Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

I’m splayed in the waterlogged grass, covered in mud and blood as the screams stop behind me. The white rabbit lied to us; I knew we should have stomped its furry ass. That damn Jabberwock has way too many sharp bits, the attitude of a wounded wolverine and a script stolen from every psycho film of the last decade or so.

We partied hard when the Employment Opt-Out Bill became law. A British idea that fitted the American way of life so much better. You signed on the dotted line, got yourself sterilised and from then on you got a few bucks a week from the state. Everything else you had to handle yourself. For a lot of people it was an improvement.

Leisure parks sprang up. They had food and booze outlets so we could hang out there. Hell, some people never went home. The whole thing got twisted when the media got involved, letting the workers relax by watching the Opt-Outs dice with death. They got round the salary clauses by only giving money as rewards.

Themed parks were the next step. You could try your luck at handling situations from your favourite movies: Horror became a craze. A real chance of dying but the rewards were worth it.

“Biillleeee. Oh, Biillleeee.”

That meant that the rest of my group of Alices were sleeping with the Queen of Hearts. Should have known that ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was not going to be an afternoon’s hallucinatory fun when it was filed under ‘Survival Horror’. Oh well, we were legless and up for it. A thousand bucks for everyone who walks out, plus fifty bucks an hour for staying in the game. Which actually meant staying alive. Should have realised that as well, but we were too drunk to care.

The wall of the cottage explodes outwards and the spiky, winged lizard-thing strides out. I gather my feet under me and scuttle toward Janine’s backpack, hung on a branch before we entered. I hear the frustrated roar and thank my guardian angel for the fact that the creature has to pause for ad breaks.

My frantic hands tear the pack open and find the smokes and lighter on top. Then her clean T-shirt for the winner’s podium. My hand closes on a big bottle. I pull it out and twist the cap as the roaring ceases behind me. I rip the T-shirt frantically, becoming aware of a hungry stare from behind. Don’t ask me how, I’m too busy soaking a chunk of cheap cotton in Everclear. God bless Janny, her preference for strong booze and her willingness to screw anything to get the good stuff. I ram the soaked cloth into the neck of the bottle and spin round, flicking the lighter.

Ugly and spiky is a few feet off, taking its time. Good enough. I light the rag and scream at the Jabberwock. It screams right back and I let it have a litre of one-ninety proof in the mouth.

The whoosh as it goes up is followed by the thump of the bottle giving up the ghost. I feel pieces of glass cut me as I fall backwards, but it’s nothing compared to what’s happening to the flame-headed thing in front of me. God, it smells worse barbequed than it does when it’s breathing on you.

I roll over and see spotlights wobbling through the trees towards me. I’ve done it. Eleven hundred bucks for two hours and six dead friends. A bargain.


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