Jacob Terrend had a simple goal in life. Like everybody else in the camp, he dreamed of being one of the people up in the towers looking down on the peasants below. No more sifting through the mud for cockles, no more scavenging old bits of wire and string for lobster traps, and no more sleepless nights listening to the howls and moans echoing from the woods.
He didn’t want to change the world. He had no delusions that the system would ever be any more just than it was. If it meant there would be somebody else groveling in the mud instead of him, so be it. If he could look down on them looking up, with clean clothes and a warm bed, and with enough rice to fill his belly, he was sure his conscience could handle it.
But what Hatter had asked him to do… Could he live with that?
Jacob looked at the two devices that Hatter had given him. One a syringe and the other a complete visual spectrum video camera. He didn't know what they would do exactly, but he knew what he needed to do. Hatter had told him to inject the strongest male in his camp with the syringe and then video tape what happened.
Jacob didn't go back to the camp that night. His brain was spinning with all of his possible futures and the choices that would lead to them. From the oddness of Hatter's orders Jacob could guess two things about the task he was asked to do. First he guessed that the syringe would make whoever was injected into some kind of killer, otherwise what was the point in injecting the strongest male. Second the video camera meant that either the tower people liked watching people die or that they bet on the outcome of these 'trials' they put the ground people under.
Jacob guessed that the tower people made bets on the outcomes. Then they would accept him into their society, because after all he didn't kill anybody. The thought that the syringe would simply kill the one injected didn't make any sense, because there was no way the tower people would want murderers to join them in the classy life. Instead it made sense that the tower people wanted schemers. The type of people who work behind the scenes to create massive events, but keep their hands clean.
Then the thought occurred to Jacob, what if they simply wanted to see Jacob kill somebody and then they would not let him into the tower. Making him do an unspeakable dead and then walk back to his people. Jacob felt a chill go through his spine.
He turned around to see the lights pulsing on the nearest tower. The same tower Hatter had come out of. With a simple decision to fish a little closer to the tower today Jacob had unknowingly thrown himself into an impossible situation.
Jacob returned in the morning with his basket full of seaweed. It covered the video camera, but still left the lens free and clear to record through a hole in the basket. He walked into the biggest hut in the camp, which was still only about 150 square feet. The big man in the corner walked over to Jacob and said, "Hello son."
Jacob knew that somehow Hatter knew his dad was the tribes elder and the strongest male when he had said, "Family is always the hardest to let go or in your case confront."
Jacob had thought all night about injecting some other strong male in the tribe, but knew that somehow Hatter was watching him even now. Even though his video camera was off. Jacob told himself that he wouldn't go through with it if his father said even one nice thing to him. He knew that the life in the tribe was tough and that his father had to show there was no favoritism to his son in public, but in private, in their own hut his dad could be nice. Jacob wished that was true and was willing to throw it all away if it wasn't.
Jacob's father walked up to him and put a loving hand on his shoulder. Then after looking down at the basket Jacob carried he said "What is this crap? You were supposed to check the lobster traps and go fishing. Not collect crappy seaweed. We can't even feed our hut with the measly amount you picked much less the rest of the tribe. Can't you do anything right."
Jacob's father turned his back to him and began to walk out the door. Jacob's face went red with anger. He was done with this life of groveling and fishing through dirt. Jacob turned the video camera on and reached for the syringe, but he still had his doubts. His father turned in the door frame and said plainly, "I am disappointed in you son."
Jacob's eyes dilated as adrenaline pumped through him. He was done with this. He was done with being stepped on. He was done with being insignificant. So he walked across the room calmly and shoved the syringe in the back of his father's neck.
Jacob's father spun around and reached for his neck. "What have you..." he said before collapsing to the ground. Jacob simply stood still making sure to record everything with the video camera that was now in his hands.
Jacob's father convulsed on the ground and Jacob hid behind the one piece of furniture in the room. Jacob watched in horror as his father transformed into some kind of monster. He grew hair all over his back that ripped off his shirt. His skin became scaly and grey. His mouth popped and cracked coming out from his face like some kind of wolf. Then his father, or what used to be his father, was up. He ran through the tribe like lightning slashing and clawing at everything he saw. Blood covered everything and several times Jacob had to wipe the camera lens clean. Jacob felt numb inside, like everything he was witnessing was not really happening.
The next day Jacob walked alone to the tower. He was covered in blood from head to foot. That was probably the only reason the monster that was his father never noticed him. Jacob banged on the giant metal door and was greeted shortly after by Hatter. Jacob handed Hatter the video camera that was now red with dried blood. Hatter simply smiled at him and said, "Great, simply great, you just won me 10,000 gold pieces just with that. Was I also right that he grew scales?"
Jacob looked at him. There was no life behind Jacob's eyes, but he felt his numb head bobbing up and down. Hatter laughed and led Jacob into the tower and into his new life.
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