Thursday, December 14, 2017

12/14/17

Realtime TV
By Eugen Bacon


ABRAM GOT UP and loaded his donkey. Sara stood at the doorstep worrying her scarf.
‘Really, Abram,’ she said. ‘This is so—sudden. So early in the morning…’
‘See those blinkers in the sky? The satellite is watching—we’ll be fine.’ He checked his earpiece.
‘If only you’d tell me where you’re going. I’m not comfortable with this Survivor thing.’
Abram ignored her. ‘Zac,’ he called to his son, ‘you’re coming with me.’
‘Why do I have to go? Why can’t Selenis?’ grumbled the boy from the top of the stairway.
‘Selenis is not my son—he is here to fix the car.’
The mechanic poked his head from the wooden shed that was also a garage. ‘It’s cool, I’ll go. Just the fan belt, sort it in a jiffy.’
Abram considered for a moment. ‘Sure. Come along. You and Zac both.’
‘Still charge you by the hour if I come, mind—’ said Selenis.
‘How about we make it a day rate?’
‘No drama.’
‘Unfair,’ grumbled Zac. ‘How come he gets paid?’
Abram took a little jar and put a piece of burning coal from the fireplace in it.

They walked a good hour through the countryside, past the last neighbouring farmhouse and into a place in the distance. Along the way Abram instructed them to collect wood. They piled it on the donkey.
At last they reached a clearing.
‘Selenis, stay with the donkey,’ said Abram.
‘Why can’t I stay with the donkey?’ grumbled Zac.
‘You bring some wood,’ said Abram. He pulled a knife, a piece of cloth and some rope from the donkey’s load. He sheathed the knife. To Selenis: ‘I’ll be back before noon.’
‘Where you guys headed?’ asked Selenis.
Abram pointed at a dust path leading up a hillock.

They reached the top of the hill.
‘Abram! Abram!’ boomed a voice in his earpiece.
‘We’re here,’ he said. He listened, eye on the blinkers in the sky.
Then he arranged a few rocks. ‘Zac, stack some wood.’
‘Really, Dad?’ He arranged wood within the pile of rocks.
Abram blew into the jar and rekindled the burning coal. He used it to start a fire, first with twigs. He lit the wood.
‘A campfire?’ said Zac. ‘Where are the sausages?’
Abram unsheathed the knife and advanced on his son.
‘What the—’ Zac made to bolt.
Abram tackled him to the ground, bound him with rope as the boy yelled blue murder. Abram gagged him and raised the knife.
‘Abram! Abram!’ boomed the earpiece. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy. Look at the sky.’
The sound of a chopper up yonder grew louder until the beast came in sight. A dangler on a rope snapped, and Thud! a sack dropped to the ground.
Inside the sack, Abram found cauliflower wedges, eggplants, corn, marshmallows and a few cans of soda.
‘What… what were you on about?’ said Zac, ungagged, unbound, subdued.
‘Nothing but Survivors. Viewers vote, they decide what happens.’
‘Firsthand sick shit. Dad, the knife! Viewers love drama: you were playing up to the ratings, right?’ He swallowed. ‘Right?’
Abram said nothing.
‘People are crazy, you know this, Dad. Will you sacrifice your life, our lives, for whatever Big Brother whim the show conjures?’
‘Worry about the next round: wrestle a croc, dive from a cliff, gladiate for your life… who knows?’
‘All that, for what? Fame?’
‘Loyalty.’ Abram handed him a roasted marshmallow. ‘Just shut up now. Enjoy quality time with your old man.’
He looked at the blinker in the sky that never stopped ticking.


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Eugen M. Bacon is a computer graduate mentally re-engineered into creative writing, and has published over 100 stories and articles. Eugen’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Award Winning Australian Writing, AntipodeanSF, Andromeda, Aurealis, Bards and Sages Quarterly, Breach, Every Day Fiction, Horrified Press anthologies, Meniscus, TEXT and through Routledge in New Writing.


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