Christmas Hiatus: Time Limit

The blog is on hiatus for the Christmas season. New stories will return in January. Here’s one from the archives:

The host, resplendent in fine-cut suit and patriotic tie, beams an expensive smile to the cameras. “Welcome…” he booms, “…to the top show on television!” An audience roars appreciation. “Let’s play Simulacra or Simulation!” The host strides over to a chair on which a man sits, his arms tied to it with loops of plastic.

“Everybody, meet Dave.” Cheering. “Dave spoke against the government yesterday.” Booing, jeering. “He deserves to die, but today he can decide his own fate. Dave, we will introduce you to an image of a person. You will need to decide whether or not it’s computer-generated – a simulacra – or if it’s a video of a fellow criminal – a simulation. If you guess right you will go free. If you’re wrong…” The audience choruses along: “You die! Are you ready Dave? Let’s play!”

A large screen, almost as big as the studio wall, slides up from the floor, angled so both Dave and the cameras can see. It flickers to life and displays a young woman. She is malnourished, dirty, dressed in rags, her hair has been shaved off. There are flecks of blood on her skin and lips. Her hands are shackled. She peers out from the screen, as if dazzled by a bright light.

“Hello?” she says.

Dave stares at her, horror playing across his face.

“Help me!” she pleads. “Please… they’re going to kill me if you guess correctly. Please help me!”

The host smiles on. “Thirty seconds, Dave!”

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