Thomas took another hesitant step towards the counter. He scratched at the back of his hand and the chip underneath. It contained his last twenty thousand credits. But he had a tip: Pretty Face, three o’clock, track fourteen.
He glanced across at the cages again. The next six runners were wallowing around in filth, oozing and bleeding. Third from the left was Pretty Face. Poor bastard, he thought, turning away.
Taking a deep breath, he took the final steps to the counter and placed his bet. He felt a pang of guilt, betting on this man as though he were a dog or a horse, but the chance to eat more than just mouldy bread and sap was too good to pass up.
He walked around to the viewing stand and used his bony shoulders and elbows to needle his way through the crowd to the grate at the front. He got there as the klaxon sounded and the electric fence began its loop around the track, spurring the racers out of the starting block. Thomas gripped the fence so tightly that his fingers had turned white by the time Pretty Face had lurched across the finish line in first place. As a mark of respect, and thanks, he watched as the fence finished its circuit and reduced the runners to smears on the cracked tarmac. He scuttled back to the counter with a slight smile on his face, clutching his hand to his chest, eager to collect his winnings.

12 thoughts on “Bet”

  1. A dark future reminiscent of the Running Man – sport and entertainment based on other people’s pain. Oh, wait, that’s reality TV.

    It was a simple story well told, and the extra twist of the smearing at the end was nicely gruesome. I liked that the human runners were named like horses – nice irony.

    I wasn’t sure if the “pang of guilt” was appropriate – I saw this sport as every day, so I would not expect the betters to feel guilty? The guilt implies that the sport is done even though people know it’s wrong – I would have thought that those feelings would be extinguished if the sport were to flourish?

    1. Re ReTV: tee hee! :)

      Re guilt: my idea was that the sport was established, but still a bit dodgy / frowned upon, and that Thom boy was turning to it a last, desperate, resort. Certainly none of the other betterers felt guilty. Just grumpy when they lost.

      Rereading this now, I’m not really that happy with it.
      I shall do better with the next one!

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this. We have in fact watched Running Man in the last week, and it was beautifully reminiscent. I like the way it combines a fairly typical scene of betting on a race (it mattering a lot, having a tip and being uncertain) with the sci-fi edge of human racers. I also like the way that the differences from a typical scene were slowly revealed: the chip in his hand, then the bloodied racers, then the fact that they are human.

    I liked the guilt – it made it all feel more real and grubby to me. But it did clash slightly with Thomas’ smile and eagerness at the end. If he felt a little guilty, I would have liked a little hesitation at the end.

    1. I would have liked to add more details. Grumbling belly, clothes stitched together for the fifth time, everything falling apart. Alas, no space!

      Re guilt clash: yeah, agreed. A bit too shiny happy guilty.

      Thanks for your comments! :)

  3. Our Hero, who’s in need of a bit of cash, goes down to the “tracks” to make a bet. He has a tip (his sure thing, I suppose), and puts money on a person who’s forced to run around the track.

    I’m amused: what came to mind for me with the topic was also racing of sorts 😛

    Nice piece. I enjoyed the description of Thomas watching the game (with his tight grip) and then, as a sign of respect, watching their slaughter as well. Both say something about the character, and one is distinctly macabre :)

    The whole story left me wondering what the rest of the world is like.

  4. Thanks, dude!

    His Sure Thing is indeed the red hot tip (ahem).

    Re rest of the world: dirty and fucked up.
    Note to self: must try for brighter, happier, piece next!

  5. Loved the way you evoked the horriblest world ever without really telling us much about it.
    I love the way he feels bad and pays respect. It is more ugly than having no moral feelings, instead he and his world have a moral sense but are too desperate do use it for anything but guilt.
    The strong parallels to horse racing really work (cages + names etc)

    1. Thanks, man.
      Glad that the horribleness came across. That desperation was very much what I was going for.

      Also: I think I may have to print myself a tshirt that says “Horriblest. World. Ever.” on it. :)

  6. I tend to agree that you don’t quite have the space here to give the detail that the topic, in its nasty twistiness, actually deserves – the character’s desperation, and the conflicts created by the scenario, cried out for development. But the dystopian feel is effective, lots of blood and grit and grime, and it’s a lovely example of the classic setting and event being reinterpreted with a rather savage edge. “Smears on the cracked tarmac” – eeeuw. But punchy.

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