Author : W. Kevin Christian

Damn it, he thought. The delirium had stopped. Again he felt the pain and heat. Burning, sizzling, scorching heat, like tar on a summer sidewalk.

It was the middle of the third week. Changes had begun innocently enough around day three. A little fatigue, a headache, a bit of a cough. Nothing much. Nothing he couldn’t handle anyway. But now . . . now he felt as if he had eaten the Devil’s heart for breakfast.

$150,000! God I’m a cheap bastard, he thought.

He had done many stupid things for a quick buck, but this was far and away his masterpiece. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Well, it did with odds like he had anyway. His chance of winning was 78 percent for God’s sake! He didn’t have to do anything either. He just had to avoid doing one thing. Dying. Billions of people did it every day.

He had felt like a dangers-be-damned pioneer making a mad dash for free land. He remembered the quiet, smoldering excitement as the needle had pricked his arm. He had been terrified, ecstatic, anxious, remorseful and everything in between. $150,000! And all he had to do was live? In three to four weeks he would be back to his old self, he had thought, puttering around the house like normal people do. Not the house for long, though. He would buy something new. A down payment on something big and regal, something he could raise a family in one day. But not for one day—for many years. Many long, happy, Hallmark years full of golden turkeys, training wheels, and scraped knees. And all for a month’s work? He would have been stupid not to take the deal.

Plus, he would be famous.

Now the ceiling camera buzzed and blinked as it zoomed in. On 166 million television screens across America human beings watched sweat pour down his forehead. His blue eyes had turned the darkest shade of gray.

166 million American television screens cut to a commercial for fabric softener. The ad had cost its maker dearly. Airtime for such a highly rated show was extremely valuable, after all.

The lights shimmered and melted before his eyes. “150,000 dollars!” he muttered to himself with a gurgle or chuckle.

When 166 million television screens cut back the misery had left his eyes. The delirium had returned.

The corner of every television screen displayed his heart rate. It was starting to look irregular. It would jump up a bit and then come back down. Meanwhile, the sweat continued to pour.

He mumbled various nonsense as a thin, yellowish liquid slithered down his chin. “I like it in blue, but I can still see how you’d like the green,” he said. “What’s wrong with leather? I can pull it off . . . Typhoid? That’s still around? . . . I think I’ll get the lobster! I can afford it now . . . Let’s go skydiving! You only live once, right?”

His eyes rolled into the back of his head. Suddenly his heart rate tore up to 200 beats per minute and he convulsed violently as blood bubbled from his lips.

“150,000 dollars!” he screamed. “But that’s a 300,000 dollar value!”

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