Orlyn Farr is going for FOR ALL THE MARBLES.
After the Cataclysmic Events (ACE), the populace fled the surface to live under-ground. With Ice Age conditions complicating a return to the surface, whole townships formed anew. With limited space, sundries and foodstuffs available, overpopulation soon rears its ugly head. To continue living past the mandatory declining age of 60 annums (thirteen moon cycles), senior citizens must have the financial resources or the political clout to pay for Rx Medical and a luxuriously appointed flat in top-of-the-line Care Centers like Paradise Acres. If you don’t have the scratch, you can opt-out. Most seniors choose this option. They quietly accept a hot-shot of Morphine and a final visit above ground. The treacherous white-out conditions on the surface will freeze you solid in a few time-ticks. Or try being a Big Winner. Beg, borrow, or steal enough Federal Reserve Notes and Teleport to the Annual Sixth Decade Tourney. The Big Winner gets Rx Medical and a flat at Paradise Acres. Along with all the lime gelatin, fellatio and potent narcotics your old ass can gobble. If you lose, well… you should have opted-out. But not our stalwart adventurer.
Orlyn Farr is betting his own life FOR ALL THE MARBLES.
Hedging My Bets. Spilling The Beans:
I just turned 60 annums old. The BINGO tournament in Bogota is less than a month away and I hadn’t a pot to piss in. I was forced to live with my kids and their kids in a cold, cramped domicile. It was underground in The Harbor and it forever smelled like stale cabbage and unwashed flesh.
When my son looks at me, I can tell he looking forward to me opting-out. Neither of us can pay the after 60 tax, for it is purposefully prohibitive in cost. We had no political connections. I suspected he’d already spent my Death Insurance he’ll get when I go up top and freeze to death. He also looks at my corner, and I can read his face like an open book. It was filled with thoughts on renting my corner to a relative that actually had the funds to pay for it.
There’s no place I can run to, so I was planning on just going in early, opting-out, and getting it over with, when the message came in. It was coded and secret, which was strange all on its own. I have never in my fairly pointless time on this frozen shitsicle of a planet got an important message like that one. I couldn’t receive it at home. Instead, I must make way through The Harbor’s tunnel system to the Postal Center. There, after I give them a drop of blood from one of my fingers, I can retrieve the momentous message.
I left immediately for the Postal Center. Once there, I had my wrist scanned for the legal bar-coding chip we legal Harbor citizens have for ID. My finger tip was punched for the blood sample. It naturally beeped at my age, locking me into the security pod until the machines sorted it out. It unlocked, seeing that I have a month left to live, and allowed me to proceed to a private viewing station. I went inside the station and secure-locked the sliding door with my thumb-print. I centered myself in front of the screen. As I did so, it lit up. A beam of light scanned a bust shot of me, no doubt a redundant security measure. Whoever I was about to talk to wanted to make very sure I was who I said I was. In a moment it was done. An old human woman came on the screen. She had to be every penny of 80 annums old. I’ve never seen anyone that old before. Not in person, anyway. She must be important in a way I can’t comprehend. She looked pretty healthy too. Her eyes were clear and sharp and she had a full head of hair. When she smiled, I could see that the woman had all of her teeth. It all must have cost her a fortune. The only thing wrong was the hissing of medical gases and the slight blue tinge to her lips.
“Greetings, Mr. Orlyn Farr, I am Chess Master,” she began. “You are 60 annums old. Have you made your final arrangements? Have you found your peace?”
Stupid, I know, but I started laughing. There’s just no way it could really be her. Ever since she took over, Chess Master ran everything in The Harbor. And she probably wasn’t limited to just our shit hole. I’d never seen an image of her. I don’t know anyone who has. Yet, she was supposed to be here, conversing in secret to Orlyn Farr, a guy who can’t even pay for one more year of his ridiculous life. No way. And then I got scared, for what if she is who she says she is? What the fuck do I do then? Begging would be a good start. I stifled my laughter like it never was.
“Greetings to you, Chess Master,” I replied, not knowing any of the protocol for this sort of deal.
“I can see from the blood that has drained from your face, that you believe me?”
“Um, uh, well – yes, I do.” I stammered like an imbecile. She seemed to take it in stride.
“Good, because I don’t have any time to waste, Mr. Farr,”
“Yes, Sir,” I replied.
“Then answer my question, Mr. Farr: have you made your final arrangements?”
“No, Sir, I haven’t.” I frowned. The realization I guess just hit me with full force right then. “I mean, I can’t afford the tax, so I guess I will have to opt-out. I’m far too old and sick to run.”
“What about your family, Mr. Farr? They can’t pay the tax for you?”
“No, they can’t, Sir. Painfully, though, I don’t think they would, even if they had the means.”
“You don’t get along with them?” Chess Master asked me.
I thought about it, but only for a moment. I said: “I think I take up valuable space that my son could get rent for.”
“He’s probably counting your Death Insurance too, I’d imagine.”
“Yes,” I said plainly. “Opting-out is for the best, I’m sure.”
She said nothing for a moment. Chess Master was looking down at something, below my view screen. Checking on something, she seemed to be.
“Have you considered BINGO?”
“You mean the tournament in Bogota, Sir?”
“I couldn’t even afford to take a bicycle taxi to the Teleport Station, let alone the whole package, Sir.”
“What if I was willing to sponsor you, Mr. Farr? I’ll go further and say that since time is such a concern for me, I can tell you, in complete confidence, of course –“
“Of course, Sir,” I replied. I was quite intrigued by then.
“Good. What if, in addition to sponsoring your costs, I was to insure that you win?” she asked.
I’ll tell you some truth: a dropped pin could have been heard. I stared at her bluing lips and how they had darkened as she spoke. Chess Master was keeping her composure intact, but I could see she was suffering. Her lips lightened as she breathed in the medicated mist.
“How can you do that?” I asked Chess Master, the fear of her momentarily lapsing. “You can’t do that, no one can.” I insisted.
“My dear fellow,” she hissed, angry. “You’ll find that there is nothing I can’t do. There’s no move I can’t make and there is no game I can’t win. I say the word and you will be sent to Bogota where you will win the BINGO tournament. Your reward will be anything and everything your little heart desires.”
Something tiny, hope I suppose, began building inside me. It started to swell to the point where I could think of nothing else. She is promising me the moon and the stars. Strangely, I knew she could deliver the goods.
But, what, I wondered, did she want in return? I had absolutely nothing to bargain with. What did she want?
“What do you want in return,” I went ahead and asked her. “You must know that I couldn’t possibly have anything you would want or need, Sir.”
“On the contrary, Mr. Farr, you have exactly what I need,” she explained. “Or, rather, your granddaughter, Vanessa has.”
“Vanessa? Sir, she’s only 6 annums old, she’s barely started school.”
“I’m aware of her age, Mr. Farr,” she replied, testily. “I need her because my heart is failing and she is my exact genetic match.”
The clouds parted and the angels sang. I got it, but could I do it?
“I see,” I managed.
“Yes, well, time is of the essence, Mr. Farr, which is why you are being made this exclusive offer. I’m afraid there is a great deal of work yet to be done, so I will need your answer, straightaway.”
“By when,” I asked “a few days?”
“Sorry, no,” she replied. “I’m afraid I need your answer right now.”
I thought about it, I’m not ashamed to say. I even thought about saying no. But, in the end, there’s no I in TEAM. But there is one in BINGO.
I told Chess Master where little Vanessa could be found.
“Chess can be described as the movement of pieces eating one another.”
My Last Meal and Testament:
The Tourney officials organized the BINGO Cabaret and Mixer for us tournament players and volunteers. It was being held in the fancy-schmancy grand ballroom of the Bogota resort. It’s always a first-class wing-a-ding, and this year’s was no exception.
I was waiting in my hotel room. I was smoking a nice, fat, complimentary joint while receiving some complimentary head from a re-animated corpse. Although she was cold and blue and not much of a conversationalist, the formerly-living did suck one Hell of a good dick.
Now that the chamber of my geriatric love gun has been emptied, I could finish getting ready. The honor bar was unlocked. Inside were pills and powders and tiny syringes of clear fluids galore. They were all labeled by name, as well as action. I was trying to decide what all I wanted to imbibe. I was getting frustrated at all the choices. Usually, the only drugs I saw were the ones other people were doing. I racked my memory banks, but it had been so long, I don’t even recall what I used to like, besides weed. So, I chose the pragmatic route and took them all. I tossed a few random pills down my gullet. I laid out some of the powders and snorted them with a rolled Note until I started feeling really strange. I looked in the mirror and could hardly see my reflection. Between the drugs kicking in and my cataracts, my vision was seriously flawed. I saw my vague reflection morph into two and then I knew I was ready to go. I left my room and headed to the grand ballroom. When I got there, the Mixer was already in full swing.
It was a wonderful collection of the freaky and deranged. I could see that they had a cabaret show going full bore up on the main stage. On two side stages, amongst too many manned mini-bars to count, the fetish proms were located. Full humans, Halflings, Pit Demons, ghosts of the damned and the formerly-living zombies were filling up the ballroom. Folks were suspended from hooks piercing the flesh of their backs, spinning with their heads thrown back, in big circles above the crowd. A bright red demon girl with fake heavenly angel’s wings walked around, offering quick injections to the party-goers. The demon girl called the shots ‘angel kisses’. Judging from the animated reactions of the injected, the ‘angel kisses’ housed some really killer speed.
I was anticipating a kiss myself when my progress was thwarted. A huge bouncer type motherfucker stood as an impenetrable wall of blue and green scales. He looked at me with his giant yellow lizard eyes, having scanned my wrist. I started walking into to the festive fiesta and the bouncer stopped me cold.
My Dear Mr. Farr,
I apologize for keeping you from the public festivities. You must understand, Sir, I have a rather large investment in you, as per our agreement. I cannot allow any public indiscretions, nor can I take any chances on you getting injured or ill. I must insist you return to your hotel room, where a private party is being prepared for you. If you do not comply, you will automatically forfeit your portion of our contract, and you will be remanded for an immediate opt-out.
Well, shitballs. Having no choice, I turned on heel to go back to my room. Once there, I went inside and saw that the cabaret had come to me.
A pretty young zombie man greeted me at the door. He stuck a needle in my thigh. I began smiling uncontrollably for the rest of the evening. We walked around the mostly zombie party.
They weren’t interested in eating or drinking, slugging or drugging, so there was more of everything than I could ever consume. But I gave it my best shot.
When I finally passed out, hours later, my testicles hurt from overuse and my head was swimming and spinning. I vomited most of the real animal flesh I’d gluttoned down.
The zombie boy helped me get into the big, comfortable, oversized bed. His cold kiss is the last thing I recalled.
The next day at high noon, the BINGO tournament began.
“The older I grow, the more I value Pawns.”