench the armrests. After looking around at the others, she did as she was told.
Startlingly, the screen in front of Lingde lit up as she plugs in the headphones. A sixteen-year-old girl appears on the screen with a big grin on her face. Wearing a camouflage top with jewels, the girl looks as if she hasn’t brushed her hair in days.
“Welcome!” she said with a small hop. “Welcome all to the fourteenth year in a row of Beneficial Bloodshed! I am totally sure that this year will be even better than the last!”
Lingde scratches at the scar on her right hand. It’s true. The rumours. It’s all true. Her face reddens as she keeps watching.
“I’m sure all of you have heard about this little contest, but for those who’ve been living under a rock, pay attention!” said the girl as her voice gets higher. “Beneficial Bloodshed is a contest developed by the NPFPC, the National Population and Family Planning Commision! This game is used to solve China’s problems. Basically, it’s a way to get rid of you!” she said with exaggerated facial expressions. “That is why we need this competition. By participating, you are serving the greater good!” She gives a big thumbs-up and giggles.
Lingde’s hand twitches as she continues to watch.
“On to the more important part, the rules.” The screen cuts to a white background with the word “Rules” in pink letters.
“Number one:” said the girl. As she continues to explain the rules, the words appear on the screen.
“You must participate. Well, unless you’re dead. Number two: You are not allowed to take off the tracker connected to your neck, unless you win. Your tracker tells us whether or not you are alive, and of course, where you are. If you are caught trying to take it off, you will set off a timer and die! Number three: When you are dropped off on the island, you must wait until you hear the bell ring to begin killing. If you don’t, again, you die. Number four: If after four full days a winner is not declared, everybody dies!”
The screen cuts to the same girl as before.
“Each of you have been given a bag under your seat that contains some food, water, and a weapon. Also, scattered throughout the island are speakers that will announce the start of the competition, the end of the competition, and every four hours those who died within that time frame. I believe that’s all you need to know! Aren’t you all excited? I know I am! Good luck to everyone and may this be a great competition!” said the girl while giggling and waving goodbye.
Lingde's heart drops. She looks around at the others. The boy to her right is throwing up on the floor.
“NO!” yells a fourteen-year-old boy two rows behind Lingde. “This isn’t fair! I didn’t do anything! It’s not my fault!” He stands up on his seat and forces eye contact with every guard. “How can you make ten-year-old kids kill people? You’re all murderers! All of-”
Suddenly, a beeping noise comes from where he is standing. There is a flashing red light coming from the box on his neck. The guards stand in place without acknowledging the boy’s cry for help.
The boy freezes in place.
“Get him away from me!” said the guy sitting next to the boy as he pushes him.
The boy falls to the ground while he tugs on the box.
“I take it back! I take it back!” yells the boy as he crawls on the ground to the nearest guard.
The beeping accelerates.
“You can’t do this, the game hasn’t started! We’re still on the plane!” he pleads as he desperately pulls at the guard’s pants. “Please! I take it back! I take it ba-”
A single tone sounds. The box and the bottom half of the boy’s head explodes. The top detaches from his body and falls next to the left arm. Blood paints over the guard’s mustard stain and the seats surrounding it. The pool of blood expands by the second. From then on, nobody dares to protest.
The girl next to Lingde pulls out her bag from under her seat and goes through it. Suddenly, she stops, sighs, and falls back in her seat. Tilting her head up, she gradually breathes faster. She glances in her bag once more, then observes the other contestants.
Lingde pulls out her bag and looks inside. Not bad. It has a black leather handle and a sharp blade about the length from the bottom of a hand to the top. She takes a deep breath and gives a slight smile. She keeps her hand on the handle as she covers the opening of the bag. At least I have a knife. Not the best, not the worst. She looks up at the others. The boy in front of her is crying annoyingly. Lingde lays back in her chair, closes her eyes, and grips her knife. She takes a deep breath and her hand begins shaking. I want to be with Dengta. This is my only chance. It would be permanent. I’m not the only one. Everyone else loves someone. Especially the little ones. They have more reason to win. How am I supposed to kill? How can I murder innocent people? They have just as much right to win as I do. But, I want to be with Dengta. I want to be back in our house. I want him to come home with a backpack full of books. I want him to teach me everything he learned in school. I want to talk to him, to hug him, to see him, to be with him. I want to win.
Lingde opens her eyes and glances at other contestants. It will be easier to win if I’m not alone. As she looks to her left, the girl is completely shaking. She is sweating while her eyes are tightly shut.
“Bad day?” asked Lingde.
The girl looks up and glares at Lingde.
“I’m Lingde,” she said.
The girl stares at her. She chuckles and holds out her sweaty hand.
“Wugu,” said the girl. “I’m Wugu.”
Lingde releases the knife and shakes hands.
“So, what terrible crime did you commit to wind up here?” asked Lingde.
“Well,” she said, “My parents had twins. Even though I am four minutes older than my brother, I was taken when the police arrived.”
“I was an accident. My parents already had Dengta, my brother. I was at home with him and the police came. As I climbed down the trapdoor, he closed the top too early. It smashed my hand.” Lingde looks down.
“I couldn’t help it. I screamed,” Lingde said as she rubs her scar.
“So,” said Lingde as she looks up at Wugu, “What did you get?”
Wugu looks down.
“I got a map of the island. It’s useful to some degree, but how am I supposed to win with a map? I need a weapon,” replied Wugu.
Lingde leans in and smiles.
“I got a knife.”
The next forty-five minutes consisted of the plane landing. When Lingde was escorted off, she ran to a specific spot in the forest.
Another forty-five minutes pass.
Lingde is leaning on a tree when Wugu approaches, limping.
“What took you so long? We agreed to be here thirty minutes ago,” said Lingde.
“I know. I sprained my ankle stepping off the plane. I can’t go any faster,” pleads Wugu.
A bell tolls.
“We have to go. Hurry,” said Lingde as she begins to run.
Wugu trails behind. The gap between them grows by the second. Lingde turns around to find Wugu on the ground.
“Get up. We have to hurry,” said Lingde. “We have to make it to the lighthouse before the sun rises.”
Lingde grabs Wugu’s arm to help her up.
“I can’t. I need to rest. Why don’t we sleep a little?” replies Wugu.
“We’ll sleep at the lighthouse. It isn’t safe out here, especially during the day. Now hurry,” said Lingde.
“Fine. You can stay. I have the map anyway,” said Lingde.
“I’ll scream. I’ll scream and everyone will come,” said Wugu.
After a short pause, Lingde replies, “Okay, just for a few hours. It has to be a somewhat safe place,” she says as she reaches for her back pocket. Wugu bends over and rubs her ankle. She looks up to see Lingde lunging towards her. Wugu covers her face. Lingde plunges her knife through Wugu’s right hand. She screams as Lingde drives the knife into her head. The screaming stops. Lingde pulls the knife out. The corpse collapses. Lingde freezes. This is not me. I wouldn’t do this. I am not a killer. I am not a murderer. I had to. There was no choice. We would’ve both died if we stayed. Now, only one of us does. I was trying to survive, to see Dengta. I didn’t want to kill her. I had to if I was going to win. I didn’t have a choice. I had to if I wanted to have a chance of being with him again. I love him. Is that so bad? Doing something for the person you love the most? I had a reason. I didn’t kill her just to kill her. I had a reason. That doesn’t make it so bad. It’s really not that bad. I had a reason.
A twig snaps behind her.
Lingde wipes the blood off with her hand.
A gun fires.
“Rise and shine, everyone! Here's the list of those eliminated in order in the last four hours,” announced a man through the speakerphones. “Males are: Zhang Wei. Females are: Li Min, Liu Wugu, and Wang Lingde. I’m disappointed, only four.”