Author : Leanne A. Styles

I woke, squinting through the harsh dawn light; the girl’s bloodied face emblazoned on my brain. It was always the same girl, from the Whirlpool galaxy. I couldn’t remember which planet. They all blurred into one.

Like the battles. The explosions.

The walls of my cube apartment seemed to be pulsing in and out, the glass wall at the back rattling violently, threatening to shatter at any moment.

Nothing was moving really. It was just the withdrawal ‒ all in my head.

I heaved myself from bed and staggered over to the coffee table, snatching up the bottle of Blue Titan Rum and unscrewing the cap before swigging a few large gulps.

The room stilled and the girl’s face began to fade, her ruined features becoming less defined, as the alcohol assaulted my senses.

I headed over to the glass wall and looked out over the city. Opposite, in the soaring apartment block which mirrored mine, the residents were rousing. Most, like me, were ex-military; forgotten heroes of the famous Galaxies war. To the left of the blocks, the holographic billboard, spanning the faces of several buildings, had a new campaign.

It was a Galaxies war recruitment drive. A young man wearing full body armour and a shiny new helmet stood proudly in the middle. His mirrored visor was pulled down, covering most of his face.

He could have been anybody. Just another number.

Running down the right side in big letters read the slogan:

The Galaxies War
For The Justice
For The Liberty
For The Glory

The girl’s face, buried in the rubble, crept back into focus. I lifted the bottle to my lips and repeated my own slogan in my head.

The Galaxies War
For The Lies
For The Horror
For The Nightmares

I stretched up onto my tiptoes, peering over the edge of my balcony. The suicide nets had been down for two weeks. An all-time record.

Shame it wouldn’t last.

It was zero six hundred hours. Betting time. I logged in, and the left half of the glass flickered into life, displaying the betting site. I sat down on the coffee table and placed my first bet on a robot I fancied in a boxing match, and another on a sandhog battle. But the big money bets were happening on a private chat between a dozen or so army buddies in my block.

It was the same bets every day.

Will anyone jump today?
Who will jump?
What time?

And so on.

Just one win would have been enough to get me out of the hole I was in. But my soul was screwed enough as it was.

I took another gulp of rum, and watched my robot get obliterated to scrap by his rival.

Movement from across the void caught my eye. A young man had emerged into his balcony and was staring over the side.

The betting started going wild on the chat.

The sandhog battle kicked off. My hog came out strong and bloodthirsty, mercilessly setting upon his smaller opponent.

The young man climbed onto his railings.

My hog grew cocky, made a mistake, started to tire. The inferior hog seized his chance. Blood gushed from my hog’s throat, staining the dirt where he’d fallen…

The girl’s face came racing back.

The young man jumped.

I raised my bottle and said, “For the glory,” before necking the last of the rum.

To a soundtrack of screaming and sirens, I placed a bet on the next jumper.

Soul? What soul?