Her Face in the Screen
I should not know what the games are. Only the Superiors do. The Little Class doesn't concern themselves with them. Except for me. I saw them, I touched them, and I even played them. And my mind can't be purged of what I experienced.
I dream every night of the room that I stumbled upon when I was young, and the machine in the corner with a glowing screen with buttons and sticks on a panel in front of it. With the button to kill. The button I pushed. I played the games and something inside me wants to go back and do it again. But it is only an obsessive desire, a dream.
I have a husband; I raise the Superior children. I work; I do my duty. But the secret desire is rotting me from the inside out. I must throw it out. I must tell no one, because I am in the Little Class. I am insignificant.
I was called up today, and I was given a small child named Abigail. As soon as I saw her, I fell in love. She has a sweet cry, red hair, pale skin, dark eyelashes, and beautiful, starring, trusting eyes. She smiled. She is beautiful. I will raise her, and I will giver her up when she is old enough. I tell myself over and over she is a Superior child, and I am just a mother to her for a while, until she is taken to do what I cannot. She will play the games. I hope it will not ruin her.
They made an announcement today. A contest, they said, a contest for the best Little Class people, the best people to play the games. A contest to fulfill my obsession, my desire. A contest I need to enter, but I can't tell anyone. I don't have the courage. No one knows. I want no one to know. For some reason, I keep thinking of Abigail, my small little baby. She's crawling now, crawling and smiling. Her smile melts my heart. She likes to laugh.
I wonder why. Why now? Why? But I tremble. I know I'm what they want. I know I must win. I have to enter. I need to enter. Can I leave Abigail? No, but I'm going to. Is it worth it? It's my dream, and much more than that. I can't let it pass by.
I told my husband, and he told me to enter the contest. Tomorrow I'm leaving him. I'm leaving Abigail. I'm leaving my sweet little red-haired baby. For most who are entering, it's about being a Superior, that's why they enter, because if they play the games, they'll be Superior. But I crave to play the games. I want to heal the wanting inside me. I am giving it up. I'm leaving Abigail. I'm leaving. I'm going to play.
I keep thinking about Abigail, and my husband, and my children, and I see their faces. I see Abigail's tears as I leave her. I see no smiles. I feel no smiles. I cry in my heart, I mourn. But I am here; I am entering this contest to play the games. There's a lot of people entering, people I know, some of them, people from all over. They come because they want the riches. They don't know of the games, but they will.
They separate us and they take us the machines. And then we play. For the second time, I push the button, I move the sticks, and I watch the screen. It's different, because years of want come out. Years of a secret obsessive desire, and it is fulfilled. I am not ruined yet. The want will not ruin me. I remember Abigail's tears, and I play anyway. I play; I play and I live.
It has only been a few days, but they're announcing who has won. They tell us they've already made the decision. They tell us that we have to go back home if we don't make it. And then they read it. The name. I don't want to listen, yet I must. I turn white, I tremble, and I can't breathe. Then they say it. The winner. My mind doesn't compute, it doesn't go in, and then it does, and everyone around me is crying because of disappointment and I find myself crying . . . Because they said my name.
I see her face sometimes, when my eyes are weary of the flickering light. She is crying. She is crying for me. And I will not go to her. I'm playing the games. Over and over. I win. I push the button to kill. She will be all right. She will be okay.
This is what I should be, a game-player. I feel alive. I feel dead. I see her face, and I hunger for it. But I'm feasting on something else. Do I have to give her up? And I think, I already have. She is gone. I mourn, but I must move on. I must play.
Abigail, I'm sorry, but I must forget your sweet cry, your red hair, and your trusting eyes. I must forget all of you, your name, and your love. How long has it been since I left? I hardly know, I hardly remember. Do you understand? You're so young. I love you. Will I return? Should I return? Goodbye, love.
The days pass. I play the games. I play, I eat, I sleep. The more I win, the more the feeling is sucked out of me. I'm killing, I'm playing, I realize: this is war I'm playing. It's real. I still dream of a face, but I no longer know it. I concentrate and I win. I'm a game-player, and I'm a Superior.
There is so much more to it than I ever dreamed. I am not only a game-player. Suddenly, around me there are the other Superiors, taller than I am, beautiful. They scorn me. They laugh. They think I am only pretending, and they are right. I'm wearing a mask with them.
But I can play the games. I live off it. I'm better than all of them at the games. Even though I'm shorter. No one is with me except the push of the button, the flickering screen. It's my friend, my fuel, and my fire.
I am tired. I no longer smile, laugh, or feel. I am alone, and I play the games. I live for it. I will die for it. They are my life. That is all. Memories are fading; life is fading. Everything is fading. I push the button to kill again and again, and I win. I no longer see anything but the machine, the screen, and darkness.
I heard something today. A cry. A wail. A sweet sound. I heard it, and I saw red hair. I heard it and I felt again. I heard it and I looked at the screen, and I couldn't push the button. I heard it, and I saw a face that had lost all its trust. I heard it, and I remembered, and I knew I was ruined. They talked to me, said all the feeling I have will go away. I saw her face in the screen, and I cried.
They said it would go away. But it won't go away; it hurts. I don't feel right. I don't feel human. I no longer know what love is; it is only a memory. Except her face. Her face is burning love. It hurts me. I am un-real; I am witnessing all that is happening from a distant. Will I stop feeling? I want to feel, or do I want numbness? It hurts. I couldn't do it. I couldn't finish. I lost. I lost. I see her face. I love her face. She is my reality, my life, my key to myself, and she is gone. Instead, I'm a killer, a monster, a demon. I hurt. The games are my life. But I am not a Superior. I feel, I think, and they do not.
I lost. I see her face in the screen. I can't kill her. I love her.
I threw up, again and again, and I couldn't get out of the bed with nice pillows and my mind wasn't anywhere. It was away, far away. I keep seeing her face, and I keep feeling the pain as it resonates throughout my body. I sometimes know where I'm at, but I'm lost. I don't want to be here, so I go away. It's so confusing. I don't know what's real or not. I'm scared, and sad, and I want to leave. I want to go to her.
I hear voices, and I hear them saying, "We never should have held it. The change was to much."
"But what should we do with her?"
"We could send her back."
"Her husband has a new wife, her daughter a new mother. It's been too long. They've gotten used to not having her there."
"She can't go back to the games."
I say something, but it's another me. "Send me away from the games. Send me to her."
"Did she say something?"
"She doesn't want the games."
"There's a house. A house she could live in."
I moved into the house, and they came and took care of me and now I'm better, and not sick. But there's no more feeling except pain and loss. All I know is that I'm no longer a Superior, a game-player. I'm free, but I'm a prisoner to myself. I wish I never had entered. I wish I had stayed with her. It is too late. I'm here, I will be the crazy old woman in the broken down house.
I see her face still in my dreams. I am an empty shell of memories. I see her face. I love her, and I think, I think of a name.
Heather Walker is currently attending Lehi High School in Lehi, UT. As soon as she graduates, she plans to go to college and major in creative writing. She writes short stories whenever she can.
Published by permission of the author.