I awoke and abruptly sat up in my incredibly uncomfortable chair. I saw a white table in front of me, attached seamlessly to the white floor beneathi it. The top of the table looked like it was a computer screen, with flashing multicolored lights divided in eighths. On it, in the middle, was a knife, one which was very shiny, obviously brand new. My chair looked like something out of a science fiction movie, like an egg shell with a portion cut off. It all seemed so familiar. I looked to my right. A large, white wall, affixed to which was a large, flat screen, on which was a psychedelic assortment of swirling colors. I looked to my left, and saw several television cameras. Behind that was what seemed to be a live studio audience, though I couldn't be sure, as an assortment of studio lights above them obscured my view. A thought crept into my mind. Could it be? No, no, that wasn't possible! But it looked so much alike. Seven others were sitting around the table, in the same sort of chair I was in, seeming to just have woken up.
To my right was a man who looked to be around 40, with brown hair and a brown beard that seemed to go together perfectly, wearing a red and white striped sweater and green sweatpants. To his right was a woman around 19 or so, with long, red hair, a pallid face, and wearing a long, blue dress, which went to just a wee bit below her knees. Next to her was a little boy, couldn't have been more than seven or eight, with short, brown hair, wearing a black short-sleeved shirt and (I think) a pair of jeans. Beside him was, apparently, some sort of religious leader, who was dressed in priest's cassocks, and was completely bald. The next person was a girl, probably about 12 or 13. Her hair was blonde, and she was wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans. Next to her was an old woman, with a gray sweater to match her gray hair, her hair being poofed up into that afro that only old ladies seem to be able to pull off. Next to that woman, and to my left, was a pretty girl of about 16 or 17, with white blonde hair that curled down to her shoulders, and she was wearing a similar dress to the redhead, except it was green.
Suddenly, some music started playing, so upbeat and cheerful. It was all too familiar. An announcer's voice crept over the speakers that I could not see. "Hello, and welcome to America's favorite game show for the past year, Spin the Knife!" My fears were confirmed. The audience cheered. "Yes, that's right!" the announcer continued. "The game show live out of Hollywood, California, where we take random people out of their homes, and force them into a game of chance, where the price of losing is your life, but the reward for winning is ONE BIIIILLLLLLIOON DOLLARS!" His voice contorted itself on the last line, causing the crowd to go wild. "Tonight's episode is special, though!" he said, tauntingly. "Tonight is Halloween!" The screen's swirling colors immediately gave way to a black, spooky landscape, the special kind of spooky one rarely finds outside of a kindergarden class, with an orange sky. Bats flew out of the horizon, causing a hideous screeching noise to fill the studio. The colors on the table turned to orange, with thick, black lines separating the wedges in front of us.
"Tonight's contestants!" said the announcer, "All the way from Baltimore, Maryland, Tom Hardy!" The name Tom appeared in front of me in white letters, and my image appeared on the screen. "From Des Moines, Iowa, Dave Ortega!" The name appeared in front of the guy next to me, same as mine, and his image appeared on the screen. "From Elkins, West Virginia, Misty Larry!" The name of the girl next to the man to my right appeared in front of her, her image was put on screen. "At the age of just seven years old, from Arkansas City, Kansas, our youngest contestant in the show's history, Pete Patton!" The little boy's name appeared in front of him, and his face went on the screen. "From New York City, Father Bob Jackson!" The priest's name appeared in front of him, and his face went on the screen. "From Carbondale, Illinois, Kelly Potsdale!" Once again, the name appeared in front of her, and her face went on the screen. "From Elizabeth, New Jersey, our oldest contestant at the age of 76, Sarah Yates!" The name appeared, and the face went on the screen. "Finally, from Clarksburg, West Virginia, Emma Ball!" The name appeared in front of the girl next to me, and her face went on the screen. "And now, for your host, Okie Doke!"
On the stage came the tall, slender Okie Doke, wearing a nice little suit. On the screen, it showed the same damned thing. Pompous ass. "Hello, everybody, welcome to America's favorite game show, Spin the Knife!" he said, in that smug little voice. The Germans have a word for his face, I believe. Backpfeifengesicht, face badly in need of a fist. I swore, if I managed to win, the first thing I would do after I got my damned money was punch his fuckin' lights out. "We've got a great show for you tonight, ladies and gentlemen! We try to make every Halloween game a historical moment for the show, so tonight, we brought you both the oldest and youngest contestants in show history!" The crowd cheered excitedly. "Before we begin, however," he said, "let's go over the rules!" I knew the rules well, having watched the show before Allen Treble quit his job, before the show turned into a bloody spectacle thanks to bribes, loopholes, and a quest to raise ratings, no matter the cost. "First," he said, "we give the knife a good spin. When it stops, the person the blade is pointing to is to be stabbed. The person the handle is pointing to does the stabbing. The person who does the stabbing sits out and gets to go to the next round. There are three rounds. The first round, there are eight contestants. The second round, there are four left. The third and final round, there are only two. The person who is supposed to stab may show mercy, in which case, the lucky person they were supposed to stab will get to go to the next round. As you may have guessed, this means they must, in turn, stab the person showing them mercy. Should both contestants refuse to stab the other, they will both be eliminated from the game by firing squad." He paused a moment to let the crowd cheer. "If the contestants try to escape, there are armed guards at all exits, who are ordered to shoot them on sight." The crowd cheered again.
"Now that we've gone through all the rules, let's start!" The crowd went wild. Doke went up to the table, spun the knife, and backed away. The section of table the blade was over turned red, and the part the handle was over turned black, as a mechanism to eliminate any sort of ambiguity in determining who got stabbed and who did the stabbing. Tension around the table rose as it slowly lost speed. It almost seemed to stop on me, and my heart sank. Lucky me, the blade stopped, instead, on Dave, the guy next to me. Poor bastard. The handle, of course, was on Kelly. I wondered. Could a child do such a horrible thing as stabbing another person? What of the little boy? Could he bring himself to stab somebody if he had to? And what if somebody had to stab him? Could they bring themselves to do it? I got the answer to my first question when the mechanism holding the knife raised from the table and released the knife. Kelly grabbed the knife and walked around to Dave. I looked at him. His face had gone completely white, and his skin was glistening with sweat. I don't really blame him. When Kelly came behind him, his chair turned around, seemingly by itself, and obscured my view somewhat. No matter, it was being put on the screen on the back of the set. Not that I really wanted to watch a man being stabbed, but there was a morbid curiosity in me. What happened next was the first of the seven most horrible things in my life to ever happen or bear my witness, the other six happening the same night. The girl clutched the knife tightly in both hands in such a way that it pointed down, raised it above her head, and brought it down, into Dave's stomach. He screamed, screamed so loudly, I could almost feel the pain as if I had been stabbed myself. I had never witnessed a death in my life, let alone a murder. The girl struggled to pull the knife out of Dave, but finally did, causing him to scream again. The girl had a lot of blood on her, but she didn't notice as she raised it above her head and stabbed him again, this time in the chest. Dave stopped screaming. Instead, he started choking on his own blood. After what seemed like years, he began to slump in his chair, and his eyes became unfocused. The girl, with some difficulty, pulled out the knife again. More blood splattered all over her, making most of her blue shirt and jeans now red. She breathed heavily as she looked at her work. Her eyes were wide, and I couldn't really tell what she was feeling right then. Maybe nothing at all. Finally, Doke walked over, and said, "Here, Kelly, give me the knife, why don't you stand over there?" She handed it to him and walked to the wall, where he was pointing. He took a rag out of his pocket, wiped the blood off, and put it back on the mechanism. It lowered, and the top of the table adjusted our wedges to reflect the fact that two had gone. Doke gave another spin.
It spun and spun, where it would land, nobody knew, until the blade stopped on Misty. Poor girl. The mechanism holding the knife raised and released, and Sarah took the knife in her hands. Misty's eyes grew wide as she realized she was about to die, and I could see the shine of her sweat under the studio lights. Sarah arrived behind the condemned girl, and the chair turned around. The old woman raised the knife up a little with her right arm, and brought it down in the middle of the poor girl's chest. Her mouth opened and let out a scream that quickly reduced to a croak, while her wound let out blood, which began to cover her blue dress in red. The old woman tried to pull the knife out, but couldn't. Misty struggled a bit, but it was only a little bit of flailing, which gave way to convulsions. Her eyes were unfocused, dead. She was gone. It was almost enough to make me vomit. Doke moved to the old woman, and said, in that same, arrogant voice, "Why don't you go over there, honey." He then took out a bottle of, well, something, and poured a bit of it over the place where the knife was embedded in poor Misty's chest. He then slid it out relatively easily, albeit a wee bit slowly. Finally, he wiped it off, and then took out another rag, put some more of that stuff on it, and wiped it all over the blade. Finally, he put the knife on the mechanism in the middle of the table, and it reset itself. The table's wedges seemed to adjust so that equal space was attributed to each of us remaining. Doke gave the knife another spin.
Another damned spin. 'Round and 'round it went, finally stopping on Pete. But he was just a little kid! Surely nobody would be so cruel? The mechanism raised up and released the knife, and Emma grabbed it. Alright, so maybe somebody could be so cruel. Pete's chair swiveled around, and Emma came in front of him. I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn't. The girl raised the knife. I couldn't bear to look at the screen, leaving my gaze to the back of Pete's chair, not much better, considering I could still see the girl doing the stabbing quite clearly, and could hear the soft whimper of a child's sobbing. The knife came down. Blood. Blood spattering all over the girl's green dress. A child's scream. I saw the girl pull it out forcefully and raise it back up, as poor Pete sobbed and screamed for his mother. Who could get entertainment from this? The knife dropped back down. More blood, more screams. I sort of blanked out for a minute or two after that. I didn't faint, but it was so horrific. The next thing I remember, the knife was getting put back on the mechanism.
Another good spin. Final one this round. The table was divided in half, and it was just me against the religious leader in front of me. Around and around it went. At this point, I fully regained my senses, and the gravity of the situation dawned on me. I could almost feel myself getting pale as the knife slowed. Finally, it stopped on Bob. I couldn't think who was luckier out of us as I reached out and grabbed the knife. I got up and went around the table as Bob's chair turned around. Finally, I arrived in front of him. His eyes were wide open with fear. I raised the knife, shaking as I clutched it tightly with both hands. "Please," he said, "have mercy! I promise I will do the same for you! Please, it is better to die before a firing squad as innocents than at the hand of a blade as murderers!" I lowered the knife to my side.
"If I win," I said, "I can return to my family. They need me." "But what if you lose?" replied Bob. "Then, not only will your family lose you, you'll be condemned! It's too late for the others! They're already guilty. If we had all accepted the firing squad, we could have all died innocent. If everybody on this accursed game show did that, they'd probably cancel the show, saving lives! We can't force anybody to do that, and chances are, we wouldn't be able to make such a large difference ourselves, but if we set an example, if we refused to participate in this barbarism, we could inspire others to do the same!" I thought about this. "What if nothing happens?" I asked. "Somebody's got to try!" said Bob. "And what of us? What happens to us if nothing is gained, and we die?" I asked in response. "Then we die as innocents, and will be blessed in Heaven." I shook my head. "I'm sorry," I said, "I have to take the chance to save my own life."
I raised the knife above my head again, just as before. "No, wait!" exclaimed Bob, just before I brought the knife down and stabbed him in the ribs. He screamed, then started to cough violently. I pulled the knife out, with some difficulty, but not much. I stabbed him again. I suppose I hit his heart, as he stoped screaming and coughing, and just started twitching. I let go of the knife and stepped back. He stopped twitching, and slumped in the chair. I was covered in blood. His blood. Blood on my hands. Blood all over his cassock, red covering the black. What have I done? Doke came up to me, and pointed me to the others. He pulled out the knife, and as he cleaned it, he said, "Alright, folks, that does it for the first round! Stay tuned for the next round, when the remaining four battle it out for one billion dollars! But for now, here's a word from our sponsors!" The crowds cheered and cheered.
After he said that, a crew came onto the stage and started cleaning it up. Wiping up the blood, removing the bodies in large, black garbage bags, removing the chairs of the dead. And I saw Pete. His wounds were many. He must have gone through so much pain. I swore that, if I got to stab the bitch that did that to him, I would make her death just as painful, if not more so. It was amazing how fast these cleaners worked. Couldn't have been at it more than a minute or two. When they rearranged the four chairs, Doke put us each into our chairs. I was where I was sitting before. The old woman was to my left, the preteen girl to my right, and across from me was the murderer who killed Pete. I would have my revenge yet. The table was divided in fourths, each of us having a wedge with our name on it. Doke put the knife back on the mechanism, and it reset.
Doke walked back to the front of the stage. Suddenly, music started playing again. "Hello, folks, and welcome back to Spin the Knife! We've just finished our first round, come back from our commercial break, and now, we're starting our second round!" he said. Prick. He walked to the table and spun the knife again.
Spinning, spinning, spinning. I didn't care where the knife landed, so long as it wasn't on me. The other two were of no concern for me. I just needed revenge, as soon as possible. Finally, the blade landed on the old woman. How disappointing. She began to shiver visibly. The preteen girl grabbed the knife unhesitantly. She walked around, and the old woman's chair spun around. The girl raised the knife and thrust it into the old woman. The old woman squeaked, but otherwise made no noise. The girl pulled the knife out, and Doke came up to her. He took the knife and pointed her to the place we stood before. "Well, folks," he said as he cleaned the knife, "this is it. The second round comes down to this. Whoever wins this one will go on to the finals, and then we'll have the final spin." He put the knife on the mechanism, and it reset. The wedges gave way to halves. Doke gave the knife a spin.
The knife landed on the girl across from me. She looked at me with huge, sad eyes. I knew they were fake. I grabbed the knife and went around to her, and her chair turned around. I arrived in front of her. She was crying. "Please!" she begged, "No!" My contempt for her grew. "Why shouldn't I?" I said. "You killed that boy without a second thought! You think I'm going to let you get away with that?" "You killed a priest, when he asked for mercy! When you both could have gotten the firing squad! How are you any better than me?" she argued. I froze. No, no! She was wrong! Yes, she had to be wrong! She was just trying to trick me! I raised the knife and thrust it into her gut. She screamed. I pulled the blade out. In it went, in a different part of the gut. She screamed again. It was so sweet to hear the guilty in pain. I pulled the blade out again, and stabbed her in the chest. Her screams gave way to a croaking noise. I went mad at this point, stabbing and slicing her randomly and viciously, not noticing she was already dead. Doke ran up, screaming, "Alright, alright, enough, you can stop!" I did. I looked at the girl in the chair in front of me, her eyes lifeless, her body slashed up and stabbed several times in various places. Doke took the knife from me, and I stood where I stood before. "Alright, ladies and gentlemen, that does it for the second round! Stay tuned for the third and final round! And now, a word from our sponsors!"
As Doke cleaned the knife, the cleaners once again went on the stage and cleaned up. And I thought about what the girl said. Was I really less guilty than her? Sure, I killed a priest, and that was wrong, but surely there is a greater guilt in killing a little boy than there is in killing an old man? And what of next round? What would happen when the time came to stab her? She wasn't much older than Pete. Perhaps I was just as guilty as her. She was young. What if she would have become a mother if she wasn't stabbed? Then I would have killed off all those children, and their children, too. Maybe she was right. Then again, some of her children or their children could have been murderers, thus saving somebody down the line. Yet the same thing applied to the little boy. Perhaps neither of us were guilty, and it was somebody outside this who was guilty. But I didn't have more time to think, as I and the girl were directed to our seats.
I sat the same place as the last two rounds. The girl sat across from me. The table was divided in halves. Doke replaced the knife, and it reset. He then went to the front of the stage. "Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the final round of Spin the Knife! It all comes down to this! Two people, one knife, one billion dollars, and one last spin. One of these people will die, and to the other belongs the spoils!" At this, the crowd cheered. "So, let's get this started!" he said as he spun the knife one last time. I looked at it nervously as it spun, hoping it landed on her, practically trying to force it to land on her by sheer will. Alas, it did not. It stopped on me.
So that's how it ends. I didn't do what Bob suggested so that I could save my own life, and I died anyways. But I didn't cry, nor did I beg. As she grabbed the knife, I realized something. Though Emma killed somebody younger, we are both equally guilty, for we both murdered not just one person, but entire generations of people yet unborn. As the girl went around the table, I realized that though there was indeed somebody outside this who was guilty, probably half or more of the people working for the company, that did not absolve us of guilt, for we had a choice to do what was right, and we chose to chance it for our own survival. As my chair turned around, I showed no fear, not even when she raised the knife. Not even when she brought it down and penetrated my skin with it. I deserved it. Everybody who survived the first round deserved it. Doke deserved it. The crew, the security, the viewers, they all deserved it. Everybody who didn't try to stop this horror deserved it. And, when all went dark, the only regret I had was that I never did what I knew was right.