by Angel Ye
“Today on the news: Larry Anderson is found dead, having been gruesomely murdered and —similar to past victims— placed in the trunk of a car. The prospective murderer is now on the loose, so make sure that your children are in bed after 9 pm, and avoid any parking lots or suspicious areas. We’ll be scheduling a Hunt at around 8:30 tonight, so be sure to stay tuned!"
I hear static.
The electric box fades to black.
The words: “DISOBEY AND DIE” pops onto the screensaver of the television as a dancing cartoon sheep.
“A new notification?”
The Hunt organization has deposited $100 into your bank account!
The pixelated sheep dances in the background, happy and oblivious to everything in the world.
I kick my feet up on the coffee table and bite my thumb. Cigarette stubs litter the cracked and clouded glass.
‘Stupid, everything about this culture is stupid. Why is it like this? There’s clearly not enough money to go around— look at everyone! We’re all dirt poor here.’ I ponder in frustration.
“This system is so twisted. Who the hell do you think we are?!” I bellow at the cameras sitting quietly in the corner of my room in defiance. The black lens gleamed back threateningly. “You! You’re the reason! I won’t participate in any more Hunts, I can’t live like this— I can’t TAKE IT ANY LONGER!”
Something pops up in my peripheral vision, and --FLASH.
‘What the hell? Did someone just take a picture of me?’ From my window, I see a figure dart behind the bushes.
I grab my car keys, my car license initialed “SMITH”, and trudge out — I need some fresh air, something to clear my mind. Shuffling through my driveway, I make my way to the car parked outside. As soon as I sit down, the car comes alive with the words: “And now for the daily word: media! Wondering what it means? Well it’s the main means of mass communication! Of course, consumed by everyone, all of you; me and you and everyone included! Make sure to tune in every hour, minute, and second of the day to make sure you don’t miss any news on today's Hunt!”
“Nothing but nonsense,” I mutter as I switch off the car radio. Are there even any self-aware people left? Everyone’s just like a herd of no-brained sheep tumbling around trying to find a wolf. A wolf in a sheep's suit... Or is it the other way around?
“... And remember to tune in for the 8 o’clock reveal of that serial killer who’s been shoving people into car trunks! Make sure to film it to get that money!” I glare at the car radio. It keeps turning itself back on nowadays. I really should get that fixed.
“... and now, time for the reveal of the mystery murderer! The suspect right now is male, around 6’1, stockily built, with a rugged face, and graying black hair. He has a mole underneath his right eye and is wearing a vintage red shirt. Whoever finds him first will receive a reward of 20,000 dollars!”
I look in the side mirror, reflecting back my exact appearance. And— my red shirt— I swerve the car immediately-- I need to get home right now. This can’t be true, I haven’t done anything wrong. The little bobble-head sheep at the edge of my dashboard wobbles back and forth mockingly, with “DISOBEY AND DIE” carved into the crumbling base. I’m innocent! I’m not a murderer, I haven’t done anything wrong, I don’t want to die--
The car tire hits the bump of the curb as I skid desperately into my driveway. Already, there’s a sea of people gathered around my house, on my lawn, loitering around my gate. All of them have their phones, cameras, and devices pointed at me. Angry voices start emerging from the crowd, starting from a slow murmur, crescendoing into one unified chant: “It’s him! He’s the murderer. It’s him, HE’S THE MURDERER! IT’S HIM, HE’S THE MURDERER!!!”
They swarm around my car like furious wasps, angrily buzzing and humming and scratching, writhing, clawing— rocks are thrown into the windshield, the mass turns vile as they grasp their way towards me: a twisted perception of their next victim.
And— oh, god, the police are here.
“WHO FOUND HIM?” The police shouts out to the sea of bodies.
“ME, me, I did, I followed him after I saw the news of the Hunt on my phone,” a woman cries out, her ragged gnawed off nails, now bleeding, scratch maniacally at the hood of my car. “No, it was me, I did, I took his picture AND I saw him getting into his car— he’s my neighbour actually --I have the right to the reward!!”
“No actually I..!!”
And they shout and tumble and break out into an angry fight and that officer— he is simply standing and watching and filming it with his camera. Everything has to be documented after all. How else would we be able to know the truth anymore except through the media?
Inside my car, my knees are balled up, my hands tying my legs to my chest while atrocious faces flood my vision: my dashboard is filling up with frightful shadows, the accusing light of the officer’s flashlight penetrates through my body, sending a chill through my bones. The screaming drowns into one big cacophony—it crashes into my ears as the loud, intruding voices melt into silence. The faces are all merging together, they’re all the same big mass of mob mentality, howling inside these empty husks.
‘This is how I die,’ I think numbly. There’s no murderer, there are only beasts out here. Stupid sheep who turn into wolves as soon as they find a reason to.
The glass shatters into a million splinters as a club bashes into the window. Finally! The masses sigh, and they all reach to pull out the blood-covered body inside the car, just breathing a few seconds ago.
The officer shoulders through all of them and checks it—
“He’s dead!” He shouts confidently, “Brody Smith, the Murderer is dead! We’ve hunted him down successfully! Everyone who participated, you can go back now, make sure you upload your videos to gain your reward. Since there’s about 200 of you, $100 will be delivered to your bank account by tomorrow.”
One by one, the tired crowd slowly staggers home until a single malnourished girl remains.
I stand dead silent.
Age 12, I experienced my first Hunt.
Confused, perplexed and clouded with emotions I ask: “Officer, how did you find out he’s the murderer? Where’s your evidence?!” Smith, that poor, now dead, soul was torn apart by everyone: from kids to adults to seniors. Indignity flowed through my mind, brimming with red hot thoughts. Incriminated without justice, I burned inside. Why did he have to die? He didn’t do anything wrong, he didn’t kill anyone… WHY?!
The officers’ nose flares. “Don’t question the news! Don’t you believe in the Hunt!?” he screeches, with spit flecking the edge of his mouth, fury sharp on his voice and eyes filled with nothing but the flames of fervent and absolute submission. “You, little lady, just committed an act of treason against the state.”
The officer clicks open the trunk and hauls the dripping body in. “Another hunt finished. How many more to go? Doesn’t matter anyways. You should’ve watched your mouth little girl. Disobey and Die: that’s just how it works here.”
And— FLASH —His camera gives me a wink of death.
With one last glance at the scrawny little girl, the officer's wrinkled eyes squint. Maybe it was from admiration, maybe it was from contempt. Who could tell?
“Breaking news, another body, this time, Brody Smith, is found dead and covered with glass shards and —similar to past victims— placed in the trunk of his car! The prospective murderer is now on the loose, make sure that your children get to bed after 9 pm, avoid any parking lots, and suspicious areas…”
“Tune in for the next Hunt, scheduled for 8:30pm! This time is extra special— $30,000 for the winner of this Hunt! She’s a scraggly little child, so don’t hold back!”
The news reflects into my wide, scared eyes. I gnawed anxiously on my nails.
I hear static.
The electric box fades to black.
The words: “DISOBEY AND DIE” pops onto the screensaver of the television with a dancing cartoon sheep.