Kickoff written by fefedove


This world is ugly, but the truth is uglier

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He runs down the corridor, lush carpet thick and soft under his feet, the fragile decorations trembling under his steps.

“Jack, be careful!” his mother calls out. “Stop running so quickly and don’t hurt yourself!”

He skids to a halt at the end of the corridor and turns around, pouting. “I’m not gonna hurt myself. I’m a man,” he declares.

His mother chuckles and his father says, “Yes, our Jack is all grown up now!” as they walk to join their son. “So you must protect Daisy also.”

The girl pokes her head out from behind her mother, secretly making a face. The boy stifles laughter and nods gravely. “Of course, Father.”

“Ah, I almost forgot,” the man says. The boy watches curiously as he pulls something out from his pocket, placing it in the boy’s palm. “You can’t protect your sister with only your fists. This is for you, in the future.”

The boy peers at the shiny chrome sitting heavily in his hand. “Wow,” he breathes.
His father carefully positions the boy’s fingers into the right holding
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position and guides his arm up, aiming at the portrait hanging on the wall in front of them. “Guns are very dangerous weapons,” he tells his son, “but if you know how to use it well, it can become your best friend.”

“Yes, Father,” the boy replies, still gazing at his new possession in awe.

The father lets go and places some pellets in the boy’s other hand. “You’ll need more, but keep these for now.”

“Thank you, Father!” the boy cries happily, closing his fingers tightly around the bullets.

“Not fair! Daisy wants cool things too!” the girl protests from aside.

Their father turns and ruffles her hair fondly. “You’re too young. Maybe next year, and maybe your brother can teach you how.”

Daisy still pouts, but the boy says, “Father, teach me how now! Please?”

“So impatient,” the man teases.
He takes the gun and places one bullet inside. “You must aim carefully,” he says, as he brings his arm up. “You should succeed every time. Do not waste your time, energy, or resources, else your
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enemy will take them from you.”
The boy watches intensely as his father’s finger moves.

A vase shatters.
The gun goes off, the family portrait clattering to the floor.

Daisy’s scream joins poundings and yells from outside the door.
“The children!” the mother cries.

The chrome, burning hot, is shoved into the boy’s hands. “Fa-”

Someone takes his arm and drags him down the hall. His tries to ask questions – what is happening? where are you taking me? – but it is as if he has been gagged.

He is ushered into a dark room – “Hide!” – and left alone. Daisy's cries and his mother’s frantic voice melt into the angry shouts, all sound muffled in his ears. There are shuffling footsteps and creaking wood and shattering china and so many angry people.

He crawls under the bed and curls into a ball. He can’t breathe and the gun pokes at him awkwardly from inside his pocket. He realizes he is still clutching the bullets and he carefully places them into a satchel.

Footsteps outside the door.
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stops breathing and squeezes his eyes shut.

“Kill them all!”
The command floats above the angry noise, piercing straight into him.

He stops breathing, but his breathing is still too loud and he is sure they can hear his pounding heart.

The footsteps fade and he slowly opens his eyes. Moonlight streams in from the window and he creeps over. Maybe, just maybe . . .

Trembling, he peeks out the window.
Below him is a mass of people, like ants, surrounding his father, mother and sister. The torches paint them in fiery anger and the animosity they exude curls around the boy’s neck, choking him.

“Where is the boy?” someone screams.
He gasps sharply and throws himself back into the shadows.

The house seems to shake as the mass clamors back in. The boy trembles with fear and adrenaline.

He swallows heavily and takes a deep breath.

He opens the window and jumps.

He runs.
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