Behind Geoff Campbell, thick drapes held the night at bay. Two small lamps, in the corners behind him, sent a glow through the cavernous study. His large mahogany desk sat in the middle of the room like a stone altar.
His wrinkled fingers gently lifted the sheet of paper, methodically folded it into thirds, then slipped it into a small white envelope. Just as he licked the flap, the door to his study opened. But he didn’t look up. He knew.
“Mr. Campbell?” the young woman’s voice asked hesitantly. She pulled back the hood of her sweatshirt. Her dark hair fell down around her shoulders like a curtain.
“The girl?” he asked. Everything about Geoff was typical of an old man except his voice, which sounded smooth, hard and young.
“She ran. We let her go. We didn’t want to hurt her.”
He stared at the letter, then put it into his breast pocket. Then he stared at the back of his hands, as if trying to read a secret map hidden in the folds of rice-paper skin.
“She ran,” he said again, this time to himself, then, “Did you follow her?”
“Yes, we know where she is.”
“Did she have her ticket with her? Don’t do anything else for now. Just keep track of her. Any progress with the other seven?”
“No Mr. Campbell. She’s still our best bet. We believe our only bet.”
He looked up at the ceiling, frowned, then sighed.
“On second thought, I think it’s time to move. I want you to find her, make sure she has the ticket, and then you can take her place.”
“Take her place, sir?”
Mr. Campbell looked at the young woman for the first time during the entire conversation.
“Take her place, Sara.”
* * * * *
Macy sat between two trash cans in an alley, about 100 yards off of 3rd street. The smell reminded her of coffee grounds and two-day old fast food. And dirty diapers.
She peered down the narrow alley. The same black sedan kept passing by, every five minutes or so. The rain began to fall, and she moved into a crouch to get off the ground. Shielding her phone behind one of the trash cans, she sent a text to Penelope.
“Need help. Hiding in the alley across from Stan’s, on 3rd. Pick me up?”
The reply came back quickly.
She sighed. Then, remembering that the girl had asked for the ticket, she pulled it out of her pockets and scanned the numbers. Her hands started to shake, first in small vibrations, then in large tremors. It felt like the buildings were spinning around her. She almost dropped the ticket as she looked over the numbers again.
1 – 2 – 4 – 7 – 9 – 11 – 12 – 32
She had won.
A car pulled up beside the alley. Penelope. The rain started coming down harder as Macy rose to her feet and ran. But when she was about halfway to the street, she saw two men approach Penelope’s car. She flattened herself behind a dumpster and held her breath. When she didn’t hear anything, she peeked out.
One guy was talking to Penelope through the driver’s side window, his forearms resting on the top of the car, while the other walked around to the passenger side and peered down the alley. Then he turned around, opened the door, and climbed in. The first guy climbed into the back seat, behind Penelope.
And she drove off.
This time Macy’s entire body started shaking. She leaned back against the brick. Her hair was soaked and hung in long, tight strands. What kind of a nightmare was she in?
“Macy!” a woman’s voice called from the street, echoing back the alley. She recognized the voice. It was the girl from the fire escape, and she was walking towards the dumpster.
“We know you’re back there. You need to stop running, Macy. Running will only get you hurt. Come out now. And bring the ticket.”
Just then her phone started vibrating. She looked down to see who it was.
* * * * *
This week you get to make two decisions. The first one will answer the question, what does Macy do next?
1) Macy ignores the phone, hides the ticket in a dry place she won’t forget, and goes out to meet the girl
2) Someone opens a door on the other side of the alley. She ignores the phone call and runs through the door.
3) She answers the phone and someone (not Penelope) offers to help her escape, if she’ll follow their instructions. She agrees.
The second decision you get to make this week has to do with what the Super Eight winners actually get. And it’s not money:
A) The eight winners are taken to a secure place in the city and given the opportunity to start a new life under a new identity, and no one else will know.
B) The story takes place in a walled city. The eight lottery winners get to leave.
C) The story takes place during a time of population control. The eight winners are women who are now allowed to have babies.
* * * * *
To read the entire story so far, go HERE (but to vote, you’ll need to come back to this page)