01 Feb The 24 Hour Game 09:00 – 10:00
It’s been almost ten hours since I started this game.
Ten hours and fourteen to go.
I know what’s going to be coming after this. I’m not ready. I know it isn’t going to be any easier.
The only thing keeping me sane is the hope that my family is alive somewhere, being held captive and waiting to be reunited with me after I finish all these damned tasks.
But now… after what happened there in the early morning sun in a secluded forest in the Appalachian Mountains… I’m not so sure it’s that easy anymore.
Not that any of this is easy, to be fucking fair.
At least three people have died since I started this last night. I can’t imagine what the body count will be when I’m done.
You should probably stop checking these logs to be honest. There’s no reason for you to have to share this journey with me.
Or maybe that’s part of the game? Maybe it’s stringing us all along, like a carrot to a mule.
I just don’t know anymore. Except that I had to help perform surgery on a dying man in the woods in less than thirty five minutes.
“We can’t do this, we don’t have any of the right equipment,” Celeste argued first.
“We’ll have to use the hunting gear,” Wayne suggests.
“Maybe we should just him fall asleep first…” Heather says, reminding us all that the man is about to die.
“Let him have these last moments in peace,” Melissa sobbed.
But I already no better. The Game is forcing us to complete another impossible task.
I was about to make the final decision when her dad spat up more blood and touched Melissa’s cheek.
“Do it…” he said in a frail voice. She clinched his hand and sobbed as we stood over him.
Then Celeste knelt down alongside him and asked a few simple questions.
“How long ago did you swallow it?” “About… an hour and half ago,” he stuttered.
“Where does it hurt the most?”
“Where the least?”
Then she took a few deep breathes and motioned Melissa and I to hold him down.
“It’s probably still in his stomach,” she realized as she gently pressed on the area, trying to feel around for it.
“Won’t something like that be devoured by stomach acid?” Wayne asked from afar. He seemed more uncomfortable than all of us as Celeste made the first small incision right below the man’s belly button.
“Not likely. If it passed through to his intestines it likely would havgotten stuck there,” Celeste said as she started cutting deeper.
I don’t want to remember his screams. They were low because of his collapsed lung, but still every cut she made was causing more and more excruciating pain to the man. Melissa squeezed her father’s hand as tight as she could as Celeste went deeper.
He stopped screaming, his body spasming as he went into shock.
“Stop!! Please stop!!” Melissa begged. Heather moved over to pull the redhead away.
“It’s killing him!!!” Melissa screamed. Heather couldn’t hold the girl but already Celeste had proved successful.
A pool of his stomach acid dripped out out onto her bare palm as she began to stick her hand into the open body cavity.
Again Melissa’s father moaned as Celeste searched. More of his acid spilling out like she has just gutted some wild animal.
Melissa kept screaming as her father’s eyes rolled back and Wayne moved over to get her away.
“He’s gone!! Stop! He’s gone!” Wayne insisted. I looked toward his mouth and watched as her father took his last breath.
Still even after that, Celeste didn’t stop in her search. In fact she just went after it with more fervor than before now that she knew she wasn’t causing any more pain to the man.
Melissa sobbed helplessly as the nurse carved open her father’s stomach completely and then I heard a rib crack as she pushed it open all the way and all of the acid pooled out to the forest floor.
From amid all of that Celeste spotted what we were looking for, and snatched the small flash drive up; holding it like it was a trophy.
But none of us had much to say as we stood there staring at the man we hardly knew that had lost his life because of it.
“Can we…” Melissa said as she finally came to grips with the reality of the situation.
“Can we give him a burial?”
Heather nodded slowly, letting Celeste and I use some of the larger tools to dig a shallow grave.
I knew it wasn’t a proper burial, having him left him naked and exposed to the elements.
I looked up at the swaying corpses in the tree, realizing that maybe it was a bit better than the fate of his comrades and that maybe no animals would come along and disembowel his body any more than we already had.
Celeste recited a bible verse and then walked over to Heather.
Wayne didn’t say a word, he just slowly and silently made the symbol of the cross over his chest and moved away.
Melissa just sat there, staring at the man that had raised her.
I knelt down next to her, fully expecting that silence to continue.
Instead, for reasons I can’t fully explain; that young girl started talking.
And I listened.
“It was his birthday when we suggested that he sign up for it… he’s… he’s always had this spirit for adventure…”
“Climbed Mount Mitchell last year… a whole six thousand six hundred and eighty three feet… I thought. He could anything…”
“It’s my fault he played this game… my fault that he wouldn’t quit either…” she shook her head.
“Melissa… it’s not…” I told her.
“It is! He made it to the 12th leg last time. And he had to quit cause of a damn stomach bug. We lost the foreclosure on our house!! We lost everything because of this damn stupid game…” she said bitterly.
I sat there in stunned awkward silence, realizing that their greed had plunged them into this mess. And greed had pushed him to come again.
I am going to sit here along side her for now. Until it’s time to move again.