6/24/11
The Race
By Rusty Keele


I savored the chill of the pre-dawn air as I stood with the others anxiously awaiting the sunrise. Our group of sixteen contestants was in the center of the ship surrounded by our host and the crew. The cameras were rolling while Mitch was making his overly dramatic speech to the viewers. "One lucky winner will be showered with gold while fifteen others will be lucky just to keep their lives. How will this episode turn out? We'll find out shortly as the sun is just about to start the race!"

Several cameras were focusing on the water as the sun finally peeked above the horizon. We all watched in awe, for no matter how many times one sees the Changing Sea in action it is still an inspiring event. As the rays of the sun raced across the waves the rolling water was changed instantly to wet sand. Puffs of steam (or was it dust?) made futile efforts to rise. I noticed a gritty feeling on my face and arms as the formerly salty spray now turned to a fine layer of dust. Like watching a film in fast motion, the muddy pools of water in the shadows of the wave dunes quickly evaporated leaving no hint that this desert was once a frolicking ocean.

Mitch spoke, "Contestants: grab your beacon, and anything else you can carry. The race begins now!"

I paid little heed to the other contestants as I sprinted for the box of beacons. I had to fight to retrieve the strange spike with a bulging head. Our goal was to get the beacon as far away from the ship as possible, while still being able to return to safety before night fell and the sands reverted to dangerous, creature filled waters.

I didn't think I would need much more than the beacon, so I made to exit the ship. One of the other contestants - a cynical looking man with dark, greasy hair and a devil goatee - scooped up a wooden club and an unopened pack of the foul smelling bait we used to keep the sea serpents away from the ship. I had no idea what he was planning on doing with them, but I didn't really care as I leaped to the sand dune now clinging to the side of our ship. I rolled, quickly regained my footing, and scanned for the best route. Much like the ocean it had previously been, the desert looked the same in all directions. I chose a path between two medium sized dunes and began sprinting away.

#

In the nearly unbearable heat I was careful to keep close watch on the sun. Shortly after it reached its zenith I flung my beacon as far as I could then turned and began jogging back towards the ship.

Part of the intrigue of the game is balancing one's need for water with the desire to get as far as possible from the ship. I began to realize that I hadn't done too well predicting my thirst and energy levels, so when I spotted a small cluster of palm trees I decided to investigate for any possible water sources. The trees were on an island of smooth, elevated sand that was most likely a true island when the sun wasn't shining. There were several dead, stinky fish around the small isle that had been stranded during the change. As I studied them I heard a woman's scream - a plea for help. There was no question where it came from, and upon hearing it I immediately began sprinting toward the trees.

I stopped short, however, when I saw the man with black greasy hair using his club to brutally beat one of the other contestants. Thinking I might help I shouted for him stop, but quickly realized my mistake as he dropped her limp body and gave me an evil glare. I forgot my need for water and immediately started for the ship. He saw my intent though, and quickly matched my speed and direction.

We ran in parallel lines but I soon realized that he was slightly faster than me and thus had gained a small lead in our race back to the ship. Even more disconcerting was the idea that we may not make it back to safety before the sun dipped behind the horizon and the sand dunes turned once again to rolling waves of water. I forced myself to run, but I was no match for Mr. Greasy. He reached the rope ladder ahead of me just as the sun was setting behind the horizon, and stopped at the bottom to watch the waters spread under the falling darkness.

The sandy ground beneath my feet gave way as it turned first to soggy mud and then water. I splashed into a rising swell, and struggled to keep my head above water. I was barely able to see his smile as he raised his hand in a salute. It was then that I saw him holding the sea serpent bait he had taken earlier. He ripped the package open and threw its spilling contents in my direction.

The pungent smell assaulted me as I gasped for air. I'm no sea hunter, but I knew that the bait was created specifically to quickly attract the most vicious of sea monsters. As I watched the ship bob up and down on the newly restored sea, I noticed the dark shapes speeding in my direction. Mr. Greasy pointed his finger at me, took a couple of shots then blew on his smoking barrel finger. He climbed up the rest of the ladder and into the cheers of the crew - as well as the living rooms of millions of people. There were cameras hovering over me too - giving viewers a glimpse of what happens to losers.


- - -
Rusty lives in northern Utah where he earned a BA in computer science and currently works as a web developer. In addition to his occasional writing, he has a web site where he regularly reviews science fiction short stories - BestScienceFictionStories.com. His story "Baley" was published in the July-August 2007 issue of the online horror magazine Fear Knocks.
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5 Responses
  1. Cinnamon Says:

    A great story! Very Survivor-ish. Imaginative idea, a landscape that changes with the rising and setting of the sun.


  2. Stewart Says:

    Awesome story! Very descriptive and involved even though it was short. Loved it!


  3. Grace Says:

    Love your blog and your story! Keep it up!


  4. Rusty Says:

    Thanks for your comments everybody - this was a fun story to write, and I'm glad you liked it!


  5. Taison Says:

    I liked your story dad, it was really very much like the book i read earlier this summer, "The Hunger Games", except for the changing landscape and the 1 day to do it. Your story reminded me of the book. Have fun writing and keep doing it





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