Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Bargain -01

You would never have thought this could have happened to you. You would never have thought that it could even happen in real life, let alone to you. Yet here you are, standing in the basement of some crazy guy’s house, in a location you never even knew existed.

No one beside the person who called you knows where you are. If I got the chance to, I would have told you what a bad move you made. I would tell you that you should have called the police instead. If I got the chance to talk to you, and if you had the chance to reply, then you would tell me that this is the one thing where you do not want to take any risks. You would tell me that you now realize the power of fear and you are not in control. You have felt fear hold your heart in a cold grip and I could never even begin to understand that. When you picked up the anonymous phone call, something told you that the person on the other end of the line was far from kidding. You could tell he was enjoying himself immensely and you realized with a horrible pang, that this guy loved every minute of the sick, twisted game he had created. That is why you cannot take any risks, and that is why you chose not to call the police.

Tonight is Thursday, which means Ladies’ Night at Cheeky Monkey’s, where on a normal Thursday night, you and your girlfriends would be relishing the free flow of mixed drinks and good music while ignoring your mother’s persistent calls. Of course, tonight is far from a normal night, without your best friend beside you in the crowded club, and your mother not home to worry. Tonight, the world is just completely and utterly wrong, and every moment since you received that anonymous phone call has just felt like a dream. You close your eyes for a moment, willing yourself to wake up from this nightmare, willing the image in front of you to disappear.

“Doesn’t feel real, does it?” The voice startles you, and you almost forget to catch your breath. The voice sounds familiar, but you cannot seem to remember who it belongs to. I come up behind you, and you are frozen with fear, so much so that you do not even dare to turn around and face me. I know how scared you are, and I feed off it. Your fear simply increases my confidence. “Don’t worry sweetheart,” I say into your ear, my voice scratchy and hoarse, “It will soon feel real, I promise.” You can smell the alcohol in my breath, but you choose to ignore it and re-focus on what is in front of you.

There are two thick poles on either side of a small platform, both about 3 meters tall and just wide enough for a person to balance on with two feet. Suspended above each pole is a thick rope, tied in a noose. Your mother and your best friend are balanced precariously on each pole, hands and feet tied with rope, blindfolded and gagged, with the noose around each of their necks. You never knew such fear existed and yet, here you are, more fearful for their lives than yours. Just one slight movement of one of their feet could send them off balance, off the pole and snapping their neck on immediate impact. You do not even notice that you are crying until you feel your neck wet. You notice too, that your mother’s blindfold is soaked and you guess that she knows that it is you who has been called down. Somehow you know that she is crying for you, rather than for herself.

Without turning around, you ask, “What do you want?” My laughter is arrogant and I explain that, I do not want anything. This, this is all for you. “Choose between your mother and your best friend. Choose carefully, one will live and one will go home with you.” I say.

You take slightly longer than you should to reply, and when you do, your voice is barely a whisper. It is unrecognizable, even to you. “May I exchange my life for both of theirs?” You ask me, “Please?” I am stunned at your request. The fun of this whole game was finding out who you would choose to live and who you would let die as a direct result of your choice. Of course, I cannot let you know my shock so I simply tell you what an extraordinary choice you have made but your request will definitely be met. I blindfold you before untying your mother and best friend. I make them both stay in the room as I put you on the very same pole your mother stood on just minutes before. As I slip the noose over your head I ask you why you made the choice you did, you tell me that it is a bargain, one life for both of theirs.

I take of your blindfold and you stare in speechless shock at me, the person who has put you through this ordeal. You ask me why I did this and perhaps it is because I am slightly moved by your selfless choice for your mother and best friend, but I decide to tell you the reason why I made you suffer like this. I remind you of what you had told me towards the end of our relationship. You had told me that your friends and family will always come first and nothing, not even me, after all I had given up for you, would ever change your priorities. I had given up my music career for you. I had given up so much for you, so much and until now, I would never understand why you would not change your priorities. When I brought you here to choose between your mother and your best friend, I really did not expect the choice you made. Perhaps to you I am crazy, but after all that I gave up for you in our relationship, I don’t think it was wrong for me to want to be your first priority.

You start to cry and at the end of the room I can hear your mother screaming, so before either of us can do anything, I push you off the pole. Even as I do that, I realize that I have to agree with you, that it was a good bargain after all. Your life, for the lives of the two people you love most.

(c) Charis Vera Ng December 2006

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